This last month we adventured to the Alosian Oasis.
However, I realized if someone wanted to read the whole adventure, they’d have to bounce around the blog and decipher my code. So I decided to make life easier for anyone who either missed the adventure or wanted to read the story as a whole.
Thank you to everyone who participated these past few weeks!
You can find the whole story below without having to bounce around. Enjoy!
You carry a message from the village council. They trusted you because the trek to the Alosians is long and hard and you’re the most experienced carrier they have even though you are also the youngest.
But even being the most experienced, you’ve never been to the south before. you’ve never traversed the sand to reach the desert nomad’s oasis.
You’re five days out now. The winds swirl sand in small devils along the dunes. there’s sand in your clothing, in your ears, even around your eyes and nose despite the protective veil across your face.
You were told the trek was a full five days. Hopefully the council was right because your store of water’s low.
Along with water you’re wearing billowy pants and top and a head scarf that allows the flow of wind but shields you from the blistering sun.
A small pack for food rests on your back and several water skins are tied securely to your waist. On either ankle you have a knife, your only protection on the trek.
If the council had a horse or camel, you’d be riding but, alas, no one’s seen a horse in years and even if they had, no one has the money to buy one. But the village needs animals that can help with plowing and hauling. Over the years, supplies have grown low because people can’t move as much weight as a beast of burdon.
That is why the council sent you through the desert to the Alosians. They want to barter for beasts and the desert nomads are the only ones willing to barter anymore. All other places demand coin, saying barter is old fashioned and useless when compared to solid coin.
The sun sits on the horizon and you angle more left, realizing you strayed a bit in your musing.
Just as the last rays disappear you crest a dune and catch sight of a beautiful green line of trees.
The wind blows, instantly cooling the air from the heat of the blistering sun. A shiver runs your spine as the breeze cools the sweat on your body.
Heading for that line of trees, you notice several figures emerge and stand, waiting for you.
That line grows until there’s a good twenty people.
Must be almost the whole village at the oasis. More Alosians live farther into the desert but those willing to trade live here, where outsiders can reach them.
You come to stand before the line and a burly woman with dark eyes and long lashes steps forward.
“Water Seeker or Lost Fool?” She asks.
Neither one’s technically correct but you keep from bristling at her assumption. Although you need water, it’s not why you’ve come.
“Barter offer,” you answer.
The woman’s eyes widen and there are a few grunts from the crowd.
“Barter in Water or in Salt?’
It dawns on you that the council didn’t authorize you in either area, instead offering staples. But staples are not what the Alosians value. To barter, you need to offer something these people truly need. Either water to sustain their bodies and crops or salt to preserve their food.
Your village buys salt but it’s not hard to get in mass quantities. And if you have beasts of burdon, it won’t be that difficult to haul several loads of salt to the oasis.
You say “salt.”
The burly woman bows and shoots a smirk over her shoulder at an old wrinkled woman behind her.
“My name is Berta,” she says, “I am the Mistress of the Salt. Follow me.”
She leads you through the crowd and past the row of trees.
As soon as you enter the oasis, the ground becomes lush with a blue tinted grass. Right in the center sits a small lake and around it are small huts with lanterns hanging in front of each.
It’s peaceful after the desert winds.
Berta leads you to a hut on the left and opens the door for you but she doesn’t follow you in.
“Rest deeply, Outsider, for tomorrow we test you.” And then she closes the door.
The hut contains a bed on the left wall and a table on the right laden with water and fruit.
You select a pomegranate from the fruit, fill a cup with sweet cool water and sit on the bed to eat.
When done, exhaustion from the last five days in the blistering sun catches up and you set the now empty cup aside, lay down and sleep.
You wake to Berta shaking you. “Good Morn, Outsider.”
She hands you a fresh set of clothes and leaves to let you change.
After doning the outfit, which turns out to be just like your old one, you eat several figs and almonds and down a cup of water.
Exiting your hut, you step into a crowd. The entire populace has gathered again.
Berta steps forward.
“What do you come for?’ she asks.
“Horses or camels.”
“Then you may pick either the Maze test or the Water test.”
You are unfamiliar with either, so you ask “what does each involve?”
Berta scowls, pinching her lips into a tight line but when you don’t back down, she sighs.
“The maze requires you to navigate the Alose Maze in a day. If you succeed, we will offer you five horses, if you fail, you will work at the oasis for a year and a day.
“The water test requires you to fill a water skin in a day out beyond the oasis. Success brings an offer of camels and failure work.”
“Why test me?” you ask, “when we offer salt in return for beasts. Is that not a fair trade?’
Berta’s scowl returns, her dark eyes angry but you still don’t back down even though her displeasure makes you shake a bit. A few in the crowd mutter. Finally Berta answers.
“Outsiders do not understand that our animals are family to us. If we trade them it is because we trust you to care for our family. Thus the test. We test you to trust you.”
