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velvet mace

Into the Desert


When he was young his mother would chastise him for playing in the desert. There were places where the ground suddenly opened up in narrow fissures that fell sometimes hundreds of feet down before reaching the tiny stream at the bottom. There were bandits, some who would kill a child for what few cenz he might have in his pocket, some who would take the child away to sell as a slave in some foreign city. There were sudden sandstorms, and heat that could make a kid grow confused and forget his way home. There were many reasons not to go, but the one his mother always picked was the way the fine red clay in the sand would stain his clothes.

He went out anyway with his brother and their friends. They would run around and chase lizards and throw rocks. They would play soldiers and infidels, and hit each other with dry sun-bleached sticks. And when they returned home their clothes would be filthy and his mother would yell at them.

His mother was gone. As were his brother and friends. Not a single one of the kids who he used to tussle with actually stood a chance when the real war came. Stones were poor substitutes for guns. One by one, they all went into the desert, carried off by soldiers and infidels, and thrown into pits, and covered over with sand mixed with red clay. Occasionally, after a bad sand storm, a bone would work it's way up to the surface, bare and bleached, like the sticks he used to pretend were swords.

Now it was his turn to go into the desert. Eventually he would rest like the others, but for now he had a duty. He would get his clothes dirty. He would face the bandits who murdered his people and stole their property. He raised his tortured face to the sun and felt it's heat burn through his grief. He faced the wind and let the sand scour his innocence clean.

Then he walked across the ruddy sand wearing the mantle of a vengeful ghost.