Nezeph raised his eyes from the shade of the olive tree under which he had napped. The sheep were still peacefully grazing. Dried herbs baked during the blistering days in the heat of the savannah served as sustenance for the herd which in turn nurtured the small nomadic tribe that travelled the salty plains of the continent Scale. Not that they knew its name. For them the horizon was the only border and the largest body of water they had encountered was the steaming lake of Giar. Just now the sun was disappearing behind the mountain range to the West. Imposing and stalwart the jagged teeth swallowed whole the flaming ball of orange, while the darkness expanded steadily from the North.
"Jaqheeel!" He was alerting his brother to the fact that the herd would soon have to be escorted back to the nomadic settlement of their clan. There was no response. Jaqheel had been more introverted than usually, as far as Nezeph was concerned. While not overly perceptive, his little brother's moods were something that he was well aware of. With a sharp whistle he rallied his sheep and grabbed the staff to direct the last, stubbornly leading the herd down the path. Sandy, rocky ground, bearing the marks of hooves. Down the small plateau, back to the El-Salar encampment. As predicted, his borther had found his favorite spot one one of the larger rocks, where he was writing the lessons their cousins were teaching them in the morning onto the rich, ochre surface with a chalky piece of stone.
"Jaqheel, come on. Father expects us to be back by sundown." Jaqheel, however, stared blankly away, off to the West, where the flames had started to subside behind the massive crags of the mountains.
"... No. I don't understand."
"I said, we ought to be home soon. Dinner. Hamph Hamph."
"But why me?"
"What? Who are you talking to?"
A sharp whimper ensued, when a stroke hit Nezeph's brother, sending him to the ground curling and whining with high-pitched boyish sobs. Instantly feeling the overwhelming surge of panic at the violent seizure that had befallen his brethren, Nezeph hasted forward to scale the rock and reach out to his brother, but as soon as he had nimbly climbed up the dusty, hard surface to shelter the trembling body of the adolescent nomad, the convulsions subsided and Nezeph's frail body layed calm, still shaking, but seemingly unharmed with his thin breast rising and falling at a steady pace.
Jaqheel's recovery was aided by their aunt's medicine. Every so often, either by negligence or misfortune, people forgot or lost their water bottles, got caught in a sandstorm or lost their way in the featureless, salty hot plains. A deadly mistake more often than not and even in a case like Jaqheel's recovery usually took a number of days, with plenty of nourishment, water and rest. Despite Nezeph's vivid descriptions and incessant rambling about how the dialogue that occured seemed so surreal and unnatural, it was simply chalked up to an illness of the head, created by too many a nap in the direct sunlight. Nezeph was told to sit down, be wary of the sheep and be assured that his brother's laxity was certain to be punished as soon as he had regained his health.
It took the frail youth nearly a tenday. Not that he didn't wake up after a good day's rest but his already feeble physique was severely weakened, drained, as if some entity had latched onto him and absorbed all the energy from Jaqheel's body. However, with the tender care of Tassain El-Salar Jaqheel was soon allowed to leave the healer's tent and commence his daily duties. Still, something was different. Something was... off. Even though the bookish nomad has always been more intoverted than anything, his taciturn attitude had only increased during his recovery. From the day he was told to resume the guarding of the herd, Jaqheel uttered not a single word. Aside from the occasional groan, his nods and the shakes of his olive-skinned head with its wiry black hair were the only means of communication that survived the incident in the plains.
At the same pace at which Jaqheel lost his powers of communication, his interest in the nomad's life waned. Nezeph reported his brother's longing stares to the West to their father who in turn simply shook his head. There was a reason the tribe of El-Salar was a nomadic one: The yearning for the distant. The need for exploration was an inherent curse of the wandering sheepherders. The other clan members took note of his absent stares, off to the North, the West, the vast borders of their little world. They observed with concern how his appetite fell and his mood seemed not to recover from the desert's kiss. For once one had imbraced the heat, it madness clung and whispered the nothings of faraway lands into its lover's ears.
Such was the case with the young nomad boy. His father approached him, patriarchal goodwill in his voice.
"Son, I see there is something wrong with you. I sense your disturbance and your mother feels it, too. Are you certain that you are not ill?"
For a moment, Jaqheel's mien showed signs of life. Through his so distant, apathetic features went a brief flash of sympathy and he replied.
"No, father. I am very much healthy. I have simply become aware of things that are greater than you or I. Things that rob me of my sleep and that fill my daydreams. I cannot tell you where these dreams lead me. I cannot clad the spectres in words, for they are impossible to name. I simply know that my destination lies outside this forsaken land, among rocks and rivers, mountains and ores. I see glimpses, possibilities, faces of artists, artisan and enemies both ancient and forthcoming. I believe it to be my destiny... this quest, this yearning."
"What you tell me, son, troubles me. A fool who follows his imprudent ideas of youth and an even greater fool who follows those ideas that are not his own. I cannot fathom how you came to be in this condition, and I have no intention of facilitating your suicide. You might be convinced that I love your borther more, that I have no respect for your lack of fortitude and do not appreciate your wit." Jaqheel opened his mouth as if to utter a protest, but was interrupted when his father calmly raised a hand. "This I do not. You are as precious to me and therefore, if you wish to leave our tribe, though it gravely harms me to the core, I will aid you, to at least further the likelihood of your survival. I infer from your obsession that you would leave on your own, whether I agreed or didn't. Thus, I would much rather be in the position to influence you on your journey and make you remember me in a good light."