Blood on Sand

Here, finally, is the story that I wrote during my time off around Thanksgiving/what I did as my mini NaNoWriMo story. I had meant to split it into a few chapters, but, well, that never really happened.

I also wrote a few other, much shorter things for NaNoWriMo during that time, but I may hold on to posting them for a little bit (actually, for one of them, I might wait until I’ve written and posted a different Kyreth story).

 

Work isn’t easy in the desert. It takes time, more than time, to just make the smallest thing grow in the debilitating and suffocating sands. The intensity of sun, dryness, and wind makes life difficult, when not impossible.
Honestly, I don’t really know why we live here. Why life at all has ever come to this planet. Sure, we have some oceans. Well, seas. Big lakes, then. Aside from the underground springs that are so fortunately spread out through the predominating land masses, they were the only water. And those springs, really, were the one bare thread that we had keeping us alive in our desert.
I am a farmer, or was. Now… I don’t know what. I’ve become a nomad, in a way, though I doubt I will survive much longer as such.
Let me tell my story, in the hopes that someone, sometime, may find this chronicle of some use or importance.

I woke up, the sunlight already shining brightly through my window, the rays scattering due to the unevenness of the glass. I lay looking at the sunlight and wondering how the glass does that for a moment before realizing the importance of the fact that the sun is shining brightly; the sun was up, the morning had already started, and I had been sleeping.
I got up, changed out of the clothes I had been sleeping in and into the easily breathable workclothes that I wore during the day.
After getting dressed and eating a decently large breakfast, I mixed together some of my constantly-used sourdough starter with flour and water. I then took the short walk to my fields after grabbing a small wicker basket from a cupboard near the door.
I primarily farm wheat, corn, and hay, but also have a smaller field in which I grow my personal supply of groceries such as tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, and cabbage, among other things. The sand in which it was all planted had been mixed with fertilizer, as well as the powder of a rock called “solemni”, discovered generations ago, that, for some reason, retains water long enough to make the sand into a substance that provides a suitable growing area for plants. The underground springs, as I already noted, provided almost all of the necessary water; the only other time that water came was during one of the rainstorms that came two or three times a year.
It is already the late summer, nearing the beginning of the fall, and the wheat was nearing its harvest. I ran my hand through some of the heads of wheat, the rough grasses running across my skin. I suppose, one day in my past, that might have been uncomfortable, or even hurt. But after twenty years of farming, my hands were thick with callouses, and the wheat was just a gentle tingling on my skin.
The corn, too, was nearing its harvest, but not as much as the wheat; it seemed to still need a month or so before it was fully ready.
The grasses that would eventually be dried into hay, for sale in town as feed for cows, horses, and other livestock, and it was already quite tall, though still green and growing. It would be several more months before it would be harvested.
From the angle the sun, I estimated that it was already close to halfway through the morning. I couldn’t believe I had slept so long – I never did. A farmer’s work is never done, after all, and, unlike many of the craftsmen in town, I didn’t get weekends off. I was quite punctual, always waking up just as the sun began to peek over the horizon. There was no reason for me to be extraordinarily tired, as I always went to bed shortly after the sun set.
I had walked past the wheat and corn, and was midway through the hay. A minute later, I was past that as well, and looking at my personal garden. Several tomatoes were plump, and a bright red, and I picked these and put them in my basket. A large sum of peppers were also ready, which I picked and put in my basket alongside the tomatoes. I could only eat so many peppers, so I made some of the extras into a spicy pepper sauce that I sold in town, and was surprisingly popular there.
There were a few heads of lettuce that were also ripe, which I put in the basket. As I rounded the corner of the garden, I noticed that, on the back side of the corn field, there were plants trampled around the edge, and some of the corn had been eaten away.
The plants on the edge were wildwane, a plant that repelled wildlife of almost all kinds, for some unknown reason. Most farmers grew a small hedge of it around their crops, to prevent them from being eaten. It looked like something here had gotten enough of a running start to plunge through the wildwane to get to the corn, something that happened a few times a year.
I sighed. I would have to transplant some of the wildwane plants from elsewhere in the hedge to fill up the gap. I noticed that it seemed that a lot of the plants had already gone to seed, which meant that I could also plant some more seeds for it, for next year. Thankfully, it was a perennial, which meant that I didn’t have to waste time planting those in the spring, when I should be planting the crops.
I picked a few cucumbers and summer squashes, then brought the basket of produce inside, where it could stay while I mended the gap.
After I had done all of this, it was already in the afternoon, and the sun had for some time been throwing down its unadulterated rays. I wiped my brow and headed inside.
I made a sandwich with bread and the vegetables I had picked earlier, mixed more flour and the last of my salt into the sourdough and shaped it into two round loaves, covering them with a cloth, made sure that the canteen I always carried with me was full, then headed into town, which was a fifteen minute walk.
I was conveniently close to town, for being a farm; most of the others were miles out, not to mention that I actually had neighbors, at least to an extent. There were a few houses within eyeshot of mine. Marie Convall, the old widow who lived in the small house closest to mine was a knitter, and was sitting on her porch, doing her trade, as I walked past. I waved to her.
“Good afternoon, Marie.”
She gave me a sweet smile, nodded, and replied, “Going to town, Mr. Elenin? Any pepper sauce?”
“No, just going in to get some salt and a few other ingredients. Some news would be nice, too.”
“Well, get on your way then, Kerr.”
“Anything for me to bring into town with me?” I asked.
“Actually, yes. I have two wind scarves and three pairs of gloves. I’ll go get them.”
She stood up, went inside, and returned a few minutes later with a small bag.
“Here it is. Just stop by when you get the chance to drop off whatever money Polta gives me for them.”
I nodded, then headed back down the road into town. Gradually, more and more houses came around me, followed by several storefronts, and then the market, which was full of activity. I turned, first, into Polta’s shop, a general store where Marie sold her goods.
I passed the bag over to Polta, a large man who looked better suited to blacksmithing than running a store, and he looked them over.
“I’m delivering these for Marie.”
“I see, I see. Hmm. Did she say a price she wanted for them, or?”
“Nope.”
He deliberated for a minute, then unlocked and reached into a drawer, and gave me twelve pouvoons, the currency used here. I took it, nodded to Polta, put it in a pocket, then headed out the door and into another store across the street, which had some things I needed at it.
I opened the door, and was immediately greeted by the smile of Cassia, the shopkeeper.
She walked over to me, held up a hand, and spoke. “A bag of salt, six eggs, and peppermint.”
I shook my head wearily. “How do you do that? Every time.”
She smiled again. “I just know you, Kerr. Shouldn’t that be obvious, by now?”
“All too much,” I muttered.
She rolled her eyes, then went behind the counter and got the things that I needed. A young woman came out of a back door while she was doing so, and her face flushed as soon as she saw me. She turned to organize something on a shelf, purposefully not looking in my direction.
I turned to lean on the counter, where Cassia put the things I ordered. She darted her eyes at the girl, then looked back at me. “You know she likes you, don’t you?”
“It’s kind of hard to miss,” I answered.
“You know,” Cassia said, touching a finger to her lips, “she might be a good fit for you. Young, full of energy, wanting a husband… And it’s about time you got a wife.”
I shook my head. “No. I can’t. Or, not right now. I don’t know. I just have the feeling that I don’t need one. Or something.”
Cassia narrowed her eyes. “But you still want one, don’t you.”
I put my head down, then brought it up again and looked in her eyes. “How much for the food?”
She pulled away from the counter. “Five pouvoons, as usual.”
“Okay, then.” I put the money on the counter, then turned to leave, then realized that there was something else I had intended to get. “Any news that I should know about?”
“The Earth Quay skirmish finally ended. Someone named Leban helped end it, I guess. Nothing much other than that, though.”
“Hmm. That had been going on for some time, hadn’t it?”
Cassia nodded.
“Well, anyway, thanks. Bye, Cassia. Bye, Isabelle,” I said over my shoulder. The young woman let out a small squeak, and I closed the door behind me.
I took a long drink from my canteen, then headed back towards my farm. I stopped at Marie’s house on the way.
She wasn’t sitting outside, anymore, so I went onto her porch and knocked at the door. She came to answer it, greeted me, and invited me in for some tea.
“No, thank you, though. Here’s the money from Polta,”
She took it and counted it. “Twelve? He’s really started to give me more than usual, recently. Probably some nonsense about me being ‘a decrepit old woman’ or something. Hah. Well, if you’re sure you don’t want to come in for some tea, let me at least…”
She walked away from the door, then returned in a few minutes with a small parcel wrapped in paper and tied with a string. “Just a little something for you.”
