Take me to a...
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Desert Peace

This is the ending:
He stands there, the soldier, in a uniform so floral and pale pink that many armies would have rebelled to wear it. The Pink Knight is not so tall, but tall enough, and the yellow highlights of the startling tunic match the highlights in his hair. He carries a curious weapon, this soldier, a long thorn like a wooden needle, the end beaded with blood so bright red as to be almost purple.
The tourists come to look, sometimes even to pray, for that blood is always pure and fresh. The soldier does not move. He simply smiles as he stares into an eternity only he can see. Even in the desert, the horizon is finite, but his eyes are on distant stars and a sleepy ember that is invisible to those around him.
In his desert there is peace. The hawks hunt elsewhere. The coyotes pass silent under the mistress-moon who rules their night. Even the cactus thorns have softened a bit, so that rabbits and children might pass near the soldier.
This is the middle:
The battle was lengthy and ugly, as such things always were. There were few cannons fired, and little enough destruction, but that did not lessen the panicked sprints from cover to more cover, the agonized cough from a wound, the hard breathing in shallow trenches as night fell and dust ground into lips and tongues so long without water they had become foul leather.
The combatants had begun their fight clothed in shadow and sand, feinting and fencing across the low hills and the dry creek beds. But it became clear this would only lead to an endless war of attrition, land and pride bought bone by bone from dying boys with their mothers' names trapped within their mouths.
So the Pink Knight was summoned, begged by both sides to enter the war on their behalf. Disdaining any oath of fealty, he rode to the field of battle, dismounted without armor or lance, unlimbered his wooden sword, and walked among the combatants, looking for something he refused to describe.
They fell back, the young men in their subtle uniforms, shedding their anger as they dropped their weapons. Finally, only the soldier wearing colors the shade of a blush remained amid the desert sands.
Then he stopped and called out a woman's name, until his voice was hoarse and the opposing leaders wept and tallied their death rolls looking for his love. Standing there, he pricked his own heart with his wooden sword.
This is the beginning:
You thought there would be a noble beginning? All things will begin in accident, with differing intent. Even the Pink Knight and his wars will begin from something meant to be good, regardless of the pain through which his path will pass.
But you will not know the beginning, for you will only see where you are going. You will never see where you once were. That will be a banking of the ash of memory, will be written gray against an autumn sky as papers and broken hearts will burn on the dustbin of history.
This is why any war is ever fought: because someone believes in something more than they should. And this is why any war is ever won: because someone believes in something more than they should.
So he will smile, the soldier, the knight, in the end with his bloody thorn. So you will smile, too, to know that with luck and love and the providence of struggle, things will be good.
This is what it means:
Someday he will find her, the woman whose name he called out. That will be his final battle.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Author Comments

Ruth Nestvold and the late Jay Lake, both multiple award-winning authors, wrote these tales together. Please check out other tales in their series at Tales of the Rose Knights.

- Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold
Become a Member!

We hope you're enjoying Desert Peace by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction is not accepting memberships or donations at this time.

Rate This Story
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

4.0 Rocket Dragons Average
Share This Story
Join Mailing list
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):