Treasure Hunters: Part Eight
"I think it's gone," Saffy whispered, as she peered out through a tiny crack of the opened door.
"It might be hiding," Archie piped up, bravely peeking over his cousin's shoulder.
"Don't be silly; mummies don't hide. It probably got bored of waiting for us and moved on. It's certainly not out there now," Saffy said, after sticking her entire head out of the door and taking a good look around.
"Come on, we've already lost enough time in here! Let's make a move."
Peregrine barely heard her, transfixed as he was with the scroll he was reading. The Yurble hadn't said a word since he had started reading through the scrolls in the room, and there were still hundreds more that he had yet to look at.
"You go on without me," he murmured, distractedly.
"We can't leave you here! Besides, we might need your help in translating something," Saffy pointed out indignantly.
"We shouldn't split up," Archie agreed, shaking his head fervently. "Whenever that happens in books, nothing good ever comes from it!"
"For once, I agree with Archie. We can come back for the scrolls later; we know where they are now, we can even use the chisel to mark the door, just in case we can't find it again. Please, Peregrine. Come with us!"
"I'll be right behind you," he replied, not once looking up from the scroll in his hands.
The cousins exchanged worried glances.
"We can't leave him here by himself, Saffy!" Archie whispered.
"I don't see that we have another choice," the Acara replied, quietly. "He doesn't look like he's about to move anytime soon."
"But what if the mummy comes back? He can't fight it off by himself."
"He did the last time... but he should be safe in here. We'll come back for him once we've found the treasure. Let's go."
"I don't like this," the Gelert whined, but as there was nothing he could do about it, he just followed his cousin out of the door.
Saffy marked the door with the chisel, before rolling it back to Peregrine, who briefly looked up, confused, before going back to his reading.
"He might need it," Saffy replied, to her cousin's bewildered look, as they set off along the corridor.
"I think we might need it more," he replied with a gulp, as he turned a corner to find themselves face to face with the Transparent Hissi, backed by a group of leering Thieves.
Before Saffy could even blink, Gorgon struck in a sudden attack that left a wriggling Archie in the Hissi's clutches.
"The map," he said, staring directly at Saffy. "Give it to me!"
"Don't give it to them!" Archie squealed, still struggling against the strong skeletal arms of his captor.
"How sssweet; your one act of bravery. I wonder if you'll be so brave once I hold this to your throat," he growled, narrowing his eyes and pulling a sharp, glistening dagger from his cloak.
"Now, the map if you pleassse. Or I'm afraid things will get very... messssy," he hissed, his eyes flashing with anger.
"Okay! Okay!" Saffy shouted in desperation. "I'm getting it out of my bag. Just don't hurt Archie!" she pleaded, remembering what Peregrine had said about him being 'violent'.
"I'm jussst curiousss... where is your travelling companion? I know the Yurble came here with you. I hope he hasssn't got himssself into trouble."
"How do you know we came here with Peregrine? And how do you even know about the map?" she asked forcefully, as she reached into her bag.
"I know everything," he replied with a hissing laugh. "I have eyesss everywhere... even in that hovel they call the ssscrollery."
"Jacques? He's your eyes?" she asked, coming to the conclusion abruptly. The only other option was the lady behind the desk, who would have been too far away to overhear the conversation with Peregrine about the map.
The Hissi smirked slyly.
"Very good. It'sss too bad you didn't work that out earlier. So, where is he?"
"He left. He found some ancient writings and wanted to take them back to the scrollery," Saffy lied, fluidly.
"Well, that wasss ssselfish of him," he remarked, not completely believing her, but he knew that the scholarly Yurble would be of no trouble to them, even if he was still hiding close by.
"Now... enough chat – hand it over!"
With a defeated sigh, Saffy removed the map from her bag, and with a look of loathing on her face, grudgingly handed it over.
After looking it over, he let Archie go.
He ran to his cousin immediately, who grasped him tightly in a relieved hug.
"Rhea, Tymos..." the Hissi addressed two of his underlings. "Get rid of them!"
"What? But we gave you the map!" Saffy all but shouted, as she found herself flanked by a tall, Desert Kyrii and the shadowy figure of a Stealthy Draik.
"Yesss, and I thank you for that... but I can't have you two meddling and getting in my way again. Sssso ssssorry," he hissed, sarcastically.
Archie was grabbed roughly by Tymos the Draik, whilst Saffy grappled with a smug, angry-eyed Kyrii. Eventually, the Kyrii won out and the two cousins were frog-marched away, back down the corridor they had just come from.
As they walked past door after door, the Kyrii gleefully chanted, "Eenie, Meenie, Miney... Mo."
The two Neopets were pulled to a stop. The door in front of them was not the one that contained Peregrine, that was the only thing that Saffy knew for definite. It looked just like every other door in the corridor, but whether it was friend or foe – a trap, or just an ordinary room – Saffy was none the wiser.