I sighed, took it, and smiled. “Thanks. I’ll be on my way, now.”
I turned and walked off the wooden porch, and continued on the road to my farm. In a minute, I opened the parcel and found four buns, each filled with a sweet almond paste. She says that she doesn’t want any nonsense from Polta about being old, but she does much the same to me, about being alone. She pities me, or something. Most people who really know me do, I guess.
I arrived at home, put the things I had bought away, and put the loaves of sourdough bread in the sun-oven that was in a small building outside my house.
The entire top was made of glass, and the inside was painted black. The inside walls were made of stone, which trapped the heat, and, by the late afternoon, it was more than hot enough to bake bread.
While I was there, I filled a pot with boiling water, which was made in the same building, through much the same process.
I went back into my house and put a spoonful of the peppermint leaves in the water, breathing in the smell. Once it had steeped, I poured a cup of the tisane and took one of the buns out of the package. I closed my eyes, tried to relax, and enjoyed the food and drink.
I read one of my few books for a while, then went out to check on the bread. I sprayed it with a bit of water, to develop the crust. It looked like it still needed a few more minutes.
While I waited, I walked back to my garden and dug up one of the few remaining potato plants. I then walked back to the sun-oven, retrieved my bread, and took everything into the house. While the bread cooled, I brought a pot out to get more boiling water, then put it on my wood stove. I then chopped up the potatoes and some vegetables I had picked earlier in the week, and tossed them into the water with some of my salt.
As it simmered, I cut off a few slices of the bread. The tangy odor was just right, and I ate a slice before the soup was yet done.
When it finished, I ladled off a bowl of it and ate the rest of the slices of bread. When I was full, I washed my bowl, knife, and spoon, put the bread away, and left the pot of soup on the counter; it would be good as a quick breakfast in the morning.
Filled with the warmness of the soup and tea, and already tired from the work of the day, I took off my rough workclothes and put on the softer clothes reserved for sleeping. I laid down in my bed, pulled the covers over myself, and looked out the windows at the stars that shone so brilliantly over the sand.
My life was enjoyable. It was not easy, but it was the perfect degree of difficulty that gave you satisfaction for making it through a day, every day. Along with that satisfaction always came a hunger for the challenge of the next day.
I fell asleep.
I woke up, the sunlight already shining brightly through my window, the rays scattering due to the unevenness of the glass. But, wait, no. That was not sunlight. It wavered too much, and was too… red. But outside that redness, there was more dark than there would be. Then I realized, furthermore, that there were screams. Cries of desparation, calling for help from anyone, even from the threat itself, to save them.
I sprang out of bed and looked out the window. It was hard to tell from the distance, but it looked like some of the houses of my closer neighbors were on fire, and I thought I saw people moving around.
I quickly changed and, on my way out the door, grabbed the rest of the sourdough bread from the previous night. I didn’t know what I was headed into, but I wanted to be ready for it in some way, at least.
As soon as I was out, I ran towards the closest house on fire that I could see. I wished, hoped, prayed that it wasn’t Marie’s house, but, as I approached, I realized that it was. The people moving around outside weren’t any that I recognized. At all. They didn’t look like anyone that lived around here, or even would live around here. Their skin was much lighter than the deep brown of all that lived in this village and its surrounding area, and they moved so… quickly. Lithely, even.
As soon as I came to the house and the people, I knew two things. One was that I should not have come. They might have not seen my house had I not come from that direction. The second was that these were the vethani.
For some reason, out village had seemed to avoid any encounters or conflicts with the vethani. We had only heard of them from other villages, and that was more than enough for us.
The vethani often acted as assassins, usually hired by politicians in the cities who needed people to die. They, purportedly, had never had a failed assassination. The only thing was that they didn’t always leave the person who hired them alive for long, either. It was rumored that they could kill people just by thinking about it, which was obviously far-stretched. It was clear, though, that they were incredibly dangerous, and that was when they had a job.
When they didn’t, they roamed from city to city and village to village. They would rob the houses and kill people, sometimes if they got in their way, sometimes just for the hell of it.
And now they were here. They seemed to also enjoy burning things. There was no doubt that Marie was dead. I knew that I should feel some emotion for her death, but any emotion at the time seemed impossible. There was nothing I could do, the unthinkable had happened, the vethani had come. I suppose, deep down, that had always been my one true fear, no doubt many people’s one true fear, though for some reason it had never actually occured to me that I feared it happening. It was like having your house robbed. You knew it happened to other people, but for some reason, you never even consider it happening to you.
But it does. And it just had. The two vethani – I thought it was one man and one woman, though I couldn’t tell – crept forward towards me. No doubt they would kill me then raid my house and farm.
They each drew four small knives, two in each hand, without a hestitation in their approach. The fire glinted off of their teeth.
I realized I was crushing the bread in my hands. In some ridiculous act of desparation, I held it out to them, pleading for my life with it as the bargaining chip. They did not sway.
Then, a voice came from behind them, sharp, but definitely of someone older than them. They halted, and stood upright. I realized then that they were surprisingly short, several inches shorter than me, I being only of an average height.
They pulled apart and let the owner of the voice through. He was, indeed, much older than they, walking with a hunch that seemed partially faked. Though his skin was old, his lean muscles still looked firm and ready to strike. He carried a stick, using it as a crutch, though I doubted whether he actually needed it.
His eyes were squinted, looking at me dubiously. He began a slow walk around me, then nodded.
The two vethani put their knives away and came to stand on either side of me, grasping my shoulders and arms. It was, as I had thought, a man and a woman, though their body shapes and sizes were very similar. Very lean, with shoulders and hips almost the same width. Both of them had their hair cut eye-level.
Their hold on my arms and shoulders was firm, and I walked forward at a slow pace when they pushed me along. The older vethani turned and walked in front. We slowly walked toward and through the town, past the fire, screaming, and death. There was no exaggeration in what people had reported of the vethani. They were completely and utterly ruthless. As we walked, though, more and more vethani from in the town left what they were doing and joined the group. We walked out of town, progressing at the same slow rate.
We proceeded through the dark desert. The warmth from the sand was the only thing that took the chill out of the wind; over the desert in the night blew a sharp, cold wind, a stark contrast to the hot, dry one that existed during the day.
I wished that I had brought my coat with me. My work clothes were meant to breathe, not to keep heat in. The breeze blew through them effortlessly, chilling the sweat that covered me. That cold wasn’t the only thing to cause me to shake and my teeth to chatter, though.
We walked for hours. By the time that we stopped, in a makeshift village, the horizon had just started to lighten with the dawn.
Their small community was comprised of ten or so tents, ranging from a one-person tent to one that would fit a whole family, with some room remaining. They had two or three campfires, most with a metal tripod which could hold up a pot.
In one of the larger tents, a small boy stood, gripping the centerpole, looking out at me in wonder. I assumed that it wasn’t common that they had visitors. After gathering further strange and shocked looks, I began to wonder if they had ever had a non-vethani step foot in their camp. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign, or bad.
Gradually, the vethani in our small party left the group, going to their respective tents and fires, leaving only the old man, the two vethani who led me on, and I. I had no idea what was going to happen.
The boy I had seen in the tent kept looking at me, though, and came out of the tent and followed behind cautiously, at a distance. He wasn’t able to get very far, though, because the old man ducked into a medium-sized tent, and the two vethani who guided me pushed me in, then came in themselves.
The inside was surprisingly warm, for it being night. I wondered what system they had devised for warming tents, and if it was related to the oven-room. It was lit with two candles, one at either end. The older man began speaking.
“I suppose you wonder why we have taken you.”
At first, I was surprised that he spoke my language, and without any indication that it was a secondary language. I had assumed that the language in which he had spoken orders to the others, earlier, was his main language, but I began to wonder otherwise.
“Yes.”
He nodded. “We would have killed you. And burned your farm, after taking from it anything we wanted. But there is a higher goal in mind, now.”
I looked to the vethani on either side of me, somewhat worried at the calm way he spoke of burning my farm. “What… what is that? Is there something of me that you need?”
“No,” he said. “It is not something you have, coming to us, that we need. It is something that you will bring away with you.”
