The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Five
RW stooped down and grabbed the hand firmly. The creature
attached to the hand squealed loudly and jerked back, desperately trying to
get away from the girl. It struggled and fought, hitting RW's arm and trying
to bite her before RW finally had the Neopet pinned to the dirt floor. In the
moonlight, RW could just barely make out the features of the thief, "Angel?"
The Nimmo grumbled something under his breath.
RW shook her head and lifted the Nimmo from the
ground, holding his hands firmly behind his back. At least some of Gelrelt's
fears had been confirmed - Angel was up to something. She wondered what
she would say to the Darigan Moehog when she saw him next. She had been inclined
to simply dismiss his suspicions about Angel, but now it seemed Gelrelt's instincts
Leading Angel out of the Dig House, RW first
called Gelrelt out of their tent. A look of astonishment spread across his face
at the sight of Angel. "I knew something was going on . . ." he murmured.
"Indeed you did," RW said. "Now let's go wake
Hamperdank and Holmes.
Angel glared at Gelrelt and groaned in response.
"I wasn't doing anything! Just checking on the stela!"
Gelrelt looked at him, "'Stela'?"
Angel rolled his eyes, "The inscribed artifact,"
he explained, "not that you would care about proper terms."
"Oh, put a Negg in it," Gelrelt snorted. He flapped
his wings in long, awkward strokes and followed RW to Hamperdank's tent. As
soon as she was up, Hamperdank rushed over to Holmes' tent and woke him and
Zaera. Within moments they were back inside the Dig House, interrogating Angel
by light of oil lanterns.
Angel sat at the end of one of the tables with
Holmes and Hamperdank seated on either side. Zaera and Gelrelt sat across from
each other while RW stood, carefully answering their questions and listening
to Angel's version of events.
"I was nervous and wanted to check on the artifacts,"
Angel offered, "I didn't know what to do when Miss Warrior entered, so I hid."
He looked at Doctor Hamperdank pleadingly, "I was only trying to protect the
artifacts when I reached up to grab it."
Gelrelt couldn't believe how good Angel was at
lying. If he hadn't known better, he would have been inclined to believe him.
Even though Holmes was dressed in a baggy, bright
green shirt with fuzzy, purple slippers, he still held an authoritative and
discerning air about him. He perceivingly asked, "And why would you feel the
need to hide from Miss Warrior - aside from the fact both of you were supposed
to be in bed at the time?"
At first, Angel's face held a blank expression.
After a few seconds, however, a sparkle came to his eyes as they settled on
Gelrelt. "It was something Gelrelt said to me around the campfire."
"What?" Gelrelt jumped, "What are you talking
Doctor Hamperdank politely asked Gelrelt to be
quiet; his side of the story would soon be heard. Turning back to Angel, Hamperdank
said, "Go on . . ."
Gelrelt forced himself to hold his tongue while
Angel recounted bits and pieces of their conversation. His account was surprisingly
fairly accurate, except he portrayed Gelrelt as if we was a paranoid, superstitious
person and downplayed Gelrelt's belief Angel knew about the artifact. He recounted
Gelrelt's vow to find out why Angel had hidden the artifact, making Gelrelt
sound conniving and manipulative, as if Gelrelt wanted to steal the artifact
as compensation for his broken leg.
Gelrelt could no longer restrain his objections,
"That's not true! Why in Neopia would I want a stupid hunk of rock?" He proceeded
to tell the whole story of how Angel had tried to divert him from his venture
in the woods and recount their whole conversation by the fire. "Just ask Shelbie!"
Gelrelt growled, visibly angry, "She'll vouch Angel was acting strange when
I was about to leave!"
Hamperdank and Holmes exchanged glances. Turning
to Zaera, they spoke one another's thoughts in unison, "Go get Shelbie."
It was Shelbie's testimony that turned the tables
on Angel. She had more than just noticed Angel's strange behavior, she had entertained
some of the same suspicions Gelrelt had. Combined with RW's description of how
Angel had fought her when she grabbed him, Hamperdank and Holmes were now heavily
questioning the Nimmo.
"Why didn't you tell us when you first found
the artifact?" Hamperdank asked.
Angel sighed, sticking with his original story,
"I didn't know it was there!"
"Judging by your behavior we can deduce that
you did," Holmes said. "We just don't know why."
Angel slammed his fist down and raised his voice,
"I haven't done anything!"
