The short, stocky man with the pale skin had given Zire food and water, but dying in the sand may have been better than this. He rubbed the swollen lump on the back of his head where the man had hit him. His captor called himself a treasure hunter and Zire was the treasure he had found. The two of them walked through the desert connected by a rope tied tight around both of their waists.
“They will pay good money for you in Londles,” boasted his captor. He spoke of the slaver city in the Northwest corner of the Alreah bordering the Kaus Mountains.
“It is a long walk to Londles” said Zire, hoping to discourage the man. “And I don’t think I’ll be worth that much, just look how skinny I am.”
The man laughed. “As long as you're strong enough to carry a sword they should pay a decent price. There's a war going on in the West you know. There are buying up slaves by the hundreds to fill the voids within their ranks.”
“I am no warrior,” Zire muttered under his breath. He knew of the war beyond the Kaus. Although his home city of Meusal was too far East to be affected, it was common knowledge that bloody battles were being fought over land near the Keap River. “Which side does Londles sell too?”
“Why whoever has the coin of course,” The pale man grinned behind a dark, unkempt beard. He wore a white shirt stained with sweat that covered his broad chest. The sheathed sword strapped to his waist bounced off his leg with every step. “What does it matter anyway, would you prefer fighting for one side over the other?”
“I would prefer not to fight at all,” said Zire, knowing that slaves only served as meat shields in war. He would surely die, whether it be fighting for the southerners of Bellor or the northern cities of Leese. Both sides separated by the Keap and both looking to take control of the vast river that started in the Kaus Mountains, ran through the green battle torn plains and emptied out far West into the Umbrah ocean. Hopefully I will be sold to the winning side, thought Zire, not that it would matter.
“What brings you out here in the middle of the desert far from Meusal anyway,” asked the pale man, scratching his balding head. He always seemed to be scratching something.
“My people decided I was not worth what I drank in water,” explained Zire. “The ancient wells that once supplied us with water for hundreds of years have begun to dry up. The city officials have been exiling and executing people for the past few months to lessen the burden on the wells. I had to choose between being beheaded or walking the Alreah.”
“Your leaders efforts are pointless then,” claimed the pale man, “it seems Meusal is doomed. You were lucky to get out before all the water was gone.”
He is not wrong thought Zire. Meusal had been doomed ever since the Alreah had dried up into a desert. The people of his city desperately dug into the ground looking for new groundwater but their efforts had produced little. What little time Meusal had left would be a struggle indeed.
They had came upon another one of the Alreah’s large rock formations when the pale man said “we best make camp on top of that big one. Don’t want to get caught in the middle of the desert when those sand monsters start roaming about.”
Zire nodded his head and they both began to climb up the rock. The food they had eaten earlier made climbing much easier than before. With his long, lanky limbs Zire would've made it to the top in no time if not for the rope that attached him to the stocky pale man who struggled to reach holds with short arms. Zire finished the climb and looked down, watching the man slowly make his way up to the plateau where Zire stood. By the time his pale hand grasped the top ledge the would-be slave had already untied the rope around his waist. Zire’s heel came down hard and fast crushing his captors fingers.
The pale man shouted curses as he fell to his death. Zire made his way back down the giant rock to gather up the fallen supplies before another night fell upon this cursed place.