Crash Of The Magi
Nom and I sat close to the camp fire and indulged in our favourite argument. The others had all settled into their pouches, hanging from the sides of our sleeping Dune-Winders. Despite the need for rest in the cool of night, and the fact our caravan would resume its journey with the sunrise, we staved off slumber and engaged in discourse, as was our wont.
I had come from the Lunula Waterhole and there we believe that we are natives of this world, having always traversed its deserts and clustered in its clement places. Nom, however, was born in the Verdant Crevice and their legends say that our kind had fallen from the night sky long ago. We knew that the Cosmos was teeming with life because of the Shining City. Watch it from a safe distance and you could see the manifold star-faring craft come and go. But whether we once possessed such conveyances and then forgot how to use them was a never-ending contention among us.
Our fun was interrupted by a surprising light in the sky. We looked in time to see a meteorite careening across the night. As common as it was, such moments were always engrossing, and this one was brighter than most. Nom noted that, rather than fade while still aloft, it had rushed on towards the horizon to be obscured by a nearby dune. We looked at one another and then shared the same impulse - to go see if something had fallen into the desert.
We woke a Hopper from its slumber, mounted it and steered it over the dune and into the plain beyond. Nom also had the presence-of-mind to bring a Waft-Wing along, in case we needed to send word back to our companions. We traversed the sands quickly and could see our destination clearly, due to the light of one and a half full moons. As we approached, our excitement grew, as we'd never been so close to the handiwork of alien artifice.
The crashed craft had torn a long furrow across the ground and we could see its impact had produced dollops of melted glass. It was then we knew that there was profit to be made from this discovery, and we sent the Waft-Wing back to the caravan to summon help. Then we turned our attention to the crashed vessel itself. The mostly intact craft was huge. Three Dune-Winders lying snout to tail would approximate its length. Parts of it had come off and were scattered along the ground. I carefully examined a part, which looked and felt like an odd blend of metal and ceramic.
As we got closer we saw a gaping hole in the side and Nom decided to go in. I argued that we should be wary, just as we were with the Shining City. Nom retorted that just one crashed ship was nothing to be scared of and proceeded to enter into its darkened interior. Somewhat cautiously, I followed, drawing forth a small jar of glow-jelly from my satchel.
We discerned that there were several rooms on two levels arranged around a cross-way of narrow passages. Fully a half of its bulk was composed of whatever mechanics made it fly. There was a smell of burning throughout. In the forward-most chamber we found three inhabitants, and we could tell that they were alive, because they were moving, if with difficulty. Nom and I had sometimes speculated on what aliens looked like. We had wondered whether they had downy hides or scales or chitinous carapaces like the various living things that inhabited our world. Suddenly we had three specimens right in front of us. They all had the same arrangement of limbs as us, but beyond that each was different.
The smallest of them seemed to be encased in the same substance that the ship itself was made of, including glassy portions from which scintillating colours shined. I supposed it wore some kind of armour but Nom mused that it could be the wholly artificial burlesque of a person.
The largest was definitely a naturally-grown life-form and a bulky one at that. It seemed to wear barely anything but its skin looked tougher than the cured hide of a Crevice-Creeper. And it had other features that set it apart from us, too many of some things, too few of others.
It was the third skyfarer that drew the most attention from us both, not because of strangeness, but because of familiarity. Nom shot me a meaningful glance because, while the clothes and cosmetic markings were exotic, the visitor otherwise looked like us. Had I just lost our favourite argument? My private musings were interrupted then because the strangers suddenly started talking to us in our own language!
They introduced themselves by using role titles rather than names. The one that looked like us was Pilot. The big lumpy one was Cookie. The small lustrous one was Tinker. They asked us to bring them some devices from another room on the same level. Soon they were using these objects to re-set limbs and close wounds. Both Nom and I wanted to ask them so many things but Pilot interrupted us with just one very insistent question - could we help them get to the Shining City? They had crashed accidentally and needed to get back there. They knew nothing of how to survive in the desert or even how to navigate in it. We both rushed to agree that we would. It was only as we did so that we heard the calls of our kindred outside.
I stayed inside with the castaways while Nom went outside to talk to our companions. It was our intent to calm both groups and to secure help for us to fulfill our promise. Some in the caravan were standoffish but others were curious like us. Furthermore they were all interested in the profit that may come from the sand-glass and any debris we could collect. Such items could bring us other things we wanted at the next oasis. Pilot, Cookie and Tinker agreed to let us take anything loose outside of what they called the Magi Class Transporter. The sand-glass alone was reckoned to bring our caravan much bartering power and consequently our group were happy to assist the castaways.
Once negotiations were completed we had a plan. One of the three Dune-Winders was re-packed to take Pilot, Cookie, Tinker, Nom and I on a journey. The other two would be over-laden for a while but our wandering community had the capacity as long as the Hoppers took more baggage than usual. We were also allowed to borrow one Waft-Wing in case we needed it. Our intention was to take the aliens to within sight of the Shining City and then let them walk the rest of the way. Everyone then had what sleep they could at the crash site, with the Dune-Winders gathered around it.
At dawn we all shared food and told tales. The castaways were reserved and told us very few things, but they were courteous and kind. Cookie shared some of his spices to combine with our stew. It was tasty and even our youngsters decided that the hefty alien was fine by us. Tinker examined a small clockwork toy that had recently been broken and fixed it with amazingly dexterous fingers. Some of us joked that it was fitting for a machine to fix a machine, even if nobody had confirmed Nom's speculation. We were all too polite to ask many questions of our new guests.
Finally the time came for us to get into the interconnected pods atop our Dune-Winder and prompt it to get moving. We waved to the caravan and started our journey. Nom and I were excited. In part it was because of our destination, in part it was the responsibility we both shared for this task, and in part it was the strangers sharing the journey with us. Pilot told us that we would be rewarded once they got home. At that Nom started singing a song of celebration. I however fretted that we had taken on too much and were too trusting of our new companions. This I pondered silently as we crested the first of many dunes to come.
In this story I decided to let the reader imagine even more than I usually do. Description is limited and in particular I try to say nothing of what the various species look like. I even omit any reference to gender. Does this work? I would be interested if anyone told me what gaps their imaginations filled in for them.
Labels: Creative Writing