It was dark, the smell of a clean stream was right next to me yet I could not see it or feel it. I tried to orient myself in the blackness when I noticed it. The thing was looking directly at me. Large golden eyes were the only thing that could be made out. A loud voice suddenly came from behind me. Spinning quickly yet precisely I focused on where the voice emanated from.
The noises were clear but in a language I could not understand. Flames raced down my back. I had forgotten about the creature. Falling forward at an alarming rate I could not move my arms to brace for the impact. Suddenly light assaulted my eyes and sweat was dripping down my face. Sand was clinging to any part of my skin it could contact.
My hands began to push against the ground. Good my arms were working again. Everything was blurry, I must have been asleep. I was really dizzy and the voice was still there I realized. Yelling, telling me to do something. What did it want from me!
My abdomen began pounding in torment and the world spun. I was on my back the sun was above me blinding my ability to perceive. More yelling. My throat ached in pain, it was amazingly hard the swallow.
“wa” I whispered desperately trying to say the name of the life giving liquid that I needed desperately. “water” I finally managed to say. More yelling, not at me.
How long had I been here, every breath burned, concentrating was almost impossible. The sun beat into my head and I realized my brain had been pounding in protest to the very thought of being alive. Time seemed to be standing still, there was muttering and movement. What was goi-, shadow descended upon me and I couldn’t breathe. Something was in my air pipe. Coughing violently I expelled the substance.
After my coughing fit the shadow returned. Water, it was obvious to me now that they were trying to give me wat- more of it came into my mouth this time however I began to swallow instead of continue to breath. Much to my relief the outcome was drastically different.
My throat felt better, still sore but better. My eyelids were having a hard time staying up and the more I fought it the harder it was to keep awake. My eyes began to burn from the struggle or something else not sure. Why was I fighting sleep? Why was it so hard to stay awake? Darkness reclaimed me.
“Hey sleepy head!”
I jolted upright. Someone was in my camp! Wait no I wasn’t at my camp, I was somewhere else. I had been drugged. Taken somewhere else by people I had never clearly seen or understood. Suddenly a burst of wisdom popped into my mind and out my mouth “Wha?”
“Yeah sorry about all of that. They think you’re a spy, so just bear with me for a bit and either you’ll be dead or free.” The voice said with a chuckle. “But seriously, don’t try and lie, it really will be detrimental. Do you understand?”
“Uh yeah.” The man speaking to me was relatively tall. The dark hair on his head was vanishing with his age. The face seemed warm, as if he cared about everything and anyone around him. Which caught me off guard.
“Great then! Let us get down to it. First I will explain what happened. You see you were hit by a really strong anesthetic slash paralytic. So now that we’ve cleared the air with that, what’s your name?”
“I’m sorry but aneshectic? What the hell is that?”
“Basically it makes you sleep, a lot, without feeling anything. Your name please?”
“Ah so you’re the one who killed the prince then. Good I thought so. That will make clearing these spy accusations a breeze!”
“No wait what? I didn’t kill the prince. Why would that help?”
“If ya didn’t kill the prince then why did we find that grand old sword on you?”
“I, someone else killed him I think.” My head was still a bit funny from that anesthingy. “Can I get some water?”
“Oh yes of course. I’m so sorry, you really do need to hydrate. We are in the desert and all!”
He seemed very friendly, odd. I was being interrogated wasn’t I? As I drank the water I tried to remember what had exactly happened in the past. Although he seemed nice something told me that he could be a much harder man. “Your name? I, I don’t know your name?”
“Oh yes! You can call me Hawke, for that is the name I have taken out here.”
“Hawke, well how long have ya been out here for?”
“Sorry but I am the one questioning you remember? Back to the topic, you say you did not in fact kill the prince?”
“No someone else did with a thrown dagger of sorts.”
“Hmm really. Why did you flee then?”
“No one would have believed my story?”
“And I am supposed to believe it? No, it does make more sense. I mean we literally found you chasing a rat. Not very sneaky for a spy, or skilled.”
“Hey! I can be snea-”
“so you are a spy! A very juvenile one at that!”
“No that’s not what I meant, it’s just I was doi-“
“Doing what? Spying on the alliance!”
