A Bori in the Desert
The Lost Desert isn’t a place most people would expect to find a Bori. I’ll admit, we’ve spread out a lot as a species, and Terror Mountain is no longer the only place we call home, but even now most Bori will avoid the Desert. It’s too hot, too dry, and too sunny for most Bori to feel comfortable. Unless painted certain colors, Bori fur is thick and a hot climate is almost unbearable. And yet here I am, a Yellow Bori who would probably feel warm on the summit of Terror Mountain, wandering around the dunes in one of the hottest places on Neopia. I know, it sounds crazy to me too.
Musings about my species aside, I suppose an explanation for why I am currently climbing sand dunes is in order. You see, while I am breaking one Bori stereotype, I am actually here in the Desert to exemplify another cliché. I am here to dig.
I suppose ‘dig’ is a bit too broad of a term. In all actuality I am here to assist on ‘digs,’ archeological excavations of ancient artifacts. I don’t do any physical digging, even, I am instead a translator. My job basically consists of visiting various dig sites throughout the Desert and translating anything from vases to wall paintings. I even translated hieroglyphics carved into a huge gem once. But I think my favorite story of translating is the story of how I found my job in the first place.
Exploring the market of Sakhmet has always been one of my favorite things to do. The place is just bustling with so many sights and smells; it can be overwhelming but beautiful at the same time. I was wandering through one of the busier side streets near the Museum when a sign posted on a wall caught my eye. “See Ancient Artifacts Like You’ve Never Seen Before,” the title boasted. Underneath was a bit of an explanation. “Archeological Dig Team Seeks Interns. No real experience required. You must be willing to work long hours in the sun. If interested, enquire within.”
‘Well, this could be interesting,’ I thought to myself as I ducked into the building. Inside was a tiny café that seemed to be empty. “Hello?” I called out. “Um... I’m interested in helping out on the dig...?”
Almost instantly a Desert Tuskaninny appeared from behind the counter. He looked to be about middle-aged (the tuft of fur on his head was starting to grey) and friendly but serious. He was wearing a suit that had to be much too hot for the current outside temperature and a pair of round glasses that kept sliding down to the end of his nose. He frowned when he saw me. “YOU are interested in working on my dig?” he asked tersely, emphasizing the word ‘you’ almost like I had insulted him.
“Y-yeah. I think it would be a great learning experience and being a Bori I’m really good at digging. I’ve been studying Lost Desert history and I think-“
“But how do I know you will not pass out in the first five minutes?” he interrupted. He sighed and smiled kindly before continuing. “Look, I’m sure you would be a great worker, but I cannot add the liability of someone who might faint from heatstroke to this dig. The items we are looking for are very delicate, and the tomb we’re working in is dark and full of traps. It’s for your own safety, really.”
Now I felt like I had to defend myself. “My fur is not as thick as it looks,” I explained quickly. “I know how to dig; I’ve been studying Lost Desert history so I know about tomb traps and how to avoid them; plus, I know a thing or two about how to translate hieroglyphics. Please just let me see the dig site. I promise I won’t be a bother after that!”
The Tuskaninny thought it over. “Very well. I was going to head out to the site pretty soon anyways. You may come along.” He led me out of the café. “I am Professor Charles B.,” he added, offering me a flipper as we walked. “But most people call me Charlie.”
“Ven,” I replied, shaking his flipper. “My full name is Heaven_Sent_713, but it’s a mouthful and not very pretty. Ven is easier to say and easier to respond to.”
As we walked towards the outer walls of the city, Charlie explained some of the background on the dig and what my duties as an intern were going to be. “We believe that the tomb we are currently working on belonged to a king in the 13th Dynasty. We haven’t figured out which king yet, but we’re close to the final chamber and his identity. You will be working above ground on artifacts that are brought out. They will need to be cleaned properly, cataloged and packed up so they will not break as they are transported to the Museum. Do you think you can do that?”
I nodded, beaming. “That sounds like a lot of fun, actually! Do you think I could go into the tomb at some point? I’d love to see one in person!”
“That might be possible,” Charlie said slowly. “But we have to get there first.”
Exiting Sakhmet at the Northwest gate, Charlie led me down a barely discernable path through the dunes. After about twenty minutes of walking I was starting to feel the heat, but I didn’t say anything in case it would make Charlie change his mind about letting me work.
Finally we crested a dune and looked down upon the dig site.
It looked like lunch break had just ended. Several Neopets were lounging around, either soaking up some sun or trying to cool down in the shade. As Charlie and I approached, they all sat up. I caught a few strange glances from a few of the workers, but most of them didn’t seem to mind.
