Thugs burst from dunes, gripping curved blades.
Surrounded, Keila turns slowly, remembering rough games played with her brothers – hide and seek, ambush, wooden swords – a girl against aspiring squires. They taught her well. When they went to war, she followed.
The thugs circle; Keila crouches. Winds kick up. She lifts a handkerchief over her mouth, raises a blade and small shield. The thugs become silhouettes in swirling red dust.
She spins like a djin, blade biting through the shrieking desert wind.
The winds die. Dust settles.
Keila stands alone, parched. She gulps water from her wineskin. The dunes gulp blood.