Chapter 19:

Chapter 16: "A desert of Glass"

Age of Ember beta

After an uneventful night everyone awoke fully rested.Bookmark here

Verona and Arachnia awoke to Odrian no longer being there. He had left an hour earlier to avoid any backlash from Ziggy. If there was one thing Odrian couldn’t do, was stepping on Ziggy’s toes.Bookmark here

Not too long after awakening, everyone had broken down the tents and thrown it into Odrian’s portal. Arachnia had always wondered where everything had gone once it entered the portal. As he sealed the portal, Arachnia gave him a tap on his shoulder. Bookmark here

“So, where does everything go?” She leaned in for a response.Bookmark here

Odrian was trying to come up with a response that would satisfy her curiosity. Having this ability since he was able to wield it, Odrian had never thought about it before. All he knew was that the items he stored went into a void that was endless in capacity. He just thought it was convenient whenever he summoned a portal. Mustering the best possible answer to her inquiry, he responded:Bookmark here

“Portals go anywhere I want, no matter where I’m at but i do have to have been there before or at least be able to see my destination off in the distance. Those items go into a void.”Bookmark here

“Like a pocket in space?” She probed further.Bookmark here

“I don’t really know where, but nothing exists their it’s kind of my own personal space I create, except it’s for stuff.”Bookmark here

Unsatisfied with his answer, she put one of her hands through and started feeling around into its nothingness. There was just a dry breeze that was neither cool nor warm. It was a strange sensation. Her hands gradually felt another enveloping sensation, perhaps a form of preserving whatever was to stay within the void itself. She quickly pulled her hand out. Looking for the right words to describe the sensation she felt, she tried:Bookmark here

“Wow, it’s-”Bookmark here

“It's weird, huh?” Odrian completed her thought. He flashed a smile before closing the portal.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it certainly is.”Bookmark here

“Worry not! I never go in there.”Bookmark here

Odrian said this in an unusual manner that made an uneasy Arachnia chuckle.Bookmark here

Once everything was settled everyone stood before Ziggy who walked along the edge of the treetop. stopping towards the middle, caressing his goatee with a sinister grin. The backdrop of the rising sun had made him all the more evil looking to everyone’s sights.Bookmark here

“The good news is that we have a hundred miles or so left to go!” His eyes narrowed with a gleam.Bookmark here

“Is he always like this?” Arachnia whispered at Odrian.Bookmark here

“Eh…” Odrian wasn’t sure how to respond. Ziggy homed in on what she had said.Bookmark here

“I mean we can even run and train,” Ziggy’s eyes glowed maliciously. “At the same damn time!”Bookmark here

“The same damn time?” Odrian and Victor had gasped like shocked choir boys.Bookmark here

“At the same damn time!”Bookmark here

“Alright, honey, I think they get it,” Sabrina sighed on behalf of everyone. Ziggy cleared his throat and continued:Bookmark here

“Er, that’s right. Alright everyone, let’s move out!”Bookmark here

Everyone scrambled to move ahead of Sabrina and Ziggy, they were astounded by their tenacity in the situation.Bookmark here

“Wow, I must be good at inspiring people,” Ziggy nodded in admiration. “I like.”Bookmark here

“Does that really amuse you?” Sabrina wanted to laugh but withheld her laughter. Bookmark here

Not long after, they had surpassed beyond the hundred-mile threshold that Ziggy had stated. They arrived at a desert made of glass sand and crystal shards poking up in random spots. in the foreseeable distance. There were also crystalized tornadoes scattered along the arid plains. You could see your reflection clearly. Sabrina warned everyone not to enter the tornadoes and for good reason.Bookmark here

Once you enter it, you could be transported anywhere for miles.Bookmark here

“Wow, I can’t believe it,” Arachnia said aloud. “I’ve seen pictures of this in books!”Bookmark here

“It is beautiful,” Verona chimed in, admiring the sights.Bookmark here

“Pop quiz!” Ziggy jumped in front of everyone.Bookmark here

“Pop quiz? Really?” Victor’s expression was more deadpan than Landon’s face at this point. Victor and quizzes never quite made a good combination after all.Bookmark here

“Hey, don’t be a smart aleck, Vic, just hear me out! What happens if we stay here for too long?”Bookmark here

Everyone looked at each other. They could care less for as long as they went through, but an obvious culprit had an answer. Bookmark here

