In a few weeks’ time, they reached the edge of the hills, and touched down on the desert of Mordøn. At that point, Pamela dismounted from the uba’ku, patted it tenderly, and sent it back to its herd. Smoggit bit his lip as he surveyed the desert.
“We should wait here until dark,” he said. “The traveling will be more forgiving at night.”
Pamela removed her robe and began loading up rocks into it.
“Sounds good to me. I ran into some worronî on the way here. Mean creatures. Caught me totally unawares. That won’t happen this time,” she replied.
Smoggit caught her hand.
“As your mentor and friend, I would advise against that,” he said.
She fought his grasp.
“But those things are dangerous. I’m all for harmonious traveling, making buddy-buddy and such, but we can’t afford any injury out there,” she said. “We’d never make it through, otherwise.”
“Your answer is logical but not completely true,” he said. “Yes, those stones would help safeguard our safety for a time, but you cannot run your life on them. Those that anticipate violence will find it. The same goes for peace.”
“Drop the rocks. Please,” he added.
She dropped the rocks. There was, however, one left in the hood of her robe. He allowed her it and released his grasp.
“Thank you,” he said.
She wagged a finger at him.
“If we get hurt, this is on you, though I’ll take no satisfaction in being right,” she said.
“I’ll accept that responsibility,” he said. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
She plopped herself down at the edge of the desert and, together, they waited until nightfall.
As the sun dissolved into the land, casting an orange-red glow upon the world, they rose from their repose and started on the move. With the fledgling moon as their guide, they made their way through the desert. It was cold, but otherwise peaceful. Pamela was definitely grateful for her robe. About halfway through the night, she was about ready to suck down her pride when the hissing began.
Like a cyclone, it swirled around her. She clutched her robe- an automatic, protective response. That is when she felt the stone inside it. Up until then, she had forgot; now, it was all she was thinking about. Her fingers rapped around the stone. That was when the worronî lurched out of concealment.
The next few moments moved very quickly, without any thought. The worronî burst out into open. She grabbed the stone. Smoggit shouted something, but she didn’t hear. He extended his hand, sending a wave of magic at her, knocking her to the floor, but not before she sent the stone flying. It struck the worronî in the head. It wobbled and fell, then shook the earth as its bulk came to rest upon the cold, desert sand.
“I did it,” said Pamela said with mouth slightly agape.
Smoggit rushed to the worronî’s side and put hands upon it. Immediately, a blue glow exuded from him and began soaking into it. Pamela stood back and watched in horror as the worronî began to twitch, then rose and slunk away. When it was gone, Pamela charged at him.
“How could you?” she said while gesturing at him, then vanished animal, and all existence simultaneous. “That thing was trying to kill us, and you had the nerve to bring it back to life.”
Smoggit exhaled, then gestured her forward.
“Follow me,” he said
She stomped her foot, but did as he requested.
They walked a ways, eventually finding themselves in the center of a set of worronî tracks. She had questions, reservations, about this, but kept them in. The questions only grew as they continued on. Finally, she couldn’t hold them in as they continued on. Tired and confused, she finally gave herself permission to voice her concerns.
“Okay, where are we going?!” she said.
Smoggit put a finger to his lips and led her to the edge of a hole. Though turning a pinkish shade of red, she came up beside him and looked into the hole. In the hole, the worronî circled itself around a brood of miniature worronî: a mother and her offspring.
“To an untrained eye, it is hard to discern between the ugly and the beautiful. Often, what we interpret as vile is in fact loving, and the opposite is also true,” he said. “When we are quick to judge, we misdiagnose. You are a most excellent student, Pamela, but you are still a student.”
She stared at the mother and her brood, long after Smoggit had moved on. She stayed long enough for it to notice her. It just flared its nostrils at her and went back to nursing its young.
She moseyed on, venturing into the night, with that image emblazoned onto her mind.