“Sand,” said Ulan Nuur.
Donal raised his head weakly and spat out a mouthful.
“Ugh,” he agreed. There was sand in his eyes, up his nose, in his hair, and from
the feel of it, down the inside of all his clothes. Hot sand. It scorched his skin where
he lay on it. So he sat up, feeling scoured, bruised and shaken.
They were surrounded by low, black sand-dunes. Somewhere a lonely wind
whistled with a hollow sound; but its breeze did not touch them. Beyond the sand-
dunes Donal glimpsed the distant tops of the Gyzol towers, hazy in the heat.
But apart from the heat shimmer, nothing moved. There was no life here at all.
Something scratched Donal’s chest. He put up a shaky hand, and discovered that
the translator was still tucked inside his shirt; and so was the lemming. It wriggled out
in a shower of black grains, and did a scuttling, jumping dance along the ground.
“Hot hot hot hot!” it said. “Dig hole quick.” It began to scrape at the sand with its
Ulan Nuur scrambled to his feet, sniffing the air eagerly. But Brola lay half-buried
“Brola!” Donal crawled over to her, scooped away the hot sand that covered her
and gently lifted her up. She weighed surprisingly little. The Greengrass that looked
so bulky was as light as a coat of feathers; but now it was limp and lifeless, like Brola
Donal carried her carefully to the only shade he could see – that cast by Ulan
Nuur. Rummaging in his rucksack, he sprinkled her with a little orange juice from his
flask and fanned her with his clip-board.
A ripple ran through Brola’s Greengrass. She groaned and opened her eyes.
“Where am I?”
“The desert,” replied the camel reverently. He gazed around with deep delight. “I
have waited for this moment all my life. Behold the splendour of the Gobi’s sands! At
“Oh, no. I’ll die!” wailed Brola. “My Greengrass can’t live in the desert!”
“You’re not dead yet,” said Donal, bracingly. “Come on! Sit up straight and take a
deep breath.” He propped her against Ulan Nuur’s leg, and then turned to scan the