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start of week one.

Chapter 1. Where the Sun Never Dies

by Lady Tara Starblade (admin)

To control the water was to control life itself. Captain Matukhana knew this. The corsair had had a spot of rotten luck; well, several spots, really. First the fox's ship had run aground in the barren southeastern coast, the reefs tearing the waterlogged timbers to ribbons. Cursing the fickle fates, Matukhana salvaged what was left of his crew and oarslaves and began the trek inland, toward the dark line in the horizon he figured were hills or cliffs of some kind.

The sun was unrelenting, and the already limited water supply rapidly dwindled over the next couple of days. Several of the oarslaves collapsed along the way, with dehydration added to their already malnourished physique. Matukhana left them where they fell. It would only mean a bigger water ration for the rest of them come nightfall.

And then, one night, Matukhana met Medjool.

The monitor lizard was an oaf, there was no doubt about that. However, he had been clever enough to try and capture one of his oarslaves while the crew slept. The scream had awoken him, though it had cut off abruptly when the lizard snapped the otter's neck and began to feast ravenously on her flesh. The crew quickly subdued Medjool, dragging him off the ruined carcass. The lizard told them he was starving and begged them to spare his life; Matukhana had no desire to let the revolting thing live until it had uttered six golden words:

"I know where there iz water!"

The lizard took Matukhana back to his den, a cave in the side of the cliffs, and proceeded to tell him of a great river that flowed to the north of there, cascading over the cliffs in a great waterfall and forming a pool of cold, clear water that fed all kinds of exotic vegetation. The vulpine hung on the lizard's every word; such a place would be fitting for his crew to settle in.

But, as Medjool went on to explain, there was just one catch. The place was currently inhabited by a bunch of woodlanders, and had been for as long as the lizard could remember.

"A trifle," Matukhana had said with a smirk.

The fox gathered up his crew that very night, and Medjool brought him to the oasis just as dawn's first light peeked over the horizon. He pointed out the guards and the corsairs made short work of them. The woodlanders had still been asleep when they stormed the little village, bursting into their huts and doling out death. The woodlanders rallied, but they were caught utterly by surprise and stood no chance. Matukhana remembered there had been a mouse foolish enough to attack him after he had dispatched another, older mouse, and in return he'd cut out one of her eyes. The mouse had then fled, screaming every kind of idle threat against the corsairs. The other survivors followed, and Matukhana had watched them go, leaning on his bloody scimitar and chuckling. The crew wondered if they should go chase after the woodlanders, but Matukhana assured them that the elements would soon take care of them.

And so the crew settled in, taking over the huts the woodlanders had so painstakingly built, fishing in their pool and drinking their water. Finally, Matukhana's luck had returned.

Or so he thought.

"Sagaru!"

"What is it?" the mousemaid sighed, wincing as she turned her head. A makeshift eyepatch had been fashioned from one of the sails of Matukhana's old ship. The grounded vessel had been the only thing big enough to hold them all when they had made their escape, and although it would never sail again, its fractured hull provided them with enough shade and most of its cabins were still intact.

"Miss Sagaru, Root's found water!"

The mouse leapt up and hurried out of the ship onto the sweltering beach, where she was met by her mole friend and the rest of the survivors, where they gathered around a cask of fresh water, drinking their fill.

"Root!" she said. "Is it true?"

"Aye, miz," said Root. He passed her a cupful and she gulped it down. "Thurr be an unnerwater spring in ee ol' villyun Medjool's cave."

"Curse him to Hellgates and back again," Sagaru snarled. "After all the kindness we showed that distrustful creature, giving him food even after he betrayed our trust the first time. I should've known he'd do it again. I don't know why Jurin ever..."

The mouse trailed off, the memory of their fallen leader still fresh in her mind.

"Well, Jurin is dead," said a hare. "I know our beloved leader only died scarcely three days ago, but I believe the situation calls for the election of a new leader. Naturally the leadership must pass to one of the Heirs."

Sagaru froze. Every one of them was now looking at her expectantly. The mousemaid chuckled nervously. "Look, I know I'm the next oldest Heir, but surely it can't be as simple as..."

"All in favor of ee new leader bein' Miz Sagaru, say oye!" Root raised his paw.

His motion was met with a loud chorus of "ayes." Root turned to her, grinning, "There ee 'ave it, miz. You'm were a shoe-in, even if ee 'adn't been oldest."

Sagaru's cheeks were flushed, but she smiled at them all. "Very well. Once we get our strength back, we're going to take back our land from that murdering fox."

"Er, but Root just found water," said a vole. "Do we really need to be that hasty when we have enough to survive on right here for now?"

Sagaru smirked. Already questioning her decisions, were they? This had to be some sort of record.

"This," she said, "is precisely why an Heir must lead. Milfoil's Oasis was promised to him by his ancestors. No longer welcome to live with them, they gave him this place as a consolation and allowed him to live out his days with the other outcasts that had chosen to follow him. The land was not only promised to him, but to his descendants."

Sagaru paced back and forth in the sand, twirling her short sword easily in one paw. "I have fought for the Oasis all my life. We all have worked too hard to defend that place from vermin and others that would steal it from us. As your new leader, I will not let us be reduced to crouching in a ruined ship, or slinking off into the desert to find a new home. Who knows how far we'd even make it? The Oasis is the only habitable place around for who knows how many miles. The vermin caught us off guard, that's all. I've seen how you all can fight when the fight is fair. So rest up, and tomorrow we fight."

Root scurried to her side, waving his club aloft. "Wurr with ee, Miz Sagaru!"