Secrets in the Lost Desert: Part One
Dear Rulers of Qasala,
In a few days, the Sakhmet army will go to war with the city of Khmatef and defeat the horrible King Heksas. Please aid in any way possible. We could use your warriors and many provisions. If you do not wish to participate, it would be wise to stay out of our way.
Nabile looked over the letter again and again. It did not make any sense to the pink Ixi. She paced around her beautifully decorated room. Compared to the queen-sized bed, handcrafted wardrobe, and soft carpet, she was the cheapest thing in the room. Her clothes were the same street clothes that she had worn when she was a Desert Scarab. Her hair was done into an untidy ponytail. Many people had protested against her shabby look, but she had declared that she would wear what she wanted on an average day.
The door creaked open as Qasala's prince, Jazan, walked in. He was an orange Kyrii covered in a magnificent robe. The gold on his clothes flashed in the sunlight.
“Why are you unhappy, my dear?” he asked caringly.
Nabile threw down the letter and answered, “This isn’t like Princess Amira. Why would she randomly start a war with Khmatef? It almost sounds like she is threatening us.”
“Are you sure you knew her well enough to understand her actions?” asked Jazan.
Nabile thought for a minute then responded, “She has been a great ruler for many years. This is not something that she would do.”
The two of them looked out the window in the direction of Sakhmet. The long desert shimmered under the morning sun. Nabile thought over what the letter had said. The Ixi was feeling like something unusual was going on. She wanted to investigate this mystery.
Eventually, Nabile declared, “I am going to go to Sakhmet to talk to Princess Amira. Maybe she has a perfect reason for this.”
Jazan agreed, “Good idea. I will send a small army to travel with you. It’s times like these when we need the most protection.”
In a few hours Nabile was leading the group of Qasalan warriors through the Lost Desert. At her side was Nightsteed. The hideous Uni walked steadily with a look of determination in his crimson eyes. Nabile had refused to ride him, because she knew that, even though he had offered, he would feel ashamed to be ridden by anyone other than Jazan. The pink Ixi felt the golden sand sink under her feet. The hot sun was beating down from the centre of the sky now. The Lost Desert looked so barren. Nabile amused herself by trying to spot anything in the distance. It helped her keep off what would come.
By the time they arrived at Sakhmet, the sky was pink as the sun set. The majestic palace stood behind the many houses, which were all inside the wall. Nabile noticed that the city seemed to be much more defensive now. All the gates were locked and there were armed guards patrolling the walls. Soon an Elephante noticed them and rushed over to greet them.
“The princess has been expecting you,” he explained. “I see that you have brought an army.”
“Actually, we just want to talk with Princess Amira,” corrected Nabile.
The guard tensed in his azure armour as he said, “No one is to enter the city unless you wish to aid us in our battle. Those are the princess’s orders.”
Nabile wanted to protest, but the Elephante held a dangerous scimitar in one hand. Nabile doubted that he would refrain from using it.
As the Qasalan army began to return to their home, Nabile whispered to Nightsteed, “You go ahead. I’m not leaving until I find out what is going on.”
Nightsteed nodded farewell to the Ixi as she parted from the group. He turned back towards Qasala, and started his journey home. The Qasalans had to walk fast before the sun’s last light disappeared.
Meanwhile, Nabile crept to the backside of the city. She searched the firm wall for any possible way to penetrate it. A sound reached her ear; it was the sound of water flowing. She turned the corner and found a large pond that seemed to connect to the palace. Taking a deep breath, she dove into the water. She kicked her way through the warm water and under the wall. When she reached the surface on the other side, she found herself in a magnificent fountain. The fountain was large and full of clear water. Attached to the side were four glimmering jewels. What was even more astonishing was the courtyard she was in. There were tall, healthy trees. Painted along the walls were colourful murals. Even the sand seemed to be a shade whiter than the sand outside.
Her clothes and fur were soaking wet. Nabile felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around to a yellow Kyrii. His hair was orange and wavy with a red hat in it. He wore ragged blue pants and a purple vest. He did not look too dangerous, but the Ixi could not let anyone catch her. Nabile contemplated how she would escape from him.
When the Kyrii saw her tense, he assured her, “Calm down, I ain’t gonna hurt ya.”
It was then that Nabile recognized who he was.
“You’re Stan,” she realized.
“Dat’s me,” boasted Stan, “and, judging by dat tattoo, you must be one of dem Desert Scarbs. Whatcha doing in here?”
Nabile noticed that part of her sleeve had been ripped off on a sharp rock at the bottom of the fountain.. She then considered Stan’s question. Ummagine thieves were not very trustworthy, but that meant that he would not turn her over to the guards. She decided that he would be safe to confide in.
