The night’s first stars emerged as the last light of day disappeared. They twinkled with their codes, hidden meanings buried within strange languages bearing truths and destinies. The moon rose in the distance. The wind murmured. It had its language – its secrets – and no one but the Speakers of the Wind knew what the wind was saying. Only the Baylan of the WInd knew. But only one was left. Long ago, the Baylan were many, before the blight of forgotten ages, long before the Mahar-Datu took hold of power, after the time of the many gods, and where once magic flowed freely in the lands. When he ascended to power, the Mahar-Datu controlled the flow of magic and killed the Baylan of the old gods. Now, he was the only god, and his power was absolute. In the isolated barrens of the eastern deserts, Amala Al Mir and her master roamed, free from the empire and its forceful hand on controlling society.

On a small stool, Amala sat staring at the stars. A grey leather-bound book laid on her lap, opened to a page, with a finger lazily placed on a word that meant: believe, in the ancient tongue. The book contained the ancient scriptures of spells and sorcery particular to the Order of Wind. They were the followers of Habagat, the lost god of the wind. It was one of thirteen volumes that survived the purging of ancient texts. The other books were scattered across the empire, well hidden in secret locations that not even Amala or her master knew. A shooting star passed by. Her eyes followed the trail of light. The tail burned like a blade of light cutting through the night sky. She studied it, squinting, trying to learn its secrets, how it was born, and how it would die. She whispered, asking it with her magic speech, but, like all comets, this one did not whisper back. In some parts of the world, the passing of a comet was an ill omen, and bad things would soon occur. She wondered why a thing of beauty could bring such terrible tidings. Yet, she could not decipher its hidden mysteries, for she wanted to study stellar divinations, but that was lost to the world long ago.

The comet faded in the distance. Amala’s hand flinched from the book as the desert wind blew across the dunes. Embers from the campfire behind her crackled, and like fireflies, they flew away, disappearing in the darkness. She closed the book and looked at the desert. It burst with activity. The wind was the breath of Habagat, the spirit that spoke in many tongues and whispered many secrets. It animated the desert night. She held on to her robes as the wind blew, trying to pull with its invisible hands the only garment that protected her from the threats of the sun and the sand. The campfire beside her danced merrily and swung with the symphony of the wind. She felt the desert breath. She was happy.

Her eyes wandered to the tent where she left her master meditating. The oasis had been their temporary home for almost a year now. Palm trees swayed with the breeze. They were lucky to find the oasis deep in the desert, far from the trade routes of the big cities, far from the prying eyes of imperial centurions and their arrogant tribunes – the invaders of their country!

“Amala!” called an old voice inside the tent, “Amala Al Mir! Come!” She seldom heard her master call out her full name. Often, the call was girl, or apprentice, a look, or a flick of a hand. But when her master called her full name, Amala knew it was important.

“Yes, apo. I am coming!”

The old man, Karam Salamat, became somewhat of her father when she was taken in at the age of six. She remembers wandering the outskirts of the fallen city of Layag after the empire sacked it. She has already forgotten what her mother and father looked like. The memory of her village was all but shadows in her mind. What she remembers was the young face of Karam and his smile as she was comforted amid grief and malnutrition. They wandered the desert avoiding imperial troops and the Bakan, those that enslaved her kind – the brown-skinned people. She remembers the silver and gold laced robes of the Crucifants, those of the highest order in the empire who served directly under the Mahar-Datu. They were the hunters of the unbelievers, the inquisitors who purged the followers of the old faith and displayed the heads of sinners on pikes. Most hunted were members of the Order of the Wind – the Baylan they feared the most. Though the Baylan were powerful, they were only a handful against the legion of Crucifants that hunted them. Amala considered herself lucky to have stumbled into the hands of her teacher, and for that, she would grow up to be an obedient apprentice.

She hurried along towards the tent, kicking up dust along the way. The campfire light, peering through the drawn-back curtains, broke the darkness inside the tent. Her master was on his knees with a hand on his head and another on his bleeding nose. She left him meditating hours ago. Something must have gone wrong. “Fetch me water, please. I am too weak to stand.”

Amala nodded. She placed the tome beside Karam’s sleeping mattress and hurried to a waiting jug of water at the corner of the tent. She scooped a scoop full and brought it back to the waiting old man, who sat upright with legs crossed. Her master drank greedily like his throat was on fire. Karam swallowed heavily.

