The Battle of Akram: Part One
A dark figure sat atop his shadowy steed, looking over a cliff at the desert below him. Glancing around him, he saw no one. Good. He must have lost those guards in the sand storm after all. He turned his attention back to the vast desert, watching and waiting for her: the resistance's last hope. Finally, in the distance he saw a young desert Peophin stroll out from behind a sand dune, accompanied by a small water Kyrii.
'Got her,' he thought to himself, as he wheeled the Uni around and nudged his steed forward with his heels. The shadow Uni leapt into action, tearing across the Lost Desert towards the Peophin.
The resistance was coming.
"It's just a shame they never talk to each other anymore," the water Kyrii was saying. "They used to be just like sisters."
"Kayli and Sweatpea see each other as much as we see each other, Kyriirun. It's just a matter of when April and Jesse visit. It's not like Mystery Island and Kiko Lake are very close," replied the desert Peophin.
"I guess so," responded Kyriirun thoughtfully, letting the subject drop.
The cousins were out exploring Neopia for the day as their owners, two sisters by the names of April and Jesse, visited at Jesse's neohome in Kiko Lake. While everyone enjoyed the nice weather at the lake, Kyriirun had agreed to visit the Lost Desert with Seyaniya, to help her pick out a petpet. After months of begging, Jesse had finally given Seya permission to buy her very own petpet, and with Jesse's neopoints safely tucked in her bag, Seya had decided to set out immediately. Kyriirun had agreed to accompany her, as the two rarely got to see each other anymore. They were well on their way to Sakhmet when a dark figure appeared in the distance, riding rapidly towards them.
"What is that?" Seya said, squinting.
"It looks like someone riding a Uni," replied Kyriirun, using his paw as a visor from the sun. "Maybe we should hide; they don't look friendly."
"Nonsense, they have probably already seen us by now, and where would we hide? It's the desert."
Within a minute the Uni and rider covered the distance between the two groups and came to a halt a meter away from the cousins. The rider appeared to be a large desert Grundo, seated upon a grand shadow Uni. Both Uni and rider turned and bowed their heads at Seya. The Grundo reached into his cloak and pulled out a scroll, which he then handed to Seya. A look of confusion crossed Seya's face as she took the letter.
"Who are you?" Kyriirun asked cautiously, as he peered over Seya's shoulder to get a better look at the scroll. The letter was opaque in colour, tightly rolled and sealed with wax. An intricate design of two Peophins twisted together was pressed into the seal.
"There's no time for formalities; read this and you will understand. I have urgent business to attend to in the South, but please be careful princess. You are our last chance. I will be back for you tonight." And with that the Grundo turned the Uni around and rode away. The pair watched in complete confusion as the steed and rider gradually got smaller and smaller until they were merely a speck on the horizon.
In the distance, twelve of the king's guards marched up to the overhang. Their leader, a big, burly Xweetok by the name of Sesio pushed past his troops and approached the edge of the cliff, gazing over at the world beneath him. First, he spotted the dark rider, the Grundo they had been following for days, now travelling back towards the city. Scanning the rest of the landscape, he found what he was looking for. A terrible grin stretched across his scarred face. Letting out an evil chuckle, he said:
"Perfect. He's led us right to her."
"Princess? I don't know what he's talking about.... he must have the wrong Peophin," Seya muttered as she unsealed and unrolled the mysterious scroll.
"What does it say?" Kyriirun asked as he stretched onto his toes to get a better look. Together, the cousins looked upon the paper, and read the first few lines, revealing its many secrets.
Dear Princess Seyaniya,
We cannot give you details right now, but we speak the truth when we say that you are the princess of Akram, and that your life is in jeopardy. The tyrant king that rules this land has put a price on your head, so that the rebellion may not prevail. He must not succeed or the people will continue to suffer, and this great land will fall to ruins. We implore that you come to our conference tonight so we may tell you our plans and protect you from this false king. To find us you must locate the great cliff and walk one-hundred and thirty-seven paces south. When you come to a lone tree, turn towards the setting sun and follow it to the oasis behind the second sand dune to the right. It is of the utmost importance that you tell no one of our existence. Be careful, princess.
You are our last hope.
The letter was signed with the same symbol that was on the seal, the two entwined Peophins. Next to the symbol, two words were scrawled in golden ink. The resistance.
