Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 193,319,603 Issue: 683 | 29th day of Hunting, Y17
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Desert Sojourn: Part One

by 77thbigby


Thank you very much to aleu1986 for allowing me to use Atroye.

The sun beat down from a clear sky. The Desert Eyrie and brown Pteri didn't care. It had been a long hard journey to reach the Lost Desert and the familiar heat was welcome to the Tyrannia natives. As they looked off into the distance, heat shimmered on the horizon.

      "Sakhmet," Dragao said.

      The Desert Eyrie led the way to the walled city. They flew over Coltzan's Shrine and the river. Dragao felt a pang of homesickness as she did. Tyrannian born and raised but Desert in color didn't split her loyalties. She knew where her heart lay.

      The two entered Sakhmet, the palace rising far above the other buildings. Their first order of business was to find lodgings and rest. Thankfully, it didn't take long at all. They found an inn against the wall. They perused the menu and exchanged a glance.

      Having traveled Neopia, they had learned that not every place had food like Tyrannia. The Lost Desert was sparse on meat, had a lot of fruit-which they found odd in a desert-and considered sand and burnt food edible. Dragao settled on a Lost Desert Hot Dog and a Chopped Cheops Salad while Henry had a Corn Pyramid and some Desert Kabobs. They both drank water. As they ate, the friends talked over their plans.

      "What are we going to do here, Dragao?" Henry asked.

      "Every monarchy has archives. I'd like to get a look at the ones in Sakhmet to see what I can find out," Dragao said.

      "Are we allowed into the palace?"

      "I hope so! Otherwise, I'm not sure what I'd do. We can't leave until I find out what information may be here."

      The two friends lapsed into silence as they finished their meal. After their long flight, they needed rest most of all. They headed for their room and were surprised by the unusual furnishings. A lush carpet covered the floor with plush pillows scattered across it. Not that it mattered to the Tyrannians.

      Henry had been raised in a nest while Dragao had lived in a cliff side aerie. The two friends settled down and were soon sound asleep. They awoke at dusk, just as the sun was setting and stars flecked the sky. The heat would slowly fade from the brick buildings and it helped that a breeze came over the wall from the river. They had learned that it wasn't always wise to venture out at night in a strange place but both were restless.

      Adil, Dragao's Djuti, protested by not looking at Dragao as she left the room but he did go. He felt responsible for his sometimes impulsive owner. Other 'pets were out and about, taking advantage of the cool night air. Dragao would have found the massive Elephantes that she saw every once in a while quite intimidating if she didn't know that they were actually city guards.

      Dragao was heading for the Sakhmetian Palace, keeping in mind that they most likely wouldn't get into the archives at this hour. At least they would know how to get there in the morning...

      "Dragao, I think we must have taken a wrong turn," Henry said nervously, breaking into his friend's train of thought.

      Dragao looked around. "You're right, Henry. Let's go back."

      They were in a rundown area and no one was around. Now that she thought about it...

      "I haven't seen a guard in some time," Dragao said.

      "Probably because this is where all the-" Henry began.

      A high-pitched screech cut Henry off and made the brown Pteri jump in alarm. Dragao turned to find where the screech came from and saw the blaze of a white face and large yellow eyes before she noticed something far more alarming. A white Bruce blocked the way in front of them and she didn't look friendly. Dragao could feel Henry trembling beside her. Behind them hovered a Tyrannian Korbat leering at them.

      Dragao and Henry were trapped! It looked like they would have to fight their way out... Before Dragao could even move forward, she heard Henry speak up beside her.

      The brown Pteri's voice shook with fear. "We don't want any trouble. Please, let us go."

      "Not happening. Your friend there has such a shiny bauble and who knows what else you have that could be worth a pretty point," the white Bruce said, gesturing to Dragao's arm bracelet.

