The Wocky stood there at the ready, armed with nothing
but her claws and her teeth. Her heart pounded in her ears as the party of thieves
rode closer and closer. Soon, they were close enough that the Wocky could see
their scarred and mangy faces, eerily lit by the blazing torches they held.
When they finally reached her, the Wocky growled
deeply and extended her stubby claws. The fur on the back of her neck rose as
she stared coldly at the tall and menacing figures of the bandits atop their
Apises. She recognized a few of the Apises as ones that had been stolen from
A few of the bandits laughed at the sight of
the Wocky’s threatening display. One of the bandits, a surprisingly well-groomed
Darigan Eyrie raised a clawed paw. The others fell silent at this.
The Eyrie jumped down from his mount, a very
large and imposing looking Apis. The Eyrie was tall, and was clad in a red vest
with gold buttons down the center. He had an air of authority about him. His
vicious green eyes examined the Wocky.
The Wocky couldn’t decipher his expression.
Suddenly, the Eyrie swooped down and lifted the small Wocky off the ground.
Before she knew it, the Wocky was being smothered in a suffocating, rib-cracking
“Oy, Lady Indara! So joyous t’ see yeh! I knew
ye were still alive, but this bunch-“ he gestured towards the now grinning bandits,
“-didn’t believe me!”
“…Air!” the Wocky gasped. Sheepishly, the Eyrie
put her down gently.
“C’mon then, how’d the mission go? Yeh’ve been
gone fer almost a week now!” the Eyrie grinned broadly with his chipped beak.
“M-mission?” the Wocky blinked. Her brain felt
quite numb. “I’m sorry, but you must have the wrong Neopet.”
An uneasy silence fell. The Wocky felt she had
probably made a mistake saying anything, but a second later, the brigands burst
into uproarious laughter.
“Ah, that’s gold!” a scruffy looking Ixi chortled.
“Since when you become a joker, Indara?” He thumped her on the back heartily,
nearly knocking her over.
“Eheheh…” the Wocky let out a weak sound that
resembled a laugh, but more sounded like the squeak of a cornered Miamouse.
A brawny and scarred brown Kyrii waved a paw
impatiently. “This’s all fine n’ good now, Ripclaw, but we really need t’get
back to th’ hideout. ‘S almost morning,” he grunted. A few of the others nodded
“Yer commands, Lady?” Ripclaw the Eyrie looked
down at the Wocky.
“I…” the Wocky’s mind raced. These thieves
seem like they know me, she thought, but I’m scared they’ll turn on me if I
tell them that I’m not the person they want. I should play along until I can
“I agree with…” She waved her paw towards the
“Gutthroat,” he said, looking a little confused.
“Yes, I agree with- err… Gut… throat. Let’s
go back.” She tried to sound casual. Her voice only squeaked a little this time.
They got back on their Apises and began riding
deeper into the desert. As they rode, the Wocky contemplated the situation at
The bandits kept calling her Indara… Was that
her name? Why were these horrible, bloodthirsty thieves speaking to her as a
friend? She couldn’t really have anything to do with them, could she? No, it
was impossible. She couldn’t be one of these murderous thieves, she just couldn’t.
And yet… it would make perfect sense. Why she felt so at home in the desert,
her innate riding skills, the ferocity she showed when cornered, her tattoo…
With a start, she realized that all the bandits around her had the same strange
mark she had on her leg. The Darigan Eyrie, whom the others had called Ripclaw,
had one on the back of his neck, Gutthroat had one on his shoulder, a ferrety
looking Meerca on her left had one on the back of his palm. Every single one
of them had the mark on them somewhere.
I must belong with these Neopets then,
she thought, a very melancholy feeling sinking down on her. Her thoughts
traveled back to earlier that day. It felt like a month ago. She once again
saw in her mind the smoldering ruins of Lycase’s house, the empty and broken
corral, the trampled garden, and the Gelert family comforting each other by
the smoking rubble.
No, she thought, burning with
rage, I will not allow myself to associate with these people. I may have
used to be one of them before I lost my memory, but I am not one of them anymore.
A new voice now crept into her head. You
are Indara. A little amnesia won’t change anything. You are a thief, true and
through. Just wait- you’ll soon learn to enjoy this life again. It coaxed.
No! The retaliating voice cried defiantly.
I’m different, I’ve changed! I’m a new person, I am!
