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Valley of the Twin Giants

By Luke Bernfeld

 

Book 1

            The unrelenting sun beat down on the waves of sand, just as it did every day. Long ago the gods had doomed this land to suffer in a sand-filled heat. A small band of nomads traveled across the burning desert sands with supplies and, more importantly, a warning. At the head of the pack was an old man, his skin tanned and weathered from many long years in the forgotten quarter. Carrying a green steel rod, he made sure to keep the rod in the sand and watched very carefully for the slightest movement. He knew these lands and he knew the dangers that surrounded his party. As they made their way across the dunes a burst of sand came from the right of the old man. Fear entered his eyes, like a mouse cornered by a rattle snake, knowing that death is only moments away. “To me!” the old man shouted as his small company was running to join his side. As they arrived the sand began to rumble like the earth itself was going to swallow them. The old man closed his eyes and thrust his staff into the sand. A dome of orange sand enclosed the small group as they were hit by another wall of sand. The storm beat against the dome, chipping it away piece by piece. For every piece that was removed, a new one jumped into its place. Slowly the top of the dome began to crumble inward and the old man began to falter and droop. Two of his followers joined his side and lifted him up. He looked out the top of the dome and saw the sand change from orange to black. Defeat shot across his face, as consciousness began to leave him, and he told his followers, “Death is coming for us all.”

. . .

New Fas, where every lost soul found its home, the town was filled with all kinds and all races. Everyone was welcome as long as you had the coin to spend at the tables.  A strange wind blew, sparking a cold chill down the spine of every survivor who was cunning or strong enough to live past twenty. They had seen enough war and strife in their time, they knew the moment before the snake strikes. A stranger rode into town making a line straight for the saloon. The old ones knew what he was by the way he came into town. The man was large and broad, his arms looked like two railroad ties. He dismounted his horse and his red bracers caught the sun. A simo named Toka was watching from the corner of the crowded saloon. He sprinkled some pink sand into his coffee as he wondered why the gods had sent him here for pilgrimage. The gods had abandoned Antoisia long ago and punished those who lived here by taking away their water.  Now Toka sat in a sinful town in a wicked place. Then the claimer walked in. He was a strong and broad forna. The forna were known for being strong and cunning in battle and this particular forna embodied every one of the stories told of his race. He had red hair, a red beard, and was shorter than the men around him but looked as though it would take at least 10 of the biggest brutes just to slow him down. A strange wind blew in as he entered the saloon and Toka knew that following this forna was why the gods had sent him there for pilgrimage. The forna, Fhice, asked the crowd gathered in the saloon, “Where can I find a dryad by the name of Ponja, goes by Slick.” The saloon remained as busy as it was when he walked in, as no one paid the man any attention. He leapt upon a table and kicked the cards, sending them flying. “I’m going to ask one more time nicely.  Where is…” before he could finish the sentence one of the men playing poker grabbed his leg and yanked him down. Before the forna hit the floor he had twisted and wound around the man, who grabbed him and kicked him in the chest sending Fhice flying against the far wall. Landing on his feet, Fhice looked at the now silent saloon and before he could begin his question a third time fingers began to point to a dryad with an exceptionally large pile of coin in front of him.

The dryad stood and turned to look at his pursuer. Smiling he asked the forna, “Alive or dead?”

The forna replied, “Alive if I can.” The dryad’s hand moved for his gun and before he could flinch his trigger finger the gun was shot off his belt. The dryad instantly knew who he was dealing with and his hands shot up. The forna pointed to the door, his gun still pointed at the dryad.

“So they sent a claimer to get me, huh? Well now that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.” As the two walked from the saloon Toka paid his bill and rushed to follow, finding the two outside.  The dryad had been placed on the horse and Toka was untying his own when the forna noticed and stopped.

“You a friend of his?”

For a moment Toka didn’t know what to say, then the words slowly gurgled out “I am from a faraway land and I am on a pilgrimage. The gods have sent me…”

Fhice laughed and said, “No offense,  but the ‘gods’ left this place and I have little use for them in my business, so I’ll be going my way now and you go yours.”

