romance versus relics chapter 16
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Welcome to chapter sixteen! As I have said before, this story started out as a pic spam venture to show some of the cool stuff in World Adventures. It somehow morphed into an action/romance/drama/adventure story. This chapter takes us back to its 'roots' in a way because it contains a bit less drama and a bit more adventuring. The chapter is longer than the others, but in frames only because there is much less text to read on the exploring frames. This is Nellie's biggest adventure in Egypt to date, so I felt the need to show a lot of the cool tombs she explored. Don't worry. The drama is still here; it's just not as prevalent in this chapter, although there is a bit of mystery and intrigue. I hope you still find this chapter enjoyable. I had a blast playing it, as well as writing it!
Youssef Nagi watched Nellie descend the stairs to the newly-discovered Ancient Library and released a long sigh. How had Zahra Diab known about it? He realized he did not find out much about the history of the house when he had purchased it from his real estate agent six ago, except that it had been unoccupied for a number of years before. Maybe it had belonged to Zahra's relatives or someone else her family knew many years ago.
His distrust of Dalida Barakat kicked up another notch as well. What sort of things was she telling Nellie about him and his company? Youssef genuinely liked Nellie and he did not want anything to stand in the way of their budding friendship. It had been quite a while since he had felt the sort of attraction toward a woman as he felt for Nellie. Youssef decided he must keep a closer watch on the situation from now forward.
Nellie descended the stairs into the Ancient Library and went straight to a floor panel activate it in order to open a locked door.
Then there was a statue that needed to be moved onto another floor panel in the next room.
Nellie grunted and grumbled as she moved the next statue onto a floor panel. It activated the opening of a door which contained a few relics, but then she had to return and move the same statue onto the other panel in order to gain access into the next room.
Finally, she entered a room that held a staircase leading down. The staircase had been opened by one of the floor panels the statue activated. She crinkled her nose at the odor of musty old books which assaulted her senses as she moved further into the library's depths.
"Yes!" she exclaimed happily when she finally reached the chest that held the coveted book. It was ancient and delicate, so she carefully slid it into her bag and made her way out the musty, eerie place. Youssef was waiting for her at his door and quickly invited her inside.
"Nellie" Youssef exclaimed brightly, "it is good to see you have returned from your task so soon! I take it everything well, yes?" He smiled warmly as he continued, "I have prepared, what I hope you find to be, a nice meal for the two of us. It would be my honor if you would join me. " Youssef hoped to have a nice talk with the young woman, not only to get to know her better, but to hopefully hear more about the book she went to retrieve from the ancient library as well. He still could not understand how others had known about it, but he had not.
"I . . . I don't know" Nellie stammered, unsure as to what to do. She felt anxious to return the ancient book to Dalida, but her stomach did feel rather empty. Her breakfast of cold cereal early that morning had left a lot to be desired, and there was a delicious aroma of food wafting through the air that made her stomach rumble with longing. Finally she smiled up at him. "Alright, I believe I could eat."
Youssef grinned broadly and clapped his together, "Wonderful! There is a bathroom just down that hallway if you would like to freshen up first. The meal will be served momentarily." He pointed Nellie in the right direction, and then made his way to his other bathroom.
Youssef checked his appearance in the mirror. He wanted to look his best for this occasion, because he wanted to make a good impression on the young woman. Being in her presence seemed to make his heart soar and that was a new feeling for him. Many women had tried to get his attention over the years, but none had held it for very long. They all seemed to want to cling to him like lint on a wool jacket, and like that lint, all he wanted to do was to pick them off and toss them aside in disgust. Something about Nellie was different. She seemed to be a strong, independent woman, who knew how to take care of herself. He knew she was like no other woman he had ever met, and it was definitely worth spending time to get closer to her.
When he was satisfied he looked his best, he left the bathroom to join the fascinating young woman for lunch.
Youssef watched anxiously as Nellie tasted her first bite of his dish. "It is not crocodile, unfortunately" he explained slowly. "I was out of that, but I hope you will like my special recipe for cooking salmon. It is an old family recipe my mother taught me, and she tells me I cook it almost as well as she does."
