I've Never Felt Better: Part Three
It was pitch black, but that didn’t surprise Lord Tamerson. Nor did the pain in every part of his body puzzle him either. The hole wasn’t as deep as he had thought it was, but it did go down quite far into the ground. As soon as he’d hit the ground, he’d passed out. Who knew how long he’d been lying down here? And the worst part was that he hadn’t brought any of his belongings with him, save for his cane and his hat. His hat was now missing, but he didn’t need it. What he did need was a match or a torch, but he had none of those.
“Haquin?” The sound of his own voice comforted him a little, but the silence that followed was much more overwhelming.
He sat up, glad that he could at least move. He sat for a little while, just staring into the darkness, unsure of his next move.
He didn’t need to plan anything out, for at that moment a small light appeared in the darkness just a few feet away. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and pinched himself, just to make sure that he was really seeing it. “Hello?”
“What are you doing here?” The light came closer, and Lord Tamerson could make out who was holding it. It was a sour-faced desert Kacheek.
“Um. Hello.” Lord Tamerson looked at the Kacheek uneasily.
“What are you doing here?” the Kacheek repeated, a bit more angrily this time.
“Well, my nephew and I—“
“So that red Wocky was your nephew?”
Lord Tamerson’s eyes widened. “I think so. What did you do with him?”
The Kacheek scowled. “You have seen too much. I’m sorry, but our organization cannot allow anybody else to see what goes on here.”
Lord Tamerson glared at him. “What is going on? What organization? I’m not here as a spy, you know, we were just traveling through!”
“Right,” the Kacheek snorted, “what other lies would you like me to believe?”
“I’m not lying!”
“Take him to the pit!” the Kacheek roared, and before he knew what was happening, two huge Tonus appeared behind Lord Tamerson and tied him up.
This wasn’t exactly the kind of trip Lord Tamerson had been thinking of when he’d agreed to go with Haquin.
His cane was taken away and he was dragged by the Tonus into a tunnel he hadn’t noticed before. He wasn’t even sure where they had come from. But he did know one thing: he had to find Haquin (hopefully they hadn’t thrown him into ‘the pit’ yet) and get out of this place. He kept his eyes open for possible ways out. He didn’t see any in the tunnel, but he did see a lot of shields decorated with the image of a red wadjet. He dared not ask about it.
They emerged into a large cavern. The ceiling was high above them, covered in stalactites, and the ground around them had stalagmites. It was almost like being in the mouth of some huge creature. Lord Tamerson shivered as he noticed the sharp tips of the rock formations. Most of the cavern was taken up with a huge pit. There were only torches on the ground above the pit, so he could not make out what was inside.
But he did catch a few shadows, the coils and jaws of a very wadjet-like creature. He wished he were a wizard, so that he could somehow protect himself from the beast, or at least so that he could hypnotize these Tonus into letting him go. They dropped him on the floor.
One of them reached out a rough paw and patted him on the head. “Don’t worry,” the Tonu chuckled in his deep voice, “you’re not going in there quite yet.”
Lord Tamerson breathed a sigh of relief.
“We have to get the other prisoners first,” the Tonu rumbled.
The Wocky was sent into a panic again. Haquin, at least, had to get out. He was annoying at times, and didn’t have much respect for old things... but he was Lord Tamerson’s nephew. Lord Tamerson would not go home to his brother and tell him that he’d lost his son in the desert. Somehow, they had to get out.
The Tonus went back through the tunnel, and he looked around again, searching for some possible way out. The only exit was the tunnel, and the Tonus would be down there. And they had tied the rope very well. By the time he undid this knot, the Tonus would be back, and the two Wockies would be flung into the pit with that monster.
The creature in the pit gave a hiss, as if to remind him of its presence. He growled in frustration. Why, why, why had they ever come here?