“NO, I was heading south to try and find a villag-“
“You went south to spy on a village huh? A village owned by the Denegt tribe?!”
Frustrated and scarred that they would execute me I yelled “Let me finish a freaking sentence!”
“Good news buddy! You’re not a spy.” Hawke said with a smile on his face. “We knew from the last time we interrogated you. Except last time you were a bit more shall we say drugged up. Just giving you a hard time there pal!”
“Wha, why would you do tha-“
Someone entered the tent and as the owner pulled Hawke out he said “Sorry bout that one but I gotta go.” I could barely hear the last bit. “Stay put!”
I moved around in the small dwelling where I had woken up. The furnishings were very sparse. The material that the enclosure was made out of was sown together animal hides. The one piece of furniture was a small table. More of a nightstand really. The wood it was made out of was really twisty and dark. I had never seen a plant or tree that grew like what it needed to for that shape to have been created.
Thankfully Hawke returned shortly after he left. “So here is the deal kid. Were packing up, you can leave and go your own way or stay with us.” He smiled that oddly comforting smile and said “However if you leave the closest source of water is probably a hundred miles south of here.”
“Yeah, uh I’m just going to stay with you guys.”
“Great! First thing first, you need to pack this tent up.” Hawke then casually left the dwelling.
Leaving the tent as well, I was immediately assaulted by the blinding brilliance of the sun. My eyes took time in adjusting to the brilliance. I spun around looking for any indication of where I might be. The whole place looked desolate. A few shrubs here and there fought their way through the crusty earth. Other than that though there was only the giant mountain. It was the lone protrusion from the ground for miles. It looked like a large sharks tooth had been jammed from the underside of a dried out pancake.
Hunger had forced itself upon me. When was the last time I had eaten? Gotta pack the tent first though. That was the priority, I would ask that Hawke character about getting some food afterwards.
After I had rolled it one of the other people showed me which way it was supposed to go in the bag. It took me a few hours to get it into its bag. The thing simply would not fit. I tried re rolling it different ways many times but I could not get the blasted thing to get into the sack. A few members of the band had decided that I was good entertainment and had watched me struggle through the entire ordeal. It was as if they had given me a bag too small to hold the canvas of the tent on purpose just to watch me struggle. I hadn’t seen Hawke in a while either. Even though a small crowd had gathered to watch me I still felt alone. Unable to communicate with the majority was a new experience. It was very disheartening. I had made fun of the Adiplen traders for always fumbling on words when they had docked at Tanon.
The band of nomads started heading out soon after I had finished packing the tent up. They had loaded all of the stuff onto the top of large four legged creatures. I had never seen them before. The legs seemed too skinny to support their mass. The body of the creatures was also very odd, they were almost flat on the top but were also very shallow. It reminded me of a walking table. The head was the most intriguing. It had a head similar to a horse but the mouth was much more rectangular. The nose was a large bony protrusion that seemed to have no function other than making the beast look even more peculiar.
We began moving, heading towards the great protrusion in the earth. The size of the group was pretty large. I estimated it in the thousands, and everyone and their mother seemed to be armed to the teeth. There was beauty among these people though. I saw a few of the women looking at me and giggling. They wore silks that really left very little to the imagination. Their hair was dark, not a single member had light hair. It was odd since most people from the western cities had blonde hair. I had been one of the few exceptions.
A familiar bubbly voice came from behind me “Hey, heard ya had a hard time putting the tent away? Ya know that you were trying to put it in sideways right?”
So Hawke had been one of the observers also. Great. “So thank you for all your helpfulness on the matter” I replied in a sour tone.
“Oh don’t get you panties all in a twist. First time I did it, it took me the better part of a day! It’s kind of an unspoken ritual we have for outsiders.”
I felt a bit better after he had told me that he went through the same thing. I still asked “Really? It took you that long? Dang. How many other outsiders are there?”
“Naw took me maybe thirty minutes. Other outsiders besides you and I? Nope. The only reason you were allowed to stay is because your accused of killing the prince.”
“Great, wait why does that help?” I replied. He ignored the question. Why did these people dislike my people so much? From what I heard very small amounts of Tamultans had ever even journeyed east. We had been told these people were constantly fighting each other and that going east was to invite disaster. Few traders had ever made a true profit of the thing. Remembering my hunger “Hey, do you know where I can find some food?”
