Well, this week hasn’t been turning out exactly as planned. Or this story. I had planned to write this story a week ago, but I never got a good idea for what it should entail until Friday evening. After most of my posts on Friday had been up for several hours. But, as they say, better late than never, and I should be back on schedule soon. In the meantime, enjoy!
Jandin ran as fast as his legs could carry him, his sandals kicking up the sand behind him, his body sweating from the blazing sun reflecting off the bright sand, his eyes barely open as he tried to look forward, though forward was hard to find when the whole world was white sand, blue sky, or the yellow sun.
Well, there were still the purple mountains behind him, but if he ever took the time to look at them, he would see that they were just a line, a bump on the horizon now. He didn’t look back, though, because looking back meant he would have to slow down, and he might already be too late.
North, behind those mountains, lay the land of Lanuman. Funny, that the Land of Rivers should be bordered by a desert. The mountains really were quite divisive, but the desert even more so. Few had ever managed to cross it alive, especially not in Jandin’s condition. Sure, he had food and water for a couple days, but it would likely take longer to cross this desert. Most people who managed to cross the desert did so on horseback, from the south. Jandin would have brought a horse, but there were paths though the mountains that only a man could walk.
Ahead to the south lay the land of Miris, an ally of Lanuman. Well, ally wasn’t quite the right word, since the two nations rarely ever communicated. It was mostly formal, and only came into play when one of the nations needed help from the other – like in this instance.
If only things could have been like they were a year ago, Jandin thought to himself. A year ago, there had been utter peace. He had been under the tutelage of Sirocin, master of the mystic arts. Now he wasn’t even sure if Sirocin was alive. A week ago, Morbaren had attacked from the west like a flood, rushing in all over the territory, barely checked by the wide rivers that made Lanuman famous. Sirocin had sent him immediately on this journey, knowing full well that, while Lanuman might have the ability to slow down the enemy drastically, they would not be able to defeat Morbaren. For that, they would need the help of Miris.
It helped that Miris bordered Morbaren on the west. The mountain range that separated Miris and Lanuman also separated Lanuman from Morbaren, but there were far more passes in that region, and no desert to hinder any who traveled between. Jandin figured the plan was for, when Miris gave their aid, that they would attack Morbaren on their front, requiring Morbaren to take their troops from Lanuman to defend their position. Perhaps then they could drive Morbaren back, back over the mountains.
But that was future what-ifs and might-be’s that Jandin had no time for. His mind was filled only with crossing the desert and staying alive. Already it was the third day since his journey had begun. He was exhausted, and yet he still had who knew how many more miles of desert to cross. He had no idea if he had enough food and water to cross the desert, but he knew that he was hungry and thirsty now, and that he had to conserve it all.
The sun set to his right after a time, he didn’t know how long. He had stopped counting a long time ago, when the land became the same white ocean from mile to mile. When its red departure finally finished, he stopped at last. He sat down in the sand and ate the food he had brought and drank the water. And then he lay down in the cool sand, allowing his exhaustion to wash over him and become sleep.
Before dawn he rose again, eating and drinking a little more before he started again, running due south. The only difference between this day and the last was that the mountains behind had vanished at last, and that his burden was a little less. But this was little comfort, because the weight that had left his burden gave him only a little more energy, and his rest little more, so that it was with leaden feet that he ran that day.
Sometimes he just wanted to close his eyes to keep out the blinding light all around him, or to rest his painful eyes. And there was little point in not doing so, since there was absolutely no variation in the landscape. In fact, he had hardly seen any hills, and plants and animals were without a trace.
As he went on, he rationed his food and water more and more. Not that he had had much to begin with. And even with these measures, he couldn’t stop that moment early one morning when he realized he had just drank the last drop of water. And the last bite of food had just succeeded it.
But still he ran. What else was there for him to do? He couldn’t go back. Even if it was shorter that way, he would die in his flight, and it would be accepting the triumph of the desert. He couldn’t let down Sirocin – not now, not ever. So he ran. And when he couldn’t run any further, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, he walked. And when he couldn’t walk anymore, he crawled.
Inch by inch he crawled, grabbing handfuls of hot sand, blistering his palms and fingers, dragging his body with every last drop of strength in him. He had closed his eyes at last long ago, and now only barely hoped that he could find the end of the desert. His duty was all that kept him moving forward.
And then, a week since he had come to the desert, he came to the end of his strength. With one final effort, he reached forward with his hand, but it didn’t hit sand. No, it hit something much more solid, stone he thought. He opened one eye and peered ahead of him. It was a stone structure. Suddenly, hope sprang back within his soul. He dragged himself forward and then up the stone. His arm fell into empty air, and he realized that he had stumbled on a well.
After several minutes of fumbling and slow moving, he dropped the bucket down the shaft and pulled it back up with the pulley, taking a long draught of the water. He smacked his cracked lips with the ecstasy it gave him, and he took another long drink.
“Um, hello, sir,” said a voice nearby. “Who are you and where are you from?”
Jandin turned to face the voice, which emanated from a young boy holding a staff and a group of sheep about him.
“I am Jandin, son of Giordon,” he replied, his voice hoarse after so long unused. “I come from the land of Lanuman across the desert and over the mountains. I must speak to your king, because he need his aid.”
The boy nodded and ran off toward a house small in the distance that Jandin only now noticed. He smiled contentedly, triumphantly. He was going to save the country.