Payol Chincrusher was going to die. The orc was dehydrated and standing in 110-degree heat a few hundred yards from the Meran Ocean, a vast body of water which bordered the Alamaro Wastes. He stumbled over the flat burning sand and collapsed.
This was what happened when you screwed over the Mol Borang, a large hijacking ring that stole millions of credits worth of Barrenlands ore every year. He snitched on them after his bosses refused to give him a fair share, letting the powers that be know when a major heist was planned. Dozens of Mol Borang were killed. In return, the Mol Borang dumped him in the Wastes to die, a far more insidious death than just shooting him.
As his consciousness began to fade, he noticed something odd. There were dozens of eye tentacles poking up a few inches above the sand in a long line parallel to the shore. Payol instantly knew what they belonged to: Brac’tai, the amphibious round tentacle things that spawned in Elemchi’s waterways and then drifted around the world, wherever the ocean currents would take them. A bunch always ended up in New Delta, working for Ashram-Uriah but many never did.
Despite where they were, these Brac’tai were very much alive, as every eye was focused squarely on him.
He was saved.
Brac’tai were living water filters, able to survive in all but the most polluted waterways, their bodies filtering everything but necessary nutrients. Unfortunately for most city-states, using Brac’tai to filter their water was impractical and they would need millions to make any serious difference.
“Help me,” Payol moaned.
A sandy tentacle came out of the ground, wrapped around Payol, and a brac’tai pulled itself up so that its large gaping mouth was flat with the ground, becoming a goblet of cool water, which the brac’tai sponged in. This would be highly embarrassing if anyone saw him, but life was life. He drank.
Then Payol notice the sand that shifted upwards with the brac’tai was wet. This made sense being so close to the water that he could hear the drone of the ocean. Being buried in the sand must have let them gather and conserve water while their skin let them breathe. Still, what they were doing here was somewhat of a mystery. There was nothing here.
The answer came when the ground began to shake and everyone, Bac’tai and orc alike, began to rise out of the sand to massive cheers. The Brac’tai had attached themselves to bumps on the skin of the Alamaro’s sole natural inhabitant: sandworms. Sandworms were hundreds of feet long and slid over and beneath the sand, living off microbes in the sand. They were what made the Alamaro Wastes uninhabitable everywhere but the City of Sands. This was due to the sandworms being unable to pass through rock, a fact which also made sure the worms stayed out of the rest of Hominia.
As the worm rose, the Brac’tai that had saved Payol turned around, and Parol held on for dear life.
He saw that they were towards the front of the worm, where its large gaping mouth was located. Its mouth contained several teeth, which loosened the packed sand at deeper depths for easier digestion. The ingested sand would travel through the worm’s giant stomach and would be expelled out the animal‘s rear end. While they weren’t carnivorous creatures, standing in a worm’s way meant you’d be swallowed, digested and expelled.
The sandworm, once it had surfaced, tilted itself upwards and then slammed back down, to even louder cheers.
Payol began to rock as the worm contracted and relaxed, pulling itself along the ground, the bumps on its flesh giving it traction on the fine sand. The Brac’tai began to slap the worm’s rough skin, causing it to move faster. The rocking turned into a constant vibration as it accelerated.
The Brac’tai then pulled at once to the right and the sandworm turned inland. The wind was now beginning to rush against Payol’s face as the sandworm reached speeds so fast the front of the worm lifted off the sand as it traveled.
The Brac’tai bounced and the sandworm dived into the sand. Payol shut his eyes and held his breath as the sand tore his soaked clothes off his body. His thick orc hide stayed intact, clutching the cool slimy Brac’tai even tighter.
The Brac’tai leaned back and the sandworm rushed up and launched into the air. At the apex the sandworm turned down. For a split-second, Payol was weightless, floating in the air. A rush went to his head.
He began to cry out in joy with the Brac’tai as the worm dived back into the sand, and then launch again.
Up and down, up and down they went, over and over again in an exhilarating ride. How long this lasted he didn’t know, but the ride eventually ended and the worm sank into the sand far enough that Payol was back on the sand.
The City of Sands glistened in the afternoon sun, the worm as close as it would go.
Payol patted the Brac’tai. “Thank you.” They all chirped. Payol stood up and walked a few feet. Then the sandworm began to rise back up as the brac’tai waved goodbye.
The sand began to burn and Payol dashed towards civilization, food and clothes. The sandworm turned around, taking the Brac’tai back towards the ocean. They would probably just soak up more water and go for another ride or two before heading back into the oceans, departing for other ports of call.
As much Payol wanted to stay with them, he had other things to do, like deal with the Mog Boral and maybe start a business sending tours on sandworm rides.
As he reached the City, an enormous metal box, Payol dismissed the latter idea.
The expense from lost clothes would probably put him out of business.