Sunday Scribbles Writing Prompts, Week 17: Sand/Desert. A merchant takes a shortcut. Will he regret it?

Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!

Today marks week 17 of the 52 week writing challenge!

Introductory post: Sunday Scribbles announcement post
Past prompts: Sunday Scribbles past prompts

The prompt for 30th April is ‘Sand/Desert’:

ssbanner sand desert

This weeks attempt is loosely based on my work in progress, ‘Tales from Dragonspire.’ Reginald is a travelling merchant who meets my main character Arckia near the beginning of his journey. Reg loves nothing more than a good deal!

My Attempt:

The sun beat down on a canyon deep in the desert. It sparkled off a metal bracelet that hung off the coat sleeve of a tall man. Beside him walked a woman, and behind them a group of travellers and a cart pulled by a donkey trundled across the sand.

‘Reg, are you sure this is a good idea?’ the woman prodded.

Out of the corner of his eye, Reginald saw her wipe a hand across her forehead. Droplets splattered onto the dusty floor beside her.

‘Course I’m sure!’ Reginald insisted. He reached into his bag for his water skin and took a small sip. As his head tilted upwards, he glanced around the ravine that surrounded them on both sides. ‘This is the safest way to cross the desert.’

‘If you say so,’ Lucy muttered. ‘It’s also the perfect place for an ambush.’

‘No one asked your opinion,’ Reginald complained.

Lucy glanced back at their comrades. They shuffled forward with unease, eyes trained on the rocky ridges around them. She dropped her voice to a whisper. ‘We’re all thinking it, Reg.’

Reginald wheeled around to glare at the group. ‘Look, you lot, it’s either risk ambush, or be torn to shreds by the monsters in the desert. If any of you want to turn back, feel free. Plenty of monsters between the end of the ravine and the kingdom we came from…’

The travellers shifted and muttered amongst themselves. Reginald held his ground and placed his hands on his hips. He stared at them with what he hoped was an expression of confidence. None of them made a move backwards.

‘Yeah, thought so,’ Reginald grumbled. ‘Come on, we want to make the dome before nightfall.’

The man that led their pack mule inclined his head and urged the animal forward. Wheels began to turn, and the cart that carried their wares rolled onward. Reginald turned back towards Lucy. She clutched her water skin in her hand and looked away

‘You still got a problem?’ Reginald asked.

Lucy sighed. ‘You know very well that no one will speak out against you, and no one will return alone.’

Reginald grinned. ‘It’s what makes me so awesome.’

Lucy rolled her eyes and muttered, ‘Arrogant jerk.’

‘You know it,’ Reginald replied. He wiped a hand across his own brow and kept his eyes open for any threats that may be concealed in the walls of the canyon.

Blazing Canyon was aptly named for its scorching temperatures and dusty sands. Even the desert trees flagged in the heat of the sun. Chance of ambush was slim to none. The only people crazy enough to travel this way were Reginald and his group of reluctant merchants. Sure, it was dangerous, especially if you ran out of water, but a glance back at his safe cart of valuable merchandise brought a smile to Reginald’s face. The risk was worth it to keep his goods safe.

Dust flew into the air. The group coughed and covered mouths and faces. Reginald paused and rubbed at his eyes to try and remove the grit which had assaulted him. A rattle, a clatter, and his head shot up towards the cliff. Pebbles hurtled down towards them, followed by larger rocks, boulders. They bore down on his caravan with breakneck speed.

‘Run!’ Reginald yelled. He gestured to his team to move, and sent a rude hand gesture in the direction that the rocks had come from.

Lucy joined him as he ran to the side, to safety. ‘On a scale of one to ten, how compromised is your position as leader?’ Lucy yelled over the cacophony.

‘Screw you!’ Reginald shouted back.

He winced as a large boulder crushed his cart and a scream pierced the air. Frederick had not moved from his position by the donkey. Reginald looked away as blood began to pool around the large rock. He glanced around him into the chaos. The others were scattered. They would not trust him now. They hadn’t wanted to cut through the canyon, but now they could pay with their lives for his decision. 

‘Gather whoever you can and turn back. They’ll listen to you,’ Reginald ordered Lucy.

‘What about you?’ Lucy protested.

‘There are probably more of them,’ Reginald retorted. ‘I’ll buy you some time.’

