The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Two – The Beast of the Oasis
As the day drew towards its end and the sun lowered towards the horizon, casting long shadows before it, ahead of them appeared an oasis between two sweeping arms of the hills that protruded out into the desert. Around the welcoming waters grew a cluster of palms, the green of their leaves standing out vivid against the raw earth and sand all about. The leader of the Hashalite band, a faded scar across his cheek that touched the corner of his mouth and twisted it up, giving him a sardonic look, led them not towards it, but further up into the hills, the trail leading up that way. An older trail could be made out that led towards the oasis, yet it appeared not to have been used in some time and sands had drifted over much of it, leaving behind only marker stones.
“Why are we headed this way, Halakir?” asked the woman, bringing her horse about to head on up the new trail alongside the scarred Hashalite. “There is an oasis at hand here where we can rest at for the night.”
Halakir shook his head even as he led them on away from it. “That is not a place that we wish to go, Peregrine, and most certainly not one to spend the night at.”
“Why is that?”
“It is called the Oasis of Broken Bones,” Halakir explained, making a warding sigh against evil with his hand, “Though once it was known by a different name; the Oasis of Silver Waters. No longer. A beast took up residence there, in the waters, one that devours any who stray that way. Some are lucky and visit during the day and are not taken, but any who camp there for the night will not survive to see the coming of the sun.” Halakir shook his head. “There is little that I am afraid of, but not even I will risk that place.”
“Where then are we headed?”
“There is a camp not far from here,” Halakir told her, “A place of safety against the depredations of the beast. Those that run the camp charge a fee for its use, one not inconsequential, and yet the alternative is not one to contemplate.”
Peregrine scowled as she listened to what Halakir had to say, all the time studying the oasis as it fell away below them. “Why has no one slain the beast then?”
“Plenty have tried,” Halakir said. “Great heroes have come over many years, and now all their bones are joined with those of the beast’s other victims. Vjanin of Holashad was one of those victims, and the Brothers Rasaam.”
“Dangerous then, this beast,” the slender man observed from just behind the pair.
Halakir turned in his saddle to look back. “You could say that, Blade,” he responded, teeth flashing in his dark face.
“Obviously no Aedring have ever made the attempt or the beast would be dead by now,” Peregrine stated.
Halakir shook his head, watching the trail ahead. “Even Aedring have fallen to it, Peregrine. There is nothing that can be done about it.”
“I refuse to believe that,” Peregrine stated stubbornly with the conviction of those who would never back down, and whose self-belief knew no bounds.
“Belief has little regard in this matter,” Halakir replied fatalistically. “Still, if you are determined to make a run against it, then I can not stop you. It would be best, though, if you knew all that there is to know about it first. I do not think it would make much difference, but any advantage is better than none.”
“He does speak wisely,” Blade pointed out, his words coming forth in languid tones.
“Very well,” Peregrine replied. “Tell us all that you know.”
“Wait until we reach the camp for the night and I will relate to you everything that I have heard said of the Oasis of Broken Bones and the beast within.”
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