As cold as the desert

The desert got cold at night.

It was the same piece of advice Laele had gotten from everyone. Take an extra blanket. Take a cloak. The desert gets cold at night. As if she’d learned nothing from the guild academy, or hadn’t taken time to look up information on the place she was headed.

It wasn’t her first time traveling, but it was her first time traveling alone. Everyone in the guild had warned her about the scorching heat and bone-biting cold, the toxic plants and the animals that prowled the dunes. No one had seen fit to warn her about the real dangers until she was there.

The desert was home to the worst sort of scoundrels, men who would beat you senseless and rob you blind, leaving you on the sand for the scavengers to kill. The desert was home to the Soulless, whose empty eyes showed nothing as their poisoned daggers bit flesh. But the desert got cold, they said.

As if that was all that mattered.

During the day, she never would have imagined the cold. The cracked earth drank every drop of sweat, the sun searing the wet marks out of the dust before she’d moved out of sight. She had only traveled alone until she reached the city. She needed a guide, and he needed money. It made sense that they work together. That she had the power to change his fate was something they hadn’t spoken of again, though the thought crossed her mind every time they settled for the night.

There were no campfires, though Laele desperately longed for one. Even were they able to find more than a few pieces of scraggly brush, the bitter winds would have blown out any flame she could coax to life. It was the most brutal environment she’d ever been in, but the cold was the least of her worries.

She couldn’t trust the Soulless, they said. Hiring one would be a mistake. He used his mischievous grins and twinkling eyes to lull her into a sense of security, but a member of the guild should know better. He had no heart, no feelings, no soul; his blue eyes gave that away. He was empty, a husk, a killer. Nothing more than a tool used for wicked deeds. Even if she made it to her destination and found the treasure she sought, there was no chance he’d let her escape with it alive.

Laele had nodded, but she didn’t believe.

A man with no soul couldn’t sit sighing over brooding thoughts.

A man with no soul couldn’t laugh so hard at her pitiful attempts to retell jokes she’d overheard.

At the same time, though, a man with a soul couldn’t sleep so soundly with so much blood on his hands. And sleep soundly he did, whenever it was her turn to stand watch. She’d seen things that made her sure his heart was as cold as the desert’s night, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that the label wasn’t right.

Night after night, she watched him clean his knives and check his vials of poison when she settled for sleep, always wondering if she was wrong to think he was different, if tonight would be the night one of those knives slid between her ribs.

The thought filled her dreams. She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night. But before she could move, his warm, gentle hands pulled the blankets back to her chin.

******

This week’s prompt was “She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.” While my fellow writers haven’t tackled this one yet, you can read their prompt for this week–“Committing a crime”–on their pages here and here! As an added bonus this time, they’re writing the same scene, just from different character perspectives.

Until next time!

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