The Road to Pyramid Parade: Part One
DesertKauDawg paced restlessly in front of the master bedroom door, her blue coat glistening in the rays of sunlight that streamed through the window. Finally, she let out an exasperated sigh, bounding over the large suitcase that contained her favorite yellow Quiggle plushie, obtained from the Scratchcard Game, Illusen’s Comb, and several pieces of food.
“Kirsche!” she called. “Can we start moving already?”
“Just a second!” the blue Lupe’s owner called back.
Desi sighed again. “But that’s the fifth time you’ve said that!” she exclaimed.
She was excited. This was the day they would finally move to the Lost Desert. She had dreamed of it all her life, and now it was finally happening. Kirsche had bought the plot of land, and, through a series of Neomail exchanges (and Neopoint attachments) ordered the eight-room Neohome built (with hallways counting as rooms for some reason).
And now, of all times, she was stalling. She’d come home from Uni’s Clothing, and had immediately gone into the bedroom with an opaque plastic bag.
“And it’s the last time,” Kirsche replied, emerging from the bedroom. She was completely changed. Though she was still a long-haired brunette with emerald-green eyes, she now wore a tiger-stripe tank top and a pair of knee-length blue denim cargo pants with lots of pockets, as well as a pair of sandals. She was fully prepared for life in the hot climate of the Lost Desert.
“...Wow. That looks good on you,” said Desi. “It took you long enough.”
“Well, when you kept insisting the lime and teal clashed, I decided you were probably right,” replied Kirsche. “Well, all packed?”
“Of course,” said Desi.
“Good. Well then, let’s get going. ...Desi, you know that this will be a long trip, right? Once we leave Neopia Central, we probably won’t have time to go back. I’m hoping to get there in a week.”
“Okay.” Desi picked up her bag in her mouth, then slung it over her shoulder, where her Fangy, Fortuna, caught it and settled down on top of it, securing it in place.
They gave their apartment one last look, then walked out the door, luggage in tow.
As Kirsche was taping her notice of leave on the door (the superintendent would find it later), a little white envelope with a tiny angelic wing poofed into existence beside her.
“You have Neomail,” Desi pointed out.
“So I see,” said Kirsche, plucking the envelope out of the air. “I wonder who it’s from?”
The envelope unfolded into a letter that looked twice the size of the space in the envelope, somehow.
How’ve you been? You’ve finally got a place in the Lost Desert, right? That’s cool. Can you meet me at the Rainbow Pool before you leave? I’ve got a housewarming present for you and Desi.
“Sean? You mean the friend that convinced you to come back to civilization?” said Desi.
Kirsche nodded, her brown curls bouncing with the movement. “Yeah. I haven’t seen him since. The only conversation I’ve had with him is when I Neomailed him after adopting you, and then later when I told him about the plot of land I’d purchased. I wonder why he chose the Rainbow Pool, though.” She shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out when we get there. C’mon, Desi, let’s go.”
There was a long line of Neopians at the Rainbow Pool, all holding magical paintbrushes in their hands, ranging from simple Starters, to fairly-common Christmas, to gems like Baby and Darigan. Pets waited to be painted, shifting impatiently by their owners’ sides.
“So do we get in line, or what?” said Kirsche.
Desi shook her head. “I don’t know...”
“Yo, Kirsche! Over here!” a voice called.
Owner and Neopet turned to see a young man with darkish-tan skin and emerald green hair tied back into a shoulderblade-length ponytail standing by the Petpet Puddle. He wore blue jeans with the cuffs rolled in to clear his light blue hiking boots, and a green camouflage shirt with the sleeves rolled up. (He had inspired Kirsche to wear camouflage. It was much better than the boring solid colors she used to wear all the time.) Around his neck was a pair of beige binoculars, and a bulky green backpack rested on sturdy straps over his shoulders. It was clear this man was an explorer.
“Sean!” Kirsche ran towards him, and Desi plodded along slowly behind her. She knew Sean only from her owner’s stories of her hermit-hood, and she had never really been interested in that.
