An Oasis in the Desert
–For those who hunger and thirst for knowledge.
Life in the desert can be cruel and its justice swift. Could one who is thirsty resist the call of the oasis?
He had heard the rocky spires referred to by many different names. That formation there was supposedly Anankar and his family, who died while wandering the Clefts of Rujark. The Giant’s Throne was to the south, though frankly that name seemed entirely too fanciful. Sand giants did not have thrones.
Turning to stone would be a relief. Farheer had been in the desert for many days now, searching for the legendary Scimitar of Mudeef. Ever since he had first heard the tale from a storyteller on the streets of Maj’Dul, Farheer felt that he must be the one to find it; as some felt called to be a monk or a champion, Farheer was called to this quest. His family tried to dissuade him, but he would not hear of it. Whoever found the Scimitar, so the legend went, would never know hunger or thirst again.
Farheer leaned against one of the spires he was circling and shook his water skin again. It hung limp against his hip; obviously, the skin had not miraculously refilled itself. Perhaps is he repeated the story aloud, he might glean another clue that would lead him to the Scimitar.
“Mudeef travelled the worlds, gaining secret knowledge of the distant Planes and lands,” whispered Farheer, his parched lips barely moving.
“Through his adventures, he carried a Scimitar of magical Planar metals. Its hilt was wired with gold and the blade so fine that the edge could be seen by any mortal.”
“After Mudeef slew the great Master of the Djinn in a battle lasting twenty days and twenty nights, the dragon of the night, Siyamak, came to Mudeef in a dream.
‘Give me the Scimitar, that I may place it in the sky amongst the stars,’ said the dragon. But Mudeef knew the dragon would not hold true to his word, and so Mudeef carried the Scimitar to the wastes and placed it on an altar of stone himself.”
Farheer rubbed the bridge of his nose with his raw, cracked fingertips. “The Scimitar had become even more magical and powerful once stained by the Master of the Djinn’s blood. Therefore, Mudeef knew that others like the trickster dragons would try to steal it and use it against him. His only…his only…” Farheer’s voice trailed off as he squatted in the scant shade of the rocks.
“His only choice, to save his people from the fear that someone would steal the Scimitar and use it against them, was to take the Scimitar himself to the desert and offer it to the gods. He carried…no, I have already said that,” Farheer licked his lips with his dry, swollen tongue. “He made the altar himself in the desert and thrust the Scimitar into it.”
Hadn’t the storyteller given more details about the altar? Farheer pulled his kneed to his chest and rested his chin on them, trying to remember. The altar was definitely high up, someplace difficult to reach. Farheer had climbed every rocky pillar, some of them several times, in this area. He was sure the Scimitar was in this particular area, but he could not recall why.
There had to be something more in the tale, something Farheer had long forgotten. HE tried to locate the storyteller later, but had never seen him again. So here he sat: no food, no water, and no idea where to turn. To go back to Maj’Dul now would be to admit defeat. Farheer was determined to return a hero. Though perhaps, he now thought through the thick haze filling his mind, it might be better to return with nothing than to never return at all.
He struggled to his feet, leaning against the stones and considering his options. In this weakened state, he would be easy prey for the harpies. The orcs would treat him no better, but if they kept him as a laborer he would at least get fed. Farheer thought for a long while as the sun began its slow descent. Now at least the spires offered some shade.
“The altar was a top a spire, from which one would see all the boundaries of the lands,” Farheer continued the tale aloud as he stumbled through the canyon. “The light of the sun and moons and the stars reflected off the handle of the Scimitar. Like pearls of gold. Pearls…” Farheer paused, squinting. Was that shimmer at the edge of the canyon an oasis at last?
Farheer staggered, quickly covering the remaining distance as fast as his weakened legs would carry him. “Like pearls of gold, light reflected from the handle of the Scimitar and danced across the desert. And Mudeef…to hide the light…covered the altar with his turban.” That must be an oasis; he could smell the vegetation from here! Only a few steps more and he would find water!
” ‘Now no one will see the altar in which my Scimitar will remain,’ said Mudeef, ‘for I have hidden it safely away. But should anyone find this weapon of great reknown, they shall never know hunger or thirst…or thirst…’ ” Farheer fell to his knees and cried out, “No! It cannot be!” For the oasis he had seen melted away from view as he emerged from the canyon.
“No, no, no,” sobbed Farheer, wishing he would cry so that at least e might drink his own tears. He would not give up; at the very least, he might reach the Oasis of Marr which would not dissolve into the sand on his approach. Through the night, Farheer stumbled along while reciting the story of Mudeef’s legendary Scimitar. At long last, however, he fell asleep on his feet and walked unseeing for a time.
When his eyes opened, Farheer found himself lying in the shade of a large date palm. He felt dizzy as he sat up and looked cautiously around. How long has he walked? This was not the Oasis of Marr, yet it was an oasis of some sort. Near his feet, a small pool reflected the bright blue sky above. Beside the pool sat a woman combing her hair and singing.
“Welcome, stranger,” she said, noticing that Farheer was awake. “Please, help yourself to what food I have and drink your fill at this spring.”
Farheer said,” Where am I?” The woman laughed and pointed at the water, but did not reply. She continued to hum while combing her thick black hair, coiling it up, then letting it tumble down her back to her waist.
“This is no oasis,” said Farheer, closing his eyes. “This is a trap set for me to tempt me from the ways of my righteousness. I must be close to the Scimitar.” The woman laughed and dipped a cup into the water, pouring it slowly back so that the sound was unmistakable. “This may be tempting, but it is also very much an oasis. Drink, for you have great need of refreshment,” she said.
Farheer instead began to recite the story again and again to chase away the visions. Yet each time he opened his eyes, the oasis remained. “I have never heard of such a tale,” the woman said after a while. “You must be delirious; there is no such Scimitar.” She set out platters of dates and figs then called to him, but he would not be moved. “This is a vision to turn me aside from my quest,” he said, though his voice cracked.
“What quest is more important than your life?” the woman said scornfully. “I do not understand you fanatics.” She filled several skins with water (Farheer could clearly hear this and resented the fact that she was doing so much more loudly than necessary) and cleared away the remains of the food. “I leave you to your ‘quest,’ stranger,” she said at last, “If you are seeking death, it will surely find you this day.”
Farheer heard her slap the rump of her camel and lead it away. He has never had a vision this clear before, but obviously, everything was intended to keep him from finding the Scimitar. The more realistic it seemed, the more of a trap it must be. The next caravan to use the oasis found Farheer too far gone for their help. And so the question remains: did Farheer find the Scimitar? For most certainly, he no longer knew hunger or thirst.