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The Ba'malra in those days were far from welcoming. While they considered the stories of Re’Sheek fairy tales fit only for frightening children into obeying their parents, they distrusted strangers with a fervor bordering on superstition. Those who came in from out of the desert, or those who had no family or House name, were especially distrusted.

One minute the sky had been clear, and the next minute, there was nothing but stinging darkness.

Kevaar dared not open his eyes. He had attempted it once, a few minutes into the sand storm, only for his eyes to smart so badly with the sand that he was afraid he'd never see again. He had ducked to the ground, rubbing fiercely, and tears were pouring down his cheeks before the pain lessened enough for him to continue.

The cliffs were nearby. All he had to do was find them, and take cover under one of the outcroppings. Surely the storm wouldn't take long to pass. Just like the rain storms back home, it would blow itself out in a matter of minutes, right?

He picked a direction and began walking in it. Seconds stretched into minutes, and minutes seemed to lengthen to hours. Surely he hadn't been that far from the cliffs in the first place? Kevaar felt a pit in his stomach. Or maybe he had simply chosen the wrong direction.

Scolding himself for his stupidity, Kevaar turned around and started back in the opposite direction. Or he thought it was the opposite direction. He couldn't see, and the rose-colored plain had been absolutely flat. For all he knew he was miles from the edge of the desert--

His outstretched hand met rock, and Kevaar gasped in relief. He collapsed on it, hugging it like it was the Holy Mother. But the jutting boulder didn't protect him from the sand. Leaning against it, Kevaar inched his way around it. It wasn't a large rock, only the width of two or three degonti and a few handspans higher than himself. He made his way around it twice, feeling it out, and by then had lost all sense of direction. He didn't know where he had first touched the rock, or even where the rock was in relation to...well, anything else in this blasted desert.

Trying to ignore the increasing raw feelings of his exposed skin, Kevaar thought back to that sweeping view of the desert he had taken from the grasslands. He hadn't remembered any standing stone out in the middle of the sand, but then, he could be miles from where he had first climbed down the cliffs. Still, it didn't seem like too outrageous a bet that he was only a stone's throw away from the cliffs.

The cliffs, and potential shelter.

Kevaar sat down and began feeling around with his feet, thinking he would be a merry show to watch if the sand hadn't been blocking anyone's view of his antics. Then again, if the sand wasn't blocking an onlooker's view, it wouldn't be blocking his, either.

He went around the rock once, patting and stretching, only to feel nothing else close by but more sand. Then daring, he lay down. The sand seemed to take it as invitation to march right down his mouth without even needing the wind to carry it, but he buried his nose in his shirt collar and hissed his breath past clenched teeth. He rolled about the rock, using the full length of his body...nothing, nothing, then...yes! Another solid object!

Pressing his feet against the other stone's reassuring solidarity, Kevaar sat up and crawled to it. This rock turned out to be a wall, and Kevaar hoped beyond hope he had found the cliff face. Now all he would have to do was walk beside it, until it dipped into a cave or other kind of overhanging, and then he could wait at the sandstorm in blessed shelter.

Taking long strides, Kevaar gratefully followed the contour of the cliff. His over eager steps drove his toes into a rock, and he pitched over face first. He threw his hands up to protect his face when he hit the ground.

But he didn't hit anything, except more air. Kevaar screamed as he fell. He swallowed sand, choked, and so heard clearly the crack of his own bones as he hit the bottom of the gully.

He couldn't scream anymore, or he'd swallow more sand and suffocate. Instead he pummeled the ground with his fists, screaming from behind clenched teeth. The stinging sand on his bare skin was a pleasant tickle compared to fire in his leg.

*****

It seemed days before the sandstorm finally died down. He had sipped water and nibbled on a traveling biscuit from his pack, but it didn't stop the pain, and with every mouthful he swore he swallowed a little bit of the omnipresent sand, too.

Kevaar woke up without remembering that he had been asleep. Propping himself up on his elbows sent a shower of sand cascading off his shoulders. His legs were still buried, which Kevaar thought just as well, as he didn't want to look at the carnage of his broken leg. A sad little bush, half-buried like he was, stood a few handspans away. Kevaar was able to pull himself into a sitting position with its help, until the branch snapped off in his hand.

It wasn't as bad as it could have been, Kevaar reflected. He was at the bottom of a gully, but not one with steep sides, so he could probably crawl his way out. The sun was far to the east, promising plenty of hours of daylight. It was cool down in the gully, the stones still chilled from the long desert night. No creepy crawlies had come to rest inside his warm clothing, and with the exception of the bush, there were no other signs of life. It was unlikely he'd have to deal with any aggressive scavengers.

It was unlikely he'd have to deal with any friendly scavengers, either. Kevaar hadn't brought a map, and even if he had, it was no good to him now, blown off course as much as he was. (He took a moment to be amused with the thought he might have literally blown off course, in that gale!) He amusement didn't last long. He was stranded, in a desert, with a broken leg. He had water and food enough for a few weeks--he wasn't that stupid, to come unprepared--but he wasn't sure a few weeks would matter if he couldn't budge himself a few miles--perhaps a few hundred miles--in the direction of civilization.

"So what are you going to do, hmm? Sit down here and wallow in the misery of your plight? That won't do. Simply unhelpful!"

Grunting, Kevaar dragged himself along on his elbows, picking his way up the gulley. He squinted as he pulled himself over the top and into broad daylight, and had to stop and let his eyes adjust before he could see around.

Flat desert in one direction, cliffs in another. A maze of gullies and old waterways in yet another. Well, at least he might not crave for water. Panting from exertion, Kevaar laid his cheek to the cool sand, closing his eyes. If there was water, there might also be plants he could eat. If there was water, there might be critters of the meaty kind he could trap. He brought snares. He even knew how to use them. Yes, he wouldn't lack for food or water, just so long as he could get his leg to heal properly. Then after months of roughing it in the wild, he could be on his way. He could imagine the gasp of the appreciative audience as he told about his fight against the elements, using only his wits and courage...

His audience...the pursuers behind him. Kevaar's eyes popped open, and he scanned the horizons nervously. Nothing. But you never knew. They might be sitting in one of those shadows, watching him writhe...he had to get away from this place!

With a gasp of pain, Kevaar pushed himself back up into a sitting position and looked down at his legs. Well, one definitely wasn't at the angle it should be. The other just looked bruised. If he could just bend the other one back into place, and find something to bind it with...

"No good, no good," Kevaar gasped as he tried pulling his shin back into alignment. "Oh, gods, no good!" He almost gave into despair then, but he remembered the woman's sneer, as she tugged the dagger from his hands...

"No, I won't go back!" Kevaar snapped defiantly at the cliffs, and was rewarded with the faint echoes of his own voice. He would surely hear anyone who was trying to sneak up on him with the acoustics of this place. But he still had to find that water. And to do so, he had to bind his leg.

Yelling curses at all the gods he ever knew, Kevaar grabbed the two bone halves and wrenched them back into place. He roared blasphemy at all the saints as he snapped a branch from the obliging bush and bound it tightly in place against his shin. Then he cursed and screamed some more, until his throat felt raw, and the pain wasn't quite so fiery.

He wasn't going to be able to walk. But hopping along might prove to be a little more productive than crawling. Either way, it made him feel more like a man and less like a rat being upright. Kevaar rolled to the cliff face and pulled himself up along it, then hobbled the slow, painful hobble, down to the network of ditches that might hold his water hole.

Up above, a dark form shifted, watching the degonti until he climbed down out of sight into the first gully.

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grayfoxblog: painting of a gryphon backlit by the sun (Default)
Gray Fox

March 2016

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