The dryad, watching this exchange and noticing that Fhice was distracted by Toka, took his opportunity, grabbed the reins, and rode off. Fhice turned and pulled his gun a little slower than the last time and aimed for the dryad. Then, maybe because of the money or because he didn’t want to have to kill the dryad, he lowered his pistol. In that time, Toka jumped on his own horse and rode past Fhice, grabbing him and placing the forna behind himself in the saddle.

The dryad, noticing that he now had pursuers, steered his horse into the ruins of the ancient city that once was home to thousands.  Now it was home to the unwanted human remnants of a long-forgotten war. Fhice and Toka chased the dryad through the remains of the forgotten city. Fhice reached in his cloak and took a pouch full of what seemed to be very thick red paint and put a line on his arm. He let his cloak cover the spot again then he leapt from the horse and grabbed a nearby balcony. Toka continued to chase the dryad and every so often he saw the forna leaping from tower to tower to get closer to the dryad. Toka turned a corner after the dryad. Slick turned his horse to face the oncoming Toka, in hopes of taking him by surprise and knocking him off his mount. As he charged toward Toka, Fhice leapt from a window above them and tackled the dryad off his horse. He pulled the dryad to his feet, hitting him as he did so, and said, “Next time you try and flee I will shoot.”

“You’re the one that left me on the horse,” the dryad responded, in an all-too-smooth tone, which carried a slight air of victory. Fhice took some rope and tied the dryad’s hands behind his back to keep him from grabbing anything.

Then he turned to Toka, “You let my bounty get away, but you did help me get him back, so I won’t shoot you on the spot for pissing me off. Now get as far away from me as you can before I change my mind.” 

Before Toka was able to argue figures began to move in one of the windows across the street from where they were standing. Fhice saw the figures moving and positioning for an ambush. He drew his six-shooter and pointed it at the window.

“Come out now and we can settle this without any bloodshed.”  

He had just finished this statement when several men appeared in the windows. There must have been at least twenty of them and even though Fhice’s skills were great, he sensed that he could not fight so many. Holstering his gun, he raised his hands in surrender--all that effort just to lose the bounty anyway. The dryad laughed, knowing that he had led the two unknowingly into the forgotten quarter and the nomads controlled these lands. They did not have a friendly relationship with the Forna people. As the men came closer to take the three captive, the dryad’s head snapped back. Where his eye should have been, a large hole appeared. As his body fell from the horse they heard the shot. Someone had killed the dryad and now they were in the distant gunman’s scope.

The smell of lavender filled the air. Fhice’s face was covered consecutively with anger and realization. Toka froze in the presence of such violence. He had never been a witness to another living creature’s demise, and the sight of blood, brains, and the feel of the warm liquid on his face froze him in place. Fhice looked up from his little spot of cover to see Toka frozen like a chicken before the axe falls, not knowing that it’s taking its last breath. Against his better judgment, Fhice leapt from his cover and tackled Toka to the ground. He was just in time for another lavender-scented bullet to hit the horse he had been riding.

Fhice shoved Toka to the ground hard as he tried to get up, “You have to be the dumbest simo I have ever met. This is a gunfight and if you don’t stay down you will be killed. Do you understand?”

Toka was incapable of speech. He wanted to say yes, but the words were sucked back down into the swirling vortex that his stomach had now become. All he could do was nod. Fhice looked over the carcass of the horse, scanning the tops of the towers and the distant hills for the glint of a scope. The nomads had run into the nearby buildings, looking for cover. One poked her head out, pointing her rifle in the general direction of the shots only to have the third lavender scented bullet hit her in the chest. It blew out her back, leaving a massive hole where ribs and flesh once had been. The shot gave Fhice time to move and scan the horizon. He knew that the only gun that could shoot from a good distance and had the power to tear through a human like that took five seconds to reload, and that was in the hands of a professional. This was a professional. Fhice had run into her before and knew her yearning for blood.

