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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 4th day of Relaxing, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 139 > New Series > The Legend of the Red Sands: Part One

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part One

by thegreenmooseofdoom

The sun was glaring down over the Lost Desert. Heat waves rippled across the dunes, creating shimmering ripples in the air.

     Rafe the green Gelert sat on his Apis and took a long swig from his canteen. He ran a paw through his black hair, dampened by sweat. He was riding home from the oasis, and had two clay jugs filled with water hitched to either side of his tawny Apis.

     Shielding his eyes from the sun, he casually turned and looked behind him. A huddled gray mass lay there, half-covered by sand.

     Curious, Rafe rode back over to it. With a sudden jolt of shock, he realized that it was a yellow female Wocky. She was unconscious and held an empty water skin in her limp paws. Her tattered gray cloak billowed about her.

     Quickly, Rafe jumped down off of his mount and gently picked up the Wocky. She didn’t stir. He carefully hoisted her limp form over the hump of his Apis. The petpet snorted and stomped.

     “Please, Sahkaris, don’t drop her. This Wocky needs our help,” Rafe pleaded, placing a hand on top of his Apis’s muzzle. Sahkaris stopped his restless movements and allowed himself to be lead by the Gelert, still carefully balancing the Wocky on his back.

     After a little while, they reached their destination, a large brown gray tent that Rafe called home. A small herbal garden was positioned to the left of the tent flap. An assortment of small and very dry looking herbs grew in the sand there. Around the back, there was a large wooden corral that held around ten adult Apises, and two Apis calves.

     As soon as the tent was in sight, Rafe jogged to the corral, placed Sahkaris inside, and draped the small Wocky across his back with care.

     He carried her through the flap in the tent and inside. The interior of the tent was a lot roomier than it appeared from the outside. To one side, three small sleeping mats lay, along with a few faded linen blankets. To the opposite end, there was a small kitchen setup. There was one long table, and four chairs. Next to the table, a small stone pit lay, a fire smoking within. Attending the fire was Lycase, a very maternal looking blue female Gelert. She was wearing a long, worn looking apron, and had a small blue Gelert puppy strapped to her back, who was giggling contentedly and pulling Lycase’s single black braid.

     “Ma, ma!” Rafe burst in.

     “What is it, Rafe?” Lycase backed away from the fire and stood up to face him. Her eyes traveled to the Wocky he was holding, and she gasped in shock.

     “I found ‘er passed out in the desert, Ma. She needs our help!”

     Lycase nodded, still a little shocked. Rafe laid the Wocky down on one of the straw beds, while Lycase wet a rag in a bucket of water and carried it over to them. She wiped the sand and grime from the Wocky’s face.

     Slowly, the Wocky stirred. Her blue eyes fluttered open, and she let out a loud sneeze.

     “She’s awake!” Lycase cried, relieved. “My son and I were worried about you! He found you in the desert, see, and you were out like a light!” she told the Wocky as she dragged herself to a half-sitting position, apparently still groggy.

     “Th-thirsty,” the Wocky croaked with a dry voice.

     “Oh, yes, of course! There’s a bowl of water next to you, you’re quite welcome to it.”

     The Wocky groped around for the bowl, and drank from it greedily, downing the bowl in one gulp. She exhaled deeply in contentment when she had drained the bowl, and wiped her mouth with a paw.

     She looked up at the two Gelerts, looking much more alert and awake.

     “Where am I?” she queried, turning around to survey her surroundings.

     “Oh, I forgot my manners! I’m Lycase, and this is my home,” Lycase introduced herself.

     “I’m Rafe. I found you out there in th’ desert,” said Rafe. “Who’re you, traveler?”

     “I’m… I’m…” the Wocky’s face screwed up into confusion. She sat for a minute, apparently deep in thought. She let out a cry of frustration.

     “I don’t know! By the White Weewoo, I don’t remember anything!” the Wocky sputtered, panicked.

     “Oh my goodness!” Lycase put a paw to her mouth in shock. The puppy on her back let loose a rather loud belch and clapped its paws approvingly.

     “Are you sure you don’t remember?” Lycase questioned, looking very concerned. “Maybe you’re just tired… why don’t you rest a while?”

     “Hey, cool tattoo.” Rafe butted in on an unrelated note, pointing to a strange mark on the Wocky’s right hind leg.

     “Rafe, shush, I’m trying to help the—“ Lycase frowned disapprovingly at her son, but was cut off.

     “Wait, wait- this tattoo… it means something…” the Wocky bent over to stare at her leg. Curiously, the two Gelerts bent over and did the same. The tattoo was a symbol, colored jet black. It looked like a crescent moon shape with a small triangle to the side.

