There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 81,443,838 Issue: 152 | 8th day of Hiding, Y6
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The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Seven


by resurrectedwarrior

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Hamperdank, Holmes, and RW trotted into the cooking pot clearing. A long queue of pets were lined up in front of the big green pot, various odd items in hand, waiting for their turn to mix them together. Standing behind the large pot was Jhuidah, a tall and elegant figure. Her pink wings shone with radiance in the afternoon light, and her golden jewelry shimmered with certain intrigue.

But the expression on her face barely matched. Jhuidah frowned and stared at the long line of pets blankly, her ill-mood evident by every word from her fair mouth.

The trio hardly noticed Jhuidah’s mood as they split up and searched the clearing for any sign of Angel or Dr. Brier. The entire clearing wasn’t very large; just a small circle of trees and a worn down path where Neopets lined up at the massive pot. On one side was a small table with several chairs, apparently a makeshift waiting area for mixers on crowded days. The clearing was surrounded by trees and water reeds, as it was very close to the Mystery Island coast.

Upon searching the clearing, all three companions met back in the middle of the clearing. “Find anything?” Hamperdank asked.

Both RW and Holmes shook their heads.

“Well . . .” Hamperdank thought for a moment, “Perhaps Jhuidah saw them.” She turned abruptly and began heading toward the faerie.

Holmes glanced up in the direction Hamperdank was walking and frowned. He could immediately tell Jhuidah was in a sour mood today. “Josephine, do you really think you should bother her?” Holmes began trotting after her, “She looks quite busy today.”

Hamperdank shrugged off Holmes’ warning and marched up to the head of the queue, ignoring the many protests from other Neopians. She looked straight up at Jhuidah and voiced her inquiry, “Excuse me,” she resisted wincing at the sound of her voice. She sounded so . . . small in the presence of the faerie. “Miss Jhuidah, have you seen a young green Nimmo with an older individual today?”

Jhuidah glared down at the green Techo. “I see many green Nimmos here,” she said flatly.

Hamperdank swallowed, “Yes . . . ah . . . but this is very important. Do you remember anyone named Angel?”

“No.”

“Do you remember a Nimmo and an old pet together?”

“What kind?” Jhuidah’s voice was becoming increasingly impatient.

Hamperdank paused, her mouth hanging agape. She hadn’t ever really thought about Brier’s species, “Ummm . . . I don’t know.”

Jhuidah rolled her eyes, “I can’t help you if you don’t even know what species you’re looking for. Please move back so I can get back to work!”

Hamperdank sighed and backed away, rejoining RW and Holmes. “Nothing,” she said with a sigh.

“Well . . . where do you think they’d be headed?” RW glanced from Holmes to Hamperdank.

“If I were them, I’d get out of Mystery Island,” Hamperdank said.

Holmes sighed, “If that’s so, then they’re long gone by now.”

Hamperdank nodded. “I suppose there’s nothing left to do but head back to camp, then.”

***

Entering the dig campsite roughly an hour later, RW, Holmes, and Hamperdank were met with an interesting site. Zaera and Shelbie were studying a tiny map with Gelrelt while a few other team members were sitting about discussing something in a very serious manner. Other members were trotting in and out of the Dig House gathering torches and compasses.

“What’s going on here,” Hamperdank asked as she approached Zaera and Shelbie, “Why isn’t anyone digging?”

Zaera looked up. “Angel came back . . .” She quickly related how they had discovered yet another stela, only to have it snatched away by Angel and then realize their first piece was missing as well. “He couldn’t possibly have been alone,” the Zafara concluded, “There’s no way he could have gotten to that other piece.”

Gelrelt looked up at RW, “Did you ever meet that professor guy?”

RW blinked, trying to hold back her shock. Was Gelrelt actually interested in this? She shook her head, “No. He wasn’t there.”

Gelrelt frowned and nodded. He leaned back, appearing both bored and deep in thought at the same time. “I found Scout,” he smirked.

RW jumped. “You did? Where?”

Gelrelt shrugged, trying not to reveal his own excitement, “She stowed away in Angel’s backpack.” He smiled, “I think she was eating his snacks all day – she was covered in chocolate when I found her.” He leaned over the side of the crate and lifted a chocolate-coated Sauropod for RW to see.