Nellie chewed and then swallowed the mouthful she had taken before replying. "Oh Youssef" she sighed with a grin, "it is absolutely fabulous!"
The man breathed a sigh of relief and smiled broadly. "I am so glad you like it. For a moment there, I was not sure." He visibly relaxed and turned his attention to his own plate. For a few moments, the pair concentrated on their food without speaking. Finally, Youssef broke the silence.
"So, Nellie" Youssef asked in a casual tone, "Tell me, what is this book you have been sent here to retrieve and now have in your possession?" He tried to sound interested without letting on exactly how deep is curiosity ran. Though he pretended to be engrossed his plate, he held his breath awaiting her reply.
Nellie smiled. "The book supposedly contains information about some old relics that MorcuCorp is interested in obtaining. It's funny how the book was in an ancient library right here under your nose." She giggled and it was infectious because Youssef chuckled as well.
"Yes, a library I never knew existed!" he laughed. "I can see where some may find humor in that." Youssef, however, was not one of them, and vowed to himself to have a meeting with his real estate very soon to find out if there were other things he did not know about his property.
While Youssef focused on his plate, Nellie took a moment to focus on him. She found him very attractive and wondered how he had managed to remain single for so long. He was one of, if not the, wealthiest, most handsome, eligible bachelors in all of Al Simhara. It seemed to her that he would have had women fawning all over him, vying for his attentions, and competing to become Mrs. Youssef Nagi. He glanced up from his plate and she quickly averted her gaze, a hot flush reddening her cheeks.
The housekeeper came to remove their empty plates, and Nellie waited for her to leave before standing. "I really do need to go now. Dalida Barakat is waiting for me to deliver this old book to her. Thank you so much for lunch. It was simply scrumptious!" Youssef was on his feet instantly and took her hands into his.
"Must you go so soon?" Youssef asked in an urgent tone. "It would be wonderful if you could stay a while longer!" Mistaking the pained expression on Nellie's face for annoyance, or agitation, he sighed. "But of course you do! You have a task to complete. I am sorry, Nellie." He lowered his head for a moment as if ashamed, but then locked his gaze with hers again almost immediately. "If you need anything . . . anything at all, do not hesitate all to call me. Understand?"
Nellie nodded and tried to swallow the lump in her throat. She could not believe it was happening again. When Youssef grabbed her hand, and gazed into her eyes so intently, it had caused her heart to skip a beat, and her knees felt like jelly. Her reaction to his touch had been unexpected and appalling. "Thank you, Youssef" Nellie responded in a voice barely above a whisper. She smiled, blushed, and made her way toward the door like a frightened rabbit.
"Yes, this book describes three powerful relics left here by the old kings of Al Simhara." Dalida remarked softly after leafing quickly through a few pages of the book Nellie handed to her. "There is a lot of information we can use to track down the final relic. Luckily, I already know where another one is. Unfortunately, so does MorcuCorp! There is no time to explain, but you must go to the merchant, Mahmud Taymur, before MorcuCorp's goons arrive and obtain the Relic of the Sun, which is in the merchant's possession. I'll explain more later, just go!"
Nellie watched as the woman turned and went back inside her house, her brow furrowed in confusion. The more she delved into this mission, the more questions troubled her mind. Youssef Nagi was one of the heads of MorcuCorp, and MorcuCorp seemed more and more like a strange Mafia-type operation to her every day. Could Youssef, as kind and gentle as he seemed, be running a group of thugs and crooks? Sighing heavily, she headed off to do as she was asked.
Nellie cringed inwardly when she first saw the Book Merchant. The resemblance to that nasty Relic Merchant was uncanny at first glance, and she wondered if they were related. She breathed a sigh of relief, however, when he spoke and she realized that the physical resemblance did not mirror his demeanor as well.
"Ah, so Dalida Barakat wants me to hand over this Relic, eh?" he smiled sarcastically. "I have no use for it, but you do, which means there is a value in the piece. I judge this value to be five chunks of copper. Bring me this and I will hand over the Relic. You had best hurry though. I may get a better offer!" His laugh was ugly and taunting, which made Nellie feel this guy was not much better than Fahad Madbouli, the Relic Merchant, after all.
