Light Crusader's Dark Dessert
by James Beamon
Things were looking up in the worst way possible when we finally made the Dismal River.
Instead of blue gray, now the water flowed yellow-brown. Festering, putrid plants draped the
banks on either side. It looked a lot more dismal than I remembered. But the reports had been
accurate; these were badlands, remade into the liking of whatever death god claimed dominion
nowadays. It meant the long trip to put a bullet into my wife and son's heads hadn't been a
"Nebraska sucks," Alex said from the back of the dinghy, her head panning the landscape as if to
find a redeemable patch of turf. I couldn't see her eyes behind the blue tinted goggle lenses, but
I wagered they weren't twinkling with wonder.
"Careful here," I told her, turning up the collar of my leather duster against the clammy damp of
river spray. "Even before the Twilight, the Dismal wasn't a leisure river. Make sure you keep
an open line with Sweet Potato."
Alex's goggled eyes regarded me, her mouth tight. "Yam. My god's name is Yam."
"Not whatever, Jake. Next time it's Sweet Potato, someone's gonna drown, cabron."
"I get it," I said holding my hands up in surrender, "it's been a long trip. West Virginia didn't
help. Just make sure your god keeps us afloat."
Alex smirked, like the thought of us drowning amused her. An azure aura surrounded her body
as she communed with her god.
My friend and fellow paladin was a bit touchy, but three days on the water was enough to strain
any relationship. I had tried to keep her out of this, but Alex insisted she go. Waterways
remained the safest routes from D.C. through lands whose gods and factions and blessings and
curses were always in flux. So it had been a long, twisty journey from the Potomac to the
Greenbrier to the New River to the Ohio to the Mississippi to the Missouri to the Platte to the
Loup until finally the Dismal and the point where I couldn't tell if Alex's threat to drown me was
I'm the one who should've been moody. The way I figured it, if the Canaanite god of the sea
didn't want to be called Sweet Potato, his mama shouldn't have named him Yam. Besides, Alex
made me carry all seventy pounds of boat on my back between rivers.