Book 1 - Sand
This thread is intended to be paired with The Hourglass (1.1)
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Rahnam, Dabaab 13th, 412
The desert, unsurprisingly, was mostly sand, occasionally punctuated by small cacti or patches of grass whose roots prevent too much erosion from happening. Occasionally you could see a bird or small rodent, or if you were lucky, a solitary fennec. The fox, not the type of vulpine. Although, hey, no promises. They did live here, after all. But what Yufraan wanted to be seeing - quite literally any sign of sentient life, maybe an ATV or at least the tracks from one - did not appear to be popping up. They sighed, and set down the binoculars they were gazing through. They’d been at this for weeks, and they hadn’t managed to find a single sign of Alkhatawf, the Hook - the local resistance in Sayaduun.
“Anything?” came a voice behind Yufraan. Omar Naciri, their advisor, godfather, and friend. Yufraan shook their head no. “Well, don’t worry, faara. There aren’t too many more places they can be.”
“I hope you’re right. Any other places to scout today?”
“Well…” he hesitates. “Yes. Two more.”
“Then we’d better get going.”
“Faara… it’s getting late. Don’t you think we should go back, get some rest?”
“We still have an hour before sunset. Now come on… unless you can’t keep up, old man?”
“I can outpace a youngster like you any day - bring it on!” But Naciri gives a glance over his shoulder, back to the town of Sahla where they’ve been staying. It’s only a 45 minute walk, but their current route is taking them even further from the town. And he knows that the carefree air that Yufraan is putting on is all an act. They may not be his actual child - he had never had any of his own - but he had raised Yufraan. He knew when they were putting up a facade. And he knew, more than anyone, that Ildarra had changed them.
Omar had always been a firm believer in Dawra, but he was now almost sure that the mythos was right. He had often wondered, back when he himself was a naive university student, what Dawra was fundamentally about. After all, he believed the ideas were worth fighting for, but Omar had always been skeptical about all the rest - the existence of the Deities, the Spirit Realm, the Universal Song. He had come to the conclusion some 40 years ago that it didn’t matter, really, if Dawra was The One True Religion!™ because, after all, it had never claimed to be. It was the shared cultural heritage of his people, and the fundamental beliefs by which all people should live their lives even if they weren’t Dawrani themselves. But then, Yufraan had completed the Trials. Then, his kid had become the Mutadiit. And everything had changed.
Sometimes, when Yufraan forgot they were near other people, they would cock their head or say something out loud, part of a conversation nobody else could hear. But even though Omar couldn’t hear it, he could sense it. An ethereal humming, the atoms all vibrating in unison, a small pickup of the wind inside a sealed building. And Yufraan would say, “But will she be able to handle it?” under their breath. The temperature would slightly go down on a hundred-degree day for no real reason, and Yufraan would nod. On more cynical days, he wondered if the peyote had more lingering effects than anyone knew. But on the inside, he knew the truth. Gods were real, or at least facsimiles of what sapients would consider gods. Beings beyond our understanding, and one of them spoke to his own child. On some days, he was proud.
Usually, he was terrified.
They had stopped walking by now, and Yufraan had begin setting up more surveillance equipment. He glanced at the sunset. Omar Naciri knew not to be exposed in the desert when nightfall came, but Yufraan was on a mission. And the only thing he could do now was help, or get out of the Mutadiit’s way. So he carefully began helping Yufraan set things up, and surveying the land.
“See anything yet, aym?”
“Not yet, faara. But we’ll keep looking. And eventually, we’ll find what we’re looking for, I promise.”
Omar just hoped they were looking for the same thing.