When dawn came, the three of them set out towards the wasteland that lay ahead of them. Aerys was worried, they had to find shelter in the mountains before the sun set. He doubted they would be able to survive in the sand in chilling temperatures and also in the strong winds that Eris had described. They had to make it as soon as possible, and so the three of them had woken up just before dawn and were already on their way.
Aerys could feel the cold even now, and he waited for the sun to come out. When it finally did, warmth spread across his body and it felt blissful like he had never felt before. Energized, warmth gave him hope, and he set out with renewed vigour, and was sure that they could make it. They had to make it across at any cost.
As they stepped into the sand, Aerys felt his feet sink in a bit. It was very minute, but Aerys looked up to the others to see if they had felt it. It looked like they had. “Guys, this just makes our journey harder, and will slow us down. We need to get going fast, but be careful at the same time. Who knows what Is lurking around here or inside the sands. Let’s do this” All around there was sand, and if strained his eyes he could make out the mountains they were heading towards. They seemed so far away, and Aerys was worried that a storm would blow them away. They were going to have to hurry. There were a lot of unanswered questions, but it was better to not dwell on the them and make haste in reaching the mountains. They would have to stretch their limits and go as humanely fast as possible or angel-ly fast in the case of Eris. “Guys, I hate to break this to you, but we're going to have to double our pace if we want to make it. Try being light on your feet, and not putting your leg down hard as there is a chance the sand might be weaker at places and your feet will fly in. Eris, I suggest you hover above the ground, as you can save energy by flying and not walking in the sand. We have to reach the mountains before nightfall at any cost or else if we don't only fate and destiny can decide what happens to us, and I don't like them all that much. Let's make it there, and hopefully we can get help.”
Rogue said to him, “What if we don't? The mountains are so far away. Isn't there another way?
Eris replied to that,” This our one and only chance to go across and let’s make it to the mountains. I'm sure we can do this, we really can. And with that encouragement, Rogue, Aerys and Eris set of again, doubling their pace, their footing firm. They could survive this, they had already fought so much together, and his was just one more thing they had. “Come on Rogue, Eris” Aerys called out. They could do this.
They were on their way to the mountains. The mountains were waiting, and they were coming.
After an hour or so of trudging, they stopped for a short break. The sun was still not that high, and yet beads of perspiration dropped from Aerys' hand and fell with a hiss onto the hot sand below. If this was the condition in the morning, they wondered what would happen in the afternoon when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. It was so hot already, and the drastic change between the forest and the sands was unsettling. So much change in conditions wasn't good for a person’s body, and it gave them yet another reason to leave the sands and get into the tree cover of the mountains. “The nights are very cold, and the day hot” Eris whispered, but rogue couldn't muster a reply and all Aerys could grunt was “Come on”.
And with that, they moved ahead, their progress visible. Little did they know that at this pace, they could make it across by the evening. The mountains seemed much closer than before, but they were still far away. Up till now, they had seen no sign of life except a thorny withered plant in the distance. The poor plant looked like the life had been sucked out of it, as it stood bent and withering under the suns glare.
They walked on and on, taking brief respites, but yet moving at a very fast pace as desperation was starting to set in. Rarely did they come across any vegetation, and with their throats getting even more parched, their water supply was running low and they had to reach the mountains quickly. “Eris use your flight and please go find water” Rogue said, all thoughts of not going in separate directions going away. This would soon prove to be a grave mistake as whenever the three of them were separated, grave things happened, but Rogue would soon find out. Rogue shielded her hand from the scorching sun, as it was almost noon. The heat was almost unbearable, and their pace was slowing. And yet, the mountains were looming closer than ever before and she was sure they could make it there by nightfall.
Secretly, Aerys was happy. Things were turning out to be better as they were almost at the mountains. They hadn't encountered any animals yet, nor any storms. But the thing about life is that things happen at the wrong time, and Aerys had thanked his stars for no storms to soon. A storm was coming, a storm that would test all of them. A very powerful storm.
Aerys had hoped to soon.
The moment Aerys thought those words, the winds struck, “Oh god, why so cruel?” Aerys groaned in dismay. The timing was too bad, too perfect in the bad way. They were so unlucky, and bad luck and death were their best friends. Sand was swirling all around in the air, and Aerys called out to Rogue to stay close.” Stay close Rogue, don't let go of my hand, we cannot get separated here”. Suddenly, Aerys could here thew faint beating of wings. Eris. But they were soon masked by the fierce winds of the sandstorm. Aerys had heard tales about sandstorms from travellers he had met.
