It was the last day.
General Richards was tired. Very tired. He had been walking for a long time, and there was still nothing in sight. No city of glass. Not even the path of golden bricks. They were nowhere to be seen.
He sat down in the dirt, even though none of the others were sitting, even though Eliza still had the energy to dance with her nurse. Of course she had the energy; she was the one they had all been giving all their food and water to. She was only a child. She held the future in her mind and body. The nurse was young, too, but she was almost as tired as the rest of them.
General Richards stared into the distance dully. He could see nothing ahead. Nothing but the dry sands and the dull hills. Nothing to give him any hope. And it was the last day.
Perhaps Eliza could continue on for a little while. Her and her nurse. Perhaps they should give all the water that was saved for this evening to the child. It would be worth it, to have one of them survive, wouldn't it?
But there was nothing there. No golden spires. No marble stairs.
Nothing that they had been promised. None of the things that they had walked through the desert, rising each day with the sun and following it across the scorched ground, to find.
It was still worth it. There was even less in Andara. Nothing lived there, not any more.
Eliza was happy. Eliza still didn't understand. If only he could hope that she would never have to.
Slowly, painfully, General Richards got to his feet. His joints ached. He was dizzy with lack of food--it had been two days since they had eaten anything. But he had to continue leading them.
Patricia put her hand on his arm. "Edward? Are you all right?"
He shook his head. "No, my love, I am not." But he raised his arm and pointed west. "Onward. We keep looking."
Eliza laughed and skipped ahead. But it was the last day of the water.