As Fhice worked his way to the source of the shots, Lavender continued to pick off one human at a time. She felt a rush with every drop of blood that covered the ancient walls. She could tell that the forna was coming quickly through the buildings, hugging what little cover was available in the crumbling carcass of the once-great city. She knew that it was time to leave when she saw Fhice turn a corner, no more than twenty yards away from her perch. She grabbed her rifle and slung it over her shoulder as she leapt to her horse. As she did, she heard the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked.  She quickly hit her two glass bracelets together and heard Fhice’s bullets shoot past her, repelled by the force of the gauntlets. She rode away laughing.

. . .

Fhice returned to the carnage below and found all the humans gone as well as the dryad’s body. He looked for Toka but could not see him. Fhice guessed he had either been taken by the nomads or had been killed. Either way the simo wasn’t his problem anymore. His new problem was that both horses were dead and it was a twenty-mile walk back to the town.

As he began to look for some supplies among the dead, Toka appeared from behind a wall and asked, “Is it safe to come out yet?”

Fhice had a hard time disguising the disappointment in his voice, “Yes, you useless sack of fur.” Toka shook off the remark and began to gather the dead to burn the bodies.

Toka turned to Fhice and asked, “Did you get whoever it was shooting at us?”

“No I didn’t. She got away.”

“She always gets away,” Fhice added under his breath.

Fhice took some bullets he found on one of the corpses and put them in his pocket. Toka looked dismayed at the lack of respect for these dead humans. “We should burn them, let them get rest and join with their creator gods.”

“You and your gods again. They do not care about this part of the world and we aren’t taking any time to burn them. I need to find a new horse” Fhice replied.

Toka looked at Fhice with disgust. He did not understand why the gods had given him a sign to follow such a godless forna. Everything that Toka had noticed about the forna was crude and unlikable; he was angry, he stank of blood and sweat and sand, not to mention he didn’t flinch at the sight of death. Toka looked for a clearing in the nearby buildings and began to dig a pit. If Fhice wasn’t going to help then he was going to dig the pit to burn the bodies himself. Fhice just kept looking for anything he could use. Then, in one of the nomad’s pockets, he found a note.

Yinzu,

We have followed the dryad to the nearby settlement. He knows about her plans and will talk for money and protection. I suggest we take him in and get the information by any means necessary.

            Fhice could guess who the she was. Somehow Lavender had found out that the dryad was about to snake his way out of whatever arrangement he had with her, and she would not allow it. Whatever information he had was worth a lot to the nomads and to whoever hired Fhice. Fhice looked at Toka, who had barely finished with the pit, and didn’t know whether to leave him or not. It would be kinder to just shoot him into the pit he had been digging than to let him walk back to town alone. He wouldn’t survive the night without Fhice’s help.

Fhice let his conscience get the better of him and walked to Toka. “It’s time to move out. We need horses and supplies.”

“I will not go until these people are all put to rest.” Fhice hated how stubborn this Simo was and wished he could just leave him here to die.

“Look, if we take the time to burn all of ‘em then we will need to make camp here in the ruins. I guarantee that the nomads that were about to kill us before, will kill us in our sleep.” Toka looked at the pit.  It had taken him the better part of an hour to dig it and he knew that gathering the bodies and finding enough wood to build a pyre would take up most of the remaining daylight.

“What do we do? They must be burned.” Fhice tried to think of a response that would sway the simo to follow him, but he could not.

“Let’s make it fast, then after dark we hide and I keep watch.”

 The two worked in silence and, before nightfall, the pyre was built. After the last man was thrown on the pile, Toka began to chant.

The last breath of air has returned to those who gave it

Wind take the body back with it

Gods receive both

            “Well, that was odd.” Fhice shook his head as he said it.

Toka just lit the fire and then sat watching as the flames began to engulf the bodies. Fhice watched as the sun began to sink beyond the sea of dunes. He turned to get Toka, and as he did he saw that another group of nomads had come to recover what they had lost.

Fhice instinctively drew his pistol and prepared for a fight, but the nomads just stood in place, watching as Toka finished his ritual. Then they silently sat and watched as Toka paid homage to those who had died. After he was done, he looked at Fhice and noticed the drawn pistol resting in his hands and the look of shock and disbelief that covered his face. Toka followed Fhice’s gaze to see the group of nomads.

“I am sorry that I began without you. I did not know that you would be joining us.”

