The desert: a harsh and unforgiving place even to those who can survive there. A plethora of monsters, all hostile, inhabit the region forcing the Urkans to patrol the area and disperse monster gathering spots, destroying monster nests in hopes of keeping their own people safe. Until recently, those patrols had not had any specific goal or monster to attack; that all changed with the sudden increase of Creon in the area began to threaten Urkan travelers and caravans travelling towards Kombinat. This increase in activity forced Urkans to increase the number of patrols in the area, or at least that's what Gaist told Ryu.
"Just think of us as exterminators." Gaist told Ryu as they walked northward towards the Mountain called 'Death's Passage'.
"The problem is we can't find the nest, if we could find that we could wipe out the Creon in this area permanently." Garr interjected.
"If there's been such an increase in the number of Creon shouldn't they be easy to find?" Ryu asked.
"Not really, Creon live underground in moist temperate climates, so you can imagine a desert is not the best place for them. We guess that their nest must be somewhere in Death's Passage." Gaist responded.
"What makes you think that? And why do they call it 'Death's Passage' anyways?" Ryu asked.
"It's called Death's Passage because it's a small underground tunnel through the mountains that leads to a huge expanse of desert called the 'Desert of Death'. A single day in that area is enough to get you lost and dehydrated if you don't know what you're doing." Garr said.
"As for why we think it's there, well, last time there was a patrol in the area they found an incredible number of Creon gathering there and knowing how Creon need certain types of living conditions to survive we made an educated guess." Gaist answered.
The three had begun their journey each carrying their own pack of supplies, just in case any one of them should become separated. What few monsters they met along the way were easy to dispatch and not a Creon among them, overall a very boring trip as far as Ryu was concerned. It only took them about a day to reach the entrance to 'Death's Passage'. The interior was mostly man-made, the walls constructed of metal, most of the time, and other parts were rock though there were obviously no signs of Creon infestation; the entire tunnel was far to small to hold the Creon queen, called Terrapin.
"Well this was a great way to spend the day!" Ryu said sarcastically upon exiting the tunnel.
"At least we got some exercise." Gaist smiled as he looked back at the tunnel.
"Uh... shouldn't we be able to see the city from here?" Ryu asked looking at the horizon.
In the distance, where even from here they should have been able to see Urkan city, Ryu saw nothing but a swirling brown haze that seemed to be getting closer.
"That's..." Garr began but could not finish, horror in his voice.
"Shit..." Gaist said, his face grave. "A sandstorm, coming up fast. C'mon, we have to get ready."
Ryu watched as the two pulled heavy white cloaks from their packs and quickly put them on, bracing themselves against the mountain wall in the corner as they did so. Ryu fetched a similar cloak out of his own pack and followed their example. The cloak itself felt very nice in the rising wind and the heat of the desert did not feel as oppressive. As Garr and Gaist did he braced himself up against the rock face and sat down holding his knees close to himself.
"Why are we doing this?" He shouted over the rising noise of the oncoming sandstorm.
"To protect ourselves from the sandstorm. The cloaks will protect us from the sand and the mountain face should keep us from being blown away by the winds." Gaist yelled back.
"Any other advice?" Ryu yelled.
"Pray to whatever gods you believe in that you don't get sand down your pants!" Gaist yelled.
"Must you always make light of the situation?" Garr yelled just as the storm hit.
Visibility was reduced to zero as the sand swirled about him, the winds abominably strong, he could feel the biting sands and he closed his eyes. He felt, though he hoped it was his imagination, that he was being lifted off the ground. He felt some thing strike him, or was it he that struck something, and he passed out.
Ryu woke, gods knew how long later lying half buried in the sand. He looked about himself and noticed several things; one, it was night, two, it was still god damned hot, even for night in the desert, the third thing he noticed was most disturbing: he was on the other side of the mountain range, he was now in the desert of death. Resigning himself to his misfortune he began to walk back towards 'Death's Passage'.
"At least it can't get any worse." He muttered to himself.
