Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 106,046,831 Issue: 211 | 7th day of Collecting, Y7
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Ummagine: Part Two

by shadowcristal


The room was dark, lit only by a few oil lamps of the cheap kind. There was a table, a cushioned, fancy thing draped with rich, vine-red velvet drapes. Golden fringes cascaded onto the floor in all four sides, and on the table lay...

     Stan gasped. It was a pet! By the shallow, labored breathing, he figured that the silken-clad Zafara on the table was alive, but perhaps asleep. Her features seemed familiar, as if he had seen her before, but he could not register his mind on when or where or how or in what situation. Still, she held a beauty similar to the Desert Aisha's, but this sleeping beauty also held a touch of intelligence.

     "Please," the Aisha came inside, huffing and puffing. He noticed that she seemed frailer, much more breakable than before, in this room.

     The Kyrii knew he could be kicked out at any moment, so he hurried to take a look around the room. The floor and the walls were strewn with Ummagines, all shining beautifully purple. Even the ceiling was adorned with some of those fruits.

     The similarities were too obvious to be overlooked. "Your sister?" Stan asked.

     The Aisha nodded quietly, her face hanging. He could not see in the dim light if it was because of shame, or a pout, or just plain sadness.

     "You're both little desert flowers," he remarked, going back to that charming act. The Kyrii wasn't sure, but perhaps this was the way to disarm her, get under her guard. For this room was a piece in the jigsaw puzzle of that mystery, only making him yearn more for its solution.

     "I'm not," the Aisha said quietly. "Nadine is."

     Stan assumed that Nadine was the Zafara, and took a good look once again. That familiarity jumped out at him, but he couldn't really recall if he had met her, and if so, where. His mind was filled with complexities and intrigues, and besides faces of dangers, he tended to forget most pets he met, simply because they weren't important enough to have a hold upon the memory in his mind.

     "Nadine the sleeping beauty," the Kyrii said, smiling at the Aisha. "What happened? A prick on the thorn of a poisoned rose?" he joked.

     "Nothing of that sort," the little Aisha said stiffly, shuffling her feet. She seemed to weigh a decision, much more important than the one she had made when she had allowed him to have some food.

     Finally she looked up, and this time the Desert Aisha's face was no longer lofty or empty. It was twisted, and filled with treacherous emotions that seemed to seep up to the surface, unable to stop themselves.

     "Nadine's my big sister. We aren't all that wealthy, and for a living, Nadine sometimes did... Well, she did some rather... dangerous things. One day a vengeful pet slipped Nadine a poisoned Ummagine, and through extensive research, I've found that Nadine will be kept in a state of sleep, called coma... And the only way cure is the white Ummagine."

     "White Ummagine?" Stan asked. In all of his years of stealing, he had never heard such a thing. He had discovered that there were incredibly rare Ummagines, shifting and varying in color, but never had he seen a white one.

     "It's a panacea for all Ummagine-related problems," the Aisha quickly explained. "I now grow Ummagines, and I hope to grow a white one so I can awaken my sister. The rest is sold off to traders as a living."

     "I'm sorry," the Kyrii said, really meaning it. Once again he looked at the beautiful creature that laid on the velvet sheets, the world robbed of her beauty and her wit, only leaving a shell to be. He had heard of such unfortunate creatures, but this was the first time he had seen one of them with his own eyes.

     His steely interior ruled the story out, and trapped the compassion in a locked box. He mustn't be weak, mustn't be subject to emotional weaknesses...

     "It's a one in a million, or one in ten millions," the Aisha said with a small sliver in her voice. Suddenly her eyes burned with a fierce determination, and Stan understood that she lived for the cure of her sister as fervently as he lived for thieving. "But I'll never give up."

     "You miss her, little flower," he noted. The Kyrii could not but see that the Aisha was holding onto a futile hope, for something that would probably never happen, for a chance that was so small it would chance the bridge in-between chance and impossibility.

     Suddenly he realized that it was too dark, and that he mustn't linger too long. A sharp lash of his mind's tongue reminded him. Code of Thieves, Moral Lesson Number One-Hundred-Seventy-Three: Don't stay in one place too long, no matter how safe it seems.

