Acquisitions Specialists: Part Five
That night, as Brynn followed Hanso and their new accomplice Darien towards a corner of the Sakhmet palace, she began to think this ridiculous plan of theirs might work after all.
Darien was right, the palace Elephante guards had horribly predictable paths as they did their rounds in the cold desert night. She sincerely hoped her own patrols were not this easy to slip past, back in Brightvale.
Brynn bumped into Hanso's back, and found that they had stopped behind a giant, ornate potted plant. A few moments later, a guard came out of one of the almost hidden doors in the wall. As he turned the corner to start his patrol, the three of them slipped through the door before the stone panel slid closed.
As they began to wander in the dim torchlight hallways, Brynn was dumbstruck. Was it really that easy?
"What is it?" Hanso hissed, sensing that she was distracted.
"I... Are all guards this easy to sneak around?" Was she that easy to sneak around?
Hanso had a slightly guilty look on his face. "Uh... no?"
"Oh, we are! I can't believe this!" She dropped her head into her hands.
"I hate to be insensitive, but can we have your professional life crisis after we're done here?"
Brynn took a deep breath. Hanso was right, this was not the time. She nodded at Darien, who had peered over his shoulder curiously, to continue.
"How do you know these passageways so well, anyway?" she whispered. So far Darien had not hesitated over a single turn in the winding labyrinth of passageways, and miraculously they have also not seen any other guards.
"Well, got caught a few times, ended up locked in the cells. Turns out the underground parts aren't that big and the dungeons were right near the vaults. And they didn't bother blindfolding me on the way in or anything, guess they don't think much of us. So I... observed, is all."
"You know how to get around just from watching a few times?" Brynn wondered how someone so obviously intelligent ended up in petty street theft instead of something more. But again she thought of Hanso and shook her head. It wasn't any of her business.
Darien shrugged at her question, then dragged them both around a corner and put a finger to his lips. A few seconds later, another guard strolled past them on his way out of the passageways.
"Right on schedule," Darien said with a grin. "We should be good on time, now. This way."
A few more turns later, he pushed at a section of the wall, which slid open with a slight rumble.
"Wow, I can't believe that worked," Darien breathed.
"What?" Brynn demanded in a loud whisper. "You weren't sure if that would work?"
Darien shrugged again. "Was in the cells, not in the vaults, remember? Anyway, get inside. There should be another guard coming around in a couple of minutes."
Brynn and Hanso squeezed through the entrance, and let the wall slide back into place.
"Bit dark, this place," Hanso said.
"Wait." Darien took something out of his pocket and lit up one of the torches on the wall.
"Whoa..." Brynn blinked at the mountains of brilliant gold and jewels, reflecting the soft torchlight.
"Whoa is right..." Hanso shook his head. "Ok, ok, we need to find this Medallion."
"You said the Princess thought it was her father's, yeah?" Darien asked. "Then it should be somewhere in that corner."
Brynn looked at where he was pointing, and saw a magnificent sarcophagus surrounded by yet more gold. Hanso picked his way over a few piles. "Is this it?" he asked after a few moments of digging, and held it up for Brynn to see.
Brynn squinted in the dim light, but it didn't really matter what it looked like. She could almost feel the maliciousness from the scarab-shaped object Hanso held up, rolling off in waves. "That's it!"
Hanso pocketed the Medallion. "Time to go then?"
Brynn nodded, and pushed at the wall panel to open again.
"Well, isn't this nice?" The voice of Senator Barca made Brynn freeze in place. Behind her she felt Hanso stiffen, as well.
"I rather thought you two might try something like this," Barca continued. "Though, I would very much like to know how you even got this far. But no matter now, looks like you'll have your wish to see the Princess again after all." She smirked and gestured to a couple of guards standing behind her, just beyond the doorway. "Seize them."
Brynn was still too shocked to fight back as a particularly burly Elephante pulled her arms behind her and marched her out of the vaults, while another did the same to Hanso. At that moment, however, Darien twisted out of his captor's grasp, slid past another guard between his legs, and ran into the labyrinth before any of them could react.
"Capture him!" Barca shrieked, and immediately several of the guards stomped away after him.
"They won't catch him," Hanso mumbled to Brynn. He seemed unhappy to have been caught, but not overly concerned. Brynn, however, was on the border of panic. She had always done the capturing, not the other way around.
"Silence! Take these two up to the throne room." Barca turned and made to leave the underground passageways, with Brynn and Hanso behind securely in the grips of the guards.
A few floors up later, Barca walked into the throne room with her prisoners in tow. "Princess, I think you will find that I was right, after all. These two were in fact helping themselves to our treasured possessions, and... who is this?"
Princess Amira looked up at Barca, seemingly displeased to be interrupted. "Barca, this really is not the best time." She gestured at her guest, "This is Ammon, descendent of those I appointed to guard my father's shrine. And he was just telling me some quite disturbing news."