“The crystals start to project your darkest past for all to see,” Arachnia had answered with a slightly lower enthusiasm.Bookmark here

“We have a winner!” Ziggy said triumphantly.Bookmark here

“Oh my,” Sabrina facepalmed. “Don’t ever say that again.”Bookmark here

“So, what’s the point of knowing that?” Victor scoffed at the tidbit. Ziggy’s expression turned serious once again.Bookmark here

“Knowing your environment could come in handy in a sticky situation,” Ziggy answered in an unusually cordial manner. “Knowing the enemy is one thing, but how about the surroundings? What can you use to your advantage? Things can get kind of fun.”Bookmark here

“That’s a good point,” Landon, who rarely ever spoke, commented on the nugget of wisdom. Everyone looked at him surprised. “What? He’s saying the truth.”Bookmark here

“Remember,” Sabrina added to Ziggy’s statements. “Combat is an art, so you have to embrace all its forms to succeed.”Bookmark here

“Right,” Ziggy smiled. “Had we not said anything I could see Victor, Odrian and Sarah jump in for a bad time, am I right?”Bookmark here

“That would never happen!” The trio said.Bookmark here

It was a dog-faced lie and everyone knew it.Bookmark here

Upon actually traversing the beautiful glass desert, they realized it was built more like a maze. A maze that spanned for miles. After a few minutes of being cautious, Sabrina looked back at everyone and suggested with a whisper to Ziggy ”we could take a quicker route”. Ziggy smiled at her suggestion and started running toward the nearest tornado which intensified once he had made contact. Landon knew all too well what Ziggy was up to.Bookmark here

“Everyone follow!” Landan yelled uncharacteristically into the raging tornado.Bookmark here

Landon had no idea where he ended up. Bookmark here

Looking around himself, Landon wondered where he was. In a hot-headed attempt not to be duped by his father, Ziggy succeeded. However, he discovered footprints left in the glistening sands. Bookmark here

Arachnia’s curiosity could not be outdone, she came through next. Against statistical odds, she arrived at the same destination Landon arrived at and followed the footprints upon discovering it.Bookmark here

There were footprints going in multiple directions, which made it hard to follow anyone. Some seemed much older than others. The possibility of people becoming lost was likely, especially if you had no idea how the tornadoes worked. It didn’t take too long before they all had been separated.Bookmark here

Under the clear hot sun, Odrian was sweating, not recalling how hot it was when he had arrived. While searching for the others, he noticed that some tornadoes were active and spinning and others were inactive; The inactive tornadoes were completely still.Bookmark here

“how long do they stay active for” Odrian had felt as though there was some sort of significance to this.Bookmark here

Elsewhere Sarah had come across Victor, who had just come through a tornado nearby.Bookmark here

“Vicky!” She felt relieved that she had finally found someone after 30 minutes of searching. Sarah ran over to Victor unbeknownst to what was to occur. In her attempt to hug him, he immediately pushed her into the tornado he came from.Bookmark here

“Oh, sweet revenge!” Victor smiled with a closed fist raised in triumph. He walked off searching for the others.Bookmark here

By the time Sarah came back through Victor was gone, and she was alone once again. She kicked up some sand and watched it float away into the wind. Her eyes traced the sands that flew closer to the top of the tornado and realized every cyclone had a number on the inside once activated.Bookmark here

“Really?” Sarah seemed baffled by the discovery. She was currently at 398. This would be helpful in remembering where she came from but not where she was going.Bookmark here

Arachnia had already thought of a way to track everyone and developed a system to traverse the trivial terrain. She had a long metal scorpion-like tail coming out of her lower back, which she normally hid just as most other races hide their unique characteristic features. Some reasons ranged from practical, like taking up less space in an area to avoiding any form of discrimination. Human beauty maintained a high beauty standard across all races. However, when they did reveal all their features it was to fight.Bookmark here

With her tail she drew thick lines into the sand to help keep track of where she saw everyone and where she had gone. It was like she was creating a giant web, stringing together everyone’s whereabouts. It came naturally to her.Bookmark here

Odrian was tired of walking around everywhere so he developed an unorthodox plan. He placed white holes in front of every tornado he went through and a black hole absorbing you into the ones he was following. This made tracking him easy, although he only managed to get Verona. Verona never left his trail when she met him again. She was always one step behind him.Bookmark here