“Another,” the old man demanded after wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his robes.

Amala gave her master several more scoops of water until Karam had his fill and was content. He nodded in satisfaction. Karam took a long, deep breath before exhaling with relief. Whatever he encountered during his meditation might have been dangerous, and Amala was curious, though she held back her curiosity as she gave her master enough room to breathe. She looked at his apprentice with a grave look on his face. He wiped the blood from his nose before he spoke.

“How long has it been, Amala?” asked her master, whose voice sounded dreadful. “How far have we traveled to get away?”

“Why do you ask such things, apo?”

“Because something is after us.”

Amala straightened herself and looked worried. It had been a long while since they fled Layag. They kept a low profile, avoiding towns and villages. They bought food from wandering caravans that passed through trade routes, but they never mingled or started conversations with anyone. They kept to themselves and secretly practiced their art. She wondered how anyone could have known of them or their location. She was eager to find out, yet clasped her hands and waited for her master to explain.

“I have wind-walked through the imperial encampment beyond the desert, and they have taken more kingdoms in the East. Apitong and Namayanan have been sacked. The wind has warned me of something coming. They know I am still alive – the last Baylan of the Wind. We should be ready – you should be ready.”

“How, apo?” asked Amala with fear in her voice. “Have we not covered our tracks and been cautious all throughout our travels?”

“Let not your fears take hold of you. Remember, you are an apprentice of the Order of the Wind. We belong to a brave few who follow the old ways – we do not succumb to fear even if it kills us.”

There was a brief pause, and Amala remained quiet. She looked out at the darkness of the desert and thought she heard the wind whispering.

“Our way of life is not easy. We struggle often, and the challenge is always hard in exchange for a triumphant outcome. We do this because we are the last of our order, and our task to rebuild it is daunting, yet we must endure, and to do so, you, Amala Al Mir, must become powerful in shaping the wind. You must carry on our legacy.”

Amala did not answer. She knew this when she took the Oath of the Wind and became an apprentice. But she never realized that she had to learn fast because the empire had forced her to, because enemies of her kind lurked in every corner of the land, wanting to destroy all she stood for. The enemy was cunning – the Mahar-Datu was manipulative – and Amala knew she could not run forever, so she must fight because it was the only thing that could stop a tyrant.

“I appreciate your trust in me, but apo, I have not even taken the rite of passage yet. I do not know if the wind will accept me.”

“You must!” replied Karam with urgency. “I know that the shaping of the wind is like a tall mountain that you must climb, but there is no other way. My body is already frail, and I might pass on soon…” His words trailed off, and the old man looked at Amala with pleading eyes before continuing. “The lore of the wind must not disappear like the others. We have lost the other Elemental Orders because of this terrible inquisition, where most of their members are either killed or manipulated to join the Mahar-Datu. But not us! Ours is the order that will endure and hopefully, in time, be victorious. You must prevail, for they will soon come for us, and we must fight.”

The truth was bitter water. It was hard to swallow. For Amala, the drastic change due to the empire’s unexpected conquest of independent kingdoms left a bad taste in her mouth. She wanted to spit it out. Yet, the bitter taste also reminded her that it was her reality, and instead of expectorating, she decided to accept the bitterness of their dilemma and swallowed the truth.

Amala sighed. “I will try again later,” she said in resignation.

“You will not try, Amala,” replied Karam with a firm voice. “You will do.”


The wind – mysterious, powerful – an ever-changing force both furious and kind. The wind, insight, thought, hope – an element of magic uncontrolled, symbol of wit and human consciousness. The wind was always hard to master, harder than even fire or earth. Fire could be tamed if one could master its tenacity. Earth could be mastered if one could match its strength. But air, particularly the wind, could only be mastered if a sorcerer was cunning enough to outwit it. Many who had mastered the art of the wind knew of its tricks, for the magic of the wind was also an illusion, a riddle – an invisible sign that would lead to destruction – much like the Habagat whom it all came from. Such was the power of the wind because it held so many secrets. It was not an open book that could be deciphered easily. Karam thought he knew all there was to know. Yet, the wind revealed to him that there was more – so much more – for such the wind shall not reveal truths, only half-truths, and it depended on the Baylan how it should be interpreted and used. She heard the whispers, voices that moaned in strange delight, telling her to ride the stream. She whispered back. Her words were carried to the future, the distant past, to all corners of the world where words echoed in reverence to the wind. She closed her eyes. It owned her now. The magic of the wind flowed through her veins – through her soul. But she could not shape it yet. The wind would not let her. Up she went, sharing in a wingless flight, passing through haze and mists, smelling the world, seeing the world – feeling the world – and the world whispered back her name, acknowledging her as one of their own, a child of air, more importantly, a child of the wind!

