The Enchanted Duplicator

by Walter Willis and Bob Shaw

Chapter 15

In Which Jophan Enters The Region Of Oases

But Jophan's difficulties were by no means at an end. The scorching heat by day and the bitter cold by night made sleep almost impossible, and as time went on he became more and more exhausted. But he staggered on dauntlessly, searching ceaselessly through red-rimmed eyes for some sign of the end of this terrible desert.

Shortly before nightfall one day they came upon an oasis. Jophan let his feeble limbs carry him into the welcome shade of the trees and lay down to rest for the night, observing as he did so a flock of gaily-plumaged birds flitting to and from among the trees, to the accompaniment of their sweet song. It sounded like "Bu! Bu!" Idly he asked one of the Subrs what the birds were called. "Bu-birds," replied the Subr laconically. Smiling quietly to himself at the ingenuous reply, Jophan went to sleep.

Whether it was the soothing song of the birds, or the fact that the oasis retained its heat longer than the open desert, Jophan slept unusually well. Nevertheless, he realised when he awoke next morning that he was in no fit state to resume the march. His limbs were stiff and enfeebled, and it was all he could do to raise his head and look about him. He knew he would have to rest awhile here in the hope of regaining his strength.

As he was about to lie back again, however, he noticed just a few feet away from him a beautiful, translucent egg, which must, he realised, have been laid by one of the Bu-birds during the night. It occurred to him that it would make a welcome addition to his diet, and, reaching out painfully for it, he pierced a hole at each end and raised it to his mouth.

As the first mouthful of the liquid passed his lips Jophan almost choked in his astonishment. This was clearly no ordinary egg. The fluid it contained was cool, refreshing, and intoxicatingly delicious to the taste. With each drop Jophan felt new energy flooding through his body. When the egg was finished he jumped to his feet and began to run eagerly around the oasis looking for more, so intent on the search that he scarcely noticed how quickly his tiredness had been replaced with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

Soon he had opened all the eggs he could find and poured their contents into one of the empty waterbottles. Then he called his party together and strode confidently into the desert at their head.

During the days which followed he found that when his energy began to flag all that was necessary was to take a draught of the life-giving fluid. Instantly his vigour and enthusiasm were restored. Furthermore he had apparently reached an area of the desert where oases were plentiful, and each morning he usually collected a sufficient quantity of "Egg o" Bu," as he now affectionately called it, to sustain him for the day's journey. He was now able to dispense almost completely with ordinary food and water, and would indeed have been prepared to do without the help of the Subrs had that been necessary. The only ill-effects he noticed were that over-indulgence in the elixir was inclined to produce a species of intoxication and a painless but unsightly swelling of the head. These he resolved to guard against as carefully as he could.

Jophan now began to make very rapid progress, and with each day the change in the nature of the desert became more pronounced. The days were cooler, the nights warmer, and oases increasingly numerous. Mirages began to appear of the high mountains of Trufandom, and though he was disappointed each time on finding they were illusions, he consoled himself with the thought that they indicated he was approaching his goal.

At last his patience was rewarded. One morning he breasted a long, low ridge of sand-dunes, to see before him, far too clear to be a mirage, a stupendous mountain range stretching as far as the eye could see. Beyond those mountains, he knew with a thrill of awe, must lie the land of Trufandom. -

This version is from GHUTENBERG'S BHIBLE -- Section 7-b (Appendix B) -- Copyright © 1994 by Greg Hills. All rights reserved.

All rights to the original material is retained by the authors.