The sun burned a dusty orange; its incessant heat scorched the landscape even as it set on the distant horizon. Dust hung in the air choking everyone and everything. The only sign of water was the tear tracks on the children's faces, and yet he still had hope. Though the dusty haze he watched as an old man approached him, walking very slowly.
"The fever... our children are dying," Inua, the elder, spoke between his deep breaths.
Ebbe hung his head. "I know."
"But your daughter, she dies too, yet you stand here doing nothing. You'll find magic in the distant plain?" Inua asked, pointing toward the last light on the horizon.
"I know of nothing else. I call for rain to cool the fever, but the gods have lost their way and as much as I try they cannot find us."
"It hasn't rained in six seasons, yet we wait for them. We wait for what? For your magic, for you to relearn your soul? Dance, sing, throw yourself from these rocks, do something. They're dying!"
Ebbe looked down over the village as the long shadows stretched to night. In the twilight he counted the many sacred fires, each one showing where a sick child lay. One by one they were slipping through his fingers like the dust, becoming the earth once again. He could save them, he had saved them before, he could save them now, if only, if only...
"The others, they all want to leave. They talk of a ghost doctor, a great doctor with welcome magic who came on the wings of the light, sparkling in the sky. Perhaps the ghost can cool the fevers and bring the rain."
Ebbe kneeled slowly running his hands through fine dust. He held a handful skyward and let the dust sift through his fingers praying for the rain to take its place. Wondering of the ghost doctor he tried to picture his sparkling wings over the plain, perhaps with the rain sprinkling behind him. Yet the dust still floated to the ground and the children still died.
"Will you do nothing?"
"I cast my magic, I pray the gods find us, I reach for the water until my arms ache and I pray until my voice leaves me."
"And yet you do nothing."
"I've done everything!" Ebbe shouted and then coughed, spitting out a muddy glob. "I thirst too, and my daughter's fire burns tonight just like everyone else's."
"Tomorrow we will leave to find the one with magic, the ghost doctor. We will walk and we will find him."
"But you will die walking out there," he said pointing to the last of the orange glow of the day. "And like the darkness, death will cover you all, first the dust and then..."
"Here it will rain."
"When, when will it rain? One by one we die and you say it will rain. Only the tears fall and soon we will have none to cry."
"But they will find us..."
"Who will find us?"
"The gods, they will find us and give us rain, we need to wait."
"If we wait we will die."
"If you leave you will die, perhaps sooner."
"Perhaps, but maybe the ghost doctor may save us."
"Is he a god?"
"The birds fly too, are they gods?"
"He flies and has great magic, your magic is gone."
"You must have patience, the gods will find us, my magic will bring them."
"Patience? The children die, your daughter dies and yet you wait, you do nothing."
"You do nothing," the elder said, waving his hand for silence. He looked back at the village, "So many fires, so many fires. We will leave for the ghost doctor."
Ebbe looked to the sky, seeing only the stars, he saw no clouds, no chance of rain. He looked to the village and saw only the fires and the smoke, no chance to cool the fevers. He looked at his hands; hands that once had power, that once made the sick well, that once made rains come, that once held his daughter high in the air. Now they did nothing, nothing but sift the dust.
In the morning they would leave, all of them, including his wife and daughter, leaving him alone. Ebbe reached his hands to the sky and began calling the rain again. As he cast his magic, as he prayed the moon rose and the stars continued to shine on the crystal clear night.