Alexi felt a hand on her head and screamed as Ordo pulled her by the hair off her board. She scratched and kicked trying to free herself, but Ordo grinned hideously at her as he hung onto the giant wing of the ugly bat.
“Brandon, Brandon, help me, please!” she shrieked.
Brandon turned his board and raced toward the bat. When he caught up with it, he grabbed hold of the its hind legs and began stabbing them with his pocket knife. Grisly screams rippled loudly through the barren desert as one of the bat’s toes was cut off as the bat tried to get away.
“Oh God, someone please help us!” Alexi cried out.
Instantly, Ordo dropped Alexi onto her board, and he and Colhozeh flew away with a noise that Brandon thought would wake the dead. There before them was Silver Wing sitting on his majestic white horse.
“You called my Lord and Master,” he said serenely, as if under a cool moonlit sky. Looking down on them, he waited for them to speak.
Brandon and Alexi stared at each other, and then Brandon boldly spoke, “You said we would find another bush out here. Can you point us in the right direction, and will we find it before nightfall?”
“Keep heading north for two hours then go north-west for three hours more,” he commanded with a brisk tone of voice, and then he disappeared into the east.
“Why didn’t you ask him who he was and if he could help us?” Alexi asked, hinting at anger.
“Why didn’t you?” he retorted. “You’re so smart!”
“Well, maybe next time I will. Obviously you don’t have the good sense to. You’re just like a man, too proud to ask for help, but I am surprised you asked for directions!”
“Didn’t I just save you? Where would you be now if it weren’t for me?”
She frowned. “Thank you, now let’s just get going. We have the rest of this miserable day ahead of us.”
Alexi and Brandon continued on for another hour when Alexi motioned for them to halt. Dejected and wanting to cry. “I’m tired and hungry,” she said. “I want some more bread and water.”
“We sound like we’re on a prison diet. But I’m hungry too.” He handed her the bread and water. She took a little of both and gave them back. “You know, I was thinking about what you said after that man on the horse appeared. I had every intention of asking him who he was, but for some reason I was unable to form the words. It was as if my tongue was tied, and then before I knew it he was gone, just like the last time.”
“There is something quite magnificent about him,” Alexi sighed. “He’s awesome to look at and has a mysterious power that makes him impenetrable. Maybe he doesn’t want us to know who he is.” Suddenly she gasped choking on a piece of bread and pointed. “It looks like an army of black bugs!”
“And they’re moving very fast. Let’s go. Straight ahead is north.” Brandon shouted, as the noise of the encroaching hoard drew nearer.
With her heart in her throat, Alexi screamed as a hideous black bug jumped up onto her leg. Before she could swat it off, masses of beetle-like bugs attacked her legs. “Brandon, help me,” she cried.
Looking back at her, he screamed, “Keep going Alexi. It’s no good to stop yet. I see the end of them.”
Unsure of what he said, she continued to beat the bugs off with one hand and hold on to the strap of the board with the other. Finally she jumped off her board and smashed as many roaches as she could, but they kept coming. Now it was too late for her to get back on the board because they were climbing all over her. She ran, terrorized from the bug bites, screaming and bleeding with blistered feet, and then she fainted.
She did not see that Brandon had come back for her. He had arrived just in time to catch her and the board. They were almost to the end of the hard surface and the moment they reached the sand, the bugs disappeared.
Brandon looked down at Alexi. She was becoming more trouble than he wanted. He almost wished he was alone, and then he wouldn’t have to bother. Well, he thought, there’s nothing to be done about it. It’s my fault we’re here anyway, even if she is a pain, she is pretty.
“Oh, was I dreaming?” she looked up at him. “What happened?” she brushed a strand of hair from her face and stared at Brandon. “You came back for me, thank you.”
“Don’t mention it. Now let’s have a look at your legs.”
She stared down at her nylons and they were perfect; it was as if the army of roaches had never touched her. “I can’t believe it. They were all over me and I don’t even have a run in my stockings. Thank you for saving me Brandon.” She began to cry. “I want to go home now.”
“Enough of this,” he said harshly. “I suppose we’ll get home sooner or later. But there’s no sense in crying about it. You’re really beginning to irritate me. I’m always saving you and it’s quite tiresome. So, since you appear to be fine, get back on your board and let’s ride. We have another five hours the man said.”
He waited for her to get up, amused watching her jump off him and onto her board without touching the scorching sand. He refrained from laughing however, and the minute he saw she was set he grabbed his straps and took off like a shot. She followed. They hadn’t gone five hundred yards when without warning Brandon disappeared just as she crested the top of a dune. She heard him scream for help and saw his board sticking straight up in the sand. His head was barely visible from the crevice he had fallen into.
“Help me!” Brandon cried out. “Help me, Alexi. Grab hold of my board and pull. Stand on you board if it’s too hot. Hurry, I’m burning up.”
She rushed to his aid and pulled as hard as she could, but only kept him from sinking farther. Then she had an idea. She sat on her board and took off her nylons, tied one leg around her waist and flung the other to Brandon.
“Here take hold of that with one hand and hold onto your board with the other. I’m going to pull on my straps and see if I can get you out.”
“These things will never hold. What a stupid plan. Can’t you come up with anything better?”