You’ve never been taught how to find water in the desert but you’re pretty decent finding your way so you say, “maze.”
Berta gives you a smile that makes you think of a snake.
“Follow me,” she says.
You shudder but follow her through the oasis and out the other side of trees.
You miss a step.
Before you stands a wall as far to the left and right as you can see. How you didn’t see it the night before, you’ve no idea.
Berta takes you to the only opening in the stone structure. She hands you a water skin and a small pack of food.
“There is a door in the ground at the center of the maze. Find the door and go through it. It will bring you back to the oasis. If you make it by nightfall, we’ll make an offer. Beware the easy way, Barterer.”
You agree and enter. As soon as you step through, the entrance disappears in a cloud of sand.
It hits your throat and you’re thrown into a fit of coughing.
When you recover, you see a single avenue in front of you, so you walk forward until the maze y’s.
The left branch seems to have some sort of greenery farther down. At this distance you can’t be quite sure but the green seems to move.
The right branch has bright red script that glows on the stone walls.
You’re unfamiliar with the script but you also have no idea how the Alosians managed to grow something so green in the maze.
The green avenue seems to move even from where you stand. It makes you shudder, so you turn right toward the glowing, red script.
As you enter the avenue, the script glows brighter and the air grows hotter.
The walls of the maze radiate the heat like an oven.
It only takes a few moments before you’re drenched in sweat.
Sipping from your water, you follow the avenue as it curves to the left, and then back to the right.
You come to a T and randomly take the left. It dead ends, so you turn around and head down the right part of the T.
You drink more water, feeling like it’s dripping out of you as fast as you’re drinking it.
The maze takes a left, and then a right and another right.
Another T presents itself and you wish for an end to the red script as it throbs on the walls.
No luck. Both sides of the T still radiate the script.
You turn right only to find another dead end.
Turning back, you head down the left branch only to find it ends in a wall as well.
You start to despair and drop to your knees. Going all the way back seems like it’ll kill you. You’re loosing water faster than when you traveld to the Oasis.
Part of the dead end pops out like a drawer with a shallow bowl. The red script shifts above it until it resembles drops dripping into the bowl.
This is easy enough. You pour just enough water from your almost empty skin to fill the shallow bowl.
The wall pulses brighter still and the bottom of the bowl opens, dumping the water onto the hot sand.
You cry out as that water quickly disappears into the ground.
The bowl closes and the script continues to imitate droplets…red droplets.
Berta’s parting, “beware the easy way,” runs through your head.
This is anything but easy.
You can use your knife to cut your hand and provide blood but out here, every liquid is precious, especially blood.
Or you can turn back and look for another way. Perhaps the other dead ends present a different challenge
You’re low on water now, so you’d have to find something quick but it might be worth trying.
Sweat trickles down between your shoulder blades. Cutting your hand and bleeding, even just a little, sounds like a bad idea in a spot where any liquid is precious.
You push to your feet and turn around. There’s a shushing sound behind you and when you glance back, the little bowl has disappeared back into the wall.
Since the other end of the T was a dead end and you don’t remember any difference in the script there, you turn back the way you came but stop dead when you find the way blocked by a new wall.
Or did you get turned around?
Inspecting the new wall, the script doesn’t shift, even when you kneel in front of it like you did the last one.
You sip from your skin and turn. Perhaps you’ve gotten your directions mixed.
But when you go down the right side of the T it’s still a dead end.
You head back to the left, sweating buckets from the heat radiating off the walls.
Instead of finding the wall that asked for blood, you find a new T. It dawns on you that the maze moves.
You take the left because it takes you toward what you think is the center.
The walls grow narrower and you hug your arms to your sides, afraid touching the pulsing red script will burn you.
When your body stops sweating and your water and food’s long gone, you know you’re in trouble.
Your vision swims and you stumble against the right wall. Jerking away, the wall leaves a burn on your arm.
As you continue on, you blink at what you see a little farther down. A opening? Perhaps the center?
You blink again. Between the heat and your gritty eyes, you have a hard time focusing but you rush forward, eager to find a way out.
And smack directly into a wall. Crack!
You’re head throbs with pain.
The maze didn’t move. You’re eyes are playing tricks on you.
You don’t rise from where you fall. The decision to stop moving’s not even processed.
Sadly by the time the Alosians find you, you’re too far gone to save.
They never meant to kill someone with their maze, so an investigation’s started. It reveals Berta, who designed the maze, designed it to “sift out” outsiders. She hates outsiders, who she believes are unworthy of trading for her horses.
They banish Berta to a place called Amonen, an outsider village deep in the desert, where she is sentenced to work for the outsiders.
Then they send ten horses to your village council with their condolences at your loss.
The council erects a small plaque under the village sign commemorating your courage and sacrifice. May you rest in peace.
Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,
P.S. If you enjoyed this adventure, Monday will start a new one. Hope to hear from you next week=)