"In Over Your Head"
As night fell over the deserts of díResh and the temperature dropped to near freezing, the only sounds heard were those of complaining Shadow Magi.
"I thought you said it was hot in díResh," Lanyx said between chattering teeth. "I hate the cold. When I finally take my rightful place as Warlord of Cald, Iím going to soak in the hot springs of Aragonar for a week. Harror, I command you to start a fire for me!"
"Enough! All youíve talked about since leaving the Weave is what youíre going to do when you become Warlord of Cald," said Harror, mockingly. "Iím sick of hearing about it. Besides, youíre the Cald Magi, make your own fire!"
"Would you two stop already?!?" raged Chur. "Iím trying to clean the sand out of my boots and your petty bickering keeps breaking my concentration!"
"Oh, whatís the point? Itíll just be there again come morning," groaned Harror. "This stuff gets into every crack and refuses to come loose. Iíll never get all the sand out of my?never mind!"
Rising to his feet, Lanyx stalked towards Korremar, who had, so far, managed to steer clear of this conversation. "Weíve been walking for 10 days. Where are you leading us? I demand you tell me! And no more of your cryptic answers!"
"You have asked that question more times than I can count and my answer has always been the same. What makes you think that my answer will be different this time? I am taking you to the heart of the desert."
"That answer just doesnít cut it, Korremar! Thatís it, Iím outta here!"
"If Lanyx leaves, I leave!"
"Do not be so hasty," Korremar said, soothingly. "You would get lost in less than a day."
"I never get lost!" Lanyx said indignantly.
"Oh yeah, what about three days ago?" asked Korremar.
"I knew where I was the whole time."
"We spent the whole day looking for you," said Harror, "and the only reason we found you was because we followed the sound of your whining."
"I DO NOT WHINE! A warrior never whines. I was just making an observation."
"íWhen I finally take my rightful place as Warlord of Cald, Iím going to blah, blah, blah,?/i>" Chur said in a near perfect imitation of Lanyxís voice. "The only reason we even bothered looking for you was because Korremar convinced us we should. That alone took half a day, whiner."
"Call me a whiner again and Iíll toast you like a blade of grass!"
"Calm yourselves. We will reach our destination in two days. After that? Korremar trailed off as the Magi glared at him.
"íAfter that?/i> what?" asked Harror.
"After that you will have all the answers you need. Now, I would suggest you all get some sleep, we have a long walk ahead of us." His comment was met with three groans. Had he not been wearing a mask, the three Magi would have seen a chilling smile of satisfaction cross Korremarís face.
Several hours after his companions had fallen asleep, Korremar wandered into the desert alone. Once there were a good number of dunes between him and the camp, Korremar planted one end of his staff into the sand and dropped to his knees.
"You handled that masterfully. I thought we would have to track them all down individually," said a voice from behind Korremarís kneeling form.
"There is a reason that I was the one to go on this mission," Korremar replied, rising to his feet. "Though I am displeased at losing Qwade and Ashio along the way. Now come out, Sandkeeper, so that we can talk face to face."
The dune behind Korremar began to stir. Slowly at first and then with increasing speed, sand began to part as a Magi rose from the ground.
"Itís been a long time, brother," said Nahara as he stepped into Korremarís embrace.
Harror watched silently, pretending to be asleep, as Korremar snuck back into the camp. "Heís up to something," she thought. "If I were in his place, Iíd have left us in the desert to die long ago. Iíll have to keep my eye on him."
Two days passed with the usual sounds of complaint bouncing off the dunes. Korremar felt as though he was being watched but every time he looked around, all he saw was three downtrodden Magi, trudging their way through the sand.
"Thatís right," thought Harror, "Iím watching you. I donít trust you. Youíre bound to turn on us and the second you do, Iíll be ready."
Just as the sun began to set on the second day, Korremar stopped near a rock outcropping in the shape of a hyren. It took several steps for Harror, Lanyx and Chur to notice that he wasnít walking beside them anymore. Harror, suspicious of this sudden move, started fiddling with her rings, appearing nervous.
