Desert Journey: Part Four
Noel was exhausted but he had to press on. The engravings on the pillars had rejuvenated his motivation. The architectural splendor of these works of art were an early indication of what the ancient city will look like and Noel was increasingly eager to get there.
He looked back. The Xweetok was still nowhere to be seen but Noel knew she had to be nearby. Wanting to take advantage of whatever lead he may have on his enemy, Noel continued toward the other end of the valley. Once again, the sun began to set as he made his way towards another set of carved pillars. Unlike the first pillars, these depicted Xweetok warriors dressed for battle. More ancient hieroglyphs wrapped around the pillars. Noel could only imagine what they meant as the history of this ancient civilization was forever locked away in these carvings. The sands of time most likely erased any means of deciphering the hieroglyphs.
I must not linger here.
Noel wanted so desperately to leave this forsaken valley, but the sun was already dangerously low in the sky. There was no way he would be able to scale the cliffs before nightfall. Looking around, Noel spotted a small crop of boulders near the base of the valley wall.
He wedged himself between two of the boulders, making sure no one would be able to discover his whereabouts. Soon the Kreludor moon rose in the sky, providing Noel with just enough light to discern where other rocks and pillars lay. As a precaution, he kept his hand on his dagger should the menacing Xweetok return. Gradually he closed his eyes.
Hopefully I will get some sleep tonight.
By now Aria had made her way to the valley floor. Enraged and confused as to how the outsider evaded her traps yet again, Aria broke down and began to worry. No outsider has ever dodged her traps for this long and she was rapidly running out of options.
He should have fallen from that last rock! I don't understand how he keeps avoiding all of my traps.
Dismayed, Aria again pondered what to do. She had already broken one tribe rule after her first trap, but with little options left, she would to have to do something before it was too late.
Absolutely do not come into contact with any outsiders.
Aria would have to break this rule. The outsider was already aware of her presence, so what choice did she have? If she succeeded in stopping him, then breaking the rule wouldn't matter. But if she failed yet again, then her current predicament would only worsen.
Do what ever it takes to prevent outsiders from reaching the ancient city.
Suddenly her eyes widened. It didn't matter to her anymore whether to confront this outsider or not. The final rule made it all clear to her. Aria had to fulfill her duties at all cost; she had to stop him from reaching Qasala. Determined to end this once and for all, Aria drew her ancient scimitar and prepared to confront him.
I will scare him back to Sakhmet so that he and other outsiders never return!
The Kreludor moon illuminated her path. She knew he was still down somewhere on the valley floor. No sane Neopet would ever try to scale the rock walls in the dark of night. She made her way past the pillars of her ancestors before finally encountering a crop of boulders.
Not wanting to reveal her presence, Aria used her stealth to approach the group of rocks. Just as she expected, the cloaked outsider was resting between two of the boulders.
I have found you.
She raised her scimitar in preparation for her attack. Unbeknownst to her, he was ready for such an encounter.
Noel heard the Xweetok coming a mile away. He was prepared for such attack and waited for the opportune moment to raise his dagger in defense. Startled, the Xweetok warrior stumbled backwards. Noel took this chance to draw his Elegant Desert Sword. Many years in the Battledome have prepared him for fights like this. With such high health points, strength, and agility, Noel was ready to take on any battle.
He lunged forward to strike but the Xweetok quickly dodged left. Like Noel, she had also prepared all her life for such encounters and had built up her own share of health points, defense, and agility. Their blades met with a blinding force, pushing both Neopets back. Noel swung his sword and dagger at the warrior, causing heavy damage but not enough to end the fight. She retorted with her scimitar and a berserk attack but Noel's high health points kept him going.
Each swung once more, as the ringing of the blades flowed through the valley. The Xweetok aimed for the outsider's tail but Noel's agility was too quick for her to succeed. He in turn unleashed a berserk attack, but she dodged the blow with ease. In an attempt to switch up strategies, the Xweetok jumped above Noel, hoping to deal some damage on the way down. Upon seeing this attack, Noel quickly used burrow to avoid her jump attack. She landed with a delicate thud, spinning around just in time to parry his counterattack.
The battle dragged on as dawn approached. Both Neopets were growing tired but refused to give up. Noel thought he had the advantage with his high strength but the Xweetok's defense was absorbing most of his attacks. In turn, Noel took on relatively little damage from the much weaker attacks of the Xweetok. Another hour dragged on until eventually the Xweetok stepped back and held her hand up.
"Please stop. Enough!"
Exhausted, Aria could no longer battle. She could faint at any minute. Holding her hand up, Aria admitted defeat. Surprised, the Zafara outsider put away his weapons.
Aria spoke again. "Why are you here? What is your purpose traversing among these lands?"
Quietly the Zafara responded, "My name is Noel Preston. I have journeyed to these lands to fulfill my grandfather's legacy by scaling the ancient mountain and finding the lost treasure."
He stepped closer to Aria. "Long ago, my grandfather was the first person to reach the ancient city residing at the bottom of the mountain. Overcoming many trials and tribulations to get there, he searched every inch of that city for the lost treasure only to come up empty handed. When he told me of his adventure, I yearned to follow in his footsteps. My goal is to finally find the lost treasure once and for all."
Aria kept quiet in her astonishment. His grandfather was the outsider who thwarted my grandfather!
Finally it was clear to Aria how he had managed to escape her for so long. Fate had brought their grandfathers together and now their grandchildren would be brought together for the same purpose.
Do what ever it takes to prevent outsiders from reaching the ancient city.
The rules flowed through her mind again and again. All her life, she was prepared to accept her responsibilities and keep outsiders from Qasala but now she was unsure of herself. Standing in front of her was a determined yet humble Zafara wanting to honor his family legacy. He didn't seem so harmful to her.
Confusion ran through Aria. My tribe has always taught me that outsiders are evil and will bring destruction to our world, but this outsider is different.
Aria gazed into the Zafara's eyes. She saw no malice, no malevolence, but rather sincerity. This outsider was telling the truth.
"Noel Preston, I will let you pass for now but heed my warnings well. You threaten the very existence of my people, my past, and my dignity. Should we cross paths again, I will prevent you from reaching the mountain for protecting these lands is the sole purpose of my tribe," Aria proclaimed.
The Zafara bowed his head in respect. "Fair enough. Please understand that I mean no harm and bear no ill will towards you from our previous encounters."
She watched as he slowly turned towards the valley wall. With each hand, he grabbed the rocks and started the long ascent to the top.
Have I just made another grave error?
Noel graciously accepted the Xweetok's words. He did not want any more conflict, not after all they have been through. Returning his gaze to the valley wall, Noel began to scale the rocks. After some time, Noel finally reached the top. He peered back down below, but the Xweetok was already gone.
Perhaps she has finally given up her pursuit.
Looking ahead, Noel for once was actually relieved to find more sand dunes. He was tired of climbing rocks. The magnificent mountain loomed ever closer. His final destination was drawing near.
As he continued on his journey, Noel couldn't help but wonder if he would ever encounter that Xweetok again. While her traps and attacks proved tiresome, she did bring a sense of enjoyment as to what their next encounter would entail. Confident in his ability to succeed, he pressed on.
I will reach that mountain.
To be continued...