Brynn's ears pricked forward at the name. "Ammon?" The guard holding her immediately tightened his grip at her question, but she focused on the Usul standing in front of Amira.
Ammon blinked at them. "Hello again, travelers. But why are you captured?"
Barca cut in, fury starting to creep into her voice. "These two were caught stealing from the Sakhmet vaults, Princess. I believe the law is quite clear on the matter."
All eyes turned to Ammon, who was staring at Barca, wide-eyed.
"You were the one who came to the Shrine a fortnight ago. You seemed to already know of Coltzan's absence, is it because of your position in court?" He bowed to Amira. "Princess, I apologize if the news I bring was not news, after all."
Amira looked confused. "No, no, Ammon, I did not know of the absence of my father's spirit before you came. But, Barca, you knew two weeks ago and did not think to inform me?" Her confusion slowly turned into anger and suspicion.
Barca's eyes widened. "No, Princess, I simply did not want to worry you. I was sure I could take care of the situation without causing you undue stress."
Hanso coughed. "Didn't you say, you found the Medallion and placed it into the vaults oh... a fortnight ago?"
"And it was placed right by Coltzan's sarcophagus," Brynn added.
Amira's eyes flashed. "And you said this Medallion was cursed? Is it possible that it has driven away my father's spirit?"
"Well, I am no expert on curses, Your Highness, but it does seem likely that the Medallion is to blame, given the timing," Brynn replied with as much of a bow as she could manage while her arms were still held tight by the guard.
"And uh, who found this Medallion, and where, exactly?" Hanso asked.
Amira stood up from her throne. "Barca. Barca found the Medallion, exactly a fortnight ago... and never told me where it came from."
"And, did she also tell you where to put it?"
Amira stayed silent, but the growing anger on her face answered Hanso's question. "Senator Barca, you are under arrest for suspicion of treason," she said in a cold voice. "Seize her, and let the others go."
"But, Your Highness," Barca protested.
"Silence!" Amira commanded. "You shall have your chance to speak at your trial, tomorrow at sunrise. Until then, silence."
At that moment, Vyssa stormed in again, but whatever grievance she had against Amira that day died on her lips as she saw Barca sandwiched between two guards.
"Have you gone and gotten caught, then? Does that mean I won't get to be Queen, after all?"
"What?!" Amira's anger turned towards Vyssa in an instant.
The other princess seemed to realize her slip, and opened her mouth to deliver an excuse, but nothing came to mind.
"Seize her as well; take them both to the dungeons, at once!"
Another guard took hold of Vyssa, and marched both her and Barca out of the room.
Amira sank back into her seat, hands covering her eyes. Brynn rubbed at her arms where the guard had gripped them, and shot a helpless look at Hanso, who just shook his head back.
Eventually, it was Ammon who broke the silence. "Princess, I do not believe the Medallion's damage to be permanent. Perhaps the curse could be broken?"
Amira looked up, hope in her eyes. "Do you think so? And then my father's spirit will return to the desert, in peace?"
Hanso took the stolen Medallion out of his pocket. "Well, we have this," he said.
"Queen Fyora will know what to do," Brynn assured her.
"Then I will not keep you longer. Go, break this curse."
Brynn hesitated. "And will you be alright?"
Amira gave a sad smile. "The betrayal is still hard to fathom, but I will do what I must and stay strong for Sakhmet. It will be alright, as long as my father's spirit is safe."
Ammon gave a bow. "I shall take my leave, then, to await his safe return to the Shrine. Farewell, travelers."
In the end, Fyora and her spellweavers were able to break the curse on the Scarab Medallion. Later, Amira sent word that her father's spirit again rests in peace within the Shrine.
As it turns out, Senator Barca had wished to weaken Amira's rule, eventually replacing her with Vyssa as the ruler of Sakhmet once more, with herself as the puppetmaster. Amira sent them both into exile. Though, I also heard from Jazan that the bug swarms were supposed to be especially bad this year.
Darien apparently made it out of the labyrinth that night without getting caught. At least, that is what we assumed after I received a package containing Nabile's ring and a gold coin from the Sakhmet vaults. I suppose that the ring also means if we need more expert advice, we have an open invitation.
And as for Hanso and I...
"...and so when I realized, in a stroke of sheer genius of course, that it was actually a swarm and not a--"
"Er, hold that thought, Timmy. What is it, Brynn?"
"Come on, we gotta go, Fyora has another artifact for us to find."
"Well, it IS on Mystery Island, and IS nice summer weather there, but I guess if you would rather stay here and corrupt more of Neopia's youth..."
"No, no, I'm coming. Ok, Timmy, storytime will have to wait. Time to do more treasure hunting."
"It's dangerous artifact disposal, Hanso."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever..."