"Then why did I have to pry the stela from your
hands?" RW was too tired to allow Angel to keep denying what she was convinced
to be true. At first she had been ready to dismiss Gelrelt's claims, especially
with how he had been acting as of late. Her experience in the Dig House had
changed all that. Wrestling Angel in the moonlight, she had been able to see
something in his eyes. Looking back on it now, she thought that look may have
been some sort of righteous desperation, as if he was on some sort of urgent
mission. Though RW wasn't quite sure how such emotion came into stealing an
artifact, she was more sure than ever something other than just thieving had
occurred this night.
Angel began to answer her question, "I was .
. . afraid . . . you wanted to steal it."
RW caught sight of Hamperdank rolling her eyes.
It was obvious Angel was lying. "Okay," Hamperdank said, drumming her fingers
on the table, "Let's just say for a moment we believe you, Angel. Even then,
we would still have to send for the Defenders of Neopia. You know as well as
I do they would do their own investigation." Hamperdank folded her hands, "Judging
by what's been said here tonight, who do you think the Defenders would accuse
of trying to steal the stela?"
Angel looked down. He knew where Hamperdank was
going with this.
"Why don't we just make this simple," Hamperdank
started again. "I think we all agree Gelrelt hates archaeology too much to have
any interest in stealing an artifact. RW is after a story. By stealing the stela,
she would be hurting her chances of having an interesting article - not helping
them." Gelrelt shifted uncomfortably at Hamperdank's analysis of him, but remained
Hamperdank continued, "You're the only one left,
Angel. You're the only one who could have any reason for taking the artifact.
And, judging from what Gelrelt and Shelbie have said, I'm certainly beginning
to suspect you knew that fragment was there." Hamperdank leaned forward. "I'd
like to know exactly why you didn't tell us when you first found the artifact
and why you tried to steal it back; and I'd like to know now." The steady
gaze of her coal-colored eyes settled on Angel, harshly scrutinizing him.
Angel was cornered and he knew it. Thoughts of
what his Techo mentor would think of this flashed through his mind. The disappointment
he was sure to face did not appeal to the young Nimmo. However, the thought
of being carted off by the Defenders of Neopia appealed to him even less. He
looked at Hamperdank, "Will you send for the Defenders?"
Hamperdank leaned back in her chair, "That depends
on what you tell us in the next few minutes."
Angel folded his hands, trying to think of how
to word his reply. "My . . . mentor . . . sent me to this dig," he began, "A
long time ago, he found something around Techo Mountain - probably where we're
excavating now. He says what he found could spark another war if its significance
was found out."
The other six exchanged curious glances, "What?"
Gelrelt questioned, "How could something that old have any bearing on what goes
"Clearly you have no idea how significant history
is," Angel retorted, "Do you really think we would have become archaeologists
if we didn't think we were making a difference? Clearly you -"
"Please, get back to your mentor," Hamperdank
Angel paused to collect his thoughts. "My mentor
never really told me all that much about what he found, but I think it may have
been another stela. He told me to tell him about or send him any inscribed fragments
I may find."
Holmes shook his head, "Does your 'mentor' have
any idea how unlikely it would be to find a matching artifact?"
Angel nodded, "He knows. It's just . . ." he
searched for the right words, "He cares so much about this. He didn't want to
risk another artifact like the one he found being discovered." Angel looked
down, "He really, truly does care for the good of Mystery Island.
"He gave me a description of where he found his
artifact," Angel continued, "He instructed me to take the unit nearest that
point." He looked up at Holmes, "I suppose that since I found a piece of what
he instructed me to find, his fears were not unfounded."
As Angel spoke, a plan was formulating in Hamperdank's
mind. Perhaps if they could speak to Angel's mentor, they may be able to straighten
this whole situation out and maybe even get a clearer explanation of what he
had 'discovered'. Clamping her hands together, Hamperdank asked, "Angel, who
is this mentor of yours?"
Angel bit his lip for a moment before answering.
Holmes looked astonished, "The anthropology professor
at Mystery Island college?"
Angel nodded, glancing from Hamperdank to Holmes,
"Yeah . . . why do you ask?"
Angel wrung his hands nervously. In a few moments,
Doctor Hamperdank, Holmes, and RW would be leaving camp to go visit Professor
Kent Brier. The young Nimmo could only imagine how unhappy his mentor would
be when he discovered Angel had failed him.
All night Angel had been kept in a separate tent
under the watchful eye of Ryshu. Ryshu wasn't particularly thrilled when he
was awakened from his dreams to guard Angel all night, and his frustration clearly
showed. He sat in the corner of the tent with his arms folded across his chest,
glaring at Angel with hard, cold eyes. If Angel didn't know any better, he would
have said Ryshu's red skin was almost glowing with anger and frustration from
Angel leaned back and laid down on his cot, staring
up at the ceiling. He could hear Hamperdank and RW's voices outside, discussing
what they would be doing at the college and how they would ask to speak with
the professor. Angel swallowed hard. There had to be something he could do.