Zaera glanced up at Hamperdank and Holmes. She was becoming very impatient with the way this day was going. While she was ready to go on the war path and hunt down Angel and whoever his accomplice was, Shelbie had been of a much more sound mind at the moment. She insisted they alert the other members up at the excavation site and let them know where they would be going. This delay led to another and yet another while the team members decided who would be going to find Angel, whether or not they needed medical supplies, and when exactly they would be leaving. Zaera hated it when people made simple things difficult. What was so hard about finding the little bandit and taking back what belonged to them? “We were finally about ready to leave to find Angel . . .” She tried to make her voice communicate her frustration. She handed Hamperdank the map, “Scout had this when she jumped out of Angel’s bag. We think it’s a rendezvous point.” She tapped Pango’s Gorge.

Hamperdank nodded, “That’s a good two hour’s march from here. We should get started as soon as possible.”

Zaera lifted a mid-sized backpack to her shoulders. “Already ahead of you. I have a few torches and matches in here in case we’re out after dark.”

Hamperdank nodded again. She looked from RW to Holmes, “Are you two up to leaving now? Time is of the essence.”

Holmes nodded while RW spoke, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

With that, Hamperdank turned and headed out of camp, followed closely by RW, Holmes, Zaera, and Shelbie. She held the map up before her, trying to remember the fastest route to Pango’s Gorge.

Gelrelt sighed, setting Scout down on the crate beside him. For a moment he had thought things between him and RW might have improved, but he was wrong. RW was merely distracted by the situation with Angel so much she hadn’t been able to be as mean to him as usual. If things were really getting better, RW wouldn’t be leaving him again. She would be thinking of him above herself – for once.

But RW wasn’t. She was still wrapped up in her little world of getting the next big story for the Neopian Times. Gelrelt snorted and clunked his head on the crate in front of him. Wasn’t there anything that would make her care more about him than her stupid adventure? He had broken his leg, for Sloth’s sake!

Gelrelt looked up just in time to see RW spin around. She called across the clearing, “Hey, Gelrelt! Aren’t you coming?”

Gelrelt nearly fell off his box. “Uh . . . sure.” He suppressed the smile forming at the corners of his lips and tried to look cool and collected as he flapped over to RW.

RW smirked at the sparkle in Gelrelt’s eyes. She silently began to follow the others once again, keeping an eye on Gelrelt to make sure he didn’t slam into a tree due to his awkward flying.

About an hour and a half later, the six companions were walking along a worn switchback trail leading up Pango’s Mountain. Dense foliage lined either side of the trail and Beekadoodles were bursting forth in their evening song. RW glanced up at the sky, admiring the still clouds. They looked as if faeries had painted them with exquisite detail. RW could easily imagine faeries taking paint brushes and painting the sky everyday. To her such a thing seemed quite natural; that the caretakers of the world would also add to its beauty.

A snort from Gelrelt interrupted her reverie. She glanced over to see the Moehog was struggling more than ever to stay in the air. Flying for an hour and a half had taken its toll on the pet. Without warning, RW reached out and took Gelrelt into her arms. His reaction to this was a startled but grateful look. Evidently, he was too tired to let his pride argue RW into letting him fly more.

RW sighed softly, thinking back to the morning before. She knew she had been wrong in her attitude towards Gelrelt. Perhaps all the animosity between them could have been prevented if she had explained things to Gelrelt rather than dragging him off on a trip he didn’t want to go on. But then, he certainly didn’t need to act the way he had.

However, RW had finally come to the conclusion things would probably get better faster if she was the one to take the first step towards making things right between them. Slowly her lips formed the words, “I’m sorry, Gelrelt.”

Gelrelt’s head snapped around, his red eyes searching RW’s green ones. “What did you just say?” Had his owner just apologized? He had thought she would never lay down her pride enough to actually say that!

RW’s voice was stronger this time, “I’m sorry; I’m sorry for not being truthful about this trip . . . I was wrong.”

Gelrelt snorted, “It certainly would have made things easier if you had told me what your plans were.”

RW flashed Gelrelt a look of warning, “Your attitude wasn’t exactly helpful either!”

“I suppose I could have improved that a bit,” Gelrelt shrugged.

“You suppose?”

“Well . . .” Gelrelt sighed. “I know I could have been better, but I kind of . . . wanted to make this trip lousy for you. You’ve been ignoring me a lot . . . you’re spending more time reporting than you are with me.”

