Chapter 10 Scene 4

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 37 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

The westward Migration skirted north of a towering line of dunes that were visible long before the weary travelers neared them. By mid day the dunes to the south resembled mountain foothills. By early afternoon they were an unscalable ridge of rock. Countless seasonturns of wind driven sand had sculpted eerie shapes in the bluff. The barrier ran all the way to the horizon in the west. Travel along the edge of the cliff was both mesmerizing and monotonous.

The lone wagon reached an empty Gathering crouched beneath the overhanging sandstone on their second evening after leaving the Star Seekers camp. The primitive stone shelters had a forlorn and hollow look. Simon questioned the lizard handler.

“What is this Gathering?”

The old tribesman shook his head.

“Not a Gathering Magus. A T’kulpa.”

He made a strange clicking noise with his tongue that Simon could not duplicate.

“What is a kulpa?”

The tribesman smiled and corrected Simon by repeating the tongue click.

“Not kulpa Magus. T’kulpa. A resting point. You might call it a harbor, I think.”

It was Simon’s turn to shake his head and a smile.

“No, a harbor is a landing site which offers shelter from the sea.”

The tribesman nodded vigorously.

“Yes. A harbor then. The T’kulpas are the only entrances to the White Sea. And they shelter the Tears of the Sea as well. When the tribes visit the Prophets, we start from a T’kulpa, then cross the White Sea to the Island of Black Glass. You are fortunate. This T’kulpa is the one closest to the Island. ”

“Is the Gathering of Ten Falling Stones located on this Island of Black Glass?”

“No. The Island is where a tribe guide will judge you.”

Gunther had gotten out of the wagon when they stopped at the T’kulpa. He looked up sharply at Simon as the tribesman’s comment.

“Judge us?”

The handler looked from Simon to Gunther.

“Yes of course. You must be judged worthy before a guide will open the way to Ten Fallen Stones.”

Gunther shot a dark look toward Simon.

“And if we are not judged worthy?”

The tribesman shrugged as if it was obvious.

“Then you will not be allowed to enter, and the desert will decide your fate. The Prophets allow none to enter Ten Fallen Stones uninvited. But even those who are invited are not always judged worthy.”

Simon’s eyebrows lowered in confusion. “But surely if we are denied entrance to the Gathering, you can bring us back from this Island of Black Glass to the T’kulpa, can’t you?”

The tribesman looked at Simon as if he were mad, his eyes wide.

“I was not invited to Ten Fallen Stones. I can not enter. No guide will come for you if I am with you on the Island. Once you cross the White Sea, you must await your guide alone.”

Simon had not expected to lose the handler. How would they get their test gear to the Gathering without his lizard team?

“But Tor invited us. Surely that invitation was meant to include you. You must stay with us in case we need to return suddenly! They will have to make an exception.”

The tribesman’s face portrayed the automatic refusal that ‘turns of life in the desert had instilled. Here in the harsh heart of their territory, to question the laws of the Prophets was to face death.

“In Edgeways or on the fringes of the outer desert perhaps you would be right. But there will be no exception to the word of the Prophets here. The invitation was extended to those who heard it spoken, and no others will be admitted. This is so even for other Desert Tribespeople who seek trade or conference with the Tribe of Prophets. There is no other way to enter Ten Fallen Stones, Magus.”

The handler would not be moved, no matter what argument Simon tried. It seemed they must face the High Desert alone.

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