Underneath Angel's cot lay an odd sort of creature.
It was reptilian, yellow with peach spots . . . its strong, armored head was
tucked under a leg as it slept. Scout the Sauropod swung her tail and moved
her legs awkwardly, dreaming of chasing a Cocoa Juppie with wings. She snorted
a few times, then sneezed. It was this sneeze that woke her.
As RW had followed Gelrelt out of the Dig House
the morning before, Scout had noticed a rather scrumptious looking piece of
fruit on the breakfast table. She immediately decided such a plump, juicy Funnydew
Melon shouldn't have any chance of being eaten by a creature other than herself.
Hopping off RW's shoulder, Scout snatched up the fruit and scampered off the
table. She found refuge underneath Zaera's pots and proceeded to eat the fruit
Emerging from the pans little more than an hour
later, Scout had found the camp deserted. She spent the day lounging around,
eating what fruit she could find and climbing trees. That night, she hid away
underneath what happened to be the very cot Angel was now lying on.
Hardly noticing the two Nimmos in the tent, Scout
took a deep breath of the morning air. She noted a rather sweet, sugary scent
coming from a tan backpack sitting beside the cot she had slept under. The enticing
scent was too much for the hungry Sauropod. She bolted into the sack and buried
herself inside, munching on her newly found treat.
Angel jumped as an idea popped into his mind.
He could possibly send a Neomessage to the professor. Of course, that would
mean he would have to leave the camp somehow. Perhaps he could just grab his
backpack and run for town. If he could reach Brier in time, he may be able to
straighten out a lot of the mess he had gotten himself into.
He didn't have much time to think about his idea.
At the very moment he began to consider escaping, Hamperdank and RW entered
the tent, momentarily distracting Ryshu. At that instant, Angel grabbed his
backpack and darted out of the tent and down the trail, heading for town.
RW, Holmes, and Hamperdank stared up at the intimidating,
pillared brick building. This tall, classical structure housed Mystery Island
college's anthropology department. Hamperdank bit her lip, pushing her way through
the establishment's heavy wooden doors.
Hamperdank hadn't been surprised when Angel had
run. No doubt he would have been prosecuted for trying to steal. The simple
fact he had tried to take an artifact from a dig would scar his archaeological
career for the rest of his life. Still, she didn't see the point of running.
Even if he got off the Island, there were ways of tracking down the Nimmo. Why
postpone the inevitable?
The lobby of the department building was quite
modest. Two simply constructed wooden chairs sat on either side of a stained
wooden table laden with archaeology journals. On the walls were tall glass displays
giving a brief outline of Mystery Island's background, accentuated by replicated
artifacts to reflect different stages of history. At the end of the lobby was
a rather grand-looking green desk, behind which sat a bored looking blue Acara.
Hamperdank approached the desk, RW and Holmes
following closely behind, "Is Doctor Brier in?"
The Acara sighed and rolled her eyes, "Do you
have an appointment?"
"Umm . . . no." Hamperdank said.
"Well, the professor can only see appointments
at the moment."
Hamperdank blinked and glanced back at Holmes.
She turned back and folded her claws on the counter, "You see, we really
need to speak with him. It has to do with one of his students . . ."
The Acara shrugged and began drumming her fingers,
"I only do as I'm told, ma'am."
"I don't think you understand, we really -"
Holmes interrupted Hamperdank, "It's fine, Jo."
He addressed the receptionist, "We'll come back later." He pulled Hamperdank
away from the desk. "I have an idea," he whispered.
Outside, Holmes quickly explained his plan, "Check
RW shrugged. She never wore a watch.
Hamperdank glanced down at her wind-up clock,
"It's quarter 'til twelve."
Holmes nodded, "Yep. Just about time for lunch.
And I'll bet my trowel that receptionist will leave her post as soon as she
"Oh," Hamperdank smiled, "And after she leaves,
we'll be able to talk with Brier!"
Holmes nodded. "Exactly."
Twenty minutes later, the trio checked back inside
the lobby. No receptionist. Holmes smiled, stood up, and walked by the reception
desk with a feigned air of authority. Hamperdank shook her head and suppressed
a laugh. If the Skeith hadn't decided to become an archaeologist, he could have
become an actor.
Just past the reception desk was a long hallway
lined with doors on each side. Each had a fog-glass window with square lettering.
As they past, Holmes read off the names, "Flinders Rohl . . . David Pteri .
. . Gaston Weeks . . . Kent Brier." He stopped and glanced up at RW and Hamperdank,
setting his blue claw on the doorknob, "Ready?"
To be continued...