Yes: your mailbox wasn't playing you an April's Fool joke – this story finally gets an update! I apologize for the lateness, but with all the madness going around, it has been a struggle to actually writing this down. But I've managed to complete the next installments of most of my tales and so I'm uploading them now.

I hope that you're in good health (which is the most pressing concern at this time) and that these, little entries will help you pass the time during the global quarantine. Please enjoy the newest installment of "Forgotten Sands":

Chapter #15: True Faces

Title page: Zora in a jewelry shop is standing in front of a tall mirror, looking herself up and down as her body is covered with gems and trinkets

The reptilion slowly lifted himself up, his eyes set on Folko who too was slowly getting back up. The bounty hunter began dusting himself off as the guardian cracked his neck with a quiet grunt: "I'll give you this much:" the martial artist announced, gaining his opponent's attention. "You're quite troublesome for someone who turns into a giant chicken..."

"It's a hawk, dumbass!" the bounty hunter shot back annoyed. He quickly recollected himself, taking a deep breath while he flipped the sword in his grip, ready to resume the bout. Sure enough the guardian charged him a moment later, beating the distance in a blink of an eye.

With his knees bent, the reptilion pulled his right arm back, aiming to launch it at the teen's mid-section. As the punch whistled through the air, Folko used his free hand to block, all the while bringing his zweihander down on his opponent's head. To his surprise, the lizardman put his other arm into motion and slapping the flat side of the blade with an opened palm threw the swing off-course. In a flash the martial artist twirled his wrist and prepared to ram that same palm into the shapeshifter's face.

As the attack came, the bounty hunter leaned left, launching his knee at the guardian, but the latter reacted instantly and brought his opened palm down, stopping the assault and using the boy's leg as footing pushed himself into the air, somersaulting over the intruder. Landing behind the swordsman's back, the reptilion readied to drill his elbow into his adversary's spine, but Folko simultaneously threw his elbow backwards too, making the two blow's collide. Pain shoot through the both combatants' arms, making them pause for the briefest of moments, their faces twisted in a grimace.

They have recovered quickly though and post haste the lizardman spun on his foot stretching his arm to deliver a punch to his adversary's cheek. The shapeshifter ducked under the attack - spinning himself – and with his front facing the reptilion's again, he thrust his zweihander upwards, aiming to pierce the martial artist's elongated chin. The guardian jumped back, dodging the assault and snapped his tail at the teen, hoping to catch him off-guard, yet the bounty hunter merely lowered his head, hiding it behind the arm to block the blow.

Folko had no intention of giving his opponent a breather and immediately ran after him and spinning the sword above his head, he slashed downwards, attempting to cut the reptilion in two. The martial artists reacted instantaneously and with his feeet firmly on the floor, he bended forward, flipping his tail again, making it smack the huge blade from the side, throwing it off-course just enough to miss the lizardman's frame.

Meanwhile the guardian himself brought his palms closer to each other, releasing a hum from his mouth as his arms shook, like they were holding something that desperately tried to escape the grip. Suddenly snapping his eyes to glare at the teen, he readied to push them right into the shapeshifter's chest, yet just as he was about to do that, a familiar voice echoed through the chamber, making him freeze in his tracks:

"Lizor, ssstop!"

Both combatants turned their attention to one of the entrances to the room and saw another lizardman standing there, carrying a young, blue-haired girl on his back. Folko too stopped as he already flipped his wrist - prepared to take another swing - and raised his eyebrow at the development; clearly the new arrival was a comrade of his opponent, yet he was also helping Zora as far as he could tell, so it was best to learn all the facts before taking further action.

"Kewryn, what are you doing?" the guardian – apparently Lizor – questioned, relaxing a bit, his fighting stance gone. "Is that not one of the intruders on your back? Why are you assisting her?" he demanded in an accusatory manner, eyes narrowing.

"There ssseemsss to be... a rift within the enemy ranksss" the other reptilion began explaining while the girl slid down to the floor, Folko walking towards her. "According to thisss one" the lizardman went on, pointing at the female with his head. "Sssome of the intrudersss are not here by choice and might be willing to assssissst usss in chasssing the othersss away. Over our journey here she made a decent cassse for her claim, but there'sss alssso a bit much more troubling that isss the main reassson why I would prefer to refrain from unnecessssary fighting until we confirm it to be true or falssse..."

