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Dark Heart

Dark Heart by PJ Richmond
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When two cities are encroaching upon the Nabat tribes' sacred territory and the desert tribe fears that their way of life may soon be destroyed, Torc gets sucked into a revolution in which he learns about 'civilization.' But will 'civilization' corrupt him and endanger his own people?
SynergEbooks; May 2003
196 pages; ISBN 9780744306569
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Title: Dark Heart
Author: PJ Richmond
On the lee of a great golden-red dune, somewhere, and some time in the known world, a few olive-green canvas tents were scattered in the heat of the midday sun. The tents were obviously once of military issue, and were ragged and patched, stained by the passage of wind, sun, rain, and time. Next to them, camels stood, stock-still, only their eyes moving as they watched their masters move about between the tents on their eternal business. The tents were grouped around a spiky, fossilized tree that stuck starkly up from the desert floor. It had no branches and its trunk was twisted and cracked. It seemed to reach hopelessly into the clear blue sky only to be broken off at the point where its branches should have been. Yet the small community had gathered itself around the black, broken, stump as if it was somehow significant; it was indicative of greater days when the desert ran with clear cool waters and many thriving, green-leafed trees and bushes provided cover for a writhing animal world that was now all but gone - apart from the Nabat tribes. Many years ago, when our story begins, a long-lost, wayward child had returned and found his tribe gathered around this tree; in those ancient days there had been an oasis of sparkling, clear, waters here, with leafy palms and a gentle breeze, situated at the intersection of some of the greatest trading routes of the ancient world. Spices, precious stones, and gold, literature, philosophy and science, had flowed from west to east and back again; until it all was lost. In the mouth of one of the larger tents sat an old man, with a baby girl, a close descendant, on his knee. She was not his daughter or granddaughter. Instead, she was the offspring of one of his brothers who had stayed behind in the desert while he had gone off on his adventure- a voyage into the mouth of greatness. Her tiny arms waved but she was silent, as was he. The old man was named Torc and he had been cursed by some freak of nature with a life that had spanned almost two hundred and fifty seasons. He had been a traveller, a wanderer, a powerful man, and a madman during his long and eventful life: he had been a slave, a leader, a fool, and he had been loved, though rarely. He had pursued his adventures while his brother had stayed behind in the desert and had a family, tended his animals and waited for his wayward brother's return. As befitted Torc's final station in life, he was dressed in a black cloak that seemed to hint at a former glory. His hair and beard were sparse but long and straggling, and his face was deeply etched by the sun, sand, and winds. He sat staring through faded and sightless eyeballs towards a grey haze in the far distance that seemed to hang over the massive steel and glass buildings of a desert city. His head did not move, so intently did he seem to stare towards the distant city. Sometimes he would lift a wizened and bare arm and reach out to it. He was thinking about the map of the known world that he had once seen. He had made a copy of it from memory and he knew that his tribe had hidden it away somewhere so that no one would ever really know if there was a world out there. He knew there was the vast expanse of empty desert which he was in now, and which drifted south for as far as one could imagine, and further; there were the rippling, turquoise salt waters to the north that flowed to and from he knew not where; there were at least two cities in the desert on the coast, separated by an unimaginable distance; finally, there were the impenetrable mountain ranges to the west where the climate became more temperate, the desert became forest, and then as the land reared to the skies, silver glaciers sliced through the thin air. Behind this mountain range, he knew lay a vast city, as big as the desert itself; this city controlled everything as if it was an omnipotent child-god.
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