Harix5 Finds the Thief
I walk into my den and throw off my Xwee Wrap, and straight away I know something is wrong. All my things are in exactly the same place, but they are just too neat. That old copy of the Neopian Times is now closed and sitting on the table, and I am sure I left it open at the comics. My books aren't lying crookedly on the shelf, but sitting up nicely. My heart thumps in my chest as I realise that someone has been in here, and has tried to cover their search by tidying up where they have looked around. There is only one thing in this den anyone would come looking for, and only a few people know that it was here. I stalk slowly into my room, where it was hidden. I peek around the corner in case the intruder is still there. Empty. I run quickly over to my bed, and push it over a few inches to uncover the floor. I lift the boards and put one paw on the box I had hidden there. I hold my breath as I peel open the lid, and close my eyes until it is off in my paw. With a whoosh of breath, I snap open my eyes to see....
An empty box. Rage and anguish fill me, and I throw the box aside. I jump up and run out into the den, my nose on the ground through the doorways. I will find out who was here. I sniff around the table, and the bookcase. I stick my face into the cupboards, and sneeze violently as I inhale a layer of dust that has been in residence here longer than I have. I gallop back into the room, and wander around the bed. Surely the intruders smell would be here... I slowly work my way around the room, and suddenly get a whiff of something near the wardrobe. I stop, take a deep breath and sniff again. There! It's faint, but unmistakable. It's the nasty odour of Fermented Fish Tart. I know immediately who took it, and anger bubbles in my throat again. His face is as memorable as his smell.
Machiavellian the Techo.
That devious creature is the one who saw me find it in the desert. He was lurking in the dunes, but I smelled him. Who couldn't? We both knew right away it what it was. There have been rumours that one was hidden in the sand for generations. He must have followed me back to my den the last time I was in Sakhmet.
There is no time to lose, I grab my Wrap and pull it on, and take off out the door into the desert. The hot sand scorches the pads of my feet, and the sun beats down on my head, a familiar but sometimes uncomfortable heat. I leap over my private Oasis which makes my den my home, and sprint out into the open desert. I run around the Pyramids and past the shrine of Coltzan. I just know He would have wanted me to recover it. If the rumours are to be believed, it is practically His! I take a running jump over the river, and sprint up to the walls of the city. I slow to a quick walk when I come into view of the gates. I don't want to alert anyone, they can't know what I am looking for. I lower my head slightly and feign interest in the stalls around me, while looking and smelling for Machiavellian.
He will be here; he always is. He sells the things he takes, or as he explains himself, "finds". I weave between the Pottery stall and the Solitaire tent, and stop behind the Petpet stall. I cast my eyes over the city square, and start to walk towards the steps of the palace. The guards look at me briefly, but take no interest in me. Just another Xweetok out shopping and seeing the city, nothing to worry about. I consider telling them to keep an eye out for the Techo, but I decide against it. I would have to explain what happened and what he took, and that would open a door to a lot of questions that don't need answered just yet. And beside, I haven't quite worked out how to get it back yet.
I saunter over to the Emergency Supplies tent, and move towards Sutek's Scrolls. I just know the Nimmo in there would be interested in it. In fact, I can't be sure that he and Machiavellian aren't in on it together, so I avoid him completely. If he were to see me here, he could alert Machiavellian! I walk on towards the Fruit Machine, but it's just to confirm that Machiavellian isn't here. Disappointment swells inside me, but I am not giving up yet. I walk back towards the walls of the palace, and settle in the shadows of the steps. I lie on my front paws, and wait. The shadows around me lengthen as the day passes, and I watch all the people go about their days. I feel myself drift off into a sleep in the heat of the early evening, when a putrid odour meets my nose. Fish tarts...
I jump awake and catch myself in time to stay in the shadows. "Easy, Harix," I think to myself. Patience is the key to getting it back. I back up against the wall, and crane my head over the stalls, searching for the source of the smell. I look towards the Battle Supplies tent, and spot my target. I can see the tip of his hat from here, and I can see the glint of his tail bracelets in the sunlight. He is standing just off the path, with his cart all set up ready for whoever takes an interest in his wares. I stalk closer to him, staying upwind as is my instinct. I stop behind the Emergency Supplies tent, close enough to be in earshot. I eye the cart carefully, but all I can see are the purple and red seals of healing scrolls, and the colourful hue of rainbow scrolls. He has other junk scattered about the cart, but not what's mine!
