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About Sunburn


by child_dragon

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There are certain things in life that you simply don't do. Getting trapped in Sakhmet City when a rather pushy Kyrii blasts it into another dimension and unleashes his undead minions onto its populace is one of those things. But honestly, it wasn't my fault. I had no idea that was going to happen. All I knew was that my pets were begging me for something interesting to do and that I was running fast out of ideas. It doesn't help things that my striped Eyrie, Un-eairkagh, gets destructive when bored. Snap decisions were never my specialty.

      "Alright, alright!" I finally howled, "We'll go to Sakhmet."

      Oh, what WAS I thinking? A trip to the hottest place on Neopia when I'm the girl that's been nicknamed "The Ice Queen"? When I, unlike my four furred and feathered pets, have to worry about things like massive third-degree sunburn? And with a hyperactive Eyrie that doesn't understand the concept of sunstroke? Ah yes, a trip to the Lost Desert would be interesting indeed. But I had committed myself and now, I was resigned for what was probably going to be a disaster. I didn't know how right I was.

      The best thing about my family of pets is that they can all fly. Furthermore, I can ride on my Uni MoonFall's back. We arrived at the city around midday. Arrived is a generous term. I'll be honest - we landed in one of the various open courtyards with all the grace of a rotten tchea falling from a third floor window. My Eyrie hit first, bounced, and with a happy squawk landed in the fountain. Neopets started staring at that point, long enough for his brother, Aldrai the Darigan Zafara, to attempt a graceful landing at the pinnacle of the fountain. So, Terraile, my faerie Pteri, upset this with a well-placed dive. Into the fountain went Aldrai. MoonFall made a nice landing and I dismounted, doing my best to pretend that the two pets tussling in the fountain and soaking nearby passersby weren't mine. That was when one of them grabbed me and pulled me in along with them. I remember shrieking something about washing the sunscreen off my poor pale skin.

      Every exposed portion of me was beet red by sundown. Even the part on my scalp was red. Un-eairkagh and Terraile were finding this vastly amusing.

      "Like a tomato."

      "No, I'd say more like a meatball in sauce." Terraile was engaging him in a word-association game.

      "Tomato soup."

      "You already used tomato. She's like a cherry Chia pop."

      "Baby tomatoes!"

      "You can't use tomato again!"

      "Enough!"

      That was me. I was trying to secure us rooms at an inn.

      "You're not from around here?" the Grarrl at the front asked me, raising one painted brow in inquiry. I would have to find where they got that face paint sometime, if only to try it out on my poor unsuspecting pets.

      "What gave it away?"

      "Your attire. Sakhmet natives know to cover up against the sun, not show as much skin as is decent and allow for ah, your current condition."

      I scowled at my blistered shoulders.

      "I'm HOT, though."

      "We're also used to the heat. I'll show you to your rooms."

      The next day, I got up before my pets and slipped out into the city. Hopefully MoonFall and Terraile would keep the boys out of trouble. There were a couple merchants setting up and I found some clothes vendors and examined the wares. With a little help, I purchased some clothing that they assured me was lightweight and would keep the sun off my face and arms. I also bought some jewelry and black paint. Those eye decorations were just too grand to not try. And luckily, I got back before any of my pets woke.

      Un-eairkagh actually screamed when he got sight of himself in the mirror. Earrings on his feather tufts and beautiful black lines decorating his eyes. Aldrai merely blinked in confusion and the girls were adorning themselves.

      "Makeup… Kiddo…."

      He turned to me and I swear he managed to make his lower beak quiver. I don't know how.

      "Sweet benevolent giver of goodness… Loving caring wondrous owner… Kiddo…. Why did you put makeup on me?"

      "It's the fashion. And you look adorable."

      "I look like a girl."

      "Ah, you've been zapped with the lab ray enough that you shouldn't be bothered. Stop your yapping and let's go. I want to see Princess Amira today."

      We saw Princess Amira all right. We also saw Prince Jazan. I'll admit it - I wasn't too impressed by the direness of the situation at first. In fact, all I really noticed was how to poke fun at my Eyrie.

      "Look, look, Eair. He's got the eye makeup too."

      "He's a foppish prince."

      That was when the princess refused his offer. And when he brandished his hands into the sky, his steed transformed into something out of nightmare, and the temperature dropped a couple degrees. I would have been delighted, had it not been for the hair on the back of my neck standing on end in response to the magical power gathering in the air.