"And what claim might that be?" Lizor asked, still not convinced.

"Drakkan isss here" the one called Kewryn replied simply, making his comrade flinch at the name.

"That cannot be!" he responded strongly, shaking off the initial shock while tightening his fist, body trembling. "He is dead!Master Orrick executed him personally!"

"That isss the official versssion, yesss" the other reptilion agreed with a nod. "But if there'sss even a chance she'sss telling the truth, we have more pressssing mattersss to attend than sssuch pointlessss duelsss" he stated adamantly, looking his friend right in the eye. Lizor didn't react immediately; he just took a deep breath, holding the air in, knuckles turning white even through the scales. His own eyes twitched while the mouth trembled, opening and closing against his will. This was too much of news that he could digest easily.

Finally he let out a sigh, calming down before giving a nod of his own, unlocking his fists: "Right; if he is here, than he might be looking for revenge and that puts master Orrick at the center. Lets go" he said and immediately the two dashed towards the exit, ignoring the two humans that remained in the chamber.

"Are you alright?" Folko asked, slightly concerned as he helped Zora stand.

"I'll live" she assured him with a nod, her leg still aching. "I'm just a little... indisposed" she added with dismal. "We need to follow them and help" she announced, pointing after the two martial artists that just left.

"Huh?" the bounty hunter gave her a confused glance. "What in the Abyss are you talking about? This – whatever it is – isn't our fight. There's no point in getting involved..."

"So I assume you know a way out of this place?" Zora countered, immediately making her comrade pause. "Those two know their way around, so if nothing else they might lead us to the exit. That's enough reason to at least consider teaming up with them. And we do need to find Dhalia and Halan, those reptilions being our best chance at doing that as well. For now we don't have a lot of option."

"Fine" Folko finally agreed, although it was clear he was not too pleased with the predicament. "Hop on" he urge, placing the girl on his back. "And hold on" he warned before chasing after the two lizardmen, hoping he could still catch them...

-that time, Halan, Jin and Mufasa-

"I'm afraid you'll find me a most uncooperative prey" Halan announced, spinning the Moon Blade in his grip. Jin merely smirked at the statement and immediately charged forward, dragging the blade of his spear behind him, near the floor. Upon beating the distance, he swung diagonally, making the rogue block the attack with the pole of his own weapon. In a flash the teen released energy from his body, pouring it into his armament, much to Mufasa's surprise, even though the boy's opponent didn't seem shocked in the slightest.

So he's like Lailo and Shura the man concluded as the Moon Blade transformed into a long chain, ended with a scythe-like blade. In a blink of an eye the scar-faced warrior swirled his wrist, making the sharp end fly at the spearman's neck from the latter's right. The mercenary instantly jumped left, avoiding the slash at the last moment, all the while cutting horizontally, his own weapon aimed at the youth's legs.

Halan jumped over the swing and put his body into a spin, adding to the chain's momentum. Suddenly the threw the scythe-end of his weapon at the man, forcing the latter to flip back, the blade sinking into the floor. But as the young rogue landed on his feet, he dashed after his opponent, releasing more energy to reshape his armament, turning it into a huge hook as the tip of the blade ripped out of the ground. Beating the distance between himself and his adversary, the scar-faced teen readied the Claw for a swing, yet quickly leaned right as Jin thrust his spear forward.

The blade missed the youth by inches, but the mercenary wasn't done as he instantly made a half-circle with the polearm and swung horizontally again, this time aiming at the boy's neck. The maneuver forced the rogue to duck, but to the boy's surprise Jin suddenly spun the spear above his own head, changing the angle. Before long the blunt end of the weapon came at the scar-faced teen side, giving him just enough time to block with the massive hook.

Sliding the Claw downwards, Halan managed to located its blade to surround the pole and instantly swung up, pulling the spear up as well, creating an opening, which the rogue used relentlessly, cutting from above at the top of his opponent's head. The man saw the attack coming though and rolled right at the last second, dodging the slash, but at the same time the young thief released more energy from his body, making the Moon Blade shift back to its Sting form.

