Orlitz and the Search for the Emerald Crown: Part Six
Orlitz was relieved that the Lutaris hadn’t spotted her when she hurriedly ushered her friends out of the lobby. She glanced behind her, worried that they would follow. Luckily, they didn’t, which gave Julian a chance to ask who those Lutaris were.
“Those are the two Lutaris I’ve been telling you guys about!” Orlitz began to respond in exasperation, but she stopped herself. As Iskeen had told her, she couldn’t get frustrated at her friends for not keeping up with her escapades. “They’re here, probably looking for the crown too. Which is why it’s doubly important that we find it before they do!”
“Okay, so where do we start?” Faye asked cheerfully. Orlitz wasn’t surprised, the little Green Xweetok was an adventurer, always ready to go where the action took her.
“I know you guys aren’t going to like this, but I want to start in Emilia’s room,” she offered, eyeing her friends cautiously.
“How are we gonna do that?” demanded Julian, “we need to get her out of the room before we can snoop around”
Orlitz grinned, “I think I have a plan for that…”* * * * *
After a minute of careful “planning,” the trio snuck behind the front desk, where a door marked “employees only” stood. Because all workers were so busy keeping the guests happy, no one was watching who entered and who exited the break room, and the trio slipped in with ease. One Disco Bruce stopped the group as they crept through the room, asking them who they were, but Orlitz easily told him that they were temporary workers hired due to the blizzard. Satisfied, the Bruce left them alone, and, facing no other obstacles, they trod to the locker rooms, where Orlitz found a worker’s uniform.
“Here,” she said, chucking the clothes at Julian, who caught them with a look of surprise, “you’re going to change into these.”
Before the pastel Lupe could protest, the Cybunny pushed him into the changing rooms. Faye gave her a questioning glance, but Orlitz only smiled. “You’ll see,” she assured her friend.
Eventually, Julian reemerged, this time in a somewhat loose-fitting red uniform. Faye and Orlitz both giggled at the sight of him, and he tugged at his shirt uncomfortably.
“Can you please tell me what this is for?” he finally demanded, peeved.
Orlitz nodded and finally explained to her friends the plan she had concocted: Julian (dressed in the employee uniform) would knock on Emilia’s door and bring her a tray of milk and cookies, claiming she had ordered room service. He would “accidentally” spill the tray on the Aisha and bring her down to the lobby for a refund, which would hopefully distract her long enough for Faye and Orlitz to sneak into the room and find some evidence pointing to the crown.
Julian stiffened, evidently uncomfortable with the plan.
“I don’t know about this,” he muttered, “what if she doesn’t buy it? What if she recognizes me?”
“You’ll be fine,” assured Orlitz, adjusting his uniform hat.
The trio left the break lounge and grabbed a tray of food from the dining area before they headed upstairs. Orlitz positioned Julian in front of Emilia’s door, and hid behind the corner with Faye. With an encouraging thumbs-up, the plan was set into motion. Julian shakily knocked on the door.
“Miss Emilia, room service,” the Lupe announced hesitantly. Emilia answered the door, somewhat annoyed.
“I think you’re mistaken, I didn’t order anything…”
“Well that’s funny because we received a request from--OH!” Julian tilted the tray, dumping its contents on the surprised Aisha. Cookies and milk flew everywhere and landed all over the Aisha’s clothes. Some even made their way into her hair.
“Oh my, I’m SO sorry!” he repeated over and over again to the very angry-looking, milk-covered Aisha.
“No, it’s alright,” grumbled Emilia, “please don’t concern yourself with--” Emilia was suddenly hustled out of her room.
“I’m so sorry miss,” stuttered the Lupe, “please, let me accompany you to the lounge so that we can reimburse you…” He led Emilia away, who followed him with some protest.
Seeing their chance, Orlitz and Faye rushed to Emilia’s door, only to realize in dismay that she had closed it behind her.
