The Legend of the Rah
Author: LCD

Chapter 7
Outside the Palisade

Myquenna quickly turned her head back and her eyes found the figure of her brother on top of the outlook tower. He was waving joyfully to his brother down on the ground. Loar looked up and smiled, giving Dworne a thumbs-up sign. Everyone, even the playing kids, had turned to look up at Dworne. Myquenna wasn't sure what this was all about. Suusuara came to the door again where Myquenna was standing, still trying to figure out what the commotion was all about. The woman explained,


“That will be the food supply we are waiting for...'' She said and smiled at Myquenna. “They were supposed to be here yesterday already and we were worried something had happened. But it is a long, difficult journey. It may take longer than expected sometimes. The important thing is that they get here safely.''


Myquenna nodded. She looked up to Dworne again who had turned back and was leaning out over the palisade to get the best possible view. The girl gave in to her sudden urge to join him up there and have a look herself. She lifted her dress and hurried over the yard and to the tower.


“Wait girl! You can't go up there. Children aren't allow...''


“I'm Dworne's sister! You can't stop me!'' She said boldly and slipped under his arm. Before he could grab hold of her, Myquenna had already scuttled up the first story of the tower. The guard shrugged his shoulder and let her have her way, after all she was also their leader's sister.


Panting, Myquenna arrived at the top and thrust against the edge of the palisade next to her brother. The view was breathtaking. She could see miles and miles out over the dusty plain. Closer to the horizon there was a mountain range with green forests -- the place from which the tree trunks for the logs of this very palisade had to be transported. Dworne seemed to be concentrating on the small pillar of a dust cloud that was closing in on the camp. Myquenna didn't bother much about that but immediately started admiring the new views that she was offered from up here. It was like a fresh wind and a relief for her mind to see the extent and wideness of the plain, to sense the promise of plants and wildlife in the forests that covered the mountains in the distance, and to greet the unbounded blue sky above them.


All this unbelievably pretty nature was already sufficient to make Myquenna forget about the confining walls around her. Yet, it left her completely unprepared for what awaited her eyes when she turned her gaze over to her left hand side. She was shocked by the magnificent scenery that opened up in front of her. The plain suddenly ended, as if the world was taking a pause there or as though the entire plain they were on was part of the sky, high above the rest of the world. Because unexpectedly, the cliffs dropped steeply into the vast, wide-open gap of the Aylashua Canyon with the Tower of Aylashua, right in its middle. The shear vastness of the canyon's extent offered a spectacular view, displaying endless bands of layered sedimentary rock formations with ever-shifting reddish and brownish tones sprinkled with green shrubs. At the bottom, Myquenna could make out the river that had excavated the canyon in millions and millions of years.


Myquenna's eyes were devouring the beauty of the sight and her mind was trying to grasp all the details. It was an unearthly experience, making her forget for a moment what their purpose for being here was. If they had not come here for making war against Zylbersdyne's army, Myquenna would have liked to explore the place out of shear curiosity. She loved the countryside that she had come from but this was extraordinary and incomparable.


“You're not supposed to be up here, you know that!'' Dworne admonished his sister without taking his look from the dust cloud on the horizon. Myquenna kept enjoying the view and remained at her brother's side. She sensed his growing uneasiness while he was studying the approaching caravan and furrowed her forehead.


“It's strange...'' he mumbled. The guard nodded but was quiet at first. “Shouldn't there be more? They seem so few.''


“I know, that's why I wasn't sure at first, myself. Maybe the others are further behind.'' The guard suggested tentatively.


“Trouble on the way?!'' Dworne asked. The guard shrugged his shoulders.


“Dworne! What's wrong?'' Myquenna wanted to know now. Dworne began to shake his head slowly, as it was becoming more and more evident that only one wagon was rolling through the landscape. He didn't notice Myquenna's tugging at his arm. He exhaled heavily and shouted at the guard,


“They took five wagons protected by twenty hippos! Thirty experienced warriors! What kind of resistance could they have encountered?!''


“Dworne! What do you mean?! Do you think someone got hurt?''


The young man looked at his sister but still didn't reply. It was as if he was looking right through her.


