the last herald

Posted in portrait

clipped from my reddit post:

The Qahn is a huge, destructive, everlasting sandstorm that has raged on since time immemorial in the expansive Sifa desert. Curiously, the storm’s path is far from random—it follows a circuit of ancient shrines, aligned on an elliptical road that loops around the outskirts of the huge desert. It’s the role of the ancient, nomadic order of the Qahnheralds to cyclically follow the road and offer fresh blood at each shrine as sacrifice to the Qahn, in order to entice it to continue following that regular path away from the sedentary communities to the south. The heralds traversed the road on large, feather-clad “drakes” such as the one pictured, usually carrying only water, grain, and a tent with them, always just ahead of or behind the storm.

During the golden age of the Qahnheralds, the winding desert road had played host to a thriving trade network, and bustling hubs of commerce and culture had blossomed around the shrines. Advanced infrastructure existed to enable the merchants and townspeople to conveniently evacuate when the Qahn was due to rage through their area, and return with ease once the storm had passed. But as the Qahnherald order began to atrophy, with more and more fledgling heralds opting to defect and settle down in the towns along the Sifa coast instead, so too did the lively culture and trade network along the desert road. Today no one lives around the shrines anymore, and only a few dozen Qahnheralds remain—down from hundreds in the order’s heyday. Legends say that a horrible fate awaits when the sacrifices to the Qahn cease, but surely that’s just old superstition...