With a quick, but powerful shove to her back, Saffy went soaring into the room, landing on her hands and knees on hard concrete. Archie came stumbling in behind her, falling to the floor with a cry of pain.
The Draik remained stoic and turned away without a word, but the Kyrii who seemed to be enjoying this, couldn't help but call out one last taunt as she left.
"We'll be seeing ya! Or not... it really all depends on what this room has in store for you!" and with that, the door slammed shut behind them with a loud clunk, and the Kyrii's cackling laughs faded away into the distance.
Saffy righted herself at once and ran to the door, trying desperately to open it, but it had locked behind them and there was no other way out. She beat on the door desperately with her fists, hoping that someone, anyone would hear her... but the only one who was left to help was Peregrine, and he was lost in his scrolls, unable to hear.
She sank to the floor and put her hands to her head; she just needed to think. There was a way out, there had to be... but at least nothing bad had happened.
"Saff... what's that noise?"
"Oh no, don't tell me it's the mummy again!"
"No, it sounds more like... running water... only not water," he said, trying to work out the distinctive sound.
Saffy too could hear it now, and it was getting louder. Getting to her feet, she walked in the direction the sound was coming from. One the far side of the room, there were several tubes that ran down from the ceiling, almost like drainpipes. As Saffy got closer she could see that there was something running out of them. She knelt down beside it to examine it, and with a look of horror, she realised what was happening.
"Sand!" she cried, leaping back. "These pipes are letting sand in... and not slowly either," she said, noticing the change in sound; from a slow trickle, to a quick spurt.
"The room is filling with sand... we have to find a way out, NOW!" she cried, rushing around the room and trying anything she could think of; pushing on different areas of the walls, scrutinising the room for emergency stop levers, even climbing the stone slabs of the walls to see if there was a way out in the ceiling, but nothing seemed to help and the sand kept on coming.
Finally the two Neopets resorted to banging on the door again, screaming and shouting until their voices were raw, for someone to help them.
The room seemed to fill up fast. First, they were only standing in a millimetre of it; then a centimetre, and a few minutes later it completely covered their sandals. After fifteen minutes or so, they were waist deep and wailing in despair.
"I'm sorry, Archie! This is all my fault. I'm the one who dragged you along on this adventure; I'm the one who didn't listen to you about following that Hissi; I'm the one who swindled him and made him come after us... if it wasn't for me, we wouldn't be in this mess! Oh, we should have just stayed with Peregrine!" she exclaimed, panicking now, as the sand was almost at their shoulders.
"You're right, it is your fault... but you missed one thing. You're the one who saved my life from Gorgon, by giving him the thing we'd been searching for, for five years. And you didn't drag me along. I wanted to come. Sure, I might have been a little hesitant at times, but..."
"Yes, I saved you... but now we're going to drown in sand!" she interrupted, but could say no more, as the sand was almost to her mouth.
She took a long, deep breath and saw Archie do the same, before they were swallowed in a sandy wave.
It felt like she was in Maraqua again; underwater and unable to breathe, but instead of water up her nose, it was particles of sand. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly to keep the sand from burning them, so all she could see was darkness. Her lungs were screaming out for air, and just when she thought she would pass out from lack of oxygen, something grabbed her by the fur and yanked her out.
Gasping and coughing, she finally opened her eyes to see that Archie was being lifted out of the sea of sand by a swarm of Scarabugs. She rubbed her eyes to make sure that what she was seeing was real and not some trick of the light, but yes, they were indeed Scarabugs.
They flew over to her, and dropped the spluttering Gelert down next to her. Saffy stared, open-mouthed as they flew to the door, which was now wide open, and filled with a dune of sand. In the middle of the dune, stood two familiar Neopets: it was Jacques and Peregrine.
"Are you two alright?" Peregrine asked, rushing over to them, concerned.
"What's he doing here?" Saffy demanded, getting to her feet in anger.
"Now, Jacques here just saved your lives," Peregrine answered, in a tone that suggested she was being ungrateful.
"He'd need to! He's the one who sold us out in the first place! We wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't for him! He's a traitor, Peregrine. He's been spying on you for the Thieves Guild, placed there by –"
"Yes, I know. He's told me everything," the Yurble stated, calmly.
"He... he did?"
Well, that took the wind out of her sails.
"Yes, he did. He found me in the scroll room, and confessed everything. Gorgon and his crew left him behind in Qasala, but he snuck out and followed them."
"I hid in the boot of their Cloud Racer!" he interrupted, but a glare from Saffy made him quail, and look at his feet in shame.
"He followed them into the Pyramid and then down here. He saw them take you and followed them. Then, he came to find me; your lie about me leaving, tipped him off that I was still here somewhere. He knew that I would never have left with the scrolls before reading through all of them, and so he searched the rooms until he found me."
"Fine... so he's redeemed himself in your eyes, but I'm still not sure I trust him... and where did all these Scarabugs come from?"
