Coltzan's Midnight Guests
Also by kewtiepiexx
The sun had set, but the tension in Sakhmet still burned as brightly as if the desert sun had never gone down.
Near the base of Coltzan's shrine were three figures. Two were dressed in white robes with hoods while the other's form wavered in the shadows of the night.
"I still say it was stupid dressing like this," one of the figures in white said. He had a sword pointing out from under his robe. The hilt glittered gold.
"If we had not dressed as such," the other white figure said, "we would have been spotted."
The sword-holding figure shrugged and looked around the dunes and then at the moon. He seemed to inhale as he did so, as if he could smell everything around him. "It is time," he said simply. He turned and nodded to the shadow.
The shadow did not seem to hear. It stood quite still for a moment, then gave a terrific leap. The shadow was a few yards before the shrine, then in one second, it had jumped the distance to the doors of the shrine.
From the shadow, two long fingers emerged. The fingers carved a pattern over the doors, and then melted back inside the shadow itself. An instant later, full hands emerged from the shadow. They clapped and the doors of the shrine turned to some black material. It looked like dust.
The figure without a sword walked up to the doors. He blew at the dust.
The dust exploded like a deck of cards hit with a coconut.
The shadow bowed and motioned with one arm inside the shrine. The other arm had already melted away inside the main body.
The figures had made a decent start to navigating the shrine. The original builders of the shrine had made the shrine full of dead ends of doublebacks.
Each of the white figures had lowered their hoods in their hood. The one with the sword was a gold Zafara. He had green eyes, ringed with black. His mouth had a grim curl to it. His name was Khattir.
The other was a shadow Shoyru, with one blue eye and one yellow eye. He had a scar running from under one eye, across the nose, and finished at the corner of his mouth. He told the story that he had been attacked by pirates when he was pulling a job on Krawk Island. His name was Disur.
The trio walked through the corridors in silence, with the shadow in front and the two Neopians in back.
A sudden thought struck Khattir at that moment. Turning to Disur, he whispered, "How do we know where the shadow is taking us? What if it's leading us to those horrible traps that are put in shrines like these?"
Disur glared at his companion. "Shadow has a special reason for hating Coltzan. He put a burden that it should not have had on it." He glanced around Shadow. "Besides, I've seen sketches of the shrine. If I remember right, we're going the right way."
Khattir glared at the back of the floating shadowy mass that was ahead of him. "If you say so," he said simply, wrapping his hand around his sword.
"I told you we're lost."
The phrase bounced around the passageway. Khattir was glaring at Disur, who now was standing next to the shadow. "We've passed the same tapestry and vase five times now. We're on a loop of one of those doubleback paths."
Disur looked scathingly at the Zafara. "It's a mind trick," he explained. "It makes the thief think they are on the wrong track when they really aren't. Here," he added. "I'll prove it." The Shoyru went to the nearest tapestry and ripped the bottom left corner off of it. "If the next tapestry is ripped, then we are on a double back. If not, we're going in a straight line. Happy now?"
Khattir looked mutinous but sullenly agreed.
The trio walked in silence for a few minutes. Ahead loomed yet another tapestry and vase. Khattir ran forward to examine the tapestry.
"I told you so," Disur said, pointing to the corner of the tapestry. It was a whole tapestry, not a ripped one.
"Onward we go then," Khattir said quietly.
"Don't move," Disur said suddenly. The trio had traveled for roughly an hour, if Khattir's internal clock was right.
Shadow, too, had thrown out a thick arm, this one with no fingers.
"Why?" Khattir asked, peering forward into the passageway. All he could see were hieroglyphs carved into the walls. Strange, but not cause for alarm.
Shadow moved ahead, feeling along the sides of the wall, avoiding where the symbols were. It managed to float to the end of the tunnel unharmed.
Shadow, it must be said at this point, had just the barest suggestion of a head. Now the neck elongated and a rough skull shape appeared. From this, the mouth opened and let out a shriek that could raise the dead in Qasala, not to mention the dead king above.
Instantly, the glyphs fell from the walls like they were stickers thrown off of the walls. When they touched the floor, they imploded on themselves with a small sigh.
"Again Shadow proves his worth, don't you think?" Disur smirked to Khattir.
Khattir grumbled into his fur and walked ahead.