“What sort of progress did you make this morning?” Charlie asked the group in general. A Kyrii stepped forward. “We seem to have hit another fork in the road, Charlie,” she explained brandishing a photo. “We don’t want to end up down the wrong passage... Can you translate this? Cooper thinks it’s a warning about which way we shouldn’t go.”
Charlie frowned, accepting the photograph from the Kyrii. “Let me see,” he murmured, adjusting his glasses. “This here says darkness...”
While the professor got lost in his translating, the Kyrii turned to me. “You must be the new intern, right? I’m surprised Charlie found someone so quickly. I’m Madeline.”
“Ven.” I introduced myself. “I’m just glad to be here! I’ve read all about digs and excavations, but to actually be a part of one is beyond amazing.”
“Digs are a lot of work, Ven,” Madeline warned. “You put in a long day’s work only to find that you’ve moved maybe twenty feet. It can be very frustrating.”
“I think I’ve got it!” Charlie called, cutting my conversation with Madeline short. All the workers stood up at his words, several of them grabbing tools. “According to this inscription, there is a magical trap that blocks out all light. Once we pass through that room we should reach the burial chamber.” The team stood up and began filing into the tomb. Charlie turned to Madeline. “Can you stay out here and show Ven what she’ll be doing? I told her she’d be working on the artifacts we’ve recovered so far.”
Madeline nodded. “Sure thing. Let me know if you guys find the burial chamber, though. I want to be there when you open it.” Charlie turned to leave.
“Can I take a look at that picture?” I asked quickly. “I want to see if I can translate it. I’ve been trying to learn.”
Charlie shrugged before handing the photo to me and heading down into the tomb.
“Learning about hieroglyphics, huh? That’s some ambition you got, Ven.” Madeline sounded impressed. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re just pictures. But if that’s something you want to do...”
I nodded before examining the picture. “You took this, right?” The picture itself was unremarkable; to an untrained eye it would appear to be just an expanse of stone with a few carvings. But to me it was a story, each hieroglyph representing a different word or sound. And when all the words and sounds came together... “Madeline, I think Charlie made a mistake!”
“What?” The Kyrii looked at me like I was crazy. “Charlie has been translating things for forever, Ven. There’s no way he got something wrong.”
“No, look here. This symbol looks very similar to this one, but they mean two completely different things.” I gestured to several glyphs. “Charlie is leading the team into the trap!”
“I don’t know, Ven. They both look like Aishas to me...”
“Madeline, please. Just let me show Charlie what I see. I don’t want to cause any trouble, but I’m telling you, it’s not safe.”
The Kyrii sighed. “Fine. Stay here, I’ll be right back.”
I fidgeted nervously as I waited for Madeline to reappear. “I know I’m right,” I murmured to nobody.
“...no way I got that wrong.”
“That’s what I said but she insisted!”
Charlie and Madeline came out of the tomb, the Tuskaninny looking highly annoyed and the Kyrii hovering between frightened and frustrated.
“Madeline says you think I made a mistake in my translations,” Charlie growled. “I don’t make mistakes.”
“With all due respect, sir, I think you did,” I said quietly. “See here? This translates to ‘kwah,’ but I think you translated it ‘cweh.’ That changes the entire meaning of this line. The darkness doesn’t lead to the burial chamber; it leads to YOUR burial chamber. The darkness is a death trap!”
Charlie frowned and stared at the picture again. “Well, by Fyora, I think she’s right...”
Madeline look startled. “Seriously?”
“While it pains me to admit it, yes. Ven, I think you just saved the entire team from a horrible trap. It’s a good thing I insisted on having you join us!”
Deciding to ignore the fact that Charlie hadn’t actually wanted me to join the dig team at first, I smiled. “It was nothing, really. Translating hieroglyphs has sort of become a hobby of mine... I’m just glad Madeline caught you in time.”
“If it would be alright with you, I think I’d like to test your translating skills,” Charlie said excitedly. “We could use someone with your talents at the Museum!”
“I, uh, sure..?” I spluttered, unsure of how to react. I had only wanted to see an active dig site. I wasn’t really looking for a job!
“Come, Ven, we must get back to the Museum quickly! Madeline, you’re in charge again. Make sure you avoid the darkness!” Charlie called as he practically dragged me back towards Sakhmet. I had never met anyone with such intense mood swings before, it was sort of fascinating.
Once back in Sakhmet, Charlie took me to the Museum and introduced me to several of his colleagues. He told the story of my correct translation and had them help him compile a test for me. The next thing I knew I was being shown vases and photos and even chunks of walls and being told to translate them. It was kind of intimidating, but they seemed impressed and eventually offered me a job with the Museum.
Now I am an official Royal Sakhmet Museum Translator. I work with dig teams and curators to figure out exactly what the ancients meant. Yea, it can be hot out here in the Desert, but a little sweat seems like a fair sacrifice for doing something you love.