Brandon woke up groggy, momentarily forgetting where he was, but then he remembered, as he felt the hot sun beating down on his face. He rolled over and saw that Alexi still slept with her board cradled close to her. She really is quite lovely, he said to himself.
She woke up suddenly and smiled at him. “What happened last night? All I remember is drinking from the coconut that had a taste of cinnamon in it.”
“I can’t say what happened, except that as soon as you fell asleep, I followed and just woke up moments ago. Perhaps we should get moving. The sun is beginning to blaze.”
“Can we at least have a bite of bread and a drink of water, first?
Brandon reached for the canteen that the night before was empty and found that it was filled to the top. “I see that we have fresh water again. I’m grateful.”
They ate briefly and then wrapped their heads to keep the sun off. “North is that direction,” Brandon said, mounting his board, while looking at his compass-watch.
After riding for about an hour, Brandon looked up when he heard a loud buzzing noise. “Oh no, it’s that ugly bat from yesterday, and the same beast is riding on its back again. Let’s step on it.”
They sped on their way but halted when they came to a stark, white, marble-like oasis. “The ground is slippery and I can’t control my board,” Alexi shouted.
Brandon turned to see where she was when he saw Colhozeh, the bat, overhead with Ordo on its back. Ordo reached and grabbed Alexi from her board, which shattered the moment she left it.
“I’ve got you now, and you won’t get away this time,” Ordo, Odious Gresham’s servant, roared.
“Let me go, you ugly beast,” Alexi screamed as she kicked and scratched at Ordo’s face.
“You’ll not go free. I have taken you for Odious Gresham, my master. Nevertheless, as I look upon you, I realize that I want you for myself. Colhozeh, I order you to take me to Bavai, ruler of the Zabbai Caves. He will perform the wedding ceremony.”
“This bat will do as he is told, as he is loyal to none. So you see, I have saved you from Odious Gresham, and you can be thankful because I may be uglier than he, but I am much kinder. Therefore stop kicking and scratching me, and shut up.”
Alexi stopped her fighting and shocked Ordo. “Colhozeh, I order you to take me to the man on the white stallion.”
Colhozeh screeched and whirled in circles but then finally answered, “Yes, my lady.” The bat turned around in search of the white stallion.
Ordo quickly ripped off the torn shirt covering Alexi’s head and stuffed part in her mouth and tied her hands with the rest. Then he ordered Ordo to head for the Zabbai Caves. Alexi continued to kick and holler, until she had no energy left. The next thing she knew she laid on hard ground with no vegetation in sight.
“Take her to my cave,” Bavai the handsome king, ruler of the Zabbai desert caves, said to Sambalat, his albino servant. “Take the woman and prepare her for the wedding as Ordo has asked.” As soon as Sambalat marshaled Alexi to the cave, Bavai turned to Ordo and said, “You are right, she is the most beautiful one I have seen in many years, but since you will die soon, she shall be mine.” At that Bavai stuck a knife in Ordo’s heart and he withered into dust.
Colhozeh watched the killing and then quickly flew away to find Odious Gresham and tell him what happened.
Alexi froze when she looked up at the albino monster, Sambalat. “Fear not,” he said in a raspy voice, your new master, Bavai, is much kinder that Ordo. Now we will prepare you for the poison waters. It will take two hours to purify you for my master. He wants to have you this very evening.” Sambalat laughed hideously.
“Oh my God, where could she be?” cried Brandon—for the first time since their arrival he began to fear for her life.
“You called for my Lord. How can He help you?” Silver Wing, appearing from out of nowhere, said.
“Where has that bat taken the girl?” Brandon said.
“She is in great danger and will need your help.” Silver Wing raised his arm and motioned toward the sky. “I am bringing you Imri. He will take you where you need to go.” With that, the man left and in his place came a magnificent, luminescent-blue unicorn with silver wings.”
“I am Imri. Jump on my back quickly, there is little time.”
Before Brandon could think how to climb up, he was instantly holding onto the silver bridle that surrounded Imri’s neck and they flew off. A strong wind and the smell of cinnamon surrounded Brandon, and fear welled up in him as the spicy air blew in his face.
“Where are we going?”
“I am taking you to Alexi,” Imri said. “You must listen carefully to my instructions if you are to rescue her.”
“I will drop you down in the Zabbai Desert directly in front of the caves that are filled with pools of poison water. When you go in, stay to the right side of the cave and keep your right hand on the wall at all times, if you manage this no one will detect your presence. At the third pool you will see Alexi. She will be half conscious from the poison water. Reach out your left hand and call her name. She will hear you and come close enough for you to grab her hand as long as you keep your right hand on the wall.
“When she touches you she will slowly move up out of the water, but she’ll be in a daze and may not know you. She will just obey your command to come. Once you have her hand in yours, you will immediately find yourself at the far end of the caves, and you will hear Bavai, the king coming toward you. He will order you to stop. Alexi will want to obey, but you must pull her along until you get into the open. As soon as you are outside, pick up a smooth stone and rub it on her lips to reduce the effects of the poison water.”
“Who is King Bavai?” Brandon asked. “What does he want with Alexi?”“He wants to wed her and make her part of his harem. Once he is through with her, his servant, Sambalat, will have his way with her as he does with all the women in his king’s harem. There is more, King Bavai wants you for his sister’s husband