A gaggle of young Elephantes moves closer to him, chattering wildly to each other about his colourful trinkets, each of them unaware that the ornaments were probably "found" in someone's back room. They move away when he offers them no discount, he is obviously looking for bigger customers today. I can't imagine why. An important looking Lupe and his associate Aisha pass nearby the cart, and I see Machiavellian stand up straighter. He takes a deep breath and calls over to them.
"Lord and Lady, will you take a look at my wares?" he drones out to them. The Lupe glances over quickly, but the Aisha turns toward him.
"And what exactly would you have that would interest us?" she asks him.
"Why, my Lady, you'll just have to come here and find out," he responds slyly.
The Aisha raises one eyebrow and cocks her head to the side. Then a small smile spreads over her face and she turns to the Lupe, and whispers something inaudible. He shakes his head with the air of an impatient friend, but turns with her and walks towards the cart. I move closer myself, stopping when I am in behind the Battle Supplies tent, still out of sight but with a better view of Machiavellian. The Aisha casts her eye over the cart, and then looks up at the Techo.
"Is that it?" she asks reproachfully. "I was expecting something a little more to my taste."
The Lupe snorts his agreement, obviously expecting to see the rainbow collection of trinkets, but the Techo merely smirks back at them.
"Why, did you really expect me to keep my most valued treasures out in the open?" he questions.
I hold my breath, barely daring to hope that he has it with him. He smiles again at the pair, and reaches below the cart. He lifts out a roll of cloth, its contents bound tightly with a cord. I recognise that cord as my own, and my heart leaps with excitement. I lower myself to the ground, knowing I have only seconds to pick the right moment.
"My Lady, this might please you. It is of immense value," Machiavellian says with a flourish.
"What is it?" she enquires sceptically.
"I'll show you," he replies wickedly.
He slowly unwraps the cloth to reveal a scroll, a scroll of yellowing parchment and bound with a small lizard.
"A Golden Scamander Scroll!" she gasps.
Even the Lupe looks impressed. The exclamation of the Aisha has drawn the attention of the crowd. My heart beats more wildly, my time is running out!
"Yes Lady, Lord. This scroll is rumoured to hold one of the wills of a King. I haven't opened it of course, who knows what curses it holds! Remember the Vengeful Scrolls, cursed to turn the reader into a pink Lenny!" he cries.
The crowd thickens, they too are interested. If the scroll truly holds a will of a king, it could change the hierarchy of Sakhmet! The very reason I hid it away when I found it, I can't let the Techo sell it on! I lower myself further, and shift my back legs into jumping position. I move my head down between my shoulder blades, and swish my tail for balance. I take a deep breath, and wait. Machiavellian lifts the scroll into the air to show the crowd, and I take my chance!
As I bound forward, time seems to slow. My paws pound the ground in the same rhythm as my heartbeat. As I draw nearer to the cart, I see the Aisha shift her gaze from the scroll to look directly at me. Her eyes widen in astonishment, and the Lupe lifts his head to see what she sees. His mouth curls in a growl, mistaking his associate as my target. Machiavellian starts to turn, just as I draw level with him. I leap upwards, and as he turns towards me, I open my mouth and snatch the scroll out of his hand, getting a nose full of that disgusting stench. I land behind the Lupe and Aisha, and sprint towards the gate. The crowd gasps and squeals behind me, the growls of the Lupe taking precedence in my ears. Then a screech sounds out above all of the other noises, the unforgettable voice of Machiavellian the Techo...
I hear a gleeful, almost hysterical laugh ring behind me, and I am almost out of the city before I realise, it is coming from me.
Some time later, I am lying beside my Oasis, lazily drifting one paw in the cool, clear, sparkling water, when a smell reaches my nose. I smile to myself.
"What do you want, Machiavellian?" I ask the small dune that hides my den.
"My scroll," comes the curt reply.
"You have to start digging, my friend. I have hidden it well," I tell him.
"Then I shall. When I find it, I'll let you know," he says defiantly, poking his head up over the dune to look at me.
"Good luck then," I answer.
He turns to walk away, and I hear the clinking of his bracelets getting fainter and fainter. I smile again, gazing out over the desert. I can see the very tip of the shrine of Coltzan from here. I nod towards it, a silent thank you to the King who now guards the scroll, which once was maybe his.