A Day of Giving Sandstorm
The bandit camp was totally trashed.
The bandits' tents and supplies were on fire. Not a single bandit had escaped. The ground was scorched, ripped up, and blasted.
It was a complete and utter victory for us.
I stood on a ridge not too far from the trashed camp, watching it burn. By taking out this camp, my battle partner and I had stopped any bandit incursions on the area around Kiko Lake. We had sent a very clear message: stay in the Brightvale forest, you bandit pests.
After a moment, I raised my head to look up at my partner, Titance. Sensing my gaze, he lowered his head to look back at me.
"We sure do a thorough job, don't we?" I gently teased him.
"We sure do, Urasina," he replied with a quiet chuckle.
We must have been the most unlikely team ever seen on Neopia. I was a young Speckled Uni mare with dragon-like wings. Titance was a gigantic, ancient, immortal Tyrannian Uni stallion with NO wings. We had been friends and battle partners for a few years now, but about a month ago my owner, an adult human man named BG, formally adopted Titance. But we had never taken to calling each other "brother" or "sister."
"OK, Titance, we've got a two-day trek ahead of us to get back to the Lost Desert," I said after a little while. "The Day of Giving is coming up in less than a week, and now that you've joined the family, I want you to be there to celebrate with us."
"I've celebrated so many Days of Giving in my life...." he sighed. "They all seem the same to me now."
He lowered his head still further and nudged me in the side with his muzzle.
"But it's been decades since I've ACTUALLY celebrated one with a proper family," he finished with a sly smile. "And I'm glad that I'm a part of your family, now."
I giggled and butted my head against him before turning to head south, towards home.
The first day of our trip passed uneventfully. We galloped all the way to Faerieland, but even though Titance doesn't need to sleep or eat, we stopped anyway. I needed a good night's rest, as the next leg of the trip was going to be longer than the first one.
As usual, Titance stood watch over me while I dozed, then when the sun came up, we started out again. It didn't take long to reach the border of the Lost Desert, but I sensed something I didn't like.
"Titance, there's a sandstorm brewing," I warned my partner. "We can't go straight to BG's Neohome; you don't fit inside. We'll have to stop at our base camp first, and wait it out."
"How long do you think we have?" he asked.
"A few hours, maybe," I mused. "Perhaps longer. But no point in taking chances: the base camp is an hour closer than BG is."
We stepped up the pace. Despite Titance being much, MUCH larger than me, and thus having a much bigger stride, by using my Light magic I was able to keep up with him. But the sandstorm began to build faster than we had expected. Luckily for us, we were heading roughly away from it, and outrunning it by a fair distance.
The first strong bursts of wind were licking at our flanks as the base camp, a gigantic ruined tomb, came into view. Titance and I darted inside, and I raised a ward over the entrance to keep the blowing sand out.
"I hate trying to outrun sandstorms," I sighed, shaking myself and turning to take a drink of water from the many vats that lined the walls.
Titance didn't say anything, instead pulling an enchanted candle out of his saddlebags and placing it among a pile of wood in the middle of the room. He breathed carefully on it, and a small campfire lit.
"We got away from this one, at least," he noted. "Have you ever successfully outrun one, Urasina?"
I shook my head.
"Until this one, no, I haven't," I replied. "I've either had to dig myself a little hiding hole, or fly above the storm and stay airborne until it dissipated."
I'm unique among Unis, if I do say so myself. I love to dig holes in the sand, or play in mud pits. The messier I am, the more relaxed I feel. And boy, do I know how to make a mess of myself!
The sandstorm hit at full force a few minutes later. I was still in a good mood about trashing those bandits, but now I was feeling a bit or worry. What if Titance and I couldn't get to BG's Neohome by the Day of Giving? Unknown to my partner, I had been planning to make this Day of Giving totally memorable. And not just for him, but also for the other three pets that had joined our family since last year.
Ketdav, my sister Ludroth's yearling colt.
Cali, the Maraquan Bori and twin of my RG Bori sister, Ming.
Pyoga, an exiled RG Peophin who, like Titance, had been my friend before joining my family.
And there were only two days until the actual Day of Giving. If Titance and I were going to be cooped up here at the base camp, I was going to be very sad.
So all day long, I hoped and hoped that the storm would let up, and we could make the final run to BG's Neohome. But it only got worse.
As the evening came, I had some fruits and vegetables, then settled down on a rug to sleep, hoping that the storm would be over by morning.
And it was with a heavy heart that I woke up the next day to see the storm still going strong.