Amala Al Mir.

It called her.

Amala Al Mir. Your master has vouched for you. We have taken your name. It belongs to us now.

“Then I am your servant?”

No, not yet. Your name bears weight. But for you to use us as your own has yet to be seen. You need to prove yourself. You need to know. For now, your name has been taken. If you pass our test, then we will give you our gift.

“I do not understand.”

You ride the wind, but you are not yet one with it. To become one, you must surrender your soul to us. Will you give it freely?

Silence. She did not know what to say.

You will be ours, Amala Al Mir. Are you willing to give it? Are you prepared to give your freedom to us?

“I…” she faltered.

It is too late, Amala Al Mir, for there is no turning back, and now that we have your name, you will give us your soul. We demand it!

“Then I freely give it!”

No, you do not. You hesitate! Now comes the hard part, for we will destroy you in many ways, and there is nothing you can do about it.


She was torn to shreds. Her body parts flew in different directions. She screamed, not because of the pain, but because she saw what was done to her. And the wind laughed. She could not plead for the wind to stop because she realized that all she could do was scream. She tried to utter words, but her mouth would not let her. The world spun in hazy vortices, twisting and turning in all directions, and inside the dizzying madness, she felt a thousand hands pulling, ripping apart what was left of her body until there was nothing else to destroy. What remained of her was a thought, a consciousness that floated within the madness of the wind.

Amala tried to understand the hostility. She had given herself freely, yet the wind had purposefully dismantled her like a doll. She questioned the reality of what happened to her, thinking it was an illusion, but the pain she felt was real, and with that, she thought she was dead.

We come from the West, we come from the East, but we are neither breath nor passing breeze. We are the forceful storm that destroys all, and we come from the breath of Habagat, who is our king!

She did not understand what the wind was trying to say. It was a mystery, a question that Amala had to figure out. She drifted with the wind as it destroyed many towns and many villages. Its anger fell upon everything, and there was no stopping it. She saw soldiers in armor fighting warriors wearing only loincloth, foreign folks against fierce natives, battling one another in a bloody mess. She saw the empire’s Katalman shamans cast spells they drew from the magic of the Mahar-Datu and hurl balls of fire against the forces of the many kingdoms that would soon lay to waste. But all of them fell to the might of the wind as vortices flattened their battlefields with ease. Not even the magic of the Katalman could fight the power of the wind.

We come from the North and the South – and our wrath is endless!

Amala saw the destruction of the many kingdoms – of the empire – as buildings crumbled and debris rose from the wake of destruction. She saw trees uprooted as the wind tore the forests and moved mountains. Such was the devastation that Amala saw, and she cried though no tears fell. And the thought that was Amala moved with the wind, as it destroyed many more things, and in the end, even the world. 


Her hands were small. Amala looked at them and marveled, like the way she marveled at the first stars that appeared after the sunset in the sky, like the way she marveled at the trees that swayed with the passing breeze, like the way she marveled at the sight of her mother who sat beside her. Yes, she was small, and the discoveries from the big world were spectacular with each passing day.

“Look over there,” her mother pointed in the night sky, “It is there that the Lady of the Sky, the goddess Mayang-Tala, carries the souls of those that have died. Your father is there right now. Wave to him. He is watching you.” She looked with her eyes that sparkled. Her father was there with the goddess of her people, smiling at her, and though she only saw stars, she knew in her heart, it was true.

Up the hill, they sat with a view of the village below. A gentle breeze swept in cadence, brushing her free-flowing hair. The steps of the rice paddies hummed. The trees around whispered, their words undecipherable yet understood by a little girl, that they talked about how great the night was in a land far from the chaos of the empire. Her eyes wandered to the edge of the village, to where mango trees stood like watchful guardians against the shadows of the night, and beside the copse was their bamboo house. The harvest of mangoes was their livelihood, a gift by the land to her people, and because of this, the small village prospered even in troubled times.