AS he spoke those words, even a whisper as they were, the ground began to shake. Looking behind himself, Ryu saw a giant sandworm emerge from the desert. Whilst nowhere near as large as the one Nina, Bleu, Jean and the Wanderer had fought; it was still far more than large enough to make a meal of a lone adventurer.
"Note to self; never, EVER say that things can't get worse." Ryu said under his breath as he began to run towards the mountain range.
As he ran, pain erupted in his body and he stumbled. He felt as though his bones were growing, as though that growth would rip him apart, and a cold, freezing sensation spread from within his bones. He held his arms trying to warm himself enough to move, for he could hear the sandworm approaching. He was so focused on his physical pain and the approaching sandworm that he did not notice his skin had become a blue-ish white colour and had taken on a scale-like texture. Nor did he notice how his eyes were shifting between human and serpentine in appearance, or how his breath had become ice cold, visible as mist in the hot desert air. He did notice that the worm was now upon him and there was nothing he could do, neither to escape nor defend himself. And then he heard it: a deafening roar descending upon the land. He looked up to witness a dragon diving upon the worm, it's fiery crimson scales glowing like embers, reflecting the light of the moon and stars of the night sky. The great crimson beast breathed what looked like liquid flame upon the worm and Ryu, prayed the two monsters would kill each other. The intense heat of the flames melted the sand around the worm, turning it to glass, the worm tried to escape but the dragon caught it in it's claws and breathed it's flames upon the worm again at close range and the worm screamed in agony. The volcanic heat began to wear at his consciousness as his vision wavered in and out; having just awoken a little while ago did not do anything to aid the situation and as he was already on his knees, it did not take much for him to fall over, unconscious.
Ryu fazed in and out of consciousness, he couldn't tell if he was asleep or awake. One thing remained constant was someone singing. The melody sounded so familiar to him, but he could not hear clearly. Desperately he focused on the words the tune, as though those could anchor him to reality, to the waking world. The faint melody stirred a memory and he remembered a woman standing over him when he was a child, singing a lullaby.
"Ye sai no Shei!
Ya yu no Hwo,
Ye sai no Fun!
Ya yu no To."
The soft, though mournful melody went and he knew the person who sang it in his memories, but, the song he remembered did not correspond to reality as the one who sang the song now had a deep baritone and the song itself was longer.
"Ye sai no Shei!
Ya yu no Hwo,
Ye sai no Fun!
Ya yu no To.
Ya ni hikari
Yo na Yami."
Despite the difference in singers, the song retained its mournful quality, as though there was something lost to the world, something precious and yet that hope remained.
"Mother..." Ryu said softly, remembering the first person from which he heard the song.
The noise Ryu made, the stranger sitting by the fire noticed his stirring. The man was old and seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, 'twas the wanderer, though Ryu did not know it at the time. Ryu glanced about as he sat up. He saw it was a simple campfire and he was in the only sleeping pallet.
"You're awake." The Wanderer stated.
"That song... What were you singing a moment ago?" Ryu asked.
"That was an old song, sung in the tongue of the dragon race. It was called the 'Hymn of Dragons', though it is more commonly known today as the 'Requiem of Souls'. It is used now to mourn the dead, though in days long gone it was used to praise the gods of water, fire, wind, earth, the dragons of light and the dragons of darkness." The Wanderer recounted.
"Darkness? Why would anyone want to praise evil?" Ryu asked, confused.
The Wanderer laughed slightly and added a liquid to the fire causing it to grow higher.
"That's rather narrow minded. 'Darkness' and 'evil' aren't the same thing. I'll tell you a story; long ago there was a clan of mighty beings. This clan was unique for its people were divided into two: One was called the 'clan of the light'; the other part was called the 'clan of darkness'. Each clan had a specific purpose, the light was to defend and heal its people, the darkness to attack those who were a threat to the clan. You see, neither was 'evil' or 'good', but one did wield the power of light and the other the power of darkness. Do you understand?"
"I suppose..." Ryu said unsure of himself.
