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The Lost Desert Dagger: Part Two

by scarrift



Follow me and you won't get hurt.

     "What are you - take your paws off me - you won't get away with this outrage - Mmmph!"

     That should keep you quiet. And I think I will get away, just as I always do.


     Don't bother shouting for help. That gag's pretty thick but I made it of pure silk especially for your Royal Highness' delicate tastes. Hmm? Still struggling? Well, keep doing it; I'll drop you out the nearest window. Do we understand each other? Good, now keep still …

     … We're nearly there, princess. A few more feet and -

     "Hold it right there, rogue! Unhand princess Sankara immediately or face my blade!"

     Pfft, is that the best you've got? I expected a common Elephante guard to say that.

     "But a common Elephante guard wouldn't be a challenge to you, would it?"

     Oh ho, Grarrl, you want to match steel, eh? Are you sure you can do it alone?

     "I don't need my men to back me up. Just you and me, Maladgar the Desert Fang."

     Fine, as you wish. And since you asked so politely I'll attack first!

     "Foolish Usul."

     Arrgh! Ugh, what is this?! Where did this trapdoor come from?! Where did this cage come from?! You coward, come down and face me!

     "I don't need to match wits with someone lacking in it. Guards, take him to his cell."

     What?! You can't do this to me! I'm Maladgar, leader of the Desert Daggers! AARRGGHH!!!


     I was jolted awake, aware of the cold sweat dripping down my forehead and back. Breathing heavily, I glanced around frantically and saw that I was still where I had lain down to sleep a few hours ago; cool sand dunes stretching in all directions as far as the eye could see, illuminated dully by the sliver of a moon hanging lazily in the desert sky.

     Subconsciously, I looked down at my sweaty, sand covered paws. The heavy weight of iron chains seemed so real, their weight biting down upon my wrists just a moment ago. Or was it? Is this all just a dream, a dream of freedom? Could I still be suffering in my dirty cell? I pinched myself hard and, feeling the pain that followed, finally began calming down, convinced that it was just a simple nightmare.

     But reality could just be as harsh.

     It had been a week now since I'd left the oasis town of Khelset and my supplies were running low. I was down to one day's worth of rations and if I didn't find a town or an oasis soon then I would - no, think positive! There has got to be a town around here somewhere. I wished I had a lodestone or a map or something, anything, to guide my path.

     I remembered - the memories of my past life returning to me more freely now in the solitude of the desert - that I had once followed this same path. I knew that by going west I would eventually reach a town. Or an oasis; my memory fails me sometimes. Nevertheless, without any equipment to navigate the treacherous desert, I was forced to use the sun as a point of reference. I would begin the new day by walking with the sun to my back and end it by walking with the sun right before me. A simple enough trick I picked up when I was young.

     Ah, when I was young! I lay down once again in the shadow of the sand dune, shielded somewhat from the elements of the desert, and folded both my forepaws behind my head, glancing fondly at the twinkling stars floating in the vast black ocean that was the night sky. It had been a long time since I had stopped to admire the delicate beauty of the Sahkmetian nights, a long time since I tried to grasp the too-high jewels sparkling in the heavens. The silence of the empty dunes, the cold breeze brushing my fur, the warmth of the slowly cooling sands. Five years ago I wouldn't have batted an eye to notice these things.

     What ever happened to the crooked and avaricious Maladgar? Had I really risen above such behaviour? Would I ever return to being one of the most powerful thieves that ever roamed the desert sands? Questions without any clear answers. Questions that can only lead to more questions.

     I yawned, something I would never have done at night years ago, and turned over onto my side, folding my arms across my chest to stay warm. Now was not the time for questions. Now was the time for rest.


     The sandstorm came out of nowhere, materializing with such speed that I barely had enough time to judge its speed and distance. The howling winds tore across the sands, blowing fine particles of dust into every corner of my robes and into my face. Coughing uncontrollably, for despite using my sleeves to shield my face against the dust some still managed to penetrate the impromptu mask, I pressed on across the rapidly shifting sands.

     When the storm reached its peak, I found it harder and harder to put one leg after another, the abrasive sands scraping across exposed parts of my paws, legs and face, slipping into every corner of my robes. The winds reached a fevered pitch, the incessant whining drowning out my thoughts, tossing up more dust and obscuring the sun. Without the sun I was effectively lost, it being the only source of direction.