And then he thought of something. The Tonus had said prisoners. If Haquin was the only one who had been captured by this organization, then they would’ve only said prisoner. But there was at least one other person here... perhaps they would have an idea of how to get out.
The Tonus came back, and, sure enough, they had brought Haquin back. His nephew had a horrified look, but when he saw his uncle, he seemed just a little happier. Lord Tamerson nodded at Haquin, and then switched his attention to the other prisoner. She was a Christmas Kougra, just a little younger than Haquin, and she was looking absolutely terrified. She was probably more scared than the two Wockies combined.
“You got captured, too?” Lord Tamerson muttered to the Kougra.
“Do you know how to get out?” he whispered.
“Shut up, both of you!” one of the Tonus roared. “Don’t think we can’t see you two talking there!”
“Quiet,” the Kougra murmured.
The ropes were cut and they were picked up by the Tonus. One of them held Haquin and Lord Tamerson, while the other held the Kougra. Lord Tamerson held his breath. He knew what was coming. They would be thrust into the pit, and eaten by the beast lurking in that pit, and nobody would ever hear of them again.
The Tonus threw them to the creature.
Lord Tamerson hit the side of the beast. In terror, he reached around for something to grasp. The only thing he found was the scaly coils of the wadjet-thing. Haquin had landed on his back, and stayed on the ground, facing upwards for a moment. His face was a mask of fear, and for good reason. The creature was staring right at him. The Kougra, who had landed on her side, leapt up in front of Haquin. The Wocky scrambled away.
Lord Tamerson stood up, with a bit of difficulty. He needed to get his cane back too. “What are you doing?!” he called to the Kougra.
She seemed to be saying something, but he couldn’t hear. She waved her paws. Nothing happened. The giant wadjet stared at her, almost mockingly, and then it jabbed at her with its head. Lord Tamerson let out a cry, but the Kougra swiftly jumped out of harm’s way.
Haquin stood up. “Whoa.”
The Kougra was dancing around the pit, leading the serpent’s attention away from the Wockies. It was just as well, since they weren’t much use. Lord Tamerson limped away from the wadjet. The Kougra seemed to know what she was doing. He would let her handle it.
Haquin, on the other paw, lunged at the wadjet. He didn’t know exactly what he could do, but he had to try something. He attempted to bite into the creature with his fangs. “OW!” It was like trying to bite a rock. The wadjet didn’t even acknowledge him.
The Kougra kept muttering something and waving her paws, though Lord Tamerson didn’t see what that was achieving. Her brow was furrowed, as if she were trying very hard to do something.
Haquin rushed to her side, and threw a few punches at the wadjet. His paws only hit the hard scales. The Kougra gave him an odd look.
The wadjet lunged at her, and she flew backwards, landing on the hard ground of the pit.
Haquin gave a little yelp of surprise. The wadjet opened its jaws and turned to face the Wocky. Its head shot towards him.
“No!” Lord Tamerson cried. He rushed as fast as he could (which wasn’t very fast, considering that his cane had been lost) to Haquin.
It looked as if the wadjet would swallow his nephew.
Suddenly, a blast of flame came from behind the wadjet. It gave a pained wail, shuddered, and then its coils relaxed. Its eyes closed.
Lord Tamerson didn’t know if the wadjet was merely asleep or if it had lost its life, but he didn’t want to find out. He was wondering about the fire, though. He looked up at the walls of the pit. They had to find a way out. “Come on, Haquin, let’s get out of this place,” he called to his nephew.
Haquin hesitated, and then slowly backed away from the wadjet. “But what about that Kougra?”
“She’s not with us.”
“We can’t just leave her here,” Haquin said, looking at where she had been hit by the wadjet.
“She’ll be fine,” Lord Tamerson insisted.
“No, she won’t!” Haquin scowled at his uncle. “That wadjet might not be a problem anymore, but those Tonus might come in and look for her!”
The Kougra appeared from behind the wadjet, and ran over to the Wockies. She was bruised and battered. “Please let me come with you,” she panted.