"This one's mine," Jacques piped up, stroking a particularly excited Scarabug that had landed on his shoulder. "His name's Heraklion. I never go anywhere without him... not that he would let me. When I saw you'd been taken by those goons, I asked him to fly and find as many of his friends as he could and he brought them back with him. I am very sorry, you know..." Jacques apologised, looking at his feet. "I just wanted to be part of a Guild and the Thieves seemed like such a cool group to be a part of... I didn't realise they were so... mean."
"Oh yes, whoever thought that thieves would be all-around good guys," Saffy muttered, sarcastically, but her anger towards him was waning; he was just a Baby after all.
"Fine, I accept your apology. We all make mistakes; I should know that well enough by now. Are you okay, Archie?" Saffy asked, as her cousin had been unusually quiet.
"Oh yes, I'm fine. But we should get out of here before the doors lock behind us again."
"Indeed. The boy makes a good point. Let's go. You know, Jacques, the Seekers' Guild might not be as 'cool' as the Thieves, but we're well educated and respected, and we look after our own. Perhaps you might like to join us?" the Yurble suggested, patting the youngster on the shoulder.
"I can't believe we came all this way only to lose the treasure to those... crooks!" Saffy complained, as they made their way out of the sand-filled room and back into the corridor.
"Oh, we didn't lose it," Archie remarked, innocently.
"What do you mean? Of course, we lost it! There's no way of finding it without the map... and either way they've probably found it by now and are loading it into their Cloud Racers," Saffy replied, with a sigh.
"You mean... this map?" Archie asked with a smirk to rival Gorgon's, as he pulled a map from inside his shirt.
Everyone stopped walking and gaped at him.
"Where did you get that?" Saffy asked, gobsmacked.
"Well, when we were in that scroll room, I had a paranoid feeling that that wouldn't be the last we saw of that Hissi, so I found a spare piece of parchment, and tried to copy the map as best as I could... only I changed it, so the X was on the other side of the map and then I put the fake map in your bag, and held onto the real one. I thought that if the Hissi did catch us, and he found out about the map somehow... that he'd automatically think that you would have it, because I'm just a daft Gelert. Who would trust me with a map that precious?"
Saffy gawked at him, completely dumbfounded at her cousin's foresight and intelligence.
"Archie... you're a genius!" she said, pulling him into a group hug with the others.
"So..." Archie said, after he'd pulled away. "Gorgon and his goons will be hunting the treasure on the other side of the tunnels for hours. Are we going to find the treasure or not?"
"Ow... you stepped on my foot!"
"Oof... who did I just bump into?"
"That would be me... can't somebody light a match or something?"
"If I could see the matches to find them, I would!"
"I've got them! Hang on..." called Saffy, and after the scratch of the match being struck, there came a dim flicker of light, followed by a dull glow, and then a full on blaze, as the torch caught fire.
Blinking in the new found brightness, they found themselves at the end of a very long tunnel that had been hidden by a door that they would never have found had it not been for the map. The door was the exact colour and texture of the wall behind it, and at first, the treasure hunters had been a little stumped, as the map was telling them to go through the wall, and of course that was impossible.
Looking around, in the torches' light, Saffy couldn't see any treasure at all. There had to be more to the tunnel than just a dead end. She scrutinised the map, but there was nothing more to it. According to the map, the treasure should be there.
Peering over her shoulder, Archie looked at the X and said, "Well, where is it? It looks like we should be right on top of it."
"On... top of it..." Saffy muttered.
Her cousin had once again hit the nail on the head.
Getting down on to her hands and knees, she looked around on the floor.
"There's a trapdoor here!" she called out, having found a rusty old ring, covered with an ancient burgundy rug.
"Help... me... lift... it!" she said through gritted teeth, as the weight was too much for her alone.
With the help of the others, the trapdoor finally eased its way open with a loud creak.
A metal ladder led down into the treasure room, rusted with age, but still able to hold her weight.
Once she was at the bottom, she helped the others down cautiously.
She could tell that everyone was equally excited as she, and they all seemed to hold their breath as they turned and walked forward into the room.
Suddenly, as the light from their torch hit the room, there were gasps from all around. Gold glistened from every corner; piles of Neopoints were stacked in every nook and cranny; pendants, talismans and goblets in varying precious metals and gems, glistened as they caught the light.
They had found the treasure,
"Oh my," Peregrine uttered, in a state of subdued shock, whilst Jacques' eyes bulged; his mouth agape – never had he seen so much gold!
"So... how are we going to get all of this out of here?" Archie asked, looking at the sheer amount of treasure that had been hidden away for centuries, just waiting to be found.
Saffy was equally as stunned, and was close to tears, having finally found the treasure that her Great Aunt had started looking for all those years ago.
"I'm sure we'll think of something," she replied, as she gave a whoop of delight and dived headfirst into a giant pile of Neopoints.