Excerpt: Senket and the Salt Desert

As they drew closer to where bare earth became whorled salt-bed, Lark said, “How does a place like this even happen?”


“How does anything happen?  How do mountains form?” Dasira rejoined absently, pondering whether they had come far enough to start paralleling the border.  She did not think so.  “The earth and wind and waters do their own thing, and we just stand and marvel after the fact.”

“But surely this isn’t…natural.  The cliff where we came down was like someone took a bite out of the mountains.  The Rift isn’t natural either, but we know how it rose up.  Doesn’t this place have a story?”

“It has many stories.  Hard to tell which is true.”

“Well, start talking.  It’s a long road and I don’t want to spend it staring at those two.”  Lark gestured ahead, to where Fiora had taken up a grip on the handlebar beside Cob’s, her shoulder against his much longer arm, his head bent slightly as they spoke in low tones.

Dasira grimaced.  “Right.  Indeed.

“So some are obviously folk-tales.  One of them tells how Senket the Sky Ruler, patron of Trivestes, was angered by the wraiths impinging on his domain, and so tore a mountain up by its roots and flew to where the wraith spire was, planning to drop it on them.  The problem being that wraith spires—in that far-gone time—could pull themselves from the earth and fly away.  Senket reasoned that if he flew high enough, the wraiths would not see him and his mountain, and he could catch them unaware.

“He flew high, high, high up into the sky until he was almost imperceptible from the ground.  But he found that in rising so high, he had drawn too close to the sun, and his feathers—which until then had been gloriously gold and white, as befit the king of the sky—were burning.  He dared not go lower, for surely the wraiths would see him if he did, and he dared not drop the mountain and retreat; this was his one chance to carry out the plot.  So he steeled himself and stayed high even as his feathers blackened.

“Finally his keen sight caught the glint of the wraith spire far below.  He tried to position himself directly above it, but he was weary and hurt and the bulk of the mountain blocked his view, so in the end he was forced to guess and let go.

“And as the mountain fell, the wraith spire lifted from the earth and escaped.

“The impact of the mountain shattered the land for a hundred miles, even breaching the northeast curve of the Garnets to let the sea flow in.  Exhausted, Senket circled lower, not sure whether or not he had hit his target; between the dust and the surging water, it was impossible to see.  He was just contemplating a retreat when he caught a glint from above.

“Never had the Sky Ruler been surmounted by an enemy.  Sen ke’t even means ‘highest position’ in Gheshvan; his very identity was that none flew above him, none preyed upon him.  And yet the wraith spire had risen past him undetected, and seemed determined to nail him to the landscape he had just destroyed.

“Burned, exhausted and caught off-guard, Senket would have died if not for the setting of the sun—for it had taken him so long to fly the mountain to his target that the day had waned to nothing.  In the dark, he was all but blind—but his feathers had been burned black, while the spire glowed with unearthly radiance, easily seen.

“And so he evaded its first strike and fled, furious but too weak to attack, terrified but swaddled by the sheltering night.  The wraith spire pursued him, and the light of the rising moon could have proven his end—but the moon, looking down upon his plight, drew a veil over herself to block her own light, and the wraith spire lost sight of him.

“He retreated to his aerie to nurse his wounds and plot revenge—all the more when he learned from his children that the wraith spire had resettled in the center of the crater his mountain had made.  But when he took flight to spy upon it again, sea-water had filled the vast circle of destruction, and it reflected the sunlight so brightly that even his sharp eyes could not spot the spire.  Bitter over his failure and the dark mark of his new plumage, he settled into the mountains to watch endlessly over the inner sea, vigilant for any sign of the spire’s emergence.”

“But that’s not what actually happened?” said Lark.

Dasira shrugged.  “Hard to say, but doubtful.  There are many stories about Senket flying around with heavy objects, trying to drop them on things.  In Kerrindryr they call a great chasm ‘Senket’s Scar’ and believe he tried to fly a silver sword over the Thundercloak Mountains so he could get at the wraiths who fled into the tundra, but that it was so cold in the heights that he flew lower and ended up cleaving the cliffs apart in his wake, then dropped the sword entirely at Howling Spire.”

“He sounds angry.  And big.”

“It’s just a story.”

“And incorrect,” Ilshenrir inserted from the other side.  “The inner sea already existed when the Fourth Flight—the haelhene—descended.  But we do believe that a great impact created the crater before it became a sea.  We simply do not know what it was.”

(from Book 3 — The Living Throne)

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About H. Anthe Davis

Worldbuilder. Self-published writer.
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