"Oh my..." Seya breathed, as she stared straight-ahead, letting the scroll fall from her hooves and hit the ground.
Kyriirun reached down and picked up the scroll, as Seya stood frozen in place. Frowning, he studied the letter. "This doesn't make any sense. I mean, yeah, you were adopted right? Still, it's been sixteen years. Why would this king be looking for you all of the sudden?"
Seya slowly shook her head. "I... I have no idea."
Kyriirun put a hand on Seya's shoulder. "They're probably looking for someone else. C'mon, it's okay."
"Yeah, you're probably right. It's probably some kind of stupid prank or something," Seyaniya replied, voice shaking.
"Come on, let's go get your petpet."
Seya just shook her head. "No, let's just get out of here. I don't want to run into any more crazy people."
Kyriirun nodded silently, understanding his cousin's distress. He carefully tucked the scroll into his pocket, intending to show it to his owner when they got home.
They had only been walking for a few minutes when all of a sudden they were attacked. Before they could see who their attackers were, their assailants pulled a burlap sack over their heads. The two Neopets yelled and fought as their arms and legs were bound with rope.
"Hey! Let go of us!" cried Seyaniya, squirming and struggling against her restrains. She looked around wildly, trying to shake the bag off her head.
"Our owners will come for us!" growled Kyriirun as the two were lifted up, thrown inside another sack, and carried off by their attackers.
Sesio stood at the edge of the cliff, and waited for the guards he had sent to return with the princess. He turned when he heard his men approach.
"Did you get her? Did you get the princess?" the Xweetok growled.
"Yes sir!" replied two of the guards. They dragged the sack containing Kyriirun and Seya towards their commanding officer, the two cousins still struggling to get free.
"Well, what are you waiting for, let me see her! Hurry up!" he snapped.
The guards quickly handed the bag to their leader. Loosening the rope around the top of the squirming bag, the Captain peered inside, but what he saw made his face contort with anger.
"You fools!" Sesio roared, causing the guards to tremble with fear. "I asked you to bring me the princess, and what do I get?" He held up Kyriirun, who was kicking wildly, hoping to connect with his attacker.
"We b-b-brought the p-p-princess too," stuttered one guard.
"Yes, you idiot, you brought me the princess, and a witness! What am I going to do with this?" scowled the Xweetok, shaking Kyriirun wildly.
"Don't touch him!" Seya yelled, still stuck inside the bag and trying to get free.
The captain ignored Seya's protest and glared at his guards as they shook fearfully before him. He rolled his eyes and shoved Kyriirun towards them, "Dispose of this."
From inside the bag, Seyaniya continued to thrash and scream, trying to find some way to get free to help her cousin. The captain picked up the bag containing Seya and tossed it onto the back of a wagon, leaving Kyriirun in the hands of the two fearsome guards. He got into the wagon and signaled for the caravan to move out.
"To Akram," he shouted.
Just before he left, Sesio turned to his men and added, "Oh, and don't come back until the job is done. Do not disappoint me again." Then he snapped the reins, and the caravan rolled away into the setting Lost Desert sun.
Kyriirun continued to struggle against his restrains, his heart beating wildly as he was carried away from Seya. "Let me GO!" he yelled fearfully, but his guards remained silent. Kyriirun struggled and yelled for help for what must have been hours; to him it felt like an eternity, knowing that with each passing second he got farther and farther away from escaping and saving his cousin.
The guards carried Kyriirun in the bag through the scorching desert, so silently that only the steady swaying of the bag, from their stride, gave away their presence. Suddenly the guards stopped. Kyriirun listened closely, hoping for some sound that would indicate where he was, but all he could hear was the wind, and the sound of running water. Before he could make sense of this, the guards hurled the bag through the air. Kyriirun let out a yelp as he suddenly hit the water, the frigid cold shocking his senses.
Plunged into a cold, heavy darkness, Kyriirun began to thrash, trying desperately to free his hands and feet. His head began to pound and his lungs burned as he began to run out of air. Kyriirun looked around franticly, trying to find some way out, some solution to this problem. As Kyriirun's vision began to dim, and he felt himself start to slip away, he realised with some surprise that he might not get out of this. Kyriirun's last conscious thought was of Seya, and of his family back home, as he felt himself drifting further and further into the depths of the Neopian Sea.
To be continued...