Bed Of Dust

— Chapter 2 —

Hyroos are large creatures with big rounded ears and strong hind legs. Their snouts are large, they can smell and hear things from far away. These beasts are known for being able to run and jump long distances with little effort, they grow in moist environments, although they are thought to be extinct.

    “Returning to the earth is good. There’s no pain there. It’s a return to normality. Yes! Normality. I remember being grown. I couldn’t see or smell… but I could hear things. Singing? Someone was singing to me! Wow. I remember that..! Um. I wonder what else is rattling around in here? Can I remember life as a seed? Or life before that? Ah. No, I can’t remember. There was only darkness. Darkness is scary. How can I know I exist without seeing or feeling anything? But wait, rocks exist, and they can’t smell, see or feel… well at least I think they can’t. Maybe that’s what it was like to be a seed, and before I was even made into that, and before a rock was a rock. I felt nothing then, and after I die I will feel nothing. It’ll be the same. That makes it okay doesn’t it? Yea, it’s okay. This is okay. I’m okay.”
    A great dark mass met with Lupen’s body, followed by a great wave of pain. And then, nothing.

The seed, the light, we sow, we sow.
A leaf, a child, I grow, I grow,
My heart, my mind, hello, hello.

    Lupen, eyes closed, was becoming part of the desert once more. Soon, Lupen would be just a word.

Together, forever.

    Bits of rope lay in the sand. Small breaths escaped from Lupen’s mouth.

Below, below.

    “It’s time.” The bones and muscles agreed, but the brain refused to give in. “No one is letting go!”
    “But we’re broken! It hurts!” The left arm and its corresponding muscles cried out in pain. Then, came a rush of adrenaline, the body and the mind stopped quarrelling and began to work together again.
    Lupen looked around, but the Ilk was gone.
    Lupen’s toes buoyed to the sand’s surface. “They’re all gone. Everyone is gone.” Lupen wanted to cry. “Why didn’t I die from the fall? This is cruel, too, too cruel!”
    With the two suns perched high above, without cover or water, it wouldn’t take long for death to come. “What is the point of this!” The Verido cried out, angry at the desert, weeping at the thought of never seeing Volare again. No tears came, the body couldn’t spare the moisture, the skin felt tight, as if pulled in different directions, crisp, broiled by the two suns. The scarf had disappeared in the fall and moving to search for it was out of the question.
    I’m useless, Lupen thought. Then this mind became tired of thinking.

    Lupen woke again later to more pain, and more sorrowful thoughts. Although at this point, even the brain had too little energy and will to conjure up anything positive.