She didn’t have any more time to debate
with herself, because the caravan stopped suddenly. Awakened from her silent
battle, Indara looked around, not really knowing what to expect next.
Sheer cliff face faced them, enclosing
around them in a half-circle. A few scraggly bushes clung desperately to the
Indara was suddenly aware that Imhotep
was panting heavily again. She furrowed her brows and pet the Apis’s head, concerned.
Ripclaw noticed this as well.
“Oy, I fergot t’ask yeh, where’d yew
get th’ Apis from? It’s look’n pretty pitiful.” He inquired, studying the small
“I… I stole it from those cheeky Gelerts!”
Indara stated boldly, trying to match the rough and cocky speech of the bandits.
“Ah, should’a figured. We saw yeh being
held captive in their tent yest’rday. Dun worry tho’, we taught them their mann’rs.”
Ripclaw grinned fiercely. A few Neopets in the back laughed evily.
It was all Indara could do to keep from
leaping forth and setting upon them with her claws. Her knuckles turned white
as she gripped Imhotep’s reins in silent fury.
“Anyhow, let’s head inside. I dun’ like
th’ feelin of th’ sun on me feathers. Will yew do th’ honors, milady?”
Indara stared blankly at them. “Uhh…
I’d love to…” she said, fishing for an excuse, “…but… how about he does it?”
Indara pointed at the nearest pet, a purple jetsam with an eyepatch.
“Shore, Indara.” The jetsam climbed down
off of his Apis and strutted over to a rock in the cliff face and rapped against
it with a fin.
Thump-thump thump thump… Thump-THUMP!
The jetsam knocked.
Suddenly, to Indara’s amazement, the
center of the boulder swung out, revealing a passageway. A Darigan Mynci held
open the rock door, blinking at the sunlight.
“Oy, welcome back, mates!” he greeting
roughly. Upon laying eyes on Indara, he jumped up in surprise, bumping his head
on the rock ceiling.
Clutching his throbbing head, he grinned
hugely with a set of yellowed teeth.
“Lady Indara! We thought you were dead!”
Indara gave a wincing smile, trying not
to stare at the Mynci’s horrid smile. “Heh, nope, I’m still alive.”
“Grimehoof will be very pleased t’see
yehs!” the Mynci continued. “Come inside, come inside!” he beckoned to the party.
One by one, they rode their Apises into
the dark cavern. Imhotep and the other Apises stolen from Lycase spooked and
squealed upon entering the tunnel, but the other petpets showed no sign of fear.
Obviously, this was very routine for them.
Indara rode between Ripclaw and Gutthroat,
nervously looking around, hoping to see some sign of what lay ahead.
They emerged into a large, naturally
carved chamber. A cool draft blew through the cave, and the ceiling stretched
up high overhead, fading into blackness. Something green and glowing grew on
the walls, washing a pale light over the party, who had now come to a halt in
the center of the cavern. They now began to unload their Apises, putting the
saddles and other riding gear in large wooden bins in the corners of the room.
Indara mimicked these actions clumsily. Their petpets they tied to wooden posts
which lined the passage. A long trough filled with cool water sat in front of
the Apises, which they immediately began to suck up thirstily.
With their petpets taken care of, the
bandits continued down the corridor, Indara tailing. She felt a little apprehensive
about leaving her petpet alone in the drafty cave, but she would have to trust
he would be okay without her.
At least he can rest up now. Indara thought
to herself as the party emerged into another large chamber. This one was threefold
the size of the first, and there were large torches burning merrily on each
wall. Indara gasped as she beheld the cavern, not because of its size, but because
of all the bustling activity and life in the cave. There were at least three
score of Neopets there, cooking over the large bonfire, drinking ale, singing
songs, wresting, sharpening knives, sleeping, and playing rock-paper-scissors
with each other.
A huge variety of species was represented;
Krawk, Meerca, Lupe, Shoyru, Techo, Grundo, and even a few she didn’t recognize.
Until that moment, she had thought that the Red Sands had only been made up
of the small group she was with. Upon realizing just how many thieves there
really were, her knees buckled, and she felt quite faint.
Ripclaw strode into the chamber first.
He lifted his clawed paws and opened his mouth to speak.
“We h’ve ret’rned from th’ desert.” At
the sound of his scratchy voice, silence fell, and the collective looked up
at Ripclaw curiously. “Ye shall be pleas’d t’ know,” he continued, “that our
lead’r hast returned t’ us!”
