by Scott Jann

It has been seven centuries since the Alkine empire had fallen. There was no order among the people of the land, not any more. Some of the people still live in the ruins of the kingdoms and provinces of the empire, while some have begun building new villages for themselves.

Emotno was one of the ones living in a village called Guar. This village was near where the outer limits of the empire of the past. It is isolated from the other villages. In fact, Emotno had never even traveled to another village.

Emotno travelled to the center of the village to get some water for his daughter, Emaru… Emaru was sick. Emotno had talked tried to get help from everyone in the village, but no one could cure Emaru. The doctor remembered reading of cases that seemed just like Emaru’s, but he doesn’t know of a cure. The readings also indicated that after a long struggle, the patient would die of the illness.

After returning with the water, Emotno gave some to Emaru, who was sleeping in her bed. “Emotno? Are you there?” a voice asked from just outside the house.

“Yes, I am here.” Emotno answered reluctantly, “who are you?”

“You don’t know me, I have travelled from another village to see you. I come to help you.”

“Who are you?” Emotno begged again, trying to get an answer.

“You don’t know me. You don’t need to know more of who I am.”

Emotno paused, and then let the stranger into his house. He was curious who the stranger was, but knew he couldn’t get an answer. Maybe the stranger would explain why he was here… he thought.

“You come to help? How? Why?”

“Trust me.. you must trust me.”

Emotno was confused, but was something in him told him that he had to trust the stranger. He found himself muttering, “Yes, yes, I do trust you.”

“Good. We must hurry, there is not much time. Pack what you need, and we will leave tomorrow. It is a long journey.”

“What about Emaru? I need to stay here, with her.”

“Emaru is to journey with us.”

“She is too sick, it is impossible to take her anywhere.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

Emotno didn’t, but somehow knew what he must do.

“We will be prepared to leave at dawn.”

Emotno was tired after loading the supplies onto the cases. Dawn was not long away, so he prepared to rest. He brought some more water to Emaru, and tried to explain what was happening. “I am sorry Emaru, tomorrow we must leave.”

She opened her mouth, and waited for the strenghth to finally whisper, “Why?”

“I don’t know, but we have to go.” he touched her hair, and quietly said, “Rest now…” he took the water from her hand, and placed it on the floor, “I love you.”

The stranger arrived, he said, “We will ride Elemaks to get there. They are strong beastly creatures, and can handle the rough desert. Emaru is on the the back of your Elemak. I have also loaded the cases on them. Come now we must begin.”

“Where are we going?”

“Just follow me, it is not necessary for you to know… yet.”

The desert was immense. After they rose out of the fertile valley, in which Guar was situated, Emotno saw one of the most beautiful things in his life. He saw his town from above, it was tiny, with many undistinguishable buildings in it. It was surrounded by a grassy wooded area, filled with lush greenery, it was all contained within the tall walls of the mountains. From the top of the mountain, from which Emotno saw this, he could also see the desert, on the other side. He wondered why his town, and all he knew, was so small, a mere oasis in the harsh, dry desert, which was so large, and yet to be discovered by him.

Emotno returned to the Elemak, along with the stranger, there, Emaru waited. They continued on their journey, desending down the mountain into the desert. The path they followed, looked as if it was used frequently, but Emotno knew that no one from his town has left the valley, and he knows of no visitors from outside for many years.

“Where is this path from?” Emotno asked the stranger.

“The empire had roads to all of its towns. This pass through the mountain was used to carry the fruits and vegitables that were grown in Guar to the rest of the empire.”

Guar was a village on the edge of where the empire had been, and was the source of all of the empire’s agriculture products. Now Guar’s people only ate fruits and vegitables.

The road down the mountain was rough, due to the many years of not being used. It wound through the rocks and clifs on the mountain. At some steeper points, the Elemaks had difficulty keeping traction on the sand of the path. About three-quarters of the way through the descent, the stranger’s Elemak slipped, and collapsed. The stranger was knocked off the beast, onto the path. Emotno stopped and assisted him.

“Are you alright?” he asked, as he rolled him over.

“I am ok.”

Emotno said, “Wait here.” Emotno then went into his case, and got a small wash cloth, and wet it in water from the canteen. He gave it to the stranger to clean the wound on his forehead off, which came from when he’d hit it on a rock when he fell.