“Bring away? Meaning that you will let me go?”
“Yes, in time,” he answered. “But not anywhere that you will want to go, or anywhere that you know. But your future existence is vital to the whole goal of this.”
“Why must it be somewhere that-” I started, but he cut me off with a wave of his hand.
“You focus too much on leaving. You know, there is no real reason why you have to be the one. I can kill you, and get another.”
“Then why me?” I asked.
“Are you questioning why we left you alive, instead of killing you? Would you rather we did the latter?”
“No, just…”
“No. No more about that.”
I tried to clear my head from that subject. “So, what is it that I will “bring away” with me?”
The old man narrowed his eyes. “I cannot tell you that. Even if I truly knew the answer, I would not, but as it is, I do not. Not completely, anyway. But in any case, you must live here with us for several days before you go. That, too, is important.”
I frowned. I wished to ask more questions, but the ease with which these people killed others was frightening, and I wished to live through the experience. I nodded to what he said.
“Is there a place for me to stay for however long I’m here?”
“Yes. We have readied a tent for you to live in. You will be fed, but must comply to the rules of our society. You will learn these, as time progresses, through trial and error. If you’re lucky, you won’t encounter too much of the latter.”
The man stood, as did the two vethani next to me, and I took it as a signal to move out of the tent. I performed an awkward bow, hoping that it conveyed some degree of respect and thankfulness, then turned and stepped out the tent. A sharp pain hit the back of my leg, and I turned around quickly.
One of the vethani held a leather strap in his hand. “You do not let an elder see your back. Do not turn around after speaking to them.”
I nodded nervously, rubbing my thigh where the strap had hit it. I bowed again, then backed out of the tent carefully. When I deemed my distance from the tent safe, I turned around and took in my surroundings.
Near to where I was, there was a long hitching line, to which was connected a large amount of a sort of short, stout horse, as well as several oxen. It was obvious that they moved a lot, as there were several large wagons and flat, wheeled things.
They also had an area that must have operated as a garden. It was comprised of six square areas, boxed in with wood, filled with a sand mixture that I imagined must be similar to what I used. In four of them grew a different kind of grain or vegetable, and in the other two there was a mix of smaller plants.
The small boy who had been looking out at me earlier came up to my side, at a cautious distance.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Kerr Elenin. I’ve been taken from my village by your people.”
He looked up at me, and I sighed. I had said that too harshly. “Well, I guess it was better than the alternative.”
He smiled. “I haven’t seen someone from outside our community, before.”
I laughed quietly. “I had figured that out.”
One of the vethani who had been in the tent with the others and I came up to me, next to the boy. “This is Ivok. You may learn much of our people through him, if you wish. In any case, I will bring you to your tent, now.”
He led me, with Ivok following, to a small tent on the outskirts of the community. Inside was a cot, and not really any more floor space than that took. On the cot was a blanket and a pillow, as well as a small pad of paper and a lead pencil.
I gave the vethani a questioning look, and he said, “For recording your time here. That is one of the things that you are required to do.”
My questioning look remained, but I picked up the paper and pencil and began to write. By the time I had finished, the sun was already midway in the sky. Ivok came back and forth to my tent and other areas in the camp, and he was there when I was done.
He stretched out a hand towards me. “Come. I want to show you my family.” I stood up and took his hand. On his wrist, he wore a bracelet made of some dark, braided material, with beads of bone and metal strung on it every so often. In the middle, there was one square panel of bone, with rough scrimshaw of an odd scene. It looked like a man and woman standing side-by-side, but both of them wore very somber faces. Above them hung a moon.
Ivok led me through the camp until we ended up at the tent I had originally seen him under. Inside was a man and woman. Both of them had hair in much the same cut as the others I had seen, and, again, very similar and lithe body types. They assessed me, trying to decide whether their son bringing me to meet them was a good thing or not. Apparently they decided that it wasn’t really either, and gave their names to me flatly – Dere, the man, and Luou, the woman.
I stayed in their tent, at the insistence of Ivok, for a while, talking with them, and it seemed that they softened towards me somewhat in that time.
I decided to ask about the bracelet on Ivok’s wrist. I didn’t see it on either of theirs, and wondered what it could be.
“It was given to him by the elder, Ovol. The same one you met with already,” Luou said.
“For what?” I asked.
“Are you questioning the choice of our elder?” demanded Dere. “He does not need your permission for-” Luou put a hand on his arm.
“We do not truly know why. Nor does he, or so he said.”
Much of the time in the next few days that I spent in the vethani tent I spent with them, glad to have found some sort of connection in this completely different world, even if it would only be for less than a week.
The food was always scarce, and rough, and usually cold by the time I got it. Even though they needed, or at least wished, to keep me alive, there seemed to be nothing saying that I needed to be comfortable, or healthy, during my time with them.
On the evening of my third day, Ovol came to me and made sure that I had kept an acceptable record of my time with them, then told me that I would be leaving with a small group of vethani the next morning, as soon as the sun rose.
I had mixed feelings about that. I didn’t feel in any way that I wished to stay with the vethani, – the shock over what they had done to the village and Marie, as well as, without doubt, Cassia and Isabelle had not even begun to subside yet – but I felt a tinge of pain at leaving Ivok and his family, even considering the short time I had known them.
I put the feelings aside, then tried to go to sleep. It was almost an hour before I succeeded.
The morning came, and found me already awake. Four vethani men, lead by Ovol, came to my tent, obviously ready to wake me up, but I was already ready. I had my papers in hand.
For some reason, at that moment, I had a sudden ridiculous concern about the soup I had left out the night before I was taken. It was no doubt moldy by now.
That was if they left my house intact, though. Who knows if that actually happened.
I stepped out of my tent, and made as if ready to leave, but one of the vethani stopped me. Another one took out a thick cloth from somewhere and tied it around my eyes.
“We don’t want you being able to come back here, or, somehow, assuming your navigational skills were exceptional, back to your village. We will guide you to a certain place, and by the time you remove the cloth, we will be gone.”
I sighed. I hadn’t really thought of coming back here, or somehow getting back to my village, as much as I would have wanted to, but it was somewhat depressing how that would now be almost impossible, save for chance.
With the blindfold secured, we began walking. Ovol walked with us for a few minutes, but then left and went back to the village. The other four vethani surrounded me, one on each corner, and we walked through the sand as the sun crept up the sky, went over the top of its arc, then began descending.
By the time that it was nearing evening, we came into a city, or village, or something with voices all around. They led me into a building which was much more quiet, through a hallway, and into a quiet room.
“We are going to leave you here,” one of them said. “You will count to thirty, then you may take off your blindfold.”
“What if I take it off now? Or before I count to thirty?” I asked.
“We’re vethani,” another answered. “And now that you’re here, keeping you alive is less necessary. It may cause a little more trouble, but not much, or enough to persuade us not to do it.”
I was quiet. When they made no movement, I took the signal and began counting.
“One. Two. Three. Four…”
There was a faint rustle of fabric, and I could sense that they were not there anymore. I continued counting, though.
“Twenty-nine, thirty.”
I untied the blindfold and removed it. I was expecting to be temporarily blinded by the surrounding brightness, my eyes having been accustomed to the dark for almost the entire day, but I found that I was in a small, fairly dark room that was filled with brooms, dustpans, and cleaning cloths. The door leading back out to the hallway was open, and I went through. I walked down the hallway, and found myself in a sparsely attended store, not unlike the one that had been in my hometown.
A young woman walked in, and looked startled by my existence there.
“Oh, I’m sorry, how long have you been here? Can I help you?”
I shook my head, and thanked her. I walked out of the store, and found myself in a buzzing city street. Based on my estimation of my distance from my village, it could have been Belath, Kurenen, or Nol, but I didn’t really care. There was nothing left for me in my in my old village, anyway.
There wasn’t really anything for me in this village, or city, or whatever it was, either. I had no money, and all I really knew how to do was farm. I really had no idea what to do.
I wandered out of the town, back into the desert and sand. They hadn’t even provided me with any food, or water. How was I to survive?
But, ah. Yes. That’s probably what it was from the start. They didn’t need me to survive. It was just my writing.
I suppose that this realization should have made me not want to continue writing. But in another way, it just made me wish to, even more. I had nothing else to do, nothing else to live for, so the one thing I could do, finish writing my story, was my ultimate goal. It was the one thing that I could do before I died.
And I have finished.