There wasn’t much RW could say to that. It was, for the most part, true. She had been consumed with covering an important event that would raise her status in the Times. She had allowed her obsession to dwarf what was really and truly important to her; her family. “I . . . I’m sorry for that too, Gelrelt,” she said. “I guess I really am a bit scatter-brained.”

Gelrelt nodded enthusiastically.

RW shot him another look of warning.

Placing his head on RW’s shoulder, Gelrelt sighed. Apologizing had never been an easy thing for him, but he knew it was expected of him right now. He wrinkled his nose, trying to figure out a way to get around expressing any remorse for his actions. Truth be told, he honestly was feeling a tinge of regret for harassing RW so much, but he hated the thought of humbling himself enough to express that regret.

RW could tell Gelrelt was having a hard time with whatever he was thinking about. Intuition told her he was struggling with his own pride. Smiling mischievously, she pinched his neck. Perhaps a little pain would get his focus off himself and put it on the bigger picture.

Gelrelt head instantly snapped up, “What was that for?”

RW looked at him innocently, “What was what for?”

Gelrelt grumbled, “Fine! I shouldn’t have been so grumpy and stuff!”

RW grinned, “See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?”

***

The remainder of their trek through the jungle came and went mostly in silence. As the six neared Pango’s Gorge, RW could hear what sounded like a torrent of rushing water. She glanced around, trying to see any kind of river that might be near them. Unable to locate the source of the sound, RW looked over at Zaera, she asked, “Where’s that water sound coming from?”

Zaera looked up at RW, “There’s a river running through the bottom of Pango’s Gorge. Oh – and then there’s a waterfall about thirty meters tall around a hundred meters from where we’re going – that’s the roar you’re hearing.

Gelrelt lifted his head from RW’s arm and looked up the side of the mountain. They had almost reached the top. He could see just a few more switchbacks and then a bald covered with tall grass. He wondered why Angel and his accomplice had decided to meet in such a hard-to-reach place. Why couldn’t they just meet in a café in downtown Mystery Island? That would have made things easier!

“When we get there, I don’t want to fight,” Gelrelt could hear Hamperdank saying to Holmes. “I just want to get the stelae back and find out why all this has happened.”

Holmes nodded in response. “Sounds like a good idea, but I doubt Angel will just give up the pieces, especially if his accomplice is someone who holds authority over him.”

Hamperdank glanced over at Holmes before looking up the mountain, “You think it’s Dr. Brier, don’t you?”

“Yup.”

Hamperdank sighed, rounding the last switchback, “I just hope this can all be straightened out without too many problems.”

Holmes was about to reply, but just then the group entered the clearing. Just as Gelrelt had seen, tall grass covered a wide, treeless meadow on the top of the mountain. Small, yellow flowers sprinkled the meadow here and there, giving it a very calming feel. Not too far away on their right was a large waterfall, spilling into a huge crack running the length of the meadow. This was Pango’s Gorge.

A sudden movement caught Gelrelt’s eye. On his left an elderly red Techo jumped to his feet. Still on the ground, a startled, young green Nimmo looked up with surprise, “Wha . . . how did you find us?” Angel said with alarm.

Hamperdank held up the map in reply.

The elderly Techo glared down at Angel, “I was wondering why you were late!”

Angel winced, “I’m sorry, Professor Brier!”

The Techo shook his head, “You’re just one big screw up after another, aren’t you?”

Angel said nothing in reply. He only stared down at his hands, wishing he hadn’t been so forthcoming when Holmes and Hamperdank interrogated him.

Brier turned back to Hamperdank and the others, “I’m afraid I cannot return the artifacts; the information they contain is far too sensitive.”

“By taking from an excavation you’re undermining everything you stand for as an archaeologist,” Hamperdank growled. “An archaeologist’s mission is to discover history, not hide it!”

Brier rolled his eyes, “Please, don’t feed this old heart those lies. You know as well as I do ‘an archaeologist’s mission’ is to make a name for himself!” He turned to Angel and instructed him to put the three stelae away in his bag.

Holmes folded his arms, taking a few steps closer to Brier, “Why don’t you tell us what exactly you’re hiding then?”

Brier hesitated. He glanced with uneasiness at Angel, who merely shrugged in reply. The doctor regretted more than ever not having told Angel everything he knew about the stelae. He certainly could have used some advice right now.

After a few moments of silence, the doctor took the bag from Angel and drew out the largest of the three stelae; the piece he had found many years ago as a young Techo. “I found this just after I got out of graduate school. I was passing through the ruins on the old village and tripped over it . . . nearly broke my leg.”

