Quests in the Lost Desert: Part Two
"It's gone!" cried Tomos, panicked. "The necklace is gone."
"What?" shrieked Zina as she bounded off of her beaten mattress. "How could you have lost it?"
"I dunno." The Lupe shrugged. "I put it down for my sleep and-"
"Did anybody take a necklace?" demanded Zina to all of the Desert Scarabs.
"Uh guys, I suggest that you take a look at this," said Horace from the ground.
In his paw was a note, which Zina immediately snatched up.
Dear the Desert Scarabs,
You can take my word that I would have come up with a more insulting name for you, but I'm in a bit of a hurry. We were just in the neighbourhood and thought that we might stop by. A little tip: Don't announce to the world if you've got something incredibly, because now it's ours. Ha, ha, ha!
-Heermeedjet and Merouladen
Zina looked like she was steaming as she cursed, "Those no-good, rotten, thieving Meercas stole the necklace. We need to get it back."
"Whoa, Zina," Tomos interjected. "We have nothing to do with that necklace. If Princess Amira wanted it, then I'm sure that she wouldn't have let it get stolen. The Meerca Brothers steal all kinds of things and that's not our problem."
"But, Tomos, we could get into a lot of trouble for this," urged the Zafara.
The Lupe was not moved.
"And think of the reward that the Princess will give us," added Horace.
This got Tomos's attention.
The Lupe began to drool as he stuttered, "Re-re-rewa-reward? Then what are we waiting for? We've got a necklace to find."
The three departed from their hideout and into the starlit outdoors as they discussed their next move.
"I'm guessing that they'd want to leave immediately," mused Zina. "So if we get past the wall, we can probably find some sort of clue. One thing I learned from the stole crown plot is that they aren't very good at covering up their tracks."
"We may have a difficulty, people," observed Horace as they arrived at the gate. "How do we get past that?"
"Ha, since when are gates a problem for us?" scoffed Tomos. "I have an idea. We'll need a few metres of rope, and an extra bouncy spring, an anchor, and maybe a few attack peas."
"I'm sure your plan is ingenious," exclaimed Zina kindly, "but I have a simpler one."
She pointed at the gate and showed that there was someone talking to the guard.
"Can't you open this thing any faster?" sneered the Tonu. "That culprit could have gotten quite far in the time this is taking."
"I'm really sorry, general," squeaked the Elephante operating the gate. "These mechanisms are a little old and rusty."
"That's General Dacon," gasped Horace.
"Yes, and it seems he wants someone who's out there," pointed out Zina. "It shouldn't be too tough for us to sneak past him."
The three crawled into some desert shrubbery and crept to the gate. The stayed in shadows as they darted through the crack of the gate. The Tonu seemed to eye them once, but then paid no more to them.
Once everyone was past the gate Zina ordered, "Alight, let's quickly search for someone sort of clue."
"Got it," exclaimed Tomos as he dropped to the ground.
"What are you doing?" hissed Zina impatiently.
"You said that they never cover up their tracks," reminded the Lupe, "and I've spotted two sets of Meerca tracks."
Zina started to groan. "Tomos, that was just a figure of--Wait, you found their footprints?"
"Yep," claimed the Lupe proudly, "and they're headed for the wild part of the desert."
"Why would they go there?" posed Horace.
"It doesn't matter," said Zina. "Dacon should be coming out soon; let's follow these prints before were spotted."
The three dashed through the now cold sand after the trace left by the Meerca Brothers. They were all quite fit, but after what felt like an hour of sprinting they became exhausted.
"Where are they going?" asked Horace.
A gust of wind reminded them all how dangerous the Lost Desert could be at night.
"We might as well find a place to sleep for the night," suggested Zina. "We'll freeze to death if we keep on going."
"What?" shouted Tomos. "By morning the Meerca Brothers will be long gone, and their prints won't stay here all night."
"Stop worrying; they'll either stop for a break or arrive at their destination," explained Zina irritably. "Horace, mark the direction of their tracks and we'll find them in the morning."
Horace nodded and pointed a rock in the straight line of footprints.
"That's strange," he noted. "How many people do you think walk through here."
"No one in their right mind would ever traverse though here," scoffed Tomos, "especially not at this time of night."
"Well, there appears to be another set of prints," observed the Blumaroo. "I'm guessing that they belong to an Aisha."
"You're right," exclaimed Zina, "and look over here, these tracks are a little older, but I'm sure that they belong to a Bruce and another Aisha."
"Oh yeah," gasped Horace, "and who do you think these steps belong to?"
"Those ones are too faint for me to make an assumption." Zina sighed. "But I would say that they look to belong to some aquatic pet."
"This is all very interesting," exclaimed Tomos sarcastically, "but we can either find a place to camp out, or keep moving. Standing around examining the sand isn't helping us."
"Fine," agreed Horace. "I think I see some sort of cave over there."
