"I've never been to the Lost Desert before!" The little Zafara bounded excitedly from one stall to another. His companion, a tall Darigan Ixi, watched him from afar, wondering what on Neopia had possessed him to bring the little nuisance.
Oh. He forgot. He didn't bring him. Asgarrd just tagged along without asking.
"I'm here for tablets," Lowkhi reminded him. "Studying—reading... never mind. I'm sure they're things you wouldn't know anything about. Not that you're listening..." He was right. Asgarrd wasn't listening. He was exploring. Asgarrd just loved exploring. And battling. On the odd day he liked sewing? But mostly battling... Perhaps he could defend them should some thieves show up.
Lowkhi almost snorted trying to keep his laughter from showing.
Asgarrd circled back around the little corner of the market before showing up at Lowkhi's side again. "Where were you going?" he asked. "Can I come?"
"Is there any other way to keep you out of trouble...?" Lowkhi asked, moving off through the crowd towards the tall Qasalan library. The golden building sprawled just across the dusty road from the fountain that dominated the center of Qasala, and Lowkhi could smell the dust from ten feet away. Not the sun-scorched, wind-blown desert dust. The ancient, musty dust that coated the old tomes lined up on ancient shelves that only a mummy's hands had touched recently.
"Ground rules," Lowkhi announced, turning to his Zafara friend.
Asgarrd looked up attentively, as though he was listening.
"You touch absolutely nothing inside; do you understand?" Lowkhi asked. "The books inside a very old, extremely old and expensive. You haven't a coin to your name, so you couldn't pay back anything if you broke something and I'm certainly not bailing you out if you get into trouble."
"I get it. Don't touch anything," Asgarrd agreed.
"Also, be quiet," Lowkhi added. "People are reading inside and I don't want to be kicked out because of some ruckus you're making. Have you ever been to a library before?"
"Oh, come on," Asgarrd groaned. "I'm a super genius. Of course, I've been to a library before."
"Super genius..." Lowkhi sniffed. "Yes, well, don't bother the ultimate geniuses while they're reading."
"I'm sure you could come up with a better superlative if you thought about it..." Asgarrd commented, strolling inside, leaving Lowkhi standing in something akin to shock on the front stoop. Superlative? Sometimes Asgarrd had the ability to surprise with his vocabulary...
He eventually got over it, though, and went inside. He didn't see Asgarrd, but surely there wasn't much trouble he could get into in here. Presumably. Lowkhi nodded at the yellow Nimmo tending the place, and the Nimmo nodded back before going back to reading his scroll. Lowkhi walked the rows of scrolls and lined stone tablets, looking at the first of each row for some clue as to what was down the row. He stopped when he saw Asgarrd looking at a broken stone tablet, one half in one hand and the other half in the other.
"I leave you alone for two seconds!" Lowkhi hissed, hurrying down the aisle to see if there was anything he could do to repair the damage before someone saw.
"Give me a break!" Asgarrd hissed back. "It's supposed to be this way." He pointed at a little sign underneath the shelf. Broken Tablet.
Lowkhi ground his teeth and tried to keep quiet. He almost lost his cool when a yellow Kyrii the next aisle over started snickering. "Do you mind!" Lowkhi hissed at him. The Kyrii rearranged his red fez and kept quiet. Lowkhi turned his attention back to Asgarrd. "Just... just keep out of trouble."
"Then can we go to Sakhmet?" Asgarrd asked.
"No," Lowkhi answered.
"You're telling me you come all the way to the Lost Desert and you weren't even going to stop in to see the palace?" Asgarrd asked, his tone disbelieving. He folded his arms over his chest and smirked up at Lowkhi. "Good thing I came along then."
Lowkhi wanted to wring his skinny little neck, but reminded himself that was probably a bad idea. Also, he probably wasn't strong enough for it. As much as he hated to admit it, he was a weakling. It was one reason he liked books. He could boast about his intelligence instead of his strength. Quite simply, there was quite a bit of one and almost none of the other.
"You just," he growled, "stay out of trouble. Okay? I'll be right back."
"I wasn't in any trouble in the first place!" Asgarrd whispered loudly as he hurried away.
Lowkhi ignored him and went straight back to the aisle he had left off on, hurrying down to see if he couldn't find what he was looking for in a hurry. Finally, he found it. Qasalan Healing Techniques—and the last one at that. He snatched up the little scroll and picked up a scroll detailing Qasalan Etiquette, for Asgarrd. He could use a little etiquette in any city.
The yellow Nimmo asked for about 1500 Neopoints, the whole of his life-savings at this point, but Lowkhi figured that he would afford it. He might learn a little etiquette himself. And these healing techniques, well, he hoped some of them would be useful.
"Asgarrd!" he whispered.
Asgarrd came out from his aisle, an ancient-looking scroll opened in his hand. What in the world had he gotten into now...? "Let me buy this."
