Journey With Strangers

Another writing prompt that I had fun with. I do not remember the exact statement, but it had to deal with language barriers. This was a standalone piece as many are. There is a lot of room for expansion both before and after. One day I might even do that.


Camp could be set up and taken down in less than an hour, as long as everything was where it should be. The problem lied in the fact we had deserters. Expeditions out this far were rarely heard of. Groups would leave town saying they were coming out this way and were never heard of again. It made sense.

The farthest charted area was just beyond the forest. The ground gave way to sand and the trees tapered off. Ten days into the sands and you reached another forest. Our cartographer made it this far before leaving with a smaller group to make their way home. Now that they knew the desert did not go on forever, they were safe to leave.

The fifty people turned into forty-two, then to thirty-six as few more disappeared in the night. A number of supplies disappeared with them also.

A scent the likes of which I never experienced grew stronger the farther into the trees we got. It was sweet. At first, you just had a hint of it. A few more days and you were breathing it in. The air carried a taste with it. The party was thirstier as we approached whatever it was. Ones who raised concerns and suggested a change of direction would disappear in the night, taking more valuable tools or supplies.

Misshapen branches took place of the finely carved posts I use to have to hold up the fabric of the tent. Each deep inhale of the smell seemed to lure me in as well. I closed my eyes and let my imagination shape the source of desire. It took me a moment to realize that the alarm was sounding around us.

I grabbed the daggers that laid next to me and crawled from my temporary home. The language of the scout was unknown to me, but the urgency in her voice was clear. There was no clear threat and nothing was said to outsiders such as myself.

“A temple. Close to here. We will stay in camp tonight and make our way tomorrow. Rest.” Our directions were always short. It was repeated a couple of times in different languages. I slithered back into my tent and took their advice. Sleep didn’t come as my visions of what lay ahead swam in my eyelids.

The camp was broken down quicker than the first night. Fatigue and fear gave away to excitement of this discovery. Instructions were given to drop our gear as the top of the structure came fully into sight.

“Weapons and light rations.” This was a new command. It was a refreshing change from march onward or rest.

We approached and took a bit of the perimeter. To walk the full length would have taken the better part of a day. No one volunteered to stay outside and view the entire exterior, which means people were assigned. I was one of those unlucky ones.

The scent seemed to come from inside. The air that blew out was coated in it. I stood for a time with my mute partner. This situation arose out of us both begin from different regions and the language barrier was hard to cross in the span of 30 days. When I got bored looking around, I found a nice spot to lay down.

The stones that created the structure also had a low wall outside. They were smooth in both texture and construction that my back and side did not have to contort to be comfortable. My partner scuffed at me and stayed standing. His social structure was quite rigid from what I understood. A rogue, like myself, we did what we felt mostly.

A scream from inside grabbed both of our attention. He readied himself as I grabbed the hilt of my short blade. Two men ran out. Their words lost on me. Then a few more. My partner was steadfast in waiting for whatever came out. My approach was to gracefully slide behind the low wall and watch.

One of us clearly made a better choice as the other was tackled, grabbed by his waist by huge jaws, thrashed back and forth then tossed over my head and the wall which I hid behind. A gruesome yell escaped from the thing’s mouth and it charged after the ones who fled.

I am more of a treasure hunter than hired muscle, which is why I did not look to see how deceased my former companion was. I did take this moment to assess what my next move should be. I was also not one to make a trek back alone. The gateway to the stone structure was quite alluring. The scent as well. I hopped over the wall after a good look around and deciding the thing will be gone for a while. I took out my dagger and stepped toward the opening. Another step and I broke through the darkness. The real adventure was beginning.