"It just so happens I have that amount of copper with me" Nellie offered in a tone almost as sarcastically fused as his. She reached into her bag and produced it.
The Book Merchant grinned broadly. "The copper is much appreciated. I will put it to good use, unlike this old Relic I have been hoarding for so long. Here, enjoy it. Take it back to whoever sent you here."
Nellie thanked him and turned to leave, but Mahmud Taymur was not finished. "Hey" he called out and Nellie turned to look over her shoulder. "Yes. I know something is going on around here. Do not take us locals for idiots!" Nellie left the book shop, her brow crinkled into a puzzled frown. Now, what did he mean by that last statement? Nellie wondered as she made her way back to Dalida Barakat.
"You have made the right choice helping me out" Dalida smiled when Nellie handed her the Relic. "I will tell you the truth. I work for an organization that wants to stop MorcuCorp from exploiting this land. We could really use your help. If you want to sign on, there is more work to be done."
Nellie was hesitant to answer. Did Youssef know this about Dalida, and would he want her to keep doing as she asked in this situation? Why did she feel such loyalty to Youssef anyway? She hardly knew him! Besides, Nellie was all for not allowing large companies to destroy land for profit, so why not continue?
"We need to buy you time to explore the next tomb" Dalida continued when Nellie agreed to help, "which means we must bribe MorcuCorp's henchmen. Explore the sands around town to find two pieces of Mummitomium with which to bribe the MorcuCorp goons. Bring that back to me.
Nellie found a piece of Mummitomium near the pyramids and quickly snatched it up. She then began searching in other various places, throughout Al Simhara to find the second piece she needed.
She soon learned that it would be no easy task. Mummitomium was apparently a very rare find.
She moved around to different areas to excavate, but all she found were a few relics of varying values, which was a bonus, but not what she sought.
Nellie even ventured out to the old mine, hoping to have better luck there, but there was still no Mummitomium in sight. Sighing, she rose to head back into town. There was only one other option available to her if she wanted to get this task completed quickly. While speaking with some of her fellow adventurers, she learned that sometimes the Relic Merchant had Mummitomium in stock. Dealing with that sleazy merchant was the last thing Nellie wanted, but in this instance, it seemed she had no choice.
As she made the long trek back to town, the young woman prepared herself mentally for the dreaded encounter.
"Ah, so you have returned to me, my beautiful butterfly!" Fahad Madbouli slurred when Nellie entered his shop. The lewd way his gaze moved up and down her body made her feel instantly dirty. She shivered and took a step backward as he stepped toward her.
Doing her best to speak in a normal, unaffected tone, she asked him if he had any Mummitomium in stock. "I know it is expensive" she added, "but I have the means to pay for it."
"I am sure do you" he responded with another appreciative once over of her body. Suddenly he lunged toward her.
"How about giving us a little kiss?" he exclaimed lustfully. Before Nellie could stop him, his arms were around her and his lips were pressing against her cheek. She had turned her head just in time to avoid a smack on the lips.
"No . . . get away!" Nellie screeched as the pushed against him. "I have money to pay!" The obnoxious man released her and backed away, with a nasty laugh.
"Have it your way then" he sneered with an ugly grin. "The cost is over one thousand simoleons. I thought you may enjoy a reduction in the price, but so be it!"
The Relic Merchant handed Nellie the Mummitomium, she handed him the money, and then she hurried back to Dalida as fast as she could.
"I have arranged for the Mummitomium to be deposited in a chest in the local MorcuCorp headquarters. There should not be anyone around to bother you. Problem is that the security systems will be online. This could get hairy." Dalida paused to reach for the Mummitomium, which had been wrapped into a nice, neat little package, and then continued as she handed it to Nellie, "Take this package of Mummitomium, deposit it, and . . . watch your back."
As Nellie headed out on her mission, she wondered what she had gotten herself into this time. Of all the adventures she had been on so far, this one seemed to be the most dangerous. What would happen if she got caught messing around inside the headquarters of such a large organization?
The entrance to the place was inside an outbuilding on someone's property. The door was unlocked, so Nellie stepped inside.
There was nothing inside the building except a couple bicycles and a hole to inspect. Nellie found a switch that opened a staircase leading down.
