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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 25th day of Awakening, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 140 > Continuing Series > The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Two

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Two

by thegreenmooseofdoom

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 Lycase.

     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 hug.

     “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 in agreement.

     “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 escape.

     “I agree with…” She waved her paw towards the Kyrii feebly.

     “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 hand.

     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 red rock.

     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 petpet.

     “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 from.

     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 exclaimed.

     “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 at all.

     “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 settle down.

     Many were so tired, they practically passed out on the stone floor. When all had fallen asleep, Indara made her escape.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part One

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Three

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Four

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Five

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Six

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