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UCSCA UCSCA Lit of the Nation
UCSCA Lit of the Nation
Aoko
Rebecca Shepherd

The desert beyond them was vast, something Ajani had never before noticed. He had lived in the desert, at the foot of the mountains beside the Nepthis River, with his friends in the city for centuries. He and his comrades had established the current line of kings and relieved the constant pressure from the previous line, but now they offer help again and are shunned. The magic-users did not awake the Fire Serpent; the humans awoke a red dragon that had been asleep upon its treasure since before humans inhabited the area. Ajani still remembered the sight of his friends' bones with the clothes clinging and their small possessions on the edge of the pile of treasure. He had barely escaped with his own life, but they refused to believe the truth. That wasn't what bothered him, though; it was the fact that the city would be under the rule of the dragon. They would sacrifice women to it in order to appease it. The image of small Cheche being snatched up in its claws flew through his mind, and he couldn't help looking back at the knot of buildings. Behind him the group of approximately fifty wizards of varying ages, none younger than two thousand, mingled with mournful faeries dashing around their heads, a few pet wing-cats about their feet, and translucent sylphs floating in the air above. The nymphs and most other creatures had already fled in light of the impending terror beginning to rule where kings once were.

A naked fairy woman hovered directly in front of him and then urgently flitted out into the desert. She turned back with a look in her eyes that communicated what she could not say. He needed to lead his people away, into the desert. He pulled his hood up and wrapped a long cloth around his face, every inch of his body covered but his eyes. He began walking out; his small brass dragon Sagira peeping out from a bundle in his right hand, and those behind him followed him in similar outfit. The sylphs and fairies fell behind not much later, and the magic-users were alone in silence. No winds blew over the sandy hills, the dry, hot air simply hung around them. The wing-cats sometimes took to the air for short periods, creating small breezes that couldn't penetrate the all-encompassing robes that the magic-users wore.

The sun soon began to set and the hot air began to plummet towards the frigid. There was nothing in sight, not even the comfort of the city anymore. The reality of food scarcity, crucifixion birds, and cockatrice was suddenly very real. Ajani stopped their march and the mass drew small bits of bread and dried fruit from their sacks, feeding themselves and their pets. Sagira crawled out of Ajani's sack and dug into the warm sand with only its head poking out, so it could talk to Ajani.

"What are you going to do with the magic-users of the First Order that you are now head of, Master Ajani?" Sagira asked.

"Sef will see that the word is spread to the other rivers," Ajani mused, "We will have to find the Aoko. They know the ways of the desert."

"You are correct, they do know the desert Adem well," Sagira said, "That is why you will never find them. They separated themselves from the Orders a long time ago, and they will try to avoid you. Their founder believed that the service of others was beneath magic-users, so they went into the desert to try and find a higher magic. No one knows . . ."

"I know their history," Ajani cut in. If left too long, brass dragons will talk for hours on end without pause. "And it's dangerous. No one knows whether or not they discovered what they wanted."

"It is rumored . . ."

" . . . that they have discovered such things," Ajani interjected again, more irritably, "I know all this. But there is nothing else for us to do. If they even exist anymore then they must have found something. There is no way that they could have survived without using magic of some sort. I know we will, until we find them. I'm afraid more will die."