"What are you stopping for?" Lanyx asked. "Thereís nothing here!"
"On the contrary, I think you will find there is plenty here," said Korremar.
Korremar took two steps back as the ground began to churn at his companions?feet. They began sinking into the sand. Lanyx and Chur looked around in confusion as they were sucked deeper into the grasp of the desert.
Harror, prepared for Korremarís deception, summoned a pair of dark ayebaw to pull her up out of the sand. "Youíve betrayed me Korremar! Youíve lied to me! Youíve led me into a trap! Now you will pay for your deceit with your life! No one makes a fool of Harror!" Suddenly, another creature sprang into being, summoned by Harror in a fit of rage. A gorath now joined the pair of dark ayebaw that faced off against the unprotected Korremar.
Korremar pulled back his hood and removed his mask, revealing a face darkened by the tainting touch of the Core but covered in patterns of glowing white scales. A laugh escaped his lips. "What a pleasant surprise. I expected to have to face Lanyx, not you." As he spoke, the sand in every direction began parting as díResh Magi began rising from their hiding places under the desert. "Did you really think that I had not planned for some form of resistance?"
Seeing that she was outnumbered, Harror fled with the help of her ayebaw, leaving the gorath to buy her time to escape. With hatred in her heart, she watched as Lanyx and Chur fought to free themselves. Their struggling only hastened their descent into the sand and, before long, they were buried up to their necks. "Youíll pay for this Korremar. You and all of your kind."
"Donít worry, sheíll never escape díResh. Weíll chase her down and bring her back to be held with the others," spat Harresh.
"See that she is," replied Korremar. "This is now your task. If you fail, you will answer to me."
"Nahara, begin the interrogation. We need more information before we can move against the true threat to the Moonlands. I avoided contact with Agram and Morag during my time with the Shadow Magi. Their power would have been strong enough to see through my disguise. Perhaps these two might have better insight into their plans prior to Agramís defeat at the hands of Tony Jones."
As the sun began to rise, Korremar reached an area of open desert. There was nothing on the horizon in any direction. This spot was perfect for what he had to accomplish. Korremar sat on the sand with his legs crossed and began to chant.
As his voice rose, the wind around him began to pick up. The force of it began lifting the sand around him. Slowly, a great vortex of sand began to swirl around Korremarís sitting form. Continuing his chant, the cyclone scoured Korremar, tearing away all traces of darkness that he had used to hide his true identity. With each passing moment, Korremar could feel the purity of the desert returning to him. Though the howl of the wind drowned out his voice, Korremar continued until his throat was raw and he could speak no more.
As the wind died down, a new Magi rose from the sand, his bold features highlighted by the setting sun. He was the will of the desert, the strength of his people. He was no longer Korremar, minion of the Core. He was Korremar, Avatar of Durresh.
"Avatar, I have spoken with the Oracle," said Nahara. "She says that you must seek Rayje. Only he will be able to guide you to the information that you seek."
"So be it. Where can I find Rayje?"
"Rayje is drawn to conflict. The Paradans are being invaded by the Magi of Bograth. Korg seeks the power of the Paradise Gem. Travel to Paradwyn and aide them in their struggle against Korg. When Rayje arrives, ask to travel with him. If you appear to have the same goals as he does, he will agree."
"Then to Paradwyn I will go."
"Brother, what shall we do with Lanyx and Chur? It has been four days since we began interrogating them and the only information of substance we have learned is that the Dark Twins control Naroom."
"Let the Sands do with them what they will."
"And the Dark Twins?" asked Nahara
"Send our strongest to subvert the forces of the Core. They must not be allowed to control the surface. If Agram returns, as the Oracle has foretold, any foothold on the surface of the Moonlands will greatly aide in whatever foul plans he has made."
"As you command. May Durresh guide your steps."
"He always does."
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