     “Strange…” the Wocky said slowly. “I know this is important, but I don’t know how. I… I remember only basic things, like talking, eating, how to whitewash a fence, what color jelly is, things like that, but I can’t for the life of me remember anything about myself or who I am.” She held her head in frustration, feeling very much so trapped. She knew the knowledge was in there, but how to unlock it…

     “Why don’t you stay with us tonight? Maybe the answers will come to you tomorrow.” Lycase suggested. “After all, that heat out there is intense… you may need a little more time to recover.”

     The Wocky knew that rest wouldn’t help bring back her memories, but she obliged anyway, not knowing what else she could possibly do.

     She stayed the night, having a dinner of Puntec, Tchea, and Grackle Bug Steak. Even though the meal was dry and tough, the Wocky practically inhaled her food, and even went back for seconds. She didn’t think she was very hungry until she started to eat. After the first bite, her appetite exploded, and she devoured everything on her plate with gusto.

     Later, she lay down to go to sleep on one of the straw mats next to Lycase, the baby, and Rafe. Instead of sleeping, however, she lay awake, staring up at the dusty roof of the tent. She had tried to sleep, but after two hours of lying down with her eyes shut and not feeling a bit sleepier, she gave up and stared at the ceiling. She still didn’t know the foggiest thing about herself.

     As the first hints of dawn crept at the dark horizon, the Wocky slipped quietly out of the tent and stepped out into the cold sand. She held her arms and stood against the chilly desert breeze, contemplating. She took a few brisk steps, unsure of where she was going.

     “Leaving so soon?” a voice rang out from behind, shattering the still silence.

     The Wocky jumped and turned around quickly, claws out, expecting the worst.

     “Oh, hi Lycase. Good morning.” Slightly embarrassed at her overreaction, she withdrew her claws and rubbed the back of her head. “I… I just need to go somewhere and find out who I am.” The Wocky looked down at her hind paws, feeling guilt for some reason she couldn’t fathom.

     “If that’s what you think you need to do, by all means do it. But let me help you. Tell you what, I’ll give you some provisions, a map, and you can borrow an Apis.” Lycase smiled warmly. The sun was beginning to rise, and the desert didn’t feel so sharply chilly anymore. Streaks of pink were starting to spread across the sky.

     The Wocky felt a rush of gratitude. “Thank you, Lycase,” she said with a most sincere smile.

     “No problem! You can take Imhotep with you, c’mon!” Lycase beckoned for the Wocky to follow her. She walked over to the corral and waved a paw towards one of the smaller Apises. “That’s Imhotep. C’mere, Imhotep!” she called.

     Upon hearing his name, the Apis trotted up to the side of the pen curiously and stuck his head out between the slats, bleating softly, looking at Lycase and the Wocky.

     Lycase chuckled and pat his head. She opened the gate and lead Imhotep out by his reins.

     “Oh, I forgot… Do you know how to ride?” Lycase asked the Wocky.

     “I… don’t remember.” The Wocky studied the petpet for a second, and then climbed carefully onto its back. “I think I know how. Let me try it out.”

     She sat for a moment, unsure, but then it all seemed to click. She pressed her heels into the Apis’s sides, and they began at a slow walk. She kicked him, and they began to trot briskly. They gained speed, and soon Imhotep and rider were galloping around the corral. A large, sandy colored rock sat out in the middle of their path, and they leapt over it with ease. They slowed and came to a stop in front of Lycase, who, by this point, was staring up in awe at the Wocky’s superior riding skills.

     “Wonderful riding there!” Lycase gushed.

     The Wocky blushed, proud of herself and secretly amazed at her own performance. Lycase handed her her supplies and gave her a map. She pointed out a few spots.

     “Okay, now, this is roughly where we are. The nearest city is Aknatsi, that’s only a day’s ride from here. The palace is a bit further back, and to the east lies the mountains. Aknatsi is probably where you want to go, it’s a huge city and someone there’s bound to know you.”

     The Wocky nodded and put the map in her travel bag hitched to Imhotep’s side.

     “Well, I suppose I’ll be leaving soon if I’m to make it before nightfall.” The Wocky turned to the rising sun.

     “Oh! That reminds me. Try not to travel at night in the desert. There are thieves who prowl around the outskirts of Aknatsi, just waiting to waylay passing travelers. Do try to be careful.” Lycase startled the Wocky by giving her a sudden hug. The Wocky accepted it, feeling a little self-conscious. She wasn’t used to being mothered so much.

     After all farewells were bid, the Wocky began her journey. She felt much better and clearer headed riding out through the vast desert, the wind ruffling her fur. She even began to hum a little ditty as she rode, though she had no idea where the tune came from, whether it was something from her past or something she just made up. She just felt so right here in the arid desert, as she glided swiftly over the dunes on her Apis.

     She rode without stop for a few hours. Imhotep showed no signs of fatigue, and even seemed grateful for the exercise. Poor chap, the Wocky thought to herself, he must not have been let out of that pen much. Well, now he’s getting just what he needs, a little freedom and a lot of exercise.

