Preparing Neopia for the Meepits Circulation: 196,662,418 Issue: 932 | 2nd day of Eating, Y23
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The Curse of Geraptiku Tombs


by asnu

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“Asnu, Aizii, we have arrived.” A voice jolted me out of my uneasy doze. Opening my eyes, I looked over to see Aizii rubbing her eyes and stretching. The van was still dark, I had no way of knowing where we had travelled or how long we had been travelling for. There was noise outside, I could hear someone approaching the back of the van. With a crack, the doors were flung open and bright sunlight flooded the small space, blinding us all. I felt someone roughly grab my arms and pull me out.

     “Oi, get off me, what are you doing?” I shouted, struggling against my captor.

     “Stop struggling Asnu.” A voice commanded.

     “Then let me go!” I continued to fight against my captor. There was a loud bang and I froze, unsure of what was happening. My eyesight returned as I got used to the bright sunlight around me. We appeared to be in a jungle – it was horribly humid and sticky. We were stood at the foot of a pyramid – in front of us, rough steps were cut into the stone as far as the eye could see. At the very top, there was an entrance leading into the darkness. The jungle was eerily silent, there was no noise. It was as though we were in another world, one where no one existed apart from us.

     I could see the gang of 3 Neopets had been joined by several more pets and a few owners. All seemed to look to a tall, hooded figure for guidance. The figure was taller than me, wearing a smart black suit. They had a blood red robe that covered their face entirely, all I could see was a cruel smile and chin under the shadows. I didn’t know who they were but all my senses told me they were someone I needed to get away from.

     “Asnu – I thank you for joining us on such short notice.” The figure smirked. “And you bought your pet too, how …. quaint.” They continued.

     “Who are you?” I asked.

     “Ah yes, how rude of me not to introduce myself.” The figure replied. They lowered their hood, revealing a man. His hair was platinum blonde with piercing blue eyes and chiselled cheekbones. He gave an air of arrogance – everything about him screamed money and spite. I knew nothing about him other than the fact I hated him. “I am Mr Smith.” He continued.

     “Sure you are.” Aizii snorted. “And I’m a meepit’s uncle.”

     “For someone who is currently at my mercy, you are behaving quite poorly. I would consider watching your tone.” Mr Smith threatened. I watched as the Elephante holding Aizii tightened his grip, causing her to wince. Aizii was not a fighter – pickpocketers are built for speed and nimbleness, not brute strength. She wouldn’t last two minutes in a fight with any one of the pets surrounding us and without any healing potions, it would be horrible for us all.

     “What do you want? Where are we?” I asked.

     “We are at the tomb of Geraptiku.” Mr Smith replied. “It is a tomb fabled for a great treasure for those brave enough to venture in. Very few enter and even fewer return.”

     “So what’s that got to do with us?” I asked.

     “I have been watching you both,” Mr Smith replied. “I believe you and Aizii have the necessary qualities needed to find the hidden treasure. I propose a trade – you and Aizii are to enter the tomb and bring me the treasure. In return, I will ensure you never go hungry again.”

     “I mean, it’s a nice offer and all that, but … Aizii’s washing her hair tonight and well, it’s a two-person job so I need to help her and we’re late for an appointment so we really should be off.” I babbled.

     “It wasn’t an offer you can refuse.” Mr Smith stated. “Fetch me the treasure.”

     The person holding me gave me a shove towards the stone steps. The Elephante holding Aizii unceremoniously dropped her onto the bottom step. Magnus the lupe stepped forward, holding a rucksack out to me. “Supplies for your journey.” He smirked.

     “Well, it’s been great.” I sighed, taking the rucksack. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you and all that jazz.”

     “Bye Snuggles!” Aizii trilled. There was a small chuckle from the assembled group at Aizii’s boldness. Mr Smith didn’t react. He simply stared at us both. With a final shrug, we started to climb the steps. We had no choice.

     *

     It felt like an age, but we finally reached the entrance. There was a stone door that was shut directly in front of us and directly in front of the door was a stone circle. There seemed to be writing in a flagstone in the centre of the archway above the door. It read ’kalahnto’. Aizii and I both stood looking at the door.

     “Asnu, how do we get in?” Aizii asked me.

     I looked at her hopelessly. “I have no idea.”

     Together we stepped up onto the platform and onto the stone circle. The circle glowed gold, surrounding us in light. Then, as quickly as it started, the light disappeared, as though someone had flicked off a switch.

     “You may enter.” A voice whispered on the wind.

     “Did you hear that?” Aizii hissed in terror.

      A moaning, groaning noise erupted as the door began to lift up, revealing a torch-lit passage behind it. It was clear the door hadn’t moved in several centuries; ivy was ripped from the rough-cut stone and dust flew everywhere as the door lifted. Then, suddenly, it stopped halfway up. It almost felt anticlimactic watching this great reveal fail.

     Almost as bad as my first attempt at magic.

     “Is that it then?” Aizii frowned.

     “Looks like it.” I shrugged.

     “So, we go in?” Aizii asked apprehensively, staring at the door.

