Mohave Mojo

Quivren strode through Mohave, the city he had been born in. The deserts of Khylar where a dry and rocky place, the water that was so prevalent elsewhere on the planet hidden deep belowground. With hardly any water near the surface, the resident lizard-like people had adapted to live underground in cool caverns, digging until they reached the water so they could survive. And in places they even managed to thrive.
Quivren's city was surely one of the largest to be found in the desert. The large walls of it magnificent hills even providing enough shade and shelter to support some modest agriculture. But Quivren knew nothing of plants and animals. He excelled in entertainment, illusions and sleight of hand. As a performer he tried to stay in character for as long as possible.... which currently meant just about always. He liked looking magical and mysterious so it didn't feel like a chore, more like a joy. 
Despite that he was still quite successful, the mage had decided that the time was right to go on a tour to different cities. He could use the time on the road to create new tricks and when he returned he would dazzle his fellow citizens with a whole new show. He couldn't wait to get started. 
But today, just a mere day before he and the bodyguards he'd hired to help him on his journey would depart, he had been called to the police station. He just hoped everything was in order with the permits. Fixing things now would be near impossible without a good-sized bribe and that was money he didn't want to spend if he could help it. 

Xafore waited in jail. Trust the cops to be both misogynist and racist. She had done nothing wrong. But the unusual colour of her skin, the way her hide formed segments and the lack of horns made her stick out wherever she went. She'd been abandoned at birth and left out near Mohave. Maybe it would have been better if no-one had found her. Because she'd clearly been found by people of another race. They had raised her, but she'd not been given a decent chance, not to mention any sign of love. 
As the years had went on, Xafore had started exhibiting an even stranger ability that had caused her to have trouble fitting in. Because to the lizard-people in the Mohave region enjoyed magic, to actually possess it was unheard of. But Xafore could do little things. Anyone getting close to her got zapped by a small electric charge. Nothing that would hurt them, but enough to keep them away. Not that she minded to be alone. It was something she just couldn't hide. Not like her other power. Xafore was certain nobody knew what else she could do, which was to manipulate metal to some extent. She could melt the softer metals and shape them. Just by touching them. Again something that no lizard-person should be able to do. So what was she? She honestly had no clue.
The only certainty she had was that she would be punished for something and she didn't even know what that was. 

Ymber waited for his client to arrive at the police station. He had been looking forward to a simple guard job away from his official police business but sadly the higher ups had gotten other ideas. He would need to urgently transfer his prisoner Xafore to the edge of their territory and let her go. As orders went that was pretty straightforward but also pretty harsh since the region he was supposed to drop her off in was just about far from everything. Except sand and rocks. She must have really rubbed someone the wrong way because for the most part she'd been a well-behaved prisoner. Only those little zaps were uncomfortable but nothing he couldn't handle. 
Quivren entered the police office, looking relaxed and focused. Ymber let go of his breath and figured the magician could probably be reasoned with. But after giving his explanation Quivren was far from pleased.
"We had a contract, I payed you an advance. There must be someone else who can take her." he said.
"I'm afraid I've been ordered to take her and my planned vacation has been revoked. I can bring you in contact with some other guards and of course my partner Ruena is still very much available." Ymber apologised.
"But can they be ready to leave tomorrow?"
"That would be difficult." Ymber acknowledged, "But surely one or two days of delay wouldn't be that bad."
"It would actually. It all has to do with the place of the moons and sun..." Quivren insisted, not keen on letting Ymber walk all over him. The man had assured him he was the best and Quivren would not settle for less. 
At this point Ruena walked in, the red-tinted lizard-woman walked with an easy gait, her strides long and elegant but purposeful. She was as good a dancer as a fighter and used both skills in either setting. If there was one thing she hated it was when things didn't go as planned. And though she didn't mind taking on some guard duty in her vacation to get extra funds, she wasn't keen on changing her partner in such short notice. 
"Where do you need to drop the prisoner off?" Ruena asked Ymber.
Looking at the map when he told her she saw the solution was so easy she was amazed neither men had proposed it yet. But maybe they just needed a little bit of good sense to be knocked into their heads.
"We can easily combine the jobs." she said, "We'd have to take a detour but not one that would be more dangerous or take more time than what we originally planned. If Master Quivren doesn't mind having an extra companion on the trip that should work. And since you're on official police business you can probably lower his fee a bit so everyone's happy."
Ruena let the boys ponder the idea and went to the criminal behind bars. The woman looked absolutely drab and sickly with an unhealthy greenish colour. Her limp hair lacked luster and other things about her appearance made Ruena uncomfortable. But she didn't let those feelings show through to keep the upper hand. 
"So what did you do?" she asked Xafore.
"Nothing." the other woman bit back.
"Can't be if they're dropping you off the map like that. But oh well, my job isn't to ask questions anyway."
But though Ruena said that she still wondered. The woman didn't exactly look like a formidable foe. 


