BY ERIC BREWER
THE STAIRS to the moon garden were gone. Now there was only sand. He crashed up the dark side of the dune, ripping out sand flows with every kick, claw and scrape.
The new-risen sun wove golden gossamer over the summit above him.
He would be there. Amon, please! It would all be there. They had fixed it. Faras had bound him. Faras could hold him.
Her garnet-brown eyes are locked upon his, commanding his gaze. Moon- and torchlight flicker over her sandy skin, her golden adornments. Has she stepped right off of the painted walls, where gods and kings witness in graven silence?
The gardens are still now, they hum with life and the energies of the spirits that dwell in green places. The pillars, bound with woven Ivy, reach 50 feet to the high-vaulted ceiling where the Star Goddess is painted in repose. She holds in her arms a circular void cut out from the granite to allow the moon its vantage.
Faras places one hand between her bare breasts and reaches the other to his sun-brown chest and places it over his hand which rests there. He lifts his other hand as Faras did, as he has seen them do in the ceremonies in the villages, and places it over Faras’ at her heart. His own heart trembles through their palms. Her breath is steady as a leopard’s.
They come together, one half-step each. No rings or vows. No Pachelbel. They touch their foreheads against one another’s and then separate and stare into each other. In Faras’ eyes — they do not blink or flutter — there is a churning storm. A roiling crush of will and desire that drags him in and grinds him to glass dust.
Lightning flickers in the southern skies, beyond the far banks of the river, beyond the sprawling huts and homes of Ro Shakeq. The Bull God Amon fights with devils of the empty wilderness. He is protecting the union from all who might seek to weaken or separate. Faras is his great-granddaughter by royal lineage, after all.
This time is different. This will remain. It is neither the Valley of Esther, 500 years hence nor the blue-green fields on the steppes of Mott, where they ride wild mares and sleep in the grass. Nor the streets of Lewiston: the diners and dancing. Those are forgotten, then. This can be forever now.
The night air crackles.
He feels her hand in his. His hand in hers. Her stare holds him. Her eyes, how they thunder —
“Be with me for all time, my sky-eyed spirit,” she says. “Stay with me now.”
“I am. I will. I will stay.” He says. And this time it is true. The gods have blessed them. Faras is their blood and she holds him. The spirits of this place hold him. It will all stay now.
The lightning crashes again, crawling closer. Dark fingered clouds scratch at the moon and the lights sparkling upon the river dim and dive.
“I am. I will. Forever and now.”
In her eyes there is the storm and the heavens and the warring Gods. Her heart beats so calmly, ferocious beneath his palm.
The wind. The wind, how it howls —
He spilled over the crest of the dune and was enveloped by the oven-hot wind. Before him, the glaring eye of the morning sun commanded all from a dusted yellow sky and there was nothing but golden sand forever, in all directions.
The river was gone. Ro Shakeq, the villagers, the painted walls of the garden and Faras. The desert sparkled and waved in the heat.
“Faras —” His palms were caked and cracked in his lap. He bowed over so that his forehead pressed into the burning sand and with his sorrow he reached down, down beneath the dunes.
A thousand years of sand. Ten thousand? “Bring me back. Hold me then.”
The desert hissed a grating cackle from all directions. Dervishes danced and whipped their tails.