She narrowed her eyes against the unforgiving light of the scorching sun, the linen over her mouth to protect her lungs from the sandy winds not able to make her forget about her cracked, swollen lips, deprived of water. One foot, she thought. One foot, then the other. And continue like that. Behind her lay the lonesome trail of her boots, footsteps in the red dunes, leading all the way back to a small crevasse, above which vultures circled. Her horse had not made it.
Hours passed by, torturously slow like her pace. Before her lay nothing but miles and miles of stretched out sand, dunes and plains of nothing. It looked so soft, like a silk veil, like the curve of a feminine hip, but the sight did not match the harsh reality; this place was the end of all life. There was nothing but silence around the woman, there were no snakes, no beetles, no desert foxes, not even a lone cactus. Just sand. Sand, and the sun.
She stumbled. She had to keep going, to keep moving. If she'd drop, she'd die. As long as she kept heading to the west, she would make it out. The woman lifted her tanned face to the open sky above her, looking at the position of the searing orb that ruled this place. Noon. The heat was at its peak. She stumbled again, and fell to her knees. Panting, she looked around, at the trembling air that simmered over the sand. She could not remember when she had that last swig of water, had it been a day? More? She closed her eyes, tried to steady her breath. Around her, the trembling air started to take on shapes. The thick, hot silence around her seemed to start whispering. The sun was right above her. During another day, in another place, with fresh water and a cool breeze, the woman would have known a delirium was hitting her, along with insanity, deprived as she was from rest and water. But now, in this moment, surrounded by nothing but sand and the scorching heat of the sun, another set of rules applied to the world. The woman parted her cracked lips.
“Let me pass.”
She was hoarse, as if she had been drinking of the very grains of sand that surrounded her. Yet her words broke the silence like a thunder. She cringed, trying to remain conscious, as the shapes around her seemed to draw near, and the whispering continued.
“You have strayed, daughter of Gilane... Too far. This is where I rule.” The woman placed her palms in front of her, refusing to fall down entirely. Even in this moment, she set her jaw stubbornly and looked up at the sun, defying its brightness.
“And I am a child of Hammerfell, one of your own. Let me pass.”
“Is that so? Do you honour my name, Sahar? Do you respect the forces you have encountered whilst you travelled my lands?”
The woman coughed, trying to get rid of the dry lump that had been stuck in her throat for hours and hours. She could not faint, she would die if she did.
“You will die here.”
The trembling shapes in the air seemed to close in around her. The woman clawed her hands into fists, her fingers digging in the fine sand under her. “No.”
“Why would you live? You wandered into my realm, recklessly.”
“Because I'm not afraid.”
“Or simply foolish.”
“I'm stronger than this.”
“All life is arrogant. That is why I make you remember.”
If only she could close her eyes, only for a while. Perhaps she should. Sleep, give in, forget about the thirst and the dust. The woman suddenly groaned, pushing the thoughts away. With another groan she planted her heel in the sand, and then the other. Slowly she rose, standing up straight, and lifted her face towards the golden orb. Around her, the shapes in the air seemed to reach out for her with hot fingers, wanting to drag her back down. With a shaking, unsteady hand, the woman drew her curved blade. With a broken, cracked voice, she managed to yell into the sky, towards the sun itself.
“I'm not afraid, I'm standing! Do you want proof, to see who I am? Let me live!”
The air seemed to grow thick as stone, attempting to crush her. The shapes hummed lowly, reaching for her. The woman trembled violently, withstanding the test that was being thrown her way. Then, final words rung through her ears.
In an instant, the shapes vanished. The air seemed to clear, although the heat remained strong as ever. With a gasp, the young woman fell to her knees again, as if she had been running for miles. She licked her cracked lips and crawled a few steps before she lifted her head. She blinked a couple of times, making sure her mind was not playing tricks. Then, despite her condition, the hunger, the thirst, and the weariness, she smiled a broken yet victorious smile. Ahead of her, she could make out the unmistakable shapes of palm trees.
She snapped out of her thoughts, and looked over her shoulder. The young guard who had halted Sahar a mere week ago, along with his Orcish companion, hesitantly approached. She stood at the edge of the camp, looking over the barren land that stretched into the Alik'r Desert in the east. The sun was setting, and a slight breeze made the dozens of amulets, beads and discs on her attire jingle softly.
“The Patriarch asked for you.”
“I'll be right with him.”
Sahar turned her face back to the view in front of her. The young guard shuffled around a bit, torn between the fact he was supposed to get back to his post immediately, and the matter of him being curious. “What were you doing out here, Sahar?”
Without averting her gaze, she slowly blinked. The last rays of sunlight reflected upon her swords.
This post was last modified: August 24th 2013 10:13 AM by Triskele