“Zylbersdyne...'' Dworne mumbled to himself and then he turned back to the guard. “So that's where he was sending the Chrah at. Attacking our food supplies route, our weakest spot.'' Myquenna's brother turned brusquely to the guard again. He slapped his right fist into the palm of his left hand. “We have to stop the food dump! Did they open the gate yet?''


“Do we have a problem with our food? Dworne!'' His  sister asked confused.


“I... I think they proceeded on schedule... yesterday. I'm not sure, though.'' The guard said meekly.


“Aaargh!'' Dworne cried out, “Fools! They should have waited until the return of the caravan when it didn't show up yesterday!'' He left the guard and his sister behind and started marching vigorously along the walkway on the top of the palisade. He seemed to be heading toward a certain place. Myquenna ran after him and caught up,


“Dworne, please! Please tell me what's going on!''


“I told you to get down from here. It's dangerous for children!'' Dworne didn't slow down and didn't even bother to argue further with his sister. She was trying to keep pace with her brother on the narrow walkway, carefully finding her steps on the wooden planks and lifting the hem of her dress to prevent herself from stumbling and falling to a certain death on the ground far below.


“What's this food dump you mentioned?!''


“Right over there!'' He pointed his finger. Myquenna was surprised she was getting an answer this time that she bumped into her brother. Dworne cursed under his breath as they approached the place. “Until now, we always had more than enough food. So we could afford to dump the leftovers and waste over the palisade. At least it would relieve the situation for the people in the satellite camps to some degree. But now...''


Dworne looked over the edge of the palisade and saw that the guard had been right. They had done as usual and thrown down the food to where the poor people on the outside could collect it. Myquenna leaned over the top to have a look herself. Then she saw it. Spread out around the foot of the steep cliff that the camp had been built on was a village with a myriad of tents and simple dwellings. Thousands of people were living there in misery and she could tell that the people down there were suffering. They had no adequate shelter from the sun, they had no protection from possible enemy attacks by a strong palisade, and obviously their food situation was desperate. Even now, there were a few people climbing around below the place where the gate in the palisade could open for the dumping of the food. At the bottom there seemed to be a base with inedible waste that no one seemed to care about but food waste lay scattered all around the cliff and some were on a precarious hunt for food that had ended up on high ledges.


“Of course most of yesterday's dump is already plundered...'' Dworne said with a sigh. “Seems, some desperate kids are looking for things that got stuck higher up over there.'' He made a vehement gesture with the palm of his hand turned upwards in dismay.


Myquenna leaned over farther to have a better look, supporting herself on her elbows. Her locket slipped out from under the collar of her dress and dangled over the cliff from her neck. Myquenna gave a gasp but she realized that the chain was keeping it safely around her neck.


“Be careful, Quenn! I don't want you falling over the palisade and down the cliff!'' Dworne warned his sister. But she was already looking down and was struck by amazement. She felt appalled by the situation the people were left in.


“Those people live from our leftover waste?!'' Myquenna asked outraged. “Why don't we let them inside the camp? Why can't we share the food equally?''


Dworne snorted,


“Quenn! This is a military camp -- in first place -- there is not enough space for everybody. And making a bigger camp would take too much time and effort. And there's not enough food to keep the army well-nourished as well as the people down there... They should never have followed us out here, anyway!''


Myquenna turned her head to look at Dworne but without leaving her position,


“They're probably as desperate as we are...''


“Well, it just got a shade more desperate it seems...'' Dworne said darkly, “I'm going down now to meet the people from the caravan and find out what went wrong. -- And you should get off of here now!''


He turned around and rushed off. Myquenna obeyed and let her feet, which she had lifted up a few inches, back down to the walkway. Too late she realized that the necklace got caught around one of the poles and snapped. Instinctively, the girl grabbed for the it and got hold of one end. But the locket was pulled down by gravity, the eyelet ran out of chain and slipped off and flew down on the other side of the palisade.


“No!!'' The girl shouted in horror and thrust herself against the edge of the palisade again. She saw how the flat piece of metal glided through the air, sailing downward, out of reach.


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