A leaf, a child, I grow, I grow…

This song was soothing. Lupen’s cheek lay flat on the sand, eyes unable to point skyward because of this heavy, heavy head, eyelids drawing down over the eyes. “No wait, not yet!” Lupen’s yellow eyes exclaimed, they’d found something moving in the distance.
    An Ilk? No. Smaller than an Ilk, but big. Very big!
    The figure was coming this way. “This better not be land sickness playing tricks.”Now that would be cruel.”
    The closer the figure came, the more details Lupen could make out. There was a tall rider sitting atop a furry, large-eared beast. They were enormous from afar, and even more so up close. The rider disembarked and walked over, carrying a blue scarf. Levi’s scarf. It looked tiny, held between the giant’s thick digits. A pair of heavy knees crashed onto the sand floor, the stranger’s head towered high above, obscuring one of the two suns.
    “Hello Lupen of Volare,” the rider’s voice boomed, startling a flock of Passari Tremblers.
    The giant had dark hair, sharp facial contours, eyes like silver marbles, and carried a thick yellow robe that resembled the desert. The robe was as large as a dune, and could serve to shelter a fair-sized group of people. The most impressive detail was the height of this being, thin with proportions that dwarfed most. Now, those silver orbs stared at Lupen’s broken body.
    “How do you know my name?!” Lupen exclaimed, startled by the stranger’s words.
    “It’s written on your face, remember?” The rider replied with a soft smile. “I’m Uno.”
    The Verido was growing weaker, drifting in and out of sleep. Uno put a finger on the side of Lupen’s head. “Look up at the sky. Protus is out. Name all of the skyrocks that you know, loud so I can hear.” The giant said in a commanding voice.
    When Verido children were young, they’d make a game of naming all of the known bodies in the sky. The names were difficult, so anyone who could remember them all won the game. The majority of the skyrocks24 were not visible to the naked eye, but the children were taught that they were up there. No one remembered who had named them, they just passed the names down through generations. Protus was one of the moons in view now. Encela was another.
    Lupen knew many of the names, but was too tired to remember them all, “Baladavos.” A fear gripped Lupen then, was Uno here to carry this body into the next world? Was there such a place? “Cencitris. Naxagorus.” Was this giant the embodiment of death, or a hallucination? There was a chance that the pain in this body was so grand that it brought forth these visions. In a moment, these colourful visions of Uno and the beast would vanish from the world, and the darkness would take over, “Liminik. Omoretus.” The darkness did not come. Uno and the beast were very stubborn hallucinations. Thinking about skyrocks kept Lupen’s mind away from the growing allure of sleep.
    Uno began unfastening sheets of rolled fabric from the beast’s back, all the while humming a tune that reverberated all the way down into Lupen’s core. The tune was soothing, like a salve, it helped to quiet the pain, “Retna. Alpaninsis.”
    Uno pulled out some long poles and put up a tent, then laid a vibrant orange carpet inside it. Another bag lay strapped to the furry creature’s side, Uno grabbed it and began to unload its contents. A collection of herbs, a small kettle, mugs, some grains, plates, a crate of waterstones25 and a bag-full of other miscellaneous items.
    Uno walked back over to Lupen, “you’re only missing Aristollo.”
    “I’ve never won the skyrock game,” Lupen breathed.
    “That’s okay,” Uno said. The giants scooped the Verido’s body up with ease, and carried it inside the tent gently.

While Lupen slept, Uno stayed close, sitting at an arm’s reach, reading through a pile of old books, a thick finger rapidly tracing from the top to the bottom of every page. The rest of the time, Uno was cooking and caring for Lupen’s wounds, leaving the tent every now and again, but never for long.
    At one time, Lupen noticed that Uno held a copy of A Tale of Three, covered in annotations, but could not gather enough energy to ask about it. Overcome by a sudden wave of fatigue, this body and mind agreed that it was time for another nap.

“You look better,” Uno said one morning, offering the patient a cup of lemilim26 tea.
    Lupen nodded, sadly, feeling better only physically, “yea. Part of me does anyway. You don’t have anywhere to be? I feel bad to keep you here like this.”
    “Everything heals in time. The sand doesn’t blame the wind for shifting it around day after day, and the wind doesn’t know guilt. Take your time.”

    Uno was quiet, and did not always care to answer questions, but declined them politely.
    “Why do you carry so many books?” Lupen had asked once.
    “They are my anchors,” was all Uno had said.