The next day dawned early and despite a late night performing, Quivren felt energised and excited to leave. Ruena and Ymber looked all business-like in leather outfits that would protect themselves somewhat. Running around in metal armour was just not sensible out in the desert where the sun could fry your brain beneath a helmet. Xafore looked like she least wanted to be there and that was probably quite true. 
Ruena took the reigns of the carriage that held their luggage and would seat both Xafore and Quivren while Ymber rode on the other drocal, long-limbed animals that could withstand the heat by storing fat in their backs and flanks. They were notoriously stubborn and difficult to handle, but there was just no alternative. 
Ymber took a look around and then gave the signal to start, Ruena snapped her span of drocals in action and then they were off, the sun not even a hand above the horizon. Neither of the guards expected problems this close to Mohave and wanted to make as much progress as possible before they'd set up camp. And then they'd worry about the next day's route. 

Inside the carriage, Xafore snuck a peek at Quivren. She kept her head down and observed. The so-called mage was of course anything but magical. She had to give the guy points for being unperturbed by being in a carriage with a supposed criminal. 
"I'd be happy to talk." Quivren said, startling Xafore.
"No really," he said as she kept quiet, "I'd love to talk."
"Why?" she asked.
"I love mysteries." he confessed, "And you certainly are one."
Xafore returned to looking down and ignored the man. Which is why she didn't see him extend his hand towards her. Apparently the guards hadn't told him that anyone coming within an inch of her would get zapped. Both of them jolted up when the charge set off.
"So it's true." Quivren said sounding quite happy.
So apparently the guards had told him to keep away from her. Xafore stared at the man who looked absolutely ecstatic. She wondered briefly if he was a masochist.
"You have true magic." he said, for once falling out of his role and returning to being that small child who'd been charmed by his first magic show. Amazed at the wonder of the world. 
"It isn't magic." Xafore sighed.
"Then what is it?" Quivren asked her.
"A curse." she whispered.
Quivren snorted, "Only if you let it be. I could do so much with that." 
Inside his mind the little cogs were already turning and making up numerous tricks in which to use the electric charge. Could it be set off by objects? Animals? Or did it have to be people? Could Xafore control it? 
"Can you do other things?" he suddenly asked her.
Xafore wanted to lie, but it felt so nice to not be shunned or feared that she actually wanted to show him what else she could do.
"I think it's actually the same power." she told him.
Xafore grabbed Quivren's hand and took one of his rings, a simple gold band that didn't seem like it held much sentiment. To make sure she looked at him questioning. As he nodded, she let the heat flow through her hands and then twisted. Reforming the ring before handing it back.
Quivren looked at his ring in wonder. It wouldn't fit on the same finger, but Quivren moved it to another and knew that he would never sell it or give it away. This was a treasure. 
"With that power you could work as a jeweller." he told her though he wanted her to be more interested in magic.
"Nobody wants jewellery that was made by a freak." she answered. 
"Heh, a smart teacher would keep you out of view and his store stocked with your wares. But I guess nobody even tried to see what you could do."
"It's too late now though." Xafore said dejected. 
Quivren stayed quiet but vowed to see what he could do. He had seen many people over the years and Xafore didn't look like someone who'd consciously do something wrong. Maybe she'd be a little vindictive but people had done her wrong. Maybe he could ask the guard for extra information. 

