A mage betrayed by a god,warriors sent by an aging king, who will the Desert People help?
|The Desert Kingdom
He was most favored of Zevran'lani, Lord of Death and Darkness, Sorcery and Sacrafice. Tall, lithe, muscular. Bronze-golden skin and blue-black hair that fell to the backs of his knees in braids and bone weavings.
A handsome and beautifully sculpted face with high cheekbones and large eyes the same color as his hair. Intricate tattoos ran up his arms in swaying flame-like lines, over his shoulders, up his entire neck, then in a straight column of dark flame down the middle of his back that ended at the end of the small of his back.
Another column went down the middle of his chest, mirroring the one on his back and ending just above his pelvic line.
His mother had named him Yaelakhi'Navi, Storm of the Desert, but the people of the desert name him Saelani'dae, Desert Shadow.
He gave his God all that he possessed, emotionally and materialistically, in worship of him. Yet when it came time for his God to give to him, He turned his eye away and let his most faithful servants' mother die and people suffer.
So in his anger, Yaelakhi'Navi, also known as Saelani'dae, gathered all the power his beloved Patron had favored him with and slew him in the Realm of the Gods; Draethanon.
Yaelakhi'Navi took his former Patrons power into himself, therefore making himself the equal of any God who may have tried to retaliate.
In his revenge, he ripped out Zevran'lani's eye and set it in the night sky so it would never be turned from his people again. And so was made the moon and with the blood the eye shed; the stars.
His vengence sated, Yaelakhi'Navi, it is said, took a reprieve and barracaded himself in the ruins of the Desert Kingdom.
Never to be found again.
Memories of Hardened Sand
The Sun God's burning glare was smothered by the night like a fire by a black cloth. The many snakes, lizards, and scorpions buried themselves deep within the many curves of sand to escape the coming cold; for the Night was just as harsh with its touch as the day.
In the desert you are either hot or cold, honorable or a coward; and the people of the desert lived by that code. There was no in between and no such thing as neutral. If you are not one, then you are the other.
There was a disturbance at the foot of one of many hills of sand. Silent, except for a soft hissing sound like the soft breath of the sleeping desert.
Two large camels crested the hill, each carrying one man on their backs. Behind them they pulled the objects which caused the hiss of sound. Large slates of wood, a blade the same length as the wood fitted into the bottom on each side of the slate, and various packs and belongings tied tightly on top of the wooden rectangles.
The sound of blades cutting sand.
Behind these camels and their burdens walked other men, women, and children all dressed in the same black cloth and in the same manner.
Lagging slightly behind were two boys, obviously a part of the group, but dallying. Teenagers judging by the size of them and by a certain measure of inattentiveness.
They spoke in low voices to each other.
"There was a kingdom here once, you know." said one who was slightly shorter than the other.
"Really? And where did you hear this?"
"It is one of our many legends, brother."
"Yes. And that is exactly where it should be; in the legends. You've been talking to Trynit'kalla again haven't you?"
The shorter one shrugged and fiddled with his belt.
"He is old and will always speak of times past. It does me no harm to listen, Traekye. Father always said that the past is something to learn from."
The sibilant hiss of a snake emitted from beneath the cloth covering the taller ones, Traekye's, face.
"Father is dead."
Traekye then lengthened his stride and left his younger brother to walk alone.
They traveled nonstop all night long, using the moon's light for as long as they were able. But as was inevitable, the sun rose again and forced the travelers to take shelter from its harsh glare.
Many hidden caves were scattered throughout their desert home. Some natural and some made by the hands of men. Which, mattered not, for as long as it was shadowed and empty of others, this clan would make use of it?
The younger of the previous night’s low speakers settled against a sandstone wall, worn smooth by time, and closed his eyes.
A short time passed before he heard the patterned sigh of air that was his brothers tread. He kept his eyes closed and felt his brother sit next to him, though he did not hear it. There was a moment of rest, a moment of silent apology for harsh words past spoken and forgiveness newly given.