“I didn’t take a locked door into account,” grumbled the Cybunny. On the other hand, Faye had, and pulled two pins out of her hair.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered,” she grinned as she slid them into the lock. While Orlitz glanced anxiously around, the Xweetok skillfully manipulated the tumblers with ease until she heard a resounding click. Satisfied, she swung the wooden door open with a triumphant “ta-da!”
“Where did you learn that?”
“Oh, you know, traveling,” the Xweetok responded with a glint in her eye.
The pair stepped into the vacant room. Its layout matched that of Orlitz’s room, with a large, quilt-covered bed, an ornate rug covering dark plywood floorboards, an oak closet, a rustic glass table, log chairs, and festive curtains adorning an enormous cut window. The room was charming and smelled of pine wood, but Orlitz had little time to appreciate the interior decor. She and Faye had to snoop, and snoop they would. As Faye rummaged through the closet, Orlitz approached the red purse that the Aisha had conveniently left behind. Obviously, after the Lutaris had ransacked Orlitz’s room the other day, Emilia had found a wonderful opportunity to slip into the room and reclaim her purse, the Cybunny reasoned.
She rummaged through the small scarlet bag and pulled out the Aisha’s notebook, which she eagerly flipped through. She found the most recent entry in the journal, and read: “Buyer coming TODAY!! Rendez-vous at cabin, 5:30 p.m.”
The Cybunny glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table, and found the time to be 1:10.
“We should go,” she said to Faye (who had been poking through a suitcase), “I’ve found all I need.” The girls restored everything the way they had found it, scurried out of the room and ducked behind a corner right as Emilia emerged from the stairwell.
“Again, I apologize for the inconvenience,” mumbled Julian, walking swiftly behind her.
“It’s alright, it’s alright,” replied the Blue Aisha. Her clothes were still stained with milk, but the front desk had evidently “reimbursed” her, as she carried a small pouch of neopoints in her hand. Without another word, she stepped into her room and slammed the door right in Julian’s face. Relieved that the facade had ended, the Pastel Lupe joined the girls behind the corner.
“You owe me big time,” you scowled at Orlitz, “that Aisha is unapologetic!”
“Don’t worry, you won’t have to dress up again, we found the only thing of use in her room,” she smiled. Orlitz told Faye and Julian of her findings in Emilia’s notebook, and the looming deadline. “It’s imperative that we find that crown before then. We have four hours left before Emilia leaves the lodge and goes to that cabin!”
Orlitz, Julian, and Faye spent the next two hours searching every place in the lodge they could access. As Julian asked some guests whether they had seen a crown with emerald jewels, Faye and Orlitz searched the lobby, the various lounges, and even the public sauna. Orlitz even managed to sneak into the kitchen to question some cooks, but was quickly thrown out by a very angry-looking grarrl.
Having searched every nook and cranny of the hotel, the group finally returned to the dining hall, hungry and defeated. They were met by a cheerful-looking Iskeen who offered them a plate of her fresh-baked Borovan Brownies.
Though she readily reached for a brownie, Orlitz did not try to hide her disappointment. She told Iskeen that, despite having looked everywhere, they hadn’t found a single clue as to where the crown could be.
“Maybe you just didn’t look everywhere,” the Island ixi responded matter-of-factly. She brought a Kacheek Board Game for them all to play, but Orlitz was distracted. As her friends played, she glared out the window, mesmerized by the waves of snow falling from the sky. She raked her mind, trying to think of a place she normally wouldn’t consider checking. But, unless Emilia had hidden the crown in a guest room—
“That’s it!” Orlitz sat upright. Her friends looked up from their game in surprise.
“What’s it?” hesitated Faye. Orlitz had already leapt up from the table.
“I’ll be right back!” she called to them before disappearing out of the room. * * * * *
The Cybunny scurried up the stairs two at a time. How could she have missed it? There was one place no one would think of searching. Why would they, when they had already searched it before? Orlitz congratulated Emilia. She was clever. So clever, in fact, that she has stashed the crown right under the Cybunny’s nose—right where the Lutaris would not think to look again. Orlitz reached her floor and ran to her door, digging through her pockets for her room key. She hoped to Fyora she wasn’t too late. The Cybunny unlocked the door and flung it open.