Haquin smiled triumphantly. “See, there, she’s injured. We have to take her with us, Uncle.”
“Fine,” Lord Tamerson growled. “Does anybody have any idea how we get out of this pit?”
“Wait a sec,” the Kougra muttered. She raised a paw, and now that there was calm, Lord Tamerson noticed that she was wearing a silver ring. It was decorated with two tiny silver wings. She whispered a few words and the ring began to glow. She offered her paw to Lord Tamerson. “Okay, you,” she said, nodding at Haquin, “hold his paw, and both of you better hold on until we get up there.”
They did as she said, and began to rise up out of the pit.
“Ha! This is great!” Haquin laughed, glancing up at the ceiling.
“Oh, more flying,” Lord Tamerson muttered. “Great. Yes, this is great.”
They landed down on the raised ground above the pit. The Tonus had left, obviously confident that they were all dead. The Kougra landed first, and then she pulled the other two down.
“Is there any chance that I might get my cane back?” Lord Tamerson asked her.
She shook her head. “We’re gonna have to leave that behind. Come on.”
“But I need it,” he complained.
“We’ll get you another one,” she said. “We can’t stay here.”
Lord Tamerson opened his mouth to argue, but Haquin shot him a frown. He grumbled. The Kougra took one of the torches off the wall and led them back through the tunnel. They passed the red wadjet shields on their way.
“So, who are you?” Lord Tamerson asked.
“I’m Nebibit,” the Kougra said. “I come from Sakhmet.”
“Are you a mage?” Haquin asked.
“Whaddaya think?” Nebibit muttered.
“You’re the one who attacked the wadjet with fire, am I right?” Lord Tamerson eyed the shields. The wadjets on those shields looked remarkably like the one in the pit.
She nodded. “We have to get back to Sakhmet. They’ve been looking for the Red Wadjet’s hideout forever.”
“What’s the Red Wadjet?” Haquin looked at Nebibit.
“This organization,” she explained. “They want to take over both Sakhmet and Qasala. They’ve already stolen much from Sakhmet’s food and water supplies.”
“So you’re going to go back to Sakhmet and tell the king about this place,” Haquin said.
“Not a king,” Nebibit said. “We have Princess Amira for a ruler.”
“Oh, that’s right.”
“Don’t you think that you two ought to cut down on the talking?” Lord Tamerson hissed. “What if the Tonus come back... ?”
They shut up.
They made their way through the tunnel without being caught. It took a while, since Lord Tamerson was limping. When they came out into the cavern, they heard the Kacheek’s voice again. “It’s the prisoners!”
Nebibit hesitated for a brief second before she spotted the hole. It was high in the ceiling, and its outline was very faint, but she took the Wockies and rushed over to where she knew the hole was. “Grab my paw!” she told Lord Tamerson. The Wocky took her paw, and Haquin grasped his. Nebibit raised the paw with the ring and muttered the spell again.
They rose out of the cavern and away from the lair of the Red Wadjet.
It was still dark outside. The moon shone high above in the sky and the stars twinkled, casting a silver light upon the dunes of sand below. Lord Tamerson looked around, trying to find the hot air balloon. Nebibit began to run off in another direction.
“Where are you going?” Lord Tamerson shouted at her.
“To Sakhmet,” she replied. She stopped and came back with a confused look on her face. “We have to tell Princess Amira about this place.”
“There’s a quicker way to get to Sakhmet,” Haquin said, “if we can find our hot air balloon.”
The Kougra’s eyes widened. “You have a hot air balloon?”
Haquin nodded. “But I forget which direction we came from, so...”
“Well,” Lord Tamerson said in an irritated tone, “if Sakhmet’s that way”—he nodded to where Nebibit had been running—“then our balloon is probably that way.” He pointed in the opposite direction.
“Let’s go get it, then.” Nebibit set off for the balloon. The Wockies followed her.
