The Do’s Series: Segment 5
© Grandpa Jim
LoveJoy lifted a hand to block the sun. She scanned the desert ahead and the sky with no clouds above. The heat was hot and the ground was dry.
At first, it felt good to be out of the rain, to leave the treetalls of dwarfhome and the greenmoss of underlake for the sand and warmth.
The horse had no name. He was a gift of the dwarves. Their little ones took such joy in the new music.
After two days in the desert sun, she dismounted and led NoName, which was what she now called her pony. LoveJoy weighed not much and carried less, but she did not want to burden the poor animal.
After three days, she crossed a riverbed and felt in her parched lips the story it told of a river that had once flowed there. It made her sad to think it was dead.
After nine days, there was not enough water for both of them. She let the horse run free, watched the pony turn, and hoped he would find his way back.
The desert was a mirage of sea and plants and birds and rocks and things. Was their life underground? The ocean of sand was a perfect disguise above for cities lying in the heart of the ground below. She knew her mind was wandering. Will the humans here give no love?
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name.
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name.
What was her name?
She felt numb.
What was her name?
Her legs began to sink.
She shook her head.
LoveJoy wake up!
She hears her own voice.
She feels the sand.
Her legs sink deeper into the hot sand.
Don’t struggle. Flatten yourself out. On the surface. Reach. Spread out. Float. Wide strokes. Try to swim, LoveJoy. Swim! Swim the sand. Try. . . . Or die.
She is calm. Her legs lift. She makes progress. She knows it is not enough.
She knows she is losing.
A rope twirls through the air. The looped end lands near her right hand. She jerks the arm forward. Her hand grasps the smooth cord. The strand pulls tight. She feels the pressure. She lunges with the other shoulder. The left hand clamps around the cord. Her head lifts. She squints at her hands clenching the rope. With a sucking sound, her legs break free. Her body scrapes onto a hard rock surface. She rolls over and stares up. It hurts to breathe.
Something drops with a thud beside her. Reaching a hand, she feels a small smooth bag. LoveJoy pulls it to her and sees the cap. Fumbling, her fingers work the lid free. She tastes cool water, gulps greedily, stops, closes the container, turns over and pushes up to stand unsteady on her feet.
“You are not from here.” The voice sounds from behind LoveJoy. She spins shakily, pulls the sticknife from her belt, and sees no one.
“No need for that.” A rock moves and becomes a tall thin figure. The girl wears a tight suit the color of sand and rock that clings to her body. She winds the rope into a coil and hangs it at her waist. “If I cared to harm you.” She pauses. “I would not have cared to save you.”
“Who are you?” LoveJoy licks her cracked lips.
“A SandRunner. Of the HomeRock Clan.” The tan figure bends her head. “One who knows the ways of the BlindDesert.” Dark blue eyes study the other girl. “Which you clearly do not.”
“I do not.” LoveJoy returns the blade to its sheath, not taking her eyes from the other. “I thank you. Thank you for pulling me free and for the water. Now, I must continue my journey.” LoveJoy takes a step and tests her balance.
“You forget what has been done to you, headstrong one.”
“What do you mean?”
“The sandsee has altered your mind and your body. You need a homeplace to rest and recover.”
“No, I must go on. I must go.”
“You should also remember what I have done for you.”
“In the desert you can remember your name. ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.”
“Pain? What do you say?”
“The words are from the Old Days. They are part of the rhythm of our lives. In this place and time, they mean I have saved you. You can remember your name because I give you no pain. I have saved your life.”
“I thank you again for what you have done for me.”
The taller girl frowns and pulls the tight cap off her head, the close-cropped blond hair white in the bright rays of the sinking sun. “Think! What I have done is not something without consequence. For the both of us. By The Do’s, you are now my responsibility. That responsibility is shared. Do you not see this?” The girl surveys LoveJoy’s loose white pants and blouse, the long brown hair secured by a simple white headband. “At least you wear white. But no head covering in this heat? Where did you think you were going?”
“Glue Days and New Bread.” LoveJoy’s tone is thoughtful as she weighs the other’s words.
“Are you mad? There are roads around the desert. No way runs here.”
“I would not be seen. This is my way.”
The girl takes a deep breath, moves forward and lifts her right hand in formal greeting, fingers spread, palm forward. “I, DawnRunner StarBreak, a SandRunner and FreeOne of the HomeRock Clan, greet you now in The Binding Speech of The New & Free Peoples.”
LoveJoy nods her head, clearing her thoughts, remembering the ways. She meets the other’s eyes and speaks the formal words of doing. “I, LoveJoy KickStart, one who no longer has a home or clan, return the greeting made of DawnRunner StarBreak, and offer to her, for her service to my life spirit, LifePledge in The Do’s Words and They The Segments.”
“Your offer is right and correct, LoveJoy KickStart. I, DawnRunner StarBreak, accept the pledge and agree to do the task of guarding and guiding the life of the one whose life I have saved.”
“And I, LoveJoy KickStart, will guard and guide your life, DawnRunner StarBreak, as I do my own.”
Both bow their heads and sing softly in the cadences of chantsure. “Be it so pronounced in The Binding Speech of The New & Free Peoples. We are both to each the other sealed and contracted in LifePledge. The space is closed and drawn shut. It is done.”
The two stand quietly under the hot heat on the dry ground.
DawnRunner lifts her head and breaks the silence. “We must reach HomeRock before sunfall and starshine. You are weak. I have water. We must go now. Here there are nightcrawls who may hear your steps and seek our lives.” She smiles. “You have much to learn, LoveJoy KickStart. Much to learn. I am amazed you have lasted so long in this place. First food, drink and rest. And then, a proper sandsuit. If you would travel as a FreeOne of the BlindDesert, you must look the part.”
The two turn and walk together into the sand, away from the heat of the setting sun.