Adventure Fantasy

Everything was perfect. Eolian clutched his journal in a white-knuckled grip. It had to be perfect. He'd gone over each entry a hundred, two hundred, three hundred times. He'd written and rewritten and finally transcribed the end results into the journal Audun had bought him. Audun. Eolian relaxed slightly just thinking about him. Somehow, in that special Audun-only way, Audun understood him. Without trying, it seemed. Which was startling from the start and no less startling now. Eolian was no great orator. He had neither the temperament nor the speaking ability for it. Maybe that's why the written word appealed to him. He didn't have to get it right the first time. There was no socially acceptable time limit to respond. You could write out your thoughts in a burst of emotion then rework and reframe until what you wanted to say and what you really meant have escaped the brambles. Eolian's heart took a tumble down to his stomach. The words were ready. His emotions were not.

Audun knocked on the door. He was uncertain how this would go and even more uncertain after their boss made her way up to him, stopping him with a tap on his leg from her cane. She politely insisted that he and Eolian did her a favor. It would be accurate to assume that he had difficulty in combative situations "Eolian?" he called.

"Coming!" Eolian pounced for the door. "I haven't gotten the drinks yet, so you can just make yourself at home first."

"About that..." Audun hovered. "Change of plans… We may have a slight problem..."

Eolian blinked. "Problem?" He asked after too many seconds had ticked by. "What kind of problem?" he added, wary.

"Well... on the way here... Thandra stopped me and asked that we do her a favor..." Audun finally said. He studied Eolian for his reaction. here

Eolian let out a huffy laugh. "Let me guess, she wants us to head out at the crack of dawn tomorrow?" 

"More like... right now," Audun said slowly. "I meant to say no but ... I did not." His tone was apologetic. "She wants us to travel to the Lotus Village to deliver water..."

"Right now," Eolian said. "As in, now now?"

"A little bit," Audun said. "Are you mad? Don't be mad."

"I'm not..." Eolian ran a hand through his hair. "This isn't going how I'd hoped." He wasn't prepared for such a major deviation from his plan, but Audun looked so nervous... "I'm not mad," he said.

"She promised it'll be quick. Just a mere three days to get there and back," Audun assured.

"Three days." Eolian blinked. "Does she realize we have to pack?"

"She does. She also assumed that is what we are currently doing." Audun paused. "I can meet you back here once I've packed?"

He felt a flicker of panic at the thought of Audun leaving already but found himself nodding along to Audun's expectant look. "Three days," he repeated. Then, as Audun backed away, "Did she at least loan us something to sleep in? Like a tent?" Nights in the desert saw drastic changes in temperature and that was also when the desert stalkers came out - the deadliest predators that used the darkness to hunt prey. Prey such as them. Eolian felt great discomfort at thinking of himself and Audun as prey.

"I thought I could ask Baz to borrow their small caravan?" Audun gestured. "Though I can get some tents and posts if you'd rather?"

"Your idea is so much better," Eolian called. "Go! We both know I'm a slow packer!" With the door firmly shut between them, Eolian turned to pack. It didn't occur to him until after triple-checking that he'd only packed essentials and that he was going to be spending three days and two nights in the desert with Audun. Alone. He's not sure whether to describe his initial reaction as excitement or the onset of a panic attack. Eolian chooses to go with the former.

Audun returned with his bags and a few supplies. "Are you ready?"

"I think so?" Eolian led Audun to his bags. "Do you want to take a quick look, or?"

"Do you feel you mis-packed?" Audun made his way over to the bags. "Sometimes you forget the essentials. Can you go get some cactus chips and we can add that? Easy snacking."

"Always," Eolian said bitterly. "I can't ever pack without feeling like I'm doing something wrong the entire time." He leaves Audun to it in favor of raiding his own pantry. His house consisted of four rooms: the kitchen, which the only door opened into and which housed a walk-in pantry, a room to relax or entertain, the bathroom, and his bedroom. It was one floor and the previous occupants had complained that it was too cramped, but Eolian loved it.

Audun checked through the last bag and found a small book. "That's not a safe place for this..." He felt proud at seeing that Eolian actually listened and brought a book. He went over to his satchel and placed it with the other books. "There, now it'll be safe."

Eolian returned with the cactus chips in a large bag as well as a few that would make for good snacks but not bring undue attention from predators. The wild cats would rather hunt down meat anyway. Another unfortunate thought Eolian didn’t care for. And the wild cats would be the least of their worries if they cross paths with a desert monster. "Everything looks okay?"