“Well, well,” chuckled the Blue Aisha. Orlitz stopped in her tracks. By her bed stood Emilia herself, twirling the silver crown around her finger.
“You,” she growled through clenched teeth, “give me the crown back right now.”
“I don’t think so,” the Aisha sighed, slipping the crown into a little pouch, “you see, I have a client who has traveled a long way for this piece of jewelry, and I’d like to make my appointment on time.”
Orlitz slammed the door behind her, effectively trapping both girls in the suite.
“I won’t let you escape,” she warned, approaching the Aisha.
“We’ll see about that.”
Emilia turned to the window and unclasped the latch. The window flew open, and billows of snow blasted into the room. The Aisha climbed onto the window sill, fiery-red hair flying wildly in the wind. She winked tauntingly at Orlitz, and dove out the window, as gracefully as a Faerie lenny. Orlitz bolted through to the window, but she couldn’t see through the torrents of wind and snow. For a moment, the Cybunny was tempted to jump after the Aisha, but remembers that her room was situated on the fourth floor of the lodge. Falling from such a height without training would be too dangerous. Filled with panic, she ran out of her room and stumbled down the stairs, intent on pursuing Emilia from the hotel’s front door.
As she raced towards the main entrance, prepared to dodge any employees who would stop her, the Cybunny tripped and was grabbed by the wrist. She swiveled around, horrified by the sight that greeted her. Glowering down at her were the two Lutaris. Orlitz struggled from their grasp.
“Let me go!” she hissed, trying to yank her arm from their grip.
“Don’t make a fuss, lady,” the taller of the two growled, “just follow us.”
With both her arms restrained, the Cybunny did not have much of a choice.
“From the way you were running, we can only assume that Emilia has made off with the crown,” said one, “that’s why, you’re going to help us.”
“And why would I do that,” Orlitz snickered dryly.
“Because if you don’t, we’re going to throw you out into the blizzard, and no one will find you.”
Orlitz realized with dismay that she was not wearing her coat. Even a few minutes outside in the storm would freeze her to the bone. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where the Lutaris were headed. As they approached a side door leading outside, hidden from other guests, Orlitz registered with terror what the Lutaris had in mind.
“You’re going to be our leverage,” said one, as if reading her thoughts, “you are going to take us to the cabin, and help us get back what’s rightfully ours.”
Orlitz didn’t have the chance to protest. She was pulled outside into the white abyss. The wind and snow stung the Cybunny’s face and ears, her hair billowing wildly in every direction. She couldn’t stop blinking the frozen particles out of her eyes, and winced hard trying to peer ahead. Alas, all she could see in every direction were swirling clouds of snow. Dressed in only a blouse and skirt, she shook uncontrollably and her teeth clattered. Her scarf and fluffy mane did little to protect against the biting wind. Still, the Lutaris persisted onwards.
The walk to the cabin was painfully slow, as the group fought against the angry wind. As they trudged onwards, the Cybunny’s fingers, unprotected in the bitter cold, went numb. Because they were nearing their destination, the Lutaris released their grip of Orlitz’s arms. She couldn’t escape them anyway, she had nowhere to turn but forward. She stumbled along, feeling drowsy.
“I have to show Iskeen where I went…” she slurred, clumsily yanking off her scarf. She threw it on the ground, hoping the wind wouldn't make it stray too far from the path. She knew her footprints wouldn’t last—the snow was falling so hard, any tracks they left were immediately obscured by fresh snow. The Cybunny could only hope to Fyora that her friends would realize she was missing and come looking for her.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, a small log cabin came into view.
“We’re here,” one Lutari announced hoarsely, “after you.”
The Lutaris opened the door and Orlitz was pushed inside.
To be continued…