Ryu lay back to watch the stars and think about what the Wanderer said. It made a sort of sense; darkness and light weren't they after all just another form of power? An element of the world, like fire, water, wind or earth? Neither complying to any form of 'good' or 'evil', they simply were. It was how one used those powers that made them 'good' or 'evil' and even then it was a matter of perspective. After all Ryu had seen the power of light used to do evil. The sudden thought startled Ryu. Had he seen that before? And if he did where was it. That little enigma wrapped in a conundrum packaged in a riddle kept Ryu up all night, though he didn't realize it.
Ryu wasn't paying attention to anything, though he was awake; the Wanderer as well had been awake all night, seemingly never tiring, though Ryu never noticed. It was the smell of cooking oil and frying worm flesh that 'woke' Ryu up. As he ate his meal, he wondered several things, like why did the dragon leave him alone, how did the Wanderer get here and why did he think of caramel sauce as he ate. When he thought of these, especially the dragon, he felt a pain in his head, a block in his memory as though he knew something but couldn't bring himself to consciously think it.
When Ryu had a chance to look at the landscape he was surprised; it appeared that he was on the right side of "Death's Passage', the Urkan city being clearly visible in the distance. The Wanderer agreed to accompany Ryu some ways to the city. The monsters they encountered were weak compared to their strength, so the Wanderer told him some tales of his own travels. The story that interested Ryu the most was of the 'Requiem of Souls' how the song was incomplete. The last line, which supposedly praised Ladon, the All-father, would only be sung to herald in the Avatar of Ladon, so no one knew what the line was. The journey seemed markedly short to Ryu whom met up with Garr and Gaist about half way to the city. However, when Ryu tried to introduce the Wanderer to them, he found the old warrior gone, with no trace to be found.
Katt sat upon the roof of one of the wagons of the wandering caravan, it was night and the stars were shinning brightly, the full of the moon casting soft light upon the Desert of Death. She looked up at the full moon and wondered if Ryu was looking at the same sky she was. Unbeknownst to her, he was indeed looking up at the same moon, wondering what he had lost in his memories. She began to hum softly, a melody she had learned long ago and she hummed the melody on occasion for it comforted her. It wasn't a Worren tune she sung, but rather something she had learned from the man who had taken care of her as a child. While most went about their business in the camp, a few heard the tune and mourned their lost friends. To Bow this song was filled with memories as he remembered Ryu singing around a campfire when they were young. Rand remembered when he was a child, his mother working in the fields humming a similar tune as she worked. Sten had no loved ones attached to the song, but he still remembered those he saw die on the battlefield and he too did mourn. It was Sten who approached Katt, nimbly climbing onto the roof of the wagon. He approached her, made no sound and simply took a seat beside her.
"That's a beautiful song." Sten said.
"Thanks... But I'm not really that good." Katt said, never taking her eyes off the moon.
"Hey don't be so modest. The only place anybody could find more beautiful music would be in Tunlan." Sten said, referring to the city of song and music.
Katt didn't even smile as she continued to look at the stars. Sten knew what was bothering her; he often felt the same when he was away from his own fiancé.
"You really miss him, don't you?" He asked.
"Yeah... But I have to keep going, for his sake and our son's." She said.
"Well, in the mean time I could always take his place you know, warming your bed and such." Sten said with a mischievous smile.
Katt's eyes widened and she tried to swipe at Sten. Sten rolled back to dodge the blow, laughing all the while. Katt was furious at first, but when she saw his mirth, she cracked a small smile as she realized he was joking around. Sten stopped laughing and pointed at her.
"Made you smile." He said, grinning ear to ear.
"Lets see how well you smile after this!" Katt said pouncing at him, laughing all the while.
Katt chased Sten across the roofs of the wagons, the two of them laughing. Rand saw them and smiled, thinking that it was good to hear her laugh again. He also smirked at how nobody could stay down in the dumps with Sten around.
'He should've been a court jester.' Rand thought.
Artificer Urza's Fanfiction