      "Kiddo," Aldrai said, slipping to stand between me and where Jazan was, "We need to go. Now."

      "Oh, awesome," Un-eairkagh breathed, "that evil Kyrii with the cool magic has eye paint. I like this stuff now."

      We of the Child Dragon clan had long ago learned to ignore the majority of Un-eairkagh's comments.

      "This is not good!" Terraile had landed on my shoulder and was clinging for dear life as the wind picked up, buffeting her wings and feathers and making flight near impossible.

      "Right."

      In the past, we've faced incredible danger. Incredible evil. We came through it intact. But when you left your weapons at home, your allies are back in Neopia Central, and you really have no clue what you're going up against, fighting doesn't seem like an appealing option at all. So we resorted to Plan B.

      "RUN!"

      We made it as far as where the street turned when Jazan finished his spell. A shockwave rippled across the city and I fell when it reached me, my heart skipping a beat from the strange sensation that rushed over us. Like we were being crushed by an invisible hand. Only a second, then it was gone, and I was staring up at a strange sky.

      "Kiddo…"

      Terraile was sticking close to me and I could see out of the corner of my eye MoonFall lowering her head to display the point of her horn. I rolled, slowly, and stood. Something was stalking the streets. A jerky, stiff sort of stalk - snapping heads at angles to glare at the innocent civilians before brandishing weapons. Neopets, covered in bandages and with glowing eyes. The reek of must hung heavy in the air.

      "More running?" Aldrai asked.

      "Yep. Definitely more running."

      We ran. It was after I cut through an alleyway that we truly ran into trouble. One of those undead-pets noticed us and blocked our escape, polearm pointed at us. I skidded to a stop but it was far too late. I dropped to the ground right before him and the blade went whooshing right where my chest had been.

      "That's my owner you're messing with!"

      A blur of white feathers and fur went streaking over my head. At some point Un-eairkagh had grabbed a stout piece of wood and as his favored weapon was the portable kiln, this came in handy. Crack! I didn't take any time to survey the damage - seconds were precious in a combat - only lunged for the weapon that fell from the creature's hand. Snagged it up, stood, spun, and called for Un-eairkagh to stand down.

      "It's unconscious. I think."

      My Zafara prodded the creature with one foot. It moaned and Un-eairkagh brandished his weapon, but I shook my head. There was no need. The thing wasn't getting up.

      "Alright, we find shelter," I said. "There's too many of these things for us to fight."

      I tossed the polearm from hand to hand, performed an uppercut and then my 'snipe shot' - a full extension of the polearm to test the range. A touch small for a fully-grown human, but it'd do. Much better than no weapon at all.

      "Terraile, can you play scout for us? Try and find passageways where we can avoid conflict."

      "Right. Where's our ultimate destination?"

      "The inn, I guess."

      She flapped into the air and circled, waiting for us to start moving again.

      "Un-eairkagh, you take point. Standard defensive formation - I'll attack over your shoulder if need be as I've got the reach. Aldrai, MoonFall, you take rear guard. Watch our sides."

      A deep breath. Strategy was one of my interests but I wasn't so keen on playing tactician when it was myself and my pets on the line. And when we were vastly outnumbered. But what choice did I have? Something bad had just happened to the city and it appeared we were trapped with all the rest to share in its fate.

      At least the sunburn was only a minor concern now.

      We found the inn. We helped its keeper barricade the doors and windows. I put my pets and myself on guard duty, taking turns patrolling the few rooms of the building to ensure that nothing was trying to get in. That was nerve-wracking business. I could hear them shuffling about outside and each time one got close, I would just freeze up in terror. Wait. Hope they couldn't sense me through the wooden planks we'd hammered into place over the door. Then it'd continue along and I could breathe again. I dreaded the thought of what would happen if we were discovered.

      There was no information. We were completely cut off from the rest of the city - for all we knew, we could be the only survivors. The innkeeper filled us in with the back-story, about how this mysterious Jazan hailing from the city Qasala was demanding that Princess Amira marry him to fulfill some prophecy.

      "Romance? Ick!" Un-eairkagh stuck out his tongue.

      "It's not like that," my Uni said disapprovingly, "This whole thing happened because she refused to marry him."

      "Another reason why no one should fall in love."

