It is the imperfection of all that is mortal; a limitation of every living thing; another one of the Reaper’s many scythes.
In a distant land of sand, a war had begun and ended. Villages burned, cities fallen, and corpses lay upon corpses. Food became scarce in this unyielding land of sand, so much that only the strong could live another day on a few crumbs, not enough to sate a bird. The weak? They perished long ago.
On a cloudy Ramadan night, in this very land of sand, walked a lone traveler. Baraho was his name. Tall of figure, brown of skin, with a full head of silver hair. Brave at heart, calm at mind, with an empty stomach.
Baraho winced. He clutched at the ragged hilt of his saif every time he felt the awful tug of hunger ripping at his insides, for he has not eaten in three days, and yet he marched on. He was in search of a legendary treasure; a famed artifact that was heard of only from forgotten lore and crazy mouths…
The Last Samboosa.
It was the last piece of the puzzle; the one thing that could erase the imperfection, remove the limitation. It was foretold that whomever consumes the Last Samboosa would never know the pain of hunger nor the bloating of satiety ever again.
Thousands have attempted to obtain it, but none returned to tell of what they found or saw at the Mountain of Famine –where the great treasure was hidden– except a few. Those few have returned wounded, or worse. And they warned of the Ravens.
The Ravens were a throng of madmen. Their skin gone gray from the merciless sun and unforgiving starvation. They attacked anyone who dared approach the mountain’s black rocks. With the blood of travelers they sated their thirst, and with the flesh of the curious they lived for a few more days. The Ravens were those who could not acquire the Last Samboosa, and they guaranteed no one else would.
Baraho saw it at last. The black mountain was but a mile or two away, and the lone traveler could already hear the growls as he paced closer. They did not light torches, nor did they build houses; they sheltered themselves underneath the mountain’s boulders like animals.
“Fehehe… I see another one coming.” Baraho heard a Raven speak from afar. They already spotted him. No retreating now.
Seven madmen began forming a circle around the delicious stranger. Their long, yellowed nails clattered with anticipation. Fresh blood was slathered across their grinning faces; their brown teeth appeared manually sharpened. Two Ravens were shoving and grunting at each other, bickering over which one gets the traveler’s hamstrings.
Neither of them did.
Dark geysers sputtered from their gashed necks. Baraho’s saif glistened with blood.
“Kill him!” roared one of the Ravens.
Three of the Ravens were too occupied with drinking the blood of their fallen brothers, while the remaining two charged Baraho, but they met the same fate at his swift blade.
Baraho ran towards the top with all his might, sword in hand. The Raven who shouted the command attracted countless of his comrades. A dozen of them were now tearing apart their own deceased, while thirty more Ravens gave chase after their meal.
Halfway towards the peak, the Ravens were gaining on Baraho, whose starving body began to betray him. His steps became slower, his breathing grew shallower, and he was sweating out what little water his body still contained.
“Good…” A Raven hissed through a grin as Baraho collapsed. The lone traveler began crawling towards the top, pellets of sweat forming on his strained forehead. The mass of madmen was steps away from him now, drooling. “Let us pick his bones dr–”
Baraho was puzzled. Why would they stop now? They could have eaten him, torn him limb from limb…
But he was at the top.
The exhausted warrior stood up on wobbling knees and watched as the Ravens treaded away, their eyes wide with fear.
Baraho, whose gray hair was matted down against his forehead with sweat and sand, took one last look at the land of sand. From this height, it was more beautiful than he thought. He turned around and saw a hollow hole in the mountain’s peak. A small light shone from within. Once he caught his breath, he took a step forward and–
WHOOM. WHOOM. CRACK.
An enormous hawk landed heavily at the top of the peak.
“You have arrived.” The great hawk spoke in a thundering voice, and its bulbous eyes were glaring at the lone traveler. Each wing was wider than an elephant. “Baraho bin Macram.”
Baraho stared back at the hawk, a sense of familiarity overwhelmed him.
“I can see into the souls of men. I was told to guard this peak, with talon and beak, against whoever dares approach it. Until a dark man with a white heart arrives.” The massive bird said, and then unfolded its wings in a welcoming gesture to the cave beneath its sharp claws. “You may enter.”
Sliding his stained saif back into its scabbard, Baraho nodded at the feathered guardian and stepped foot into the cave.
There it was. The Last Samboosa.
The small treasure’s surface was perfectly smooth, so much it was difficult to firmly grasp. It shone brightly with a golden hue, resting atop a pedestal of marble.
Baraho picked it up. He gazed into it. It felt warm, as though it were alive.
He brought it to his mouth.
His lips parted.
“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.”
Dawn was announced in the distance.
Baraho heard it. He looked at what he almost ate, remembered it was Ramadan.