"Looks good. Ready?" Audun picked up his bags, putting his satchel over his shoulder. "I put the caravan around back." Eolian squinted at him. “I assumed you’d like my idea so I went ahead and got it from Baz.” 

"This is just one of the reasons I love that people love you," Eolian said. He gathered up as many bags as possible in one go, pausing to kiss Audun's cheek. His aim is off. His lips skim the corner of Audun's mouth. Electrified with a mix of elation and terror, Eolian fled outside with the bags in his arms. Audun watched him, surprised and grinning from ear to ear.


It made Audun uneasy watching their village disappear in the distance. If anything happened, it would be days before anyone would notice. He squinted, looking up at the side, and nearly knocked Eolian out of the seat when he nudged him. “Look! A gray cloud!” 

“We’ve seen them before,” Eolian said. “There is never rain.” 

The camels trudged along through the sand. One looked to be in a neverending state of boredom while the other one thought every speck of sand was worth investigating. It made for slow travel which put them behind where they thought they would be by nightfall. But they had no choice but to camp for the night. Audun set out the posts that were laced with a foul-smelling plant that they were insured would keep all predators at bay. He fed the two camels a healthy dinner of oats and grass while Eolian set up a fire. 

“This is kind of nice,” Eolian said. He gestured at the sky. “Stars.” 

Audun sat next to him and waved his hands over the fire. “I suppose it could be worse.” He looked around at the endless dunes of sand. “At least it’s peaceful.” 

Eolian smiled. He stood and gestured toward the caravan. “I’m going to grab some cactus chips. Be right back.” He left Audun sitting before the fire while he slipped into their shelter for the night. The caravan was small but it was secure and would protect them from predators and sandstorms. He searched through his bag and immediately fell into a panic when he couldn’t find his journal. He must have left it back home. Audun’s voice echoed from outside. Eolian frowned. He hurried back out of the caravan to see who he was talking to and hoped it was the camels. Standing across the post threshold was a man in a cloak. 

“How far from here is that?” Audun asked. A look of curiosity on his face.

Eolian ran forward and semi-stood in front of Audon. “Who’s this?” 

Audun gestured between them. “Eolian, this is Taos. Taos, this is Eolian.” He faced Eolian with a look of pure excitement. “Guess where’s going?”

“To Hackberry village?” he guessed.

“Wrong,” Audun said. “He’s going to the Oasis.” He grinned. “He said it’s a place rich in water and plentiful in rain.” 

“He did, huh?” Eolian eyed the stranger. “We should probably get settled in and eat something.” He put a hand on Audun’s arm and guided him away from the barrier. 

“Oh, food.” Audun broke away from Eolian and gestured for the man to enter. “You must be starving having traveled so far. Come in.” 

Taos bowed his head in thanks. “I appreciate this. It has been quite the walk.”

Audun looked Eolian over. “You forgot the food. I’ll go get it.” He scurried off, leaving Eolian alone with the stranger. 

“So, where are you from?” he asked, crossing his arms. 

“A bit of everywhere,” Taos said. He smirked, amused. “You don’t trust me.” 

“We literally just met. Is there a reason I should?” Eolian glanced at the caravan. “What story have you been telling him?”

“It’s no story.” Taos made himself comfortable, sitting on the blanket they had laid out over the sand. “I only speak the truth. I am searching for the Oasis. My grandfather told me stories of paradise and made me swear as a young child that when he died I would return his ashes to the land of his childhood.” He patted the satchel he had draped over his shoulder. 

Audun returned with the bag of cactus chips. “Taos said the Oasis is only a day from here.” He handed the full bag to the stranger despite Eolian’s look of protest.

“That would take us out of our way,” Eolian reminded.

“Maybe, but if we found this Oasis, think what it would do? We wouldn’t have to be water bringers anymore.” Eolian frowned. He happened to like bringing water to people. At least, he liked seeing Audun every day. 

Taos watched the exchange, munching on chips. “I’d be happy to show you the way.” 

Audun looked at Eolian with a hopeful smile. “What do you think?”

“How far exactly is this?” He emphasized the word for both the stranger and Audun’s benefit. 

“A day, at most. I assure you.” Taos ate another chip and then handed the bag back to Audun. “I would not mislead you.”

“Sure you wouldn’t.” Eolian pulled Audun aside. “We go one day to look and then we go to Lotus Village. We don’t even have the supplies to go any further than that anyway.” 

Audun grinned wider and hugged him. “Thank you.” He held onto Eolian’s arms. “You won’t regret it!” He bounced away from him and to the stranger. “Looks like we’re going to the Oasis!” 

Eolian groaned. This was going to be a much longer trip than he thought.

August 25, 2022 22:27

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