Sunday Serial: Wrathburnt Sands 3

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

Whatever else the Expansion had done, the beach steps were the same. And so was the fishing pier. The beach itself was unchanged too and it didn’t take her very long to realise that wherever Ruffkin had gone, he wasn’t there.
Beginning to feel concerned now, she ran back up the steps and headed for One Eye’s stall. But it was gone. For a moment she felt her throat constrict with misery and fear. Her eyes misted with tears.
“Hey up young’un!”
The familiar voice had her spinning round. There, across the way from where the stall had been was a proper shop with a sign outside that read ‘One Eye Rye Provisions’. One Eye himself stood in the door grinning like he’d just caught the biggest fish in the Silent Sea.
Milla had to resist the temptation to rush over and throw herself at him. Instead she managed to restrain herself and dodging around some barrels, followed him into the shop.
One Eye swept his arms out to show the crowded shelves and bulging baskets all around. “Seems like we had the Expansion and I have to say I think I like it. I’m no longer having to buy fish from those Visitors, now they have to come to me to buy their provisions.” He grinned again and gestured towards her. “And look at you.”
For the first time, Milla glanced down and realised she was wearing a very different outfit from before. Now she was dressed like all the adult ryeshor, the elegant shimmering robes, split to accommodate her tail and her body was longer, sleeker and smoother.
“Oh my!” It was a very odd feeling.
“See? You are all growed up now.”
But Milla barely heard him. She was too busy staring at the pendant which was now definitely glowing and maybe even pulsing slightly. Holding it up she showed One Eye.
“What do you think…?”
He wrinkled his snout. “No idea on that young’un. But I’m aguessing you’ll be finding that out before too long. That’s how things go after Expansions.”
Which was what reminded Milla of why she had come to see him. Letting the pendant fall back around her neck she spoke quickly. “Have you seen Ruffkin? He wasn’t there when I woke up. I thought he might…”
Something in One Eye’s expression sucked the last words into silence and the breath from her lungs. He reached over and patted her shoulder gently.
“Well that is the thing about Expansions. We don’t all… Well, some times some of us just… Well…”
“Well what?”
“Vanish. Some people just aren’t there anymore.”
Milla shook her head.
“No. Not Ruffkin. What did he ever do to deserve vanishing?”
“Excuse me.”
The door was filled by a robe-clad ryeshor, wearing amulets, rings and wristlets and holding a staff that glowed, runes dancing in the air around it.His red robe glimmered and shimmered around him almost as if it were a living thing.
Clearly a Visitor.
Oddly, a ryeshor Visitor.
Milla blinked.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, good people. I’m not from around here but if I could be of any assistance? I do run to a location spell.”
Visitors had never spoken to Milla before. She had thought for a while they maybe couldn’t see her, until she found they would step around her if she was in their path. She looked instinctively towards One Eye but he just gave her a reassuring grin.
“I – I would be most grateful,” she mumbled, wondering if the Visitor could hear her now.
It seemed he could because he gave a slight grin and gestured with his staff. A spray of sparkling runes exploded around him as he released a spell.
“I hate to ask,” he said as the dazzling shimmers faded again, “but I am a little short on the essentials for my ventures. Is there anything available as recompense for locating this canine?”
Milla shuffled her feet a bit.
“He wants to know what’s the reward for helping you find Ruffkin,” One Eye said.
“Oh!” She knew her collection pouch was empty and she didn’t have anything else except… “You can have this.” She held up the pendant. She had no idea what it did but whatever that was it wasn’t going to be worth more than Ruffkin’s life.
The robed ryeshor Visitor bowed elegantly. “That is a treasure beyond price. For that I will not only locate the encaved canine, I will travel with you to ensure you redeem him safely.”
“Er… Right. Encaved?”
The Visitor nodded. “My location spell is telling me that even now your beloved companion animal is beneath the ground. Under that pyramid over there, in fact, if I am not misled by my magics.”
“Under?” Milla squeaked the word. “Poor Ruffkin! I’ve got to find him.”
“Fair lady, I shall accompany you and keep you safe from all danger.”
“I’m Milla,” she said quickly, wondering why it was whenever they spoke to locals the Visitors all began sounding like this, but amongst themselves, they seemed much less formal.
“And I am the noble Firecaster Pewpowerpwnsyou.” He bowed lavishly. “Your servant, Lady Milla.”
Behind her One Eye cleared his throat.
“You’d better take this, young’un if you going on a venture. Provisions.”
Milla took the small pack One Eye was holding out and shrugged it onto her shoulders. Yes, she supposed she was.
She was going on a venture.
With a Visitor.
Little Milla.
On a venture with a Visitor.
It was unbelievable. If she hadn’t been so worried about Ruffkin she would have been out and out excited at the thought.

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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