The Battle of Akram: Part Two
As Kyriirun began to regain consciousness he slowly became aware of his surroundings. He could feel the desert breeze on his face and could hear the crackling of a fire nearby. After what felt like an eternity, Kyriirun slowly forced his eyes open and let out a groggy yawn. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the bright desert sun, and after a few minutes, Kyriirun was able to sit up. He carefully took inventory of himself, pleased to see that he was not too sore and seemed to be in more or less one piece. "Perhaps I'm dead," Kyriirun wondered aloud. The last thing he remembered was sinking to the bottom of the ocean, and watching his life flash before his eyes.
"No, not dead, almost though." Kyriirun jolted at the sound of a nearby voice. Jerking around he saw a large camouflage Peophin dressed in a ragged tunic and travelling cloak, carefully tending to a fire a few feet away.
"Lucky I saw you in the water there. I thought I was the one painted camouflage." The strange Peophin chuckled.
Suddenly very alert, Kyriirun studied the stranger suspiciously. "Who are you?" he asked warily.
A distant look crossed the young Peophin's face, however as quickly as it appeared it was soon gone. "I am Khalfanni... a mere merchant. I have travelled a great distance; I was selling my goods in Meridell, but I was robbed and now I am forced to return to my home in the city of Akram to start over."
Khalfanni stared off into the distance, as if he were watching an invisible play unfold in front of his eyes. Kyriirun studied the Peophin, unsure of whether to believe him or not. However, before he could ponder this much longer the events of the past day suddenly came rushing back to him.
"Seyaniya!" Kyriirun gasped and leapt to his feet. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what was left of the Grundo's scroll. The message was ruined, the words smudged beyond recognition. All he could make out was a few words here and there, as well as the golden signature of the Resistance at the bottom.
"No..." He moaned, sitting down again and putting his head in his hands. How would he ever rescue Seya now?
Khalfanni looked up from where he had been tending the fire. "Everything alright?" He raised an eyebrow as Kyriirun dropped his hands and gazed off into the distance.
"No. It's really not." Kyriirun rubbed his eyes, suddenly exhausted. He couldn't believe that just this morning he'd been at the Lake House, laughing with his cousin and looking forward to a quiet day in the desert. "Basically I've got to find this secret resistance group, convince them to help me, storm the King's palace, defeat a bunch of guards, and save my cousin, who by the way is apparently the long lost princess." Kyriirun laughed humorously as he realized how ridiculous he story sounded.
Wordlessly, Khalfanni stood and put out the fire. Turning, he picked up his bag and smiled faintly. "Well, we better get started, then."
"Remind me what the plan is again," Khalfanni asked as he trailed behind Kyriirun. The Water Kyrii trudged along in the direction he had come from. He hesitated as he reached the water's edge, and gazed into the distance towards the mountain range where he and his cousin had been dragged earlier by the king's guards.
"Find Seyaniya," Kyriirun replied simply. Khalfanni followed Kyriirun's gaze towards the mountains and frowned. He seemed about to say something, perhaps to comment on the insanity of their quest, but he stopped himself and simply shrugged, once again trudging after Kyriirun. It wasn't like he had anywhere else to be.
Seyaniya gasped as she was thrown onto a cold stone floor. She started to struggle once more against the bindings on her wrists as the guards walk out and slam the solid wooden door behind them, locking the frightened Peophin into a frigid, dark room with barred windows. Straw was scattered on the floor, and in one corner, a thin, ragged blanket lay on the cobbles, next to a long chain fastened to the wall opposite to the window. Seyaniya shivered; how was it possible for the desert to be so cold? She could see her breath when she exhaled, and quickly hurried over to the blanket, trying to pull it over her shoulders the best she could with bound hands.
All of the sudden the cell door banged open and the hideous Captain of the Guards entered the cell. Seya cowered as the burly Xweetok he crossed the room in three strides and abruptly pulled Seyaniya off the ground. He grasped her by the collar of her shirt with one hand, and clasped the chain around her leg with the other, cutting the rope bindings when he was done. Then he released her and she fell to the ground, wishing that she could turn invisible. She tried to subtly shift farther back into the corner, repulsed by the Xweetok's vicious gaze. Without a word, the Captain turned on his heel and strode to the door, his cloak flaring out behind him. When he reached the door, he paused briefly.