NaNoWriMo, 2014

So, I have something real to post, which I’ll get to before too long, hopefully. (I’ve had it written for a month already, but, eh, whatever.)

But for now, I’d just like to say that I hopped onto the NaNoWriMo train this year, again. Well, more like jumped onto the caboose, while it was only an hour away from its destination.

I started last Friday.

So, obviously, I’m not going to be doing all 50,000 words. I’m not one of those maniacs who cranks out 75,000 words in a 24-hour period (seriously, I’ve seen someone do that). I gotta put my heart, soul, and mind into this thing. Words. Syntax. Poetry. It’s a labour of love.

Slammin’ down those morphemes in just the right way takes time. So, I’m going for a much humbler goal, namely, finishing the story that I started last Friday.

What is this story, you may ask. Well, before I cryptically reveal that, let me recount the way that I decided to write this story.

Well, I had a few options, and really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Hell, even at that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it at all. So I wrote down my options, put a number next to each, and went to my summoning board of random numbers. I took a deep breath, chanted the “summoning number” spell, and hit the button.

Well, look at that. A five. I looked at my list of stories and numbers, and thought, really, what rule says I have to go with the first number that comes up. So I deleted that entry, and tried again. At that point, I had somewhat realized that I did, in fact, have a bit of a preference, now.

And what luck. That’s the next number that came up.

So, the winner is…….

 

KYRETH SAGA ENTRY NUMBER TWO

 

Ah, yes. The Kyreth saga. What a somewhat mediocre start that had to it. One story, not terribly interesting. Well, it’s all introduction stuff, you see. Anyway, I’m writing the next story in the saga. And it’s coming out well.

