short story, story promptHaila is part of the merchant caravan that travels to far-flung places. They have seen a lot in their journeys and are well-prepared to defend themselves against all manner of thieves and elemental furies. However, things are sometimes bigger than they can fight…


The Alkin Caravan crawled across the barren plain. Holding the reins of the horse pulling her caravan, Haila squinted into the distance. Harsh rays of sunlight made opening her eyes a painful experience. It was so different to the muted green light of the forests back home. Out here, the heat made the smallest jobs become energy-draining tasks. Just sitting still induced constant sweating. Worse, there was no where to take a bath. The plain didn’t seem to hold any water sources, so she was forced to smell herself every day, not to mention the ripe mingling of every other caravan member’s stench.

Panting, Jin sat on the wooden bench next to her. The dog usually loved to scamper off and explore while the caravan slowly moved along, but the past few days, he’d stuck by her side, lying on the bench and begging for water. She was pretty sure he’d crept as close to the edge of the bench as he could over the past three days, as far from her as he could comfortably get. She smirked at him and scratched his head. His poor canine nose was probably overwhelmed.

“We’re nearly there, Jin. Leader Tindal says we should reach the town by mid-afternoon tomorrow. I’ll treat you to a cool bath once we get there.”

Jin yipped softly and went back to panting, his eyes watching the bland scenery go past. Haila tried to concentrate on handling the reins and following the caravan in front. It was difficult to stay focused with the monotony of the surroundings. It didn’t help that the horse didn’t really need much guidance. She simply followed the cart in front of her. Haila didn’t need to do much at all, which was almost putting her to sleep in the warm afternoon.

A low growl from Jin jerked Haila to her senses. The sun seemed lower. Had she nodded off after all? She stretched, twisted her stiff neck. Maybe she should get down and walk for a while.

Jin growled again, his eyes fixed on the horizon. She fondled his ears, but he didn’t respond to the attention. The sun was beginning its descent behind them, giving her tired eyes some relief from the constant glare. Ahead, the plain seemed to stretch on forever. She peered into the distance and tried to see what had Jin so anxious.

At first, she couldn’t see anything. The horizon was as flat as it had been for the past few days. There was nothing different out there, but she could feel Jin quivering under her hand.

“What’s wrong, boy?” she murmured. “What can you sense?”

Her horse stopped abruptly, ears flicking back and forth. Talk was beginning to rise from the other caravans as her companions noticed the strange behaviour in their own animals.

“What is that?” some one yelled.

Out of the hazy distance, a massive, dirty red-brown cloud seemed to form, growing bigger as it sped towards them.

“Defensive circle!” Leader Tindal shouted. “Everyone get into formation and prepare your weapons.”

Haila strung her bow and manoeuvred her horse and caravan into the correct position. The dogs were all starting to bark frantically and terrified whinnies came from the more skittish horses.

Something big was coming…

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