     "Thank you for showing me this," Stan said, perturbed at the fact that his heart, his heart that was supposed to be ice, had been touched, and rubbed, if not just a little. The Aisha's head inclined a bow, and a small gasp of surprise emerged from her throat as she saw him out of the room and by the window.

     "Got to go now, o rosebud of the sand dunes." The Kyrii grinned mischievously, but his heart was not as light as his demeanor. He disappeared like a shadow out of the window, and slowly took the cold, chilly walk back to the outskirts of Sakhmet to find a place to spend the night.

     On the way, Stan thought a lot about what had happened. His mind was in a state of confusion... He had imagined fate cruel to him, to leave him abandoned, but compared to that... Once again he saw her face of hopefulness, hopelessness, all those feelings poured over that dear sister of hers.

     Attachment and emotions makes one fragile, Stan reminded himself. That was why she had looked like that... A quiet and demure beauty, marred by the sadness and the other side of fate, the one that was not so kind.

     Approaching the city, the Kyrii ducked for a pair of night sentries and made his way into town, finding an inn to get a good night's rest.

     The very next morning, Stan woke up to the normal chatter and tumult of the city. He rolled out of bed, still rather tired from yesterday's excursion.

     The innkeeper nodded his acknowledgement as the Kyrii tried to sneak outside, and reminded him of his duties. Stan knew what the price was. He backtracked a few times, luring those stupid Elephante Guards to crash into each other while pursuing him before he got enough Ummagines to pay off his debt.

     That meeting with the Aisha and her sleeping sister had awakened something inside him. Perhaps it was eagerness of fate, gratitude over the fact that he held no such sorrow... For Stan, the morning was excellent and most rewarding. He tried not to brood too much, and kept his steps light and agile.

     That demure grace of the Aisha had apparently rubbed off on him, for the Kyrii moved with a stealth he had never known before. It was as if he was on a mission, fate drawing him somewhere, but he didn't know where...

     Suddenly he glimpsed something white, and remembered the Aisha's words. Why was he even thinking of them? Had he lost his mind? Moral Lesson Number Forty-Two: Don't get attached, and refrain from obsessions.

     Effortlessly Stan made his way through the shadows to yet another stall that sold those common fruits. He nabbed an Ummagine, and ducked out of sight just as he heard the raspy voice of a merchant. The Kyrii rolled his eyes. No one could mistake the nasal voice of Jamaar, that annoyingly rich, fat Skeith, the wealthiest Ummagine merchant in Sakhmet.

     Biting into the juicy fruit, the Kyrii nodded with grim satisfaction over the fact that he had managed to steal one of Jamaar's best fruits. Stan stretched his ears, trying to catch the conversation that was drifting his way.

     "This is the best of them all," he heard Jamaar exclaim proudly. "You can't get anything better than this, Cienté!"

     "I'm not so convinced," a haughty female voice replied, probably belonging to Cienté.

     "It's a white Ummagine... One in a thousand, one in a million... one in a billion!" Stan heard Jamaar's nasal voice raise a few pitches higher each time he hit upon a 'one'. The Kyrii could just envision the Skeith's excited stance.

     "It's just an Ummagine," Cienté scoffed. Suddenly Stan grew angry... This stupid female didn't even know how to show proper appreciation for wonderful fruits like Ummagines, not like that nameless little Aisha...

     The Kyrii's eyes perked when he heard the words 'white Ummagine' again. Why hadn't he caught that before? Moral Lesson Number Ninety-Eight: Pay attention. Reproaching himself, he approached the merchant, careful not to be discovered. From experience, Stan knew that Jamaar would be most angry if he discovered a thief, and he was sure he'd be spending a whole week, if not more, in the palace dungeons if he was caught.

     Elated, the Kyrii quickened his pace. The blood that flowed through his veins pulsed and burned, and if he didn't complete this master thievery, he'd explode. Nadine's sister had praised the white Ummagine's rarity, and Jamaar's nasal voice had confirmed his suspicions. If he completed this incredible feat... That'd be something light-years beyond the achievements he had reached until now. How amazing, how incredible... He couldn't find any words to describe how it'd be, to be able to hold such a priceless treasure in his hands...

To be continued...

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