     My legs were moving sluggishly, my eyelids growing heavy. The sandstorm had to stop soon; it just had to. I must keep moving. I have to move or I would be swallowed by the desert's gaping maw. I can't die, not here, not now. I still had the rest of my free life ahead of me. I had barely begun to live my new life. I … I …

     My legs collapsed and I sprawled out onto a sand dune. Darkness came slowly but surely, overcoming me, numbing my senses. The sand felt so soft, like the finest down pillow. Soon the maddening sounds of the storm faded away, becoming a mere whisper. The voices called for me, beckoning for me to follow. I gladly obeyed, floating off into a vast, empty void.


           So, you came after all. Very admirable.

     "I could say the same thing to you, Desert Fang."

     And what is that supposed to mean?

     "Forgive me, I wanted to say that only someone brave enough to fail would dare to face me. Very admirable of you, Desert -"

     Enough of this idle banter. Let's get this over with.

     "Fine with me!"

     "What the -!"

     "For the Erisim Mask!"


     Argh! Erisim, you … you dishonourable wretch! Should have … should have known never to trust a Wadjet!

     "But I didn't …my men would never interfere. Maladgar, you have to believe me it wasn't - Aaarrgh!"

     You … you can never defeat me, the Desert Fang. A poisoned dagger will not defeat me you disgraceful excuse for a thief. Get out of my sight!

     "It … wasn't me …"


     "He is awakening, Master Seth."

     "Good work, Miss Ruka!"

     I was vaguely aware that I had regained consciousness, my body aching from head to toe. I could barely move the ends of my fingers, much less hoist myself up. With great effort, I strained to open my eyes, eventually managing to raise my left eyelid slightly. The scene before me came slowly into focus, my eyes adjusting to the dim light of my surroundings.

     The first thing I saw was the vague, fuzzy outline of someone, a Kyrii by first glance, bending over me. I blinked a few times and soon the face of a young Kyrii with a wide smile came into focus.

     "Oh, you're awake," the red Kyrii said cheerfully. I groaned and tried to pull myself up but a large paw pushed down gently on my right shoulder, restraining me.

     "I wouldn't move if I were you," a deeper, more mature female voice said assertively. I slowly moved my head, the only part of my frame that wasn't aching, and saw the owner of the paw: a Desert Kyrii whose face exuded knowledge and intelligence.

     It took quite some effort but, even though my throat was parched, I managed to croak, "Where … where am I?" The Desert Kyrii appeared to take no notice and propped my head up, allowing me to take a drink of refreshing water from a jug she had taken from a nearby box. Leaning up, I saw that I was inside a large, white canopy tent, one normally used by desert wanderers or merchants.

     The younger Kyrii on the other hand grinned widely and leaned closer to my face.

     "It's all right, mister, you're safe here in my camp," the Kyrii began brightly. "I am Seth and this is Miss Ruka." He gestured to the female Kyrii. She bowed her head curtly and he continued. "We - or more precisely I - found you out in that sandstorm. Luckily for you that I was passing by or you'd be the desert's dessert, so to speak. Now what were you doing out in that storm anyway? Where are you heading? Are you -?"

     "I think Master Seth needs to tend to the unloading of the Apises," the Desert Kyrii named Ruka put in, gesturing respectfully towards the entrance of the tent.

     The small Kyrii clapped his paws together. "Yes, thank you for reminding me, Miss Ruka." He moved quickly but suddenly stopped as he pushed aside the flaps of the tent. "Please take care of our guest, Miss Ruka. I'll be done in a few minutes and then I'd like to hear all about you." The last sentence aimed at me. Then he was gone. The Desert Kyrii looked for a moment at the movements of the door flaps before turning her attention to me.

     The expression on her face betrayed how she felt towards me: pure, undiluted contempt.

      "You're lucky Master Seth ordered me to treat you," Ruka began in a low, threatening voice. "Else I would have left you to be swallowed up by the desert."

     "What are you trying to say?" I muttered, struggling to keep my thoughts in line.

     Ruka's eyes narrowed and one corner of her mouth curled into a sneer. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing here. You're here to steal Master Seth's treasures, aren't you, Maladgar the Desert Fang!"

     I closed my eyes. My sordid past had caught up to me once again. Why does everyone have to judge me by my past actions? "You don't understand," I tried to explain. "I'm not here to -"

     "Don't lie to me, Maladgar. There are two things I hate, liars and thieves, and you're both!" Ruka snapped, slamming a fist next to my head, shaking the bed and jarring my thoughts. "I heard from the last village that you somehow escaped from your prison. I have no idea how you did it but I assure you that I will not allow you to harm Master Seth!"

