Orlitz and the Search for the Emerald Crown: Part Three
Orlitz awoke late in the morning after a troubled night of sleep. Yesterday, she had told her friends everything she had discovered at the abandoned cabin, and had even showed them the exquisite crown she had taken from the premises. They all marvelled at the gorgeous head piece, but had little to offer in terms of help. Julian remarked how much the crown’s ornamentations reminded him of the Brightvale Castle, which made Orlitz’s mind race. Convinced she had missed an important piece of evidence back at the cabin, she planned to return there as soon as she could.
Her chance came after breakfast, when her friends had left to spend the day shopping in Happy Valley. The cybunny hardly had the time to feel upset that she was missing their excursion. Instead, she excitedly headed straight for the cabin, determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. This time, she took care to dress as warmly as possible, so as not to catch the sneezles while she snooped through the cabin.
When she reached the outskirts of Happy Valley, the cybunny immediately noticed heavy footprints trampled in the snow, and was surprised to see the door of the cabin wide open.
“That’s weird,” she muttered, “I swear I closed it when I left yesterday.” Cautiously, she stepped into the house, hoping the floor would not creak beneath her feet. The sight inside did not lull her dread. All the furniture had been turned over, the carpets rolled to the side, all belongings scattered everywhere. Orlitz feared that whoever had done this was still in the house, but regardless, she pressed on. Perhaps the saboteur had left some indication of what they were looking for (though Orlitz had a nagging feeling she already knew what it was). She entered the secret room and nearly tripped over the pile of books and damaged papers strewn across the floor. In the back of the room, the closet had been forced open and pushed to the side.
The cybunny assumed that whoever had created this chaos had been looking for the crown, and evidently had not found it. Her grasp tightened around the straps of her purse, suddenly aware of the crown’s weight inside. Hurriedly, she left the cabin and returned to the ski lodge, glad to have left the ominous environment. Several times, she glanced behind her, fearful that she was being followed. Relieved to find her friends, and eager to forget about the day’s happenings, she did not mention her trip back to the cabin when she returned to the ski lodge. The cybunny was grateful that her friends did not press her for details when they asked her of her whereabouts. She eagerly changed the subject, offering to take them skating. To her delight, everyone obliged, and they spent the rest of the day at the ice skating pond, sipping hot chocolate and slipping on the ice.
The group returned to the ski lodge in the late afternoon, having enjoyed several hours on the frozen pond. As the pair headed for dinner at the lodge, Orlitz excused herself to freshen up in her room.
“Oh no…” she blurted in horror as she entered her suite. Just like at the cabin, her room had been left in shambles. Her suitcases were overturned, blankets strewn across the room, the closet turned upside down. On the verge of tears, the cybunny hurried through the clutter, hoping nothing had been stolen. To her relief, nothing of value had been taken, and she was grateful to have kept all of her most important possessions—in particular, the crown—with her in her purse during the day. Unfortunately, she realized in dismay that the aisha’s red purse had been taken from the table where she had left it this morning. She headed to the front desk to report the damage, certain that whoever had destroyed her room had done the same to the cabin.
At dinner, she told her friends about the state of her room.
“It’s good that nothing was taken, but you should be careful,” offered Iskeen, reassuringly patting her friend on the shoulder. “You could be in serious danger.”
“I hope not,” Orlitz shrugged. She admitted her experience at the cabin, and told them that whoever had ransacked both locations was clearly very desperate to find the crown.
“I just wish I could find that aisha, may be she could explain to me what’s going on.”
“Maybe she’s the one behind this,” mused Julian. “Anyway, you shouldn’t worry yourself too much. This is probably none of your concern, and besides, you haven’t spent any time with us the whole trip here.” Orlitz admitted that Julian was right. For a relaxing vacation, she hadn’t exactly done much relaxing. Still, she wasn’t about to drop the case, and she made sure to tell him just that.
After dinner, Orlitz visited the library neighboring the lodge. Julian’s remark concerning the crown—the way its colors and design reminded him of Brightvale—gave her a hunch. The cybunny suspected that the crown was indeed from Brightvale, and she was determined to unearth some proof on that claim. The library was cosy, with a dozen bookshelves and a few chairs gathered around a fireplace. Despite the low amount of books on display, Orlitz searched every book on every shelf, intent on finding some information on the crown. Eventually, she compiled a stack of Brightvale history books. Under the light of glowing embers, she flipped through the first book: Brightvale History, eager to find some insight on the crown. As the fire in the fireplace died, she paged through five different books on Brightvale, with little progress. Tired and irked, she reached for her final book, Learned Royalty. She scanned the pages, chagrined that she likely wouldn’t find any information here either.
She blinked, turning back a few pages. There! an illustration of the crown identical to the one she had found!
“Princess Clarissa of Brightvale, related to King Hagan, was an elite diplomat. Her crown (seen here) was an iconic part of her public persona, and can be observed at the Brightvalian Library under glass on certain holidays and festivals,” read the description beneath the picture. Orlitz’s mind raced. How had a Brightvalian relic come to be in a dusty cabin in Happy Valley? Was the cabin a designated pick-up for the crown? The Cybunny feared she had intercepted a stolen item headed for the black market.
Suddenly, a shadow passed over the Cybunny. She turned abruptly, but saw nothing other than a silhouette receding behind the bookcases. * * * * *
Orlitz slept poorly that night. Because her room would not be returned to order until the following morning, Iskeen had offered to share her room with her for the night. Her sleep was troubled, plagued with visions of the shadow in the library. She dreamt of being trapped in the cabin, snowed in, with shadows closing in on her…
The cybunny awoke suddenly, in a cold sweat. She attempted to slow her breathing, finding herself in the pile of blankets and pillows on the plywood floor. She checked the alarm clock: 6:20 AM. Her roommate was sleeping soundly in the bed, but Orlitz could no longer rest. Groggily, she crawled out of the sheets and into the bathroom. The cybunny needed to clear her head, and what better way to do so than with a steaming shower? As she freshened up, she reviewed her findings: the good news was, she was in possession of the crown, and would be able to return it to Brightvale. The bad news was, she didn’t know how soon she could travel to Brightvale, and she feared the thieves were still looking for the crown. The longer she had it in her possession, the easier it would be to take it from her.
After brushing her hair and changing out of her pajamas, she greeted Iskeen. Unlike her, the Island ixi had slept soundly, and was energized for a new day on Terror Mountain. In particular, she wanted to plan a group hike through the Ice Caves and up to the top of the mountain. Orlitz had trouble reflecting her friend’s enthusiasm, but she agreed to come along for a change of pace. Over breakfast, Orlitz, Iskeen, Faye, and Julian made arrangements to head up to the Ice Caves and then hike all the way to the peak, where they would spend the rest of the day skiing down the summit.
They made their way to the sled station that would take them to the Ice Caves. The station was crowded with tourists and locals alike, all scrambling to purchase tickets for the next sled ride up. Orlitz was tense. The platform was filled with Neopets, and her grip around her bag tightened. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched. As if to answer her concerns, a force shoved the Cloud Cybunny, and she tumbled to the ground. She felt someone grab her bag, but before she could stop them, it was gone. Orlitz scrambled up, desperately peering through the crowd. A glimpse of red hair caught her attention.
“Wait!” she yelled, pushing her way through the dense crowd, “stop, thief!”
To be continued…