The three women were soon found still tied and gagged to the short wooden tables in the house. Two of them had long since died, but the third one, the final victim was found clinging to life, but half starved to death. The story of the Shrkai who butchered the family and left these three women in the cellar quickly spread throughout the Annuvian territory, even as thousands of Shrkai fled their homeland due to crop failure over the years and a lasting drought as the seasons were no longer as they were. With the merger of the suns into one massive yellow sun there was no longer the separate seasons with their lower temperatures and welcome rains, there was only the steady long intense heat of summer at the equator.
In Shrkai city many of the heartiest citizens still remained. They vowed to see it through and not leave their homeland. The moved underground where the river that once flowed was now but a tiny stream. In the city itself many thousands more were packing wagons many of which were provided by Millorny’s shipping company. Darvin stood with Shareena and her daughter helping them to pack their belongings along with some of the neighbors. After tying down the last of the items and helping the little girl who was quite a bit taller now, up onto the wagon, Darvin turned to look off toward the south with the sun setting in the west leaving a giant fire glow over the desert city. Shareena walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
“It’s been more than two years now,” she said, as she nuzzled her head onto his shoulder and kissed his cheek. “There’s no way of knowing which way he went after he left the underground lake. We searched everywhere possible.” Darvin didn’t reply for a long time, he just stood staring off toward the horizon.
“I know he’s out there somewhere,” he finally replied. “I can feel him.”
“He was a part of you for so long, I’m sure you’ll always feel him.”
“You don’t understand. If he had died, I would have felt that too.” The two of them continued staring off into the horizon with Shareena still embracing from behind. The other families lifted their children up onto the wagon and they stood alongside ready to start their journey to the north, to Annuvian lands. Darvin finally turned and started to walk toward the wagon when Shareena stopped him.
“You go look for your friend,” she said to him while looking deep into his eyes.
“What about you and Katarosa? You’re my family now.”
“We’ll be just fine. Take all the time you need. We’ll be waiting for you when you return.” Shareena pulled him in for a long passionate kiss with the warm red glow of the sunset behind them. She finally released her embrace and ran to the wagon. Darvin stood alone in the center of the wide sandstone road, as the wagon pulled by two large rooghon cows pulled away the heavy wagon with Shareena and the a hand-full of other Shrkai walking along side.
Deep in the desert far from Shrkai city Sahn staggered across the windswept ground with the heat reflecting off the parched ground at his feet even as the suns set over the horizon. He used his spear like a staff placing it on the ground with each step and leaning heavily upon it. His nearly empty water skin dangled at his waist and a small pack was slung over his right shoulder. He slowed his staggered gait, as he looked to something protruding from the ground near a large group of dry brown bushes ahead and to the far right of the direction he was headed. He changed his direction to head toward the object thinking he knew what it might be, but he had to get a closer look to be certain. He quickened his pace in anticipation of what he was to find there among the bushes. Soon he was moving as fast as his weary legs would carry him and dropped to his knees in front of a water pipe in the bushes. He reached out and grabbed the handle pumping it as fast as he could until he heard a rumble come from below the desert surface and the pipe began to shake. He quickly reached his free hand under the faucet in expectation of a gush of water to spit out of the pipe. He soon felt something spit out upon his open palm and pumped the handle with a mad thirst burning in his throat, but all that came out was sand.
Sahn fell to his hands and knees. The temperature was finally starting to drop, as the sun set and the dark sky reigned overhead.
“What are you doing?” an image of his good friend Darvin appeared standing nearby. “Look just get some rest. There’ll be other faucets. The Shrkai placed them all throughout the desert.” Sahn ignored his friend and lifted himself to his feet. He trudged forward out into the dark desert with a star-speckled sky shining upon him through a greenish-blue nebulae cloud. He trudged forward leaning heavily on his spear with Darvin walking along beside him. “Well,” Darvin said while looking up at the cloudless sky above. “One thing’s for certain the sky sure is clear tonight. You can see all the constellations.” Darvin pointed up to the sky then looked back at Sahn who was completely uninterested. Sahn used both hands on his spear holding himself up as he ventured forward his feet practically dragging their way between each step.
Ahead in the distance there was a shadowy line of bushes which Sahn knew might mean they followed a creek or a stream that might not have dried up. He veered in that direction and soon was upon a deep ravine. Sahn stood on the top of the ravine with hard desert ground and rocks far below. He peered down into the dark ravine with the moonlight shining on the dried up streambed below. Sahn lifted his head, spread out his arms let his spear fall from his grasp and closed his eyes. He moved a foot out over the deep ravine and let himself fall down into its dark shadowed depths. The air rushed passed his head lifting his long tangled white hair away from his face, as he plummeted down into the ravine. A strong updraft of wind slowed his decent and landed him in the soft sand away from a group of rocks.
A short time later Sahn awoke to a dark sky. He lifted his battered and bruised body up from the soft said and leaned back on the nearby rocks. He arched his neck and let his head lay back against the rough surface of the rock and peered up at the dark star-speckled sky above.
“That’s still not working for ya is it?” the image sarcastically chimed when he appeared nearby. “Sahn I know you miss you wife and baby, but the gods obviously have other plans for you”
“The gods?! Pattooey,” Sahn rolled his head to the side and spat out what little moisture remained in his parched throat.
“Look I know you’re a non-believer, but…”
“You seem to forget I was alive back then. I know the gods you worship are as mortal as you and me.” Sahn lifted his malnourished body up from the ground and stretched out his aching muscles. He looked over the area. The embankment he just leaped down was too steep to climb back up, as was the opposite side. The ground in the center of the ravine was soft but not dusty, as if water had once flowed. Sahn adjusted the small cloth pack on his back and headed in an easterly direction following the path the stream once followed. He walked throughout the night with the image of his friend Darvin walking along beside him.
“So where are we headed?” Darvin asked after a long silence.
“I don’t know,” Sahn replied, as he trudged wearily onward.
“I know I’ve said this before,”
“Then no need to repeat it.”
“but… You could have stayed at the underground lake. There was ample food and water there.”
“Yes, yes you’ve said that a hundred times,” Sahn shook his head and kept walking.
“Well you can’t hide from your past.”
“Ya know you’re really getting annoying.” Sahn looked over to his imaginary friend walking along beside him. He and Darvin once shared a common mind, literally. Sahn’s spirit had entered Darvin’s mind when Darvin was only ten years old summoned by Darvin’s parents. Darvin’s parents were necromancers and they summoned Sahn’s spirit in order to control him, and use his rage to murder whoever opposed them, but they were not strong enough and Sahn filtered into their son’s mind instead of the golem they had intended to extract him to. They two remained joined for years after that although Sahn was dormant much of the time. It was only recently that fate had intervened and the two were separated from the other. Sahn’s spirit was painfully wrestled through the timeline back more than a thousand years to just before he died, then brought back to back to the present.
“I know you’ve been through a lot but there’s no need to torture yourself. What does it accomplish?”
“Listen I don’t expect you to understand. Why can’t you just let me be?”
“Because I care about you.”
“If you cared, you’d shut the hell up!”
Darvin’s image smiled and faded away and Sahn continued to walk through the dark ravine in silence.