Again, it took a long time. Haquin ended up taking the lead, since his were the only legs that were completely fit for walking. After a while they spotted the shape of the balloon outlined in the moonlight.
“Well, nobody took it, at least,” Lord Tamerson grumbled. “I still need to get a new cane when we get to Sakhmet.”
“We’ll get you one, Uncle,” Haquin said. He ran ahead to the balloon. Nebibit and Lord Tamerson saw him begin to start up the fire.
“Wait for us!” Nebibit yelled.
Haquin laughed and waited until they were next to the balloon. Then he helped them both climb into the basket. He went up and started the fire. The balloon began to lift away from the desert. Haquin cut the rope, and they flew off into the night.
The sun had come up by the time Haquin caught sight of Sakhmet. He parked the balloon down in front of the gates. The two Lupe guards on duty gaped when they saw the balloon. Hot air balloons weren’t normally found in the Lost Desert. They were more of a Meridellian thing. Haquin climbed out of the balloon and waved at them. “Hello there! We need an audience with Princess Amira!”
They stopped staring long enough to answer him. The Lupe on the right pointed his spear at him. “Only close friends of Her Majesty are allowed to come into the palace on such short notice. You don’t look like any friend of Princess Amira.”
Lord Tamerson and Nebibit had been sitting in the basket the entire time. The Wocky heaved himself up with difficulty. “Well, I happen to be a noble from the Neovia. I have a mansion, a title, and I need a cane, so can we at least go into the city?”
The Lupes frowned in disbelief at him, but then Nebibit stood up, leaned against the side of the basket, and announced, “And I’m Nebibit, apprentice of the Royal Mage!” The Lupes quickly bowed. Nebibit shot them a smug smile.
“Yes, go in,” the Lupe on the left said. “The guards at the palace gate should recognize you.”
“They’d better,” Nebibit muttered. “Help us get out.”
Haquin stared at her. “You’re the apprentice of the Royal Mage?”
“That’s what I just said, isn’t it?”
The Lupes helped them all get out of the basket. Haquin tied the balloon down. They entered the city of Sakhmet.
Sakhmet was the most exotic city that Lord Tamerson had ever been in. The buildings were all square-shaped and made out of the clay from the river that wound its way through the desert. As the citizens of Sakhmet were just waking up, there weren’t many people out. There were only a few stalls set up in the markets, and the merchants weren’t selling much. But they would, later on in the day.
Nebibit led them straight through the center of the city. The palace grew nearer, but Lord Tamerson could see it long before they actually reached it. It was a huge marble building, with many towers topped with golden onion-shaped domes. In the middle of these towers was what would’ve been the keep on a Meridellian castle. This keep had a dome too.
The guards at the doors of the palace didn’t challenge them this time. They saw Nebibit, nodded at them, and let them through.
The interior of the palace was even more impressive than the outside. The Wockies’ jaws dropped when they passed through the halls of the palace. The walls were decorated with shields and swords, various memorabilia from past wars. There were busts of the heroes and rulers of the Lost Desert, each one with a story behind it. Lord Tamerson wished that he knew them all.
The route to the throne room was simple. They merely took a right when this hall forked and there were the two huge, wooden doors with the crest of Sakhmet carved into them: two crossed swords, with a crown above them, and then above that a crescent moon flipped on its side. It took no genius to realize that this palace had been built to impress.
Two more guards stood in front of the doors. They nodded to Nebibit and pushed the door open.
They walked into the throne room.
For a moment the two Wockies stared at the cushioned throne on dais at the end of the room. Yet another pair of guards stood in front of the dais, and to either side of the throne, two Cybunnies fanned the princess. An assembly of courtiers was standing in a crowd to the side of the room. They all stopped chatting and looked at the Wockies. Then they looked to their princess.