The wind caressed her face again. Amala felt its gentle touch.

We are storm and gale true, yet we are a mother to you, and we are sisters and brothers…

The news of war in the far West inched its way into the ears of the villagers, and the threats of war lurked within the corners of their minds. The empire brushed through many kingdoms and plowed through many towns, and even though they lived far away, across the sea, across the many miles of ocean and storms, the thought of the empire reaching them lurked in their minds.

The wind whispered in her ears. Amala giggled.

We are intuition and thought, as we are kindness and life – we are protectors.

Amala felt her mother’s hand touch her shoulder. She looked up at the sad face. Her mother looked down to meet her gaze. “I will protect you,” was the last her mother said.

And the wind swept the image of her mother first, then the world around her. For a moment, she cried, gazing at the swirling vortices that surrounded her. Amala saw herself whole again. She looked at her hands as the wind caressed her. She covered her face as she wept some more.

“I know who you are,” she said in a whisper. “You are mother, generous and caring, and you are father, brave and fierce. You are kind as you are cruel. You are gentle as you are vicious. You are the wind, sword of air, and your wrath is terrible! Kahanginan! I submit to you, for I now know who you are – family.”


Yes… Family.

Amala Al Mir sat upright, dusting the sand off of herself. She looked up to see it was still nighttime. The moon was at its zenith. She sighed and thought to herself that only a few hours had passed. She got to her feet and looked for the book she was reading earlier. It was not there. She remembered placing it beside her before going into a meditative trance. Panicking, she spun around to see her master emerge from their tent.

“Finally,” Karam said with a sigh of relief. “I thought you were dead!”

Apo, it has only been hours since I meditated. Why the concern?”

Karam laughed. “It has been three days, Amala. You have been lying there like a chicken ready to roast! You look darker now with that tan!” The old man laughed some more.

Three days! Amala looked around like a lost child, trying to comprehend all she had gone through and why it had taken that long. She took deep breaths and tried to regain her composure. Karam marched to where his apprentice stood and folded his arms.

“Do not worry, Amala Al Mir. Many have taken the Inimul-ul and remained in trance for many days. The longest was a year – and they all thought I was dead! But I was young and full of spirit back then, not to mention full of myself, yet I have prevailed even though the wind destroyed me many times over. You! Heh! You did it in three. No one in the order has ever done such a feat.”

Amala lowered her head and whispered, “But no one is left, apo.”

“Not true,” Karam replied, placing two old hands on Amala’s shoulder. “There is still us. Maybe in time, just you. But I will ensure that, before I die, we gain enough followers to rebuild the Order of the Wind, no matter how hard it may be. Though Habagat may be lost to us, his name will still be revered in the tongues of our new followers, and this we vow before the power of the Kahanginan to whom we draw our magic from.”


Amala heard the wind whisper. She started to cry and embraced her master tight.

“There. Stop crying. You are embarrassing me in front of the elements.”

Amala withdrew herself and wiped her eyes.

“Now come, you must eat to regain your strength, at least, before they arrive.”

“They?” Amala asked while she looked around.

“Yes – they. Two Crucifants and a Katalman are on their way. They know where we are. It is time to fight.”


The wind howled as it swept through the dunes, dancing, twisting, and curling, setting the mood for what was to come. Karam, with his eyes closed, listened to the whispering. Across him, Amala quietly sat while sipping her tea.

“Are you ready to fight, Amala Al Mir?” Karam asked grimly.

“Yes, master,” Amala assured the old man.

“Are you ready to kill?”

Amala was about to take a sip, the rim of the wooden cup touching her lips. She paused at the question and looked at her master. His eyes were still closed. His lips moved. He waited for an answer that never came.

“They are here,” Karam finally said after opening his eyes.

Amala drank what was left of her tea and gently placed the cup on the mat. Both master and apprentice stood at the same time. The elder tried to be calm for his apprentice’s sake, and the other held back the fear that tried to shatter her whole. Karam stepped out of the tent first, and under the light of the full moon, he saw the silhouette of a robed individual and two men in chain armor standing across the dune. He walked a few feet out, followed by Amala, who whispered words of comfort to herself.

“Karam Salamat,” called the robed figure with an old, almost alien voice, “Baylan of the Order of the Wind, sinner to the people of the Hadanin Empire, I condemn you to death, by the order of her holiness, Mahar-Datu Ayin Idrakkan.”

