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Chapter 4: Desert Cousin

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Walking into the town of Dora, you could feel an immense climate change from snow to desert. We found Dora's house and, when I knocked, I heard a quiet voice from inside.

"Who is it?"

"Uh, we're looking for Dora," I answered.

"Well, um..." the voice fell silent for a while.

"May we come in?" Andrew asked.

"Uh, sure..." The door opened and we saw a young woman with dark hair. "Who-who are you?"

"I'm Andrew," he started. "This is Stephan, Jennifer, and Stan."

"Stephan?" she said somewhat surprisingly. "Are you Fora's grandson?"

"Uh, yeah. Who are you?"

"I'm Helen; Dora's granddaughter. Fora was her brother." She started to sound louder. "Do you think you can help me?"

"With what?"

"Dora's been kidnapped!"

"What?" we all yelled.

"She was taken by a green, bandit-like guy and they headed for the desert. They're likely at the pyramid by now."

"A bandit?" Andrew repeated. "How big is the desert?"

"It's not very big," Helen said. "But there's a set path you have to follow, otherwise you'd sink. Grandma and I go there all the time, so I have a map here somewhere... hold on." She went into one of the back rooms and came back out a few minutes later. "Here's the map," she said as she handed me the map. "Be careful, okay?"

"Would you like to come with us?" Andrew asked.

"Oh, no," Helen started to back away. "I don't want to fight him. I mean, I want my grandmother back, but I don't want to fight."

"We understand. We'll be back, Helen." Andrew directed us outside and we took off for the desert.

The desert wasn't too big, as we could see the pyramid from the start of the desert, but it looked easy to get lost without the path. Andrew picked up a nearby rock and threw it off the path to see what happened. The rock instantly sank, signifying quicksand in the areas off the path. We stayed in a line and they followed me as I followed the map. The map directed us to go almost all over the desert a certain path, making getting to the pyramid take longer than it should. We've been walking for an hour now and we're just over halfway there. Our feet are killing us. By the time we got to the pyramid, we collapsed at its entrance. Looking ahead, the pyramid seemed to go down forever. Andrew took the lead and we were all careful not to slip on the slope. We weren't far down when we heard a grinding noise. I turned around and saw Stan lift his foot up. A pressure switch was activated. Stan let out an apologizing grunt as we heard a loud thud coming from the entrance followed by a large rolling noise.

"Boulder Trap!" Andrew yelled. "Run!" We all took off farther down the pyramid, constantly tripping due to the speed we were running at. Looking back, I could see the boulder come into view. The boulder was getting close! We continued running and made it into a room just as the boulder crashed into the entrance of the room. The boulder blocked the way out and the gust of air it created caused the torches in the room to go out, leaving us in darkness.

"I'm getting sick of the dark," Jennifer said.

"At least we're safe for now," Andrew said. "Let's see how far we can go. Stan?" Stan lit up his fire wand revealing that we were in a round room. I looked back.

"Good thing we can just warp out of here," I said. We continued down the room. Stan's wand was the only source of light we had. As we continued, I could make out a small dot of light. "Think that's the exit?" I asked.

"Or a well lit room," Andrew answered. "Come on." We all ran forward into the room, each of us being blinded by the contrast from Stan's light to the room's light.

"Who are you supposed to be?" a voice said ahead of us. I looked up and saw a green-garbed thief, just like Helen described.

"You're the one that kidnapped Dora!" I yelled.

"Maybe at first," a voice said. I turned and saw a Dora, sitting on a small boulder. "but I'm perfectly fine now."

"You're alright?" Andrew asked.

"Yes, of course," Dora said.

"I had no intention of harming her," the thief said. "I was merely following orders."

"Who's orders?" I asked. "And who are you?"

"Exitilus's orders and I call myself Blide. Exitilus told me to kill Dora in return for... something."

"But I told him Exitilus will not help him, he's only using him." Dora stood up. "I told him I would help Blide here after you guys defeat him."

"So you're the ones going after Exitilus?" Blide asked.

"That's right," I answered.

"You should be careful; Exitilus is a strong, powerful wizard. He does have his own Gem."

"What was he going to give you, Blide?" Andrew asked.

"...I'd... rather keep that to myself, if that's alright. Anyway, you guys should take Dora back home. I'm gonna go talk to Exitilus."

"Where is he?" I asked.

"He's in Cora,"

"How are you going to get there?" Andrew asked. "You can't climb the mountains."

"I know, that's why I went under it. Cora's well is connected to another: Yora's. Remember that."

"We will," I said.

"Good. Now then, I believe you trapped us here with that boulder of yours, so if you wouldn't mind getting us out, Dora,"

"Very well," Dora held out her Gem and we were instantly warped back to the town of Dora. Blide immediately took his leave.

"Good luck, you'll need it," he said as he took off. The rest of us walked into Dora's house and we heard a happy cheer come from Helen as she ran up to hug Dora.

"Grandma! You're okay!" she said, sobbingly.

"Yes, I am." Dora said as she hugged her back. "Thank you, young heroes. I think you'll be needed this." She tossed her Gem out to me.

"Thank you and you're welcome," I said. "Glad to see your family back together."

"Thank you, Stephan," Helen said. "And Andrew, Jennifer, and Stan. Thank you for bringing back my grandmother."

"Alright, enough with the thank yous," Stan said. "We should get going. Exitilus isn't gonna stop himself."

"Right," Dora said. "But you should stay for the night. Nighttime can be brutal here if you're not inside."

"We will take you up on your offer," Andrew said.

When morning came, Andrew and I did our usual routine: Stock up on supplies, get our gear together, and train. This time, though, Jennifer trained with us. It was different having to deal with her arrows and Andrew's sword. Though no one was on a team, they seemed to fight me more than they did each other. When it came time to leave, Helen ran up to us.

"Hold on!" she yelled. When she reached us, she exclaimed "I want to come with you!"

"I thought you said you don't like fighting," Andrew said.

"I don't," she answered. "But I want to help take down this Exitilus. Grandma was there the first time he fell and I want to be there this time. So, please, take me with you. I have a whip here I can use."

"I don't see why not," I said. "It'd be nice to have someone in my family with us."

"I'm glad I'm not the only girl in the group anymore," Jennifer laughed.

"Great, another mouth to feed," Stan said.

"Oh, shut up," Jennifer said. Helen laughed and we continued on our journey.

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