Desert Sojourn: Part Two
"This-s-s is-s the Archives-s-s," the Grarrl announced, a peculiar hiss in his voice (thanks, no doubt, to his forked tongue).
"Thank you, sir," Dragao said, managing to find her voice.
"I'll wait here to es-s-scort you out."
With that, Dragao, Henry, and Atroye entered the archives. They were in a long hall with closed doors on either side.
"How far does it go back?" Henry asked, in awe.
"Who knows," Atroye said, shrugging his shoulders.
Both the Pteri and Eyrie looked to Dragao for direction. How she wished for Adil's help!
"Well, there are dates over each door. We have to look at least three hundred years back," Dragao said.
The three began to walk and it didn't take them long to find the right room.
"If you two could each take a different room, that would be best," Dragao said over her shoulder.
"Dragao works best by herself. Adil is the only one that ever helped her in the library," Henry said.
"She never let you help?" Atroye asked as the two moved away.
Dragao silently thanked her best Neopet friend. She knew he would explain that he had been an egg when they had been in Tyrannia. He had only been painted when they left. Clearing her mind, she focused on the task at hand. Hours later, she came to a sickening realization.
There was no record of her ancestor anywhere in the Sakhmetian Archives! Dragao groaned aloud. At her cry, both Henry and Atroye came running. They exchanged a glance. Dragao could tell they had reached the same conclusion she had. The female Desert Eyrie was silent as they exited the archives; she was disappointed but not discouraged.
"I'm not giving up," Dragao said.
Henry smiled and so did Atroye. The Pteri had only good things to say about Dragao and Atroye could see that for himself.
"The Lost Desert is just one more place we can rule out," Dragao said.
"Actually, Dragao, Qasala has their own archives. You should also look there," Atroye said.
"Great! I'm hungry, let's get something to eat," Henry said.
By now, the three had left the palace. It was now late afternoon. From her vantage point on the palace steps, Dragao scanned the sky and marketplace for Adil. She smiled as she saw his familiar form gliding towards her. He landed lightly on his customary spot on Dragao's shoulder, running his bill through her ear ruff.
"We're getting something to eat, Adil," Dragao said.
The Djuti let out a chuckle deep in his throat, one of his rare vocalizations. Dragao took that as agreement. Atroye led the way through the marketplace. They got Cheops Soup. The spicy stew warmed them right up; even though the rain had stopped, it was still cooler than any of them liked.
The group meandered through the marketplace. Dragao stopped at Sutek's Scrolls, intrigued by the different topics within. Henry and Atroye, not even the least interested after an entire day spent in the archives, continued on. Dragao didn't notice, immersed in the scrolls. When she finally did notice, she wasn't concerned.
"We'll find them, Adil," Dragao said.
The sun had set and as the started to search, it began to rain, again. The few 'pets that had been out in the marketplace scattered for shelter. Dragao and Adil were at the edges of the marketplace now and still found no sign of their friends. They heard the high-pitched screech of the night before. Thoroughly alarmed, Dragao looked wildly about for danger.
The first 'pets she saw were Atroye and Henry running towards her.
"Follow me!" Atroye called.
Dragao didn't need to be told twice. She could hear feet pounding behind them in hot pursuit. The group raced for their lives as Atroye led them through many twists and turns. Finally, they seemed to have lost their pursuers. Atroye slowed to a quick trot, reluctant to completely let his guard down.
The male Desert Eyrie cast his sharp gaze every which way before finally entering a building. Atroye retrieved his sword, which he had left at home, knowing a weapon wouldn't be allowed in the palace.
"I won't be running away, again. This is my home. We shouldn't stay here. These thugs aren't going to give up easily. I'd like to get you both to Qasala tonight. I hope it gets them off your trail. I'll get some supplies and then we'll go,"Atroye said.
The male Eyrie walked into another room. Henry had wandered over to a miniature shrine.
"Dragao, look at this," Henry said, calling his best friend over. "Atroye doesn't strike me as the spiritual type."
"Henry, you shouldn't 'type' anyone. Don't you remember what life was like when you were painted baby?" Dragao said, looking steadily at her friend.
"Coltzan is my Desert Rock. He is my miniature Coltzan's Shrine for the great king himself," Atroye said, coming back into the room with a pack over his shoulder.
The group exited Atroye's home. They began walking, heading for the main gate.
"The city of Sakhmet is a no fly zone. Once we're outside the walls, we'll wing it from there. Normally, the city gates are closed at night but I've made friends with the guards. Night is my favorite time to visit Coltzan's Shrine," Atroye explained.
Just as the male Eyrie had said, they made it out of Sakhmet with no trouble. They took to the wing then, Atroye leading the way. It felt wonderful to fly in the cool night air. The rain stopped and the clouds cleared from the sky.
"I love nights like this. The stars seem so close," Dragao said.
"As if we could just reach out and touch them," Atroye said.
"Or fly to them," Henry added.
Adil flew beneath Dragao. The Djuti was strictly a creature of the day. He hated the night. For him, it was only good for sleeping. Yet, he followed Dragao as closely as a shadow, refusing to leave her, especially since there seemed to be danger wherever they went.
There was no moon and Dragao was only dimly aware of the land beneath them. Thankfully, Atroye was a faultless guide. He descended, landing in cool sand. A tall stone with odd hieroglyphs was nestled in the curve of the river.
"This is Coltzan's Shrine?" Henry asked, casting a quizzical glance at Atroye.
"Yes, I wanted to show you both the Shrine, where I come when I need to think, to be alone. I always hope that good King Coltzan will help me to become better," Atroye said.
"It reminds me of the Obelisk back home," Dragao said.
Just then, Henry yawned. It had been a long day.
