One Neopet's Treasure
The heavy book rested gently on Zazen's lap and he was totally engrossed in the classical stories he was reading when a dark shadow fell across his page causing him to look up.
"Hi, Zazen," said the Darigan Wocky blocking his sun. "What are you doing?"
"Hello, Horns." He grinned and closed the book with a heavy thud. "Did you want something?"
Horns scratched the back of his neck, something he did when he was nervous, and nodded as if making up his mind about something. "Well, yeah," he said. "I was wondering if you'd come with me? I'm heading across Mystery Island today and I'd like to go to Geraptiku but... well..., I don't really want to go on my own..." he finished lamely.
"Sure." Zazen smiled. "Just let me grab a couple of things and I'll be right with you."
* * *
It had already grown dark by the time they'd walked all the way across the tropical island and arrived at Geraptiku. The famous Deserted Tomb was silhouetted against an enormous full moon and the two tired Neopians decided to have a brief rest before continuing forward.
Zazen put down his rucksack and began rummaging around inside until he'd found the tasty looking package he was looking for. Passing some Extra Meaty Sandwiches and a Carton of Kau Kau Milk over, he smiled warmly at his companion.
"So, here we are at last, the famed Deserted Tomb of Geraptiku. I've always wanted to see this place."
"It's supposed to house untold treasures and piles of gold..." the Darigan Wocky sighed dreamily.
"Now then, Horns, we're not here just for treasure, are we? I wanted to see some of the ancient writings in the burial chamber; you promised on the way over that we could," Zazen admonished gently.
"Speak for yourself, I want to get rich! Can you imagine what we could do if we found treasure like that? I could spend all day lounging by a pool and you, you could open your own school, Zazen! Hasn't that always been your big dream?" The shine of imagined gold was almost visible in Horns's glowing eyes and he licked his lips at the thought of the untold fortunes just waiting for him inside the ancient stone doorway.
Shaking his head, Zazen settled back to enjoy the peaceful night for a while and gazed at the stars that were framing the tomb elegantly.
Soon enough Horns began to get impatient. "Hurry up, Zazen; can't we go now? I'm ready already, come on!" He started moaning and muttering, grumbling, and begging until at last Zazen packed his things carefully back into his bag and they set off up the stairway to the gaping mouth of the Deserted Tomb.
* * *
Once they turned a corner and the entrance light from the moon was gone, there was a terrible gloom that descended on the twisting corridor and more than once Horns nearly turned back in a fright, but each time Zazen smiled encouragingly and said, "There's nothing to be afraid of in the dark; it's so peaceful here. Come on, Horns, I want to see the engravings!"
Presently it grew pitch black and neither adventurer could see their next step in front of them. Horns was trembling with fear and so Zazen, who was always prepared, dipped a hand into the deep pockets of his robe and produced a candle, which he lit quickly and passed over to the nervous Wocky so he could feel a little safer in its circle of flickering light.
Slightly further on, the corridor opened up into a large chamber lit dimly by wooden torches hung in brackets on the walls that were decorated with the exotic drawings and ancient writings that Zazen had so wanted to see, but pulling the overexcited gaze of Horns and the ever curious scrutiny of the clever Techo was the lavish golden chest decorated with precious gemstones and overflowing with neopoints sitting at the end of a long dusty stone platform.
Without a second thought, Horns started racing gleefully towards the chest and was only one step away from the platform when Zazen grabbed the back of his collar and hauled him away.
"What are you doing!?" Horns snapped. "Can't you see how rich I'm going to be?"
"It isn't safe, Horns," Zazen cautioned calmly, still looking at the open chest.
"What do you mean? Of course it is! Everyone says there's treasure hidden in this tomb and here it is!"
"And that's just the problem," Zazen continued, "Everyone says there's treasure in here. Do you have any idea how many people come searching in here every day? And this chest is very close to the entrance; anyone looking for gold could easily have found this, but it's still here. Treasure like this must be impossible to get for some reason. I don't like it."
"Ahoo hoo hoo! Well done, my wise Techo friend!"
A mysterious musical voice sang out from somewhere close by.
Horns watched in stunned disbelief as the ghost of an old Island Hissi materialised before them and winked cheekily at him before turning to Zazen.
"You're quite right of course." He grinned. "This treasure has a trap set upon it. Watch closely."
He plucked one of the brilliantly red feathers from his tribal headdress and let it drift slowly and gently down into the dust of the platform. As soon as it brushed against the floor, several vicious looking arrows with glistening points shot across the room from secret holes hidden in the murals. They looked horribly sharp and anyone foolish enough to have been standing on the cursed stage at the time would no doubt have been terribly injured.
Horns gulped loudly and his eyes grew as wide as saucers as he realised how close he had come to being stabbed painfully by these nasty darts. He glanced across at Zazen gratefully and the Techo smiled back at him affectionately.
"Thank you so much, Zazen!" whispered Horns, still looking shaken.
"Well, you know what they say; it's always best to look before you leap," Zazen intoned happily.
"Well, well, well, being as you've proven yourselves worthy," laughed the Hissi, "would you like to take home the real treasure now?"
Horns stayed silent, still thinking about his narrow escape, but Zazen nodded appreciatively and the Hissi waved his arms through the air in a strange, mystical fashion, summoning an antique book to appear in his translucent hands. He handed the tome to Zazen, who accepted it joyously.
"The real treasure is just a book?" sneered Horns, sounding sullen and disappointed.
"Oh yes," said the Hissi. "This book contains some of the most treasured secrets in Geraptiku! I'm sure you'll find it most interesting."
Zazen bowed low to show his sincere thanks and began to make his way swiftly back to the entrance. Once outside again they sat quietly for a time until Horns finally asked, "So what is this book anyhow?"
Zazen handed it over merrily and there emblazoned on the front in huge lettering was written, Geraptiku Recipes - The Finest Culinary Secrets in all of Geraptiku!
After a minute or two of staring at this, Horns began to laugh, quietly at first, but ending up howling loudly and clutching his sides as Zazen joined in. Both Neopians laughed together all the way home.
* * *
Horns never forgot what Zazen did for him that day and tells everyone he meets what a clever young Techo he had the opportunity and good luck to travel with.
When Zazen hears about this, he just smiles and says, "Horns would have done the same thing for me if he hadn't been too blinded by the sparkle of gold coins."
Then still chuckling to himself, he walks away.