One of the nomads stepped forward. He was tall and thick. His face was painted green and he had a several scars crossing his face.  He had known many battles. “I am Zhan. I am the chief warrior for my people. One of those bodies is my brother.”

Toka took a moment to respond and then said, “I am returning him to the gods that made him so he may live with them in the sky.”

Fhice moved his finger over the trigger of his gun, just because the nomads hadn’t attacked yet didn’t mean that they wouldn’t. With the revelation that one of the dead was their leader’s brother, he wanted his pistol ready.

Zhan looked from Toka to Fhice and saw that the forna was uneasy. “If we wanted you dead, forna, you would be so already.” Fhice did not relax. “We have food and shelter not far from here. There is much to discuss and you have shown us a great kindness by sending our brothers to your gods.”

Toka was happy to have helped but he did not understand why he said ‘your gods.’ Did he not know that they came from the same gods?

Zhan looked at Toka and said, “We do not bury our dead this way. We let them be part of the sands.” And with that he threw back his cloak and pulled out the biggest gun Fhice had ever seen. It was similar to Fhice’s own pistol but it was green and there was only one chamber. At the end of the barrel was a large, green, pointed hook. He pointed it at the fire and the hook shot out, connected to a long green chain. The hook embedded itself in the ground.  The sand leapt from the ground and began to flow over the pile of bodies and flame. All were buried in seconds.

Fhice had almost shot Zhan. If the nomad leader had faced him, Fhice would have but he had drawn away instead. Toka stood shocked at all that had just transpired. Not only did the nomad not want his kin sent to the gods, but he had buried them in the ground among his people. That kind of end was reserved for the worst among them.

Zhan, noticing that the simo was frozen and wanting to convince the two to follow them, said, “It is finished. We must move along if we want to make it back to my camp.” Fhice holstered his weapon and grabbed the dazed Toka, dragging him along.

. . .

            “Welcome to The Valley of the Twin Giants.” Zhan said as they walked into the mouth of a small canyon. In front of them was a small wooden ramp and as they turned to face the inside of the canyon, they saw a small town built into the canyon walls with bridges connecting one side to the other. People moved between the buildings and men with rifles stood guard over the street, watching from on top of the buildings. There were also three small sand-falls. Toka thought that this was especially cruel, since he was growing tired of the endless heat and sand.  Fhice felt nervous moving in the open waiting for one of the riflemen to take a shot at him. Zhan lead them to the far edge of the town to a place where the canyon ended. An old stone building with an odd symbol above the door stood where the canyon walls met.

Zhan told them to wait and added, “If you enter these doors the guards will shoot you.” With that, Zhan entered the temple and left Fhice and Toka to wait.

            Toka still looked shocked from all that had transpired that day. The sun went down as they waited for Zhan to reappear. Toka hoped he would bring food. Fhice shifted on his feet, unable to stop thinking of ways to combat an attack from the rooftops and bridges. Finally he concluded that even with the red sand and gauntlets, he would be unable to fight so many.  Death was the only possible outcome. He went and sat next to Toka, who appeared to be in some kind of meditation. Zhan emerged from the temple with a very old man wearing long robes.

“So these are the visitors that Zhan spoke of.  I am Yinzu and these are my people.” As he said this he waved at all the nomads that were around him. “I see that Zhan has brought a forna among us, you are the first to enter this place in three generations. Were it not for your hairy friend and the dryad you were transporting, we would have killed you.”

Fhice stood and looked the old man in the eye, “You would have found that harder than speaking it.”

“Oh, I am sure.  You are what is known by most as a claimer, and the dryad that you claimed had information that we need.”

Fhice looked confused for a moment then said, “I don’t know what the dryad knew, but I can assure you he didn’t talk to me.”

Yinzu looked past Fhice and addressed Toka, “I am aware that you do not know, but he can know, and all that must be done is ask.”

Toka looked at the old man with wide eyes. All that he had experienced here had been odd; the nomad humans refusing to burn their dead and instead burying them.  Now, somehow this man knew that he had learned the ways of the pink sand and that he had a piece of pink glass hidden in his fur. Toka pulled on his necklace and a small piece of pink glass came around his neck from his back.