     "What's going on here?"

     Ruka turned immediately to the left, my head slowly, painfully catching up. The young Kyrii known as Seth stood at the doorway of the tent, glaring at Ruka suspiciously. The Desert Kyrii bowed deferentially and smiled, a fake smile meant to assuage her master's temper. "Master Seth, I was just arguing with our guest about the proper treatment of his wounds," she cooed soothingly, glancing at me from the corner of one eye.

     I decided to play along. After all, I was somewhat indebted to her for my treatment. And she did know about my past. I couldn't allow that bit of information slip so, clearing my throat, I said with a strained smile, "Yes we were arguing actually. I didn't think her vile mixture of roots would smell at all good."

     I did not want to play along completely just yet.

     I glanced towards Ruka and saw the mixed looks of relief and annoyance playing upon her features.

     Seth frowned before breaking into a smile, chuckling amiably. "I suppose her medicine can be quite foul-smelling," the small Kyrii mused to no one in particular. He turned his attention towards Ruka. "Find something more appropriate for our guest, something less whiffy. We don't want every Desert Dagger in the desert to come our way, right?"

     I flinched involuntarily and for a moment I stared closely at the Kyrii. Did he suspect something? Did he know who I was? Probably not. His youthful, genial face showed no trace of recognition. And he wouldn't have rescued me if he knew who I was. Yes, that's it. "Yes, I suppose so, Master Seth -"

     "Seth will do," the red Kyrii corrected.

     "Seth. I'm sure Lady Ruka will find something appropriate."

     "Very well, I'll take my leave," Seth replied as he turned to exit the tent. He paused for a moment. "Again take good care of our guest, Miss Ruka. He's going to be staying with us for a while." And with that final parting remark hanging in the air, the red Kyrii departed into the desert night.

     I lay still for a moment, my mind preoccupied by Seth's last words. Staying with us for a while? I repeated to myself. But before I could ponder any further Ruka cleared her throat loudly. Knowing that she wanted my attention, I turned to find a damp rag staring me in the face. An odd smelling damp rag.

     "Put this on your forehead and get some sleep," I heard her say from behind the cloth. I took it into my paws gingerly, flinching involuntarily at its chilly texture, and turned to face Ruka, whose back was turned to face a small basin atop a nearby crate.

     "My thanks, Lady Ruka," I complimented, truthfully. In response, the Kyrii spun around, fixing me with a harsh look.

     "Don't think I'm letting you go this easily! I have no idea what Master Seth wants with you," she growled threateningly. "But if you lay one finger on him -"

     "Rest assured, I won't, Lady Ruka." My eyes narrowed to match hers. The Desert Kyrii maintained eye contact for a moment longer before, without a backwards glance, stomping out of the tent. I watched the canvas flaps swing slowly to a halt before turning my attention to the cloth.

     Five years ago many things would have crossed my mind at that moment, least of which was what exactly the cloth was soaked in. What if it contained poison - I could name more than a deadly dozen - but I shook these thoughts from my head. Why and how would someone like Lady Ruka even procure them in the first place? Still, I didn't blame my paranoia. Years of living on the edge of danger had given me a degree of well-deserved scepticism and caution.

     Putting those absurd thoughts at ease, I placed the cloth on my forehead. An instant chill passed down my head and through my body, whatever liquid the cloth was soaked in working its effect in a blink of an eye. My head thankfully clear from the desert heat I slowly nodded off and drifted into a deep slumber.


     Seth laughed heartily, almost toppling from his saddle. Fortunately Ruka had managed to catch the little Kyrii by his belt and straighten him, casting a withering glance my way. She had remained very tight-lipped and distant since breakfast, hardly bothering to acknowledge my presence, perhaps in deference to her master. Seth on the other hand had a delightful time coaxing me to tell him about myself.

     I had been careful to omit parts out of my stories of my previous 'travels' lest the sharp Kyrii picked up who I really was. To him I was but a simple, if knowledgeable, traveller with many a story to tell, a façade I was all too comfortable to don.

     At the moment Seth seemed to be thrilled about my tale of a fat old swindler I had met a long time ago who had an unhealthy appetite for fresh Bagusses.

     "And when old Kasmed bent down to pick up his dropped cup he accidentally did it again, this time in his victim's face," I concluded, chuckling as Seth clutched his stomach, doubled over in laughter atop the Apis he shared with Lady Ruka. I waited for the moment to pass before continuing. "His fumes were so vile that his intended victim didn't awaken for a week. Needless to say Kasmed had to beat a hasty retreat; not wanting to draw his would be victim and her guard's ire. So the saying goes 'woe befall those who swallow a Bagguss whole'."

