The Kacheek Club: The Tomb of Tragedies - Part One
Gwen the Island Kacheek swiped the beads of sweat off her forehead as she glared up at the relentless sun. She and her three friends were waiting in line for the Tomb of Tragedies tour to start. The tour was the chance for Neopians to take a look inside the thousand-year-old tomb of Princess Ashiri, the fourth known ruler of the Lost Desert. According to the pamphlet, a visit to the ancient rulers of the Lost Desert museum and a free T-shirt were in store for them after the viewing of the tomb.
"I still can't believe we're here!" Sarina the Cloud Kacheek squeaked. She stared up in awe at the gigantic pyramid that lay before them. "The best part is, this pyramid is right outside the city of Sakhme-toenails, so if we ever get hungry, we can just drop right in for a snack." She licked her lips in anticipation.
"Ugh, how many times do I have to tell you, Sarina? The city is called Sakhmet," explained Xana the Disco Kacheek. She rolled her eyes and continued smearing liberal amounts of Starberry-scented sunscreen all over her face and arms.
Bridgette the Faerie Kacheek heaved a great sigh and slid on her Butterfly Sun Glasses. "Do I really have to go with you guys on the tour?" she whined. "I mean, I'd completely understand if we were taking a tour of Queen Fyora's palace or something, but an old dusty pyramid? I think I'll pass." She narrowed her eyes at the pyramid disdainfully.
"Bridgette, we've gone over this a gazillion times," exclaimed Gwen, stomping her foot against the desert sand. "Our parents agreed to let us go on this trip to the Lost Desert only if we promised to stick together as a group. And since Xana, Sarina, and I want to go on the tour, then it looks like you have to, too."
"Well..." Bridgette bit her lip. "Oooh, I have an idea! Why don't you guys go on the tour, and I'll head back to Sakhmet and do a bit of shopping? Then in the afternoon we'll meet together at Lost Desert Foods for lunch. We'll only be apart for an hour at most. Sound good?" She smiled at her friends hopefully.
Gwen, Xana, and Sarina swapped doubtful looks. Finally, Xana spoke up.
"I guess that sounds okay," replied Xana slowly. "But you have no idea what you're missing! This is an opportunity to study prehistoric runes, to learn more about the past, to experience what it was like to-"
"Yay, thanks!" interrupted Bridgette, quickly hugging her friends. "This is going to be so much fun! I heard the shopping in Sakhmet is spectacular." She grinned excitedly, then continued, "Well, I guess I'll catch you guys later!" She turned around and began making her way past the crowd lined up for the tour.
"I'll make sure to get you a free T-shirt, okay?" Sarina shouted after Bridgette's retreating figure.
"Don't bother!" Bridgette called back, waving her paw in the air.
Gwen shook her head in disbelief. "I don't think I've ever seen Bridgette go three days without buying something new for her closet," she said, chuckling.
Xana suddenly gasped. "Look, it's starting!" She began to fumble with the various pamphlets and brochures in her paws, trying to find one that was about Princess Ashiri's tomb.
"Welcome to the Tomb of Tragedies tour," announced a Brown Poogle that was standing in front of the group. She was dressed in a khaki vest with matching khaki shorts and sturdy hiking boots. A wide-brimmed hat was perched upon her head, and she was clutching a clipboard in one paw and a water canteen in the other.
"She doesn't look very happy, does she?" muttered Gwen, examining the Poogle's bored facial expression.
"My name is Layla, and I'm pleased to say that I will be your tour guide for this journey today," continued the Poogle, her voice lifeless as she read from a stack of index cards clipped to her clipboard. "I have a lot planned for you all on this exciting tour. Please remember to keep with the group, and do not touch anything that looks fragile or breakable, because chances are that it probably is."
Layla turned around and gestured to two beefy Skeiths who were standing behind her. The Skeiths immediately began to roll away the heavy circle of stone that blocked the entrance to the inside of the tomb. As the Skeiths worked, Layla continued on with her speech.
"Now, you guys are probably wondering how the Tomb of Tragedies got its name. Legend has it that when Princess Ashiri passed away, her father called together all of the elders of the Lost Desert to attend her funeral. As a last gift to the princess, the desert elders put a spell on her tomb to ward off any greedy thieves who might want to steal the treasures buried with her. Supposedly, anyone who wanders in the princess's tomb for too long is doomed to a life filled with misfortune and gloom. Scholars have found this saying inscribed on the walls of the tomb: Those who roam the tomb for an hour find themselves under tragedy's power."
Gwen found herself at a loss for words. The saying that Layla had uttered sounded like it belonged more on a Haunted Woods tombstone than an ancient Lost Desert pyramid. Gwen heard Sarina gasp in fright beside her. The Island Kacheek couldn't believe her ears when Xana snorted in amusement. Apparently, neither could Layla.
"Um, excuse me?" Layla looked annoyed. "Do you have a problem with the story?" She glowered at Xana.
Xana scowled defiantly back. "You honestly don't believe this, do you? That story is just a bunch of spookiness that's used to attract tourists. I thought we were supposed to be learning real historical facts here."