 “I will not do this unless I am certain that it will not harm anyone, and I must see the spirit allowed to pass on.”

Yinzu looked at the large simo and said, “It will aid the dryad in his passing and we need the information if we are to protect this temple.”

Toka stood, thinking, for what felt like hours, running all the scenarios in his head. Did he want to try to contact the dead dryad and if he did would it do anything? In the end Toka decided that helping these people and the dryad was the best course of action. He grabbed the glass and sat on the ground. He began to meditate. In his mind he called out for the dryad with the only name he knew--Slim. Then Slim appeared before him,

“I have been waiting for you to call.” The ghostly figure of Slim moved toward him with a hole in his face.

“Whatever you know seems to be keeping you here.”

Slim nodded, “I was part of Lavender’s crew that found where the ocean goddess is buried.”

Toka was confused. He knew nothing about a god’s burial, nor of anyone’s death. Slim, seeing that Toka wasn’t following, said, “Many years ago, there was a dryad king who fearing the water gods would flood Antoisia. He trapped the gods and sealed them away. The dryad king fearing the ocean goddess, and her husband buried her under the sand to keep her grave a secret.  He then wrote the location in his journal. I stole that journal and took it to Lavender to help her. She promised me payment and, as you know, my payment was death. She seeks power and protection from the trapped gods and she will unleash them all.”

Toka tried to take all the information in as fast as it was given. Using the power of these gods would be wrong. They must be released and allowed to rule as was intended. Slim began to fade from this reality and move to the next. Before he left he said, “May whatever gods judge me be kind.”

Toka opened his eyes and stood. All but Yinzu were asleep. It must have taken several hours to commune with Slim. “Lavender is after the seal of the trapped gods. She wishes to take possession of all the trapped gods to increase her power.”

Yinzu looked distressed, “Does she know the locations of the sealed gods?”

“I believe so. She has the journal of a long dead dryad king.”

Yinzu pulled Zhan awake. “Wake the others. We must go to gather all the tribe. We are in danger.”

Toka looked at the terror filling Yinzu’s face. “Is there anything we can do?”

“You can find this Lavender and stop her before the seal is broken.”

Fhice had woken in the commotion and heard Toka say “we”.

“Unless there is some serious coin, you’re on your own fuzz ball.”

Toka looked at Fhice with amazement. He knew that the forna could be greedy but he had no idea Fhice would desert these people just because they would not give him money.

Zhan looked at Toka, realizing that he would never succeed on his own. He spoke up, “I will join Toka in search of this Lavender and the hidden seal.”

Yinzu thought for a moment. Sending his strongest warrior to find and fight a powerful enemy when they needed all the strength they could get there was unwise. Still if he did not go then the hairy man would not succeed and they may have to fight an even more powerful enemy.

“Join the hairy man and see that he does not fail.”

“I will not fail my people.”

 Fhice just shook his head going against Lavender on her terms with her having scouted the area was suicide they would both be dead before they saw where the seal was buried. Fhice saw a group of nomads with horses and hoped he could barter for one. As Fhice walked away Toka felt conflicted about what he should do. The gods had sent him to Fhice and he knew he should accompany him, but maybe the gods intended to have him help these people and save the trapped gods. Toka looked at Fhice as he walked away and asked the gods why they had sent him to such a godless man in a hot and godless place. A breeze blew down the canyon and the sand waterfalls pointed at Fhice. As they did Toka became angry with the gods if they wanted him to follow this forna then they should be willing to send one that was kinder. Zhan had been preparing the horses for the two of them and asked Toka, “Are you ready to find the seal and stop Lavender from gaining the power of the sealed god.” Toka looked again at Fhice as he bartered with one nomad for a horse. He had seen the sign and knew that he should follow the forna but he was angry and wanted to help the nomads and their people. “Yes let us go and find the seal and the killer Lavender.” As Toka and Zhan rode out of the canyon Toka stopped at the forna Fhice. “you are a selfish forna and do your people an injustice by caring their name, seek that which is greater than the self, coward.” With that he rode off and Fhice after wondering if he should be offended or just laugh turned to end his business with the nomad and get as far from here as he could.

