Cruor Stilla: Part Three
Zackwel was not a happy Neopet. He was still in a temper
about what had happened at the ceremony, and had contemplated whether or not he
should tell Jhudora. He decided against it, however, as that would only make him
seem like a whiner. No matter how desperate he was for revenge, he didn't want
his image to be ruined in front of his partner. He gave up his pacing and went
to lounge on his dark nova sofa.
Closing his eyes, he tried to relax, to not
let it get to him anymore. But he couldn't. That Aisha had to learn her place--no
one insulted him and got away with it. Possibly because no one had ever attempted
it before, but now that someone had, he couldn't let them off easily. He had
his pride to protect. So he lay there, still with his eyes closed, thinking
of any possible way to teach the Aisha a lesson: insult him and pay dire consequences.
Think, he told himself. What can I
use against her...no. I don't know enough about her to use anything against
her. I have to find out more...How can I do that? Well, the answer was quite
obvious. To get to know someone, he'd need to be their 'friend.' He cringed
at the thought. Great. I have to pose as the little twerp's friend. No...what
if she doesn't accept an apology? I'm not going to grovel at someone's feet
AND be rejected. The groveling is bad enough on its own. She won't buy it...He
was in a bind once again.
Sighing, he decided this would have to wait
until tomorrow. He was utterly sick of thinking it over and was tired from the
events earlier that day. The defeat had been bad enough, but the idiot King
had to go on and brag about it. He didn't even give credit to the weasel who
spied on Jhudora and gave them away, making him have to smarm up to the Royals.
I guess it's for the better, though. It is a much better plan, after all.
There's no way they'll be able to defend themselves once the city's created.
Maybe then I'll get that infuriating Aisha back. I still need to find out more
about her, though, so I'll know what to do for the revenge act. With those
comforting thoughts in mind, he let himself finally drift off to sleep.
It was getting late, judging from the darkness
settling in the sky. It had been late spring in Ruby's life, but it could be
winter in the time she was in now, for all she knew (though it wasn't nearly
cold enough, so she doubted it). Either way, she felt exhausted from all that
had happened today, so she made herself climb into bed and attempt to sleep,
knowing what lay in wait for her the next day.
Ruby awoke once again to the incredibly bright,
painful sunlight coming in her window. There weren't blinds or curtains in the
whole house, so she couldn't have covered it the night before even if she had
tried. Stretching deeply, she threw the covers off and put her feet on the floor,
her eyes still closed. Today I have to go to the castle again. It's bad enough
I have to walk so far again, but it's also to sit and wait all day hoping I
run into a mean, irritating Neopet that I will then attempt to make peace with.
She sighed at the thought, wanting to go back to sleep.
She stood up and opened the thin, wooden doors
built into the wall next to her and picked from among the clothing there a plain,
white cotton dress and a white matching corset to wear over it. It seemed like
everyday wear for the time period, so she put it on, having less trouble this
time as the corset tied in the front. Then she went downstairs, wondering what
she would say to Delia.
There was a bowl of gruel and a stale piece
of bread for breakfast this morning. She sat down in front of it and ate as
fast as she could, hoping she would taste it less that way. It didn't work,
but at least it gave her more time to spend on the walk. If she set out early,
she doubted she would miss Zackwel before he got there.
"I was thinking of going back to the castle
today," she told Delia bracingly.
"Oh, that's good, dear. You've finally found
something to else to do that doesn't involve the Haunted Woods?"
"Uh, yeah," she said, having no idea what Delia
was talking about. Then she took from the cupboard a mini-keg like the day before,
and filled it with water, knowing she'd be grateful for it later. Then she left,
taking her sweet time and walking at a slow pace (she wasn't a morning person).
By the time she'd gone a fourth of the way, however, she had fully woken up
and started to walk more briskly.
It had been twenty minutes of walking this quickly
that the castle came within view, but was still a good distance away. That didn't
matter, though, as her goal was achieved before she even reached it; Zackwel
was just a few yards in front of her, also heading for the castle. This was
"Hey," she called out to him. He turned his
head, and upon seeing her his eyes seemed to burn with intense dislike. But
a moment later it was swept away, leaving in its place mild curiosity.
"Yes?" he replied.
"I wanted to say that...well, I'm sorry for insulting
you yesterday. It was out of line," she apologized, using every ounce of self
restraint she had in her to not add "Even though you deserved it."
Zackwel couldn't believe his ears. He had been
worrying that she would be suspicious of him if he was friendly with her, but
here she was apologizing first. Maybe this would be easier than he thought it
"That's okay," he assured her, and added, as
much as he didn't like to, "I shouldn't have threatened you. My temper gets
the better of me sometimes."