     I actually laughed along as the little Kyrii shook with hysterical laughter. I had not laughed in such a long time - more than five years actually - that I had forgotten how good it felt to feel genuine happiness, to laugh without a care in the world, to smile without watching for shadows over my shoulders. What was it about the Kyrii that made me feel this way? Was it his seemingly never-ending enthusiasm? His unflappable demeanour? His childish innocence? His bright smile? Perhaps it all of them, maybe even more, but I knew one thing: I liked Seth's company and I would gladly help him in any way possible if only to hear his cheery laugh.

     I now understood a little on why Ruka was so overprotective of Seth, though the same couldn't be said about me. While she smiled at his remarks and laughed occasionally at his jokes, Ruka did not share her master's enthusiasm for me. As I watched Seth gradually wind down from my tale of the blundering Scorchio I glanced behind him at the Desert Kyrii and saw her directly looking at me. Her eyes told me everything I needed to know.

     I had encountered her type before, even known a few like her. Ruka was the type who didn't need to open her mouth to communicate her feelings. Her expressive eyes spoke on her behalf, running the gamut of the Kyrii's feelings and expressions, conveying their message as effortlessly as words for anyone observant enough to notice: she would be watching.

     And watch me she would, not out of spite but out of curiosity. Ruka tried not to show it but my keen eyes could see the confusion written on her face: the slightly raised eyebrow, the small curl at the side of her mouth, the fine wrinkles knitting her brow. Knowledgeable as she was on the workings of Maladgar the Desert Fang she was intrigued by the Desert Usul before her now, perhaps wondering if I really was the infamous bandit.

     I wasn't so sure myself. Looking out over the vast sea of sand, feeling the warm breeze in my face as I rocked back and forth with my Apis' movements, I felt like a new Usul. Maladgar the Desert Fang, terror of the desert sands, could languish in his dungeon for all eternity. But was I really free of my former self?

     I cast my eyes downwards towards the slowly shifting sands. My reputation would continue to precede me wherever I went, I realized, glancing wryly over at Ruka. No matter where I went I, be it Sahkmet or Khelset or wherever in the vast desert, I would never be welcome with open arms -

     "You know, 'mister' isn't really a proper thing to call you." I turned in my saddle to find Seth looking quizzically at me, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Where are my manners? I forgot to ask you your name."

     That put me on the spot. The Kyrii continued staring, waiting for an answer, while Ruka glared at me, knowing I would lie, and I knew that my options were limited. The Desert Kyrii knew who I was and any lie here would most definitely result in her telling the truth. And it wasn't only her I was worried about. Just how many of the Apis handlers knew who I was? A considerable amount to be sure; the Desert Fang most likely a common fireside story. The silence stretched uncomfortably and I knew I had to say something now.

     A place where I was simply Maladgar the Desert Usul

     "Maladgar," I blurted. It had come instinctively, without any thought at all. "Just Maladgar," I repeated more clearly, a sudden constricting feeling of dread visiting my chest.

     The expression on Ruka's face showed all too well her surprise, my boldness catching her off guard. She seemed to be the only one though. If Seth, or any of the other riders for that matter, showed any sign of recognition they didn't show it. Seth merely nodded and grinned happily.

     "Maladgar, is it? Nice to know you, not that I don't already."

     He was totally unaware of who I was! The heavy weight lifted itself from my chest and my breathing eased again. The sounds of the whistling wind and rustling desert sand rushed back into my ears and sensation returned again to every part of my body. Even if it hadn't lasted for a minute, the moment seemed like an hour, my unfounded fears stretching my grip on time.

     Ruka suddenly cleared her throat and the sinking feeling hit hard again. She was eyeing me darkly, as if some horrible secret was perched at the edge of her tongue. "Master Seth, may I say something?" she asked courteously. The little Kyrii didn't turn around but acknowledged Ruka with a curt nod. "I was wondering if Master Seth knows who our guest really -"

     Seth snapped his fingers testily. "Of course I do," he declared brightly. He spun around in his saddle, almost taking a dip into the white sand, and grinned at me. "You're a storyteller, aren't you? How else could you know such delightful tales?"

     I nodded. Of course I agreed.

