It was blazing hot in Aren-castell that midday. Every fountain and every patch of shade was occupied by the citizens trying to escape the sun’s wrath. Life stood still. Dusty wind ruled the empty streets, sweeping sand, called “aren” by the locals, in tiny tornadoes leaving neat miniature dunes behind.
“Aren-castell” means literally “sand castle” and indeed the city looked like one, its little houses and towers resembling the ones a clumsy toddler would make while playing in a sandbox. A perfect illusion. The cement locals make with their “aren” is on a par with the Wanderers’ monolith when it comes to durability.
Vlada strode along the road, her thick boots breaking the neat wavy patterns of sand and dust settled there with every step.
“On a hot day every desert city looks abandoned,” she thought as she entered the city gates, unattended and wide open. “Quite creepy.”
She met citizens soon, though, beside the very first fountain on her way. If she hadn’t known what to expect she’d find this sight even more creepy than the seemingly abandoned city. There were only two types of faces there. All women and girls looked exactly like Del, their female ancestor: dark hair, black eyes, pale skin, and aquiline nose. Men and boys looked exactly like Emer, her husband, who had blond hair, green eyes, and dark skin.
Every city in Kuldagan desert is like this: copies on copies on copies, the founders’ features repeated in their descendants’ faces forever, without fail. Once you’ve seen a few you’d miss the noisy and annoying port cities of Mirumir or Adjaen where population is so diverse no face in the crowd is similar to another.
Children that looked like twins splashed in the fountain and laughed shrilly. Adults that looked like twins chilled in the shade, chatting and nibbling on fried nuts. Innumerable nut shells littered the square answering every step with a loud crunch.
Vlada was promptly noticed by the locals but immediately dismissed as uninteresting. In their eyes she was just another Wanderer paying a brief visit to the city. Someone might have approached her and asked her for news if it hadn’t been day.
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