The Dance in the Deserts – my nanowrimo effort

Last month I found out about nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, where you are encouraged to attempt to write 50,000 words in a month, and decided to give it a go. I did not think that I would manage it and it is looking like I was right, but I have enjoyed the effort so far. I have just gone around a week with no time to write as I have been extremely busy, and I was already behind schedule before that. By now I should be on around 30,000 words, but have managed a measly 5,525. I am going to continue writing this novel, I hope. Here is the opening scene. The book (!) is science fiction, set on another planet in the future.

The Dance in the Deserts – The second age of Malidis

The wind battered against the sand dunes without care or remorse, whipping up a storm of fine quartz grains which scoured the derelict moisture trapper. The nomad seemed not to notice as he waited impatiently for his clandestine meeting with the one they called Medín. His gaunt frame was masked by his bulky cloak, revealing only his bony face with its weathered, leathery skin. His eyes were so narrow that they appeared to be shut, whilst his lips were dry and cracked and did nothing to stop the sand from coating his teeth. He chewed an exotic leaf to stave away his thirst, but by now it was dry and useless. He nervously thumbed a machete hidden beneath his cloak, one of many weapons and tools which he kept under there, necessary even for a pacifist in these deserts. Why was Medín keeping him waiting? I should not have come alone, he thought. His body was starting to ache; the storms were tolerable for nomads, but they took their toll. As he began to weary, a figure appeared on the horizon, hunched over, clearly feeling the full force of the storm. The nomad fought the urge to help him, he needed to appear stronger and uncaring, and so he watched as the traveller tumbled down the opposite dune and scrambled up towards the nomad’s feet.

‘Medín sends his apologies, he could not make it,’ the traveller wheezed. The nomad stood silently, I have failed, this fool is not to be bartered with, he is no more than a mere messenger. The messenger continued, ‘Bit of a pain, this storm.’ The nomad remained stoic, unmoving, resolute in his desire to show no emotion to this messenger of Medín. The reputation of Medín and his minions will one day pass into legend. He was a purveyor of information, seemingly omnipresent and omniscient, he appeared to know everyone worth knowing, was willing to talk to anyone, and had the sort of charm which could cause even a monk sworn to silence to start spilling their secrets carelessly, like precious water in the desert. Villagers sang songs about Medín and awaited his return, eager to drink the words and wisdom he brought. The nomad did not sing their songs or join in their eagerness for his return. It seemed that Medín knew even this, sending a messenger in his place.

‘So what did you want with Medín? What is so important that you had to get me lost in this shitstorm?’ The nomad surveyed the traveller through those narrow slits he called eyes; he was short, stocky, and his hair was hidden under the hood of a dusty traveller’s coat. He was clean shaven, but had obviously rushed and cut himself more than once. He hides his hair; he hides his heritage. He had long, thick eyelashes that were covered in sand, blinking rapidly to keep the dust out.

‘My words are only for Medín himself,’ the nomad replied, though he knew that an audience with Medín would be near impossible, he probably already knew what the nomad had to say. The messenger stopped blinking for a moment, fixing his eyes on the nomad, reaching into his coat to remove something. In his hand he held what appeared to be a sheet of dull metal, which he handed to the nomad.

The sheet was large, but the carvings on it were small, barely noticeable. The nomad held it close to his face, trying to read the words – it was a message from Medín. ‘I cannot read this language; do you know what it says?’ This time the other man was silent. The nomad lowered the sheet and saw Medín’s messenger brandishing a short sword, which found its way through the metal sheet and into the chest of the nomad. The sickening crunch was almost lost in the wind. As his life slipped away, the nomad could see his murderer remove a vial from an inside pocket of his coat, which he held to the nomad’s chest as blood slowly seeped into it.

‘Well, this wasn’t a complete waste of time,’ said the messenger, who turned and strode away, suddenly unaffected by the storm. The nomad faded fast, clinging onto life just long enough to see a rusted buggy swoop by to pick up his killer, coughing out smoke as it went. He closed his eyes and left; his wandering was over. His name was Talb.


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