A deafening cheer rose as the pets began
to hoot and stamp their feet in celebration. Indara was pushed into the middle
of the cave, where she was surrounded by burly and smelly thieves thumping her
on the back, shaking her paw, offering her mugs of ginger ale, and giving her
noogies, messing up her headfur. Terrified by this sudden attention, Indara
wriggled her way out of the crowd. She had the advantage of size, and was, amazingly
enough, able to escape from the crowd unseen. The bandits continued to cheer
and slosh their mugs around, oblivious to Indara’s absence.
Looking backwards at the crowd, she began
to slink away carefully.
“OOF!” she bumped into a striped Uni.
Reprimanding herself for not paying attention, she looked up at him.
He had a light blue mane that was falling
into his eyes, large inquisitive gray eyes, and a round brass ring on his nose.
His face was laced with thin white scars. The oh-so-familiar tattoo of the Red
Sands was on his printed on his shoulder.
“Never much one for big entrances, were
ye, Indara?” he winked. “So glad t’see yeh back! When the scout reported yeh
missing, the others were afraid. But not ole’ Grimehoof, I’s knew ye’d turn
up, be it now or lat’r. But thin’s certainly were duller without ye around.”
He affectionately fluffed her headfur, which Indara shrunk back from a bit.
The crowd had mostly dispersed by this
time, but a few pets found Indara again and gathered around her and Grimehoof.
A skunk Lupe cleared his throat and raised his mug.
“Oi say’s a tost’n is’n ord’r! Hurrhurr!”
the Lupe cheered. He had an unusual accent. Indara idly wondered where he was
A cheer of agreement rose, and many mugs
were lifted in salute. Some ginger ale sloshed out of a mug and onto Indara.
Growling under her breath, she cleaned
her fur off with her tongue.
“Now let’sus party!” the Lupe roared.
Another loud cheer rose to greet him.
The rest of the night was filled with
feasting and singing and lots and lots of ginger ale.
With weary resignation, Indara realized
that escape was out of the question right now. She sat and warmed herself by
the fire and nibbled gingerly at a piece of burnt grackle bug. It was terrible,
but the events of the day had left her feeling positively ravenous. She washed
it down with a few sips of ginger ale. The spicy ginger was very strong, and
Indara decided that she didn’t really care for it at all.
When the antics and partying had died
down a little, Ripclaw asked Indara the question she had feared the whole night.
“So, where were ye all this time? What
of th’ mission?”
Indara had no answer for this. She knew
she couldn’t tell them the truth; it was more farfetched than any lie she could
ever come up with.
Suddenly, a new confidence grew within
her. An alien presence seemed to take over. She would get out of this with no
problem, just like she always did.
“Ah yes, my mission,” she started out
confidently. “Well, it was all going perfectly according to plan, when…” she
paused for effect. “A huge sandstorm hit! I had to take refuge in a cave, where
I waited until all was clear. Then, of course, I accomplished my mission.”
Of course, this was a load of dung, but
the thieves suspected nothing, and took in every word.
“So th’ king is dead then?” an eager
looking gray Wocky cried excitedly.
“Yep! I killed him with my own two paws.”
Indara held them out dramatically.
“Oi! This’ns groit new t’us, Lady!” Ripclaw
“As yer second in cummand, I s’ggest we
stroike Aknatsi now as they morn the’r dead king! Once we rule th’ city, we
k’n control thar army and th’n take th’ next step- dominat’n th’ other cities
to owr rule. A glor’ous future lies ahead fer us’Ns, Lady Indara!” he grinned
a sharp-beaked smile.
Indara didn’t like the sounds of this
“We will discuss these plans tomorrow.”
Indara was beginning to lose her confidence, and the familiar feeling of fear
settled down on her once more.
Luckily, she didn’t have to explain herself
to the others.
“She’s right! Tonight, we should celebrate!”
a Tyrannian Kougra yelled.
A cheer of agreement rose up, and the
party gained its second wind. Many more drinks were served, and yet again, there
were loud songs and toasts and arm wrestling.
The celebrations lasted for hours. Finally,
as the first hints of dawn crept across the sky outside, the thieves began to
Many were so tired, they practically
passed out on the stone floor. When all had fallen asleep, Indara made her escape.
To be continued...