I’m probably 2/3 of the way through, and am thinking that, if I have time, I might do an extra little mini-story tidbit thing for Kyreth as well, during the NaNoWriMo period.

All of this will be posted eventually. (Oh, geez, I just realized I should probably start breaking this up into Parts or Chapters or something. Hmm.)

 

Oklan, Chapter 7

Here’s the final chapter of Oklan!

Now at the end you may say something like, “Hey, isn’t this just the end of a chapter? Isn’t there going to be more?”

Well, yes and no. This is the end of Oklan, but I might write a Part 2 to the story sometime. I will, however, be writing some different stories in the Kyreth saga before then.

Anyways, here it is!

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Oklan opened his eyes, though as he did so he didn’t believe he had survived the blast. He looked at his body. A large amount of it was blackened, though he could still feel in those areas and figured that it was merely soot of some sort. But a few areas on his arms were bright red and stung. He struggled to sit up.

As soon as he had propped himself up against a piece of stone that must have fallen in the explosion, he felt the earth shudder. A wave of terror went over him as he feared that he had started an earthquake of some sort. Then the vibrations came into the air and he realized it wasn’t an earthquake – it was laughter. A few flames still hovered in the air. A shadow grew behind them. An arm reached out from the darkness and scattered the flames.

Vrezhen walked through the remaining flames. His clothes were slightly singed, but was otherwise unharmed. His head was bent back in laughter. He raised his hands and clapped slowly.

“A good attempt, to be sure. Actually caught me off guard there for a moment. Unfortunately, I must depart after gathering a few last things. I see you will have a few scars to remember me by.”

Oklan focused his powers once more in a desperate last attack. He used the same attack as before, yet didn’t summon water. He tried using the water from inside Vrezhen’s body.

Fire burst from Vrezhen’s chest. He let out a scream of pain, then dropped to one knee and drew a small mark on the floor while casting a spell. He vanished in a black flame that leaped up from the floor.

Oklan slumped back against the rock. He fell into darkness.

It was close to an hour before anyone came to see what had happened. The man who made his way into the battle-wrecked chamber was Jeorle.

He rushed over to Oklan. He lifted Oklan’s head and whispered a quiet spell. He traced a small circular symbol on Oklan’s forehead.

Oklan’s eyes fluttered open.

“Rest, son. You have done well, though he is not gone. Gone from this planet, yes. But from the universe, no. But what you have done is something powerful, something even I wasn’t sure you could do. And you have been paid well for your efforts. There!” Jeorle said, pointing to a small circular object in the throne.

Jeorle helped Oklan to his feet and supported him in the walk to the throne. Oklan reached out and took the circle and examined it.

It was a stone circle that looked as though it had been smoothed my much use. The center of it was engraved with a small rune.

Oklan looked inquisitively up at Jeorle.

Jeorle gave Oklan an aged smile.

“That is one of the twelve Qerwan. The stars have not told me much of them other than the name and the power of this one. It is Hezken, the Protector. Tie it around your neck or someplace and it will protect you, to a point. Use it wisely, Oklan. There are many who would kill, or worse, for this. For this is the only like it in the universe. You have earned it.”

Oklan tucked it carefully into a pocket in his clothes.

“There is something that the elders have decided to show you. Come with me.”

He supported Oklan as they made the long way back to the great hall. Henix, Uibel, and Grethe were waiting in there for him, along with a young woman. She instructed Oklan to sit on one of the chairs while she looked over his injuries. She put a salve on his burns and wrapped them in a clean linen cloth while the elders looked on. She cleaned Oklan up, wiping away the soot, and in a few minutes he looked and felt better. A man came up and gave Oklan some simple food from a tray.

The elders, Jeorle, and Oklan walked out the entrance that he had come through the first day, Uibel supporting him on one side and Jeorle supporting the other. They walked through the refreshing waterfall into the bright sunlight outside. Oklan squinted his eyes at the sudden change and eventually they adjusted to the new light.

They walked a few hundred feet to the right and went up a slight hill. They went again into the mountain, a small side entrance. This led into a chamber. Inside was a massive machine.

“This is a ship for traveling outside this planet. A man, Kbeth, gave it to us many years ago. We like our life here, so we didn’t use it,” Henix said.

The ship looked so out of place in the comparatively primitive cave that Oklan didn’t know what to say. He merely turned to Uibel, speechless.

“We want you to have it, to find that man and kill him.”

Oklan pulled himself away from the men holding him and made his way to the metal hull of the ship. He found a button near a panel on the side of the ship and pushed it.

With a pneumatic hiss the panel lowered down. The lights inside flickered on. Oklan stepped into the vessel and turned to the elders and Jeorle.

“Thank you so much for these few days.”

Henix stepped forward. “We are the ones who should be thanking you. You have begun the removal of the shadow over our island that has plagued us for years.”

Without another word, Oklan turned and continued into the ship. The panel lifted itself closed with another hiss.

Oklan made his way to what seemed to be the front of the vessel, where were two empty chairs. An automated voice greeted him.

“Welcome, Kyreth Oklan. Your scheduled flight is ready. To begin, press the button to ignite the engines.”

Wondering how the machine knew his name, and where the ‘scheduled flight’ came from, Oklan settled himself into one of the chairs and pressed the button.

 

* * *

 

Jeorle and the elders walked out of the cave. In a moment the ship hovered out of the entrance and started its ascent into the skies.

As Jeorle watched it break through the atmosphere, he wondered to himself if Oklan was nearing the end of his story, or if he had just begun it.

 

Oklan, Chapter 6

I was gone at a summer academe thing, and that’s why I wasn’t able to post anything last week. Sorry.

But I have Chapter 6 for you all! Enjoy.

 

 

Chapter 6

“How did you know my name?” Oklan asked.

“I saw it in the stars. That is what I do. I foresee and foretell.” The old man was very short, wrinkled, and dark-skinned. He didn’t have the symbol on his forehead, but instead on one of his cheeks.

“But the elders said that there aren’t any prophecies telling of my coming.”

Prophecies.There is a difference between prophecies and reading the stars. Prophecies tell a long time. They tell all. But the stars only tell one day at a time,” he made an odd motion with his hands. “Maybe two. I saw your name last night. But even the stars have been quiet recently. I fear the end may be near. Come here,” he said, motioning for Oklan to come closer to him and the metal contraption. “Look through the Viosphe.”

Oklan looked at the Viosphe. It was comprised of three metal tubes that were connected, two spheres of water, and a few sheets of very pure mica. He looked through the end closest him. Even though it was daylight, he saw a grouping of eight bright stars.

