Misty tendrils crept upwards out into the darkness from the sand that was still warm even this deep into the cold desert night. There was a smoky glow to the thin foggy air. The mist that rose was colored golden with hints of gray rising slowly from the sand. The tendrils wrapped themselves around the limbs of the cold flesh belonging to a man lying dead and broken. A nomad that came to an unfortunate end in the unforgiving land of crushed glass and dusty wind. Blood that had seeped into the area around the lifeless husk began rising as wisps of light and smoke to join the misty air rushing from below. It took but a moment for the corpse to emanate the soft gray and golden glow of mist as it consumed the dead man. A small river of fog began filling a wound on the back of his neck, slowly at first, and then a dam seemed to break as the rest of the combined misty air around him flowed into the wound with a rush of air.
The glow was gone, all the mist had disappeared, and all was silent in the starry night of the frigid desert air. The wound on the back of the man’s neck was still there, but instead of being covered in dried blood and sand as before, it was now clean and slightly bleeding. The wet, misty air seemed to cleanse the wound as it rushed into the man. Just moments later a slow and soft rise came from the blue flesh of the corpse’s back. The chest of the nomad fell, releasing steamy air from his nostrils out into the night. A small amount of breath also escaped through the wound at the back of his neck. His chest rose and fell again. It seemed the man was asleep with the blue of his flesh slowly fading to color the more breaths he took.
A voice spoke above the crowd. Wylen’s mind could hear the rumblings of a gathering with a man projecting his voice through the air.
“You are mistakingly distorting fact by fusing it with creation. Proof being put in visual form and into our dreams of what we want, leaving behind what we need. Today we hold true to our roots and gather here to show our progress away from desire and towards design. Away from greed and into the necessary! Leave behind corrupted wants and work together in actions of purity! Today, we bind two nations and welcome all who would join this union to attend.”
‘Bind… union…,’ these words stood out in Wylen’s thoughts. A ring floated in his vision, gone as quick as it appeared. Greens and blues fused within one another, swirling downward in a spiraling fashion. The sight was dizzying, confusing. The vision was an unrecognizable image. He was holding onto something, and there was no ground and only blackness all around him. The cold touch of metal was his link to staying alive, a feeling of safety was what proved this to him, a sense of need and desire.
That security pushed him forward even though his arms burned. He assumed that this was because his hand grasped this cold steel bar, was it? No, it was sharp, a sword? He followed the length of it, and he found it going inside him, through his abdomen and out the back of his neck. He didn’t know, and he just knew he didn’t want to let go. A wave of pain shot into his arms running its course through his neck and into his spine. The pain stopped inside his temples just to throb with a searing burn beneath his skin. There was a scream, and the image pulled back away from his vision, and he could see his whole self in front of him hanging in the span of a circle. When he looked harder, he realized that it was a ring. In this black world he clung to life and the only sense of reason his mind could hold. His love, and thoughts of his life outside of this blackness.
Wylen could feel eight sharp legs seeping into the skin on his cheek making their way up across his eye. His arms would not obey at first, and he suffered the itch of wanting to smack the creature away. Eventually, he managed to raise his fingers out from below himself and sand ran through his still slow to respond digits. Wylen reached his face in what seemed like an extraordinary amount of time and picked up the scorpion from his scalp. Doing so caused the beast to jam the spike on its tail directly into Wylen’s thumb. He only knew this because he saw it happen and could feel the pressure pushing into the bone under his skin. Curious, he rolled to his back and examined the scorpion as it danced furiously in his grip trying to free itself by stabbing into his fingers. Wylen shook his head before placing the creature back onto the sandy ground and watched it scamper off before examining the tiny droplets of blood coming from his hand. Wondering for a moment, Wylen had a fleeting thought of why it didn’t hurt or if he should be worried about the venom. He watched his hand absently for a moment, yet without pain or any visible changes in his skin’s appearance he laid back down on the sand looking at the brightening sky above. ‘ The first Sun rises,’ he thought to himself.