Hawke reached into his bag and pulled out what must have been some sort of jerky. “Here ya go. This stuff will fill ya up quick!”
He handed me a large handful of the stuff. It was thicker than any jerky I had ever seen. The taste was actually pretty good but the texture was very odd. There were crunchy parts next to chewy parts with soft parts sprinkled intermittently. At one point I almost threw up. The texture in this jerky was so odd my mind got confused and in no way liked what it was experiencing.
Hawke laughed a little and said “yeah the stuff is a bit hard to get used to. The sooner ya do, the better your life will be! I have to go check on some things, enjoy the trip.” With that he walked away towards the back of the group.
He had not lied about the ability of this stuff to fill you up. After my third piece I was almost feeling bloated. The last few pieces were pocketed incase the need to eat struck me before Hawke returned.
The next few days went by without much incidence. Walking in sand was incredibly tiring and by that third night my legs ached and burned like never before. Hawke had begun to instruct me in the language of these people. It was so entirely different from my own that I struggled with almost every concept that he tried to teach me. Thankfully, I had made real progress with one thing. Packing that damned tent up. It now only took me maybe half an hour to get everything ready for travel. The size of my crowd had dwindled for those that watched me pack. They had almost seemed sad that I was able to do it much quicker.
Tonight there was supposed to be some sort of feast in honor of their god and prophet. I didn’t much care their deity, I wasn’t huge on the whole idea. Then again most of the lower class in the west was of similar mind when it came to any entity that was supposed to be fair and equal. Equality is something that men can only dream about in perfect situations with perfect people. However it is my belief that if a human is perfect in every way and without fault they are no longer a human.
The smell of roasting meat was strong as I approached the center of the camp. Odd music emanated from a group of people to my right. Celebration was in the air. The movement of the women around the fire caught my attention. The grace exuded was tremendous. All would move in unison thrusting violently forward then shaking their hips as though a wire was attached to their upper bodies and the lower body did whatever it pleased. One looked right at me. Blood rushed to my cheeks, and other places. I looked away concentrating on the hillside.
“Enticing aren’t they!”
Oh great he’s back. How will he make a fool out of me now.
“Here, drink up. It will numb ya so as not to make a public spectacle out of yourself!” He shoved a cup my direction.
I took the cup from him and gulped the whole thing down. It had been too long since I had ‘altered my state of mind’.
“Uh, I wouldn’t do tha- aw hell” Hawke said. The world began to spin. The bastard this was really strong. Two voices rang into my head simultaneously yet at different times “forgot to tell ya that khundi is a hallucinogen. Damn every time, sorry, had a bit too much of it myself.”
The world morphed around me. Thorns erupted from the ground. I sat looking at what was once a twig for what seemed like minutes. A commotion began to stir in the camp. Demons sped over the hills. I heard the language again. I looked up and Hawke had transformed into an avatar of light. He was holding a bow and aiming at the demons crawling over the hill. The yelling coalesced into a low drum. Something was really wrong. People had begun fighting, not in a friendly way either. Hawk skewered a demon with an arrow.
The demons were closing in. Trying to stand I was knocked back down by my inability to judge where gravity pulled. The sky became the sand and the sand in turn became the sky. Something had fallen on top of me. Warmth flowed from it. It was a demon! I had to get it off of me. I looked up and light and dark were clashing. Three demons had surrounded Hawke. One lunged, but was immediately stopped by a wall of light. Or was it a dagger? Things were confusing. Another demon attempted to jump him from behind. Hawke became a blur and the demon was falling back with a waterfall spouting from it neck.
I tried to get up again. A voice full of care and speed told me to stay down. It didn’t matter I collapsed on the ground again. I had no weapon to battle the demons with anyway. Hawke felled two more of the creatures. More kept coming. Creatures came to help Hawke. They looked familiar yet they were green and had grotesque limbs that ended in long pointy fingernails. They engaged the oncoming demons. Something was not right within me I needed something to quell my stoma- I vomited all over the sand next to me.
The dizziness had subsided a little bit but the monsters and demons were still fighting. A third time I tried to stand. I heard something about a sorry, then Hawke’s light turned towards me. A blur came towards me. Darkness engulfed me.