     Around noon, she stopped to give Imhotep a little rest, and to get a little sustenance in both them. The Wocky filled Imhotep’s feedbag with some sort of grain Lycase had supplied her, and gave him an apple as a treat afterwards. She herself ate very little, only a Tchea fruit and a swig of water.

     The Wocky soon noticed something dark on the horizon, in the direction from whence she came. Squinting against the bright sun, she looked closer and realized it was smoke.

     Fearing the worst, she began backtracking frantically, following the hoof prints they had left before. A bitter taste rose in her mouth. After about an hour of strenuous rush, they arrived at the source of the smoke.

     With a thrill of terror leaping in her belly, she recognized the smoldering ashes, now fully extinguished, as Lycase’s tent. Gasping, she leapt off Imhotep and ran down the hill, tripping a few times rather painfully, to get closer to the wreckage.

     When she arrived upon the scene, she saw the whole Gelert family, scared, but otherwise unharmed, huddled together in a protective bunch. Tears ran down Lycase’s face. Her son pat her on the back comfortingly.

     “Lycase! Rafe!” the Wocky cried, running towards them.

     Lycase jumped and spun around, ears back and teeth bared, but relaxed when she saw who it was. Lycase sat back down, huddled in the sand, and comforted her scared puppy who sat fussing in her lap.

     Rafe stood up and faced the Wocky.

     “Are you guys okay? What happened?” the Wocky asked.

     Rafe nodded. “We’re all fine. It was bandits, a group who calls themselves the Red Sands. They destroyed our home and stole all of our Apises. They left nothing. We’re lucky to be alive.” Rafe had a strange look on his face.

     The Wocky didn’t notice, she was far too preoccupied with this news of thieves to contemplate it.

     “But why? Why would they do something like this? She asked, wide-eyed, her stomach still writhing in fear.

     Lycase still sat in the sand, rocking her babe close to her. Imhotep bent over and began nibbling the sad squashed remains of the spice garden. There was a large clawed pawprint in the middle of it.

     “Why? Well, I was kind of hoping you’d know.” Rafe studied the Wocky, noting her confused expression.

     “How could I possibly know?” the Wocky demanded, puzzled.

     “The bandits… they were looking for you, Wocky.”

     “W-what?!?” the Wocky sputtered. “What could a bunch of horrible thieves possibly want with me?”

     Lycase seemed to finally get a grip on herself, and she stood up, holding the puppy gently in her arms.

     “Are you okay, Lycase?” the Wocky asked seriously.

     Lycase sighed and nodded.

     “I’ve lived in the desert all my life. I’ve faced worse than this. The damage can be fixed, in time. We were extremely lucky no one got hurt. But you…” Lycase looked at the Wocky. “You are in great danger. I’m not sure why those murderous bunch want you, but I can tell you this- you won’t be safe until you reach the city of Aknatsi.”

     The Wocky looked towards the west. The sun was sinking quickly, and the sharp nip of the evening was setting in.

     “But you told me I shouldn’t travel by night!” the Wocky gasped.

     “I fear that the time of day will make no difference in this case. You need to get to Aknatsi as soon as possible. They’re most likely tracking you down as we speak, and will soon capture you if you don’t get a move on.” Lycase frowned, feeling a wave of pity for this poor, confused Wocky.

     “Look!” Rafe shouted, pointing at a few bobbing specks of light moving across the dunes, only about a furlong and an half away.

     “It’s them! Lycase cried. “Hurry, get back on your Apis! Ride! Ride!”

     The Wocky made a mad dash to Imhotep and leapt on his back. She made as to leave, but hesitated and looked back at Lycase and Rafe.

     “Don’t worry about us, it’s you they want! Quickly now, they’re getting nearer!” Rafe called out.

     The Wocky had no time to argue, indeed, they were now less than a furlong away. She gritted her teeth, gave Imhotep a kick, and they were off again, galloping madly away from the approaching lantern lights.

     The first thing the Wocky noticed as she rode was that Imhotep was tired. His sides heaved as he chuffed along. Even though she felt pity for the petpet, the Wocky knew that they must keep going at all costs. She felt Imhotep slowing. Fearful, she risked a glance backwards and quailed to see their pursuers were gaining on them.

     Frantic, she looked around for some cover, some place she could duck behind and hide. Flat, barren desert stretched out all around them. Nothing.

     Suddenly, a new thought rose in the Wocky’s head.

     No, she thought. I will face these brutes, even if it costs me my life.

     Her resolve set, she pulled Imhotep’s reins to a stop. Imhotep practically collapsed, panting heavily. The Wocky climbed down and patted Imhotep on the nose, thanking him silently for his hard work.

     She then faced the oncoming party and let out a savage snarl of pleasure, her muzzle crinkling. They might outnumber and outmuscle her, but she was not going down without a fight.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Two

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Three

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Four

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Five

The Legend of the Red Sands: Part Six

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