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Dear Joanna, I close my eyes and picture you every
day. I want to hold you close to me again, now
more than ever. The Caravan was attacked three
days ago, but thank Sunna, I am safe.
One of the women in our caravan spotted a dust
cloud to the north. Looking through my spyglass,
I could pick out five dark shapes in the murk,
which I showed to Hassan, the caravan master.
I have never seen the blood drain from a man’s
face so fast. The image of what descended on us
from out of the dust is burned into my memory.
Five stone beasts, ridden by grinning skeletons.
They took different shapes — serpent, crocodile,
camel, monstrous scarab beetle and bird — but
Joanna, they were living statues, foul facsimiles of
life, built from coloured stone and embossed with
gold. They fell upon us with terrifying speed.
Hassan called for the caravan to split into three
groups. The creatures attacked the northern group
with brutal efficiency. To their credit, the men there
brought down one of the monsters — the huge bird
— before they were overpowered. One moment it
was wreaking carnage, the next, it tumbled into
pieces like some child’s discarded plaything. To our
astonishment, the remaining four creatures just
turned and left, though I am sure they could have
overtaken the rest of us if they chose.
I long to talk with you more about this, for I’m
sure your mind could find some wondrous insight
that I have missed. I shall probably head north to
trade somewhere safer, though I have more than
half a mind to travel home with this letter.
Yours with love, Oscar.
Letter found aboard the wreck
of the Empress Matilda, in 912 A.S.
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