"The king will be here in the morning," he said, turning his head, and locking eyes with Seyaniya. "Don't bother trying to escape, princess; I always win." The Xweetok turned away from his prisoner and left, the door banging loudly as it shut behind him.
"When you get to the lone tree, turn toward the sunset and find the oasis behind the second sand dune to the right..." Kyriirun muttered, trying to remember what he could from the scroll.
"Well, here is the lone tree," said Khalfanni, as he gazed up at a single palm tree, withered from the constant beating of the sun.
"I guess we wait for sunset," Kyriirun said as he settled down next to the palm tree. He hated to wait, knowing that with each moment Seya got further away from him, but he didn't see what else he could do at that point.
Khalfanni frowned thoughtfully. "Well, the sun sets in the West, so right of West is North. So I guess we have to walk two sand dunes to the North of the tree. Got a compass?"
Kyriirun shook his head, impressed with the Peophin's resourcefulness. "No, but I think I know how we can find North. What do you have in that bag?"
Khalfanni dropped to the ground next to Kyriirun and began rifling through his pack.
"There, perfect!" Kyriirun reached over and took a match out of Khalfanni's bag. He carefully stuck it in the stand so that it stood upright and leaded back on his heels. "Now we wait. As the sun moves across the sky the shadow will move from East to West."
Khalfanni nodded appreciatively. "Smart. I guess now we wait. Or we could go look for food or something."
"You're not going anywhere," came a rough voice from behind them. Before they could turn both Khalfanni and Kyriirun were tackled to the ground.
"Wait... mfph," Kyriirun protested as rags were shoved in their mouths.
"We're with the... mfph," growled Khalfanni, as their attackers tied Kyriirun and Khalfanni to the tree. Standing before them were two Grundos, dressed in black tunics with gold trimming. Kyriirun spotted the symbol of the entwined Peophins embroidered over the Grundos' hearts, the one he had seen on the bottom of the scroll. A Cybunny, dressed in the same attire, was running swiftly over a sand dune to the North, as the Grundos stood guard.
One of the Grundos spoke. "Our master will be told of your trespassing, and he will decide your fate." The other Grundo nodded silently in agreement.
After a couple of minutes, the Cybunny returned with four more Neopets: guards dressed in the same black and gold tunics, and whispered a message to the Grundos.
"Very well," one of the Grundos said to the Cybunny. He turned to the new arrivals and said, "Take them."
Kyriirun and Khalfanni thrashed as they were dragged in the direction that the Cybunny had come from. Kyriirun struggled to come up with some way to tell they guards who they were and why they had come, but with his mouth covered, it was hopeless. The guards escorted Kyriirun and Khalfanni to a large oasis, hidden from sight by high sand dunes on every side. There was a tent city assembled on one side of the water hole however, it was eerily quiet. Kyriirun looked around uneasily, hoping for someone who could help them. They approached a semi-circle of the black-and-gold-clad Neopets, standing off to the side of the water hole. There were many more Neopets, all wearing the same dark tunics with gold detailing, sitting in scattered groups around small campfires. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their attention towards the new arrivals. The guards stopped Khalfanni and Kyriirun in front of a great Desert Lupe, who sat upon a wooden throne in the center of the semicircle. The group all wore hostile expressions, scowling at Khalfanni and Kyriirun. Kyriirun felt his heart sink as he wondered how they would ever get out of this.
"My grace, we have brought you the Neopets that were found trespassing on our land and searching for our hideout." One of the Grundos bowed as he spoke, speaking towards the ground instead of his leader.
"Very good." The Lupe motioned for the Grundo to step away. "Now, tell me who you are and state your business, so I can decide what to do with you. Oh, and don't lie to us; we have a way of knowing things."
The two Grundos stepped forwards once more to remove the rags, so that Kyriirun and Khalfanni could speak.
Khalfanni spoke calmly, gazing directly at the Lupe. "I am Khalfanni, a simple merchant, aiding my good friend here on his journey." He bowed his head. The Lupe raised an eyebrow when Khalfanni spoke his name, but said nothing.
Kyriirun spoke next. "I am Kyriirun, and I'm on a mission to save my cousin, Seyaniya, who was kidnapped by the King's guards. I was with her when you sent her a scroll..." Kyriirun pulled the ruined scroll out of his back pocket once more, lifting it into the night air for all to see. "And now you must help me save her from the king."