Landon and Victor managed to somehow make their way to Sabrina and Ziggy at tornado 9002. From this tornado you could see the vast sea that laid ahead. Sabrina went to explain the extraneous nuance of the system it had. Although the numbers in them were usually random, it was typically even numbers that took you to the same place. But as random as the numbers were, the only certainty was that you could be taken somewhere entirely new.Bookmark here

“Yup, just follow the even numbers and you would get to an entrance regardless of route” Sabrina smiled.Bookmark here

On the other hand, Sarah had been walking around aimlessly for some time and she began seeing glimpses of her past. She doubted the validity of the long-standing effects of the environment, but without thinking about her past, she saw it for herself. She wasn’t always bubbly and happy. This was something she had worked on to improve her outlook. There were times when she hated herself and often avoided her own reflection. Bookmark here

“Make it stop” Sarah fell to her knees and blocked off the sight of her old self.Bookmark here

A colorful mist came surrounded her, attempting to manifest false images of herself that spoke to her in malicious tones:Bookmark here

“Won’t you look at us?” Bookmark here

“You’re still such a disappointment.”Bookmark here

“You’ll always be alone!” Bookmark here

Her illusion powers were starting to manifest her thoughts into reality. Arachnia saw Sarah in the distance, surrounded by multiple copies of herself. Realizing it had something to do with the effects of the desert, she quickly went to Sarah’s aid. The apparitions disappeared once Arachnia came to Sarah’s side.Bookmark here

“Hey, hey,” Arachnia affirmed Sarah with a gentle voice. “Everything is alright.Bookmark here

“Did-did you see anything?” Sarah felt Arachnia’s comforting hands on her shoulder. Sarah grabbed onto her tight, throwing her face into her chest. “Tell me you didn’t see any of that!”Bookmark here

“The illusions are things only you could see.” she lied Bookmark here

“Please, don’t leave me!”Bookmark here

Arachnia could hardly understand anything Sarah was saying as her head was still buried in her chest. But she had a good idea of what she was saying.Bookmark here

“I won’t,” Arachnia told Sarah as she lifted her head up. “The mirages can only get to you when you’re by yourself. We’re in this together.” Bookmark here

Arachnia grew more confident about how the desert worked through watching a few gecko-like creatures with diamond-encrusted backs move toward even number tornadoes.Bookmark here

As Sarah and Arachnia arrived, everyone wondered where Odrian and Verona were. But shortly after questioning their whereabouts, Odrian and Verona came through the nearby even-numbered tornado together with a little lizard in his hand.Bookmark here

“Thanks, little guy” Odrian gently set down the lizard.Bookmark here

“I see you found the only creatures who know how to reach water” Ziggy commented. “How’d you find out they were going to water?”Bookmark here

“Oh, I was thirsty, Odrian responded. “So, I was drinking water and this little guy came to the drops that went on the floor then immediately walked through a tornado.”Bookmark here

“We picked him up,” Verona added as she stepped forward. “And we went whichever way he was looking.”Bookmark here

“Really?” Landon expressed a sense of disappointment at their luck of the draw. “That’s how you did it?”Bookmark here

“You’ve gotta be crafty when traversing environments, you don’t know,” Sabrina reminded Landon. Bookmark here

“We can camp here,” Ziggy suggested. “Tomorrow we swim! No more games!”Bookmark here

“Man,” Victor couldn’t help himself. “You were the only one playing games!”Bookmark here

“Hey! Hey! I’m the one that makes the rules here!”Bookmark here

As they bickered, Sabrina led the others in setting camp. Everyone was winding down for the day. Sarah approached Victor to talk to him about what he had done earlier.Bookmark here

“What you did back there,” Sarah began, trying to withhold her anger. Victor could hear her trembling tone. She was serious.Bookmark here

“I was just getting some payback,” Victor answered unapologetically, even against his better judgment.Bookmark here

“Payback? Do you have any idea what happened to me out there?”Bookmark here

“U-uh, well-” Bookmark here

“No, I don’t want to hear it, Victor,” She abruptly cut him off.Bookmark here

Sarah was understandably upset by his juvenile actions. She walked away disgusted by his answers. She was stuck with him in the meantime, but she didn’t have to talk to him. However, Arachnia had helped her a great deal throughout, causing Sarah to appreciate her much more. She went to sleep, feeling more at ease about being vocal about what happened. The sun was still up, but they were travelling late tonight. Perhaps it’ll be a different experience then.Bookmark here

Ana Fowl
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