Lost Desert Treasure Hunt
I looked at the ancient parchment I was holding between my front hooves, then raised my head and looked out the forward windscreen of my owner’s two-man Virtupets space fighter as it flew high above the Lost Desert. I had dug up the parchment several days earlier, and the scholars at the Royal Academy in Sakhmet had translated it for me. It spoke of an ancient ruin embedded in the walls of a canyon in the far southern reaches of the desert. The ruin was rumored to hold a treasure.
That’s why my owner, BG, and I were out here. We wanted to see if this was for real. Treasure hunting is something I enjoy very much, but I rarely find anything good when I try.
I looked down at the glyphs on the parchment again, then picked up another piece of paper that contained the translated version of the glyphs.
“What exactly does this term mean?” I asked BG, pointing it out to him.
“It’s an old standard for measuring distance,” he replied. “It was commonly used by the ancients, but it isn’t used anymore.”
“Is there a conversion equation for turning it into a more modern standard?”
“A very simple one. Multiply the number given by three, and there you go. I’m doing that in my head as we fly, basing it off the fighter’s speedometer.”
BG leaned over and looked at the translations, then back at the fighter’s control panel.
“The canyon should be just ahead,” he mused.
I turned my attention to the ground far below us. Sure enough, about a minute later, the ground dropped away to reveal a massive canyon.
“It looks like only flying Neopets could get in there,” I remarked. “I don’t see any safe paths down from the rim.”
BG nodded and tilted the fighter downward, guiding it into the canyon. I put the parchment away, reasoning that since we had found the canyon, finding the ruin should be easy.
“Which wall is the ruin supposed to be on?” BG asked, slowing the fighter.
“I think it’s supposed to be on the eastern wall,” I replied.
I glanced at the fighter’s compass before continuing.
“So it would be on my side,” I finished.
My owner nodded as he increased the fighter’s speed.
I kept a watchful eye on the canyon wall as we flew. But something funny crossed my mind, and I started to giggle.
“BG?” I asked, turning to him. “Aren’t you glad that I’m not a typical royal girl Uni? I mean, you know how I love to get dirty and dig huge holes and all that...”
My owner reached over and rubbed the sweet spot between my ears.
“Of course I’m glad,” he answered. “I’d guess that most royal girl Unis never have any fun, since they refuse to get even the faintest trace of dirt on themselves.”
I sighed happily and turned my attention back to the canyon walls. About five minutes later, I spotted a small ledge sticking out.
“This might be it,” I said.
BG brought the fighter around slowly. As he did, I could see a large stone structure built right into the wall. It looked like an old temple complex.
“That’s it!” I sang out.
My owner guided the fighter right up to the ledge, but there was a problem.
“There’s not enough room to land,” he said. “We’ll have to do this another way.”
He reached behind his seat and handed me a rope coil.
“I’ll open the cockpit. Fly over to the ledge and tie the rope to something sturdy. I’ll land at the base of the wall and climb up.”
I hesitated for a moment before accepting the rope.
“Do you think you’ll make it up?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure I can,” BG responded. “But just in case, we can unload all our exploration gear before I try.”
I nodded as my owner opened the windscreen, then I hopped lightly onto the ledge. A short distance away was a large stone pillar that seemed to be strong enough. I carefully tied the rope to the pillar, then pitched it off the ledge.
“I sure hope it’s long enough,” I called over to my owner.
It was. The end of the rope landed in the sand below with several feet to spare.
BG handed me my backpack, which I set down on the ledge before he handed me his own backpack, which was much larger and heavier than mine.
“I’ll be with you in a minute,” he said, sitting back down at the fighter’s controls and beginning to descend.
I leaned over the edge and watched as my owner landed the fighter next to the rope, then began to climb up. It took a couple of minutes, but soon BG had joined me on the ledge.
“How was that?” I asked him, a bit concerned.
“Not a real problem,” he replied. “I’m just glad my boots have a good tread so I could grip the canyon wall.”
“I think we’d better pull the rope up and hide it, just in case some troublemakers find it,” I reasoned.