Ruena looked out onto the road ahead. A few hours out of Mohave it was more a track or the impression of wheels that had gone before to be honest. But she didn't mind the rough going, looking at the road as a challenge. Sand, rocks and a few stray patches of grass and weeds were just about all she could see. But her mind was busy charting the terrain and she navigated the carriage between obstacles. Somewhere around, Ymber was surveying the surroundings. She knew he'd yell at the first signs of trouble. 
Inside she could Quivren and Xafore talking. She should tell Quivren to refrain from making contact, but where could Xafore go to? They were going to drop her off somewhere in the desert anyway. Not knowing what her felony was didn't sit right with Ruena. Not that she needed to know out of curiosity, but an idea would be nice to know what she could expect during the trip. 

Out in the terrain, Ymber was observing the solitude of the day. There was absolutely nobody in sight. He foresaw no problems and almost felt a bit let down that things were proceeding so smoothly. Of course, bandits staking out the desert would know when to expect caravans or traders passing through. Most of them were probably elsewhere doing what they did to survive. 
On they went and finally the sun started to descend. The light would disappear soon and Ymber whistled to Ruena to start looking for a place to set up camp. He started to make his way back toward the others when a shadow caught his eye. Almost by reflex he turned but saw nothing. 
"Am I seeing things?" he asked his mount but the drocal seemed to be unperturbed.  

After night had fallen, the two guards, the mage and the unwilling traveller were sitting around the fire after they'd eaten supper. Xafore was staring stubbornly into the fire. Ymber seemed to be quite happy to remain quiet himself. So Quivren turned to Ruena, twirling his moustache into shape to ask:
"Would you like to see what I'm working on?"
"Why yes I do." she smiled.
Ruena liked action, crowds and excitement, things that this evening was severely lacking. She had prepared herself to such a state, knowing that Ymber was all business. But if their charge offered there was no reason to decline. She stretched her back and sat up straighter to get a better view while Quivren rose to his feet and arranged his coat. The long garment with the wide sleeves was an absolute necessity to a magician. People would expect him to reach into his sleeves and pull out all kinds of unlikely items. Quivren would indulge his audience of course, but there was more to his coat than just a hiding place. 
Maybe it was a bit silly to show his next trick to only a handful of people, but he just couldn't restrain himself. So he made a whole show of pulling flowers from his coat, bending down to offer them to Ruena and then clumsily tripping. Quivren adjusted his body so he would kneel down beside the fire, as planned his coat fluttered down unto the flames and in a whoosh of blue flames the fire spread all around him, extinguished and left him completely uninjured, but now with a bright orange, pink and purple patterned coat in stead of the cool blue and green swirls that had been on there before. 
Quivren rose to his feet and made a bow. But his little performance had caused quite a stir. Ruena and Ymber were now both standing, and had apparently rushed to his side. They seemed tense but reassured by his bow that he wasn't hurt.
'Let us know next time you're going to pull a stunt like that." Ymber said curtly.
"It was amazing though." Ruena added, trying to make Quivren feel better.
"How did you do that?" Xafore asked.
Quivren felt a small flutter of victory as this was he first time Xafore had spoken before being addressed. He sat bac down and waited for Ymber and Ruena to do the same before he said:
"You know a magician should never reveal his tricks."
He paused for effect, "But since you showed me your magic I shall indulge."
Quivren explained that his coat had been custom-made to have a fire-resistant lining. The outside was actually brightly coloured but he had covered the rich colours with a special coloured varnish that burned fast and extinguished after it's last drop had evaporated. 
"Amazing as that effect is, this trick depends on theatrics. Just by pretending to fall, people watching get stirred up, scared that I might get hurt and that intensifies their feelings of wonder when I remain unhurt. You really should put more drama into your magic and use it to wow people."
Xafore shook her head and returned to staring into the fire. Quivren could say all he wanted, she was still an outsider. One with a barely veiled dead sentence hanging above her head. 
"Maybe we should call it a day." Ymber said.
The guard knew that Quivren hadn't spoken as if Xafore wouldn't join them all the way. Ymber knew the magician well enough to know that the man was probably planning something to make them reconsider. But orders were orders and they couldn't pardon a convicted felon even if he had his doubts about what she'd supposedly done. He would have a word with Ruena later and switch jobs with her so he could keep a closer eye on Quivren and Xafore. 


