In The Sand

10 minutes read


A man sat in a cave with a heavy beige jacket, pants, and boots. On his head was a wide-brimmed hat with a flap at the back to protect his neck; in his hands, an old tome, and behind him were three tall individuals, fully wrapped with bandage-sized cloth. The man ran his finger from one line of text till the next, muttering under his breath as he went. The three individuals stood lazily against the walls as they waited, impatiently fidgeting as they did so.

“Stop kicking up sand.” One called out.

“Well, you stop chipping stones from the wall; this was all your idea, Vaero.” The other replied, laying emphasis on the name.

“I am sorry, but I thought you wanted to be paid, Sesewai.” Vaero replied, mimicking Seswai’s emphasis. “But clearly not, so Terra and I can share your share.”

Terra rolled her brown eyes, the light of the man’s reading lantern creating a ring of red that glinted in them as she did so.

“How about you all remain quiet, I pay you to protect me, and you are paid for getting me in and out. So the more you talk, the less I can focus, the longer we all have to be here. You stay quiet, I get my work done, we go home quickly.”

The man’s finger paused while he spoke, then for a moment after he waited for a response. Satisfied, he went back to reading. He scrolled his finger across the parchment, searching for the right instructions; tapping down on a rune at the end of the script, he grinned.

“I know where we are going.” He said, drawing the attention of the other three. “It says here that we need to reach the obelisk in the sand.”

“That seems far too vague to be an actual direction.” Terra groaned from the back of the cave.

“It would seem that way.” The man looked up from his book. “If you are not educated in the history of this desert, I would say that is a near nonsense statement.” The man stood up, packing the book into his satchel, the name H.R Greiss. “We head back out into the winds; we have a mountain to climb.” Greiss said, turning towards the entrance of the cave.

The three-woman looked at one another with a hint of satisfaction at the idea of moving. Greiss waited at the entrance of the cave as the three-woman surrounded him; raising their arms, they chanted until a blue shimmer surrounded all four of them. They wandered out into the chaotic winds that tossed the sand of the desert through the air. But despite the chaos that they walked into, none of the sands nor the winds touched them. They collided with the blue shimmer and rolled over the top. The impacts flared with a variety of greens and blues as the energy of the shield left behind small shards of colored glass wherever they walked.

“What is the likelihood a Ure-wurm will find us?” Greiss asked as he trod as lightly as he could.

“Ure-wurm’s won’t come up during a storm.” Sesawai answered. “They search for movement through vibrations, and something a lot of people don’t consider is the fact that it takes a lot of energy to breach the sand and burrow. They won’t expend the energy during a storm. Without magic, these storms will kill you, but if you can do what we can do, then this is the safest time to wander the desert.”

“It is hard to see still; I am struggling to navigate without being able to see landmarks.” Greiss said as he plotted their path with a compass and map.

“Would you like to get an aerial view?” Vaero asked.

“I would love to, but that isn’t an option, really is it?” Greiss said.

Vaero grabbed the map, and the compass from the man, handing it over to the others; she then dropped his satchel onto the sand.

“What are you doing?” He asked with a little fear in his eyes.

“Put your goggles off, professor; we are going for a ride.”

He swallowed hard and dropped his goggles from his head onto his eyes, and swallowed heavily. Vaero dropped her portion of the shield, its radius reduced as she wrapped her arms around him and grounded her feet. She focused on the words she spoke, and she leaped high into the air, taking Greiss with her. They left the protective energies of their shield and were instantly battered by the intense winds of the storm; Greiss naturally squinted as he was prepared to have the sand get into his eyes. The roar of the winds made it nearly impossible for them to talk to one another despite their heads being right next to one another. Their momentum started to slow, and Greiss finally got the courage to open his eyes. The storm was much thinner the higher they got, and Greiss was able to see into the distance. His vision was still obscured by the heavy layers of sand that was being thrown around, but this time he was able to see over the thick of the sand.

Out from the desert rose many mountains that that could be called the obelisk of the desert, but his eye knew what he was looking for. A simple mountain with only one spire,  nearly perfectly straight, even though it was shorter than most around them, he knew that this was the one that he was looking for.

The two of them lowered once the spell had run out of momentum; Greiss stared at the obelisk with determination in his eyes; even falling beneath the thick cover of the sandstorm, his eyes were fixed on where the mountain stood. Out of sight, but not out of his eye’s perception.

The two of them landed back down into the blue sphere, Vaero re-spoke the words needed, and the shield returned to its former size.

“Did you see anything of value?” Terra asked.

“There was a littering of mountains; I hope Greiss knows as much as he claims to know.” Vaero answered.