BG nodded and began to haul up the rope. He coiled it up again, and hid it behind the pillar. I stood up on my hind legs so he could help me put my backpack on, then he put on his own. Once that was done, we were ready to go.
We approached the doorway leading into the ruin. I could see that the building had been carved right out of the canyon wall, meaning it could go on for miles through the rock. I tapped one front hoof against the stones making up the door frame.
“The parchment said that this is more than 5000 years old,” I mused. “It’s still in good shape despite its age.”
My owner adjusted his backpack. There were two large floodlights built into it, which he could control via an interface on one shoulder strap.
“OK, the lights work,” he said, turning them on and pointing them into the ruin.
We stepped inside and found ourselves in a large open room. There were various glyphs carved into the walls, and two doorways leading further into the ruin. I walked over to one of the carved walls and investigated the glyphs.
“It’s no use,” I sighed. “No matter how hard I try, I just can’t learn the ancient language.”
I looked around for BG, and saw him examining a different section of the wall. I trotted over to join him.
“You see this?” he asked me, tapping the wall. “It looks like paint. Maybe something important is carved under here...”
He picked up a stone chip and began to carefully scrape away the paint. Sure enough, there were carvings beneath it, but they weren’t glyphs. They looked more like a floor plan of the ruin.
“A map, maybe?” I questioned as BG got out a piece of paper.
“That’d be my guess,” he responded. “Let’s see here...”
My owner quickly sketched the map, then the two of us looked it over.
“This is the room we’re in, clearly,” he said.
“But why is there only one doorway shown on the map, when there’s two leading out of the room?” I asked.
As soon as I said that, I realized what it meant.
“The other door... the one not shown here... it must be a trap!” I gasped.
BG nodded gravely.
“We’d better be extra careful,” he cautioned. “The only door shown on the map is the one on the left. So...”
He pointed to the doorway on the left side of the room.
“...We go that way.”
As BG stood up, his cloak billowed around him. In the brief moment that it did, I saw a pair of swords hanging from his belt. I knew that swords would be no use if we found ghosts. But I wasn’t scared. I knew of ways to banish ghosts.
My owner pointed the floodlights on his backpack through the left doorway. There was a hallway beyond it, one that stretched out of sight. We slowly and carefully made our way along, eventually reaching another room. This one was smaller, and there was a crack in the ceiling that was letting in sunlight. In the center of the room stood an old stone altar.
I went over to the altar and looked it over. There was a carving of an Anubis on the main stone, a carving of two Gebs on the back plate, and Wadjet carvings on the legs.
“There’s a lot of Petpet symbols here,” I said as BG joined me.
“These Petpets were held in high regard by the ancients,” he replied. “I’m guessing that this place was used by royalty.”
“But what purpose do you think it served?”
“I’m guessing it’s a tomb complex. Meaning there are likely a lot of catacombs around here.”
There were three doorways in the back wall of this room. BG looked at his map, then pointed to the one on the left.
“That’s the only real one,” he said.
“I’m seeing a pattern here...” I responded.
My owner shook his head.
“That’s probably part of the trap system,” he warned me. “If tomb robbers got complacent, they could be more easily tricked.”
We looked through the doorway and saw a passage leading sharply downward. The floor was slick stone, so I knew that if I tried to walk down the passage, I’d wind up skidding. I spread my wings and flew along behind BG instead. But even with the gripping abilities of his boots, my owner slid a bit as he started his descent.
“Be careful!” I cried.
BG drew both of his swords from beneath his cloak. They were just long enough to touch the ground it he held them pointed downwards. He used them to support himself as we moved on.
The passage leveled out, then split into five different corridors. BG looked at the map again.
“This time, we go to the right,” he said, heading for one of the corridors.
I flew after him, staying airborne as the passage began to ascend. Again, he used his swords to support himself and avoid taking a fall. After a few minutes of climbing, we found ourselves in a room with countless alcoves carved out of the walls.
“I wonder what these alcoves are for?” I asked no one in particular.