Using the momentum from the swing for extra speed, Halan threw his right arm left, launching the scythe blade straight at his adversary, who was only now coming to a stop. Unable to react in time, Jin took the blow to the left arm, allowing himself to grunt at the pain while the metal sunk into the body. Yet now the mercenary was fast to recover and pulling his wounded hand down, he grabbed the chain and with a twirl of the limb wrapped the chain around it. Pinning his enemy in place, the spearman immediately thrust his own weapon at the youth, but the rogue merely jumped over the assault and somersaulting over his opponent, landed to the other warrior's right.

In a flash the boy dashed forward, running behind his adversary and than swerved suddenly, sliding in the front, dragging the chain behind him. Within just a couple of seconds Jin found himself bounded by the Moon Blade, his hands tied by the long chain.

"This ends the fight" Halan announced seriously, pulling the chain to bind the man tighter. "And while I understand you're a little tied-up at the moment" he joked, making the mercenary grunt again and Mufasa sweat drop at the poor quality of the jest. "How about you tell me a bit as to what exactly is this all about? What is this artifact you mentioned that you people find worth killing for?" he questioned, a hint of disgust in his voice while his lips twisted in dismal; he is a thief, but there are lines one shouldn't cross.

"Just... a little relic from the past" Jin replied with a smirk.

"Well duh" the rogue responded, slightly annoyed. "By default relics are something from the past, you nitwit! Elaborate!" he demanded, pulling the chain harder.

"What is the point of explaining anything to a dead man?" the mercenary answered with a question, making Halan gave a confused expression just before he felt the tension of his weapon loosen, Jin sliding down to a crouch, the bind dropping around him.

Dammit, he flexed his muscles just as I tied him up the youth realized, while his opponent swung horizontally, forcing him to jump back. He he waited for the right time to relax to free himself! the teen concluded, feeling the tip of the spear grazing his chest, ripping the shirt. While merely a flesh wound, Halan was perfectly aware that the tables turned as did his best to pull his chain back – unable to transform the Moon Blade with the chain stretched to this extend – as he dodged a thrust from his adversary's weapon.

He leaned right as the second thrust came and swirled to avoid the third. Jin attacked ferociously, forcing the scar-faced thief back. The youth glanced over his shoulder - dodging one more, piercing attack – and saw a narrow tunnel just a little to his right. Ducking under a diagonal, upward swing, he ran towards the passage, releasing energy from his body again, making the Moon Blade fluctuate.

As the weapon took the shape of a crescent moon, the teen spun around and tossed the boomerang at his adversary with a yell: "Fourth stance: Wing!"

The sudden counter made Jin slow down and side-step right, thus allowing him to dodge the projectile and the next second move back left as the boomerang swerved and came at his back. As the Moon Blade flew pass its target, it returned to its master's grip just as he reached the tunnel. With his enemy jumping between the walls, the mercenary followed without hesitation, yet soon stopped, slightly confused as he saw the youth stand in the center of the aisle as it awaiting his arrival.

"No more running?" the man asked playfully, smirking under the nose.

"Wasn't the plan to begin with" the rogue replied with a smile of his own as he pointed one end of the Wing at his adversary. "You just made a tactical error by following me; in such a tight space you won't be able to maneuver your spear effectively, while my weapon has twelve forms, so of which work perfectly in these conditions. This is your loss..."

"I see" Jin nodded in understanding. "That is a surprising strategy; seems that you're smarter than I gave you credit for, but I fear you have made a grave miscalculation" he proclaimed, pushing his weapon forward. "Because this... is not a spear!" he announced, making the polearm suddenly separate into three sections, taking a form of a large nunchaku. Acting on instinct, the youth deflected the first attack that came his way, but the other end of the weapon flung at him from the side, the straight blade cut the skin, tainting the steel crimson.

A burning sensation erupted as Halan subconsciously grabbed the slash on his left arm, trying to stem the blood escaping his body. He glanced at the damage and than glare at his opponent, who now had a smug look on his face, allowing one section of his armament to rest on the shoulder: "See? You're not the only one with form-changing weapon" he teased, clearly enjoying himself.

