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Throne of Blood and Sand

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The sun shone brightly, blinding her. She raised a hand to her forehead to shield herself from the glare, and try to make out her surroundings. But as soon as her hand covered the glowing orb, she saw walls around herself, and the stone roof overhead. She was inside a building. No sun to blind her.

Shallow clear water pools surrounded her. The room was vast, with rows after rows of pools leaving small paths in between themselves, and the flames from torches set at regular intervals lighting the space.

Pools and torches marked her path toward the end of the room, where a throne awaited. It was seemingly empty, yet not. A mist hung in the air above the throne, and as she focused on it, a shape seemed to come in and out of her vision. A man, she would say, dark skinned, and dressed very oddly. She couldn’t make out much more, as she didn’t approach the throne.

She looked around, trying to find out more about the room she was in, but the shapes of the walls and pools swirled and changed, and she was suddenly standing in a different place. It was open, sand and dust covering stone floors, and stone walls surrounded what looked like a yard.

A yard filled with snakes, coming from the walls toward her.

Snakes of all shapes and colours slithered in her direction, hissing, rushing from all around.

What the fuck. Her mind was still trying to catch up. She couldn’t remember how she got there. And her surroundings kept changing. She was trained to keep a cool head in unfavourable situations, yet… Dream. It must be a dream. Remember. Feel. It is a dream. She could feel the breeze, the sun, not blinding her now but warming her, somewhere above the horizon, she could hear the snakes and feel the ground lightly tremble at the mass of twisting forms coming at her.

A feather fell into her field of vision, mere inches in front of her, sliding lightly through the air. And then she noticed the weapon in her right hand. A long, tall, dark spear, with a head so black and shiny it reflected the sun. She wielded it with both hands, the feather coming to rest at the tip, and the snakes vanished. The world vanished.

Her back burnt.

It was a prickling at first, in between her shoulder blades. It was a familiar feeling, somehow, but it quickly grew in intensity, until it felt like she was sunburnt in one focused spot. It burnt.


 

She gasped, her hands shooting out to grab something, expecting a fight, but they fell on nothing but sand, falling through the gaps between her fingers. Darkness surrounded her, yet it was not the darkness of captivity, or the darkness of a trip underground. Stars twinkled, the moon hung in the sky, bathing her in moonlight.

She was alone.

She looked around, still lying down, and found herself surrounded by sand. Sand and more sand. No sea in sight, so not a beach.

Only sand.

She sat up, her brain offering her the information that this was definitely not a dream.

She was in a desert.

She looked down on herself, grabbing the shawl lying on the floor behind her and wrapping herself with it. It was chilly in the desert. Where am I? California? Colorado? How did I get here?

Last she remembered, she was in Malibu, at a party. Right? She shifted her legs, still sitting on sand, her dress bunched up around her thighs, her sneakers gathering grainy bits already. She remembered changing her shoes, uncomfortable after hours in heels. Then…

A breeze made her shiver, the cold making goosebumps cover her legs.

I have to move.

She stood up, walking toward the top of a dune to try and find out more about her surroundings.

As she crested the dune, her expectations dropped. Nothing around but sand, dunes, some cliffs, and more sand. It looked like nothing she’d experienced before. It didn’t look much like America anymore.

Where should I go? Is someone looking for me? As far as she could tell, she was alone. She would have to save herself. Breathe. Focus. What do your senses tell you? Trust your instincts.

A soft light and muffled noise caught her attention. Up ahead in the distance, there was something beside sand. She though there were only cliffs, but... No. There’s something else there.

Her legs moved forward, shawl wrapped tightly around her arms and back, heading straight toward the light, as small as it was.

The noises grew in intensity as she approached what looked like ruins. Definitely not America. They look… ancient. Almost one with the desert. She could make out gunshots. Screams. Then they quieted, just as she was getting close enough to discern more complex sounds. She approached carefully, moving near fallen columns toward the centre of the ruins.

When she looked around a half destroyed wall toward the source of light, A bonfire. No. Two, or more, a group of horsemen dressed in dark robes and headdresses left the ruins, armed to the teeth. She could barely make out markings in their faces. She stood still, hoping to go unnoticed. They didn’t seem too friendly. She observed, quietly, taking in the amount of weapons each of them carried.

Then one looked to the side, as if sensing her presence. He locked eyes with her, still unmoving as he rode away, then broke the stare to take in her appearance.

Then they left.

Middle eastern. Desert people. Freaking old weapons, but not ancient. Where the hell am I?

Knowing they weren’t coming back, she moved away from the wall and around it.

The floor was littered with bodies, men and horses alike. Some were dressed like the horsemen that had just left, others were dressed in light tunics and turbans, unarmed, apparently caught in the crossfire.

As she move closer, she noticed the rest of the people in the ruins. More men, most not middle eastern, most looking like the battle had caught them half dressed, stood with pistols, staring at her.

A tall man with striking blue eyes took a step toward her, a pistol in his hand, pointing downward but ready. “Who are you?”