Chapter 11: Destiny in the Desert

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"The desert breaths fire hot as a refiner's forge.

It's unkind touch as heavy as a mountain.

The unrelenting land saps strength and drinks blood.

It bends warriors and strong men to its will.

And it shapes them into shards of death.

Which stab at the heart of the enemy of all."

- from an unknown Scattered Kingdoms philosopher

A sigh eased free of his nostrils as Patrik looked out the small window adorning the southern wall of the room he shared with his two cousins and onto the spreading blue of the bay. It was a handful of days since his strange encounter in the bay and his brush with Destiny at the hands of the elf named Darkfin. And, if anything, the nightmare had become more vivid, more intense than he could've ever imagined, searing his thoughts every night until restful sleep was a mere fantasy.

Add to that tumbling images, sensations and thoughts generated from the very moment the mysterious woman that appeared in his boat had touched him, and chaos had become his meat and drink. No longer did the mundane tasks of repairing nets and scrubbing the deck of his uncle Jerem's boat bring any relief in their mind-numbing repetitiveness. Nor could the boundaries of the tiny fishing village of Gorgon's Port contain his far ranging thoughts.

'I am a son of Ironstorm, a creature destined to something far greater than repairing nets and baiting hooks,' he mused, barely resisting the impulse to scrub callused hands through unkempt hair. 'Everything that I thought I knew, my entire life, . . gone.' This new knowledge hollowed him out until all he could feel was the nightmare. The nightmare and the need to know what being a son of Ironstorm meant. That need now burned in him like a fiery brand, with no relent or remorse, searing at his essence until he thought he would burst into flame.

A movement across his field of vision momentarily tore Patrik from his darkening thoughts and back to the bay, in time to see the triangular sails of a Scattered Kingdoms merchant ship hove to the foot of the Port's largest pier. From conversations he had caught while delivering oil to the Netted Shark, that'd be the Sirocco, carrying fireworks and other goods for the Ra'Ashal festival to be held in less than a tenday. As fast as its namesake, the Sirocco dared the Septan blockage every cycle to bring Ra'Ashal goods and return to its home port with a hold heavily laden with rare fish oils and well-spent Porter gold.

Patrik's jaw abruptly tightened with tension as he made a hard and quick decision. This cycle it would also be his ticket out of Gorgon's Port.

Dropping to a knee beside the heavy footlocker that sat at the foot of his cot, he flipped the brass-strapped wooden lip back with an almost casual twist of his wrist and began pulling clothing out. 'If I can't find answers about being a son of Ironstorm in the Scattered Kingdoms, I'll just keep going north until I do,' he silently vowed, adding a worn backpack to the small pile growing on his cot. 'Or die in the attempt!'

After stuffing the clothing into the pack and sneaking into the kitchen to fill a leather scrip with as much as he could carry while his aunt labored outside in the small family garden, Patrik was out of the house, down the hill and quickly making his way to water's edge. His bare feet sending up puffs of dust on the worn path along the edge of town towards the bay, he was oddly light-hearted as he mentally planned what he'd do once he reached the Scattered Kingdoms.

'Why should it pain me to leave this place? It's empty to me now, a falsehood Darkfin's truth dispelled in a single instant,' he thought when, as his feet touched the worn planking of the main pier, he pondered his lack of sadness in departing what had been his home for as long as he could remember.

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