"That was a pretty clever deception" the scar-faced boy admitted, letting go of his wound, eyes set on the mercenary. "But one thing to keep in mind while fighting a rogue... we don't play fair either" he stated and quickly stomped a nearby tile before dropping to floor. A loud click spread through the tunnel as a huge, stone trunk came flying down the passage, tied to the ceiling by thick ropes.

Jin only managed to widen his eyes before the massive pillar rammed right into his chest, shattering the nunchaku to pieces as it sent him flying through the air and out of the tunnel, only to crash hard against a column in the spacious chamber. The mercenary slid to the floor, knocked out. Halan on the other hand crawled out of the passage as well, avoiding the trap and pulled himself up, calmly walking towards his defeated adversary:

"Given what I've noticed during our journey through this place, that narrow passage was a perfect place of a trap of that sort" he explained, looking at his opponent's limp form. "While I didn't know your weapon wasn't a spear but... whatever in the Abyss it was... the plan was to allure you there specifically to use the trap against you, not limit your movement. The one that fell for the other's deception... was you."

"You really did beat him" Mufasa stated as he walked closer towards the teen. "Astounding. Even more so given your weapon; it did seem a little odd, but I wouldn't think it's a remnant of Balthazar. Further still you're able to activate it and seem quite adept at it... you youngsters are full of surprises..."

"Thanks for the praise, but lets not celebrate just yet" Halan purposed, placing the Moon Blade on his back. "We should find Zora and the others. While Folko can probably handle himself, I fear she and Dhalia may require assistance. Do you have any idea where we should go to meet up with them?"

"It's hard to determine, given that we don't know what Drakkan's minions goal is, but if they are after some, powerful artifact as Jin claimed, than I would imagine something like that to be kept either in the main chamber of the temple or in some vault" the archaeologist pondered, rubbing his chin. "In that case our destination remains the same as it was since he landed in the storage depot" he went on, looking around until he noticed a door frame on the eastern wall. "This way, I believe" he said, moving towards the exit with the youth following suit...

-same time, temple's main hall-

Beld flipped his left hand, throwing three kunai at the hooded figure, the projectiles forming a diagonal line. The mysterious guardian fled to his left, dodging the first two knives, all the while grabbing the third that went for his face by the handle in mid-flight. Immediately he ducked under the incoming shuriken, tossing his newly acquired weapon forward to deflect a second star that flew closer to the floor, following the other's trail.

A clang sounded as the two projectiles collided, but the hooded figure had no time rest; he instantly jumped back while more shuriken rained down on his position, digging into the floor as they missed him by inches. Coming to a sliding stop, the martial artist noted his opponent behind him and quickly spun on his foot, blocking a swing of the enemy's hand which held another kunai, this one aimed at the guardian's head.

As his risen arm stopped the attack, the mysterious warrior flinched upon noticing his adversary's grip loosening and quickly swirled right just before Beld tapped the handle of the knife, launching it forward at point-blank range. The weapon whizzed through the air, missing its mark, yet still struck the cloth of the hood, the momentum pulling the cloak off the fighter's head.

Dhalia's twitched from surprise, convinced her widen eyes were playing a trick on her due to the migraine. She shook her head lightly, trying to make sure that what she saw was real for before her stood a humanoid figure with a slick head of a lizard: elongated and covered with green scales. The predatory eyes – albeit somewhat tired - made her feel uneasy, especially when they shifted to her just as a new wave of pain washed over her, making her involuntary shut her eyelids.

The guardian narrowed his eyes slightly at the sight of the dazed girl, yet was quickly brought back to the present, bending back as Beld swung his right arm upwards, the huge shuriken from his back spinning wildly in his grip. While the buzzing of the steel star filled his ears, the lizardman bended further back and placing his hands on the floor launched his lower body up, kicking his opponent's wrist from bellow. The blow made the intruder let go of his weapon - the impact blasting it to the ceiling – as well as forcing the human to jump back on instinct, merely to gain some distance.

While in mid-flight he reached both hands beneath his coat and a moment later pulled out thin, black wires that housed a plethora of kunai and shuriken along their length, dangling by the rings. With a few sways of the arms to speed the whips up, Beld suddenly swung down, making the wires snap to unleash the barrage of projectiles directly at his opponent. The martial artist didn't flinch though and – in stead – thrust his right hand up, grabbing the huge, metal star that was dropping from above and put it into a spin to use as a shield.