Eventually, the trio reached a winding staircase. Shadow went ahead, scouting out possible traps. It waved them on and the Neopians followed it up to the first landing of the staircase. The process repeated itself many times.
On the forty-fourth floor, Khattir tired of the game. "Why did they make this staircase so long?" he complained to no one in particular.
On the fifty-first floor, Shadow finally found a trap. The sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth stairs had a spell that, when stepped on, acted like quicksand. Shadow dispelled the trap and the trio moved on.
On the sixty-second floor landing, the Neopians turned, expecting to see yet more stairs. Instead they saw a golden door with a crown inscribed on it.
"This is the place," Disur said quietly.
Shadow repeated the performance he had done at the doors to the shrine. The door became dust and Disur blew into the dust.
"We're innnn," a strangled, serpentine voice said from the walls. It took a moment for Khattir to realise it had been Shadow who had spoken.
Disur laughed quietly. "Spooked me as well when I first heard it speak," he said. "You get used to it."
"Come on," Khattir said, waving Disur and Shadow into the room.
The treasure room was glittering with gold. A small window let the falling moon's light in, giving the room a mystic look.
"Why didn't we just fly in through the window?" Khattir asked. He hadn't ever seen a window in the shrine.
"It's enchanted to be only accessible by the inside," Disur said. "Means the ghost, if there is one, can see what's going on outside while no one can see what's going on inside."
Khattir rolled his eyes. Again his hand went to his sword.
"Let's see," Disur said, scanning the room. He pulled out a scroll from inside his robe. "First off," he said. "We look for the Royal sarcophagus. It doesn't have bones," the Shoyru said quickly, seeing the look on his companion's face. "It has treasures for his personal life. Toothbrush, things like that."
"Of course it does," Khattir said.
Disur sighed. "Well, in that is an enchanted bag that can hold any amount of items. We stuff the treasure in it, then split it three ways, then --"
"Three? Why three?" Khattir asked.
Disur flicked his eyes to Shadow.
"He doesn't count," Khattir hissed.
Shadow, without turning, threw a thick arm with six fingers back toward Khattir in a fist. The Shoyru barely ducked out of the way.
Disur grinned. "Then we split it three ways and head to Altador. Come on," he said. "Let's find the... ah," Disur said. "Seems Shadow already found it."
Shadow had dragged out a sarcophagus made of gold. Repeating its performance from the door of the shrine and the door of the room, it obliterated the top of the sarcophagus.
Disur reached in and brought out a small black velvet bag. Shaking it open, he and Khattir -- who had by then shuffled over -- brought out golden artifacts.
They didn't notice Shadow as it sneaked out of the room. They didn't notice as Shadow moved over the dunes, over the walls of the city, and through the dark Sakhmet streets.
Back at the shrine, Khattir remembered what Disur had said before about Shadow. "Coltzan put a horrible burden on it," he thought to himself. Aloud he said, "What was that horrible burden?"
Disur shrugged. "It's never told me."
Shadow quietly moved through the Royal Gardens of the Palace and climbed the stone walls, using a many fingered arm to help him.
Disur and Khattir finished with the sarcophagus and started collecting gold from around the room.
Khattir noticed that Shadow had gone. "Where'd it go? Shadow, I mean," he asked.
Disur looked around the room. "Probably down the staircase to wait."
Khattir shrugged and continued gathering gold.
Shadow climbed into the Princess's window, where Amira slept. Amira, however, seemed to be absent.
Shadow said a word in its serpent voice. The shadows melted into a pool of black sludge, then solidified into a silk-like tangle of shadows. A golden paw quickly pulled a chest out from under Amira's bed. The chest was unlocked; with a swipe of a paw, the chest was open, glittering in the light of the sunrise. The shadow mess was thrown into the chest. The chest was locked; then pushed out of sight.
Outside the Royal Bedroom, a servant knocked on Amira's door, waited a few seconds, then pushed the door open.
"Why Lady Amira," the servant said. "I had no idea you were up so early. And you're on the floor! Did you drop something?"
Amira grinned at the servant. "Just a ring. I found it."
"Good." The servant ducked back outside the door and brought in a tray of breakfast. "And how did you sleep?"
"Like a solid... shadow," Amira said, with glittering, but tired, eyes.