CHAPTER 2: THE SANDSTORM
It had come from nowhere, a great brawling, howling, sucking monster of a sandstorm that tore at her face with granite claws and seared her ears with it’s wail. She felt like she was in a storm of razors as they struggled blindly over dune and down crevice. Finally she felt Angela’s strong, bony hand clasp her by the elbow and her mouth at her ear screaming “We have to stop! It’s getting too bad.”
Unable to answer without getting a mouthful of sand, Marie simply nodded. She dropped to the ground and pulled her dress over her head. She was now in a tiny little sunless world, the storm a dull roar around her head. Then she felt Angela’s cloak being thrown over her, and the world expanded as she pulled the dress down and looked around. The cloak was barely big enough to cover her shoulders. She held the fabric close to her and hunkered down. She could make out the huddled outlines of Angela, Geoff, Hannah and…where was Tristan?
Angela and Marie peered out from under the cloak and looked desperately around.
“There!” Angela called out and pointed to a tiny figure in the distance, stumbling pathetically and screaming in pain as the sand tore at his face.
“Get back under!” Marie called “I’ll get him.”
Without waiting for a reply, she closed her eyes and concentrated.
She was in a meadow, watching a rabbit amble softly over a grassy knoll, green and dashed with yellow cowslips.
She opened her eyes. All was still.
The roar of the storm was now a gentle, deep, loving croon. The grains of sand hung in the air, turning ever so slowly, softly, softly. The sky was in need of a good dusting.
The distant figure of Tristan, infinitely clearer in the frozen storm, stood out stark and rigid.
Marie ran towards it.
Behind her, the statue like figure of Angela began to slowly change, as a look of shock and amazement spread over it’s glacial face. The eyes widened, the jaw slowly grew slack with the wonder of seeing this young girl seemingly run like the wind.
Marie was not really running any faster than she normally could. She had simply slowed down time around her, so that she could cover the distance before Tristan could wander even further away.
Her feet lightly touched the sand, the footprints only forming several seconds after she had run on.
She loved this. Once, she had only been able to do it unconsciously, and had associated it with danger, fear and death.
Now, it was something she could do at will. Just stop the noise and the chaos, and everything would become still and beautiful.
She reached out and touched Tristan, releasing the slow time bubble around her.
And reeled as he punched her full in the face.
She lay on the sand , her head swimming. The pain ground her skull beneath it’s iron thumb.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
She had come up behind him too quickly. Most likely she had scared the life out of him and he had responded with instinct.
Shielding her eyes against the hissing sand, she got shakily to her feet. Her face was on fire but, oddly, there was no blood.
Tristan had run off, and had vanished into the maelstrom.
Marie suddenly realised that she had no idea how to get back to Angela.
She heard a roaring in the distance. And something told her it was not the storm.
She felt for her blade. It was there.
She felt for her comb. It was not.
Her hands plunged into the sand, desperately clawing through the grains hoping to feel a thin sliver of bone. It was gone.
No, no, no, no, no…
She was now blind, the storm had become so bad, and still she scraped and dug, hoping against all odds that she’d find the one and only thing that gave her a link to her father. When she felt it’s coolness in her hand, she felt his hand on her shoulder. It’s scent was the musky aroma of his beard. It was a wand that could conjure her father’s spirit from beyond the grave.