“Do you know where we are!?” Serena yelled over the intense winds of the dust storm.
“No! I can’t see anything with all this damn dirt flying around!” Kakane shouted back. “But if I had to guess, we’re pretty deep into the northwestern plains.”
Serena and Kakane had gotten caught in a huge dust bowl. The smoke was no longer visible, so all they could do was press onward and hope to get out of the storm. They held hands as not to lose each other; neither of them wanted to be alone in this strange, foreign place. Serena didn’t know how long they had been stuck in this squall, but she hoped it wouldn’t last much longer.
“Are you people idiots?”
Serena looked up, but frowned and squinted as she tried to comprehend what she was seeing. She couldn’t make out the figure clearly, but it seemed to be someone on horseback. A boy around her and Kakane’s age, judging from his voice. And from his disdainful words of disbelief, it seemed he was flabbergasted upon finding them.
“Who the hell are you calling an idiot, huh!?” Kakane snapped. “I am a king; do not mistake me for a fool.” Serena couldn’t see him properly, but she could tell the boy on horseback had just rolled his eyes.
“Whatever. Let’s just get you guys out of this dust bowl. But seriously, though, how could you just walk right into one? These things are damn hard to miss.” He threw two ropes to Kakane and Serena, who took them and allowed themselves to be led out of the dust.
After they began walking, the boy let out a series of loud clicks and whistles. Serena couldn’t comprehend how anyone could make a noise so great with just their mouths. She’d have to ask this boy about it later.
“I’m Takeru, by the way,” the boy said. “Takeru of the Dagaalyahanno Tribe of the Bannaanka Weyn.”
They finally got out of the dust storm, so Serena could see Takeru clearly. His skin was of a pale tone, and his hair was split into two colors: Pale, powdery blue, on the top, and white on the underside, which he tied into a small ponytail. His eyes were a fair lavender color, like mist on a moor in the morning when the sun had just broken through the horizon. His stallion was a deep chestnut brown and he had a mysterious knife-like sword longer and broader than he was wrapped up in white cloth on his back.
Serena and Kakane finally let go of each other’s hands. Meanwhile, Takeru pulled back the ropes and dismounted, turning to Serena and Kakane with a cross expression on his face. He folded his arms and he glared at them in annoyance, irking Kakane and causing the red-eyed boy to leer back in imminent dislike.
“I have to know: what the hell were you two thinking!?” Takeru shouted, frightening Serena. “Ain’t nobody just up and walks into a dust bowl! And don’t say you just didn’t notice it because those things are impossible to miss!”
“You said that earlier, Ponytail!” Kakane snapped back. “We get it, but it’s none of your damn business! We aren’t telling you anything. A king is always allowed to hold his tongue.”
“Get off your high horse.” Takeru rolled his eyes. “If it weren’t for me you idiots would still be wandering around unable to see two feet in front of you. I think I deserve some more credit here.”
“We got lost,” Serena confessed. “We saw some smoke, so we tried to reach it, but before we knew it we were caught in the dust.”
“Oh, that would be the tribe’s cooking fires. Go on,” Takeru encouraged.
“Kakane insisted we continue on despite the oncoming storm. I’m Serena, by the way. Serena Bly. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. This is Kakane.”
“I don’t need you doing my introduction for me,” the scarred boy sneered. “A king is perfectly suited to introducing themselves, thank you very much.”
“I’d give more credit to your white-haired lady friend over here,” Takeru said, nodding at Serena. “She, unlike you, has some common sense.”
“What was that!? A king does not tolerate insults! Come here so I can punish you adequately!”
“Enough with the king this, king that! Nobody freaking cares! I sure as hell don’t. I was the one who saved you from the dust bowl so if anything, you should be praising me, gods dammit!”
“I,” Kakane seethed, “will not bow down to anyone! Surely not you of all people, you ponytailed horse-rider!”
“Well, I can’t stand you either, Horn-Boy!”
It was then that Serena noticed that the dust bowl had blown away the hood she made for Kakane. The fabric hung loosely around his neck, fully revealing his horns and scales. Taken aback, Kakane hastily reassembled a cowl of sorts, partially skewing his features from view.
“You𑁋You didn’t see anything!” Kakane said quickly, biting his lip.
“The hell are you hiding them for? It’s a cool headdress. What kind of horns did you use, a ram’s? We have bison here, but their horns don’t look like those.”
“Headdress…? So, you don’t know?” Kakane took a deep breath.
“It’s fine,” Kakane told Serena as Takeru saddled his horse. “This is actually a good thing.”
“So they’re not a decoration? What are they, then?” Serena asked.
“I’ll tell you later,” Kakane said dismissively.
“Oi, are you coming with me to the tribe?” Takeru hollered from some distance away. “You can take baths there! And there’s hot food waiting.” Kakane and Serena looked at each other.
“The storm is bound to have thrown those soldiers off our paths,” Serena reasoned. Kakane contemplated this before nodding.
“Yeah. We can’t go on like this.” He gestured to the layer of dust caking his and Serena’s clothes and skin. There was also a painful growl coming from his stomach. It was no wonder; wandering a dust bowl for several hours after running from soldiers had worked up quite the appetite. “We won’t stay for long, but let’s check out this tribe thing.”
Much to Serena’s surprise and Kakane’s relief, the Dagaalyahanno Tribe was a group of peaceful nomads living on the great plains of the Bannaanka Weyn. They were expert hunters and brilliant equestrians, handy with a bow and scimitar. The only outsider was Takeru, who had been adopted by them at a young age from a mysterious, unknown place.
“Nomadic? So, you just wander throughout the plains?” Serena asked.
“Yeah, but it ain’t random. We follow the herds of buffalo,” Takeru explained. “Since they’re never in one place, we aren’t either.”
“I see. Interesting. I’ve never heard of a lifestyle like this. Do you never get comfortable? I feel as though the pleasantries of returning to one place are common for most people.”
“The entire Bannaanka Weyn is our home. We’re always comfortable.” Takeru laughed.
“Interesting,” Serena said again. She was about to ask another question when someone placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Serena, come with me for a sec.” Kakane pulled her over to a discrete area, behind several teepees.
“What is it, Kakane?”
“Okay, so I know where we are now,” he said, “but it’s not anywhere near our destination. We have to go southwest, but I’m still worried about those damn soldiers.”
“The Dagaalyahanno are nomads, though. We can afford to stay here a bit,” Serena realized in an attempt to reason with Kakane. “In the end, it might even throw them off even more! Besides, there are the dust bowls those soldiers need to contend with too,” she added.
“Maybe,” Kakane muttered, rubbing his scar, “maybe not. Still, we should rest before we hit the road again.”
“Agreed.” Serena nodded, running a hand down her dust-caked dress. Kakane sighed.
“I need to calm my nerves for a little bit,” he muttered.
“Take your time.”