“I saw what we needed; we were slightly off course; I knew I hired you three for something.”

“You can always count on the Bound Sisters.”

The three of them raised their fists into the air and let out a single cheer.

“That is lovely.” Greiss groaned. “Not like that hasn’t been cheered every time I give the slightest compliment.” He continued as he corrected their course and moved forward with no regard to the others.

By the time the four of them arrived at the base of the mountain, the storm had started to slow down; what was once an intense howling had become a mild buffering.

“Drop the shield, it is not needed, nor will it be practical as we climb the mountain.” Greiss called out as he put his goggles on and stored everything in his satchel.

The Bound sisters looked to one another and shrugged, the shield dropped, and the winds started to press against them. Their clothes started to flicker about, and sand was already starting to sift its way through their clothes.

Greiss stared up at the mountain for a long while in silence before moving on.

The bound sisters stepped close to one another to speak in hushed tones.

“Do we know what he is looking for up here?” Sesewai asked.

“Whatever it is, whatever reason he has, there is determination in his eyes.” Vaero replied.

“You think that is determination?” Terra asked as she directed her gaze to Greiss. “That is hatred.”

The three of them look up to Greiss as he climbs without regard for his life. It didn’t matter how often he slipped or was battered by the winds he continued to climb.

The sisters caught up to Greiss and assisted him in his climb; the three of them worked together to ensure that Greiss was able to traverse the parts of the mountain that he desired to travel. They made him leap impossible heights and walk paths barely wide enough for a mouse, all to get him to an opening that was about half the way up. It was hidden behind rubble and dense, thick weeds; if it was not for Greiss, the sisters would have missed it. It was dark and only a few feet tall.

Greiss paused before entering, looking back at the woman.

“This is where all my research has been leading to; if you lose this from my grasp before I can grab it, there will be severe consequences. Do you understand?”

The three sisters nodded, they did not hear every part of every word, but they knew what he was talking about.

He was the first to crawl through the gap; lead by his lantern, he slowly disappeared into the black. Vaero was the next to follow, Sesewai stood aside to let Terra through, but Terra stood firm and pushed Sesewai in first before she followed through.

By the time Terra managed to crawl through the tunnel, everyone was already searching around the chamber that the small tunnel opened into. Terra got to her feet and stretched her back, enjoying every click that ran up her spine.

“What are we looking for?” She asked.

Her sisters were busy on the far side of the chamber, but her question caught the ear of Greiss.

“We are looking for a way forward. The book does not describe how to move from this room into the real kingdom of the Void. But that is typical for the void books; they are incredibly detailed when they are, but when they’re not, they’re not.”

“Profound.” Terra muttered. “What can you tell us about the Void? Any information that might help us with understanding how they may hide.”

Greiss continued to run his hand against the rough stone walls, meticulously observing every crack for potential runes carved into the stone.

“They are the oldest race that has any written history. They lived before the elves but disappeared before the Elves reached a civilized, well, civilization.”

“Boring, be more specific,” Terra interrupted.

“Ugh, they were profound magic users, using magics that we have yet to replicate; they speak of abilities that are near god-like that they used daily.”

“Nope, everyone knows that, more specific.” Greiss was silent as he thought. “Come on, you are supposed to be a wealth of knowledge on these creatures.”

“Not creatures; they were the most prominent race before ours even had a foothold on the language. They were half-giants, averaging eight feet tall on the low end, with magic that could divide mountains. They could jump between worlds, which is currently the popular theory for why they are gone. But I know there is more to it; there is still so much history not known.”

“Okay, so why are we looking for a trigger down here?”

“What do you mean down here? This is the cave; the caves higher than this are not the ones we are looking for; this is the one in the scripts.”

“No, not down here on the mountain. Down here, at five foot whatever, if these creatures are…”

“Taller than us, we are looking at the wrong height.” Greiss interjected.

Everyone looked up to where the Void’s eye line would rest. The Bound sisters muttered more words, and Greiss rose to eight feet. They moved him slowly around the room until he called out to stop.

“Right here, this is what we are looking for. It is the key, or rather, a lock.”

“Do you have a key?” Vaero asked as they lowered Greiss to the ground.

“The key is complicated; it is why I have you three here.”

“Us, how are we a key?” Vaero aked.

“Please sit down; we have a lot to talk about. You are not a key; you are a lockpick; I can give you all the information that I know. But it will be up to you to twist that tumbler and give us access to a wealth of knowledge. Something that won’t only give me a place in the history books but will return them to where they belong. As for you three, power beyond knowing.”

The sisters looked at one another, bracing their fists against one another. They cheered.

“Let us be your key.”