On the other side of the desert was a vast tundra, and as he approached it, Nin found it little better than the desert itself. A harsh, pervasive wind blew through the underbrush—a coarse and hardy brush hardly fit to eat. Rain fell in short, fierce bursts and never pooled upon the ground.

Nin was sick. His trek through the desert had left him weak and tired. His skin had been burned by the sun, he was starved; his ribs showed through his fur, his head swam with fever, the tip of his nose was wet.

Nin found a small, abandoned burrow and crawled inside to rest.

He had dismissed his retainers before entering the desert. Some, he knew, were very loyal—but even if they were looking for him now, they would never find him here. He was truly on his own.

“I’ve found myself in worse scrapes and come out all the wiser,” reasoned Nin. This was what he always said to reassure himself when things looked grim.

And he laid for a time in the mouth of the burrow and watched the sun climb through the sky and the wind shake the brush and the rain beat the rocks and he thought to himself that there were worse places to die than a land like this.

A shadow passed over the sun.