“These,” Jeorle said, “are the stars that told me your name.”

“But how can you read them?”

“A very complicated process. I have to record down the pattern they make, then compare it to similar patterns I have seen before, then find out the corresponding letters in my star map. It takes a while. But it is my place in this community. And besides,” he smiled, “I like doing it.”

“Right now I’m trying to figure out where my future lies. I have heard of a shadow coming across this land. The elders think that I have a part to play in stopping that.”

“I believe you do as well. But…the stars do not tell us everything. The only thing I saw in the stars other than your name was one other name. Vrezhen.”

The name sent an unexplainable chill down Oklan’s spine.

“I looked him up in our archives, but nothing. Absolutely nothing.” A dark look had come over Jeorle and Oklan decided it was probably a good time to go.

“Thank you for everything, Jeorle. I will try my best to defeat this…Vrezhen.” With that, he started down the stairs.

“Indeed you will,” Jeorle said softly as Oklan made his way down the wooden stairs. “Indeed you will.”

 

***

 

After leaving Jeorle’s observatory, Oklan headed back in the direction that he remembered coming from. He was correct. While he walked he created a bit of water to drink. He realized that it had been almost an entire day since he had used his powers last. As he made his way through the tunnels through the rock of the mountain, he found Henix walking along as well, but in the other direction.

“Hello, Oklan. Have you just come from seeing Jeorle?” Henix said.

“Yes. He…was helpful, I suppose.”

An aged smile came over Henix’s face. “He can be sometimes. Other times, not nearly so. Actually, I was just on my way to see him myself. ”

While Oklan was briefly telling Henix of what Jeorle had spoken of, a young man rushed up to them both. He was covered head to foot in a white dust. He made a curt bow to Henix, hesitated, and then did the same for Oklan.

“Elder and water-master. A miner has disapeared. The mine he was digging in has been deserted, after all the other miners heard the news and fled. Help us, please!” He seemed to address the final plea of a sentence especially to Oklan.

Henix turned to Oklan. “Perhaps this is the beginning of your journey.”

“Show me where the tunnel is,” Oklan said to the young man.

The two of them went back into the great hall, then down another tunnel leading to the right. Oklan noticed as they walked that this tunnel was different from all the others he had been in; the walls were rougher, and there weren’t the little niches in the wall where the torches were. All the torches here were spaced out further, creating pools of light that separated the puddles darkness.

“We are in a crystal mine right now.” the young man told him.

“What is your name?”

“Mebwyl. I work here, as you probably assumed.”

They walked on without further comment. A few minutes later Mebwyl stopped.

“This is the mine.” After gesturing towards the left side of a fork in the tunnel, he stood awkwardly.

Sensing his trouble, Oklan spoke. “You can leave now if you wish. I’ll go investigate this by myself.”

The young man said goodbye to Oklan then walked away, relieved.

“What could you be?” Oklan spoke into the darkness, quietly. He stepped forward.

The tunnel wasn’t as dark as he thought it was. Torches were again spread out, this time further apart, creating lakes of darkness in-between the puddles of light. After walking a few minutes, he approached the end of the tunnel. There was a lantern there, and Oklan was able to see clearly.

It appeared that the miner had broken through a wall of stone into a cave. One side of the cave was smoothed except for one section where a symbol had been engraved. It consisted of seventeen concentric circles with one line coming from the center through them all and extending a few inches past the final circle.

“I think I’ve found you,” Oklan said quietly.

Almost seeming like Oklan had opened it with his words, the wall slid to the side in much the same way that the doors in the village did.

Oklan walked into the room beyond slowly and carefully. It was a massive chamber, the ceilings rising high into the darkness. At the end of the chamber was a black stone throne, engraved with strange carvings all around. Sitting in the throne was one encircled in blackness.

“I, too, have been waiting for you, Kyreth Oklan. Waiting…waiting for a very long time.

“Are you the one who took the miner?” Oklan demanded.

“It was I.” The figure raised his arm and pointed towards a body laying a few feet from his throne, that Oklan hadn’t noticed before. The eyes of the man were white and he lay deathly still.

“Why?! Who are you?” Oklan demanded.

“I am Vrezhen. I hungered, so I ate. I need souls to survive. To survive this long, and to imagine that a poorly-trained Kyreth like you would come to challenge me.” He let out a roll of deep laughter that echoed eerily through the empty hall.

“You fool. You have no idea what is going on. No idea whatsoever.” He let out a cry of words that sparked a memory in Oklan’s mind, though he didn’t know what they meant.  Vrezhen leaped off his throne, throwing a bolt of dark energy at Oklan. He narrowly avoided it. Oklan summoned water into the air before him and shot out several ice spikes at Vrezhen. Vrezhen spoke another incantation an instant before the ice stabbed though his body. The air around his body wavered slightly, then he disappeared. The ice spikes stuck into the wall behind where he had been standing. A few feet to the right of where he had been the air wavered and he reappeared.

“I don’t need to block attacks when I can just dodge them,”  Vrezhen snarled.

Oklan threw a sphere of water into the air, dropped to the ground, and flattened the water while freezing it, creating a circular blade of ice.  Vrezhen looked somewhat surprised, but merely responded by jumping slightly and speaking another spell. He floated off of the ground and above the blade.

“You really don’t understand how hopeless this battle is for you? I’ll tell you. I’m going to kill you – actually, no. I’m going to leave you alive, just so you can live with the fact that you failed. I’m going to beat you, then leave this planet.”

Planet? Oklan wondered. Where else could he go? Where else was there?

“But please, at least try something interesting.”

Oklan thought for a moment, then realized a possible attack he could do that might kill Vrezhen. Of course, it might kill him as well. He summoned his power and created a sphere of water. He turned it into droplets throughout the air. He split the water apart into oxygen and hydrogen, and set it aflame by raising the heat.

A massive explosion engulfed the entire hall. The last thing Oklan saw was Vrezhen being blown backwards by a plume of flame.

 

Oklan, Chapter 5

Well, I actually came up with a plan for the rest of this story, so this *cough cough actually the next chapter cough cough* is the chapter where it really gets going. Hope you enjoy.

 

Chapter 5

Oklan had to get up several times during the night and open the panel for the light to check the time, as there was not even the slightest amount of light in the room at any time. The last time he checked it it was halfway in-between the seven and the eight o’clock markings. He deemed it time to get up. He searched around for something to open the door, and found a lever similar to the one outside and pulled it. His hand still on the wooden handle of the lever, he felt a thunkof some internal mechanism releasing. The door opened.

He walked through, pulling the outside lever as he went. The door closed and he walked in the direction he thought was towards the great hall. While he walked, he met a man who was coming out of his room as well.