Once down the stairs, she had to move some statues around to gain access into the next room.
Nellie carefully made her across a fire trap that was blocking her path, hoping to make it to the other side without getting singed.
She took the time to plunder a few chests she found along the way. Nellie felt that this job was worth everything she could get from it. Once finished, she moved along and entered another room. Her mind was wandering a bit, so she was not paying much attention upon entering the new room.
She stumbled and nearly fell down a staircase due to her carelessness and clumsy nature. After waiting a few moments for her pulse to return to normal, she made her way carefully down the stairs.
At the bottom, there was a floor panel that activated a door to open into the next room. Nellie was happy when she finally reached the room she sought.
Nellie quickly deposited the package of Mummitomium into the chest, and then made a call to Dalida Barakat to inform her it was done. "Good job with the bribe" Dalida responded. "Just leave it there and the henchmen will take care of the rest. Also, I have hacked into the MorcuCorp mainframe. The information is there, but I cannot get it from my computer. I need you to hack the commander's computer inside their HQ to find the location of the second relic. It should be a room with a computer all by itself. Be careful and be quick about it!"
Nellie opened her mouth to respond, but the line had already gone dead. With a heavy sigh, she went in search of the commander's office.
Nellie found the room right off the main room through which she had entered. Her eyes fell upon the laptop sitting on the desk and she moved toward it, wondering what to do next. She took a seat in the chair and released a heavy sigh.
Nellie had tried to tell Dalida that computers were not her best subject, but then the line had gone dead before she got the chance. For several long moments, she merely sat looking at the thing as if it were an object from outer space. Finally, she opened it, turned it on, and began punching random keys.
Nellie began to open files and look through them. Most of it seemed like gibberish to her, but then she found one that seemed to be concerning exploration and relics. Something told her she had hit upon the correct information, so she quickly sent it along to Dalida, closed the laptop and stood up to leave. Suddenly, her cell phone began to ring. She answered it quickly, in fear that someone else may hear and be alerted of her presence.
"Thanks for sending the information" Dalida's voice came through the line. "According to the data, the Tomb of the Desert Ocean is an underground oasis, a vast source of water for centuries. You must survive its depths to find the Relic of Life and return it to me. This is Dalida Barakat signing out." Again the line went abruptly dead and left Nellie standing there with unanswered questions running through her mind.
The hour had grown very late and Nellie was exhausted, mentally as well as physically. She made her way back to base camp to rest, with the intention of getting an early start in the morning.
Early the next morning, Nellie stood outside the Pyramid of the Sky. After inspecting the entrance, she found the trigger which opened the doors that gained her access. Although she was filled with trepidation over the events of the past few days, she was determined to see her mission through.
Nellie sucked in a sharp breath, her eyes widening in awe as she gazed around at her surroundings. The room was beautifully decorated and there was a pool of water on each side of the path. She would have to get wet to get anywhere in this tomb. She dove into the pool to her right and swam toward the far ledge.
She emptied a treasure box she found there and then jumped back into the pool and swam to another ledge to enter a door she found there.
The place was incredible! Egypt was the hottest place Nellie had been, but it was actually cool and damp in this chamber. Nellie moved along the path to her left.
She made a rookie mistake and barged directly into a steam trap. Luckily it was not a hot one, so she received no injury from her blunder and moved ahead to the door that led out of the underground garden.
There was a statue she had to inspect to see if was moveable because there was a panel in the floor that needed its weight to be activated. Once that was done, another floor panel appeared and she had to move another statue onto it. These triggered, and then deactivated, some electricity traps.
Inspecting a hole in the wall and finding a hidden switch caused the chains to fall off the door leading into the next room.
Soon, Nellie was standing in another chamber that looked like a jungle in the middle of the desert.
She got soaked for extra protection, and then carefully made her way across a fire trap toward a hidden door.
Before entering the new chamber, she stopped to have a much-needed sip of water.
The inspection of a hole in the floor led to the opening of the door into the next chamber. Nellie rose and hurried through it.
In her haste, she actually tripped over, and fell into, a diving pool. She found a hidden tunnel beneath the surface and swam quickly through it.