. . .

            Toka and Zhan rode over another dune only to find more dunes on the other side. No towns or cities could be seen in the waves of sand. Zhan knew his way through the forgotten quarter and knew which way to ride based on the description that Toka gave and the knowledge Yinzu had given him. They continued to ride until they saw it a lone rock in the sand and by the rock they saw a small camp. Toka grew fearful that a gunshot would take him or Zhan as it had done to the Dryad. Toka turned to Zhan and asked, “is it safe to be riding the horses and be on top of the dunes.” Zhan realizing that they were up against a great warrior dismounted his horse and had Toka do the same then they moved along the edges of the dunes trying to keep out of view of the rock. As Toka and Zhan worked their way closer and closer to the seal Zhan became uneasy about keeping the horses with them. “we must release the horses to be unnoticed by those at the rock.” Toka looked at Zhan not understanding, “if we let them go we will have no way to return to your people.” Zhan looking somewhat flustered with the simo said, “how then did they arrive here.” Toka understanding that they would have to trade with the people at the rock for new horses let his go. Shortly after Zhan released his, he began to work his way to closer to the dig site.

Lavender watched as the horses rode through the desert she thought it was funny how they thought they were being sneaky. She had seen them riding from a few miles off and was just waiting for them to get close enough to see what she was going to unleash then she would kill them in their moment of defeat. Looking through her scope at the two try to stay behind the dunes, she did recognize the skill in the human’s movement from dune to dune never staying visible for more than a second. She could still have killed him in that second though. The simo was not as skilled taking between two and three seconds to clear the same gap. Plenty of time to shoot him, she thought about just clipping him in the leg, but she wanted them to feel the despair and agony before they died.

. . .

            Fhice rode off in search of the nearest saloon, after all he had been through he needed a drink. He couldn’t shake that Toka had called him a coward, not that it would matter he was bound to die any minute now trying to stop Lavender she would kill them the moment they came into view. Fhice knew that she was skilled with a long gun and what Toka didn’t know was that she had made her own gun and bullets. She used her power with the Lavender sands to make more powerful rounds that could be shot at greater speeds than normal rifles meaning she could shoot farther and be more accurate. They had no chance at surviving not to mention beating her. He had already helped Toka once and he seemed to do fine by following his gut, he didn’t need his help. Toka would be fine without him, even though he didn’t know much about combat or how to defend himself. Who was he kidding Toka was useless, Zhan could probably hold his own in combat but Toka would die in the first few minutes for sure. Fhice was going to make the simo pay for this later but now he knew he needed to ride to save the dumb fur ball. As Fhice rode to catch up with the two he encountered Yinzu on the trail. He had a few more men with him but not many and nowhere near enough to fight against Lavender and her men. “I hope there’s more of you.” Yinzu turned to see the forna and smiled, “you are coming to our aid?” “No I am going to kill Lavender.”

. . .

            Lavender checked on the progress of the diggers, they were nowhere close enough to the seal. She wanted to have her two guests left speechless when they arrived she wanted them to know that she was there and she had won. She always liked playing with her pray before she killed them. The killing was fun enough if it was business but this was pleasure and she wanted to feel every exquisite minute of it. She pointed at two men standing with green rods and pointed at the dig site. She would have to move faster than she had planned.

. . .

Toka felt the sand move beneath him like it was being pushed away. Zhan froze feeling the same thing then he dropped to the ground and grabbed Toka taking him to the ground with him. “They know we are here and they are using mages to dig faster, we must stop them and quickly.” Toka looked at the rock and remembered the dryad being killed from a great distance. Then he remembered how Zhan had covered the burning bodies of the nomads with his grappling hook, “Zhan could you create a big enough sand storm to conceal our approach?” Zhan  thought for a moment and nodded, “but if I do I will be unable to charge in with you I will have to focus my energy on the sand.” Toka knew that this would be difficult on his own and prayed to the gods for help. Then he readied himself on the side of the dune and as Zhan fired into the sand he leapt from his hiding place. Toka did not wish to kill anyone and he had never before acted in a violent nature so to him this was new territory and he hoped he would not die before he stopped Lavender.