Wylen grabbed two handfuls of sand and sat up with legs still outstretched and let the sand run through his fingers to his pant legs below. He turned his hands over, and then over again. “What happened to my hands? I don’t remember my hands looking like this,” Wylen murmured. His hands were thick and calloused, dirty and full of old cuts alongside the scorpion’s barrage. Wylen shook his head and looked around himself at a small tent, cold pit for fire, a pile of branch wood and a pack full of something he couldn’t quite make out. Looking the opposite direction Wylen thought he could make out the beginnings to tops of buildings, but couldn’t be sure it wasn’t just his eyes playing tricks.
A deep thrumming began low and barely noticeable in his head making his temples ache, the slight pain turned into an itch that cascaded down to the back of his neck, and he reached up to scratch it. A shallow horizontal indentation sunk into the back of his neck further than he knew supposed to be possible. ‘What is that? When was that?’ The itch subsided, and he shook his head before standing and noticing for the first time the desert rags he was wearing. The thin garb did nothing to stave off the early morning air that sank a chill into his bones. ‘Where the hell am I?’ Wylen thought. ‘The last thing I remember… was… what?’ Wylen remembered everything about the things around here besides where he was, how he was there, or what he was doing in a place like this. ‘I am from Jumirin, but… what else?’ He was simply from Jumirin, nothing else stood out. ‘Ah, well it will come back to me, but how did I get so damn dirty and broken, how…’ he thought once again examining his hands. Nothing was bringing anything to the forefront of his thoughts, so he moved on to basic needs. Fire… I’ll make a fire then. I’m cold.
It didn’t take him long, but no matter the height of the flames it didn’t seem to do him any good. There was a deep chill in him that he couldn’t seem to shake. Frustration set in as the second Sun made its ascent and he decided to inspect the pack that sat next to the small raised tent. Wylen found a few pieces of dried meat, some useless trinkets and a folded up piece of parchment. Dumping the pack upside down there was nothing else, and he went to seat himself next to the fire again before unfolding the brown stained piece of paper. As he unfolded it there seemed to be just random lines drawn nonsensically across the journal, but when he saw it in its entirety, the lines came together to what could be a map of sorts. Arrows were pointing this way or that seemingly random without any context. Words written as notations yet they weren’t in any language he could make out. The only word he recognized was what at the top left of the paper which if he made it out right said, Knyaz. Knyaz was a city, he knew, a city famed for its thieves gatherings and being a hub for contractual arrangements that need remain anonymous. Wylen sat again next to the fire with the map, the only clue he had to anything at the moment.
‘What else do I do?’ Wylen thought to himself. It’s all I have right now. The desert’s heat was all around him only hours later, but he still didn’t move. Wylen sat unmoving, holding the folded parchment in hand and staring into the dying embers of the fire. He waited for something to come back to him, he tried to piece together anything that might have led him to where he is, but there was nothing. Just a distant knowing of where he grew up and that he had a home in Jumirin, but once again he thought the same thing, ‘Where the hell am I?’ Wylen stood and retrieved the small pack he dumped out earlier. He was able to fit the tent inside it as well before throwing it across his shoulder and looking towards what looked reminiscent of the beginnings of buildings in the distance. He would find his way to Knyaz, perhaps he would remember on the way how he came to be here, or there would be answers there.
He started towards the distant horizon. Wylen stopped when he noticed footprints leading away from the camp. The prints headed in the same direction, towards the buildings. Well then, wonder if it’s a friend I’ll find? He followed the footsteps as best he could. He didn’t know why he did as he could plainly see the city before him rising over the horizon. It gave him a chance to let his mind wander, to try and remember something. How had he got to that camp in the first place? What was that deep throb in the back of his neck and mind? Why was there a constant deep numbing cold no matter how hot the air around him became?