‘Will I ever…?’ Lucy began, as hesitant steps took her backwards.

‘Go!’ Reginald ordered as a large hulk of a man approached the fallen cart.

Lucy nodded. She turned and ran towards their group. Reginald watched as they fled in the direction that they had come from, away from the man, away from danger. He glanced back towards the cart and ducked out of sight when the man turned in his direction. As he sank to the floor he closed his eyes, but he could not block out the blood, or the sick way that Frederick’s neck had been twisted.

‘It would have been fast,’ he muttered to himself, but the utterance did not reassure him. He had known Frederick since he was a kid.

A shudder wracked his thin frame. Reginald let his eyes slide open, and he leant on his hand to peer around the edge of the rock. The man was distracted. Time to find cover.

Keen eyes scanned the edge of the ravine. There were so many places to hide, but the one that stood out the most was the cave. It would do. It would be safe.

Reginald moved towards the cliff face and grabbed onto a worn rock. Even with the crude footholds, it was not long before he reached the cave. Bent over, hands on his knees, he huffed out a few breaths.

There was a clatter below him. Reginald peered down and watched the man grin as he shoved trinkets and odds and ends into a large bag. Focused on his greed, the man had not noticed Reginald’s ascent.

Reginald straightened out and leaned against the wall of the cave. A pebble dislodged. It clattered down into the ravine. The man looked up from his haul with a scowl. Reginald ducked from sight and held his breath as the man pulled a weapon from his back.

‘Didn’t run away like your friends?’ the man taunted from below him. ‘Poor choice.’

Reginald dropped to a crouch and glanced out from his hiding place. Sunlight glinted on his bracelet. There was a clunk, a woosh, and a bang. A cry tore from his throat, and his jaw dropped as he fell backwards.

‘The hell was that?’ he mumbled, as he brushed himself off and ran his fingers over his hair.

His hand came away bloodied, but whatever it was had only scraped his skin. He began to mutter under his breath as he wiped his hand on his trousers and approached the entrance to the cave with cautious steps. Fingers traced the edges of a wooden object, which had embedded itself in the sandstone cliff just above where his head had been moments before.

‘Huh?’ Reginald muttered. It was a carving, a cart and a donkey made of wood. Eyes widened in recognition. Reginald scowled and turned on heel. He straightened and pointed at the man below as he yelled, ‘Stop messing with my merchandise!’

The man shouldered his weapon. This time, Reginald was ready. He watched closely as the man loaded up a silver goblet from the cart.

‘Where’d you get a junk launcher!’ Reginald yelled, eyes wide and heart stuttering wildly in his chest. There were only a few left. It couldn’t be… could it?

The man laughed. ‘Pried it from the cold dead hands of another dumb merchant!’

Reginald shivered, and his lip trembled. There was a clunk and a woosh, and he barely ducked in time as the goblet shot over his head. He watched with hazy eyes as the man fumbled with the launcher and dug around for more ammunition. 

His metal bracelet fell from his coat sleeve to his exposed wrist, and Reginald winced. The metal was hot, and the burn dulled the pain of loss, but it did not stop the hot tear that leaked from the corner of his eye. A rough hand wiped it away, and Reginald focused on the burn, let it light his fury.

‘He wasn’t a dumb merchant. He was my brother you scumbag!’ Reginald yelled.

A backpack slid to the ground from slim shoulders. Reginald’s hands shook as they closed around a jar of black powder in the bag. It was time to fight back.

‘What you got there?’ the man yelled. He raised a hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun and peered towards Reginald.

‘My brother wasn’t the only one with cool toys!’ Reginald retorted. He grabbed the backpack and waved it like a flag in front of the man, but it wasn’t a flag of surrender. It was a challenge.

Greedy eyes followed the bag, and the man grabbed the first thing that he could find from the cart: A porcelain vase.

‘That’s priceless!’ Reginald protested.

‘It’s worth more to me smashed over your head!’ the man bellowed. No other men had joined him by the cart. The man had attacked alone.

Reginald flattened his back against the cave wall as the launcher fired. The vase shattered against the wall outside.

‘If you want me, you’ll have to come and get me,’ Reginald taunted.

He glanced around at the walls of the cave. They were cracked and worn, and when Reginald kicked out at the rocks, they shifted and the ceiling shook. 