Titance could tell that I was feeling down, so he did his best to try and keep my spirits up. It helped a little, but as the evening before the Day of Giving arrived, I was so wound up and sad that I was basically a nervous wreck.
"Titance, if this storm doesn't let up..." I said sadly, "I don't know what I'm going to do..."
"It can't be that important, can it?" he asked. "At least we're together."
"That's true, but I've been planning and planning to have the perfect Day of Giving celebration for all of us, and now..."
I looked sadly through the ward at the blowing sand.
"I've always thought that one Day of Giving is no different than another, but clearly this one has SOME special meaning to you, or you wouldn't be so upset," Titance mused.
He nudged me with his muzzle.
"Get some food in your stomach and get some sleep," he gently scolded me, much like an older brother. "If the storm breaks in the night, I'll wake you up and we can go."
I nodded and did as he suggested. The blowing sand and the heavy clouds obscured the sun so well that I had no idea what time it was, but it definitely seemed to be evening again.
Once more, I was hoping and hoping for things to clear up. And I was so wound up that I just couldn't relax, constantly shifting my sleeping position in a desperate attempt to fall asleep.
After a while of that, Titance lay down next to me. I snuggled up against him, then he rested his neck over my back. Being so close to my friend and brother really helped me, and finally I dozed off.
The next morning, the Day of Giving, I woke to sunlight streaming through the ward over the tomb door. I leaped to my hooves, ready to run for BG's Neohome, but Titance blocked my way.
"This is only a lull," he said, nodding towards the west. "Another storm is coming, and we don't have the time to make it."
Sure enough, more black clouds and blowing sand were moving our way.
I lowered my head in sadness and headed back into the tomb, ready to just lie down and cry. But Titance didn't leave his spot by the door. He seemed to be watching something. And a few moments later, I heard the rumble of a starfighter's engine.
"Is that BG?" I asked, returning to the door.
"It is," my partner replied as my owner's starfighter, the Desert Guardian, touched down in front of the tomb.
My owner quickly climbed out of the cockpit. I was about to step forward and greet him when Ming and Cali climbed out too, followed by Ludroth, Ketdav, and Pyoga.
"What are you all doing here?" I asked, perplexed.
"We can talk once we get all this indoors," BG replied as Ming picked up a stack of presents and carried them into the tomb.
I was stunned. Here I had been, all depressed that I wouldn't be able to share the Day of Giving with Titance, and now my family had brought the Day of Giving to us!
"We brought all the presents," Ludroth said to me. "BG figured that you wouldn't make it home with the storms around, so we decided to use this lull to pack up everything and come find you."
Titance looked puzzled.
"I know your family cares about us, Urasina," he said quietly to me, "But this level of caring is something I'm not used to..."
I felt much, much better now, and giggled as I nuzzled him.
"It's your first Day of Giving with us, Titance, so I wanted to make it extra special," I told him.
"You have NO idea how hard it was to keep Ketdav from opening his gifts before we got out here," Ludroth chimed in, winking at the yearling Peophin, who looked playfully annoyed as he loped over and headbutted his mother.
"We couldn't bring the tree, of course, but the presents are what we figured you'd want the most anyway!" Ming giggled, hopping up onto my back and hugging me.
The sandstorm hit again about a half hour after BG and the others arrived, but we hardly noticed. We opened our presents together, cooked up a meal over the campfire, and played all kinds of games. I could see the joy in Titance's eyes as he had his first real Day of Giving in years and years. And I was so happy that everything had worked out for the better.
The sandstorm finally died out for good late that evening. BG and the rest of the family climbed into the Desert Guardian for the flight home.
"We'll be there tomorrow morning," I promised my owner, giving him a loving hug. "And thank you so, SO much for caring enough to bring the Day of Giving to us."
"Of course, Urasina," he replied, hugging me back before rubbing Titance's muzzle.
"Keep her out of trouble, OK?" he teased my partner, making both of us Unis start laughing as he climbed into the fighter and flew away.
With the long day over and everything working out again, I headed back into the tomb. I was tired yet very happy. As I lay down to sleep, Titance joined me.
"I haven't enjoyed myself like that in so long," he told me kindly. "Thank you for everything. You're a great little sister."
"And you're a great older brother and travel partner," I replied happily.
I settled down on one of the rugs as Titance settled down beside me. Once more, I snuggled into my older brother's side as I drifted off to sleep.
Despite the sandstorms, the day really had turned out perfect.