Magic and Mayhem: Part One
The full moon shines on the cool ocean of sand. Tranquil sea colored eyes, which have waves of different shades of blues and greens, stare at the dark night heavens. A shooting star streaks past the large, nocturnal celestial body. The silence is broken by a soft huff of surprise. Unsettled a servant halts nearby holding a platter of exotic fruit watching those eyes blaze as if there are candles lit inside the slender enchantress' skull. Nervous heart fluttering, the servant adverts her gaze as the intimidating and dangerously beautiful desert Lupe glides toward the door. She pauses slightly to snatch a Cocolatte Fruit from the trembling silver platter. Savoring the chocolate filling, the Lupe attempts to distract her mind from what was likely a bad omen. She shakes her head as if trying to ride herself of that thought as if she was shaking a moquot that was buzzing around her ears.
The sun rises high in the clear blue sky. It bakes the surface of the desert to an unbearable temperature. Crowded and busy, the marketplace is far from peaceful. Shopkeepers bellow their prices and wares hoping to get attention and coin. One fruit shopkeeper, a squat, burly Techo, is quarrelling with a neighboring shopkeeper on the quality of his fruits. He almost doesn't notice a single tchea fruit being slowly lifted from beneath. Inside the stuffy crate, a slender, sly kepru had determined the fruits of greatest size and had waited until the spotted Techo's back was turned. Growling with the effort, she carefully sets a second tchea fruit by the first. Several excited pairs of eyes shimmer from the shadows ready for her orders. The kepru gives a quiet chirp and an anubis rushes forward with a dua on his heels. They pick up opposite ends of the blanket that the stolen goods have been placed on and scurry quickly off.
"Sand!" hisses a familiar voice, which makes Sand (the kepru) just about drop a third good-sized tchea fruit. To catch it, she has to lunge-hanging over the side of the crate-and sink her fangs into it.
"Sand," the desperate warning continues by the agitated horus, Sol. "You promised you would quit pestering Takmur! Remember what happened last week?"
Sand, unable to reply, glares at him. The glare might have frozen lava. Sol wilts a little at the obvious frustration of his interruption, but he has to protect his friend. Takmur has a boiling temper and is teased a bit too much about a certain thieving petpet. The annoyed kepru merely rolls her strange, blue-green eyes. Clearly, he is so incompetent that he can't see her stealing right under his spotted nose. As smoothly as a Kougra, she leaps off the edge of the crate. Smash! Shattered glass flies through the air when the merchant discovers one of his least favorite visitors. Surprised, Sand lets out a small yelp before dodging a poorly aimed boot. Racing away with her prize clamped firmly between her teeth, she can not help but wonder how long it will be before Sol has to say it: I told you so.
"Why don't you ever listen to a word I say!" a distraught shadow Kyrii bemoans stalking back and forth fuming. "I told you... I TOLD you to speak diplomatically. I practically begged!" Uncomfortable silence descends as he flattens his mane roughly in agitation. "I know he... dishonored you, but acting childishly does not relay a remarkable impression to the council."
"Ray, you must under-" The Kyrii flinches at the unsavory nickname as the desert Lupe answers. "Well... would you rather me call you The Wizard of the Rising Flames and Holder of the Treasury, His Most Wonderful, Kind, Generous Lordship Ra-"A loud sigh from the Kyrii interrupts her, but she only smiles- almost as wide as when she zapped that whining advisor.
A swarm of servants bringing in lunch signals the end of the discussion; however, by the look on her Kyrii friend's face, that irritating nuance will have to be returned from his transformation to a scamander.
Taking care to place her paws with caution, Sand crawls through the second story's broken window into the abandoned hotel building. Once an extravagant, lush hotel, The Desert Sunrise Inn's now dusty rooms can only hint at its golden days to the various rogues and homeless that shelter there. In a hurry, Sand bounds up the steps leading to the fifth floor and door 5D. Numerous warm greetings are vigorously given as she enters the hideout. The anubis and dua had safely returned and the rest of the odd group of petpets had eagerly anticipated their unofficial leader's arrival. All eat well that evening. Later, Sol confronts Sand.
"I did tell you so." Worry and anger makes his tone sharp. "Thank Coltzan that stranger helped you!"
"Helped? That oaf nearly stepped on me!" Sand exaggerates. "Besides I was perfectly fine without his help."
The horus snorts. They both know if that large, red Lupe hadn't been there, Sand would've been at the mercy of the raving spotted Techo. She is finding her pride difficult to overcome. A cold chill sweeps over Sand's spine. She has neglected to tell him of the two other times in the past three days he had saved her.
"You promised not to go to that market stall again. Why did you go today?" Sol's tan feathers are ruffled. "I can hardly believe how reckless you are. As part of this... pack you cannot just think about yourself, you know."