Karam laughed. “It took you a while. Tell me, who do I owe my death to?”

“I am The Tenth. I am Katalman Faldorin Reh. Remember that name when you enter the afterworld of your kind.” There was a pause, and then he spoke again. “You, girl, are weak. I sense no magic in you. You can give yourself up and become Hayandir of the Mahar-Datu, or you may die with your companion. The choice is yours.”

Hayandir! The word itself was despicable to Amala’s ears. Never did she imagine herself becoming a pleasure slave, and she was disgusted to hear of the many stories about the imperial playthings of the Mahar-Datu. Fury flowed in her, and the thought of being one’s slave enflamed her heart. She focused on the Katalman and whispered to the wind. In a fraction of a moment, the sand from her feet lifted, and something invisible darted away. It screamed across the dune and hit a magical barrier around the Katalman. Faldorin staggered back from the force.

“I see,” Faldorin said calmly. “There are two of them. Strange that I did not sense magic from you, girl. No matter. Kill them.”

The two Crucifants sailed through the sand with inhuman speed. Their curved blades glistened under the moonlight. They moved silently, holding their swords horizontally at opposite sides, and in complete synchronicity, they attacked, swinging in swift arches against a waiting old man. But Karam was no novice to combat. His readied spell shielded him from both attacks, causing the blades to bounce against a wall of air. A gust of wind blew back the Crucifants, causing their hoods to drop and reveal their bestial faces. They hissed in anger. One made a mad dash toward the old man. The other flanked to the right. Karam saw one blade coming for him. He anticipated it. He was sure the other would go for his apprentice, but he could do nothing about it, for each one had an opponent, and Amala should take care of the other. Again, the curved blade swung, striking Karam’s shield of air. But the old man felt the force of the blow, realizing that the enemy’s weapon was magical in nature. He realized that his magic alone would not be sufficient to down the alien brute. Karam had to change his tactics.

Amala dashed to her right and pulled away from the vicinity of her master. Like a blur came the other Crucifant arching its blade from down up. The fiend missed Amala by only inches. She was able to dodge the swipe but landed prone on the sand. As swift as the first swing was, so was the second, and the Crucifant hissed with its attack in a crisscrossing motion. Amala managed to elude the first two swipes, but the third one caught her shoulder and opened a long wound that bled profusely. She screamed.


She heard the whispers as the wind swirled around her. Before the Crucifant could land another blow, Amala reached out to the wind. Kahanginan! She screamed their name. Channeling her anger, her hand clenched into a fist, grabbing something invisible. She pulled back with all her strength. A long wisp of wind twirled around the Crucifant, tightened its grip, and finally threw the fiend at a distance. It fell hard, kicking sand, but as fast as it fell, it was quick to its feet. Soon enough, it charged again, but Amala was already in a defensive posture. Down on one knee, she concentrated on shaping the wind that swirled around her. She uttered a command, and soon, sharp swirling wind javelins formed and shot out towards the attacking Crucifant. The fiend swatted all of the projectiles with its magically infused blade. It laughed with haunting menace. It thought that it could easily land a deathly blow on Amala. But the Baylan would not be denied of the kill. She motioned as if pulling something in front of her, and from behind the fiend came more wind javelins. It pierced through the Crucifant’s thick hide but did not exit. The fiend writhed and convulsed. Its body lifted from the ground. Amala uttered a command, and the wind twisted within the Crucifant’s body. The fiend exploded, sending blood and sinew scattering all over the sand.

A sharp cry called Amala’s attention. She turned and saw her master suspended mid-air with a hand over his bleeding belly. Red, translucent tentacles slithered out of the Katalman’s hands. Faldorin’s hood was down, revealing an elongated face, a small nose, and a mouth with slanted eyes that housed two red orbs. The alien-like features startled Amala. She had never seen a Katalman up close, and now she had. A lingering fear resurfaced. Her hands trembled, and though she tried to steady herself, panic had already taken over. She felt the power of the Katalman. Doubt slowly crept into her mind.


