[1431.069.0600] Clan Territory, Birach

She had forgotten the dry desert wind. How the taste of fine sand worked its way into everything. The stark smell of parched air. Home.

The canteen sloshed as she took a drink, water from the land of her ancestors. The land that held the mortal remains of her parents and grandparents. It held he who had been her husband, their children, and their one grandchild. One day it would embrace her, should anyone be left to bury her. To dig a hole, whisper to The Creator, and to weep at her passing. To complete the cycle of life and not life.

Another swig and then the canteen was capped. The precious water went onto her belt as she brought the range finder up to her left eye. Dawn was here, and with it the trucks and crawlers that could still move would do so. The small army would shuffle great uncles and granddaughters from truck to truck, taking whoever and whatever they could still carry. More vehicles would break down; it was a difficult and unmarked route. They had to avoid unexpected ravines, bomb craters, and those who had given up on the Tjanern Minst.

She had difficulty calling them bandits; they sought only to survive. They thought having a day of food was wealth; they fought for scraps. Some now turned to softer and easier prey, their brothers and sisters of the Path. Those who followed the wisdom of the Tjanern Minst. The believers did their best to stay safe, but they needed the warriors of the Guide. Those committed to fighting evil at its root. Those like her.

Perhaps those like Falou, who was approaching. He led the group of young and old, and he often sought her wisdom. He moved stiffly and struggled to approach quietly; the shrapnel in his calf made his left leg weak.

"Grandmother?"

She smiled at the honorary title. Her hair, once full bodied and brown as her tanned skin, was now gray and cut short, it could not be grabbed by an enemy. Her skin was dried and dark, the Clan tattoos on her arms and chest could still be seen, should one dare to look. The blade on her forearm was sharp, the handgun on her belt was operational and ready. She was operational and ready.

"You need to get your wound tended," she whispered as he moved to stand beside her.

It was said that Falou was too young for the task laid on him. His wavy black hair, muscular frame, and qana dark skin cut a dashing figure with the ladies of the Clan. Now his hair was cut Raider style; nothing on the top and less on the sides. He stood for the Tjanern Minst as the troubles came, and as Clan fought Clan. She smiled; the troubles had never really gone away, they just hid like a vile creature in the dark. Boys like Falou grew up thinking that they could make the world an even better place, their parents and grandparents had vanquished the great evil. The Clans and Coasters had united and there was peace and prosperity for all.

Boys dream as boys will. A few weeks ago, Clan men argued over who should lead, which tribe should fight in the most visible places. The men thought evil would again be vanquished quickly. Blood would be shed, yes, but finished soon and then the Clans would praise their name. They would live in grand tales of adventure and bravery.

Those men were dead and reviled, and they had taken many of their kin with them. As dawn arose over their desert home, they were likely bowing to The Creator and weeping in their sorrow. Does one feel sorrow in The Creator's presence? Some said the afterlife was filled with regrets for things not done well. Others said that those who had gone on before watched over family who had yet to shed their bodies and become spirit. That's the thing about the afterlife, no one is sure about it until after life.

"My wound is slight, others need the care more," Falou said. He pulled his jacket close. "It is a cold breeze this morning."

"It will grow worse if left untended," she said, and then handed him the range finder. "That rock outcropping at eighteen kilometers looks like a decent landmark."

"It looks like a ravine might be to the left, and fragile edges that might collapse under the weight of the crawlers." Falou quietly scoped the way ahead. He glanced at her and then handed back the rangefinder. "I often ask myself, 'What would The Dragon do?' It guides me sometimes."

"You keep me around because I know him better?" She clipped off the tool and looked at him. She smiled.

"I like having you around; you offer wisdom in life and strength in battle. You believed in me when there was just four of us, now there are dozens. You knew where they would take the Tjanern Minst, and how we should get there to free him." Falou grinned. "And because you know The Dragon better. Maybe I can get his autograph one day, if you ask nicely."

Her eyes darkened. "Do you believe in the prophecy?"

"Yes," Falou whispered. He bowed his head as a wind picked up and dust danced around them. "But I hope it does not come true. Does that make sense? Why should The Dragon lay down his life so that others can live? Can't he inspire us and still live?"

"He hasn't inspired you to get that wound tended, so maybe he failed already." She turned to face him squarely. "Get your leg fixed. If you ride with the last truck, then they will have time to pull the shrapnel out and clean the damage. I'll ride with the scouts."

She laid her hand on his shoulder. "The Dragon would tell you to do your best. To do what needs to be done. That's why he is aware of the prophecy but does not let fear control him. He knows he will die one day; he chooses to go to The Creator as a humble servant who followed well and faithfully. You should do the same. Then those who remain will be inspired by Falou, the wise leader."

Falou smiled and stood straight. "They will speak of his grandmother in spirit, Matreetha, who led loyal warriors to victory. I will get my leg tended. Please, clear the way for us, we have kin to rescue."




The Domici War novels are easy reading level science-fiction Coming of Age stories with a Christian Warrior ethos.

The characters struggle with their imperfections and the challenges of an unknowable future.

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