Her owner and her friend greeted each other with a warm handshake, and Desi sat down on the grass by the dirt path. As the humans began to excitedly converse (though most of Kirsche’s “conversing” was made up of laughter as Sean cracked joke after joke), the Island Shoyru that had been sitting near him approached her.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” he said, holding out a yellow-orange paw. “I’m Majikn. Don’t forget – there’s no vowel between the K and the N there.”
“That’s... unique...” said Desi, putting her large Lupe paw on his. “My name is DesertKauDawg. Call me Desi.”
“Nice to meet you!” said Majikn cheerfully. “Sean’s told me a lot about your owner. Did you know we found her by sheer accident after he stumbled into the wrong corridor on Virtupets?”
“No wonder she had no fashion sense!” exclaimed Desi. “She was around those geeky scientists all the time!”
“Heh, good one,” said Majikn. “Glad to see she’s readjusted well.”
An Island Faellie peeked out from behind the Shoyru’s leg, then nervously fluttered out towards Desi.
“Oh,” said Majikn. “That’s Rai. Cute, isn’t he?”
“Adorable,” agreed Desi, as Fortuna noticed the other Petpet and went to meet him. The two Petpets danced around each other, observing carefully. “That’s Fortuna.”
Majikn nodded. “Means ‘lucky’, doesn’t it?”
“Right,” said Desi. “I saved her from being eaten by Turmaculus.”
“Oh my gosh!” Kirsche exclaimed, drawing both Neopets’ attention to their owners. “You can’t be serious!?”
“For once,” said Sean, handing something out to Kirsche, “I actually am.” Despite her shock, that prompted a giggle from Kirsche as she nervously took the item. “I won big in the stock market. So that’s nothing.”
“Th-thank you so much!” Kirsche exclaimed, hugging her friend excitedly.
“What is it?” wondered Majikn, spreading his verdant green wings and fluttering off the ground so he could view the two humans from a better angle. His brown eyes widened, and he swooped back down to Desi’s eye level, hovering inches off the ground. “Wow, you are one lucky Lupe!” he exclaimed. “Sean just gave your owner a Lost Desert Paint Brush!”
Desi leapt to all fours. “What!? You’re serious!?”
Majikn laughed. “Man, you’re just like your owner! Better get in line!”
Dazedly, Desi walked to stand by Kirsche’s side as she took her place at the back of the line. The paintbrush dangled by the handle from her owner’s hand, and Desi couldn’t take her eyes off of its sparkling gold-and-blue striped paint, and the faint Eye of Horus carved into the base of the handle.
This was it. This was the item she had sought. The item that would make her truly complete. She didn’t seem to notice how the time crawled to sunset, then night, as the line inched on, how they kept taking tiny steps forward. She was entranced by the paintbrush.
Suddenly, she found herself in front of the pool, the crystal-clear water before her swirling and shimmering with other colors, faint like the iridescence in a soap bubble, and seeming to glow in the new moonlight. Her heart pounded in excitement as Kirsche knelt, and dipped the paint-covered end of the brush into the water. Eddies of gold and blue issued from the brush, rippling out in alternating, glistening bands of color until the entire pool looked like the paint that was once on the end of the brush, which was now fading in Kirsche’s trembling hand, vanishing into nothingness, leaving the Rainbow Pool ready.
Ready for her.
“Go ahead,” Kirsche whispered.
Desi closed her eyes, took and held a deep breath, and leapt into the glistening waters.
A tingling sensation enveloped her body, and, though she couldn’t see it, her cyan fur was shifting in shade. Azure. Cobalt. Midnight. Black. Chocolate. Mahogany. Burnt Orange.
A slight weight fell on her lower body as a brown and beige striped wrap secured itself around her, fastening on her underbelly about midway down her body. A blue metal cuff appeared on her left front leg, and a blue and gold collar appeared around her neck. Her head was weighed down as a black Anubis-style headdress with a short train of blue and gold cloth behind it appeared on her head.