Then, “So what happened to it? The Desert Kingdom?"
"The Barbarians came. They had heard tales of treasures and our wealth and had come to plunder. We were people of peace then. We worshipped our Gods and took care of ourselves; we did not know of battle.
"The Barbarians saw our great kingdom, its beauty, and our prosperity. Neither it nor we were a match for their swords. It was a slaughter. We didn't own weapons and did not know how to fight, so mothers, daughters, and sisters died and the men watched them fall, helpless to save them/stop it."
He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling a moment, seeing the terror so clearly in his mind.
"They say that the souls of the men of our people cried out at the sight of it as they watched and died. And so our God of War and Vengence was born. A God created out of the hopelessness, the anger and sorrow; the hatred.
"The Barbarians destroyed our kingdom, slaughtered our people, and stole our wealth. They left unmolested and with their pockets full. Those that survived turned their backs on the Gods who had turned Their eyes from them. Our people then worshipped a new God, the one of their own making; Vedikachi'Vanya, God of War and Vengence.
"And so we became warriors, men who no longer had anything and gave themselves up to the art of death and war; it became all we knew."
The younger looked at the older.
"Barbarians destroyed our kingdom and so we became wanderers. They took our wealth, and so we became poor. They slaughtered our people, and so we became few. And they shattered our peace, and so we have none."
The younger paused and yawned for a moment.
"Few now even know the names of the old gods and none are left who saw our kingdom fall."
Then he closed his eyes again and promptly went to sleep.
From the vantage point of the sky, an entire land was visible. Cool green grass, fertile earth beneath, and many trees and flowers above. Yet the closer one became to its center, the land was marred by the building/makings of men. The most offensive of all being the bloated and gaudy palace of the king.
Made of smooth white stone, built by the hands of slaves now long dead; those that did not fall during its making murdered after its completion.
Inside in a large and open room stood two men. One stood looking out of the space between two of the many columns surrounding the room. This one stood tall, but had the bearing of one who was once muscular and said muscle was now turning to fat.
Pale skin, light brown hair that had the look of being sweaty and greasy, and muddy brown eyes. This man turned to look at the other, who stood slightly hunched in on himself.
"I am coming to the end of my funds, Treasurer. This is a problem and you must fix it."
The man hunched over some more and took a tentative step forward.
"Majesty, if I may, we can always turn to the desert."
The King glared.
"What of it? Don't waste my time with over long explanations."
"Certainly not, Majesty. It is just that our ancestors went to the desert once and found great wealth---"
"Myths. Stories. You wish me to take such a thing seriously?"
"We have proof of their venturing and of the wealth they found there, Majesty. The savages who lived there were cowed and destroyed. Easily we can go back and take whatever was left behind that our ancestors could not carry."
And there was truly no other choice, not in the king’s eyes. He had too much pride in himself, so he had no peasants or farmers; no such poor ones in his land. The people were too used to soft life and would never work now.
So the king gave orders that? of his men prepare themselves to venture into the Desert, home of savages, to seek out new wealth for their king.
They were ready and on their way to their destination by nightfall.
The moon again graced the sky. And as with the moon, so with the people. They did not know that outsiders were coming once again, but they lived by the code of always being ready; they would not be caught completely unawares again.
The same scene as before, the brothers once again furthest to the back of the procession, yet they were fewer now.
Some of the old ones had died in the night; soon there would be none left.
"I am sorry, brother. I know how you treasure them." said the older brother, Traekye.
"You speak of them as if they are objects, not people with great wisdom."
"In honesty, Raelynis, the elders are useless to us. Their wisdom offers us nothing and they are extra burdens that slow our trek. I am not happy, but I can not say that I am sad to know them lost to us."
"How can you say that?"
"It is truth, Raeli. I have no qualms with speaking truth."
And so one brother was content, while the other raged inside.
Ships and Sand
The blue-green waters were choppy with the moons pull, and the ship rocked accordingly. The captain and his men handled it well, this being their element.
The soldiers, however, were deep in the hull discussing things; and they were not of a like mind.
