Part 6: The Girl
Hunter traveled through the desert for three days, and then he ran out of supplies. His horse dipped its head as it walked, exhuasted, and Hunter felt in no better shape. His tongue felt like cotton in his mouth, and his skin itched and burned. Yet, pride forbade him to turn back. He doubted he’d find his way back to Janus’ tower even if he did.
The worst part was that he didn’t know entirely what he was searching for. He had said he would bring back a reason to make Janus kiss Emerald, but if the man didn’t even fear death, then what could possibly drive him to accept the proposal?
He rode on for hours, trying to think of which way to turn, and getting nowhere. If he could find his way out of the Wastelands, then her could freshen up and try and find out more about Janus. But only sand dunes going on for miles and miles met his gaze when he search the horizens. The only blessing was that the air was cool and clear just as the sun was disappearing behind the sandy hills. Still, that didn’t fix how hungry and thirsty he was.
On the morning of the fourth day, Hunter got up from a restless sleep and rolled up the little blanket he had. His head felt light, and his eyesight fuzzy. He had to grab onto the saddle to keep from sinking to the ground.
“Wonderful,” he mumbled, recognizing the feeling. He went to go sit back down, but before he could, darkness washed over him and the last thing he felt was coarse sand against his arms.
~ ~ ~
When he regained consciousness, Hunter found he was not in the Wastelands anymore. Or…at least he didn’t think he was. Instead of sand dunes stretching on for miles, the only view he had was that of a wall of a tent made of animal hide.
He was laying on a soft mat, though it was in no way comfortable. Pain in his joints and his pounding head distracted him from trying to figure out where he was and how he had gotten there. He closed his eyes, exhuastion taking over, but before he could fall asleep the tent flap opened and a woman dressed in a thick tunic and trousers came in.
“Ah, finally, I thought you were dead,” the woman said as she walked the short way from the entry to the mat. “Well, let’s get you some food and water and get you out of my hair.” She got a pitcher that was resting on a short table and poured some into a clay cup.
“Wait,” Hunter slurred, finding that he didn’t recognize his own voice it was so hoarse. “What…where am I?”
“Dead center of the Wastelands,” the woman replied. She offered the cup, and Hunter sat up to take it. All proper manners were forgotten, and he gulped down the water at once. The lady’s blank expression remained the same as she took the cup and poured more water.
“I’m still in the Wastelands?” Hunter said, furrowing his brows as he remembered what had happened. “Ah…I must have fainted…”
“You sure did.” She handed him the cup again, and this time he drank it slower. “All sprawled out in the sand, out cold. Most people I find like that are already dead, so you’re a lucky guy!” She opened a basket and got out some bread and cheese. “You must be starved, so here.” She handed both to him. Hunter tried to mind his manners, but found it too hard with how much his stomach growled.
The woman watched him with no expression as he gobbled down the food. Once it was gone, she spoke again.
“Why did you come here anyway? To the Wastelands, I mean,” she said, putting her hands on her hips.
Hunter swallowed the last of his food and wiped crumbs from his mouth with his sleeve. “Business from the…er…my home.”
The girl pursed her lips. “And where is your home. Wait! Don’t tell me!” She leaned closer with dark, scrutinizing eyes. “Hm…your accent sounds funny. And your clothes are the nicest I’ve ever seen!” She smirked. “And you’ve clearly been pampered. You must be royalty.”
Hunter sat with his legs crossed. “Perceptive,” he said, a little impressed. “I am Prince Hunter of Mackshire.”
“Oooh, a prince.” The girl laughed. “Well, if we are doing introductions, I’m Cally. And I’m a busy girl, so if you’re full and everything, then you might as well be on your way.” She lifted the tent flap, and Hunter frowned.
“I would only end up fainting again. I have no more supplies, and I don’t know how to get out of here,” he said, standing. A wave of dizziness hit him, but he managed to keep his balance. “You can’t just…send me off again.”
Cally stared for a moment, then laughed. “Oh, so you’re lost!”
Hunter grimaced. “Indeed.”
“Well, in that case I’ll give you some directions!” She opened the basket she had gotten the food out of again and took out a map. “Lookie here.” She unrolled it and pointed to a red circle that had been drawn. “We are here, and you should probably go this way if you want to get out.” She sat down next to Hunter and traced her finger along an invisible path. “But you have to keep going in that direction, or you’ll get lost again. Not too hard, right?” She grinned, but Hunter shook his head.
“I…I’ll need to be coming back here,” he said. “I have business with Janus.”
Cally’s face darkened. “What?”
Hunter swallowed hard, feeling as though he might have happened upon a touchy subject. “Janus…he lives here in the Wastelands…”
“Well of course I already know that,” Cally said, holding her frown. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to mess with him.” She rolled the map back up and handed it to him. “You know what, take it. I’ve got another one I’ve been working on, so I’ll just use that. Already know this place like the back of my hand, anyway.”
Hunter took the map, but was frowning. “You don’t understand! It is of utmost importance that Janus leaves the Wasteland with me!”
“Leaves with you?” Cally’s face puckered. “Why would you even want that?”
“Because he…,” Hunter trailed off. Even if he explained it, he doubted this girl could help him. He took a deep breath and let it all out before speaking again. “Nevermind…thank you for helping me, and for the map and everything.” He stepped around her and left the tent.
Outside, the sun was beginning to rise. He wondered how many days he had been out. Hopefully just one.
His horse was tied to a post nearby, so he went and stuck the map into one of his bags, then mounted.
“Well, good luck, I guess,” Cally’s voice came again. She had left the tent as well and was coming towards him. She studied him for a moment, then shrugged as if she had mentally made some decision.
“I am in your debt,” Hunter replied, making Cally smile.
“Ah, a prince in my debt,” she said, putting one of her hands on her cheek. “Be sure to remember that.”
Hunter couldn’t help but smile. Then, he rode off back into the neverending sand dunes.
~ <♥> ~
It’s good to be back with these! I will admit that I’m kind of improvising as I write this, which pains me, but every plan I have had for this story has kinda gone down the drain thanks to how stubborn Janus is! I guess we can both be surprised by things that happen! I have a feeling that this short story will be much longer than The Card Dealer, but the fun thing will be that after this first part the rest of the story will be very character driven, so I’m excited about that!
I hope y’all enjoyed this part! Let me know your feedback and thoughts in the comments below! God bless and have a wonderful week!