She sensed the magic of the waters fading, and she swam to the surface, putting her front paws on the grass surrounding the pool. The glint of reflected moonlight on her cuff caught her eye, and she stared at her orange paws, and at the cuff that now adorned one of them.
“Desert... I’m Desert...”
“Yeah...” Kirsche said shakily. “Th... There’re people waiting behind us. Let’s go find a mirror.”
“Okay...” said Desi, pulling herself out of the pool, and instinctively shaking herself dry. The wetness was gone almost immediately.
She walked numbly behind Kirsche, her eyes not taking in the quiescent scenery of Neopia Central at night. All was still, allowing her to easily slip into the dazed mental chant. I’m Desert, I’m Desert, I’m Desert...
“Desi, look!” Kirsche said to get her attention, pointing at a full-length mirror in the window of the furniture shop. Desi gasped as she saw herself, reflected in her full Lost Desert glory. She turned to the side and swished her tail, admiring her reflection.
“I can’t believe it,” said Kirsche. “It’s like... You’re finally what you’re meant to be. I mean, all you’ve strived for...”
“You know,” said Desi dryly, cutting in, “I think it kind of ruins it when you start putting it into words.”
“What?” Kirsche looked around for the Fangy. She was nowhere in sight. “Do you think she wandered off?”
At that moment, Fortuna ran up, Rai fluttering along behind her. Fortuna roared and stamped the ground impatiently, then turned and looked over her shoulder, as if saying, “Follow me!”
“Oh, she must’ve walked off with Sean,” said Kirsche. “Well, let’s go!”
“Lead the way, Fortuna!” said Desi.
With another roar, Fortuna and Rai raced off, leaving Desi and Kirsche to run after them. The fatigue of having stood in line could wait. It was time to set off on the road to the Lost Desert!
“Yo,” said Sean, raising a hand in greeting as the four reached his campsite just outside of Neopia Central. He gave Desi an appraising look. “Desert looks good on Lupes,” he said.
“Thanks,” said Desi, plopping down beside Majikn by the softly-glowing campfire.
Kirsche sat down, stretching out her legs with a groan. “We waited in line all day...” she said.
Sean said nothing, his eyes (the left one forest green and the right one golden amber) speaking his sympathy for him. He handed her a cup of water, which she drank from thirstily.
“You guys can stay here for the night if you want,” he said. “I’ve got an extra tent I can pitch.”
“Sure,” said Kirsche. “Thanks.”
“So...” said Majikn as their owners began to pitch the tents. “How d’ya feel?”
“It’s... It’s amazing,” said Desi. “I mean, I had started to give up on ever being anything but blue.”
Majikn nodded. “I can’t say change still holds excitement for me. I’m the way I am because of luck with the Lab Ray. But before this, I’ve been all sorts of things. Species, color, gender – you name a combo, I’ve been it. Change is nothing new to me. Interesting to see a change for someone it’s special for.”
“What did you start as?”
“I don’t know... Let me think...” He leaned back, gazing up at the stars. “...Red male Shoyru. I think. It’s been a long time.” Spreading his wings to flatten them against the ground, he lay back. “Have you ever left Neopia Central?”
“Besides chasing Fortuna to Meridell once, nope,” said Desi, rolling onto her back, her front paws folded in and her back legs tucked at the knees, the paws dangling lazily. “But Kirsche sometimes leaves to tour Neopia. She always comes back with food and toys. I hope I’ll be able to accompany her someday.”
“I’m sure once you prove your stamina on this hike she’ll let you come with her.”
“I hope so.”
Their owners had already said goodnight and gone to their tents. Desi rolled over and crawled up to the can of NeoCola Sean had left for her, its pull tab open and a straw inserted into it. She took a few sips, then sighed and laid her head down on her paws.
“Hey, I think we’ll be going to the Lost Desert together,” said Majikn as she fell asleep. “Sean said we were going to Coltzan’s Shrine anyway.”
She mumbled an incoherent reply and swiftly dozed off.
To be continued...