01-1: The Bloodied Sands

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Madrik lay on his back and stared at the rich blue sky, praying for cloud to protect him from the morning sun. It was a desperate, yet somewhat pointless prayer. The sand beneath him felt as if it had been baked for millennia without ever having experienced the sensation of rain soaking through it.

That was changing, more or less. But it wasn't rain giving the dirt its first lesson in hydration. It was a rather more sticky substance of a crimson tone, and one that was particularly valuable to him. He really couldn't afford to spare any more of it, especially as the heat of day began to settle in.

Madrik eased himself up while trying to hold all of his wounds closed, but found he didn't possess enough hands to do so.

"What the hell was that?" he demanded of the open air.

It had been a long night. A long week for that matter. Hell, it had been a long bloody life.

Renryre Island was two thirds desert, a hundred leagues of sand, shrubs, and death. And the occasional snake if you cared to look for it. No one in their right mind went into the desert, unless of course they were trying to get lost.

The rest of the island, squashed between the mountains and the sea, enjoyed rain every other day, and bore a deep green ambiance all year round. That was where everyone lived. Towns and cities sprawled along the coast amongst the forests, living off fresh fish from the sea and sweet water running down the valleys. The mountains ran like a vein down the west coast, cutting off the desert from the fertile lands, a literal line between life and death. A line that Madrik had crossed... at around the same time as he'd crossed Tailfin.

The crime lord had earned a reputation for finding creative ways to make his problems go away, along with his competition. Madrik was an entrepreneur; his plan was fool proof. But it turns out he was the fool. Tailfin grew suspicious, and he removed the complication before it became too... complicated.

Madrik had expected to be thrown to the sharks, alive or dead. Instead, Tailfin had packed him in a sack, taken him out to the desert, and left him there. Didn't even bother opening the sack before he was on his way. Did bother to kick him a few more times and damn near break his ankle.

Madrik had a new plan. He would take down Tailfin. Cut him into pieces and throw him overboard, make certain. He wouldn't make the same mistake Tailfin had and leave him with a chance to survive. Well, half a chance. Madrik would still need to make it out of the desert before he could exact his revenge.

Tailfin had left him one thing of use: the sack. Madrik had already used parts of it to wrap up his ankle, and he ripped off more pieces to try to bandage his wounds. He needed to tear off several strips to cover them all.

"What the hell was that?" he shouted again.

He had been hobbling along through the night, his eyes open for any plants that might be edible, when out of nowhere something attacked him. He didn't see it, didn't hear it, had no idea it was there until he was already on the ground fighting for his life. Then, quick as it had arrived, the creature was gone.

Madrik had never heard of any such beast in the desert. As far as he knew, nothing bigger than a wild cat lived there, aside from the occasional snake, and they ate the cats. Judging by the deep wounds in his arms and chest, his attacker was the size of a giant tailshark. The bastards weren't known to walk on dry land, but it was his best theory.

He stood up gingerly, yelping as his ankle struggled under his weight.

The scene hadn't changed much since the previous sunset. Desert, in all directions, with the mountains in the distance to the west. He still wasn't sure where the nearest coastline was. By the time he had freed himself from his linen prison, Tailfin's tracks had been covered up by sand blown in the wind.

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