My owner put his swords away and aimed one of his floodlights into the nearest alcove. I gasped when I saw what was in there.
“A sarcophagus!” I cried.
“This is one of the burial chambers,” BG answered. “Now where do we go from here...”
I landed and huddled against my owner’s legs, shivering a little. I had thought I was braver than this, but I’m still a relatively young Uni, and I haven’t had much experience with tombs.
“Hm...” BG mused after a moment. “It looks like one of these alcoves has a fake sarcophagus in it that blocks the passage onwards. The room beyond that alcove is the last one on the map.”
We looked around the burial chamber.
“Which alcove is it, though?” I asked.
“It’s one of the ones on the right wall,” my owner responded.
I watched as he pulled a small metal pole from his backpack and walked over to the line of alcoves on the right. He pushed the pole into one alcove and tapped it against the sarcophagus inside.
“That seems pretty sturdy,” he commented. “I guess it’s not the one we’re looking for.”
After several minutes of tapping on the sarcophagi, BG found one that moved when he hit it. He drew back the pole and then shoved it forward, and I heard the sound of stone grinding on stone.
“This isn’t even a sarcophagus,” my owner said. “It’s just a piece of stone painted to look like the end of one.”
He began to crawl into the alcove. I was right behind him, glancing back over my shoulder frequently. I was scared.
The alcove turned out to be a tunnel that led us right into the final room of the ruin. This room was the largest by far, with rows upon rows of sarcophagi lined up along the floor. But that wasn’t what had my attention.
“Look!” I whispered, pointing at the center of the room with one front hoof.
There was a broken stone pedestal standing there, and on top of the pedestal was a dazzling sight. A small statue of a Uni, carved from silver, was gleaming in the floodlight beams.
“The treasure...” I gasped in awe.
BG and I approached the pedestal. The statue was a good two feet tall, and was clearly a Lost Desert Uni. I carefully picked it up, scared that the ceiling was going to fall in on us if I did.
But nothing happened. I looked at the statue I held, and my fears seemed to fade away. Now I was excited. We had succeeded in our treasure hunt!
“I thought the treasure was not going to be real,” BG said thoughtfully after a moment. “I see I was quite wrong.”
I giggled and bumped my head against his legs.
“Let’s get out of here,” I suggested, to which he nodded and headed back to the tunnel.
It didn’t take us very long to make our way out of the ruin. BG dropped the rope off the ledge, then climbed down and flew the fighter up to me. We put away our equipment, then I climbed aboard and settled down, still holding the statue.
“It’s so pretty,” I commented. “I wonder what it was doing there in that tomb?”
BG didn’t respond as he turned the fighter around and began to fly it back towards our Neohome. As we flew, I looked the statue over more closely. It had once been painted, but the colors were all worn away. All that remained were a few tiny chips of paint. The statue itself was rather tarnished too, but I knew that BG could get it looking shiny again. And maybe we could paint it back to its original colors too.
“I guess today was a good day, eh?” I asked my owner.
“It seems like it,” he agreed. “Let’s go home.”
I nodded and looked out the fighter’s windscreen as we left the canyon behind. What a day this had been. We had found something that was clearly very valuable, and very pretty to boot. As I looked back down at the statue, I wondered what significance it had.
The scholars at the Royal Museum would be thrilled to see this statue. But, did I really want to turn it over to them? I was becoming quite fond of it.
“BG?” I spoke up at last. “I know we should probably give this to the Museum but...”
“You want to keep it, right?” my owner cut me off.
I nodded glumly.
“Don’t feel so guilty about it, little one,” BG said kindly, rubbing me between the ears again. “You found the parchment that showed us where to look, then we found the statue. There is no law saying we have to give it to the museum.”
Then he leaned in closer to me.
“Besides... I kind of want to keep it too.”
I promptly started giggling.
“Oh, BG! You know me all too well!” I laughed.
“We make a good team, don’t we?” he replied.
I nodded eagerly. We did indeed.
“And here’s to more treasure hunting success in the future!” I sang out.