A Walk in Sakhmet
Ever since Razul had threatened Sakhmet and the two girls were forced to work together, Amira and Nabile had been firm friends. They met up often, once a month or so, to discuss how things were going in the two separate desert cities of Qasala and Sakhmet. Qasala was no longer so much of a ruin, and more people were moving in every day. Sakhmet was already a thriving market town, but Nabile still liked to know how it was doing since she had left it. She particularly liked to know if Amira had heard anything about the Desert Scarabs, though the princess often didn't know very much on that subject.
It was on yet another scorching hot desert day, as they sat discussing current affairs over a small table inside Sakhmet's palace, that Nabile suggested they go for a walk.
"I haven't been out on the Sakhmet streets for such a long time," she explained. "And perhaps it would be good for you to dress up as the city folk, see what life is like for them."
Amira was a little reluctant- she liked her big, chunky golden jewellery and her fancy desert make-up rather a lot- but Nabile persuaded the princess to just try it.
"Street urchin clothes were a lot comfier, I think," she assured the princess.
The palace servants were more than a little confused when asked by the princess of Sakhmet and the queen of Qasala if they had any spare clothes.
"It's for an... experiment," Nabile told them. One of the servants, a cook in the palace kitchen, nodded and rushed off. She came back a few minutes later holding two tatty, mucky, old-looking dresses.
"I think these should fit you two," the cook told them, offering a dress to each princess. Nabile took hers with a grateful smile. Amira picked her own up between finger and thumb, eyeing it with a look of pure disgust on her face. Nabile rolled her eyes.
Once Amira had said a forced 'thank you', Nabile had dragged her back up to her bedroom. Nabile had no trouble putting the dress on, but Amira was a little confused. She'd always had servants to help her with buttoning and lacing dresses up, you see. Nabile helped Amira button her tatty dress up down its back.
Both girls took turns to take the other's hair out of their elaborate styles and wipe each other's make-up off.
After they had finished, they were almost unrecognisable to anyone except for, perhaps, a few close friends or family members. Nabile led her friend down the stairs of the palace quickly and out of the door.
They slipped past the guards standing by the door and out onto the streets. Nabile smiled, remembering the old days. The only difference was the fact that Tomos wasn't standing by her side, helping her to steal pieces of food or money from passers-by. Instead she was stuck with Amira, who was not in any way like her old partner in crime.
Amira, unlike Nabile, did not look too impressed with the situation. She had a scowl plastered on her face and nothing Nabile tried seemed to be able to wipe it away.
The Qasalan queen was in the process of trying to cheer Princess Amira up when she noticed a small child, a Cybunny. The small child sat by the roadside, waiting for her friend who, by the looks of things, was in the process of stealing some tchea fruits from the stand, one for them both. Nabile smiled a little, realising this is how she and Tomos must've looked to other neopets years ago. She noticed the tattoo on the small girl's arm, the sign of a Desert Scarab, and smiled harder.
Amira, curious as to why Nabile had stopped trying to wipe her scowl away, peered around her friend and caught sight of the small Cybunny girl who'd stolen Nabile's attention. She rolled her eyes and began to fiddle with a golden ring she was wearing on her finger. Nabile didn't know she was wearing it, but Amira didn't see why Nabile needed to know.
Nabile's smile, however, disappeared when she spotted the small child by the roadside's partner, a raggedy-looking Zafara boy who looked a few years older than his Cybunny partner, being beaten away with a broom by the fruit stall owner. This had happened to herself many a time before and so Nabile knew just how frightening it could be.
Without thinking, Nabile crept over to the fruit stall. Amira followed, curious as to what her friend was planning. Nabile expertly swiped two tchea fruits from the stand. Amira stifled a gasp as Nabile began to walk away.
The stall owner looked down and saw the fruit was missing. She looked up, saw a pink Ixi walking away with two tchea fruits and quickly put two and two together.
"Stop! Thief!" the shopkeeper began to yell. Amira, who still stood by the fruit stand as Nabile walked away, turned around and looked up at the shopkeeper.
"I think you'll find she's alright," she told the shopkeeper.
"Who are you to tell me what to think of people?" the shopkeeper asked grumpily. Amira held her hand up, revealing the ring on her finger. It was one so beautiful and expensive that only royalty could possibly afford it. The shopkeeper's jaw dropped.
"Your majesty," the shopkeeper stuttered, realising just who she was talking to and bowing respectfully. Amira bowed her head in a slight nod and ran after Nabile.
Nabile reached the two children just as Amira caught up with her. The Zafara was crouching beside the Cybunny, trying to explain in words she'd understand just why they'd be hungry again that night, when Nabile gently tapped him on the shoulder.
He looked up, afraid, but the fearful look left his eyes as Nabile handed him the two tchea fruits. He handed one to the Cybunny, who took it happily and began munching away, before taking a bite of the other.
"Thank you, miss," he said once he'd finished his first mouthful. He tilted his head a little, examining Nabile's face, before saying, "You look a lot like the queen of Qasala."
"That's because I am!" she replied. The boy's jaw dropped.
"What are you doing out here?" he wondered.
"I like to come back and visit sometimes," she explained. Then, her voice slightly softer, she asked, "There's a Lupe, though you probably won't know him, and he may have left the Scarabs altogether, called Tomos."
"He's still in the Scarabs," the Zafara assured her. "Why?"
"Tell him Nabile said hello," the pink Ixi queen instructed with a light smile. The Zafara nodded his head before taking another bite from his tchea fruit.
"Thank you again, miss," he said.
"You're welcome," Nabile told him, ruffling his hair. She stood up and turned to face Amira, who had been watching the whole event with some mild interest.
"Coming, your highness?" she asked the princess.
Amira cast her gaze momentarily at the poor, hungry children behind Nabile. They were happy to have something as small as a tchea fruit to feed them that day, and something about that touched the princess. She'd always had whatever she wanted the exact moment she asked for it; she didn't have anything to remember about living on the streets like Nabile did. Yet it still found a way into the princess's heart.
"Hold on a moment," Amira told Nabile. She slipped the ring off of her finger, one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery she owned, and tossed it to the boy as he crouched on the ground. He caught it with one hand and looked at it before turning his wide, unbelieving eyes back up to meet with Amira's.
"For real?" he asked. It was all he could do to keep from squealing with delight. Amira nodded, a faint smile finding its way onto her face.
"Thank you!" the boy gushed. His little Cybunny friend peered into his hand and gasped, squealing with joy. He hushed her gently.
"Amira, we should get back," Nabile said, tugging her friend's arm lightly. "Jazan said Nightsteed will be here to pick me up by nightfall and the sun's already started setting." Both girls gave the children one last friendly smile before heading back up to the Sakhmet palace to get changed back into their royal gowns, elaborate hairstyles and intricate make-up designs before the Nightsteed arrived to take Nabile back home to Qasala.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Nabile teased as they walked back. Amira didn't reply, though a small smile once again found itself sneaking onto the princess's face as she remembered all that had happened during their little walk.