Many things needed done in the new chamber. First she inspected a hole in the wall.
Nellie had to drag a statue onto a floor panel to gain access into the room with locked door. All she found there was a chest with relics inside.
The mighty Axe of Pangu was used to clear some rubble away from another statue.
Then the statue had to be pushed onto a floor panel down a cubby hole, which caused another floor panel to appear.
Nellie sighed and grunted as she dragged the first statue onto the new floor panel, glad that she was fit enough to handle this sort of thing.
Finally, she saw some results when a staircase opened up, allowing her to move on from the chamber. Nellie descended the stairs with a smile.
Now Nellie was standing in a long corridor that had another staircase leading down at the end of it. She picked up a couple of relics and Ancient coins as she made her toward it.
At the bottom of the stairs was a small room with another doorway leading to a pile of rubble that needed to be cleared.
The Axe of Pangu made short work of the rubble and Nellie entered a large room with several doorways leading out. By now, Nellie was nearly exhausted, so she set up her tent to get some much-needed rest before continuing her continuing her quest.
A few hours later, Nellie emerged from her tent ready to conquer the obstacles that stood in her way. There were several statues in the room that needed to be pushed onto the various traps to disarm them so that she could go through the doors they protected.
There were floor panels to be activated and boulders to be destroyed.
Through one door, Nellie inspected a hole that had a hidden switch, which caused the chains to fall off a door on the other side of a ravine.
Finally, Nellie found herself standing in one of the most beautiful chambers she had ever seen. For several long moments, she merely stood, her mouth agape, gazing at her surroundings in awe. Suddenly, she wished with all her heart that someone were here to share the experience with her. A wild desire to just stay there awhile nearly overwhelmed her. It was so peaceful and serene. Pulling herself back to reality, she made her way around the gorgeous fountain and found a treasure box which contained a very important keystone.
After quickly making her way back to where she had entered the pyramid, Nellie dove into the pool to the left of the entrance and inserted the keystone into the slot by the door. She entered, turned right and went through the next door.
Finally, Nellie's gaze fell upon the treasure she sought and she made her way toward the treasure box straight ahead of her.
Nellie quickly opened the box and snatched the Relic of Life from it as the tiny hairs on the back her neck began to prickle and stand on end. She somehow got the feeling that she had better get out of there quickly before someone else showed up as well.
She did, however, stop briefly to catch a Scarab Beetle she happened to see on the way out. Her boss would love to get his hands on one of those!
"Incredible how you secured the second relic . . . simply incredible!" exclaimed Dalida upon Nellie's return. "Meanwhile, I have been tracking down the final one with both the book and the data. I believe the town's Relic Merchant, Fahad Madbouli, knows the location of the third relic. The merchant is an odd fellow, though, and a shrewd trader, so it is doubtful the information will be easy to get. Pay the merchant a visit and try to obtain the information."
Dalida did not have to tell Nellie how odd the merchant was. She cringed inwardly at the idea of having to deal with him again, but she would do what was necessary to complete her task. With a heavy heart, she made her way back to base camp.
Nellie tried to enjoy a light evening meal, but the thought of having to negotiate with that lecherous Relic Merchant again disgusted and nauseated her. She closed her eyes and allowed her mind to drift to a more pleasant place. The place her mind took her was straight into Ho Sung's warm, loving arms. She sighed as she remembered the tender way his lips and hands had kissed and caressed her body, taking her to new heights of pleasure she had never known before or since. Suddenly, she felt the jab of pain which struck her when he had walked away from her, and her vision morphed into one of Gustav and her on Gustav's sofa and the act they had almost committed. He seemed to have magic hands as well, and she longed to have his strong arms around her again, making her feel safe and protected from the outside world. Now, Youssef Nagi's face formed in her mind's eye, and she remembered being captured by the dark pools of his eyes, feeling weak-kneed and wanton. She wondered what it would be like to be held and kissed by him. "Stop it!" she scolded herself despairingly as she opened her eyes. "What is wrong with me?" she muttered to herself in a harsh whisper.
Was the idea of dealing with Fahad Madbouli again driving her insane? She did not know, but she felt she would go ballistic if he put his hands on her again.