When Indara awoke again, she found herself to be very,
very sore. Groaning, she sat up and massaged her bruised paws. Indara looked
up at the patch of sunlight longingly, then turned to face Kohla, who was already
awake and looking at her curiously.
"I'll bet you think this is really funny, don't
you?" she asked bitterly. "I still don't see why you can't help me. Don't you
miss the sunlight and fresh air?"
Kohla shook his head.
"I'm not leaving."
"But WHY? Why, why?" Indara threw a rock at the
wall in sheer frustration. It bounced off and fell with a clatter.
Kohla flicked his tail, looking annoyed. He said
"I'm going to be trapped in this stinking pit
forever, you know that? All because you're just sitting here feeling sorry for
yourself and doing nothing!" Indara paced quickly and jerkily. "And another
"SILENCE!" Kohla roared suddenly and loudly,
causing Indara to jump and stop in her tracks. Kohla rose to his feet. Indara
was suddenly reminded of how much larger Kohla was than her. "You do not understand
what you speak of, child. I have done things… horrible things. I am dangerous
to the world above. It is not wise to provoke me."
Indara fought against her better judgment and
pressed on, a fevered sense of oncoming wrath upon her. "You think you're the
only one who's ever done anything wrong? Look at me, I'm the leader of a band
of cut-throats and thieves! I think I have done some pretty awful things in
the past too, but am I sitting here moping about it? NO!" she finished, her
chest heaving with pent up rage.
Kohla lifted his lips and bared his fangs, growling
loudly. Indara watched with horror as his stubby claws began to lengthen and
grow into hooked talons. Indara backed away slowly.
Kohla struggled to control the shift. He closed
his eyes and began breathing deeply. After a long, nerve-wracking moment, he
was back to normal again. He held himself against the wall with one paw as if
he were dizzy.
"I'm… I'm sorry, Kohla," Indara said in a small
voice, feeling sheepish and little afraid. "I didn't mean to make you get that
Indara's voice hardened and grew in volume a
"But my point still stands. Are you going to
stay in here all your life, or are you going to escape with me and help save
this city and its people?" she asked calmly.
Kohla stood in silence. He looked upwards to
the small window. His expression softened, as if he were remembering something,
and Indara thought she saw his eye watering.
The graying Lupe passed a paw over his face.
Indara waited patiently.
"I… I will help you," Kohla said wearily, his
"YES!" Indara jumped, despite her aching limbs.
"Thank you, Kohla, you shan't regret your decision!"
She extended a paw, a big mischievous grin on
"Partners in crime, then?"
Kohla took the paw.
"Till the bitter end." He smiled tragically,
and they shook paws.
"Okay! Now to get out of here." Indara looked
around. "Any ideas?"
Before she had finished, Kohla reared back and
punched a hole clean through the brick wall.
"Oh, looks like you're already on it." Indara
laughed a little and then went to help Kohla widen the hole by removing bricks
When the hole was wide enough for Indara to scramble
through, she went out to look around. She was in a dark and damp tunnel. Water
was dripping somewhere, she could hear its lonely echo down the corridors.
Indara saw no one, and popped her head back into
the hole to tell Kohla as much. Soon, the hole was wide enough for Kohla, and
the duo entered the long dark passageway. Kohla sniffed the air and wrinkled
"There are many others down this hall… I think
Indara sniffed and caught the whiff of many malnourished
and dirty pets somewhere in the dark.
"I think you're right." She nodded. "We have
no other way to go, however. Let's just keep quiet."
They stole away down the long tunnel on tiptoe,
ever vigilant for guards or other pets.
Soon, they found themselves nearing the source
of the scent. Indara went first, being smaller and more lithe than Kohla, and
returned quickly, confirming that there were indeed other prisoners here, locked
away in an open cell. A stout Tonu guarded the prisoners.
Whispering together, Kohla and Indara discussed
their plan of action.
"We need a diversion," Kohla stated matter-of-factly,
"I say we just rush him. We can take him easily!"
Indara eagerly urged.
Kohla rubbed his whiskers thoughtfully.
"Maybe… but we have to be very, very quiet. Who
knows if there are other guards further down the hallway?"
Indara nodded, and they both began to creep forwards
on all fours. Kohla picked up a stone and threw it above the Tonu's head. It
clattered against the floor. Instantly, the Tonu spun around in the direction
of the noise, on the alert.
Indara and Kohla both leapt out from behind the
Tonu and attacked. Indara jumped onto his back and covered his eyes with her
paws. The Tonu let out a yell and pulled out a sword, blindly swinging it at
the invisible enemy. He missed and spun around desperately, trying to throw
the Wocky off of his back.
The prisoners in their cells went wild. They
cheered and threw empty food bowls at the Tonu, hooting and hollering.
"The Princess of Thieves is here! It's Lady Indara,
come to rescue us!" a scraggly Kacheek cheered.
