Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 99,279,380 Issue: 195 | 17th day of Relaxing, Y7
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The Son of Sahkmet: Part One

by twirlsncurls5


Kontar leapt over spiny underbrush, ducking mechanically as he passed under low hanging banan leaves. His friend Mahani, an Island Kougra followed soundlessly behind him. Mahani had always been more graceful than the large Island Lupe.

     "Ha!" exclaimed Kontar as he jumped out of the stifling jungle and onto the white sand of the beach. "I win!"

     The Kougra emerged right after him. "Puh-leaze," he smirked, "I was hardly trying." He looked up at the sun. "I sure hope that spot of yours is close," he said, "We've only got another half hour to get the Underwater Chef's ingredients."

     "Well then don't just stand there," said Kontar running down the beach, "follow me!"

     He stopped at a large tree that's roots came up out of the sand and hung over a small pool of water. Tiny little fishes darted away as Kontar reached his paw in and grabbed a large, thick Blobbule plant from the muck.

     "Wow," admired Mahani sarcastically, "I had my doubts, but I have to say that that is the most appetizing blue goop I've ever seen."

     Kontar hurled a ball of wet sand at him and the Kougra recoiled in disgust.

     "Great," he said brushing himself off, "hours of grooming for nothing."

     "Oh come on you hairball, you know how mad the Chef gets when we don't get his ingredients on time."

     The Kougra put his paws on his hips. "Oh he never stops ordering food!" he mimicked in the whiny manner of their employer, "My job is never done, boohoo."

     Kontar laughed at his friend as he jogged back towards the jungle. It must be nice not to take anything seriously, he thought. Mahani may have just taken on the job to have something to do, but Kontar knew that the rest of his life depended on his apprenticeship to the Underwater Chef. His Aunt and Uncle couldn't keep paying for his things and Kontar, more than anything, wanted to be on his own. He longed for the adventure that would come after he became a chef. He dreamt of cooking for Kings in grand palaces instead of serving the temperamental Mambo-Pango in the swampy Mystery Island he called home.

     At last they burst through the thick jungle and onto the grassy stretch before the Chef's large kitchen hut.

     "You two!" shouted the purple flotsam, "I've got less than five minutes to prepare Mambo-Pango's food! If you don't have my ingredients you're fired! You hear me? FIRED!"

      Mahani rolled his eyes. "Relax," said Kontar, pulling out the large Blobbule, some Flotsam tail cookies, and a squirming Nautilus from his brown sack, "all your ingredients are right here."

      The chef grabbed them all and examined them closely. He smiled and patted the Lupe affectionately on the cheek. "You did well my boy," he smiled, turning the dial on a large stove as a pot of water boiled over, "you'll be a fine chef yet."

     Kontar smiled happily as he and Mahani left the hut. "I think all those fryers melted his brain," joked the Kougra. Kontar just ignored him, an action that was best in most situations involving his headstrong, sarcastic best friend.

     The two said their goodbyes, Mahani parting in the direction of his large adobe home and Kontar in the direction of his much smaller hut.

     He parted the grass doorway and was greeted immediately by the happy caw of Artu, his pet Horus. It perched lightly on his shoulder. He started to walk towards the kitchen but stopped at the sound of muffled voices. He poked his head out from a coconut shelf and saw his uncle, an Island Lupe like himself, talking seriously with a hooded figure. His aunt, a white Lupe, sat sadly on their tiger couch, watching the conversation with frightening concern. The figure turned slightly, revealing the face of a desert Acara.

     "Acrab!" cried Kontar excitedly, rushing to the families' old friend.

     "Why hello, Kontar," she said, forcing a tight smile, "we didn't hear you come in."

     The young Lupe looked around the room of serious faces. "Is someone sick or something?" he asked.

     "Not at all," said Acrab putting an arm around him and leading him into the hallway, "we were just having a heated discussion about desert politics."