. . .

Lavender looked through her scope at the dune the simo and nomad were behind waiting for movement. Then the simo jumped and she wanted so badly to shoot him back down but she wanted the look on their faces she wanted the defeat in their eyes then she would let them die. Before she could watch the simo begin to run the dune she was looking at erupted and sand began to fly towards the rock. She had not expected any other green mages to know of her plans and she did not think that the nomads had such knowledge. A rage filled Lavender she could not see anything what was more, she could not see the dig sight. She turned and an unlucky underling happened to be moving to help at the dig sight. Lavender drew her pistol and shot the man as he ran to the sight. She was not going to be thwarted in her desire to destroy the two that dared challenge her greatness.

. . .

Fhice rode as fast as he could trying to follow the directions that Yinzu had given him he knew that he would see a lonely rock in the distance and there was where he would find Lavender and if he was fast enough maybe Toka and Zhan but he did not hold any hope for finding the two alive. As he crested a large dune he saw the rock and a small sandstorm seeming to point at the rock he knew it was Zhan providing cover.

. . .

Toka ran through the edge of the storm to find himself face to face with a man holding a rife. The man was startled to see Toka burst through the sand and took longer than normal to raise his rife and luckily Toka was ready to fight and swung his staff as hard as he could not realizing his superior strength Toka sent the man flying against the far wall where he crumpled into a heap. Toka turned to see Lavender coming around the rock she yelled to the two mages to “Throw the sand back at him, throw all of it at him!” “but we could die.” Lavender pointed the gun at the mage who had spoken, “I will kill you if you don’t.” immediately the sand sprung up as if it had been in danger by Lavenders threat. Toka took the opportunity to move in closer to Lavender hoping to get a good swing at her. Lavender pointed and without looking away from the mages shot at Toka’s feet. “You are not as stealthy as you think simo, I want you to see your failure then I will kill you.” Toka stood motionless this was the one he had been fearing, seeing her now was different than he had imagined she was small with brown hair and a slim figure. He had imagined someone larger and more forbearing he thought if he had struck her like the other man she would split in two. The sand began to move at a faster pace pouring out of the hole like blood from a deadly wound. Then the sand began to turn black as it poured out Toka knew that the end was near.

. . .

Fhice rode toward the sand storm and arrived beside Zhan who looked ill as the sand began to turn and come toward them Fhice dropped from his horse and took shelter the tip of Zhan’s grappling hook returned to his gun. “where is Toka?” Fhice asked. “he went to fight alone.” Fhice knew that there was not much time before Toka was dead he tried to see what was happening at the rock but was unable to through the colossal storm. Fhice leapt on his horse and shouted to Zhan “go back to your people they need you more than we do.” “No I have made my choice and I will see this to the end.” Zhan leapt to the horse and the two of them rode into the storm as they did the sand began to turn black.

. . .

Toka watched helpless as more and more black sand began to pour out. He had to do something but what could stop them from finishing the dig. He did the only thing that he could think to do and threw his staff at one of the mages it glanced his shoulder and knocked him off balance but in moments he was back to his rod and the sand began to flow again. Lavender turned to Toka “you do not understand when you are beaten simo, I do not like your unexpected interruptions and I think I will just have to kill you now for making me angry.” As she said this Fhice and Zhan erupted from the sand using their horse as a shield, Fhice reached into his bag and grabbed a handful of the red paint and slapped it on his face. He drew his weapon and pointed it at Lavender who touched the glass bracelets together the bullets turned around her and sand and rock moved away from her. She pointed her gun at Fhice but he was already dodging the shot before she pulled the trigger. Zhan fired his grappling hook into the rock and made a chunk fall from the wall and fly toward one of the mages he turned and struck the rock with his steel rod and it shattered into small pieces. Now only one mage was moving the sand and he began to wobble with the effort of having to do the task alone. Fhice took more shots at Lavender who deflected them all. Likewise, Fhice was skilled at dodging Lavender’s attacks. Toka ran for his staff and showing more agility than anyone thought possible he leapt from one side of the pit to the other landing by his staff as he did the rest of Lavender’s crew came around the corner looking to get in on the fight.

