Orlitz and the Search for the Emerald Crown: Part Five
To Orlitz’s surprise, Emilia was staying in a room at the lodge, not far from her own. The Cybunny had tailed the Aisha from the restaurant, taking care not to be spotted by the thief. Her sneaky maneuverings did draw the attention of other passerbys, who blinked in confusion when they saw the Cloud Cybunny creeping from house to house. Emilia was not a hard target to follow. Her red hair, paired with the contrast of the white snow, made her easy to spot in a crowd.
When she reached the floor on which the Aisha was staying, Orlitz hesitated.
“Do I just… barge into her room?” she thought, eyeing the open door across from her own suite. Luckily, her questions were answered.
“I know you’re out there, Orlitz!” Emilia called out from her room, startling the Cybunny, “come in, come in.”
Hesitantly, the Cybunny stepped into the Aisha's room. The thief grinned from her seat by the window.
“You’re a lousy stalker,” she chuckled, which honestly hurt Orlitz’s feelings. The Cybunny was convinced that her people-tracking skills were flawless. Despite the snide remark, she kept her cool.
“Then you must know why I followed you here, Emilia.”
“Haven’t the foggiest,” the Aisha brushed her hair aside, “unless… you could be after this?” she held up Orlitz’s bag. The Cybunny scowled.
“Where is the crown?” she asked plainly, still standing at the doorway.
“Wouldn’t you like to know. But please, sit down, I’m having tea sent up.” Orlitz sighed, knowing that this interrogation wouldn’t go very far. Still, she pressed on. Above all else, she wanted to understand exactly what was going on.
“Those Lutaris have been after you since Neopia Central, haven’t they? You stole the crown from Brightvale, and when you realized its true value, you chose to run away and stash it away somewhere. Why did you think you wouldn’t be caught?” Emilia’s smile faded.
“Careful there, honey,” she cautioned, “don’t go meddling into things that don’t concern you…”
“Unless…” Orlitz began, blinking at a realization, “you have another buyer awaiting the crown. Someone learned about what you stole, and has offered you far more than what those two lutaris can give you.” Emilia’s eyes darkened.
“You’re a nosy one, you know,” the aisha finally said, “finding that crown will have consequences—if you find it.”
Now it was Orlitz’s turn to laugh.
“We’ll see about that,” she smirked. The cybunny stepped into the room and snatched her purse. When she had closed the door behind her, she let out a shaky sigh. This confrontation was not what she had envisioned, and she had yet to find real evidence to crack the case wide open.
Excitedly, she hurried to Iskeen’s room, whom she assumed had returned from the restaurant. She impatiently knocked on the ixi’s door, who swung it open with such force, it surprised Orlitz.
“Iskeen!” she greeted before pushing her way into the room, “where are Faye and Julian? It doesn’t matter, I just discovered things—well, you wouldn’t believe—” she stumbled, plopping herself onto the bed.
To Orlitz’s dismay, Iskeen did not react as she had hoped. The ixi scowled at her friend.
“Look, I’m sorry that I ditched dinner, but this was more important!” she explained.
“You’ve been the worst friend this whole trip,” Iskeen exploded, “you never hang out with us, you’re always leaving to go who-knows-where, and then you blame us when we can’t keep up with your escapades!”
Orlitz was stunned. Iskeen glared at her, her chocolate-brown eyes ablaze.
“I-I’m sorry…” the cybunny managed, glancing down at her hands, “I think I forgot how much you were looking forward to this trip and I-I let you down, I’m an awful person…”
“I know you get really caught up in your mysteries, but a little sympathy would be nice every now and then,” Iskeen sighed, sinking onto the bed to hug her friend, “promise me you’ll try to be more considerate from here on out.”
Orlitz nodded sheepishly. She was aware that she often neglected her friends, but for the first time, she realized how much her actions could hurt them.
“Anyway, what did you find when you stalked that Blue aisha?” Iskeen finally said, giving her friend a reassuring smile.