     "There you are, Miss Ruka, a storyteller and a good one at that!" Fortunately, sitting in front, Seth was spared the incredulous look on Ruka's face. She opened her mouth to object, as if to say the only stories being told were the deceitful kind, but decided better of it, returning instead to her normally sour expression, careful not to show Seth her displeasure. I waited for the younger Kyrii to say something else but he seemed to be more preoccupied with staring into the horizon, his red fur rippling gently in the breeze.

     The Kyrii squinted across the never-ending dunes. "We should be nearing our destination soon - I can see Khalid's Crag from here - maybe in a few hours. What do you think, Miss Ruka?" Seth turned to regard the sullen Kyrii. "Do you think we can make it to Kievmed before nightfall?"

     Kievmed, the name struck a chord but I did not know what. As I strained to scratch through to my memory bits of information surfaced from the recesses of my mind. Kievmed, the Oasis of Coin, Jewel of the Dusty Sea, City of Fat Purses; all were common names given by rich and poor alike to the ancient city.

     "Most likely by noon or late afternoon, Master Seth," was Ruka's reply. "Just in time to circumvent the pasha's evening fee," she added as an afterthought. Seth nodded in agreement, and then suddenly turned to gaze to the west.

     "Aha! There's Kievmed now!" Seth cried excitedly.

     Over the low outcrop of rock I could already see the tops of the grey walls circling the city like a merchant's hefty work belt, a fitting visualization. If memory served me correctly Kievmed was once a garrison for King Coltzan's troops before being given to a local figure known as Pasha Moritani. The business-minded Zafara, having been granted a small degree of autonomy over the surrounding areas, soon turned the dull fort into a grand monument to all desert merchants plying the numerous routes crisscrossing the Lost Desert.

     True to form, as Seth's troupe drew nearer, the tops of the four, golden minarets of Pasha Moritani's palace came into view, rising out of the sandy sea like shrines to the apparently golden riches awaiting all who venture into the city.

     "Have you ever visited our fine city, Maladgar?" Seth asked me out of the blue, suddenly halting his brisk communication with the Apis handlers.

     Indeed I have. Though I wanted to forget the past, memories still stirred inside me as I gazed upon the towering walls. After all Kievmed, the Oasis of Coin, attracted more than one type of fortune-seeker, namely thieves and swindlers.

     It was also once the edge of the Desert Dagger's roaming grounds.

     I turned to face Seth with a confused look, hopefully a convincing one. "I'm sorry Seth but I don't believe I have. I don't usually travel these parts," I replied, biting my lip. I had told a big lie but I told myself it was necessary. Much as I hated lying to Seth the truth was just as bitter.

          "Well!" Seth exclaimed, sweeping his short arms outwards, nearly toppling down in the process. "I'll just have to show you around, won't I?" The little Kyrii gave a loud laugh that rattled through the thick desert air. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that Ruka was giving me a curious look but I decided to shrug it off. What was there to prove in revealing my lie, even if she did suspect one?

     "Ah, here's the East Gate," Seth pointed as the caravan neared a towering wooden gate. "It and the West Gate are two of the only ways in and out of Kievmed, other than scaling the walls that is, and digging under the sands, and …"

     I let the Kyrii's commentary wash over me, listening with only half an ear. Passing under the wide stone arch of the East Gate memories started to flood back to me as the bustling city scene unveiled itself before me.

     The sounds of the vast, sprawling marketplace - the noisy merchants peddling their wares, the rumblings of the local customers haggling in the streets, the miscellany of clinks, chinks and clangs - all hung in the warm air, adding to the lively atmosphere that I remembered and drowning out Seth's narrative.

     From atop my Apis I caught more than my fair share of attention - fat merchants beckoning towards their prominently displayed merchandise, young pets looking curiously up at the Apis riders, common folk hurrying here and there on some business or another. But one thing fascinated me over all else: everyone, the young or the old, wore smiles as warm as the sands my Apis now trotted on. A similar smile visited my lips as more distant memories surfaced.

     This was how I had started off, amidst the somewhat organized chaos of streets just like these now before me. I was a lowly pickpocket then, taking advantage of the large, distracted crowds of Sahkmet to carve out my living. It might not have been profitable but it was certainly less taxing, even fun at times. Perhaps I would have been better off if I had only been less successful.


     "Hey, where are you going?"

     Seth's voice shook me from my reverie. I swept my head around and saw that Seth and the rest of the group were heading down a nearby street branching out from the main thoroughfare. I reared my mount and carefully tapped my feet against its sides, driving it along at a quicker pace with curt, cooing commands to catch up with to Seth and Ruka's waiting Apis.

