Fire in the Desert

Jeesh, it's hot out here…

A dark haired youth of no more than fifteen years grimaced beneath the beating sun, reflecting on the words that had just passed through his mind. For many, that thought would have been taken for a statement of fact and one would have to be hard pressed to find a dissenting opinion. For him however, and to those who knew him, it would have been seen as nothing more than ironic.

Oh, irony, thought the boy whose had been born by the name of Amal Briston as he tugged at the collar of his shirt, trying for some relief, you cruelest of God's jokes.

No relief came to him, and Amal knew that there would be none to be had for as long as he was out here. The Seldan Wastes were not a place for a person to be, and not for the first time Amal was surprised over how people allowed themselves to live in the most intolerable of environs. There wasn't any reason that he could see why someone, or even a group of people, would want to live in a burning desert such as this.

Miles and miles of sand in all directions, thought Amal glumly, his body aching for the cool touch of water on his skin. The occasional well or oasis breaks it up, but really, you have to trek an entire day just to find something that remotely resembles plant or animal life, and even then it's always in single digits. Sometimes they're already dead…and have been for a while. I haven't even seen a buzzard and I know that's not normal…

In irritation over his plight, the boy tensed the muscles in his arm and a wave of heat warped the air around him. His grimace deepened, and he had to remind himself to maintain control over himself. It wouldn't do him any good to dehydrate himself this early in the day.

Amal let loose a frustrated sigh and looked out over the large swath of the desert plain. Outside of a couple patches of dry-looking brush, there was very little, if anything at all, that could be deemed alive. Outside of himself and those that he traveled with that is.

Hearing the light crunch of a boot on grains of sand, Amal tensed

"You'd better get down from there," chastised an older, more mature voice from behind him. "If you're seen, the gig will be up before we can get started."

"Oh yeah?" asked Amal, not bothering to turn towards the crotchety, grizzled man that he knew was behind him. "And what makes you say that Sazrael? I can't see squat around here for miles…"

A swat upside the boy's head shut him up, and nearly sent him tumbling to the ground as well.

"Idiot," growled Sazrael as he leered over him. "Just because you can't see what you're looking for, it sure as hell doesn't mean that they can't see you. You're just a greenie fresh from the nest. What the hell do you know about survival in a place like this?"

"I know enough about not wasting water," grumbled Amal, rubbing the back of his head and glaring at the older man. Sazrael waved him off dismissively.

"Only because of your power. You have to be aware of that sort of thing no matter where you go."

Sniffing disdainfully, Sazrael pulled out a telescope and swung it around, surveying the landscape.

"Well, unless someone ducked out of the way real quick, I'd say you got off lucky."

"Why shouldn't have I? This place is all flat. No one would want to be out scouting around here."

"All the more reason why, if someone was smart, would keep watch over a place like this. It's real easy to see someone coming through here because it's flat. The landscape on its own acts as a natural defense, but there are hardy souls like me who can get through it fine enough to raise hell. Be grateful, maggot. You'd have burned up long ago if it weren't for me."

Amal scowled and looked away. Heat pulsed around his right fist angrily.

It's not like I even wanted to be out here in the first place, he commiserated.

"So how long until we find what we're looking for?"

"Patience is a virtue, boy," Sazrael said, lowering his telescope. "We'll be here as long as it takes. Those are our orders, so don't get your pants twisted around your balls with your waiting. You want to see home again? This is what you've gotta do to get there. Now," Sazrael folded up his telescope and quickly pocketed it, "let's go grab the others. It's about time that we moved out."

Getting up, Sazrael walked a short distance before noticing that Amal hadn't moved once from his spot. Growling out a few curses, the grizzled man tramped back over to where the teenager sat and hauled him up.

"I said 'move', kid. Time's a wastin' and Sythki are callin'. You want to bull shit? Do it on your own time when we get done with this mission. Goddamn it, why the hell did I have to get stuck with a prick like you?"

As Amal was dragged harshly back towards the main group, he had time to reflect on the scene of the desert. For the briefest of moments, he wished that there was a scout out there to have seen him.

At least then it would have put an end to this crazy trip…

A/N: The first part in a series of shorts meant to create some back story for a couple of characters in a story that I'm writing, both of whom will be important in the plot. Hope that you enjoy. :P