On the third day they came into the desert proper. The last trees fell away and the cliffs that had bulked stubbornly along to the south slumped wearily into the salt sands. From horizon to horizon there was only glaring, blinding whiteness, that cracked underfoot like gossiping informers and flew into the air in little swirls. Hoopla, having been born in surroundings much like these, said nothing and only settled a little more firmly into the saddle, but Skiff suffered mightily and longed for the cool green corridors of the Tangled Western Woods, and took to creeping in the early mornings to the top of the nearest dune to sit peering away from the sunrise, and toward home.
The winds blew from the east across the Great Salt Desert, all the way from the sea, toward the Tangled Western Woods, and so Hoopla and Skiff walked through an unending sandstorm, their faces pinched and seamed from the salt. After the first such storm, Hoopla arranged a cerecloth for Skiff such as the unruly desert nomads bind their own mounts with, to keep sharp edged crystals from lacerating nostrils, gums, and eyes. This winding Skiff hated, who had been born free and running upon the rolling grass polar grasslands. Hoopla wore the same loose robe as ever, unheeding of wind and salt and scorching sun.