Gelrelt snorted. Somehow that story sounded oddly familiar. He glanced down at the cast on his leg, ‘Oh yeah . . .’

Doctor Brier continued, “I took it to a friend on mine at the college, asking him to translate it for me.” He stared down at the rock, lowering his voice, “It says, ‘The Nimmoan Saemis present Techo Mountain to our glorious Techo King.’” He lifted his eyes, glaring at the band of archaeologists before him. “The Nimmoan Saemis, literally translated as the ‘Simple Nimmos’, were ancient slaves.”

Hamperdank began to blurt something out, but Brier would have none of it. He continued speaking, glaring at Hamperdank to hush her. “Nimmos – slaves - were forced to build Techo Mountain, forced by an ancient, villainous, vain Techo king! Can you imagine the rift this would cause to form between the descendants of those Nimmos and Techos? Imagine the chasm that would form between all Nimmos and Techos at this atrocity!”

Holmes shook his head, “I cannot imagine any rift forming. You’re overplaying the situation. Perhaps a few Nimmos and Techos would develop hatred for each other, but certainly not all of them. Most people are mature enough to look past what’s happened and learn from it.”

“You’re mistaken,” Brier spat, “The Techos have always taken pride in the ‘fact’ they built Techo Mountain. They’ve always thought themselves better than Nimmos, and Nimmos have politely born this sentiment rather than start fights about it. If the Nimmos find out they built Techo Mountain under the oppression of prideful Techos, they may revolt against us. They could drive us out of Mystery Island forever.” He turned back to Angel and handed him the white rock, instructing him to put it away.

Holmes sighed and stuck his claws in his pockets, “Even if what you say is true, and all that you’ve said happens, we have no right to suppress history.”

“Who are you to say what is and isn’t within my rights?” Brier sneered, looking back at him, “I have been protecting our Island from what could easily turn into a civil war for many years longer than your friend here has been alive.” He pointed at Hamperdank with a thin, calloused claw, “And you, being a Techo yourself should appreciate the effort I have put my life towards!”

“Who are you to say ‘who are you to say’?” Holmes shot back. “The standards we operate by are just that – standards! They are not relative to the situation! You have no right to interpret those standards in such a way to fit your particular circumstance. To do so is to mock the very core of our beliefs.”

Brier grumbled and ignored Holmes’ logic. He glared at him accusingly, “You care nothing for yourself or the others around you! You’re just a selfish, self-serving Skeith!”

The more they spoke back and forth, the more Hamperdank became sure the old, red Techo would never willingly return the artifacts so they could be studied properly. She glanced at Angel, sitting down behind him. She had noticed a look of apprehension growing on his face ever since Brier began speaking of the consequences of telling the public the message of the stelae. That apprehension, however, was not directed toward the future. Angel was staring at his mentor with worry carved deep into his face. Hamperdank ventured a guess that he had finally seen Brier’s madness. Hamperdank hoped her instincts were right as she appealed to the Nimmo, “Angel, give me the bag.”

Brier spun around and half shouted at Angel, “You had better not! Not after all I’ve done for you!”

Angel looked at his mentor with wide eyes, “Sir, I fear you may be mistaken in this whole matter. I know all this is of the utmost importance to you . . . but I feel it may be time to trust someone else with this.”

Breir looked shocked, “How dare you question my conclusions!” he hissed, “You’re nothing but a pre-grad student. Only a daft, prideful person would question his master’s conclusions!”

Angel was obviously hurt by his mentor’s comments. How could someone he spent so much time with know so little of him? He shook his head sadly, lifting the bag over his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Professor Brier.” He began walking towards Hamperdank.

Brier watched Angel in disbelief. He was being betrayed after all these years by one of his own students! With a shout he grabbed Angel and savagely wrenched the sack from him and took off running in the opposite direction.

An old Techo was no match for a young Nimmo followed by six other individuals. Brier barely covered 5 meters before Angel caught up with him and grabbed the backpack. Brier put up quite a fight, however, clinging to the bag as if his very existence depended on it. Zaera let out a cry of warning; Brier and Angel were now terribly close to the opening of the gorge. She and the others watched in shock as Angel finally succeeded in retrieving the sack from Brier, only to stumble backwards and fall over the edge of the gorge, careening towards the thunderous rapids below.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part One
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Two
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Three
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Four
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Five
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Six
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Eight



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