There was no blood on the flat board of the saddle; only, caught in the folds of the blanket and on the saddlebag flap buckles, a scatter of jewelry. Hale stepped across from the camel’s neck onto the small Oman saddle, and he knelt swayingly up there as he scraped and picked up a handful of the jewelry.
It was tiny sticks, some curved and some straight, made of glass and bone and bright gold: and not until he found a knobby round piece of gold as big as a marble and held it up to the light, and saw that it was a tiny scale model of a human skull, did he realize that the sticks were probably miniature sculptures of human bones.
He had heard Salim bin Jalawi’s footsteps approaching, and now bin Jalawi was up on the saddle of another of the returned camels, and Hale glanced over to see that he too was gathering up scattered jewelry.
Bin Jalawi had climbed down with more dignity, but he was breathing fast as he led the camel forward toward the camp in the basin. “Djinn,” he panted, “duplicate things. If they ponder a thing, sometimes a copy of that thing appears, made of whatever is at hand. In the desert the copies are generally made of glass, which is melted sand, or gold, which is in the sand. Somewhere up near the Um al-Hadid wells I know there is right now a stretch of sand that is not cold. And hot bare bones too, though they will have shaved some to make their models of others.”
Hale was leading the camel he had jumped off of, and the two others were following placidly. “In miniature,” he said.
“In all sizes, bin Sikkah! Djinn cannot comprehend differences in size, only shapes. These small copies stayed on the saddles, caught in folds—but by the Um al-Hadid wells there are now certainly bones as big as cannon barrels, made of glass—aye, and skulls as big as chairs, made of gold. We are lucky these camels weren’t crushed.”Tim Powers, Declare
This is the haunting scene in the Empty Quarter, just before Hale and bin Jalawi come up the ruins of Wabar.