     "Day dreaming? Tsk tsk, I thought you'd be more attentive for a storyteller. You might get yourself lost. Now that would be a story to tell," Seth reprimanded, his face stern but his eyes twinkling mischievously. A quick look behind him revealed a similar look on Ruka's face, with the exception of her harsh glare. She could've been Seth's sister if I did not know better. "Come on," the Kyrii continued. "My place is this way."

     I couldn't stop myself from raising an eyebrow as I reined my Apis to trot beside them. "Your place?" I had to ask.

     Seth nodded fervently. "Yes, I own the whole house!"

     "Master Seth's father left all his worldly possessions under Master Seth's care," Ruka clarified. Then she continued in a quieter voice. "When Master Seth's father disappeared Master Seth received everything, including the family home."

     I bowed my head, not daring to look the red Kyrii in the eye. I just had to pry, didn't I? I admonished myself. "Forgive me if I -"

     "I don't mind, Maladgar," Seth said nonchalantly, though, as I glanced at him, I noticed a trace of sadness around the little Kyrii's eyes. His expression suddenly changed, like the snap of a finger, when he turned to face me. "Don't worry, I'm fine. Hey, we're here already!"

     Distracted as I was, the busy path I passed had gone unnoticed until I saw a familiar landmark up ahead. For some reason I could not fathom, something about the ornate archway only a stone's throw away seemed awfully familiar, though I could not put a finger on what specifically. Shrugging the thought away, figuring it to be someplace I had passed in my youth, I tapped the side of my Apis and trailed behind the procession into Seth's ancestral home's rather large compound.

     Beyond the gateway lay a simple cobblestone path that wound through a small garden of sorts towards the main building. Though green grass grew sparsely over the sandy ground a wide variety of fruit trees - ranging from succulent Pyraberries to Tchea Fruit to a rare, cultivated Geopepper plant - complemented the scenery simply and tastefully.

     My gaze shifted to the large building before me. Seth's home was not as big as others I had encountered in my past life as a Desert Dagger but it was certainly larger than the houses on either side. Made of orange-tinged stone, a rarity in these parts, the house exuded warmth and easiness, assuring comfort within its walls.

     Seth jumped off his Apis, followed immediately by Lady Ruka who, with quick paw signals, motioned for the Apis handlers to collect the steed. I dismounted from my Apis and bowed in thanks to the Yurble that hastened to grab its reins. Leaving the handlers behind I moved towards the welcoming, sun warmed patio where Seth and Ruka stood waiting.

     "Here we are, Maladgar," Seth announced with great flair, much to Ruka's chagrin as she reached for the gold handles of two large doors marking the entrance. The doors swung inwards and I followed the two Kyriis into the main hall.

     I stayed a few steps behind Ruka as she trailed behind Seth who strode full of energy across the darkened mosaic floor. Looking around the dimly-lit foyer, I could make out the faint outlines of tapestries hanging on the walls and thick curtains adorning numerous arching windows.

     "Should I open the drapes, Master Seth?" Ruka inquired, moving towards a nearby window. Seth shook his head and held up a paw.

     "Don't trouble yourself, Miss Ruka. I'll do it myself," the red Kyrii said dismissively as he walked up a short flight of stairs to a landing facing the hall doors. "I'll open the skylight. That way we can let some fresh air in." And with a short tug of a nearby rope a creak resonated through the room and light spilled in from the open gap in the roof, refracting through a circular pane of stained glass on its way down.

     I walked to the foot of the stairs and turned to admire the beautiful patchwork of colours that had formed in the centre of the hall - and froze. I quickly spun around to face Seth.

     "Where did you get that?" I demanded sharply. Ruka, standing beside me, frowned at my rudeness but Seth didn't seem the least bit perturbed, his grin still fixed on his slim face.

     He beckoned to the skylight. "Beautiful isn't it? It's especially brilliant in the moonlight," he explained. "My father himself commissioned it when he was still here."

     I wrenched my eyes from the image of the two shining green Wadjets curled around a blue moon and stared incredulously at Seth. "Who are you?"

     Seth's grin remained but his eyes suddenly became as cold as steel. "Oh, I never fully introduced myself, didn't I? I am Seth Odesias of the Odesias Trading Charter.

     "Or as the Desert Daggers once knew them, the Wadjet Circle."

To be continued...

Author's note: The Wadjet Circle? You'll be hearing about it in the next part so be sure to catch it next week.

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