Hoping up on the window sill, Sand hesitates before replying in an even voice, "We all know this is only temporary. One day you may wake up.... And I will have left."
"Don't be so dramatic. And you avoided my question."
The kepru is quiet. She rubs her paw over her necklace. It is a pretty beaded necklace- cerulean and jade and gold beads- with an ancient gold coin charm, a small crystal key and a tiny triangular diamond. In her paw, the coin grows warm. Eyes wide, she turns to Sol and rapidly apologizes then slinks out into the night air. Jumping on the neighboring building's roof, Sand lowers herself to the ground and runs kicking up dust.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
The streets of Sakhmet are not completely deserted at the late hour. Figures in robes walk in haste to avoid the guards. Sliding through the gloomy shadows, Sand is lost in thought about how the Lupe protected her from Takmur. To elude him she had ducked into the crowd of the main plaza, her plan being to slip away while he was dazzled by all the buyers that day. Unluckily for her, although he partially destroyed a shopkeeper's stall and stepped on a great number of toes, the spotted Techo managed to catch up with her. It felt as if her blood had frozen in her veins as Takmur lifted a massive, heavy vase and snarled in rage. A thick muscled arm darted out and a larger-than-average Lupe paw slapped the vase from Takmur's sweat covered palms.
"What are you doing?" The red Lupe's emerald eyes had glittered with disgust. "Is a fruit really worth all this trouble?"
Frightened by his aggressive poster- ears flat, fur raised along spine, lip curled to display impressive canine teeth- the spotted Techo had shuffled back a pace muttering, "Thieves ought to be punished. And I don't see why this is any of your business."
With the beginnings of a growl deep in his throat, the Lupe had dug through his bag and thrust coins into the surprised merchant's hands, then barked, "Now leave her alone, you big bully!"
Watching the terrified Techo turn and tear off into the ally, Sand wasn't sure how to respond. The first time he had rescued her she had snapped that she didn't need his interference. The second time she had merely slunk away. Swallowing her pride, the kepru was about to grumble her thanks, but noticed he was not beside her anymore. Puzzled and a little irritated (that was her thing- mysteriously vanishing) she trudged home and had planned to tell Sol none of it, but apparently he had seen for himself.
"There you are, kepru girl!" The female voice brings Sand back from her memories. "Thought you weren't coming tonight."
Stepping into the moonlight by the well, Sand chirps a soft greeting to the brown Kau wearing the loudest clothing she had ever seen. Shades of crimson, cobalt, and green, yellow, ginger, and any color ever thought of is part of the swirling patterns of her attire. It made Sand's head throb if she stared at it too long.
"I haven't found anything about either curse, I'm afraid," the Kau frowns in concentration as Sand joins her sitting on the well's edge. "But I may have been looking in the wrong kind of books... it's hard to tell. Finding books old enough that would be relevant, that's the biggest problem."
"I know. Thank you for helping, Kel. It's just... if I could at least use my magic, I could control the flashbacks."
"They are getting worse?"
"Much worse," Sand confirms, gazing off into the distance. "It's almost as if it's trying to tell me something."
"Well, girl... I'll continue looking. I can't promise that-"Kel pauses when Sand lets out a wheezing gasp. "What's the matter?"
Blinking rapidly as Kel's face loses focus and the blurry world starts to spin, Sand grunts as a powerful flashback grips hold of her mind.
A salty ocean breeze drifts in the huge formal room. Daintily, a young desert Lupe sits on a cool carved flawless white marble chair tenderly fingering her beaded necklace. Velvet cushions soften the uncomfortable surface. Curious sea blue-green eyes behind a stunningly painted blue and black mask wander around the newly finished room. High ceilings make the room feel even lager. Rare artwork decorates the walls and exotic flowers produce a sweet scent. Satisfied, they turn reluctantly toward the several debating neopets.
"Princess!" A grumpy blue Hissi shoves a scroll at her snout. "You assured my family rights to that oasis and now this fool claims property ownership."
"Fool? I'm the fool?" roars a speckled Chomby. "It clearly states ownership only if the owner is unable to care for the estate."
"That land rightfully belongs to us! Your scheming grandfather plotted against my family!"
"Enough!" The Lupe's voice is magnified due to a spell. "Lai, his grandfather and yours had a duel and his won, earning him the land."
Lai, the blue Hissi, begins to object, pushing his thick spectacles up his snout while the Chomby beams, but she continues, "However, I understand you do deserve a reward."
Snapping her fingers, two burly servants enter groaning under the weight of the chest they carry. As Lai drools in delight, the princess unlocks the chest, revealing glittering jewels. The Chomby squawks in jealousy when he sees diamonds the size of a fist. The mask hides the princess's amused smile.
To be continued...