Layla opened her mouth to reply, but at that moment the Skeiths finished heaving the stone aside. She gave Xana one last patronizing glare before speaking to the rest of the crowd. "Alright, please follow me single file into the tomb of Princess Ashiri. Absolutely no pushing or shoving, and do not touch the artifacts inside the tomb. Also, only water is allowed inside the tomb; please discard your food in the trashbin by the entrance." She led the crowd through the entrance of the tomb.
Xana rolled her eyes at Layla. "She's hopelessly misinformed about Princess Ashiri's pyramid," she said to no one in particular, shaking her head sympathetically.
"I don't know, Xana," muttered Sarina as they slowly made their way to the entrance. "That story sounds pretty convincing... and true, if you ask me." She snuck a quick glance at Layla to make sure that she wasn't looking, then took a generous bite of the Caramel Butter Cookie that she had smuggled inside of the tomb.
"That story's just about as true as Jelly World," scoffed Xana, waving her paw dismissively. "What do you think about all of this, Gwen?"
Gwen opened her mouth to reply, but all that came out was an awestruck gasp. They had just set foot inside the tomb to see the largest collection of glittery treasures that they had ever laid their eyes on. It was as if someone had taken a Golden Paint Brush and painted everything in sight. Mounds of gold coins with strange markings on them were scattered around the floor of the tomb, while painted clay vases with eye-catching patterns lined every inch of the large square room. The fire from the hanging torches threw flickering shadows on the walls. In the middle of the room was Princess Ashiri's extravagant coffin. The design on the lid of the coffin resembled the face of an Aisha, and its eyes were set with sparkly rubies.
Xana quickly scurried off to examine a gold abacus, while Sarina petted a stone statue of an Anubis.
Gwen couldn't help but smirk as she ambled around the tomb. She was sure that the glittery array of jewelry and sculptures surrounding them would be right down Bridgette's alley if the Faerie Kacheek had bothered to accompany them. Suddenly, Gwen's eyes fell on an oil painting that hung on the wall of the tomb, its perimeter decorated with an ornate gilded frame.
She didn't know much about ancient Lost Desert rulers, but Gwen was certain that the painting depicted Princess Ashiri. "She looks exactly like Princess Amira," Gwen thought, examining Princess Ashiri's face. The princess's eyes had a cold, steely look about them, as if daring someone to try to contradict her.
Before Gwen knew it, time had flown by and Layla was going by and telling visitors that they would be exiting the tomb in a matter of minutes.
"Gwen!" Xana rushed over to her friend, her cheeks flushed. "Layla said that we're leaving in a few minutes, and I haven't seen Sarina anywhere!"
"Are you sure you checked everywhere? This tomb is pretty big," replied Gwen. She and Xana began to make their way around the room again, looking around carefully for any sign of Sarina.
"Yeah, I did! I also asked everyone else in the tour if they had seen Sarina, and they said no," said Xana, the words rushing out of her mouth.
The two Kacheeks were now standing alone in the very back of the room. Due to all of the statues and relics piled around them, Gwen found it hard to see the entrance to the tomb. She hoped against hope that Layla and the rest of the tour group wouldn't leave without them.
"Ugh, Sarina, where are you?" moaned Gwen in exasperation.
The second she had spoken, an emerald-encrusted sarcophagus that was leaning against the wall behind her began to rattle.
Gwen and Xana slowly began to back away from the sarcophagus, their eyes wide with fear.
A squeaky yet muffled voice rang from the inside of the sarcophagus. "Help! Get me outta here!"
"Wha-? Sarina?!" Xana tried her best to pry open the sarcophagus lid. "How did you get yourself trapped in there?"
"Well, I always wanted to see what it was like to be inside a sarcophagus," explained Sarina matter-of-factly. "It's actually not that bad in here!" She sounded as if she had just booked a room inside the Royal Neopian neolodge.
"Uh-huh, sure," Gwen retorted. "But I think you overlooked the tiny fact that you could suffocate if you stay in there too long!"
"Oh yeah? Then how come Princess Ashiri's been in hers for over a thousand years?" Sarina shot back craftily. She obviously thought that her comeback was nothing short of pure brilliance.
Gwen and Xana both rolled their eyes at that one, and they continued to try to open the sarcophagus to free Sarina.
Finally, after a couple of minutes of pulling, the lid of the sarcophagus burst open, and Sarina happily bounced out of it. Gwen had the impression that Sarina had not even tried to push from the inside to help her and Xana get the lid open.
"Hey, where is everybody?" Sarina looked around the deserted tomb, her eyebrows furrowed.
"We're probably going to leave the tomb in a minute," replied Xana. "I'm just glad that we managed to get you out before Layla closed the-" She stopped midsentence.
The sound of a huge stone rolling against the sand sounded from the tomb entrance. Gwen, Xana, and Sarina gasped in unison and sped towards the front of the room. But it was too late; when they had reached the entrance, they saw the last sliver of sunlight disappear as the stone was rolled into place.
"No!" All three Kacheeks dashed to the stone and began pounding their paws against it.
"Help! Pleeease!" Gwen tried her hardest to fight back her tears as she continued to punch and kick against the stone.
"It's no use, Gwen." Xana sighed dejectedly. "There's no one outside who can hear us."
Gwen, Xana, and Sarina slowly turned around to look at the tomb. The painting of Princess Ashiri stared scornfully back at them. They were trapped.
"Does this mean we don't get the free T-shirt?" whimpered Sarina in a small voice.
To be continued...