We have written this story on May 24, 2009.
hciwdnas is not Collabotale backwards, but elatoballoC is.
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
Rychlé hnědá liška vyskočila nad líný pes.
Everyone set your names and use the chat!
LIST GOES HERE
Xion wants furs and leathers because animals have no rights.
DRAGONENE IS SECOND?
The quick Payle Fawkes jumps over the lazy writers.
- Saplings in the Sand -
There, on the horizon. Something shifting beneath the shining
white sands caught my eye. I extended my telescope and set it to
my eye, peering along its hollow length. Just as I'd suspected.
Desert Mongrels. The vivacious creatures swam through the sand as
though it were water, pushing their slender bodies through the land
with mighty, paddle-like foreclaws. They weren't much trouble alone
but in packs they could be the end of me. I lowered my telescope
and shielded my eyes from the mid-day sun. Time to get moving again.
I packed up my cooking utensils and grabbed my backpack, and
then I started walking west, away from the beasts. After a while, I
backtracked my steps, and started to the north instead. Mongrels,
they say, do not have a keen sense of smell. And reliant as they are
on their vision, they were easy to trick. With any luck, they'd miss
my real trail.
Maybe I was making progress, there was certainly more ground
between me and them than before, and it was growing quickly; perhaps
I would be able to make it out ali-
and then I noticed the storm. That is, if "storm" is the proper
word for what we have here in Shkretëtirë; there's really no way to
describe that mass of sand and dust swept across miles of desert.
I'd heard in the canteen that one of them can clean a cow in twenty
seconds, and a man in ten. Too late to run, but I tried anyway, and
as I did I seemed to see a vision of men riding mongrels; then the
sand went over me and the sun went out.
I awoke to the scent of tea and a searing pain through my body.
While the smell was certainly nice, the pain overrode any pleasure
I might have gleaned from any other senses. I moaned in agony. I
opened my eyes and met the blank gaze of an old bearded man. His
shiny eyes were set beneath a large, protruding brow and hard-cut
cheeks, a flowing silver mane of hair draped from his chin. I tried
to mouth "water" but all that came out was some raspy grunt. I
could hardly acknowledge the sound as my own. The old man walked
away and, as I turned my head to follow him another shock of pain
ran through me.
He returned shortly after, trailed by a servant carrying a cask
of water. I accepted it and drank deep; thank the Protectors. As
soon as I was done, the man started talking.
"I have saved you. For this, you owe me."
"My thanks, but-"
"You will journey to the Empyrean warriors. Tell them Thyer
Shqiponjë sent you."
"I'm sorry, I don't-
"As am I."
With that, the man left. The servant followed him out. Grunting
with pain, I stumbled up to the cavern entrance - guarded. Just my
The Mongrels chained to the wall lunged at me as I limped
forwards, and it was clear that were I to make a break for it I
would be savaged; what was the old man playing at? How was I to
fulfil his request if I couldn't even leave the cavern? But just
then, a hideous keening filled the air, and the beastial figures sat
back on their haunches and joined in; it was all-encompassing and
eerily discordant... but at least I could get out. On a whim, I
recalled the vision I had seen in the desert, and mounted the creature
closest to the doorway; suddenly it arose and tore out of the door
with me astride it - a rather painful motion, I was sad to discover.
With me on its back, the Mongrel tore across the sand like a
rat-monkey through a storehouse. I glanced back and saw the rocky
outcropping I had been rescued to rapidly shrinking in the distance.
Once the Mongrel got up to speed the ride was smooth - I felt nearly
motionless, save the breeze that whispered past me in my speed. I took
a moment to examine myself; a complete mess. My arms were crissed and
twice crossed with cuts and, feeling my face, I could tell it was in
no better shape. I assumed my legs were the same, but I couldn't tell -
the old man's servant had apparently outfitted me with tall leather
boots and thick canvas pants. No matter. I let the breeze soothe my
The Mongrel sank deeper into the sand as it begun swimming, its
mighty claws sliding through the grains as slickly as if through water.
Soon my legs were knee-deep in a quick-moving sand. Then I realized
what the boots were for. They had been expecting me to ride this thing.
The dunes were like waves beneath me; had I not been accustomed to
sailing, I might have become sea sick. Great reaches of sand stretched
out in all directions, as far as I could see. I raised my trusted
telescope and looked; and there, far away, was a camp. The Empyreans?
Six, no, seven tents, arrayed in a rough circle around a large central
yurt. The beast angled straight for them. Within minutes, I came upon
pickets and outriders. I briefly wondered why such a small camp would
be so well-defended, but I had no more time to ponder on that.
A few guards, quicker-witted than most, came out with their blades
drawn and were promptly slaughtered; the even swifter-thinking ones
were already specks on the horizon, having fled on sight. Within minutes
there was no resistance left, and the village elders came out - forced
to explain themselves, I thought - but one of them began uttering the
odd sound I had heard in the camp. The battle stopped dead, and I began
to lose consciousness as the aching in my head grew greater and greater
and greater and I began to see visions...
Have you ever seen the great desert? It is a beautiful thing, much
greater than the settlements along the edge. They hold it back.
I see a seed. A sad looking thing. It looks withered, pale and ill.
Nobody waters it. Nobody cares for it. It lies neglected...for years.
And yet, as it goes on, neglected and unwatered, it grows healthier. The
more people ignore it, the larger it grows. Soon it is not the seed that
looks unhealthy, but the world around it in comparison. A bright, shining
green thing, it makes all human endeavours look pale and ill. In time,
the town around it turns to dust and it begins to sprout. The vibrant
plant, looking more glorious than any that came before it and any that
might come after, continues to grow. The forests that once surrounded the
town die off, feeding the new tree. Dust. Dust and sand and gravel consume
the world around the magnificient tree, and with every sin that man
commits, and every negligent deed done to the planet, the desert grows
ever-larger, the tree ever-stronger. Man realizes too late what has become
of their world and, at the borders of the desert they erect cities. Places
to fight the encroaching dust and sand. Places to delay the punishment of
mankind. Hollow attempts to avert the inevitable.
All the while, Desert Mongrels shoot out of the tree. They too become
stronger with each passing day; they tower over any man now, and the look
in their eye would terrify the bravest of souls. And their howls; their
howls could chill you to the bones, leaving you cowering, holding your
knees tight, back pressed against a wall. Fear is a powerful force. It
drives them; it sustains them.
I woke up with a start. Something wet brushed my cheek; I snapped my
head back from the Mongrel's tongue, and then-
I fought to calm myself. As I looked upon the mongrel, I realized it
was but a puppy; not the wild, savage beast of my dreams. The village was
gone, too, the tents dismantled while I slept; they must have wanted to
get out before the madman came to. That old man, this was all his fault!
I sped back to the cavern, and here too I saw signs of motion, the
pitiful creatures trying to flee before the desert's hideous beauty, and
as I enter the cavern nobody stopped me, nobody even noticed me, somehow.
Even the old man ignored me, silent even as I rode my monstrous companion
into his room. Here was another weed, this village, choking growth,
choking ME. It wasn't right! I looked for a moment in the mirror, and saw
nothing there but sand.
And I didn't kill him, even though I had wanted to. I just let the
desert in. For every beautiful garden needs a gardener.