Panno’s mother had told him many tales of the Scrape. Standing atop the cliff face, he looked at it for the first time with his own eyes. The caravan he was a part had stopped to tend to mastiffs. The large desert breed could go many more leagues before needing to rest, but the caravan masters saw no need to push the them further than needed. They were under no hurry to reach the city of Kanafara. The Scrape spread out before him in sweeping grandeur leaving Panno with hushed breathes. The land was flat to the dust obscured horizon. His sharp eyes did not see even the smallest boulder or rock to break the bleak plain. Tassel’friti were the only things he saw dancing about the plain. The dust devils would swirl to heights of twenty men before spinning themselves to nothing. His mother had told him the ‘friti were the spirits of those who failed to cross the Scrape. Their ghost still attempted to finish the journey, but were doomed to failed in death what they could not achieve in life.
“What is it you see upon the Scrape, young Panno?” asked a voice behind him.
Panno turn and saw Charten approach. He held a water-skin out toward to Panno.
“I see the ‘friti dance in the sun, Master Charten,” said Panno.
As Panno drunk from the skin, Charten said, “Be wary, young Panno. The ‘friti are tricksters. They will lure you to share their fate.”
“My mother told me the stories, Master. I do not wish to share their fate,” said Panno.
“Our caravan will have no need to touch the Scrape, but will shall get closer still before we make the Great Eastern Road. There will be a point where our journey will meet the northern most edge and will shall be on level with it. Not looking upon it from this safe height. That is when you must be on guard against it,” said Charten.
“I will remember your words, Master. I thank you for the water, “ said Panno.
“Drink your fill. Water is life. I’ll not have any of my charges perish from thirst,” said Charten.
Panno took another long draught from the skin before handing it back to Charten.
“We shall commence our travel in a short time. Finish your study of the Scrape and return to your talon,” said Charten.
“I shall, Master,” said Panno.
Panno took only moment to watch the talon master walk away before turning back to the Scrape. He smiled has he remember other tales his mother had told him. If what master Charten told him was true, he would be able to view the land better in a few days time despite the danger. With an effort of will, Panno set his back to the Scrape and walked back to where his talon waited in the caravan. None of the other boys from his village of Rondu had wanted to see the Scrape. Maybe their mothers told them other stories of it. Even his best friend, Teman, had declined to join him. Memories of his time in the village still brought a smile to him. He had been away from it and his mother for a week. Still it seemed much longer since the caravan had come to his village seeking young bodies to train at the great temple in Kanafara. Many boys had offered to go, but only a count of twenty, a full talon, had been chosen. Panno was glad his friend was among the chosen. They had traded tales of their plans each night. Each night the telling grew. Tonight Panno was sure the stories would have them became great priest or mighty kahli. The fact that many would fail the test and be sent back to their villages did not enter into their dreams. They told each other the fingers of destiny touched them.
“So, Panno, did the ‘friti steal your soul?” asked Saul.
Panno grinned at the question. Saul was younger than Panno by only a year, but he had appointed himself the leader of their talon. Panno did not mind the boy his imagined station. For all of his and Teman’s stories, he did not want to lead. He was more than satisfied with his position in life.
“No. They paid no heed to my visit,” said Panno.
“Or could it be that they did not want it?” asked Saul with opened mouth grin.
“I thought to offer them yours, but they pair me no heed,” grinned Panno back.
“Quiet this talk. It is not good to to make light of the spirits of the Scrape,” said young Argin.
“They can not hear us, Argin. And if they did, they would not not care. They are consumed with their own failure,” said Saul.
“Master Charten said we will not touch upon the sands of the Scrape, but we shall come close to them. That is when we must be on our guard. Hold your avatar close to you then, Argin,” said Panno with a wink to Saul.
“This talk is not good,” whispered Argin.
Panno found Teman asleep in the shadow under a cart. He shook his friend and said, “Come Teman, we are about to continue our journey into greatness.”
Teman eyed Panno with sleepy, but sour eyes. He lifted himself onto his elbows to see the caravan stretching before him. “Does not appear that way.”
“Master Charten told me himself. I would not have you left behind to be trampled by the fire dogs and their carts. I would not have a future kahli treated as such.”
“So, I am a kahli now. Does this mean you will be the priest?” said Teman.
“We will be neither if you do come from under there and join me on the journey,” said Panno.
As if his words were the command, the horns of the caravan masters sounded the call to recommence the journey. Panno helped his friend up from under the cart and joined the rest of their talon in formation. It still took a few minutes for the forward movement to reach their section of the long caravan. When it did, Saul waved them onward.