“Hello there,” Oklan said.

“Hello! You must be the water-master that they brought in last night! I am Trephu.”

“Could you tell me the direction to the great hall?”

“Yes. Over there,” he said, pointing. “I guess it is about time for breakfast, isn’t it. Would you like to walk there together?”

Oklan found this man welcoming, so he said yes. As they walked the few hundred feet to the great hall, Oklan told Trephu briefly of what they he and the elders had spoken about the night before.

“You should talk with Jeole. He is our astrologer. He lives in the top of the mountain. Ask anyone when you want to go, they can show you how to get there.”

Oklan thought he didn’t have anything more to say, but remembered a question that had been nagging at him since the night before.

“Is there a way to make the light dimmer in the room other than just blocking it out completely?”

Trephu burst into laughter. “You put down the stone?” he said incredulously.

“Yes…” Oklan hesitated.

Trephu laughed again. “Put in the slider from the side. That puts mica in front of it, which just merely dims the light. Nobody really uses the rock slide.”

“Ah, here we are.”

They came back into the great hall. The tables had been filled with food yet again, and already many people were in there. All eyes were on Oklan as he walked into the room.

He calmly took the same seat as he had the night before. After Uibel gave them permission, he and all the others ate.

 

***

 

After they had finished eating, most of the people went away again. Oklan caught the attention of Uibel and walked over to him.

“A man, Trephu, told me this morning about someone named Jeole. I was wondering if you could show me where he lives.”

“Certainly.”
c0 
Together they walked out through another exit from the hall into a tunnel that sloped upwards slightly. As they walked, Uibel spoke.

“Last night the elders and I decided to do nothing about your future.”

“What?” Oklan asked incredulously.

“We are still worried about what may and will happen, but have concluded to not interfere. Your destiny will unfold without us doing anything. And I think it has already begun. I believe Jeole will help you decide what to do. Here we are,” he said, stopping in front of a wooden door, the first Oklan had seen since he came into the cavern.

“Thank you, Uibel,” Oklan said, opening the door. He stepped through and began to close it. The last thing he saw was a strangely foreboding look on Uibel’s face. The wooden door crashed shut against the stone.

The area Oklan was in was immensly different than the one he had just come from. There was a rickety wooden staircase spiraling up further than he could see. He started climbing.

The lower levels of the staircase were lit by torches similar to the ones he had seen before. But as he got higher and higher up, he noticed the number of them decreasing, though the level of light stayed about the same. Oklan realized that it was sunlight.

Eventually the staircase opened up into a small room that was full of sunlight. Not a torch was to be seen. The room had stone walls that were covered in markings and manuscripts, a small bed, and a strange metal instrument that was looking out of one of the five openings in the wall from which the light came in. It wasn’t until a few moments that Oklan noticed the man standing in the room. He turned to face Oklan.

“Greetings, Kyreth Oklan. I have been waiting for you.”

 

 

Oklan, Chapter 4

Yes, I know, it is Saturday, not Friday. But I have a good excuse! I was procrastinating.

Well, not quite. I was finishing a television show and that took a while. But I finished chapter four today. I also worked out a plan for the rest of this story. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 4

 

Oklan viewed the newcomer, who was knee-deep in the pool. While, yes, the fabric he wore did look worn, now that Oklan looked at it more closely, it seemed like a very durable weave and thread. Painted onto both the fabric and the man’s forehead was a strange symbol.

The man beckoned to Oklan.

“Come, we welcome you who can move the cloud across the sky. Come!” Though it was a demand, it was said warmly and Oklan felt compelled to follow. He made his way across the moss to the edge of the pool. He walked into the surprisingly warm water. The mist from the falling water dampened Oklan’s clothing. When he saw that the water got deeper towards the middle, he controlled the water around him, pushing it away to keep him from getting wetter than needed.

He absentmindedly glanced up at the man. His eyes widened when he saw what Oklan did, and soon enough broke into a grin. He walked closer to the edge of the pool, then started through the waterfall. Oklan grasped control of the waterfall, creating a gap of air for the man to pass through. Once he got to the waterfall himself, he did the same.

Behind the waterfall was not just a cave, but a tunnel leading down into the mountain. It was well-lit with torches placed regularly in niches in the wall. They burned a clean yellow flame. As they walked, the man, who Oklan saw was probably around seventy, with dark tan skin and pale brown hair, talked to Oklan and asked him questions that Oklan only knew the answers to a few of.

“I have been watching you since yesterday. Your power…it is amazing. How do you do it?”

“I’m not entirely sure. I chose water…and…and… I’m not sure.”

“Where did you come from?”

“I’m not sure of that, either. I awoke in the ocean, out there.” Oklan gestured vaguely in the direction that he thought the ocean was.

“Ah, yes, the Ecene Sea. But how did you not drown? And how did you “awake” in the ocean?”

“I really don’t know. I’m not sure of anything. But some food other than bananas, coconuts, and dates would be very appreciated if you have any.”

“Oh yes!” the man said excitedly. “We have prepared a great feast for you. Come, come, we are nearing the Great Hall!”

As they walked, Oklan started thinking again about the potential extent of his powers. Then a thought popped into his mind.

I wonder…could I control the temperature of the water as well?

Forgetting what he was doing and who he was with, he created a small sphere of water in front of himself, while still continuing walking. He flattened it out into a bar, then focused on the temperature. He lowered it until he saw frost creeping around the edge. He kept going until the entire thing was frozen into a block of ice. Then he quickly brought up the temperature and watched the entire thing dissolve into steam.

The old man by his side walked with his eyes wide open in amazement. He looked up at Oklan. Oklan looked down at him and smiled.

“How long have you been doing this?” The old man gestured vaguely.

“About…four days, I think.” Oklan frowned. He couldn’t quite remember how long he had been on the island.

The old man’s eyes widened even further. “You learned all of that in a few days? With no problem at all?”

“Well,” Oklan thought for a moment before continuing. “Not really. Odd, actually, now that I think about it.”

Another thought came into his mind. “What is your name?”

The old man stopped and turned towards Oklan. “I am Uibel, one of the three elders on this island.”

The two of them walked for around two minutes before the passageway suddenly opened up into a massive hall. The ceiling was thirty or so feet above the tables that had been laid out with food of all sorts. Oklan noticed that it was strangely well-lit for being this deep underground. He looked up and understood why. The ground above the hall was made almost entirely of crystal of the clearest kind. They had kept this ground as a roof, allowing the sunlight to come in. There were several stone pillars placed around fifteen or so feet apart to support the heavy ceiling.

