Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 1

Because life can be interesting when you are a character in a video game…

Milla had lived in Wrathburnt Sands for as long as she could remember. It was a good place to live compared to some of the outpost camps like the one out at Terraraptor Gorge or the guard tower at Wraith’s Watch. Those places were dangerous, overrun by monsters and undead. Here the worst hazards were the landsharks and the sandylions, but they kept away from the village and regular hunting parties of Visitors made sure they were never a problem.
Wrathburnt Sands was a small ryeshor community of a dozen small hovels and the rubble remains of an ancient stone monument nestled in a bay on the shores of the Silent Sea. Most Visitors arrived by boat from one of the great cities of the lands beyond. Occasionally one would come from inland to trade such rarities as dragon scales or harpy talons before heading back out on their ventures. Milla often wished she could go on a venture, but she was a Local and only Visitors could do that. Still, it didn’t stop her dreaming of going on one as she combed the beach for small treasures with Ruffkin, a scruffy little hound who seemed to have adopted her as his owner.
Milla had a small hut on the foreshore which she shared with Ruffkin. They shared what little she could scavenge from the beach directly, or sometimes she might find a large decorative shell, which she would trade to get fresh fish for them both from One Eye Rye.
But times had been hard recently with few Visitors coming to the village. Somedays none came at all. Which was why when she shaded her eyes against the sun, Milla was surprised to see a couple of them were already on the pier catching fish to give to One Eye. He would buy the catch of any new Visitor who needed a bit of silver, even lending them a rod to fish with, and his stall by the pier relied on their fresh catches.
As she got closer, Rufkin trotting at her heels, snatches of speech reached her from the pier, slowly coalescing into a full conversation, but little of it made much sense to Milla. Then very little of what the Visitors said and did ever made much sense to her. One Eye Rye said it was like they were from another universe.
“… been too long…came back early…need to grind WBS faction to over eighty percent…”
“…the kind of crap you get…devs nowadays.”
“Yeah. No thought for those of us who might be returning for the Expansion.”
“This fishing quest repeatable?”
“No. But there’s one to kill sandylions. Guy in the tent at the back. By the camels. Easy to solo, decent XP and a wad of faction too. It unlocks once you’ve done this one.”
“Sounds good. I’ll try that soon as I’ve caught these frigging fish.”
“Just hope the new expac is worth it.”
“Screenshots look awesome and the trailer hints at some really cool new group runs and raids.”
“And the new gear? You seen that? Shiny stats!”
You could always tell the Visitors even if they never said a word. Their weapons were all enchanted with spells and charms. They dressed in the most outlandish clothes and smothered themselves with magical rings and wristlets. Milla had just one magical item. Her hand went to touch the precious pendant. In truth, she had no idea what it did and sometimes wondered if it was just in her own mind it had any magical power at all. But it seemed to. Sometimes, at night, she was sure she could see it glow.
One Eye Rye had sniffed when she asked him about it.
“Who’s to say? You’d need to get to one of them big city mage types. Get it ‘eenalized’ as they calls it.”
And that was never going to happen. Even if she had the silver to pay a big city mage, the boats that brought Visitors wouldn’t take locals and there were no other boats she knew of heading to the cities across the Silent Sea.
Her thoughts seemed to conjure the reality and a sail appeared offshore tacking past the headland and into the bay. Then a second followed. And a third. Each carrying at least one Visitor maybe more. The dock was just past the fishing pier and she couldn’t see how many got off, but before she had finished climbing the steps from the beach to the houses, she could hear them chattering excitedly.
One Eye Rye thanked a Visitor politely and paid them for their fish then held out a rod to another who was waiting, tipping a quick wink at Milla to show he’d seen she was there and threw a scrap to Ruffkin who snuffled it up. He would talk to her when he’d dealt with the rush of new arrivals.
There were the usual assortment of elves and dwarves, halflings, gnomes, kittafolk, wolfenfolk and even a human. Their conversation was as baffling as ever.
“Anyone got a speed buff blessing?”
“Shadowcaster LFG!”
“You don’t need more deeps, you n00b, you’re a fragging tank!”
“Word is the ryeshor become a playable race in the expac.”
“Will be. But only if you upgrade for the bonus DLC.”
“Don’t think it’s going to be worth it anyway. Their racials suck.”
“Frick! I forgot I banked my heal pots.”
“No rush. ‘Overkill’ have half their guild out camping the boss by TG.”
“Got to go anyway. Boyfriend faction running too low.”
“Anywhere around here sell mounts? I’d like a camel!”
The small crowd of Visitors swelled around them like a wave rolling up the beach, then split into smaller groups or singletons headed to the tavern, the fishing pier or the stables, leaving Milla and One Eye Rye standing alone by his stall.

We will return to Wrathburnt Sands by E.M. Swift-Hook next Sunday.

Wrathburnt Sands was first published in Rise and Rescue: A GameLit Anthology.

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