      "She doesn't love him, you dolt! I've been trying to tell you that."

      "Sorry," I apologized to the innkeeper, "continue with the story, please."

      Turns out that's about all there was to it. She'd refused and now here we were, trapped, with no knowledge of what was happening and if we'd ever see Neopia Central again.

      With no way to measure days, I could not tell how much time had passed before we were forced to vacate our hiding place. I use such gentle terms. Vacate is not the way to describe it. There was screaming and burning and running. Basically, Jazan grew tired of waiting on Amira and set loose another monster on the city. An enormous two-headed Scorchio that flew about spitting fireballs onto the buildings. We were one of the unfortunate ones hit.

      Thankfully, we were in the bottom floor when the fire erupted. There was an explosion and it seemed like all the oxygen was sucked out of the room and then came imploding back in, clapping in my ears and sending them ringing. Then the temperature leapt (I was profoundly dismayed by this) and I saw flames leaping down from the stairwell.

      "Fire!" Aldrai cried, "Get out!"

      Our protection from the undead soldiers had become a trap. I pried at the planks over the door, coughing at the smoke that was billowing up. Then someone pulled me away - the Grarrl innkeeper I think - and MoonFall spun and reared, planting her hind legs into the planks with a tremendous kick. They cracked, broke, and we tumbled from the building, choking and gasping to collapse on the opposite side of the street. I'd no sooner caught my breath than the building collapsed inwards.

      "We've got to move. The fire is spreading."

      I could see the Scorchio moving on to torch another part of the city, shrieking like a banshee as it did so. There were tears in my eyes from the soot.

      "Right," I whispered.

      Standard defensive position again. This time, we had the Grarrl taking the rear and MoonFall and Aldrai watching the flanks. There were a couple run-ins and Un-eairkagh and I dealt with them in our usual efficient manner. He stayed between me and the enemy and I provided some ranged support, holding the spear up high and thrusting down towards the enemy. That didn't seem to do much good outside of distracting them long enough for Un-eairkagh to smash his improvised club down over their heads.

      "Shoulda brought my kiln," he muttered. "Why'd you make me leave it again?"

      "Cause this desert is plenty dang hot already."

      I wish I could say we were an integral part to saving the city. We weren't. Eventually, we found another bolthole and crawled in amongst the other refugees. Found a spot close to the entrance and stayed there with weapons ready. Everyone was quiet and we waited in fearful silence, punctuated by the occasional cough and a young pet's crying. Terraile and Un-eairkagh tried to start up their game on thinking up metaphors for my sunburn, but that didn't last long. We were too anxious from the waiting.

      When the noise died down in the city, it was a Lupe native who volunteered to go look. Un-eairkagh offered to go with him, but I made him stay. It was too dangerous to send such a boisterous pet on a scouting mission. He'd botch it all. The Lupe returned after about an hour with the news that the princess had agreed to marry Jazan and end this madness. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

      "But I thought she didn't love him," Un-eairkagh whispered to me.

      He may be a bit silly and feather-brained, but Un-eairkagh is perceptive in ways he doesn't realize.

      I suppose you know how the story ends already. Amira doesn't wind up marrying Jazan - that Ixi does. The curse is lifted from the city. We can finally leave our hiding places and breath the free - but still unpleasantly hot - air of Sakhmet city once more. I started making plans on leaving the wretched desert and returning home to safety and a nice long bath. There was soot in my hair from fleeing the burning building and Terraile's brilliant feathers weren't as bright as they should be. But before we left, we joined the throngs that crowded the streets to watch Jazan and Nabile depart for Qasala.

      Our seats were great. MoonFall flew me up to a nearby rooftop and we sat arrayed at the edge, dangling our legs and paws over and watching. The two looked so happy as they rode past, Jazan beaming at Nabile riding by his side. Such a different creature from the Kyrii that had unleashed a nightmare upon the city days earlier.

      "It's kinda sweet," MoonFall said.

      "Blech." Un-eairkagh was back to making faces.

      "I guess there's a moral in all this," Terraile commented.

      We thought on this. MoonFall was the first to speak.

      "True love always wins?"

      "Good prevails over evil?" Terraile.

      "Not everyone is what they seem?" Aldrai.

      "Girls have cooties?"

      "Bring more sunscreen?"

      I don't think I have to elaborate as to whom the last two were from.

The End

 
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