Today we go on with part twelve of Roxanne's story. I'm sorry that I have no poll this time, because I honestly have no idea what to have you vote on. So if you have ideas for how the story should go on, please leave your suggestions in the comment section, email them to me, post them on Facebook, or whatever. Now on to the story!!
Roxanne's friends had weapons drawn instantly, ready to fight if need be. But the black-clad men slowed as they neared them and came to a halt a couple of paces away.
"Greetings, friends." one of them said.
"Friends? Who are you?" Dusk demanded.
The man laughed. His skin was caramel, and obviously toughened by the relentless sun baking down on it every day. His hair and eyes were obsidian and they glinted through slits in his black face mask as he regarded them. He pulled the mask down to reveal his full face, which was bearded and smiling. "I am Samir of the Sand Tribe. These are my brothers. We were informed of your coming."
"By whom?" Oliver wondered.
"Your father, the Storyteller." Samir answered. "Word came to us to look out for a party of your number and description. He told us to aid you if the need came. Well, there is need now. A storm brews in the east and you are in need of shelter before it hits. And by the looks of you, you've run out of water."
"How do we know we can trust you?" Rocket asked, arching an eyebrow.
"You'll have to take my word for it." Samir answered with a smirk.
Roxanne stepped forward. "I apologize for my companions, Samir. We've had some bad luck and the Blacklands have drained us of courtesies. If you would offer us shelter and water, we humbly and gratefully accept."
He looked her over with a flash of recognition in his eyes and he nodded his head to her. "I can understand your distrust. If the Trickster were hunting me, I wouldn't be eager to accept aid from anyone either. But I swear to you, on my life and my Tribe, we are loyal to the Storyteller still, and we would see the Trickster brought to justice for his deeds. We are isolated here and many of our people have fallen prey to the Trickster's bandits. No one would see him pay as happily as I would.
"But we have talked too long. We must move on to shelter, before we are trapped here when the storm comes. I do not wish to be buried alive in the shifting sands. Follow me if you would, or stay and face death, whatever you prefer. But choose swiftly, for it is coming." Samir finished, turned his back on them and began walking off.
The others seemed routed in place for a moment, but followed as soon as Roxanne started moving. Oliver came in close to her, taking her arm in his hand. "Are you sure about this?"
She shook her head. "I don't see that we have much choice. It's either trust him or face the storm."
"What if there is no storm, and he's tricking us into going to our enemy?" Oliver insisted.
"I thought that was the reason for starting this journey in the first place." Roxanne answered, trying to sound brave. "Let's go with them and find out. Even if we're their captives, it's better than this sandy hell."
Oliver had nothing to say to that.
They followed the Tribesmen for what felt like days, but couldn't have been more than two hours, before they reached a small, sunken cavern. It formed out of nowhere between the moving sand and its mouth opened into a winding, lantern-lit tunnel.
It seemed to Roxanne that they were moving deeper into the earth, and the farther they went, the darker and cooler it became. After some time, the tunnel started to fork and opened into dark caves. They realised quickly that they were in some kind of underground cavern system, and silently followed their guides further inward, knowing they would get lost on their own.
They had been moving in the tunnel for about an hour when the voices and light started to drift towards them. There was the slow, insistent tap of water dripping somewhere, and Roxanne was stunned to think they had any access to water at all.
The main cave opened before them suddenly, after a last turn in the tunnel. It took their breaths away.
Millions of clustered crystals lined the walls, shining and glinting in every source of light they could find. They were mostly white, casting rainbows on the rocky walls and each other. Some of the crystals were of the palest blues and pinks, and these gave off a feint glow, which was one of the main sources of light creating the rainbows.
Many finger-like tunnels lead from this main cavern, and looking into some of them, Roxanne could see doors hanging at regular intervals in these. They must live there., she thought. Buckets of the blue and pink crystals lined these tunnels, serving as a source of light.
Looking around, Roxanne realised that all of the other guides had left them, and they were following Samir to one of the doors. He pushed it open and invited them inside. "Welcome to my home."
Seating and surfaces had been carved out of the rock, crude pillows on the raw stone serving as chairs for them to sit on. On the 'tables' were crude bowls and utensils of rock and many objects of glass. Rocket picked a glass sculpture uo and turned it in her hands.
"When the lightning strikes the sand, it creates these. We dig them up and use it in our homes." Samir explained.
A fat, homely woman came to greet them, her eyes as black as Samir's, but her hair shot with grey. "I see my son has brought guests. I must prepare the cook!" she said with a laugh. "I am Madra, and this is my family house. Be welcome and forget your troubles for a while. Tonight you will be safe and sleep without troubles."
Roxanne and her companions each introduced themselves and were ushered into seats, where they waited silently until the meal was served some time later. Scorpion and snake soup, served with scarab-shell bread sounded much worse than it tasted, and Roxanne ate her share quietly.
She was so tired that she fell asleep soon after dinner, her head resting on Oliver's shoulder and her eyes shutting of their own accord. She didn't hear anything her companions spoke about, and didn't even wake when they carried her to a small, but comfortable, bed.
And that's all for this week!
Have a fantastic weekend, stay beautiful and be kind to animals,