"I understand. It happens to everyone," she
told him, hoping she didn't sound as fake as she was.
"Look," he said, wanting to get to the point
and get it over with, "I'm only like that because, well...I don't really have
any good friends. Everyone used to pick on me when I was younger and laughed
when I asked if they wanted to hang out with me. I didn't know why, but now
I know it's just because I'm painted Halloween. I don't really get it, but that's
the reason. So, I decided if they wanted to be like that, I would too. But you
don't seem like them now, so...do you want to be friends?"
Ruby could not believe she was hearing this.
It had been so much easier than she thought it would be! Here he was offering
it to her when she thought she would have had to beg. She didn't know if she
could fully believe the story he had told her, but that didn't matter. All that
mattered was that he offered to be her friend, which was exactly what she came
here to have happen.
"Yes," she said immediately. "I would love that.
I've never really had any friends either, so this is great for me," she added
to sound more convincing, though it was also true.
Zackwel was surprised. She had actually bought
the story he fed her? He couldn't believe he let someone this gullible make
a fool of him. But he pushed that aside as he thought of what to do next. What
do friends do...He guessed they just did, um...stuff. Games and stuff, and talked
and...well, he wasn't really sure, so he just took a stab in the dark. "I have
an idea," he said. "Have you ever been flying before?"
"No," she answered honestly, wondering if he
was suggesting that they do such an activity. That wouldn't make sense, though.
She didn't have wings like he did, so how could they?
"Want to?" he said simply.
"Um, okay...but how?"
He whistled in response. For a few moments nothing
happened, but then a dark red blur was suddenly hurtling down from the sky,
dodging trees and stopping just in time to not hit the ground. It was then that
she saw it was a Cirrus, painted red. "This is Caelum. He's my Petpet. Since
you don't have wings, you can use him."
She stared. "Go on," said Zackwel. "Just climb
on it." She did so.
"What now?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?"
That was an easy one. She was interested in
the Lost Desert, but that would be much too far away. "The Lost Desert, but..."
She had no time to finish her sentence. It was cut off by her high-pitched scream
as the world was left below her, as Caelum had sped up off the ground and high
above the treetops in an instant, with Zackwel just behind it.
Zackwel was laughing at her scream. "Scared?"
he asked in an almost malicious-sounding voice.
"No," she said stubbornly. "Just surprised."
She readjusted herself on the big cloud and hugged it tightly, thinking it must've
been magic that she didn't go right through it. They were moving more slowly
now, so that Ruby actually had a chance to see what was below her. The giant,
white castle they had been so close to was now a speck, which told her they
must have been several miles in the air, and still rising rapidly.
They continued going up higher until nothing
but clouds could be seen, and Ruby was suddenly extremely cold. "How can you
stand this?" she yelled to him over the rush of the air. "It's freezing!"
"I'm used to it," he yelled back. "You'll learn
to like it, if you do it enough. It's better than being on the ground, at least."
"Whatever you say..." she said doubtfully. They
slowed down now, so the wind was dramatically less loud, and settled into a
cool breeze flying gently past them, not painfully roaring in her ears. Her
head was still slightly pounding from the takeoff, but once it got better the
flight was actually enjoyable.
Then she remembered what she had said just before
they started to fly. "Are we actually going to the Lost Desert?" she asked.
"Yep," he said. "We'll have to go a lot faster
than this, but I'm just giving you a break. You seemed like you were about to
puke," he added with a smirk.
"Thanks for the consideration," she said dryly.
"We might as well start going faster again, I don't want to be up here all day."
"Whatever you say," he mimicked her, and they
sped off again, with Ruby squeezing the cloud with all the strength she could
muster. She hoped she wouldn't have to endure this for too long, which reminded
her, "How long will it take to get there?" she yelled.
"About a half hour," was his reply that was
barely audible, being carried away and muffled by the strong wind.
When said amount of time was up, and Ruby was
almost fainting from the air pressure yet still managing to grasp the cloud's
middle as if she were stuck that way permanently, they finally slowed down again
and started to descend. She was extremely dizzy from the ride, and even more
grateful that it was done with.
"Oh, sweet ground," she said weakly when they
touched the surface of it. She tumbled off the cloud, landing on her side and
getting her dress all dusty but not caring one bit. This was so comfortable
to her after what she had just been through that she didn't think she could
"Are you going to lay there all day or actually
go exploring like you wanted to?"
She opened her eyes, not even realizing she'd
had them closed, and saw Zackwel standing above her and looking down at her
with a disdainful expression on his face. "Can't...move..." she breathed.
