Thursday, June 06, 2013


We made camp the next day in a ring of standing stones.

In most parts of the world, standing stones fall into one of three different categories. Some mark safe places; these are usually surrounded by an aura of calm, reassuring silence. Travelers can dart between them for a sanctuary from predators, either the wild or the civilized variety. While it is impractical to stay within these rings for any length of time, unless one can live on grass and lichen,* they can save lives in emergencies.

Others mark dangerous places. These are usually placed to trap the rare malignant spirits that turn up occasionally, or to serve as locks on doorways to Other places, or to keep spots with particularly unpleasant histories from making the surrounding countryside depressed. Stones of this sort are usually marked with all sorts of written warnings. Unfortunately, these cease to warn anyone when the stones outlive the languages in which they're written. They often have a sense of foreboding to them, which many travelers also ignore.

The third kind of standing stones serve no apparent purpose and are simply weird.

The ones where we camped seemed to be of either the first or the third variety. They were carved in the shape of fish. Each one was easily twice my height. A few were stood head-down, their tails in the air, their faces hidden in the sand; the rest were head-up, with their stone mouths gaping at the sky. Many were filled with earth and had plants sprouting from them. The vines and saplings made it look as if the fish were speaking small trees.

Mirenza and Karlishek, both fairly knowledgeable in the stories and histories of the Golden Desert, were completely baffled by the fish. They had never heard of anything like them. The Golden Desert has far more history buried in its endless sand than anyone has ever bothered to write down, though; surprises of this sort are to be expected.

Plants in the Desert are usually a sign of a water source nearby. None was visible, but Karlishek - being cold-blooded and more sensitive to temperature than the rest of us - noticed that the sand around the facedown fish was cooler than usual. A little digging revealed that these fish had a steady trickle of water running from their gills. Their buried faces were cobwebbed with a pale network of roots. We tried not to disturb these as we filled our motley collection of containers with the cool water.

The water tasted faintly of fish. After a day of walking in the hot sun, it was delicious just the same.

We slept in the center of the ring of fish, surrounded by the peeping of tiny frogs. The air inside the ring was completely still for the first time in days. Our sleep was deep and peaceful, and all four of us dreamed of the ocean.

* This could explain why these types of standing stones so often have goats or sheep wandering around between them.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

  • Stats Tracked by StatCounter