Treasure Hunters: Part Six
The entrance to the underground catacombs, according to Peregrine, was beneath the ancient Pyramids.
"But you said that no-one's been down there for years! How are we going to find the entrance? And if the entrance is beneath the pyramids like you say, how are we going to get to it? Do we need to dig a hole in the sand or something?" Archie asked, dreading the thought of lugging heavy spades around with him during the long journey to the Pyramids.
"No, no. Digging won't be necessary. The hieroglyphs hint that there is a door of some sort, leading underground. The problem will be finding it, as it will have been left untouched for centuries..." Peregrine stated, as he threw the last of his supplies into his backpack and lifted it onto his shoulders.
Considering how many books, they had watched the Yurble pack, the treasure hunters expected him to collapse under the weight of his pack, but clearly he was made of stronger stuff than they thought, as though his shoulders hunched and he winced slightly, he remained upright.
"Alright, I'm ready. Let's go."
Having slipped out of the city amid the throng of tourists that had just arrived through the gates of Qasala, the three Neopets escaped without being seen.
Peregrine had packed far quicker than Jacques would have expected of him, so by the time the baby Lupe got back to the Scrollery to "stall him", as he had been told to do, whilst the rest of the Thieves Guild got themselves organised, the three Neopets were already making their way through the Desert towards the Pyramids.
Fortunately, the scrollery was so large, that even Jacques, who knew it back to front, lost time searching for Peregrine and the two meddling treasure hunters.
After searching Peregrine's office and certain areas of the scrollery, where Peregrine would normally be found, Jacques started to panic.
The Nimmo at the front desk hadn't seen him leave, but she had been back and forth through the stacks a couple of times so it was possible...
Wasting no more time, Jacques bolted out of the scrollery door and across the main square of Qasala, down an alleyway and into a derelict building.
"They're gone!" he screeched, making every thief inside stop what they were doing.
"I went to stall him as you said, sir," he said, addressing the furious looking Hissi that had appeared from a small antechamber nearby.
"And I looked in his office - I searched the whole place, but they're not there! They must have left sooner than they said they were going to. I'm sorry, sir... they've gone."
Whipping around, the Hissi ordered his men to finish packing only the necessary supplies that they would need.
"And you," he snapped, at a Camouflage Ruki wearing sand coloured robes, "run out to the Desssert - sssee if you can ssspot them and if you do, follow them! Do not let them sssee you! We don't know exactly where they're headed, only that the treasssure is in the underground catacombsss. We need them to lead usss to it, understand? Now, go!"
The Hissi turned around slowly, the anger evident in his demeanour, as he spun to face the Baby Lupe.
"You have dissspleasssed me, Jacquesss," he said, enunciating every word.
Jacques trembled slightly, shrinking away from the rage emanating from the skeletal form in front of him.
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't know what happened. Peregrine usually dawdles - I've never seen him move so fast... I mean, he's a Yurble! They're not exactly known for their speed."
Jacques's excuses only seemed to anger the Hissi further.
Striking suddenly, the Hissi knocked Jacques into the wall, pinning him to it with his strong, bony tail.
"Do not make excusssesss, boy! If we lossse this treeassure becaussse of you, I will make you pay!" he snarled, baring his pointy teeth at the terrified Neopet.
"Are we clear?" he hissed, to which the Lupe merely squeaked in terror and nodded.
"Good... I will deal with you later. Now, I need to sssort out transssportation."
The head start that the Neopets had received by leaving quickly, was slowly dwindling.
They had made good headway in the first two hours, but now they were almost at a standstill.
Soon after they had left, the wind picked up, which little by little became stronger and before long, sand was being swirled around them, obscuring their field of vision and getting into their throats, making them cough and splutter.
Peregrine pulled out scarves for all three of them, tying it around his nose and mouth and showing the others how to do the same. It helped a little and the trio ploughed on.
The sandstorm seemed to go on and on. The air was a dusky haze, which made it hard for the trio to see much more than what was in front of their noses; the forceful wind seemed to argue with them, pushing and shoving them backwards, almost as though telling them not to go any further; and the rough granules of sand attacked their skin like sandpaper, grazing their faces and matting their fur, whilst they tried their best to shield their eyes with their paws.
"Maybe we should find shelter?" Archie spluttered through his scarf.
"And where do you propose we do that? We're in the middle of the Desert!" came Saffy's muffled response.
"There has to be a town or village around here, somewhere!" he replied, with a whine. "What about Khamtef or one of the other outer region countries I read about?"
"Sadly, they are distinctly further west than here," Peregrine answered, wisely.
"And you probably wouldn't want to go to Khamtef, anyway. They are currently in the middle of a very nasty war with the Lower Mentu Region - it's nearest neighbour, and you do not want to be caught up in that, believe me! No, it's best if we just keep going. The sandstorm can't last forever."
"But how do we know if we're even going in the right direction? We can't even see!"
"I've been checking my compass every now and then and we're still on track. As long as we keep heading north, we should, hopefully, reach the Pyramids before nightfall. Don't worry, they're too large to miss," Peregrine said, with a chuckle.
