A novella set in the world of TEARS OF RAGE.
Can you ever go home? After wandering the deserts of the Lands of Endless Summer for five years, Jaludin the thief wants to do exactly that. Having left as a boy, he returns as a young man, intent to leave his adventures in the desert and settle down with the girl whose eyes have haunted his dreams since he left.
His homecoming is not the joyous occasion Jaludin imagined. He finds the town under some strange curse. As he rushes to solve this mystery, Jaludin wonders if some enemy from his wandering followed him home, or is this some new threat altogether. No matter what power is behind the curse, Jaludin must find a way to end it before the town succumbs to thirst, the desert’s most ruthless killer.
The camel-riding nomad tribes of the deep deserts have a saying, “The dunes are never the same on the return journey.” I never really understood what that meant until I looked down on my childhood home. I had just crested the last dune when the light of the setting sun forced me to shield my eyes. In all my travels, few sites could match the holy radiance of the desert sun shining down on the village of Bhaklah. The sunlight came from the southwest, as it was close to dusk, hitting the white-stone buildings so that they seemed to glow. Taking in the sight of it, a cold sweat that had nothing to do with the heat ran between my shoulder blades. This particular talent of my body reacting to things before my conscious mind notices them has saved my life on more than just a handful of occasions.
I closed my eyes and drew in a deep breath. I held the heat of the desert air in my lungs for a moment, and then slowly let the breath escape as I opened my eyes.
No firelight shown from the All Flame that should have burned atop the town’s temple; no one stood on the four watchtowers.
The moment those details registered in my mind, I was scrambling down the dune. I felt the sand working its way into my clothes, and I might regret it later, but there really isn’t any way to get down a sand dune easily without getting sand everywhere in your clothes. Had someone followed me home? No. Impossible. Only one man knew that Jaludin Wanderer was the Ghost Between the Shadows and that he came from Bhaklah. That one man was dead. His death had inspired my decision to return.
Soon the sand gave way to rock. I stumbled several times as smaller stones skittered out from under my feet as I approached the outer walls. Plants grew where the wall met the ground; some even showed hints of green, evidence of the Bhaklah’s ample well.
At the eastern gate, I nodded to the symbols of the five gods carved into the stone archway. True, tradition required that I kneel and pray to each of the five greater gods, but I’d ignored greater traditions than that in my life as a wanderer. That, and no one stood at the gate to call this lack of proper piety into question.
My echoing voice was the only response.