Like every other first sunrise they’d spent together, the giant served tea, a mixture of medililly27 and lemilim herbs. “Great for circulation,” Uno would say.
    Lupen did not know how much time had passed, but had noticed that the wind outside was getting stronger everyday. A constant strong wind in this area meant that they were in the gusty season. I’ve been here a long while, Lupen thought.
    All places in the Soronan Desert were gusty at some point or another, but the Ilk walked with the wind and seasons, staying ahead of the gusty time of year. The Verido people were blessed with good weather all annum along. Storms could still happen on the back of an Ilk, but they were rare.
    Today, Uno seemed especially aware of the surroundings. After serving tea, the giant’s silver eyes scanned the skies and the horizon, before stopping on a mountain. “Drink your tea. You need to be in good shape if you’re going to climb that mountain,” Uno said with a grin. “That one.” A long finger pointed to a tall mountain in the distance, a thick layer of clouds obscured it’s upper half, “all the way to the top is what you said, right? Very brave of you.”
    “What? I never said that. You’re crazy,” Lupen replied, “I’m better than I was, but I’m not fully healed.”
    Uno scanned the Verido’s body, stopping at the face. “You’re healed enough.” The tall being spoke in a calm, inspiring, authoritative voice, but those silvery eyes had the power to lull you into doing almost anything, they could see past the flesh and pulled at your insides.
    “Why would I want to climb that mountain?” Lupen asked, eyes now set on the mountain, wondering if it had always been there. Uno had cast a spell on the world, the mere mention of a mountain had spawned one into existence.
    “My friend came back today,” Uno said, walking out of the tent, “come, let me introduce you.”
    Lupen felt too weak to stand, but Uno pretended not to notice.
    “Come!” Uno insisted. Lupen stood up, groaning, hands grabbing onto anything they could, crawling over to the entrance of the tent.
    “Lupen, meet Kit!”
    Images of a tall rider sitting atop a beast resurfaced. Kit was a large big-eared creature. It had light-coloured fur with black spots spattered all over. Two dark spots sat over its eyes, giving Kit a constant air of severity and general discontent.
    “I thought hyroos were extinct…”
    It occurred to Lupen then that like the mountain with no name, Uno was familiar. Lupen remembered a story with giants that towered above the clouds and spent all their time admiring the passing skyrocks and far away lights. They kept their eyes to the skies, but then one day, a skyrock landed at their feet and they looked ground-ward, watching sandstorms forming and dissipating. Green things began to sprout from the ground. The tall ones witnessed this change with great interest, they were delighted to see the green spread. They spent so much time looking down, that they began to shrink.
    “Foolish stories for fools like you!” A young Mago had said once, “if there was anyone that tall out there we would have seen them!”
    “It’s you,” Lupen mumbled, eyes fixed on Uno, unable to draw breath, it was like the air had vanished from the world. Nothing in the environment had changed. This was awe.
    “What was it like in the early days of the world?” The Verido asked suddenly, eyes full of wonder.
    Uno laughed. A thunderous, but friendly laugh that did not confirm or deny it. Lupen spent the rest of the day watching the ageless giant. Uno’s head did not reach the clouds. Lupen tried to imagine what other great creatures lived in the desert.
    The nameless mountain came back to Lupen’s mind then. “I’m going to climb you.” The next day, Lupen shared this intention with Uno, who smiled and denied ever having introduced the idea in the first place.
    “Good idea.”

One morning Uno got up and began packing up the carpet, the herbs and the waterstones. It was time to go. Before they parted ways, Uno handed a copy of The Tale of Three to Lupen.
    “For you,” the book was bound with beautiful red thread, made from an unknown material. Even the paper was different, it was textured and had a blue tint. “I transcribed it from a rare original. It’s all true, all about your people. You’ll enjoy it.” There was another gift too, a small sheet of fabric rolled up tight and folded over itself so that it was now the size of a small loaf of bread. Uno also gave Lupen a single short banabo28 pole. “Fabric is hard to come by in these parts. You can use it for shelter.”
    “Thank you.” Lupen presented a gift too, Levi’s blue scarf. “My mapa did tell me I would need it long, maybe it’s because it was meant to be yours.” Uno accepted it, with many thanks said. It appeared tiny on Uno’s neck, the piece of fabric could not go a full two turns around it so the giant wrapped it around once. Uno took a liking to it straight away, carefully rearranging the knot, as if handling the petals of a flower.
    Uno climbed up on Kit’s back, sending a flurry of sand flying around them.
    “Aristollo was an Iridi, and a good friend of mine, reminds me of you, actually.” As the giant said this, right before Kit bounded up high and far into the horizon.

  1. Skyrock Skyrocks are celestial bodies in the sky.↩︎

  2. Waterstones A liquid preserved in a hard membrane, protecting it from evaporation. The water can be extracted using a press, or a heavy tool. It’s also possible to draw out the liquid by putting the stone in the mouth, the water will seep out from a collection of pores on the stone’s surface.↩︎

  3. Lemilim A culinary herb with a subtle tang, used fresh or dried. It has antifungal properties.↩︎

  4. Medililly. A rare leafy plant. It is hard to grow, requires much water and attention, and takes annums to grow to maturity (the only time when the plant gains its medical properties). It is used to reduce inflammation.↩︎

  5. Banabo A tall, tree-like plant. Its trunk is wide and dense and it is often used as a material to build houses and other hard structures. Its top leaves are often used as brooms and to weave decorative items.↩︎

Continue to Chapter 3