"Alright, then, I guess we'll just go on without
you." And he began to walk away.
"No!" she said, quickly recovering from her
fatigue and standing up. She then looked around in awe as she took in her surroundings.
Behind her was a vast dome-shaped entrance in a wall made of light brown, dusty
stone that surrounded the city. Around her were various tents and buildings
for small businesses, such as selling pots or fruits. There were many Petpets
native to the area running around with their owners, people trading with each
other in the streets and young Neopets playing games of tug'o'war.
They were on a road paved out of the same light
brown stone that seemed to make the rest of the buildings that weren't tents.
There were various intersections with the paths such as the one they were on
now, leading right up to stores or houses and tourist attractions.
"Where do you want to go first?" said Zackwel.
This was a tough one. Ruby had no real destination
in mind, she just wanted to see what it was like in general. She hadn't even
been to the Lost Desert in her own time, and wondered if they would have a museum
here in this time. So, she tried asking about it. "Do they have a museum here?"
"Yeah...how did you know about that? They just
came up with the idea. They don't have much yet, though."
"Oh, well, it's worth a look. Do you know
where it is?"
"Yeah. We might as well fly there, too. It's
a lot faster." Ruby groaned, but jumped on Caelum anyway. They took off for
the second time that day, only without Ruby's scream of terror. She didn't have
to suffer nearly as long, though, because they reached the museum in a couple
It was a moderately big building with two glass,
double doors at the entrance. They stepped inside and there was a vast room
with a giant fountain in its center. Hollows were inserted into the walls in
many places with various objects in each one, covered with glass and with a
plaque in front of it telling information about it. Some were displays set up
by the owners of the museum that depicted certain times in the Lost Desert and
others were actual items discovered in ancient pyramids. Those were the ones
that caught Ruby's eye most--especially one in particular.
They had been going from hollow to hollow, reading
about many different things involved with the Lost Desert when an item in the
next display they reached almost caused Ruby to pass out in shock. She gasped
sharply at the sight of it, wondering how it could be linked to the situation
she was in now. It was a necklace that was almost identical to the one she was
wearing, except for the frame the ruby was set in.
"Hey, that looks a lot like your necklace,"
"Yeah," she agreed distantly, now reading what
was on the plaque.
This amulet was discovered deep in the ancient
pyramids, with a description that read:
A blood red stone, set in twisted gold, it
grasps your throat, and forever will it hold...It is believed to be an item
named "shkanum-da" which has been mentioned in legend. In the legend, a cruel
pharaoh rules over the Lost Desert and the citizens seek revenge on him. They
use a dark magic scroll to do so (it is unknown what actually happened to the
pharaoh), and the only known fact is that a single blood drop was left behind
in the pharaoh's death, which crystallized over time. The pharaoh's son, sharing
his father's dark heart, took the blood crystal and placed a curse on it and
set it into an amulet, which he would use to get revenge upon the citizens of
the Lost Desert.
Ruby was confused. That didn't sound anything
like the necklace she had on, except for the part about it not letting go. She
didn't know what to make of it, but the two rubies in the pendants looked exactly
alike. Rose said she made it herself, she thought. Maybe she used
a drop of her blood for the ruby, too...so maybe it's a coincidence. It's just
a type of magic that requires the user's blood or something, that's all. That
was the only explanation she could think of, and she didn't want anymore to
worry about, so she just left it at that. Besides, the necklace talked about
in the inscription on the plaque was right in front of her, and only one blood
drop was left behind from the pharaoh. She let the matter rest, and returned
exploring the museum with Zackwel.
Zackwel was looking at Ruby. She had seemed
deep in thought for a long time, but seemed to come out of it when she looked
at him. "Interesting, isn't it?" she said about the piece in front of them.
"Yeah," he replied, having not even read it. He had been looking at her the
whole time; her expression had been so...undescribably serious. It seemed there
was more behind what she was reading about than just "interesting," and Zackwel
was curious to know what.
"Do you know if there's any relation between
it and your necklace? They look almost the same..."
"I don't think so," she said carefully. "I made
mine, so I really doubt it. Unless I'm the reincarnation of the pharaoh's son,
it's just a plain old necklace."
Zackwel reluctantly decided not to press the
matter any further. Her expression was so intense, he was sure there was more
to it than she was telling him, but what could it be? It was just a necklace.
But, then again, so was the one now encased behind a glass wall, and it had
the power to strangle the wearer on its own from what the inscription read.
He shook his head and let it go, moving on with Ruby to the next display.
To be continued...