            Toka turned and hit one of the men sending him flying into a few of his companions. Then Toka leapt again this time toward the still working mage only to be struck in the midsection by the other mages rod. As he hit the ground he saw Zhan’s hook sail overhead and land at the feet of three of Lavender’s men the sand beneath their feet and they were sent flying into the rock. Fhice sent a shot past the green mage hitting one of the men in the chest. As he did Lavender shot at him hitting one of his bracers and cracking it. Fhice could feel some of his strength leave him. Toka used his staff to sweep at the mages legs and getting up at the same time took another swing at his chest. The mage thrust his rod into the sand, the sand formed around Toka grabbing him and pilling him deeper into it. Then Zhan’s hook embedded into the sand next to Toka and the sand began to loosen. Just as quickly the sand tightened again and then loosened the sand mage and Zhan were battling over control of the sands.

 Fhice and Lavender fought on the side of the rock chasing and dodging each other. Every time that each thought that they had a clean shot the other would dodge it. They appeared to be at a stalemate unable to finish the other one off. They fought until they arrived at a cliff. “No more running” said Fhice as he turned the corner he knew that Lavender was cornered which made her more dangerous. Lavender turned to Fhice a fire in her eyes she was not going to have this little forna destroy her plans she would become a god and rule these lands. Fhice knew that trying to end this in a shootout would not end well for him he had already sweated off some of the paint and his right bracer was cracked. But if he could get to her and break her bracelets or push her off the cliff, the cliff that was it he would charge and they would both fall to their deaths. Fhice pointed his pistol at Lavender and pulled the trigger as fast as he could while he charged. Lavender had no choice but to continue to hit the bracelets together giving her no chance to shoot Fhice. Fhice leapt and caught Lavender around the waist sending them both falling. Lavender’s eyes filled with shock and rage as they both plummeted to their deaths.

 Zhan closed his eyes and in one burst of energy freed Toka who struck the mage in the face with his staff causing the mage to flip and land unconscious in the sand. The other mage stopped digging and fell exhausted he had reached the seal. The men that were left fled the battle after seeing the awesome power of Zhan and Toka. Toka looked for Fhice and Lavender and did not see them as he turned around the edge of the rock he saw Fhice and Lavender falling from a cliff together. He was to shocked to do anything but watch as they both hit the ground with a sickening smack. He ran hoping that Fhice was still alive. He arrived at the crater in the sand and found both bodies mutilated and broken. Fhice was still breathing though it was clear that these would be his last breaths. Toka quickly reached for his necklace and pulled a small piece of metal form the end placing it on Fhice’s body he began to feel his bones break. As Toka was feeling his bones crack and his insides burst Fhice began to feel himself being healed. Fhice looked at the simo as blood filled his face and he knew what he was doing he was healing him but in order to do that Toka had to die. Toka collapsed to the ground his bone were broken and blood poured from his body. Fhice grabbed Toka and told him “reverse it take it back no one should die for me.” “I can only heal you I cannot use this power to harm you.” Fhice shook his head, “then what the hell is it good for.” Toka smiled and said “helping” as he closed his eyes and died Fhice was shocked after deserting him and treating him poorly Toka still decided to give his life so he could live. Zhan stood in amazement at what he had just seen not sure if he believed the transformation that occurred in front of him. Fhice stood up and walked to Lavender’s dead corps and began to kick it shattering the bracelets in the process. Anger filled him and he wanted to kill her all over again. Zhan pulled him off the dead body and held him back as he did a letter fell from Lavender’s cloak. Fhice picked it up and read it.

Lavender

Good work on silencing the decenter we trust that the work on uncovering the gods seal is underway. We don’t do well with failure and you know what we can do. Bring us the journal and the god even with its power you will be no match for us.

The God Seekers

            Fhice had a new target and he was going to make sure that all of these god seekers would die.

. . .

            The dome of sand fell and the people seeking its shelter prepared for the worst but nothing came the sand just fell the storm stopped. They cheered at the sudden stop of the storm but they stopped as soon as they started the old mage Yinzu had fallen, he lay in the sand as one last burst of wind covered him in black sand.