     “We can do it ‘Zii.” I said, not sure who I was trying to convince. Together, we ducked under the door and into the tunnel. It felt cooler than the sticky air outside. The walls were damp and the air smelt musty, as though it had been undisturbed for many years. I briefly wondered who else had tried to enter the tomb and if they had been successful.

     We followed the tunnel for what felt like miles, round twists and turns as it bore deeper and deeper into the pyramid. Eventually, the tunnel opened out into a large room, far bigger than anywhere I had ever been before. It felt as though the room was bigger than the entire pyramid. Aizii and I both stood in the entrance, gobsmacked at the enormity of the cavernous room in front of us.

     “Wow.” Aizii gasped. “You could fit the whole of Neopia central in this room.”

     We stepped into the room and both squealed at the flash of light in front of us. A beautiful Faerie Uni stood in front of us – their wings were pearlescent pink and their magnificent horn gleamed in the light. They bowed their head to us and then spoke.

     “Welcome Asnu and Aizii to your first test.”

     “TEST?” Aizii shrieked. “No one told us anything about a test! Asnu can barely spell her own name, she’ll never pass a test.”

     “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence Aizii.” I rolled my eyes at her.

     “Your first test is one of courage.” The Uni continued, completely ignoring us. “Fyora’s speed, young Neopians.” A flash of light and the Uni disappeared. There was a sudden rumbling sound, the ground started to shake as Aizii and I hugged each other in terror. Then, with a huge bang, the ground in front of us began to fall away. Closing my eyes in fear, all I could hear was the sound of the earth falling apart. It seemed to go on forever, then, in a silence almost as terrifying, it stopped.

     “Oh. My. Neopoints.” Aizii whispered. I opened my eyes and gasped.

     In front of us, the ground had fallen away except for a narrow walkway. It could only have been a foot wide at the widest point and connected the two sides of the cave together. The walkway was about 10 metres long and stretched over a gap that went on further than I could ever describe. It looked like if we fell off the walkway, we would never reach the bottom of the drop. I could feel my stomach turn at the thought of attempting to cross it. It was beyond terror.

     “Asnu, have we got to cross this thing?” Aizii squeaked. I turned to look at her and could see my own terror reflected back in her. Her fur stood on end and her eyes were wide and white, staring at the walkway.

     “The Uni did say it was a test of courage.” I remarked.

     “Courage is one thing; this is just madness.” Aizii replied weakly, continuing to stare at the site in front of us. “I don’t think I can do this Asnu.”

     We sat for a moment in silence – I couldn’t help but agree with her. I couldn’t do it; this was beyond me. I was just a thief, a silly thief with a deck of cards and little conscious. I wasn’t courageous. Why had I chosen that Lupe? Why did Mr Smith think we were able to get the treasure? For a moment, I considered simply leaving the cave, going back and taking our chances against the waiting pack outside – but then it would be two of us against many more, all of whom were stronger, faster and more well rested than us. We wouldn’t last five minutes against them and then what? There was nothing to suggest they wouldn’t simply chuck us back in the pyramid to try again and then we’d be back here. I took a deep breath.

     “Aizii, I think we’ve got to try it.” I said shakily.

     “You are joking, right?”

     “We’re Asnu and Aizii, we can do anything!” I said, approaching the walkway. “We can do it ‘Zii.” I held out my hand to her, imploring her to trust me. She stared at me for a moment and then held out her paw in return, grasping my hand tightly.

     “In it together.” Aizii replied, her eyes shining.

     “C’mon then.”

     Together, we approached the walkway. Aizii gestured for me to go first and I smiled weakly at her. Holding my arms out to balance, I began the perilous walk across the gap, ignoring my somersaulting stomach and pounding heart. I could hear Aizii chanting “Don’t look down” behind me and knew she was doing her best to distract herself from the dizzying drop beneath us. Shakily, one foot in front of another, we edged closer to the other side.

     The end was almost within touching distance when the ground beneath us shook so violently we were both thrown off our feet. Years of quick reflexes meant I threw myself sideways, landing on my stomach with my legs hanging off the narrow walkway. Terrified, I could hear Aizii screaming my name. I turned my head to see her hanging off the walkway by her paws, feet scrabbling for purchase against the smooth rock of the walkway.

     “ASNU, HELP!” She shrieked.

     “Aizii, just hang on!” I called desperately.

     I pulled my feet up so I was lying lengthways across the bridge and edged towards Aizii. I could see her losing grip as I got closer. One paw fell away, leaving her holding on with the other. I was so close but her grip was worsening. Just as her remaining paw lost grip –

     “Got you!” I cried, grabbing her paws and pulling with all my might.

     As I pulled her back onto the walkway, it was as though the cave had reset – the walkway had disappeared to be replaced with the floor. The vast cavernous drop was gone. Stunned, Aizii and I could only sit on the floor, frozen in place.

     A flash of light and the Uni returned. Although their expression hadn’t changed, there was a note of pride in their voice as they spoke. “Congratulations on competing the first task. Go forth Asnu and Aizii, your next challenge awaits.” They disappeared as I heard Aizii groan next to me.

     “Next challenge?”

      There was only one thing for it. It was off to see what challenge the Tomb of Geraptiku held for us next.

     To be continued…

 
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