Orlitz grinned, surprised by how easily her friend had forgiven her. She recounted all of her findings, and how all the pieces of evidence she had found were like pieces of a puzzle, slowly being assembled to create a bigger picture. Emilia, the Blue aisha, was a thief, hired by those two lutaris (whom Orlitz assumed were ringleaders of a black market operation) to steal the emerald crown of Princess Clarissa of Brightvale in the Brightvalian library. When the thief was offered a larger compensation for the crown than the lutaris had promised her, the aisha traveled to Terror Mountain to stash the crown in a cabin (presumably until she could coordinate an official meet-up with the unknown buyer.) Emilia then returned to Neopia Central. Orlitz assumed that, fearing the lutaris would locate the crown, she quickly returned to Terror Mountain, only to find that Orlitz had taken the crown. This is why the thief stole her bag at the sleigh station.
Iskeen listened, wordless. Finally, the Island ixi let out a deep sigh.
“That’s unbelievable,” she murmured, “but what about the ransacked cabin? And your ransacked room?”
“I have a theory about that,” speculated Orlitz, “I think that, when Emilia returned to the cabin to retrieve the crown (which I had already taken by that time), those lutaris followed her. They searched the cabin, hoping to find the crown. Then, they saw me return, and followed me back to the lodge where they searched my room for the it. I bet they’re the ones who I felt creeping at the library—may be they thought I had stashed the crown elsewhere… “
“So, what now?” Iskeen finally asked, having pondered Orlitz’s story, “do you have a clue where the crown is hidden now?”
“I bet it’s here, in the lodge,” mused Orlitz. When she noticed the look of utter confusion in her friend’s eyes, she pointed at the window, “There’s a blizzard outside, so we’re most likely going to be snowed in for the next day or so. I’m thinking that Emilia stashed the crown somewhere she can easily reach. If she knew she was going to be stuck in here, my guess is, she stashed it somewhere inside.”
“Then you’d better find it before anyone else does,” encouraged Iskeen with a smile. Having recounted all she knew, Orlitz suddenly realized how hungry she was. She excused herself and walked to the dining hall, where she purchased a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Taking a seat in the relatively empty hall, the cybunny pulled out the notepad from her bag and scribbled in her findings. As a reporter, she prefered to organize her thoughts on paper; she found that writing everything down sometimes revealed a hidden truth previously unseen.
Eventually, they dining hall closed for the evening, and Orlitz retired to her room, now back in order. After a luxurious bath, the Cybunny relaxed on her bed with a book and some tea. Soon, she was unable to keep her eyes open, and dozed off into a peaceful sleep. * * * * *
Orlitz awoke early the next morning. As she lay amidst her blankets and pillows, thoughts of yesterday’s events flooded her mind. The Cybunny jumped out of bed and dug through her suitcase for a change of clothes.
“Today, I’m going to find that crown,” she repeated to herself as she changed into a blouse and skirt and a light scarf. She glanced outside as she raked her fingers through her hair, not at all surprised to see all of Happy Valley hidden underneath a blanket of fresh powdered snow. The falling snow blew violently in the wind, which had clearly knocked some trees and signposts over. No one would be leaving the lodge today.
The notice slid underneath her door confirmed her thoughts: “Due to heavy snow, it is strongly advised to remain indoors. The lodge has organized several activities for guests throughout the day. We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope you continue to enjoy your stay in Happy Valley,” it read.
At breakfast, the Cybunny met with her friends in the dining hall, where they were served complimentary french toast and hot coffee. At Iskeen’s insistence, Orlitz apologized profusely to Julian and Faye, who easily forgave her impolite behavior the previous day. As they drenched their breakfast in maple syrup and powdered sugar, the cybunny recounted her findings to her friends as she had done with Iskeen.
As they were snowed in, Julian and Faye were eager to help Orlitz find the hidden crown, troubled that is had been stolen from Brightvale in the first place. Iskeen, meanwhile, had signed up for a cooking class hosted by the lodge in an effort to entertain their guests. The group parted way, and Orlitz, Faye, and Julian entered the crowded lobby, discussing where they would start their search.
“We have all day to find it,” assured Julian, “so don’t worry, we’ll find it!”
Orlitz’s excitement was quickly replaced by a sense of dread.
“We better find it fast,” she replied, her heart sinking, “look who decided to join us.”
By the fireplace stood two lutaris.
To Be Continued…