     "Oh," said Kontar, "how are things going there?"

     "Fine, fine," she said dismissively, "but I'm much more concerned with how you're doing. I assume you're excelling with your studies?"

     He sighed heavily. "I really don't see the point of all those lessons. Is it really necessary for me to learn about the Meridell family tree or the best method of desert irrigation?" He petted Artu's feathers. "I should be spending more time studding with the Chef instead of learning Algebra 2."

     Acrab patted him on the back understandingly. "One day you will appreciate the fine education you're getting as much as that Petpet I got for you. It looks as if you've been caring for him nicely."

     "I have."

     "They are very intelligent creatures you know. If there's ever any danger they can sense it," she stuck out her wrist and the bird eagerly grabbed it with his claws. "Promise me Kontar, that you'll never let him stray far from your side." The Acara's eyes pleaded with him, a look of momentary weakness that he had never seen in her before.

     "Yes," he said confusedly as he put Artu back on his shoulder, "I promise."

     The rest of the evening had gone normally, his mother served dinner while his father told Acrab about the happenings at Mambo-Pango's palace and other small incidents that occurred during his shifts on guard duty. Kontar ate quietly, unable to shake the feeling that something was off; there was a certain indescribable tension. He excused himself and sat outside listening to the symphony of crickets.

     At some point Acrab sat down beside him.

     "I'll be leaving again tomorrow," she said.

     Kontar shrugged. "I figured as much."

     "You seem angry."

     "No. I'm more confused. I feel like I'm being left of something, like how you and my uncle stop talking when I come in a room. You try to act normal, but I can tell something is going on."

     "You have a fine intuition Kontar," sighed Acrab, "it's a fortunate quality."

      He shook his head. "You're not going to include me in whatever secret you're keeping are you?"

     "When I return," she said, standing slowly, "I will start to tell you."

     Kontar watched the Acara disappear slowly into the night. Her visits had always gone in the same manner; she would show up unexpectedly and leave shortly after. For as long as he could remember she had been a good friend to the family. Every holiday they always found a package waiting outside containing some kind of desert trinket.

     He knew she had money, she alone was paying for his schooling lessons, but how she obtained it was a complete mystery to him. She'd never told him anything about her life in the desert or what her purpose was in being there.

     He lay awake in his bead trying to think back to all the occasions Acrab had visited and if there had ever been any reason behind them.

     He sat up as he heard his cousin Cay walk into their room limply, looking very tired from his guard training at Mambo-Pango's palace.

     "Cay," he whispered, "how long have we known Acrab?"

     The striped Lupe struggled to remove his large boots. "I don't know Kontar, as long as I can remember."

     "How did she meet Uncle Sani and Aunt Pohanah anyways?"

     "Beats me."

     Kontar threw off his sheets. "What do you think she does in the Lost Desert?"

     "I really don't know," Cay said impatiently as he pulled down the covers on his coconut bead, "I think she's involved somehow in Sakhmetian politics. She might even work in the palace."

     "Wow, how come she never-"

     "I'm really tired Kontar, give it a rest already," he said, pulling his blanket over his head.

     Kontar tried to fall asleep, but the buzz of questions zooming around his brain kept him awake.

     He couldn't take it anymore, he needed some answers.

     Lurching out of bed, he walked quietly down to the small bookcase in their living room. He flicked on a small lamp, and grabbed a dusty Neopedia off the shelf. Even if it was only full of old articles, there had to have been something in there that he could use. All he needed was some kind of lead to help him find out more about the secretive Acrab, who called herself a friend.

     He reached the Lost Desert section and quickly flipped through the pages. He pulled apart two that were stuck together.

     No, he thought, it couldn't be.

     He rubbed his eyes and then turned on another light.

     A picture of a once young desert Acara stared back at him, clear as ever, smiling the smile he'd seen since he was a pup.

     Senator Barca, read the top of the page- Acrab spelled backwards.

To be continued...

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