"If I weren't so sure these desert savages were long dead, I'd be glad of the fighting." mumbled the big man with scar on his face and a prickly shadow of beard.
"Course they exist, Krov. Our ancestors couldn't have possibly killed them all. 'S only logical that some got away." replied the slim one who besides his muscular and slim shape, looked like a scholar.
" 'Sides, if they weren't real, they wouldn't have made a map for us to follow."
"It has to be a dead man's journey." said another one.
"Or else the King wouldn't have sent so few of us, Telo." said another.
Telo and Krov both looked to the one man who was always silent and thoughtful; which made him deadly.
"What say you?" Telo asked.
This man was their best warrior and their leader, yet he was not of their race but the yellow skinned slave to survive the extermination of his people and win his life in battle. He gazed at them with violet eyes.
"I say it matters not whether these people exist. All that matters is what we plan to do when we get there and what we may find lurking beneath the sand."
Sand/Sand Grains on the Wind
The desert wanderers still continued their nightly trek from cave to cave, and by the time they took shelter from the coming sunrise....they were one short.
One who was not equipped to walk the desert while it was awake, did so anyway. Black drew heat, which kept the wanderers warm during the night travels. This lone wanderer was smoldering and quickly losing the natural moisture of his body.
He dared not unclothe himself, for without the cloth he would have already been dead or dying from heat. His journey was a slow one, even with his inept ability to walk upon the sands surface. Raelynis traveled all of the day in that manner without faltering. Thirst and hunger were strong in him, but his people had been born anew in blood and sorrow into methodical warriors/killers.
The one who walked/stepped outside his clan never once looked back and promptly passed out by nightfall.
Flesh as Sand/Desert Flesh
The moon showed clear in the sky as a silvery curve. The desert looked smooth and solid; always the illusionist. A dark shape marred that perfection, arms and legs splayed, face down in the sand.
A slight tremor made the sand jump and slide, and the body moved slightly down a sand hill. Another tremor came that was larger and stronger than the first. Once that was over, all remained still and quiet in its wake. Then sand burst upwards from the ground, filling the air with like gritty smoke.
When it cleared, a deadly rival of the Desert Clans sat upon his unnatural mount. He surveyed his surroundings and with red eyes, alighted upon the black shape lying on the sand.
This creature was a sand goblin; its mount a scorpion two times larger than a horse. He looked the body over, quickly recognizing it as belonging to one of the Desert Clans.
Silent moments passed in contemplation of the situation, and then the goblin pulled the unconscious body over the back of his mount.
The fire in the sky burned brightly, heating the sand beneath it. From high up, six black dots could be seen that looked like pits in the surface of the sand. The black dots formed a circle with one lone dot in the middle, like the eye of the desert watching the sun.
The desert travelers had been forced, by lack of more substantial shelter nearby, to spend the day in their flimsy cloth tents. Most were content; the days going by as they always had. One desert traveler was far from content, and the most that were kept their distance.
Traekye was nearing the sharp end of his restraint, and he had the inclination to drive it into the throat of Syrik. This was the second sun to grace the sky and scorch the desert since one of their clan had gone missing. Syrik, the clan leader, did not think there was cause for urgency in the matter. He had done nothing to find Raelynis, and Traekye had kept his distance. He watched as Syrik left the warriors tent.
“Blood will be spilled if you don’t stop glaring at him like that.”
Traekye turned to stare into the golden eyes of his old friend Roekhi. The time had been long since they had last spoken. After his Father’s death, Traekye had isolated himself from the rest of the clan. Yet Raelynis hadn’t; Raely didn’t know how their Father had died.
“I will go and speak to him again.” Traekye replied. “If he refuses to look for my brother, then I will kill him and look for Raelynis myself.”
Roekhi grasped Traekye’s shoulder with a strong hand. “I will stand behind you, so that you may focus on what is ahead.”
The words were said in the way of a ritual. If the words were of a ritual, it was one he did not know. So he did nothing but accept them.