Chapter 15: Abandoned

Even without his eyes open, Desòchu could feel the ache and burns along his entire body. It felt like he had fallen down a cliff or went a few rounds of sparring with Somiryòki. Even the joints protested movement as he tried to pull his thoughts out of the clenching darkness of unconsciousness. The last time he felt so much pain was when he gotten into a brawl with his friends over in Ryayusuki Valley. He smiled to himself but the smile froze on his face when he couldn’t remember visiting the valley recently. Or a brawl. Or drinking himself into unconsciousness. All of those had been put aside to care for his brother.

However he remembered Kiramíro punching him and then nothing else.

Still struggling to wake up fully, he imagined they had thrown his limp body back into his room. The valley didn’t have doors like cities which meant the only two places were his own place or the shrine house at the end of the valley. He doubted they would throw him the most sacred of places in the valley.

No doubt, Yutsupazéso would have an endless list of punishments to inflict on him. He could look forward to hauling garbage and cleaning dishes until his black hair turned white.

With a groan, he rolled over and planted his face into his pillow.

Instead of a soft cushion, his nose and face dug into sand. Heat spread across his face in a wave of agony. It was quickly followed by additional pain of having his bare chest lying across the sun-blasted ground.

With a yelp, Desòchu scrambled to his feet and pawed at his face. The bright light blinded him. Spinning around, he turned and wiped at his face until the heat burned the back of his head and shoulders. It was only a small measure, but the slightly less bright made it easier to concentrate. He focused on blinking and wiping. When he finally could see, he looked around to see nothing but rock and sand.

There was nothing around him, just dunes of sand and hills of sharp rocks. He didn’t recognize the reddish color of the stones nor the mountain ranges in the distance. He turned and looked around for any familiar landmark, or even something besides the rippling dunes.

To the west, where the sun still had a palm-span to reach the horizon, he spotted three spires of rocks rising above the sand. Still in the sunlight, the spires looked like three fingers reaching into the sky. From his estimate, they were about a league away.

Desòchu frowned and turned around again slowly as he tried to find another landmark to use. Walking miles across the desert without shelter would be dangerous, no matter how often he had done it when visiting the local valleys. The shifting dunes made it easy to travel in circles.

While he searched for something, he absently rubbed his aching elbow. When his fingers scraped along ragged flesh, he hissed in pain. Surprised, he looked down.

His entire arm looked like it had been dragged across the sands. The fabric of his shirt had been stripped away, the shreds of material fluttered across skin that had thousands of scratches and gouged into it. Dried blood and sand flies covered the wound.

“Shit,” he muttered.

Desòchu brushed off the bugs and looked down to see more abrasions along his hips and thighs. Even his bare toes weren’t spared from abuse. One of his toes had dried blood and more flies.

“Stupid cow,” he muttered while he continued to inspect his injuries.

His aches and pains made more sense. It looked and felt like he had been dragged miles across the sand. His neck hurt from where the collar of his shirt would have dug into the flesh.

“What in the sands?” he rasped. His throat ached and his lips were cracked. He groaned and looked around. “What did that rancid goat do? Drag me across the desert?”

Turning around again, he scanned the horizon while gingerly holding a scratch along his shoulder. He didn’t know what to expect, either more landmarks or He rubbed his throat and glanced around for Kiramíro who he knew had to be laughing at him. When he found neither, he continued to look while cursing the warrior under his breath.

After a few minutes of turning around in the blazing sun, he had to acknowledge his situation. “Nowhere to get out of the damned sun.”

He had been taught the basics of desert survival, at least heard the stories over the campfire. The safest would be to hide from the sun and travel at dusk. It would be cooler, at least until everything got bitterly cold from a lack of sunlight. However, the clan always traveled during the day and in the overwhelming heat of sunlight.

Desòchu wiped the sweat from his brow. Why would anyone travel in his heat? He had done the hour trip to the surrounding valleys before, the end of the trips always ended in trudging the last few hundred chains. The clan ran for hours in the sun but they never explained why they didn’t pass out from exhaustion or need to drink gallons of water. He snorted, it was probably related to their speed magic.

He groaned and shook his head. He had two choices, burrow like an insect or start walking. Neither sounded enjoyable. Shielding his eyes, he measured the sun’s height with his palm; there was probably only an hour or so of sunlight before everything got dark. After that, it would be almost impossible to find the rocks.

“No reason to wait here,” he decided.

He began to walk toward the rocks. Less than a few steps later, he was cursing Kiramíro’s name and the rest of the clan that left him alone in the desert.

Desòchu’s anger got him over three dunes. By then, the sweat had dripped over his cuts and scratches. The throbbing agony in his abused joints made it impossible to keep muttering while walking.

He stopped. While he wiped the gathered flies from his raw wounds, he thought about how he had gotten there. It wasn’t his fault that Rutejìmo had almost fallen. He had done his duty, more than anyone else in the valley. Every night, every day. No one else helped him take care of the babe.

He spun around. “He wasn’t hurt!”

His voice didn’t echo across the sands.

“So I made a mistake! No one died!”

A faint breeze brought searing heat to buffet against his chest.

“Don’t leave me out here! I won’t make the same mistake, I promise!”

He half slid, half stomped along the far edge of the dune. His bare feet scraped against a gravel scree. He winced and limped over it. He had to move quickly to avoid the searing rock from cooking the bottom of his abused soles. “This is too much, you wrinkled goat! Goats! All of you!”

Desòchu cocked his head hoping to hear someone running toward him. When he didn’t, he crawled up the other side of the valley to peer around again. He desperately looked for the plume that the Shimusògo left when they ran at high speed. If he was lucky, they would have heard his apology and were coming back.

Nothing.

“Shit,” he muttered. Turning back toward the three spires, he resumed his path to the only shelter he had seen.

“Moon-damned old cows. May all of them rot in the sun and let the vultures pluck out their eyes. They can’t even believe I made a mistake. After everything I have done for that bastard…”

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