Luckily, they were able to continue, for a while. Soon after though, the sky grew dark. They had to stop and rest for the night.

The went on to the bottom of the mountain, and stopped. Emotno got a blanket out of his case for Emaru. He laid it on the sand, and then helped her onto it. He then went on to hand another to the stranger, and then got one for himself.

The next day, they continued across the intense heat of the desert. They traveled in mostly silence, except when Emotno reassured to Emaru. Later that day, they entered a small town. The stranger told them that they’d stay here tonight.

They continued to travel like this for about 2 more days through the desert, stopping only ocasionally to stretch, and drink some water, or at night, to rest. Late the second day, the canteens became empty. The stranger told Emotno that they were almost there and not to worry.

Emotno did worry after a short time, and began to feel the effects of the little water.

“There!” the stranger said, as he pointed to the horizon.

On that horizon, there was a stone formation rising from the flatness of the desert around it.

They eventually reached it, and could see what it was, much more clearly. The stones formed a circular wall, around a hole. The hole was filled a large pool, and there was a beatiful fountain spraying water into the air above it. Emotno climbed down, and went over to the edge of the water. He reached in, to quench his thirst. When he lifted his arms, and leaned over the wall, there was a pain, that came from the air above the water. He was knocked backwards, onto the ground.

The stranger lifted Emaru from the back of Emotno’s elemak. While he walked with her over toward the fountain, he explained that only the ‘pure’ could drink from the Waters of Sunshine. He set Emaru down on the edge of the wall, facing the water, with her feet haning into the water.

Emotno saw her eyes fill with life, and for the first time that Emotno could remember, she had a smile on her face.

Emotno watched as she stood on the edge of the wall, and removed her clothing, that was filled with sand from the desert. She let the peices fall behind her, onto the desert’s sand. She said,“Father, I feel alive!”

She reached her arms toward the bright sun, and then plunged herself into the pool. The water engulfed her smooth, young skin with little effort. It cleansed her of the sand, and her body of the illness.

She rose out of the water again, near the center, by the fountain. She stood up and reached into the cool, flowing water. She let it flow accross her face, and run down her naked body.

After this, the sky began to grow angry. The sun stoped shining down on the water, and clouds darkened the entire sky. Thunder started to bellow from the clouds.

Emaru climbed out of the pool, and walked over by her father. She shivered, dripping water from her white skin, and black hair. The two stared into the sky at the clouds, which moved with quickness, and darkness.

The stranger looked into the sky and yelled,“I’m sorry!” as he knelt down in fear.

A deep voice from the clouds roared,“You knew you were to keep everyone from the waters. No one was to see them, and you were never to leave them! Why have you not done this?”

“Please, I saw Emotno, hopelessly fighting for his daughter to remain alive, each day. I had the power to help him, and knowing this, I could not keep our promise.”

“You failed in what we agreed, that if you could keep my waters safe for 100 centuries, you would not be sent to hell, for all eternity, to suffer for your crimes against me. Instead, you have disobeyed me, and have done something truly good.”

The fountain began to glow. From the water, a beam of light emerged. It shot into the sky, and was reflected back down, onto the ground a few feet in front of the stranger. It stopped, and where the light had struck, appeared a old man. He had long gray hair, and a long gray beard. He leaned on a wooden cane for support. His clothes were tattered, and dirty, and he squinted as he looked up at the stranger.

The old man began talking in the same voice as had come from the clouds, only now it was much quieter. “You should be punished for your repeated disobedience. But as I look at the life you filled Emaru with, and the happiness that brings to Emotno, I can see kindness in your heart. Jkaru, I give you a new life, with it, you will be good, you will be lead by the kindness of your heart, and after it, you will be allowed to rest. Emotno, and Emaru, you will go back to Guar. You will not talk of what you have seen, but only explain what has happened to Emaru as a miracle.”

After his words had finished, there was a flash of light. The old man dissapeared. Emaru was found next to her father, on the path leading into Guar. The stranger found himself placed in his new life.

Emotno took his coat off, and placed it over Emaru’s shoulders, to dress her. He then took her and brought her body close to his, and kissed her forehead. He said to her, “I love you.” as they started walking down the path, to return to their home.