SMAK! A clay bowl collided with the Tonu's nose,
where it shattered and fell to the floor. The Tonu staggered about dizzily,
still trying to get Indara off of his face. Kohla rapped him over the head with
a strong paw. The guard fell to the ground, knocked unconscious.
Indara and Kohla made to leave.
"Wait! Where are you going, Lady? Aren't you
going to free us? It's me, Dargle!" A green Meerca shook the bars of his cell
"I, err… I'm sorry," Indara fumbled, feeling
guilty even though she knew she shouldn't. "I gotta go, so uhh… sorry."
Kohla put a paw on her shoulder.
"We have to go, we don't have much time," he
said gently, but sternly.
As they fled the corridor, the prisoner's cheers
turned into furious screeching and hollering. More pots and random objects were
thrown at them, but it was too late. They were already gone, up the steps and
back out into the sunlight.
* * *
The sun was burning bright in the desert sky, dry and stifling. Sweat rolled
off of Grimehoof's face as he rode on his Apis. He looked back at the rest of
his party; Ripclaw, Gutthroat, and the skunk Lupe were every bit as uncomfortable
When they reached their destination, a small
oasis, they rushed forward and practically dove into the cool water. As they
drank and filled their waterskins and jars, Ripclaw moved over to squat by Grimehoof,
who was still drinking.
"So, Groimey…" he started in a low tone. He looked
across the oasis to make sure the others weren't listening in. The Lupe and
the Kyrii were splashing each other and laughing, not paying them the least
"Mmm?" Grimehoof responded casually, screwing
the cap back onto his waterskin.
"I coidn't help but overhearin' yeh last noite
with Indara…" Ripclaw began in a velvety voice.
Grimehoof froze, his ears involuntarily pricking
up with alarm.
"Wot is going on, Groimey? Summat is goin' on,
an' I need ta know about it." Ripclaw's voice dropped the smooth façade and
"I don't know… Indara said she had some things
to take care of." Grimehoof stammered.
"You know sumthin', doncha'? Indara's been actin'
very stroinge… Don't yew tell me oi'm the only one to notice it. She's not 'erself,
she isn't." Ripclaw watched Grimehoof's expression carefully. "Now, s'posin'
yeh knew somethin' and weren't tellin' me… well, that woid be a bad thing."
Grimehoof glared. "You threatenin' me?"
By this time, the Lupe and the Kyrii had stopped
splashing each other and now watched this exchange in expectant silence.
"List'n, oi know yew have a thing f'r Indara…
but withholdin' information from th' rest of us'ns not a good idea." Ripclaw
snapped. "Wot are yeh hidin', Groime? Indara's not 'erself, an' I think yew
Grimehoof's shoulders sank. Ripclaw grinned,
he had him now.
"I… I only 'spect this, so's it might not be
all true, so's don't go assumin' nothin', okay?" Grime said quickly and nervously,
rubbing his hooves together in an agitated fashion.
"Out with it!" Ripclaw yelled impatiently.
"OKAY! Okay… I think… I think that Indara may
"Wot in Chet Flash's name is that?" Ripclaw demanded,
"I mean, she may have lost 'er memory. She doesn't
know who she is. Did yeh see 'er last night? She looked completely lost, and
didn't recognize me!"
Ripclaw narrowed his eyes and clicked his claws
"She did act roily strang'ly when we first came
'pon 'er in the desert… like she was troin' to run away frum us 'r summat."
A look of realization dawned upon Ripclaw's face. "Yeh dun think…" he started
slowly, "yeh dun think she'd flee to th' city n' spill info 'bout our secret
hideout, do yeh?"
"No. Indara would ne'er betray us like that,"
Grimehoof said firmly.
"Don't yew get it? She's NOT Indara anymore!
She lost 'er mem'ry n' now she's just like anyone else! How kin we trust 'er?"
"I trust her. Grimehoof stamped his foot.
Ripclaw screeched angrily and flapped his wings.
"Oi'm takin moi men t' Aknatsi. Either way, th'
toime t' strike is NOW."
Grimehoof opened his mouth in protest.
"AND if yew have a problem with it, too bad.
Oi'm in charge. As Indara's second in comm'nd, oi resume all lead'rship when
she's away." Ripclaw puffed out his chest to look bigger.
Grimehoof closed his mouth in defeat. Ripclaw
was right, of course. He needed to think about the good of the Red Sands and
not let his own personal feelings get in the way of their ultimate mission-
chaos and domination. He sighed, feeling very much conflicted.
"Oh yeah, and yew two-" Ripclaw pointed at the
Lupe and the Kyrii, "-had better not spill any of th's to th' others, or oi'll
cut off y'r tongues! Am oi clear?"
The Lupe and the Kyrii nodded fervently, covering
their mouths with their paws.
"Roight then. Let's go back home." Ripclaw began
loading the water jugs onto the Apises. The others did the same. They rode back
to the base in silence. Later that night, after everyone was asleep, Grimehoof
stood on top of the base at twilight and let out a long high-pitched whinny
To be continued...