The black-and-gold-clad Neopets gasped, and began talking to each other in hushed tones. The Lupe motioned for silence and got up from his throne, revealing the Peophin symbol carved onto the back of the wooden seat. He strode leisurely towards them; guards following close behind, and he circled Kyriirun.
"Seyaniya is your cousin, you say? Why should I believe you?" He glanced over at Khalfanni with a knowing look.
"Because I'm telling the truth," Kyriirun stated. He watched the Lupe with pleading eyes, praying that the Resistance would believe him.
"We'll see about that," replied the Lupe, as he motioned for the Grundo. "Take him to my tent," ordered the Lupe, motioning to Khalfanni, who met his eyes with a steel gaze of his own. Then the Lupe nodded to Kyriirun. "And watch this one in my absence." With that, the Lupe strode away towards the tents, two guards escorting Khalfanni behind him. Kyriirun watched Khalfanni disappear into the Lupe's tent as the remaining guards ushered him in the opposite direction.
Seyaniya awoke to the sun peeking through the small barred window of her cell, the temperature already rising dramatically. She had to strain her neck to see out the window because her chain was not long enough to reach the other side of the room. A tear fell from her cheek and dropped onto the cobbled floor. Here she was trapped in jail, Kyriirun had hauled off somewhere by the king's guards, and no one knew to save them. "It's all my fault," Seya whimpered, as tears came to her eyes and rolled down her face. If she hadn't been so determined to get a petpet from the Lost Desert they never would have come here in the first place, and they would be safe at home with their owners. Seya struggled to stop her sobbing. She would not cry. That would not help them. Seya took a deep breath and calmed herself; they would get out of here. She would break out, find Kyriirun, and escape. She had to.
Kyriirun waited by the fire, guards sitting on either side of him, and wondered what the Lupe could possibly want to talk to Khalfanni about. He stared at the flames; deep in thought as the fire flickered, cooking various foods that intoxicated his senses. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until the delicious scent of food filled his nose; his mouth watered and his stomach grumbled.
Just then, after what felt like hours of waiting, Khalfanni and the Lupe emerged from the tent. Khalfanni walked freely towards the fire and sat next to Kyriirun. The Lupe nodded once towards his guards, and to Kyriirun's surprise, the guards cut his bindings and handed him a plate of food.
"What's going on?" Kyriirun looked around in confusion. The Lupe stood a little ways away from the crowd, and gestured for Kyriirun to approach. Kyriirun got up and walked over to the Lupe cautiously.
"I am Serkan, the leader of the Resistance, and I will be leading the forces that will attack the King's palace." The Lupe put a hand on Kyriirun's shoulder and smiled. "Together, we will rescue Seyaniya."
Seya heard footsteps resonating down the corridor, and she quickly wiped her tears away, refusing to look defeated in front of this tyrant king. Moments later, the door swung open and an immense Peophin stepped into the cell, towering over Seyaniya, accompanied by the captain of the guards. "Well done, Sesio," He boomed in his deep voice, not taking his eyes off the younger Peophin rested on the floor. Seyaniya was shocked, despite his height, the king resembled her in many ways; his coat was dark bay, which then faded into black at his face, tail and legs, and he had the same chartreuse eyes as she did.
"See that the executioner is prepared," the King said to Sesio, who promptly left the cell without a word.
"Why are you doing this?" She met his eyes with a challenging gaze. He crossed the room in two strides and picked her up by the hair, accepting the challenge. Seyaniya howled in pain, squeezing her eyes shut to fight back the tears.
"Because, my dear, you've been a thorn in my side for several long years; the resistance won't rest until they've found you, thinking you're the key to my defeat, the last possible ruler, the only one left with royal blood, other than me of course. So you see, I decided to find you first, before those traitors did, and kill you, so I can be King forever." The King grinned charmingly.
"You're insane," Seya spat at the King.
"Perhaps, but at least I'll be alive." The king released her hair and Seyaniya fell to the floor. As he turned to leave he smiled humorously in her direction. Seya shuttered as she met his eyes, full of nothing but greed and hatred.
"Your execution is at dawn, in front of the entire city," he called over his shoulder. "Don't be late."
To be continued...