"How far is it to Qasala?" Dragao asked.
"Coltzan's Shrine is the halfway point," Atroye said.
"Could we please stop and rest? I don't want Henry falling out of the sky."
"Alright. We shouldn't stay too long."
Dragao sat in the cool sand and Henry nestled against her, almost instantly falling asleep. Atroye cast his sharp gaze around before settling beside Dragao.
"This is my favorite place in all Neopia. I've always been able to find peace here," Atroye said.
"I know that feeling," Dragao said.
"My favorite place in all Neopia is the ruined library in Tyrannia. That is where I found my peace."
"Then you lost that peace."
"Yes. I wouldn't trade my journey for anything. I have what truly matters to me." Here, Dragao touched a hand to Adil's head and then Henry's. "They make my travels. I would not be able to find the answers I seek without them. We will go back home to Tyrannia, someday."
Silence settled over Coltzan's Shrine for long moments. There was no need for words. The two Eyrie, one fierce warrior, one bold scholar, both passionate about their homes and driven by personal goals, understood each other completely. They were lost in their own thoughts. Then, that silence was broken.
Dragao and Atroye sat close enough that they were almost touching. So, she felt him tense beside her. Slowly, he looked around him. He had heard a faint splash that made no sense from the quiet river. His warrior instincts told him danger was near.
The soft squish of feet on sand confirmed it. Then, quite a few things happened simultaneously:
Four Krawks raced through the darkness, surrounding the small group.
A high-pitched screech of warning tore through the night air, followed by a large Horus swooping in to hover over Henry's head.
Atroye leapt to his feet, sword drawn.
Then, worst of all, a Tyrannian Korbat hovered above the entire scene.
Dragao pushed Henry between herself and Atroye, as far away from the danger as she could get. A white Bruce stepped out from behind Coltzan's shrine, grinning triumphantly. Both Eyrie fixed piercing ice blue eyes on her. Atroye let out a rumbling growl deep in his throat.
The Bruce laughed. "The brave warrior, finally caught. Do you have any idea what my group has gone through, dealing with you? At last, we have you."
"If it's me you want, then you have me. Let my friends go. They have nothing to do with this," Atroye said.
"Let them go? They went to the Sakhmetian Palace. You're going to Qasala now. Chances are good that you're going to the Qasalan Palace. There are many priceless trinkets there but Queen Nabile is far too wise, being a former Desert Scarab, to let any common thief, or even someone with a mischievous twinkle in their eye. No, no, Desert Warrior. Your friends definitely have a use for us."
If Henry had not been there, depending on her, Dragao would have confronted the white Bruce. Instead, she stayed silent. Henry shifted behind her, nudging her roughly. She put one of her hands back, intending to comfort him with her touch. Instead, a rod of cool metal was placed into her open palm.
The female Desert Eyrie gripped the weapon tightly, looking away from the white Bruce to scan the two Krawks that faced her. For the first time, Dragao felt a warm flash of hope sear through her, as if the desert sun had suddenly risen. Now, to alert Atroye to this sudden development. Henry shifted, bumping Atroye in the process. Distracted, he glanced back and Dragao knew he saw what she held.
In the next moment, the two Eyrie lunged, aiming for the two Krawks on either side that faced them.
"Fly, Henry! Fly!" Dragao yelled, as she swung the sceptre she held.
The brown Pteri didn't hesitate, flying straight up, testing his amateur flight skills. After that, Dragao focused on her own task. She swung the sceptre, knocking one Krawk aside. Then, she was barely able to block the deadly snap of the second Krawk's jaws. She became a whirling blur of tan fur and feathers, fending off her attackers as best she could with only a sceptre.
The two Krawks seemed to get wise and charged her and would have overcome her but suddenly Atroye was there.
"Fly, Dragao. I've got this," Atroye said.
Dragao flew up and away. She did not look back. Ahead of her, Henry and the Night Guardian were faint specks in the distance. Atroye came to fly beside her. There was silence until the entire group reunited.
"King Coltzan came through!" Atroye said, blue eyes shining.
"I found the sceptre in the sand at my feet. King Coltzan III is my favorite monarch ever," Henry said.
"Dragao, that's Coltzans Battle Sceptre. It is believed to be his personal weapon of choice."
Holding the golden sceptre, Dragao whispered, "Thank you."
"It's also thanks to Anemone. You should have seen her take on that Tyrannian Korbat all by herself! I wouldn't have gotten away without her," Henry said.
Anemone, the large Horus, flew protectively above Henry. The group flew to Qasala and, thankfully, the guards there were not as strict as those at Sakhmet. They were able to find lodging and slept as those physically and mentally exhausted. They slept in late, not only because of their night adventure but because the sky had once more become shrouded in dark gray clouds.
"This is the second day of rain! What a time to visit the desert," Atroye said.
"The weather doesn't change our plans," Dragao said.
"I'm hungry! Let's get something to eat first," Henry said.
"Lead the way."
The brown Pteri exited the room, the large Horus resting lightly atop his head. Dragao was about to follow when Atroye put a hand on her arm.
"Dragao, wait. If you and Henry are open to the idea, I'd like to teach you both self-defense. We escaped unscathed last night but next time you may not be so fortunate to have a warrior fighting beside you," Atroye said.
Dragao felt a rare moment of hesitation. She had no desire to harm anyone but she recalled the helplessness she had felt just the night before. She had brought Henry on this journey around Neopia and felt fully responsible for him. Learning how to defend themselves made sense.
"I appreciate your offer, Atroye. Thank you. You're right in that it would be wise for us to learn how to defend ourselves," Dragao said, giving the male Eyrie a warm smile.
To be continued...