One had said, “Surviving a sandstorm in the red wasteland is an achievement very few can boast of and it needs superhuman strength. The one I survived was a very peaceful one, but the sandstorm can go very violent with columns of sand rising and falling with the winds and the entire landscape changing. Here you must be very careful, and be still in one place. Only god can help you in such situations as you are most likely to be covered by layers of sand packed tightly over each other, and it will be very difficult to get out of the sticky mess. Luckily, no sand columns covered me, and I escaped. One storm is survivable, two storms not so much. Run for the mountains or to the forests after the storm. You might even find yourself blown away to one of these in violent storms, and you must be very careful”
Going back to the forest wasn't an option, and they would have to survive the storms to the mountains where the tree cover would help them. Aerys hoped Eris would be okay, who knew what would happen to him up there in the heart of the storm. But Eris could take care of himself. What about the two of them? Aerys felt that any minute the storm would lift them up and toss them around like rag dolls, and he closed his eyes and held Rogue close to him trying to shield her as much as possible. For what seemed like hours, sand kept hitting at them, and Aerys skin burned because of their heat. And they waited, and waited, unwavering. Determination and desperation in their eyes, but this storm wasn't just any storm. It was a very violent one, and it was noon when the sand was fired up and red hot. Aerys grimaced in pain as the sad kept hitting at him. It never seemed to stop.
After what seemed like ages and ages of experiencing pain for Aerys, he finally heard the winds slowing down as the he could feel his body parts again. He flexed his arms, and stretched his back which had a few burns, but he would survive. “You okay Rogue?” Aerys said as pain started to cloud his senses and he collapsed on the hot sand before jerking back up. “Hot, so hot.” Aerys groaned. Where was Eris? The storm would have hit him harder as he had been high up in the air. “Eris, Eris” Rogue began to shout, but to no avail. Eris was lost, out of sight and they would have to find him. They had to do it fast, as he might be injured or even worse, almost dead. But could Angels die? They would have to find out. Rogue hoped not.
The angel was gone, perhaps carried away by the violent winds, he might be in the forest or at the mountains. Aerys hoped it was the mountains, so that they could head forward and find out. He could be buried by sand, and Rogue and Aerys would have to be on the watch. They would have to search for him and make it to the mountains by nightfall. Problems arose with every step they took, and it was as if nature itself shifted and changed to stand against them and it was as if nature was sending her forces to stop them.
Oh mother nature, please help us. Aerys thought as he looked at the sand around him. The desert was silent as ever, and the whole wold was against them. Nature was against them as she sent her forces, time against them as they had to make it fast, and Satan against them as they tried to fight back at him. Aerys was sure death was lurking behind them, waiting and watching as they battled on and on.
Suddenly, Aerys heard a screech and looked up to see vultures. They were circling high above in a group, probably assuming Aerys and Rogue to be dead as they were laying down on the ground. Five vultures were in the sky, and Aerys could not believe that their number was coincidentally the Ashanti number for bad luck. For them, everything happened in fives, that is bad luck.
“I don't think we're going to make it to shelter anytime soon Aerys”, Rogue said anxiously, “We have to find Eris, he could be anywhere in this tireless stretch of wasteland. He could even be in the forest, or at the mountains, or even burried under columns of sand or in some foreign land. He could be anywhere.” Aerys sighed as he strained his eyes, attempting and hoping to catch a glimpse of Eris, but there was no one. Only sand and sand and sand.
“Let’s leave quickly, those vultures look hungry” Aerys said as he stared up cautiously. They seemed to be waiting for Rogue and Aerys to die.
“The best we can do is move forward to the mountains and wait for Eris, nothing too bad could have happened to him, he's an angel after all. We should hope for the best and remain positive, and not let negative thoughts dissuade us. We should believe in Eris our friend.” Aerys said, and as he said those words he felt a pang of guilt. They were deserting their friend, and leaving his fate and life to chance. They were deserting the life of someone who had saved their lives countless times. Aerys could remember the moment in the battle against the tribal when Eris’ timely intervention had save Aerys' life. Aerys could also remember when Eris had shielded them from the king’s guards, Eris had risked his life to try save Aerys' brother. Oh, what was Aerys saying.
“But, but” Rogue said, her voice cracking. She seemed to be thinking the same thing. Oh, how could they? They trudged onwards, grim looks on their faces, determination in their eyes and pain in their hearts. What were they doing?
They moved at a steady pace, they couldn't fail Eris, they had to make it to the mountains. Before nightfall, they were there, but where was Eris? There was no sign on him. They would have to search more, and also find shelter under a tree a bit higher up in the mountains.
The mountains were quiet and there was no sign of civilization. They didn't dare light a fire for fear of what they would see or what creature they would encounter.
They would have to wait the night and resume search in the morning.