The projectiles bounced off the spinning behemoth of a weapon, leaving its current wielder unharmed. With all of them deflected, the reptilion swung downwards, ramming one of the huge shuriken blades into the floor. The motion made Beld snicker while the lizardman returned to his fighting stance, ignoring the large armament beside him:

"You still insist to fight me with your bare hands?" the intruder asked playfully, a smirk plastered on his face. "You like being on the defensive so much? Since our duel began you've been only reacting to my attacks; I'm a master of long-range combat and – as such – the worst, possible match-up to your style of fighting. The only time you'll ever get close to me to even try landing a blow is when I'll allow it..."

"Skilled you are with those toys, young one" the reptilion admitted calmly. "But you are wrong to assume that I cannot defeat you without getting close" he added, much to Dhalia's confusion, but just as she raised her eyebrow at the statement the martial artist pulled his arm back only to throw it forward the next second, its opened palm aimed at his adversary.

In a blink of an eye Beld felt air being knocked out of his lungs as air pressure smacked him in the chest, the impact sending him flying back, eyes bulging. The blonde's mouth went agape at the development and even Shura seemed to flinch a bit at the sight of her companion taking a blow. The guardian wasted no time to gloat or be amazed though as he immediately rushed forward, closing the distance between himself and the intruder in a fraction of a second.

Reaching his opponent's inert body, he landed a rising kick to the back, launching the human upwards. As Beld's form flew vertically, the reptilion bended his knees, retreating his arms as well, elbows near the waist while his palms balled into fists. Once his adversary began his descent, the lizardman bolted up, unleashing his hands at the former's back, delivering two devastating blows.

Beld released a wheeze from his mouth just before the martial artist slowly lowered his arms, allowing the intruder's limp body to roll onto the floor, his consciousness lost. The reptilion stared at his enemy's battered form for a moment before taking a few steps back, allowing himself to let out a sigh, but whether this was relief or regret Dhalia couldn't tell.

"It would appear Beld is no match" the black-haired woman noted without any trace of grief or concern, calmly reaching for her metal ring, her eyes set on the reptilion. "Guess it's my turn" but just as she readied to attack, a grim voice made her freeze in her tracks, sending involuntary shiver down her spine:

"Stand down Shura" the order echoed through the chamber, making everyone gather, who was still conscious, glance up to see a hooded figure standing on clasped arms of one of the statues. "You're only be wasting time and energy; there is no way for you to defeat him..."

That voice the lizardman noticed immediately, narrowing his eyes at the realization: "Drakkan..."

At hearing the name the new arrival took off his hood to reveal a reptilion's head, but unlike the guardian his scales were of dark brown color and appeared thicker: "Hello... master Orrick" the leader of the mercenaries greeted the martial artist with a hint of delight in his tone. Promptly he jumped off his spot, landing on a bended knee before the other lizardman, his mouth formed in what Dhalia recognized as a smile.

So he was a reptilion too she concluded, staring at Drakkan as the latter tossed the cloak to the side, revealing a rather massive body, full of muscles wrapped within the same, thick scales as his head. I guess that explains how he knew about the entrance, but clearly he's no in-league with this... Orrick or whatever the name is. What in the Abyss is going on here?

"I see you haven't change much, master" the larger reptilion stated, glancing at the fallen form of Beld. "Leaving your opponent alive is a weakness that just sets yourself up for death" he proclaimed, shifting his attention back to the guardian. "It is that lack of resolve that set all of this in motion" he announced, extending his arms outward. The one called Orrick narrowed his eyes even further, sliding into his fighting stance, which seemed to amuse Drakkan: "You know why I'm here..."

"I do" the guardian nodded. "And you still won't have it."

To this the brown-scaled humanoid chuckled before also going into a fighting stance, surprisingly similar to the one of his adversary: "I'm afraid you are mistaken; I am not the same as I was ten years ago. I will take the scroll and nothing shall stand in my way. Especially not you, you old fart" he announced, his voice turning grim...

-a shocking revelation!-