It wasn't supposed to end this way.
'Two weeks. We'll be back before the stalks of rice begin to bend.'
Perhaps they'd caught sight of the smoke, and realized the most logical path of action. To leave, the charred fields and dead promise, and never return.
It wasn't as if we were blood related.
Ever since I was a child, the mystery of my birth had bothered me. When the color of skin is too many shades too pale, and burns in the sun where others darken a beautiful bronze, it's a hard reality to miss. If anything, I had counted myself lucky. They kept me, and treated me better than most would.
I understood. More so than I was sure to be ever credited with.
'Up. The carts are moving.'
I looked at the guard above me, watching the morning light glint off the long sword grasped loose in his fisted hand. Edgy. A hired hand who sifted more pleasure from struggle than the slow push of calm. But he extended his other hand to me, and with a firm jerk, helped me to my feet.
Shortly after we'd begun to move, a water canteen hovered before my vision.
'Drink quickly,' the man said in a rush. 'There's trouble.'
I obeyed, relishing the cool drink. Wondering if it was going to be my last.
Noon hit with dry, scathing winds and a heat I had never before met. My breaths were ragged and shallow, my mouth open and gaping. Sweat poured from my gasping pores, and for a long time, I thought I understood what it was like to truly face death. The kind that you feel breath down your neck as the very life sweats from the flesh.
The second time I fell, someone lifted me up. I heard him curse, and for a moment I just concentrated on leaning against the frame of my savior. The men a bout me argued, but the meaning was lost in their foreign language. I just held on to my anchor, wondering how his flesh could feel so cool under the midday heat.
His arms were slender but strong in a form of wiry strength I was unaccustomed to. A man could not suffer to be any less the size of his fellows, or he had no standing. But then, like me, this man was different, apart form the fact he could hide it more easily than I.
The sun fever was making a wonderful mess of my thoughts.
Another skin of water was administered to me, but could not keep me on my feet. The men decided that I was to sit within the wagons. There the women took me with eager hands, and played with my long hair, laughing to cover the evident awe flashing across their painted expressions.
Riding with them, I road out the sun fever, relishing in the evening air when the sun finally began to shrink below the horizon. The women, once finished plaiting my silver tresses, were quick to leave the shelter of the wagons and help the men set up for camp.
I was not allowed to leave, but did not mind, for the weakness from the fever had taken much. My mind wandered, and I watched the stars roll across the sky.
Sand shifted as a lone figure made it's way toward my wagon. My eyes did not recognize the man at first, as he was heavily robed along with all the rest, but when he spoke, my heart did not waver.
"Here. It's warm." he said quietly. He held out a small cup to me. It steamed and smelled strong of a plant, not at all unfamiliar to the wild herbs that had grown at home.
Home. Could I really refer to that as such a place?
The guard watched me closely as I took the offered drink. Was it my hair, or something else? Perhaps my fair skin. I ventured a quick look at his face and met his gaze. Silver balls of light shined back at me, a sharp contrast to his dark skin.
I looked away before my own staring could be considered rude. "Thank you," I murmured, bowing my head so that my blush would fall behind curtained hair.
He was quiet. as I hovered between bolting back into the wagon, and staying. But when he nodded, I felt myself suddenly rooted, and unwilling to go. What residual fear I held for my kidnappers, did not seem to apply to this one man.
"My name is Layna," I blurted out.
The wind whispered softly between the two of us. I held my breath, but he did not answer right away.
"The people here call me Kaene. Sabbia Kaene.'
I said it aloud a few times, tasting the syllables carefully on my tongue. He corrected me a few times, but seemed pleased by my efforts. Though I could not see it, I felt it. The dark folds of his black cloak hid much from me, but from within his eyes, much could be read.
What I saw there put me at ease. So I set myself to the task of finishing my drink. It was strong, but far from awful. Kaene seemed content to stand by, and watched my efforts closely.
As suddenly as the sun had first began to set, night fell over the desert. Fires flickered about the camp, scattered about between the people to ward of the night's chill. Already, the wind was howling down from the north, whipping up sand in thick clouds.
From my perch, I listened with growing unease. Even after a week of traveling with the group, I could not get used to the sound. In the valley, I had been sheltered from such noise. In that place, I had not been subject to the harsh juxtaposition of the desert. Scorching hot in the day, and then biting cold at night. I was dressed nor fit for either.
But what point was there in running, when I lay within the stomach of the enemy?
'Layna.' A voice said gently.
With a small jerk, I fumbled with the cup in my hand, forcing down the tremble that had made its way free during my escalating fears. I felt Kaene's heavy gaze, but would not meet it. I was ashamed of my weakness, and afraid for him to see it yet again.
This wasn't the time to be afraid. It was just wind, bearing no harsh vengeance toward me, or the vagabonds I was in company with.
'Thank you for the drink, Kaene.' I watched him take the cup from my hand through the fall of my long hair.
'Get some sleep.' He looked off to the red horizon, with a sudden expression of worry pulled tight across his face. When he noticed my watching, he met my eyes, and then left, disappearing between two wagons.
At his leaving, the chill of night snuck in, and pulled a violent shudder from me. I was quick to wrap myself in my assigned blanket in one of the smaller corners of the quarters. Best not to impose upon the rare kindness, or watch it crumble away along with the rest of my luck.
Sleep was a difficult friend to garner that night. The men and women of the trail were alive and anxious this night with a fiery spirit that keep them dancing around the fires and singing to the three moons long into the night. I too, felt my blood stirring at some unknown wonder.
But as with each weary soul and body, dreams stole me away. Visions of a silver-eyed man and sword screeching against steel. Of rough hands, warm arms, and the form of a broad-shouldered man climbing the rise of a distant sand dune.
I dreamed long, and deep.
Waking the next morning, to red skies.
And the sound of screaming.
A/N: this may or most likely may not continue. i am, as always, at the mercy of my muse, who has no sense of obligation to me.
reviews and comments are welcome and well received nonetheless =)