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Old September 8th, 2011, 08:49 AM
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EmeraldSky
Make the Colors in the Sky!
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Episode 32: Sands of Intrigue



[BGM: Rhythm of the Sands]

"Wake up..." Dawn whispered as she nudged Ash awake. The group had been flying aboard Mina for most of the night, but to Ash, it felt like years had passed since they had left the forest.

"Are we th-" he started, but gasped when he saw the dunes below him, splashed with orange and red from the setting sun. "Wow!"

"It's beautiful!" Misty agreed as Mina came in for a landing nearby an oasis that lay nearby a rock. "I'm sure that the cities in the desert are just as beautiful!"

"But why did Mina land on such a high dune?" Janine mused as she looked down on the shifting sands far below. "Does she sense something we do not?"

A low rumble in the distance got Brock's attention. "I'd say she does!"

"Sandstorm!" Ash screamed as he noticed a cloud of dust rolling in their direction. Everyone gathered their gear, scrambled under Mina's wings, and covered their faces as the wave of sand rushed over them.

[BGM: Safe at Home]

He wasn't sure how long the sandstorm had lasted, or where he had went after that, but when Ash opened his eyes some minutes later, he balked when he saw himself inside a tent, with an older woman with graying black hair and tanned skin in a elaborately patterned dress cleaning what sand was on his clothing and dressing the bruises on his arms and legs. "Where am I?"

"Peace, ostati--you and your friends are safe here." the woman assured him as she offered Ash his clothes, now clean. "Some of our tribe found you and your friends by the Oasis of Faith and brought you to our camp."

"Thank you for your aid, Lady..." Ash started as he stepped behind a screen to change.

"Tsura, of the Domari tribe." the woman replied. "I am the tribe's healer and oracle...the gods have called you here to our desert home, yes?"

Ash nodded as he emerged from behind the screen, fully dressed. "The fire goddess has led us here in search of her ruby, and we were caught in a sandstorm on the way."

"I see..." Tsura smiled as she invited Ash to take a look outside her tent. "Look here--your friends are well."

[BGM: Rhythm of the Sands]

Ash peeked outside and heaved a sigh of relief at what he saw--Kissa chasing a Yanma, to the delight of some children, Janine and Misty nearby a makshift tent, talking to who he assumed were warriors, judging from the circles and squares decorating their light leather tunics. Dawn was over by another tent, helping another tribesman start the cooking fire as Mina looked on from a large palmwood pearch nearby. But the one he could easily pinpoint was Brock, who was tuning his instruments by a third tent as some tribeswomen spread blankets on the sand. "Thank Anima nothing was damaged and we're all okay..."

"It isn't often that outsiders come this way..." Tsura mused as she led Ash outside. "But lately, more and more have been coming to the city of Amanta to enter the grand tournament."

Ash was about to ask Tsura another question when he heard a call of "Make way for the chief!" in the distance. He saw the tribe members and Tsura bowing as a procession of tribesmen, most of them warriors, entered the camp escorting a Camerupt. He bowed on one knee himself as the procession arrived at the largest tent in the camp and the Camerupt's rider, a dark skinned man wearing a rainbow robe-like outfit with gold swirls and suns decorating it, was helped onto the ground.

"That is Stefan de Kardos, our chief." Tsura explained. "He is a wise and just ruler."

"And who is that?" Ash asked as a tan skinned girl in a green and blue robe ran to embrace Stefan.

"That is Stefan's daughter, Iris--our princess." Tsura continued. "Her mother was claimed by the desert when she was very small, and so I have served as a mother figure to her."

"What does ostati mean?" Ash interrupted, piqued by what Tsura had called him before. "I don't know very much of the desert languages..."

Ostati means 'child of power' in our language--what we call one trained in the magical arts, like you." Tsura explained as she led Ash to Stefan's tent, where the others were waiting. "Chief Stefan--these are the outsiders Deami told me would brave the desert for the Tournament of Fate."

[BGM: Searching in the Sands]

"Tournament?" Misty was interested.

"I thought large tournaments were held in Madari...." Dawn agreed.

Stefan smiled. "While it is true that large competitions are held to the north, jarina of Anima, Amanta has an arena of its own for grand affairs like the Tournament of Fate. Hundreds will test their powers over the next several weeks within its walls, but only one will walk away with the ruby of the fire goddess."

"Deami's Ruby...a prize for a tournament?" Janine asked.

"How did Lady Elesa find such a priceless treasure?" Misty agreed.

"That, I do not know, but I think the five of you have the potential to win the ruby and keep it from falling in the wrong hands." Stafan assured the group.

"I shudder to find out what someone with a black heart would do with Deami's Ruby..." Misty muttered.

"We have to get it back, no matter what it takes." Dawn agreed.

"Your enthusiasm is honored, but the hour grows late..." Stefan cautioned as the sun sank below the dunes. "There is still time to enter, and Amanta is only a few hour's walk from our camp." Mina chirped in agreement. "Or an hour by flight."

[Cut BGM]

"Very well...we will travel to Amanta in the morning." Ash assured Stefan, to the cheers of the tribe.

"Then tonight, you will join us for a feast as our guests, brave ones." Stefan announced. "The lanto with you is more than welcome to perform, as well."

[Brock's Harp: Dance on a Desert Night]

"I would be honored, great one." Brock replied as he took his harp. "Please accept this song as a token of my gratitude." With that, he began playing a joyful melody that echoed into the night. Ash joined in with the Dreamer's Flute, his song a prayer for strength in the tournament....

To Be Continued....
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