With the sun barely above the horizon, the little caravan was packing up and getting ready to depart. Ymber shouldn't have worried as Xafore didn't respond to anything and just stared at the ground of the wagon. With each rotation of the wheels they were getting closer to the place where they would drop her off. Last night had been surprisingly pleasant. They could have kept her tied up in the cart. They could have gagged her. Instead they ahd allowed her to walk and talk with them. And honestly, where could she run to? Xafore knew she wouldn't survive out on her own in the desert. 
Quivren tried to get Xafore to open up again but he might as well have been talking to a wall. He didn't even think she was listening. His heart went out to her. He would plea with Ymber and Ruena to forget about their task. He and Xafore could vanish together. His mind was already creating the magic tricks they could do together. 
Ruena felt her drocal tense. Something had spooked it good and they were known to take out rattlers and other venomous critters with their hooves. She gave the animal free rein and knew it would head away from the perceived threat. The drocal headed straight back to the wagon which probably meant that the road they'd been planning to take was blocked somehow. But there was nothing she could do about that except to report it and to try to take another path.
Ymber stopped when Ruena got close. She told them of the situation. His first instinct was to find out what the problem was. But they were hardly inconspicuous with the carriage. Any animal or bandit already knew they were coming. 
"I fear taking another route wouldn't help us. We could try though." Ymber said, 'We just have to know that whatever is there might start to trail us."
"We could try to ambush it?" Ruena suggested.
"We have a couple of weapons." Ymber mused, they could probably take on a wild animal or a stray bandit.
"Our best chance would be us two against whatever is out there." Ruena agreed.
"Leaving the wagon here might be dangerous." Ymber replied.
If they were up against a larger group then leaving Quivren and Xafore behind could spell trouble.
Before they could make a decision on their course of action, a large shadow obscured the sky. A large winged reptilian flew over, turned and then descended to land right next to them. The drocals whined, bucked and generally tried to get away but Ruena and Ymber hung on to the reins. 
"Dragon!" Ymber called to let the others know what was happening, "Take over the reins!".
Quivren jumped out and grabbed the span of drocals so Ymber could ready his weapons. They would do nothing against a dragon but he wasn't about to lie down without a fight. 
"Xafore! Zap it!" Quivren called, hoping the woman had been shaken out of her gloomy thoughts.
The dragon had landed by then but made no move to attack. A man appeared to jump down from it's back. He held out his hands and called:
"I'm unarmed and mean no harm!"
"Who are you and what are your intentions?" Ymber called back.
"A traveller who happened to pop up on the wrong planet. I just want to get some information and I'll be on my way again."
The blue dragon remained at a comfortable distance. The beast looked intelligent by the way it held it's head, like it was listening to what they were saying. The drocals seemed to have calmed down and Ymber carefully lowered his weapon, signalling Ruena to keep hers pointed at the man. 
"What do you want to know?" he asked.
"The name of this planet please. And if possible it's space coordinates?"
"You're on Khylar." Quivren called back, "Though I don't know what these coordinates are."
"Figured." the man muttered.
"We could always take them." the blue dragon suddenly spoke, sending Ymber and Ruena back on edge. 
"If they want." it added sensing their disturbance, "Then they could tell us more. I sense that they are promising bonds even if they look a little bit different."
At this Xafore snorted. Certainly, the man that had jumped down from the dragon lacked horns, scales, a tail. He looked as vulnerable as a newborn sandmouse. In fact she was probably the one that resembled him most though that was a far stretch. 
"I want to come." she told them. 
It was a chance after all. And she would take it. Her time with Quivren had taught her she needed to be more assertive. But she was still surprised when Quivren said: "Take me too.'
"Why?" she asked him, "You can stay here and entertain the masses."
"I know when I've found something good. I'm not letting you go."
"What about you two?" the man asked Ymber and Ruena, "I can take you too.'
Ruena felt torn. This was an adventure. She'd felt no danger from neither the dragon nor the man. Maybe she was naive but she felt like she could trust them. And what was holding her here? She could find work elsewhere. Her family could go on without her. 
"I want to go." she said, looking at Ymber to gauge his expression.
"Then I'll come too." he conceded. 
He couldn't be the only one to return. It would be better to keep an eye on all of them if possible.
"Don't worry." the man said, "You'll be able to return here without problem once we know where here is."
"Comforting." Ymber smirked. 




Lantessama Isle
Background images found with google long ago.
Fonts used are Lydian and Broadway.