II. Sano embarks on the road

Sano remained rooted to the spot for three days. On the first day she screamed and could not stop. It spooled from her lungs involuntarily, a single wretched and pathetic note of terror. Her limbs did not obey her, but even if they did, she had no memory of how to. The only thing she knew that day was the color and sound of inferno.

On the second day her voice had dwindled to a wheezing gasp and she could scream no more. Sensation returned bit by bit to her digits. She found herself parched - though demons technically need no sustenance, they require such things to remind themselves that they are alive, and Sano had only recently remembered - and looked around to find water.

The land before her was scorched to a state of dryness that drew moisture from the air and turned it to nothing. Sano searched futilely for a couple of minutes before remembering the bramble-roots embedded in the ground. Scrambling to her hands and knees, she pulled them up and suckled meager drops of dew from the ends until her parched throat was soothed. Then she stripped the bark from them with her teeth, which satiated her hunger, at least for a little while.

No longer delirious with thirst and hunger, Sano's mind returned to her. She remembered all she had lost. Her mother was gone. Her siblings were gone.

Sano curled up into a ball on the cracked earth, and began to weep.

On the third day, the sky had turned from orange to a turgid teal-green. The air seemed to be putrefying. The cut on the horizon was seeping black pus into the surrounding atmosphere. Thick black spores drifted intermittently to the ground.

Sano had gathered all the rocks and stones she could find that hadn't been superheated to glass in the explosion, and had arranged them into a crude pile of mourning-stones. She had nothing to carve names into them with, so she tried to assign them by closest likeness- this one resembled the round shape of Olon's belly, this one was dotted with chips of blue. It was difficult to find much of any differentiating value between them. Sano resolved to keep track of them in her mind, though she was already having trouble remembering which were which.

She clasped her hands and murmured into her palms the requisite prayer for the dead:


Sano mourning

One of the black spores landed on her beak. She looked up uneasily at the ravaged sky above her. A cold feeling prickled under her skin. She did not think it would be safe to linger much longer here.

Next to where the four-horned skull had once been wound a road, a long road made of chipped yellow brick. It had existed before they moved there, and would probably exist long after - it was older than most things Sano knew, and it only weathered meager signs of damages from the fire.

Sano had no idea where the road led. She had only ever strayed so far from the home, and she had always been warned that those who walked the sands alone seldom returned. In the desert there were circling buzzards, and roving mercenaries, and terrible beasts, and probably worse things beyond Sano's imagination.

But there was nothing here anymore but ash. If death was probable in the desert, it was certain here. Hesitantly, trembling with exhaustion, Sano departed on the road.