Princess Amira looked terribly bored, sitting on her throne in her white dress. The Aisha’s hair was brushed perfectly and her ear-stalks were decorated with golden ornaments. One could never even begin to count all of the rings and necklaces she wore. She looked every inch the princess bored with royal life, but unfortunately neither Lord Tamerson nor Haquin could do much about that.
They noticed that Nebibit was bowing, and they quickly copied her.
“What is it?” Princess Amira asked. She sounded like she was half-asleep.
The Kougra stood up. “I bring you news of the Red Wadjet,” Nebibit said, still bowing. “We have found their hideout.”
This raised a murmur from the courtiers, who were all very much at attention now. Amira sighed and at least straightened up. “Well, tell me so I can send the soldiers out to attack them, while I sit here in the palace...” She trailed off.
“They are north of Sakhmet,” Nebibit told her. “I could probably lead them there.”
“Very well then,” Amira said. She waved to one of the guards standing in front of her throne. “Go gather a score or two of soldiers and have them assemble outside Sakhmet.” The guard bowed and hurried off to do her bidding.
“Nebibit! So you’re back!”
As soon as the guard went out, an elderly orange Gelert came in. He had a goatee and flowing blue robes. Around his neck was a golden necklace with an ankh for a pendant. “I knew you’d find something! You did find something, right?” Lord Tamerson guessed that this was the Royal Mage.
“She found the hideout of the Red Wadjet,” Haquin said.
“Oh, really!” The Gelert grinned at her.
“And she’s going to lead the soldiers to it,” the Wocky added.
The Gelert’s smile faltered. “Well, then... just be safe, all right, Nebibit?”
Nebibit rolled her eyes. “I will.”
The Royal Mage looked at Princess Amira. “You can’t be serious about her leading the soldiers there, can you? I mean, she hasn’t even mastered the fire spell yet...”
“I’ll be fine!” Nebibit insisted.
“Can we stand up now?” Haquin asked.
Amira gave him an uninterested look. “Yes.”
The two Wockies straightened up. Lord Tamerson stretched a little. “Nebibit, you should listen to your master.”
The Kougra shot him a glare.
Lord Tamerson glared back. “Kids these days,” he declared, “have no respect for the older things.” Some of the older courtiers nodded in agreement. The Kougra snorted.
The Royal Mage looked at Amira. “Please, let me at least teach her a little more before she goes, all right?”
Amira heaved a sigh and nodded. “Well, this means I’ll have to go tell the soldiers to get back to their duties.” She stood up from her throne. The Royal Mage smiled.
“Hey, what about us?” Haquin asked, blinking at her.
“What?” She frowned at him.
“Haquin...” Lord Tamerson warned.
“Don’t we get some kind of reward?” his nephew asked.
“For what?” Amira asked. “What did you do?”
“We found the Red Wadjet’s place too,” Haquin said. Nebibit rolled her eyes. Haquin noticed, and added, “And we brought the Royal Mage’s apprentice back in our hot air balloon.”
“Haquin!” Lord Tamerson growled, and began apologizing to Princess Amira. “Sorry, I apologize, my nephew is a bit impulsive.”
She sighed again. “Well, I suppose you two deserve some sort of reward too. Is there anything in particular you would like?”
“A cane,” Lord Tamerson replied, somewhat surprised. He hadn’t expected her to give them anything. “Please.”
“Um...” Haquin looked at his uncle. “Well...”
“You’re the one who wanted a gift,” Amira said.
“Yeah. I want...” He looked around the room. His eyes settled on the Royal Mage’s necklace and he pointed at it. “I want a necklace like that.” Nebibit, Amira, and the Royal Mage all gave him an odd look.
Lord Tamerson glared at him. “Now, what if he doesn’t want you to have his necklace—“
“I didn’t say I wanted his necklace. I just wanted to have one like that,” Haquin said. “It looks nice.”
The Royal Mage chuckled and took the necklace off. “Well, have it anyways, you brought Nebibit back to Sakhmet. It’ll give you good luck.”