Oklan looked back down, and saw that around one-hundred and twenty pairs of eyes were focused intently on him. Uibel gestured toward a empty chair close to Oklan. He took a seat. The others, who had been standing, also sat down, but didn’t start eating. Oklan glanced at Uibel questioningly.

The elder spread his hands. “May all eat.” He then took a seat across from Oklan. The others had begun eating and passing around dishes mounded with food. Once Oklan had served himself and begun eating, he asked Uibel a question.

“Do all of you live in here, under the ground?” Oklan asked.

“Yes. And so we have lived for as long back as our records go, and further.” Uibel answered.

Ah, Oklan thought, that’s why there were no fires visible.

 

***

 

After dinner, most people shuffled out to their respective lodgings. Eventually the only people left in the great hall were Oklan, Uibel, and two other similarly aged men.

“Oklan, this is Henix,” Uibel said, pointing to one man, “and this is Grethe,” pointing to the other. “They are the other two of the three elders I mentioned earlier. We will be talking about your purpose for coming here.”

“My purpose?” Oklan asked incredulously.

“Yes. There have been no prophecies about your coming. In fact, there have been no prophecies about the time we are in now at all. It is very concerning. Henix, you should tell him more, as you know the most about the prophecies.”

Henix, who also wore the cloth with the symbol, as well as having it painted on his forehead like Uibel, spoke. “The prophecies were given to us many, many years ago. But there was a gap in them, a missing section. That is where we are right now. And all is not good. A darkness has spread itself over the land. Several of our tribe have disappeared, only for us to find their bodies in various places over the island. Always their hands and feet have turned black. We fear for what will happen to us. And that,” he said conclusively, “must be why you have come to us. We would be forever grateful if you would help us.”

“I don’t know. I mean, all I can remember is four days. I awoke in the sea.” Oklan saw Uibel nod gravely.

“We will talk on what you must do. For now, can you, Grethe, show Oklan to where he can stay the night?”

“Yes, Uibel.” Grethe got up, as did Oklan. He started walking in one direction and Oklan followed.

Together they walked down a stone tunnel for a few minutes, then Grethe led Oklan down a side tunnel and pulled a lever on the wall. Part of the stone wall slid to the side and Oklan saw a sparsely-furnished room consisting of a small bed and a table that had a few drawers underneath it.

“You can stay here as long as you want.” Grethe said. “Breakfast is at eight o’clock.” He gestured towards something Oklan hadn’t initially noticed on the wall, a small crystal panel with what looked like water behind it. Small notches were next to it.

With that, he left Oklan, pulling the lever as he left, closing the wall. Oklan wondered where the light came from, seeing that there were no windows, and looked around. He found a niche in the wall, similar to those he saw in his walk through the tunnels, in which a flame cleanly burnt. He then realized that he was very tired. He looked around for a way to turn off the flame. He found a small lever and pulled it. A thin slab of stone slid in front of the flame, flooding the room in absolute darkness. He lay down on the small bed and quickly fell asleep.

Oklan, Chapter 3

I’ve been writing like crazy at this story, though I probably won’t get another chapter out until Friday.

 

Chapter 3

In his dream he was summoning water into a sphere, larger than any he had made before. But he didn’t summon the water into his hands to make the sphere. He summoned the water straight into the air.

He awoke, and was surprised to see the same sphere of water hovering above him. Still focusing on the water, he brushed his hands on the bare skin of his arms. They were dry. He must have accidentally summoned the water in the same way as in the dream while still having the dream.

He channeled the water to his mouth and drank; he was thirsty from not having drank since the day before. The he focused all his powers on summoning water directly into the air in front of him. It slowly appeared, and he shaped it into a sphere again. When he thought he had enough, he looked around in the trees above for any food.

Success. He found a date tree and sent a dagger of pressurized water at it, slicing down a clump of the luscious fruit.

He let control of the water go, took the fruit, and sat down. He took the pits out and ate the flesh. It was the sweetest thing he remembered eating. Of course, it was one of the only things he remembered eating.

***

He was finishing the final piece of fruit when he heard a growling coming from outside his clearing. In a flash, a large cat burst through the vines and undergrowth, its teeth bared.

Instead of being terrified, Oklan fell into a dream-like state. It felt to him as though he saw everything slightly slower than it should have been. Barely knowing what he was doing, he summoned a massive wave to come crashing down on the animal. The cold water startled it for a moment, but in a moment it had shaken itself off and was heading toward Oklan yet again.

He summoned wave after wave to douse the feline and eventually it skulked away, dripping and drenched to the skin.

Oklan sliced down a few more dates for the day before heading out north-west.

***

For about half of the day he had been assailed by the sun’s sweltering rays. Even though the leaves and branches of the trees high above protected him some, enough sunlight still made its way down to beat upon him. Around noon, though, the sky darkened into welcoming shade.

Or not very welcoming after all,Oklan thought as he looked up. It wasn’t merely a cloud that had drifted in the path of the sun, it was a cloud heavy laden with rain, so dark it was almost black.

Oklan trekked on, hoping the rain-cloud would pass before it started. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The sky broke open and rain began to pelt down. The leaves of the trees above didn’t seem to shield him in the slightest.

In a few moments Oklan was soaked. Then he remembered and thought of the extent of his powers. He decided to try what he was thinking. If it didn’t work, he wouldn’t be any worse off.

He focused on the rain as well as the source of the rain. Using his powers, he suspended in mid-air all of the drops, then, with a burst of willpower, he threw them all away from himself. Now, before any more rain could come down, he focused on the minuscule water droplets that made up the cloud. He pushed it on its way, across the island where it could rain without bothering him.

After doing all of this, Oklan felt rather proud of himself. He pulled the water out from his clothes and walked on.

He walked for close to an hour before breaking into another clearing of the trees. As he stepped through, though, he saw a rustle of leaves on the opposite side. Dearly hoping that this was a native of the island and not merely another cat or some other wild animal, he charged after it.

He pushed through the vines and branches on the other side of the clearing and quickly looked around for whoever it had been.

The area he was in wasn’t cleared out, but the growth was sparse enough that he was able to see for a good distance. No one was there.

Must’ve just been an animal, Oklan thought as he shrugged and continued on his way. He walked for another hour before taking a break in front of a waterfall. The water fell around 50 feet into a pool below. The sound of the water was calming to his mind as the soft moss below him was calming to his body. He looked at the pool and the way the waterfall created waves all the way out to the edge of the pool. The ever-changing rhythm of the splashing lulled him into a trance-like state.

He was broken abruptly out of his reverie when a figure walked out from what could only be a cave behind the falls, through the water, and into the pool. Oklan stood up, not sure what to do. The figure, who was a man wrapped in a worn-looking piece of cloth, looked up at Oklan and spoke.

“Welcome, water-master.”