If the bus was noisy, Kadrios didn't notice. He was reading the sad story of
how Hatshepshaisha lost her closest and dearest friend, the royal scribe, during
a hunting accident. According to the story, Hatshe, as her friends called
her, had spent many happy days hunting water birds from the low boats the ancient
desert Aishas had used on the royal lakes. The story described how Taye, the
scribe, was placed on a barge, surrounded by all the things he had ever loved,
and the Kacheek slaves poled the boat down the river, while Hatshe traveled
by land, manning her own chariot as she followed the funeral procession. Her
proud head was bared, to show her respect for her dear friend, and tears openly
streamed across her noble cheeks. The professional mourners tore at their fur
and their clothes as they sang of Taye's life and accomplishments. Surely, Hatshe's
court would never be as joyful and wise as when Taye stood at her side.
The story continued as an old Nimmo came to the side of the road, and waited
patiently for the procession. As the barge came level with where he was standing,
a mysterious force stopped the boat. It could neither advance further up the
river, or take advantage of the current to retreat. The land procession stopped
as well, and Hatshe stood down from her chariot, to face the mysterious stranger.
The Nimmo had deep set eyes, his skin was covered in wrinkles and faded
tattoos of swirling blue covered his body. In his hand he carried a golden snake
staff, its head surmounted by the golden disk of the sun. Hatshe bid him speak.
"A dark time has come, oh She who the Sun hath followed, oh Eternal King
of all we see, oh Hatshepshaisha Daughter of Inan of the Seven Deserts and Three
Endless Rivers, Queen of the Plains, Most Powerful Ruler of the Lost Desert.
With the destruction of this, your most trusted advisor, a ruinous curse lays
across your lands, you will no longer prevail in battle, nor will your crops
grow. All of the Lost Desert will be as barren, as desolate, as empty as the
Lands of the Endless Sands beyond your borders. Doom! Destruction! Demise!"
A hot wind blew up, swirling around the Nimmo in a vortex like cloud of
shimmering gold. The wind died down....
Kadrios looked up from his book, "Wow..."
"It's really quite breathtaking isn't it?" Agreed the white Lupe, her eyes
glued to whatever was outside the window of the bus.
"Huh? What?" Kadrios looked across her shoulder.
Outside, an enormous stone sphinx squatted on the hot sands, it massive paws
stretched toward the tour bus, its wise eyes seemingly staring back into Kadrios'
amazed face. How did he manage to end up in the Lost Desert?
Nervously, he looked around, half expecting for the bus to be surrounded by
a troop of sword waving, arrow flinging charioteers. Instead, he saw a ragged
crowd of brightly garbed Gelerts and Chias, with packs filled with souvenirs
items to sell the newly arrived tourists. Sighing, he packed his book back in
his bag and prepared to leave the bus.
Kadrios stepped onto the burning sands of the Lost Desert. The hot dusty air
filled his lungs, causing him to choke. The white Lupe pounded him on his back
and offered him her water bottle. Gratefully, he took a drink of the soothing
Wiping his mouth with the back of his paw, he handed it back, "Thanks."
She waved him off, "No, keep it. It doesn't look like you came well prepared."
He looked ruefully at himself, sturdy shoes and warm socks, a tri-coloured
mufflers (the school colours), a heavy jumper and short wool trousers.
"I hadn't planned on coming here today," he murmured, not sure what to say.
"Well, thanks for the water! I'll see you in a few hours, I guess!"
"Sure," she replied, turning to join her tour group.
She turned back and winked at him, "If you promise to keep your nose out of
that book on the way back, I'll even sit with ya!"
Surprised by her sudden friendliness, Kadrios just nodded. With a final wave
and a quick wag of her tail, she was gone.
Soon Kadrios was tucked in the shade of the great Sphinx. He threw his book
bag on the ground and sat on it as he read and sipped at the water. He was disappointed
in the ending.
After the ceremony, everything the Nimmo said, came to pass. Apparently Hatshepshaisha
wasn't a very good ruler on her own. She made terrible military decisions, she
ran the economy into the ground and didn't control the flow of the river in
a way that was of benefit to the entire country. Soon the palace coffers were
empty, the fields dried and withered, and before long the enemies of the Lost
Desert People were standing at their borders. Luckily, Hatshepshaisha was an
old Aisha by this time, and after her death, Taye's younger brother was able
to take control of the country and save it from ruin. Within two short years
the country was lush and prosperous as it had been during Taye's life. The people
of the Lost Desert worshipped and adored their new pharaoh, as he led them into
a new era of prosperity.
Kadrios was left with a sense of disbelief. How could a pharaoh of Hatshepshaisha's
power and strength suddenly fail? She had made the country rich and successful,
surely her friend Taye wasn't the only good advisor in the Lost Desert. And,
if she had listened to her advisors before his demise, why would she suddenly
lose the wisdom to do so after he suddenly left? Kadrios shook his head. He
realised he was jumping to a lot of conclusions. It just didn't make sense.
"Guwahh," he groaned, stretching his spine by pushing his front paws out and
arching his back.
As he was leaning forward to stretch his back the other way, Kadrios felt the
sand shift beneath his paws. Waggling his tail like a helicopter blade and scrambling
helplessly up the sliding sand, Kadrios fought a losing battle and soon found
himself falling into a deep hole.
Kadrios and his pack landed in quick succession on the hot unshaded sand between
the front paws of the great sphinx. Unshaded? Great Sphinx? How could you land
where you just fell from?
Confused, but relieved, Kadrios shook the sand from his fur.
"Yeesh, the sun must be baking my brain."
He looked around for his water bottle, and spotting it several yards from where
he had been sitting, went to retrieve it. He heard voices.
"I'm telling you, it fell right between the Great One's front paws."
"Neeaahh, you're seeing things. I never saw it. Go back to your duty."
"No, I'm going to investigate," the voice sounded grouchy and defensive. "I
know what I saw."
Kadrios peeked out from behind one of the sphinx's massive paws. At first the
figure was hazy to the Aisha's sun dazzled eyes, but as it came into focus,
a strange sense of excitement filled him. What he saw was an Aishan warrior,
his short leather kilt swishing around his knees, his high laced sandals kicking
up little puffs of dust as he approached, his copper pointed spear flashed in
Kadrios stepped out to greet him, "Wow, your costume is so authentic looking!
I didn't think there was any historical accuracy here!"
He was delighted with the way the warrior just glared at him sternly, as if
he really was some intruder in the valley of the Great Ones! Kadrios picked
up his pack and shouldered it as he approached the guard.
"This is just grea--"
He was cut off by the soldier's curt command: "Silence infidel! How did you
To be continued...