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 secrets of the sands [ for amy ]
 Posted: Sep 7 2015, 06:17 PM

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The oasis sits like a stunned rabbit in the desert, stark and deceptive, bowed by the heat. The white canvas of travelling tents stand like monuments beside her cool waters, hanging heavy in the windless air. In the shade of one bowing palm, sun-baked brick rises to wall off the drinking hall, where strange seven-beated music curls around the tables and tall smoking-pipes. The rich fragrance of tobacco soaks into the walls, the wood, the drinks themselves.

Here is the gateway to the East.

Jophia Silver-Eye sits cross-legged on a stool tucked into the corner back by the bar, her ale untouched in front of her. She is a dour woman, lean and short, in the middle of her thirties and well-creased by the sun. The rich gold of her skin is marked with swaths of pink scarring, spread in sheets as if from burn—most noticeably beneath her right eye, where the darkness of her lashes brushes shiny newbuilt skin. Jophia is markedly female only by the curve of her breasts beneath her rough-spun tunic; the slope of her hips in maroon-dyed leggings. Her hair is shorn close to her scalp, where scars spot and mark as well. If she is far from home, she seems nonetheless at ease, rolling her head on her shoulders to pull the tightness from her neck. The years in the desert have worn her as hard as sands wear the sharp sandstone cliffs out to the East.

There are few others here: the bartender, a dark-skinned infidel who the gods gifted with a sharp white smile and enough sense to mark the religious cross-and-ring into his door to save his business from marauders; gilded knights from the highlands of the West, baby-faced and overjoyed at the chance to fight under their white-and-gold flag; a pair of local women, covered in their veils and wrappings as suits the oasis peoples.

Jophia pities them and envies them, who know little beyond the villages of their father's fathers.

She stretches the ache out of her shoulders and downs her ale; considers settling back to her tent for the night. Armies enough will pass through here, and anyone who asks the bartender for a sword-for-hire will be directed right to Jophia.

Never mind that the sword at her waist is mostly decorative, that her true strength is in the fierce battlemagic of the deserts. The less said to passers-through, the better.
 Posted: Dec 11 2015, 10:00 PM

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The deserts are a familiar thing to Omahyra. The rise and fall of temperatures – sure as tides. Poisonous, cunning creatures with glistening hardened skins scheming behind dry corpses of plants and under sand dens. Skeletons of people and animals and cities buried after a storm. The thirst its endless, arid stretch could inflict upon men; and the merciless tricks it likes to play on said men. But not on her, Omahyra thinks. In the face of the sand Gods, she would much rather be the one playing tricks.

She arrives at the bar parched, wrapped in white from head to toe as desert people were. Innocence? Virginity? Omahyra could not claim she had either. The outfit been chosen not for its symbolism but rather for its practicality. Under the cloak – among other things, hides a soft, womanly body meant to be and have been folded over the arms of men with gold and great power. Arms of men who especially did not like to be stolen from, and would send death for anyone who dared take from them.

Omahyra skims the others inhabiting the space. Knights, much too young to have been sent on such a mission. Locals, unlikely candidates. Loner at the back of the bar who carries whiffs of violence and killing.

Finally, she looks to the bartender. A cheat knows another when they see one.

A flutter of kohl-lined eyes betrays how skittish she really is. Is he the one, then? Instructions had been vague at best. He appears strong enough for the task at hand. Though she of all people ought to know true ability did not lie in the thickness of arms, it helps. No matter – if he fails to kill the King’s men, his death would at least buy her some time. Omahyra drops the headscarf to reveal sun-kissed skin, a sharp nose, and dark, braided hair.

“Mead,” Omahyra produces a bag of silver from under white fabrics and slides it across the polished wood, worth much more than she could drink. She speaks with urgency. “And I will be needing your services.”
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