“I’m trying to find Princess Amira,” she explained.
“Well, ya won’t have much luck,” said Stan. “Da guards in here are way more severe dan da ones outside. Also, da princess has been very secluded lately. Maybe I could help ya. I’ve been lookin’ for something fun to do.”
Nabile realized that she would need all the help she could get, so she agreed, “Alright, I need to find someway inside the palace.”
Stan nodded and the two carefully sneaked deeper into the courtyard. They stayed close to the wall and in the shadows.
General Dacon marched down the elegant corridor to the princess’s chambers. Today he was not wearing any battle gear, save for his golden helmet. He was dressed in a creamy white robe lined with gold. He had grey fur, a deep black mane, and amber eyes. Now those eyes were fixed on the door to Princess Amira’s room. He passed many doors before he arrived at the large, guarded, and locked doorway to the princess’s chamber.
When he arrived, a Pteri guard stated, “I’m sorry, General, but no one may see the princess. As you know, she has a highly contagious disease.”
“I don’t care,” grunted Dacon. “It is very important that I speak to her.”
The small Pteri seemed too nervous and confused. He began to fidget. Dacon sighed and pulled out a silver key, the master key. The key fit into the lock and the door clicked open. Dacon was relieved that Amira had not changed the lock. Even if she had, Dacon would have been able to break down the door; Tonus are quite strong.
The general strode into the beautifully decorated room. There was a large window at the back of the room, but it was closed and locked. Beautiful plants and statues were scattered around the room. In the center he saw Princess Amira lying on her king-sized bed. Her frail form looked even smaller on the enormous bed. She did look very sick. Her face was wrinkled and she looked thinner. She still had her brown fur and chocolate hair, but her eyes were closed so her beauty was almost lost. She wore plenty of gold jewellery around her neck and ears, and had donned her typical white clothes.
She opened her eyes, coughed roughly, and scratched, “Dacon, what are you doing here?”
Dacon had not made any sound when he had entered; Amira had never been asleep.
The Tonu looked at her irritated face and said, “Your Majesty, please forgive me, but what are you planning with this war with Khmatef? We have been able to tolerate each other for many years now.”
“I have asked Heksas to leave,” explained Amira. “He has not and my patience had run out.”
“But,” began Dacon but he stopped when he realized that she would not divulge any more information.
Dacon sighed. He had not been able to clear up this mystery anymore. Amira began coughing again, and Dacon realized that he had learned everything that he could. He bowed, bid her farewell, and left.
As the Tonu returned through the hallway, he ran through what had happened recently. Princess Amira had been acting normally a few weeks ago. Then she came down with a dangerous virus. After that, she had started giving out more unusual orders. Maybe the sickness was infecting her way of thinking. Or perhaps she had gotten grumpy from staying locked in her room day and night. Still, Dacon could not feel that there was something more to this enigma.
Horace sneaked through the alleys and lanes of Sakhmet. He was a yellow Blumaroo street urchin. His clothes--a green vest, a pair of white pants--and a crumpled hat, were all tattered. His blue-black hair was messy. Eventually, he and his two best friends, Zina and Tomos, arrived at their destination. Zina was a pink Zafara with black hair and a purple top. Tomos was a Lupe covered in shaggy brown and cream fur. He wore a brown vest, white tunic, and blue trousers. Each of them had a Desert Scarab tattoo on their arm.
“Wow, the town looks so different at night,” breathed Zina.
It was true; the little shops were all closed up and the streets were empty. By the moonlight, Horace presented to them a notice posted on a wall.
“Is this what you wanted to show us?” asked Tomos.
Horace nodded. The trio read over the new laws and rules.
“This is terrible,” groaned Zina. “We never had a curfew, and we’ve always been able to leave the city as we please. It’s like someone only wants to control us.”
“Big deal,” scoffed Tomos. “We’ve been breaking the law before. This is no different.”
“What about all the others?” asked Horace. “Technically, there are a lot more offenders now. I don’t think that people are going to change their ways immediately.”
“Hey, you!” barked a gruff voice.
The three turned around to face a group of angry guards charging towards them.
“Time to go,” declared Zina as she climbed up a wall.
Horace turned to leave and dashed down the alley he had come from. Suddenly he crashed into a pile of boxes and tumbled to the ground. Horace knew that he could not see well in the dark, but he had not expected that they would run into trouble. It was his first mistake as a Desert Scarab. He felt the strong grip of the guards on his shoulders. He knew that there was no point in resisting; he could not win.
“You’ve been getting into a lot of trouble,” snorted a guard. “You’re going straight to the dungeon.”
To be continued...