The desert is an unfamiliar landscape to her. When she first set out south her journey took her through the slick mountain passes. Skirting the cliffs of granite and ice, she wore heavy furs and rode a cloven hoofed reindeer with antlers as sharp as the daggers at her waist. She lit no fires at night and woke each slate gray morning covered in fresh fallen snow. But as she had descended into the foothills the snow line receded and the pine forest thinned, then vanished as golden plains overtook the land. Then even the grasses began to grow sparse until the dark earth showed between their dry blades. At the edge of the desert she came to a city cut into the red rock cliffs where copper haired women clad in airy silks walked with scimitars in their hands and veils on their faces. She traded her wolf skin cloak and riding leathers for cool cotton and her shaggy northern beast for a slim brown horse with a pale blond mane.

Now, her long hair wrapped up in silk and her sword ready in hand, she enters the desert. The wind whips sand into her eyes so that she must bow her head and trust her mount to find its way. In the distance she glimpses flickering lights, purples and greens and reds, but the women have warned her not to heed the ghosts’ lanterns or follow their false paths. There are monsters hidden in the sand as well, creatures without arms or legs or eyes but with rows of serrated teeth, and she leaves a trail of their oozing bodies behind for the dunes to reclaim. After an eternity the howling wind eases; the sand settles; the hot air clears. Before her, the Colossus rises out of the sand sea like an oasis of stone the color of dried blood. Seated above the gaping doorway towers the carved stone figure of a woman a hundred feet tall, her upraised palms rested on her crossed legs in meditation. She dismounts and bows low to the statue, she who has never bowed to any, then enters the temple to ask her destiny of the Goddess within.

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