The wind howled, but Amala found herself deaf to the call, and the only thing she could do was stare at the horrible face. She realized she was not ready. But everything changed when she heard Karam’s scream. The sound of a curved blade slicing the air broke through the fear that gripped her still. But before the blade could cut the skin, she heard the last beat of a heart and a whisper that said: Fight! Then there was silence. The world turned red, and all Amala could see was Karam’s severed head flying through the air, spraying blood in a gory fashion. Her master’s head fell to the ground before her. The Crucifant hissed. Faldorin laughed. The wind swirled around Amala in a somber motion.

“Baylan, there is no place in this world for you. Die like your companion.”

With a flick of a hand, Faldorin ordered the Crucifant to go in for the kill. The fiend raised its sword and went in, inching closer to a seemingly paralyzed Amala Al Mir.


The wind screamed.


The wind screamed.

As the wind howled and the Crucifant lifted its blade, Amala heard the voice of her master, and the noise around her suddenly ceased.

“Amala. I am here with you forever. Listen to the wind – to your family! It is your father. It is your mother. As they are kind and gentle, they are also fierce and ruthless. Fight, Amala Al Mir, for you are the last Baylan of the Wind!”

Karam’s voice disappeared into the chaos. At that moment, she realized the nature of the wind, being both kind and cruel – caring and destructive. And so Amala let go, giving in to her rage, to the chaos of the wind, because it was also in its nature to destroy.

The Crucifant’s blade was only inches away from Amala’s neck when a gust threw the fiend in the opposite direction. Twisting in mid-air, it tried to fight the invisible force that held it, but the Crucifant failed miserably to escape. Faldorin tried to counter Amala’s magic, but he failed as well. The Crucifant’s body became a twisted mess of blood and gore that fell to pieces on the ground. The wind became furious, creating sand tornadoes everywhere. Its howl was deafening. Never has the Katalman seen such a feat. He had encountered many masters of the elements before, but he never surmised the girl to be one. She did not look the part. He never sensed anything from Amala. Still, he was not one to be trifled with. After all, he was The Tenth, a powerful shaper of the Mahar-Datu, and he would not lose to some lowly upstart.

Faldorin dug deep and reached out to the power of the Mahar-Datu. Red luminescent tentacles writhed all over his body. He reached out with his hands and sent magical forces across the battleground. It stilled the air for a moment. His sweat poured. He realized he faced a more powerful foe. His eyes went to Amala, and he saw the girl looking at him. But she was not alone. Around her stood thirteen figures that looked like swirling masses of air. He cursed and called to his Mahar-Datu.

He will not hear you.

“Vengeance!” cried Amala. She let the wind flow through her. The thirteen figures disappeared, and the chaos ensued once again.

Faldorin cried and chanted, calling to his magic, but it was overpowered by the wind. The counterspells had no effect. He then realized that Amala was no ordinary Baylan.

Amala’s fury flowed into the wind, and it became destruction. All of her pain caused by the empire channeled through her magic, and her hate became a weapon, a spinning vortex that swallowed the Katalman. Faldorin shrieked as his body was mangled, twisted, and ripped apart until nothing was left. His magic had failed, and the fury of the wind continued, destroying everything around. Amala had lost control.

Karam’s dead body flew inside a giant twister with Amala floating in the middle. Amala saw it, and immediately, her fury subsided. With a wisp of wind, she pulled the old man’s body towards her and embraced it. Slowly, she descended, crying with her master in her arms, and the tornado slowly melted into nothingness.


Amala Al Mir stood before a mound where her master was buried. She looked at the destruction she had made as the oasis was left to ruin. Amala asked for forgiveness. She lost control. She realized using the magic of the wind, shaping the Kahanginan, was connected to her emotions, and a great deal of focus was crucial in channeling its power. She would eventually learn, but before she could master anything, she knelt and prayed to the old gods, Habagat and Mayang-Tala, for guidance. She prayed for the soul of her master and those who belonged to her order long gone. She wept and grieved until sunset.

The last Baylan of the Wind stood clutching a sack that contained her clothes and the last remaining book of a lost order. She would honor her master’s wishes and rebuild the Order of the Wind. Amala would also fight the empire that robbed her of her life. There was no avoiding it. It was a daunting task, but she knew she had help – Amala had her new family with her. From a distance, she saw thirteen silhouetted figures fade from the dying of the sun’s light. The night’s first stars appeared. Amala looked out into the dunes to where the next city of the empire was, and with conviction, she drew a long breath, taking a step forward on the long, hard road ahead.

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