      Dragao had been alarmed at the situation she and Henry found themselves in but at the Bruce's words, she felt the flash of ferocity that her species was known for. Her bracelet was a priceless heirloom, the very last remnant of her royal heritage.

      "That is not happ-," Dragao began angrily.

      To Dragao and Henry's shock, the fierce cry of an Eyrie tore through the night. A male Desert Eyrie, the same age as Dragao, seemed to come out of nowhere, a sword in one hand. With one look, the Tyrannian Korbat flew off quickly.

      With a look of pure disgust, the Bruce turned to leave. "This isn't over!"

      The male Desert Eyrie glowered at the Bruce's retreating figure before sheathing his sword. Then, his entire demeanor changed. He gave Dragao and Henry a warm smile.

      "Thank you," Henry said, holding a hand to his chest, clearly trying to calm down.

      "Yes, thank you. Things certainly did look bad for us," Dragao said.

      "You should thank the Night Guardian. Without her alarm call, I wouldn't have even known that someone was in distress. My name is Atroye," the male Eyrie said.

      "My name is Dragao and this is Henry. Who is the Night Guardian?"

      "I suspect she is a Horus. I've never actually met her but when I hear her distinct call, I know that someone needs help. I've not seen either one of you before."

      "We're visiting the Lost Desert. We've come to search through the royal archives."

      "Oh, well I hope you haven't traveled a long way. The archives aren't accessible to the public."

      "We've traveled all the way from Tyrannia," Henry mumbled.

      "Tyrannia! That is a long way. What do you hope to find in the archives here?"

      "We have to get in! Since I was eight years old, I've been in charge of an ancient library in Tyrannia. I came across a genealogy book and one of my ancestors was one of the last recorded in the royal line. My family doesn't know what happened to him except that he left Tyrannia and never returned. I looked through all of the other books in the library but there was no information to be found there!"

      "Henry and I have been traveling Neopia for some time now and I need to know if my ancestor ever came to the Lost Desert. I have to know what happened to him," Dragao finished, blue eyes wide.

      The two Desert Eyrie looked at each other for a long moment. Then, Atroye nodded his head.

      "I understand. This is very important to you. I won't stand in your way. You could give your case to Princess Amira. King Coltzan would be proud of how his daughter rules," Atroye said with a flick of his tail.

      Dragao smiled at Atroye. She may have said something more but Henry yawned. She looked down at her younger friend.

      "You've had an eventful night. You should get some rest," Atroye said.

      "We're staying at the River Breeze Inn," Dragao said.

      "I know exactly where that is! I'll escort you back! Follow me!"

      Atroye moved quickly, completely at home in the maze-like Sakhmet streets. Dragao was relieved to see the River Breeze Inn sign and Henry picked up his pace, slipping inside.

      "I'd like to meet you tomorrow at the Sakhmet Marketplace. You know how to get there?" Atroye said, cocking his head.

      Dragao smiled and nodded her head. "Yes, everything looks different in daylight."

      "I'd like to help you, if I may. I understand what it feels like to be convicted about something."

      "I appreciate it. This is your home. You've helped us already and we'd enjoy your company."

      "Dragao, one last thing. Keep your valuables close whenever you're in public. You've heard of the Desert Scarabs? They aren't dangerous like the thugs that came across you earlier but they are thieves."

      'Thank you. We will. Thieves are anywhere they feel they could gain a point or two. Henry and I have dealt with their kind before."

      "Good night, Dragao."

      "Good night, Atroye."

      The next day, Dragao awoke to find Henry curled snugly against her. There was a chill in the air that had not been there the day before.

      "Why is it so cold?" Henry asked, awaking with a shiver.

      Dragao rose to her feet and stretched. "I don't know, Henry."

      "This is the Lost Desert! It isn't supposed to be cold."

      The two friends grabbed a quick breakfast before heading out. Henry stopped in the open doorway, beak dropped in shock.

      "Dragao, it's raining!" Henry exclaimed.