When he glanced outside again, the man smirked up at him, and there was a clunk as the launcher reloaded. It was slow, as were the man’s steps towards the cliff face. Reginald could use that to his advantage.

He crouched and emptied the contents of his bag onto the floor. Fingers closed around a length of treated string. Reginald stuffed the end into the jar of black powder and loosened his hair with his free hand.

Strands fell free around his face. He pushed them aside and shoved some of the objects from the floor back into his bag. Underneath his flint and steel, which he grabbed and stuffed into his pocket, was a thin rag.

‘Perfect,” Reginald muttered.

He lay the rag over the top of the jar and tied the loose ends around it with the string. When he tipped the jar upside down, the string loosened and powder began to escape. Reginald cursed and righted it with one swift movement. He glanced at the bracelet on his wrist and ran his fingers over the catch. There was no other option. He removed the bracelet and attached it around the rim of the jar. It held the rag in place perfectly.

Reginald glanced out of the cave. The man was no where to be seen. He took a chance and reached out his hand towards the carved figure. When a few tugs did not free it from the wall, Reginald dropped the jar into the cart and grabbed the end of the string. The carving held the makeshift grenade near the cracks in the wall of the cave.

‘Come out, come out where ever you are!’ the enemy taunted in a singsong voice. His footsteps were heavy on the sandy gravel. It was just a game to him. But if he had defeated Reginald’s brother, it was one that he played well.

Reginald ducked back into the cave. He held his ground in the shadows and braced himself as the footsteps got closer. A shadow appeared, head, shoulders and weapon, and loomed in the entrance to the cave.

‘Come out and fight me, you coward,’ the man taunted.

The man was almost outside the cave now. It was now or never. Reginald moved as near to the cave entrance as he dared, and his fingers curled around a rock. He hurled it at his assailant.

The man cursed as the rock hit him square on the nose, and he raised a hand to his face.

His moment of distraction was all that Reginald needed. He ducked out of the cave and away from the man to cower behind a rock. The fuse trailed behind him, and there was no moment to pause or hold his breath. The man could notice that the cave was empty at any moment. Reginald grabbed his flint and steel and smashed them together to create a spark.

The man peered into the cave. The string caught light and the flame sped towards the makeshift grenade. Reginald shut his eyes tight and gripped his wrist.

‘I’m sorry, bro. I had to,’ Reginald muttered. He fell to his knees and covered his ears.

The explosion rocked the side of the canyon. Rocks flew outwards, fell downwards. There was a thud, and a cry from the cave. When the ground stopped shaking, Reginald stood and walked back towards where the man had stood. A hand poked out from under a rock. Reginald gave it a swift kick, but the hand did not twitch. The man had been buried alive, and the launcher lay discarded nearby.

Reginald began to smirk as he bent to grab his brother’s launcher. A rumble sounded above him, and the ground began to shake beneath his feet. A few pebbles fell and trickled down the back of his neck, over his shoulders. He glanced up with wide eyes. A landslide.

Launcher in hand, he leapt away from the cave and slid down the sandy incline towards the bottom of the canyon. Rocks shifted above him as he reached the bottom, and Reginald threw the launcher towards his cart as he dived into a roll to avoid them. He skidded to a halt in front of his overturned cart and glanced around at the chaos in the canyon.

Rocks littered the sandy path, along with damaged goods and pieces of his cart. He moved his head quickly past the crushed man and donkey, and bent to pick up a small wooden carving. A dragon. It was the only thing that had survived the carnage.

Reginald shoved the carving into his pocket and dug around in his bag. The water skin was nearly empty, but it quenched his thirst. He heaved a sigh and shouldered the launcher. His wrist no longer glinted in the sunlight as he walked along the canyon, and he had lost all of his merchandise, but at least he was alive.

End Prompt.

Thanks for reading! I wrote this in draft form during creative writing society a few years ago in university, but I edited it a lot for this post. Please don’t make grenades. I don’t know if this works or not, and I don’t want to find out!

Next Sunday’s prompt:
The prompt for Sunday 7th May is: Robots.

ssbanner robots 7th May.jpgIf you try next weeks prompt yourself, let me know how it goes. Post your attempt on your blog on the 7th May, and leave a link in the comments below this post so that I can read it 🙂

If you can attempt the prompt in less than 140 characters, you can also #sunscribbles on Twitter. I am super interested to see what you all come up with 🙂


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