"But... Saffy, what about... that Hissi?" He said the last part as a whisper and glanced around nervously, even though through the haze of the sandstorm he wouldn't have been able to see even if the Hissi was right behind him.
"Oh, come on, Archie! Even if he is looking for us, there's no way he'll be able to see us in this storm!"
"But don't transparent pets have x-ray eyes? To go with their x-ray body?"
Saffy snorted; part out of scorn, part out of hilarity.
"Where did you hear that? That's just ridiculous! X-ray eyes... that's an old Koi's tale if I ever heard one!"
"I'm just saying..." Archie stuttered, a little embarrassed.
"Let me put this to rest right now," Peregrine interjected. "Transparent pets have the same eyesight as the rest of us - or well, maybe not all of us," he muttered, wiping off the film of sand that had deposited on his glasses with an old rag.
"But, surely you're not talking about Gorgon?"
"We didn't catch his name, but he told us where you'd be - for a price. Why do you ask? Do you know him?"
"Indeed, I know him. There are few in Qasala who don't. Why is young Archibald afraid he'd be following you?"
"Well..." Saffy replied, a little sheepishly. "We, I mean, I sort of promised him one amount of money for his help... but I didn't give him all of it. He didn't count it so it was his fault, right?"
"Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!"
"What is it?" Archie asked, with wide eyes.
"Gorgon is a very dangerous Neopian. He is the head of the Qasalan division of the Thieves Guild, though there are rumours that he used to belong to the Sway and switched allegiances during the battle for the obelisk. Others say he was kicked out of the Sway for being too... violent," he gulped.
"Either way, I wouldn't want to cross him."
Archie gave Saffy a fearful glance, and even she, who was usually so sure of herself, looked a little uneasy.
Not wanting to appear so, however, she brushed it off with a look of bravado.
"Oh, I'm sure he's long forgotten all about the two Neopets from the marketplace and is already onto his next set of victims..."
Unbeknownst to them, Gorgon was already hot on their tail.
High in the sky above the Lost Desert, a transparent Hissi and several of his most trusted underlings (though Gorgon knew that you could never truly trust another thief) sat in the driver's seats of almost brand-new looking cloud racers. Dark purple in colour, they could only have come from a dark faerie; how Gorgon had got hold of them however, was a mystery to the rest of the thieves guild, because not even the bravest or foolish amongst them would dare steal from a dark faerie.
Even from their height, it was hard to see anything below them, through the blur of the sandstorm.
Luckily, Geb - the camouflage Ruki that he had sent after the treasure hunters - had just had a lucky break. After hours of trekking through the Desert seeing neither hide nor hair of the Neopets, Geb had ducked down to re-tie his shoe lace and during a tiny respite of the storm had briefly caught a glimpse of green in the distance.
Knowing that nothing green ever grew in the Lost Desert, Geb realised with a jolt of excitement that it must be the three explorers... and if he wasn't mistaken they were heading directly towards the Ancient Pyramids.
Catching the light of the blazing sun with a small shard of mirror, Geb aimed it directly above him, at a trail of deep purple smoke.
Several hours later, as the sun faded into a deep gold, the wind died down; the sand that had been whirling around them so violently, quietened to a light flutter and Saffy the first of them to notice, began to see a shape looming several yards ahead.
"Look!" she cried, excitedly, pointing to the giant triangles that sat stoically in front of them.
Peregrine squinted at the ancient monuments for a few moments before taking of his glasses to clean.
"Ah! See, didn't I tell you we would reach them before nightfall?" he said, calmly.
Archie who was out of breath and exhausted from the long trek, looked relieved and merely said, "Finally."
Up close the Pyramids were even more intimidating than they appeared from far away. They were enormous and Saffy couldn't imagine how the Neopians of ancient times could have built them.
"There should be an entrance somewhere around... here," noted Peregrine, who had walked around to the left side of the Pyramid furthest away from them, peering at the hieroglyphs depicted on the back of the treasure map.
Each Neopet took an area of the Pyramid to search and after several minutes of searching, Peregrine called out to them both.
"Ah-ha, here it is," he cried, happily, gesturing them over. He held a chisel in one hand and was jimmying the door open.
"I find it's always handy to bring a trusted chisel with you... you never know when you may need it," he replied, in response to their confused looks.
Finally, he managed to yank the door open with a deep rumble.
Striking a match, the three Neopets squinted into the darkness inside, each wondering what lay in store for them.
Saffy dreamed of riches beyond her wildest dreams; mounds of gold, piled high in the treasure room, rare and elusive items scattered amongst them; Peregrine pictured himself being the first to set eyes on artefacts that hadn't been seen in centuries, transcribing runic tablets and ancient scrolls that were too precarious to touch; Archie however, looked into the dark, dank Pyramid and only saw his worst nightmares; a small underground tunnel, full of Spyders and the fear that they would be trapped down there forever.
With a slight shudder, and a nervous gulp, Archie turned to his cousin and mouthed, "Well... after you, then."
To be continued...