Lord Tamerson raised an eyebrow skeptically. He didn’t believe in such superstitious things.
Haquin, however, took the necklace enthusiastically. “Thank you, sir!”
Lord Tamerson looked at the Royal Mage, and then at Amira. “And my cane, Your Majesty?”
“I don’t know why you only want a cane,” she muttered, “but we’ve probably got some somewhere in this palace.” She looked at one of her Cybunny servants. “Go find us a cane for this gentleman.” The Cybunny ran off. Amira went back to her throne while the Wockies, Nebibit, and the Royal Mage talked among themselves.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Lord Tamerson said gratefully.
The Royal Mage looked at Nebibit. “And now we really do need to get back to your studies. Come on.”
“Wait,” she growled and turned to the Wockies. “When are you two leaving?”
“As soon as I get my cane,” Lord Tamerson replied.
“Aw... can’t we stay for a little while longer?” Haquin begged.
Lord Tamerson shook his head. “We’ve only been here for a day, and I’m already tired. I want to go home.”
Nebibit scowled at him. “Fine. But I want you guys to have this.” She took her ring off and gave it to Haquin.
The Royal Mage frowned at her. “Nebibit, you’re going to need that.”
“We can find another. But it sounds like I’m going to be stuck here for a little while. They’re going off to some other place; I don’t know if they’re going home or to another land, and they might end up falling through another hole that they need to fly out of.” Nebibit turned her attention to the Wockies. “You need to know what the spell is.”
“Well, it’s one of the simplest spells there are. You just say ‘senpet ni paret’ and do this.” She waved her paws, like she had earlier. The Wockies copied her. She nodded at Haquin. “He’s got it.”
Haquin smiled. “Well then, I’ll do the spell if we need to.”
Lord Tamerson nodded. “Thank you, Nebibit.”
She smiled at them. It was the first time Lord Tamerson had seen her happy since they had met her.
The Cybunny came back with a rather nice cane. The wood was strong and hard. The top of it was cast in gold. Carved into the gold were a few hieroglyphics. The Cybunny handed Lord Tamerson the cane. He seemed more like himself with the cane. He was still hunched, but with a cane he seemed a bit more at ease with himself.
Nebibit sighed. “So... seeya.”
“Seeya,” Haquin said, flashing her a grin.
“Well, we’d better get back to our balloon,” Lord Tamerson said. He and the Royal Mage shook paws, and Lord Tamerson turned towards Amira and gave her a wave. She waved unenthusiastically back.
The Wockies walked out of the throne room.
That day, the citizens of Sakhmet awoke to the sight of a hot air balloon lifting off into sky.
They headed north, back across the dunes of the Lost Desert. They skimmed over the trees of the Haunted Woods. They traveled for almost a day and it wasn’t until nightfall that they reached Neovia. Haquin brought the balloon down to the ground and helped his uncle climb out. Then they headed back through the village, towards Lord Tamerson’s mansion.
The Wocky felt... a bit younger, somehow. It hadn’t been the best trip he’d ever been on, but it had revived him. He had had an adventure and gotten a reward for it. There was a spring in his step and they both knew it. He was able to keep up with Haquin for once, and though not many people were out at this time, he waved to them when they did pass somebody. They normally hurried by when he did. Lord Tamerson was not known for being friendly.
They came to stand in front of his mansion. It seemed cheerier, somehow. Perhaps it was because Kapport had been keeping it tidy and clean.
Lord Tamerson knocked on the door. After waiting a few minutes, Kapport opened the door. “Hello,” Lord Tamerson said, “we’re back!”
“I can see that,” Kapport answered with a smile. “Hello there. You seem cheery.”
“I am!” Lord Tamerson said, and he smiled back at Kapport. Haquin’s eyes widened.
“Are you all right?” Kapport asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I am. I’m better than I’ve ever been.”