The Desert Scarabs walked over to where Horace was pointing and found a solid rocky indent in the sand. Tomos squeezed in first and found that it was actually quite roomy inside. He inspected the wide cavern as he two companions joined him.
"I hope no nasty creature lives here," worried Horace.
"No problem, a fire will keep us warm, and all the petpets away," declared Tomos as he began to gather up twigs and pebbles.
Soon they were all huddled near a slight flame ready to fall asleep.
Lady Osiri felt like she was ready to collapse. She was not dressed for trekking across the Desert and her feet were incredibly sore. A breeze was constantly tussling her hair and dress, and her bag of plates continued to dig into her side.
"Brucey," she moaned, "we need to stop."
"I'm sure we've almost caught up with him," said the Bruce confidently, but he was beginning to show signs of fatigue. "We'll catch that sneak or my name is Brucefast Cornelius Bedford."
"Well, Brucefast Cornelius Bedford, that Jetsam is a living creature just like us," growled Osiri. "He breathes, eats, and sleeps, so he will have to take a nap at some point. There is no reason for us to deplete all our energy like this. We should find a cave and I'm sure that we won't lose any time."
"Oh, alright," conceded Brucey downheartedly.
The two searched around the vicinity for some sort of shelter. Eventually, Lady Osiri discovered a cave in the dunes.
As she crawled in, she stated, "There's not a lot of room in here, but-"
She never finished her sentence. Brucey crawled in after her and found that the ground had given way beneath her weight. He quickly slid down to where she was to make sure that she was okay.
"I'm fine," she declared, "but I'm sure that I broke my pottery."
She opened up her sack, but found that all of the plates were still in perfect condition.
"Wow, those are sturdy," she gasped.
"Of course they are," praised Brucey B. "You're the greatest potter around. Your plates won't break by a little fall. Now how are we going to get out of here?"
Osiri smiled at Brucey's compliments and exclaimed, "I'm sure you'll think of something. After all, you're the Lost Desert's hero."
Brucey's cheeks flushed crimson as he stuttered, "Let's get a fire started."
Lady Osiri nodded and in no time they had built a warm fire and were sound asleep.
"It can't be much farther," breathed Sankara as she urged her body to keep moving.
"My feet are killing me," moaned Heermeedjet the goggled henchman.
"Mine are too, but I'm not stopping until we arrive at my hometown, Khmatef," snarled Sankara.
"Oh c'mon, I could swear that I saw a fire coming from that cave," pleaded Merouladen the capped Meerca.
"We are not stopping," declared the Aisha with finality.
After walking over a few more agonizing hills, the trio saw the tip of the fallen city.
"Ugh, how it's been ruined since I left," groaned Sankara, "but under my leadership I will renew its glory."
"Uh, might I ask how you plan on overthrowing King Heksas without an army?" posed Merouladen curiously.
"Ha, that evil dictator won't stand a chance against what I've got," boasted Sankara. "You see, once the people of Khamtef see that I've returned they will no doubt rebel against Heksas and name me queen."
"Are you sure that being in the dungeons for so long hasn't made your brain delusional?" breathed Heermeedjet sceptically.
"What?" hissed Sankara.
Merouladen quickly clamped his paw over his brother's mouth and answered, "Heermeedjet was just wishing you the best of luck, and um, when do we get paid?"
"Oh, that," sighed Sankara. "Just keep that necklace, I'm sure it's worth twice as much as your services."
"What?!" cried Heermeedjet. "We broke you out of jail, and you're not even going to give us a reward that we can't get ourselves?"
"Let it go," advised Merouladen. "You heard those street urchins; this thing is probably worth billions."
"Well, bye, Your Highness," said Heermeedjet with disdain. "There was little pleasure in doing business with you."
With that, the Meercas turned around and headed for the cave that they had passed earlier. After the arduous task of getting over the dunes, they spotted the welcoming glow of a fire. Just as they were about to creep into the cavern, they noticed that they were being followed. Both Meercas twirled around and saw a shadowy figure approaching them.
"Who are you?" demanded Heermeedjet to the limping silhouette.
The stranger came closer and was revealed to be a badly injured Jetsam. He was bruised and scraped along his face. His eyes were blackened and dried blood was crusted on his face.
"Give me the necklace," he ordered icily.
"Ha, you'll have to take it from us," challenged the Meerca.
"You will regret those words," threatened the Jetsam as he approached the brothers.
General Dacon had decided to not bother pursuing the escaped prisoner. It had taken the gate much too long to open, and it was nearly pitch black outside. Instead he had slept in the guard tower and would continue his chase at dawn. He knew that Sankara was not a fit person, and he also had a good idea where she was going. It was possible that she could get to Khamtef if she was determined enough, but it would be late at night when she arrived. Dacon knew that he would be able to overtake her in that town once the sun rose. With that final thought the Tonu fell asleep.
To be continued...