      "I can see that," Dragao said, just as shocked as her friend.

      "What are we going to do now?"

      "We'll still go to the palace, of course."

      "I don't want to get wet..."

      "Dragao! Henry!"

      Atroye came striding down the street, a cloak thrown over his head and shoulders. He stopped in front of the two friends.

      "Rain in the desert! Who would have thought? With the weather change, I wasn't sure the two of you would still go through with our plans. I've brought extra cloaks," Atroye said.

      Dragao and Henry put the cloaks on gratefully.

      "I've never let the weather stop me. It's just water, after all," Dragao said.

      "That's what I thought. Determination like yours isn't easily thrown," Atroye said.

      The group of four-Adil took shelter under Dragao's hood-headed for the marketplace, which was in front of the Sakhmetian Palace. The market vendors were mostly all there, the market stalls as good shelter against rain as they were against the sun. There just weren't a lot of shoppers out and about.

      "We don't have to worry about the Desert Scarabs today," Dragao commented.

      Two palace guards stopped them at the top of the palace stairs. They were searched for weapons and poisons and then they hit a snag.

      "Petpets aren't allowed into the palace," the yellow Chia guard said, waving his staff at Adil.

      Dragao bristled. "Adil isn't just a Petpet. He is my assistant. I can't do anything without him."

      "I don't care who he is. Petpets aren't allowed."

      Dragao glowered at the guard but he didn't back down. She looked away, moving Adil from her shoulder to her hand.

      "You heard the guard, Adil. You're not allowed inside the palace," Dragao said.

      Adil shifted his wings as if in a careless shrug. He touched his long thin beak gently to his owner's before taking flight. While it was rare that the two of them were separated, it did happen. Dragao had no idea what Adil did at these times; her Djuti never said. She didn't watch him as he flew off, instead entering the Sakhmetian Palace with Atroye and Henry.

      The palace walls were supported by columns, decorated with various hieroglyphs, most of which Dragao could not decipher. During her travels, the Desert Eyrie had come to the realization that there was much for her yet to learn in her young life. Even with the rain, the palace was a bustle of activity, with various Neopets running off in different directions, presumably on important tasks.

      "Though no one seems to be requesting an audience with the princess today," Atroye commented, as if reading Dragao's mind, gesturing straight ahead of them to where Princess Amira sat on her throne.

      The Aisha looked regally forward and Dragao felt a flutter of nerves. She had met other royals but this was different in many ways. If it weren't so important, she may not have gone through with it. It certainly helped that Henry and Atroye stood beside her. Gathering her courage, Dragao stepped forward, placed one hand over her heart and bowed deeply to Princess Amira before rising.

      "Your Highness, my name is Dragao. I come from Tyrannia to humbly ask your permission to research your archives," Dragao said, amazing herself as she spoke steadily and calmly.

      Princess Amira leaned forward slightly, her warm brown eyes alight with interest. "Why do you, a Tyrannian native, wish to research the Sakhmetian Archives?"

      "I am a historian. There is much I wish to learn that I believe can only be found in your archives."

      Princess Amira sat back in her throne and she studied Dragao for a long moment. The Desert Eyrie couldn't read the princess' expression and did her best to stay still under her scrutiny. At last, the Desert Aisha seemed to come to a decision.

      "Very well. One of my guards will escort you. I hope, Dragao, that you find the information you seek," Princess Amira said with a small nod.

      Dragao could hardly believe her ears! She was being allowed in! Finally, she hoped to get some answers. She kept herself calm however, as an absolutely massive guard came to escort them.

      "Thank you, Your Highness," Dragao remembered to say with another respectful bow, before following the guard.

      It was a long, confusing walk to the archives. Dragao couldn't believe the palace was so maze-like or so big. She would have loved to ask some questions of the guard but was intimidated by the mutant Grarrl. At long last, the Grarrl opened an ancient wooden door.

To be continued...

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