"What is it?" Lowkhi asked skeptically.
"An ancient shopping list!" Asgarrd said, as though he'd just won the Qasalan Expellibox.
"Put it back," Lowkhi ordered.
"No. I need some of these things."
"It's not even your list! You could make your own!"
"But why make my own when I could just buy this one?" Asgarrd pointed out, paying for his shopping list as he spoke.
"Who buys a shopping list?" Lowkhi asked. "Besides, you know, you."
"Maybe you'd get more done if you made lists," Asgarrd said.
"You don't even make—Never mind. Let's just go," Lowkhi said.
"To Sakhmet!" Asgarrd announced.
"Here," the yellow Nimmo interrupted, handing Asgarrd his shopping list reverently. "Keep is safe. There are thieves about."
"Don't worry," Asgarrd said. "I have my bag." He patted the bag at his side where, it seemed, he could keep everything in there. It seemed bigger than it looked, but it only seemed to hold a certain number of things in there... no matter the size. It was confusing, but Lowkhi hadn't found any books on the subject to learn about it. He was pretty sure it was magical, though.
"That's presuming a lot," Lowkhi muttered. "You don't think a thief couldn't break in there?"
Lowkhi snapped to look at Asgarrd, that haughty grin up at him. "What's with you and big words today?" Lowkhi grumbled.
"They aren't big words; you just don't think much of me," Asgarrd said once they were outside of the city. "Anyways. I want to see the Fruit Machine. I might win something. But I should probably buy a good luck ankh first, don't you think?"
"I don't think it works that way..." Lowkhi sighed, following Asgarrd to Sakhmet, anyway.
Sakhmet was at least twice the size of Qasala. The first place Asgarrd headed was straight to Remnok's stall of desert weaponry. Lowkhi didn't have time to roll his eyes at that before he saw Sutek's Scrolls. He spent a little bit of time browsing the selection there and considered learning how to build a pyramid when Asgarrd appeared again to drag him away to the Fruit Machine.
It wasn't really a machine. Just a Lupe, and Aisha, and a Kau holding cards and flipping them over. If the cards matched, Asgarrd would get a prize. Of course, cards could be cheated... "This seems rigged," Lowkhi muttered.
"Who cares?" Asgarrd sighed, fingering his shiny new good luck charm. "It's free."
They waited for the three 'pets to flip over the cards. It seemed like it took forever. "Did it always take this long...?" Lowkhi wondered. "I mean, how long does it take to flip over cards?" Sometimes it seemed like, if they looked away, the three 'pets would stop and wait for them.
"I don't know," Asgarrd said with a shrug, looking around.
"Don't take your eyes off of them!" Lowkhi scolded. "It'll just take longer."
"Don't blink," Asgarrd agreed, pasting his vision on the Aisha seriously.
Lowkhi rolled his eyes. "I don't think we need measures that extreme..."
Asgarrd snickered and waited for the Lupe. "Two ummagines and... a ptolymelon."
"You won!" a desert Pteri announced excitedly, after which a desert Blumaroo put some Neopoints and an ummagine in Asgarrd's bag. Seemed kind of intrusive, but the Pteri explained, "We put your prizes in your bag! It's presumably safe from the Kyrii thief, Stan."
"Stan..." Lowkhi muttered. "Someone would bother stealing a fruit?"
"You'd be surprised..." the Pteri sighed, shaking his head.
Asgarrd nodded in agreement. "You would be surprised."
"I thought your pack was labyrinthine," Lowkhi pointed out.
Asgarrd sniffed with a smile. "Stan can get to anything. He's like the Pant Devil, but a Kyrii. And an Elephante." When Lowkhi raised an eyebrow at him, Asgarrd explained, "You know, morphing potions."
That made about as much sense as anything, Lowkhi thought. Except for the stealing-fruit part. Maybe he was hungry? "Have you ever seen this Stan?" Lowkhi asked.
"No," Asgarrd scoffed. "If you were a thief, wouldn't you want to keep out of sight?"
"I suppose," Lowkhi allowed. "But becoming an Elephante seems counter-productive for just that purpose!" He paused to watch the palace Elephante guard cross the street on their rounds. The next time he looked at Asgarrd, he was grinning up at him with a look that said, See? "Alright..." Lowkhi sighed. "But still!"
"You're just sore because—hey!"
Lowkhi whirled to see Asgarrd bounding down the road after a yellow Kyrii wearing a red fez, waving an ummagine in the air. Even as he disappeared into the crowd, Lowkhi could hear Asgarrd shouting, "Hey, give that back! Get your own fruit!"
Chasing after Asgarrd before he got too far away and into some other kind of trouble, Lowkhi shouted, "Wait for me! Asgarrd!"
Asgarrd cast a glance over his shoulder at Lowkhi. "That fruit was supposed to be safe in my bag!"
Lowkhi laughed. "You presume too much!"