Ambition and Desert

I lifted the arm. It was a hideous thing, not decomposed really, but mummified. The skin that stretched over old bones was translucent; below, were dried up chunks of meat that once were muscles and thick purplish lines that once were veins. It is what happens to a body in the wall desert.

It had started when the merchant arrived a week before. Must have lost his way, and, by sheer luck, found the oasis. Can’t blame him really. A similar fate had led me here. Only, I’d arrived crawling, half-dead, where he came with those smelly mules, laden with supplies.

He made a fuss about trade. Wanted one of Gard’s sculptures, but Gard just gave it to him. He showed us his goods, but we don’t need anything. The goddess provides. Tara and Hek grow plants from seeds blown in from the desert. Ysanne spends her days by the pond, and sometimes catches fish. Niara composes poems. Geoff and Darlun talk all day and have, I think, made quite some progress in Mathematics. Young Baran is our hunter. He never strays far from the oasis, but he always brings back some game or finds small deposits of coal and iron. When something breaks, Gard replaces it. He is a master craftsman of the greatest skill. We have all we need. The goddess provides.

The goddess, Morgana, also came to meet the merchant. She is one of us, really. She has no temple, and does not demand prayer or sacrifice; she is not like that. But, her will becomes reality. She guides Gard’s hammer, and Geoff’s thoughts, and makes the plants grow.

I am the guardian. And, I knew that trouble was brewing when the merchant refused to eat our food on the second day, and drank only the water he had brought. He stayed a bit longer, but finally I asked him to go, and when he left, accompanied him for a bit.

It took two hours until he confronted me.

“I know why you can’t trade” he said “It’s all fake, isn’t it? The goddess, all her works are illusion.”

“Isn’t that how all the gods work” I replied, but he wouldn’t have it.

“Look at your arm” he said.

It was them that I lifted the arm and saw the hideous, pitiful, dried up thing that it was. I could not really think of it as my arm anymore. This far from the oasis it was plainly obvious. It is what happens to a body in the wall desert. It is what happens if the food you eat and the water you drink are not real.

I broke the merchant’s neck right there; no point to delay it, really.

His revelation was nothing new. We all know, except Morgana. We protect her, don’t allow her to doubt herself. She is our goddess, kind and benevolent. She lets everyone pursue his own ambition. But rarely, very rarely there comes one whose ambition we cannot accommodate.