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Desert Journey: Part One


by cureleantwilight

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A lone white Zafara stood strong against the harsh winds of the Lost Desert. He clung hard to his ruby red cloak, hastily trying to shield gusts of sand from his eyes. Although the scorching sun blinded his vision, he could just make out the rising peak of a mountain some miles ahead.

     I will reach that mountain.

     The Zafara, Noel Preston, was well aware of a lost treasure, hidden somewhere within that remote mountain. Though many have journeyed in an attempt to find the treasure, all have failed. Struggling through the desolate and harsh landscape, most have never even reached the mountain base.

     He smiled to himself. But my grandfather is the only one who reached the mountain and now so will I.

     Indeed his grandfather, the sturdy blue Zafara Anthony Preston, was the only one who had ever successfully traversed the demanding landscape. Although he never managed to locate the treasure, Anthony was still able to witness a setting unlike anything else in Neopia. As a child, Noel would enthusiastically listen to stories about his grandfather's desert adventure. Anthony would tell of finding an extravagant ancient city decorating the mountain base. The architectural splendor of the city could simply not be matched. Built hundreds of years ago, the city now lay in ruins, with no indication as to what happened to the vast civilization that lived there.

     His grandfather recalled, "I explored every building and crevice of that city but never did find the treasure. Yet the whole time I was there, I couldn't help feeling like someone was watching me. It was as if there was an unknown shadow following my every move, setting traps along the way in an attempt to thwart my endeavors. Fortunately I was able to overcome each trap but I never did catch who it was. Only once did I ever see a shrouded figure dashing away in the corner of my eye..."

     No one will interfere with my journey. I will continue my grandfather's legacy and find this treasure.

     As the wind began to die down, Noel made his way down a steep sand dune. Off to the right, he noticed a small outpost among a crop of desert palm trees. Wanting to stock up on supplies, he made his way over. An old red Aisha lazily sat next to his stall, using what little shade the palm trees offered to block the sun.

     "Aye you must be another one of them adventurers seeking the ancient treasure!" the Aisha proclaimed.

     Not one for many words, the Zafara answered quietly, "I am."

     The Aisha chucked, "Well you must be one brave fool if you think you can last even one day out in that ruthless desert. But if you buy my goods, you just might last a little bit longer! I have food, water, blankets, tents, rope, weapons, everything you need for your journey!"

     "Thank you but I only need water to refill my canister and some pyramibread and puntec fruit please."

     Somewhat perplexed, the Aisha loudly grunted in disgust. "Heh! Some adventurer you are! How will you brave the cold nights without blankets and a tent? How will you be able to make it to the mountain with so little food? And what about a weapon or rope to ward off any dangers? You will fail just like the silly adventurers before you!"

     With a quick sigh, the Zafara smirked. "Do not perceive me for some inexperienced fool sir. My clock will provide protection again the hot sun and cold nights. I have a dagger and sword should any danger come my way. I also have rope with a hook to reach any difficult spots. And I do not need bulky sacks of food to weigh me down. I will travel lightly so that I may quickly reach the mountain. Now please let me buy the items I requested so that I may be on my way."

     "Well now, I'm impressed! You seem much smarter and more prepared than others who have passed this way. Most are so focused on the treasure, that they have no idea what to expect. I wish you luck in your journey and hope you find what you are looking for," exclaimed the Aisha.

     Noel nodded, gathered his purchased supplies, and began to leave towards his destination.

     "Wait!" the Aisha cried out.

     Without a response, Noel turned back around towards the old Aisha.

     "What is your name, young lad?"

      "Noel Preston."

     "I thought so. I've heard stories about your grandfather's legacy. He is the only one to ever reach the mountain and back. But before you go I want you to heed some wisdom and advice I have to offer. There are rumors and legends of a small Xweetok tribe that descends from the ancient civilization of the mountain city. Their sole purpose is to guard the path to the mountain and they will stop at nothing to make sure you don't succeed. I hear they wear tan cloaks with delicate golden patterns lining the bottom. Should you ever run into one or even feel like you are being followed, don't hesitate and run! You just might make it if you manage to evade their traps. Good luck Noel and if you do return, I want to hear all about your adventure!"

     Noel smiled with a nod and gave his thanks. He turned back towards the vast open desert, his eyes fixated on the distant mountain. Eager to begin his journey, he pressed onward. Soon the Aisha could no longer see Noel as he made his way up a tall sand dune.

     I do hope you succeed, Noel, but you will need all the luck you can get, the Aisha thought.

     •••

     Hours flew by as Noel made his way through the vast desert. Each sand dune proved increasingly difficult as fatigue began to set in. Yet he continued forward, not wanting to rest. Time was precious and Noel did not want to linger in these unknown lands. The thought of the old Aisha's warnings clouded his mind.

     If this tribe truly does exist, then I cannot delay or make myself an easy target.

     Shaking the thought from his head, Noel made his way up the next sand dune. Upon reaching the top, Noel paused for a moment. The mountain still loomed far away, as if he had made little to no progress. Dismayed and with the sun beginning to set, he had to make a decision.

      I need to find sufficient shelter for the night.

     He scanned the horizon for signs of an oasis. Nothing. Only sand covered the land as far as the eyes could see. Not wanting to hang around, Noel set off again, hoping to find some form of shelter before it got too dark.

     Another hour passed before he was finally able to locate a small oasis some short distance ahead. There were only two small palm trees with a water source that appeared smaller than a bathtub, but Noel did not have any other choice. As he moved towards the oasis, the sun began to set.

     Noel continued, reaching only a few feet away from the first palm tree. Suddenly the sand beneath him began to drastically shift. Startled, Noel attempted to run forward, only to find himself sinking further into the sand.

     Quicksand! I must find a way out!

     He reached for his rope. By then his legs had been engulfed by the sand. Noel was running out of time. With the rope in his hands, he swung at the palm tree in a desperate attempt to latch on. The first try was unsuccessful. Each successive swing ended in the same result; failure. By now the sand had crept above his waist. Panicking, Noel frantically swung the rope some more, but the hook still failed to catch the palm tree. Again and again Noel threw the rope hoping it would work. Soon the sand had covered his entire torso. Even worse, he was running out of energy.

     I cannot fail. Not here. Not now. I will not be lost in the sands of this desert!

     Noel swung the rope one last time. He watched as the hook sailed around the palm tree, finally latching on. Elated, he mustered up the last of his strength and slowly pulled himself out of the quicksand. Gasping for breath, he crawled over to the oasis for some water. Never has water tasted so refreshing!

     With his energy spent, he huddled next to the other palm tree. By then the shades of night had already blanketed the desert.

     Well, I survived the first day. I am now one step closer to the mountain.

     Gentle winds blew through the lands, bringing about a pleasant breeze. He welcomed the cool air and tucked his cloak in closer. Exhausted, Noel let sleep overtake him.

     Little did he know, a cloaked figure in tan with fine gold trimming secretly watched from afar. The evening darkness easily hid the figure's presence.

     Noel was not alone.

     To be continued...

 
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