Scorched Soul

In a scorched dystopia, Jenna Sand is just trying to survive, without knowing who her parents are or anything about how the world used to be. A servant in a ranch house, she flees the cattle ranch with the other workers, fearing the deadly 'Sand Plague'. The Harshlands outside the ranch, however, are aptly named, and surviving isn't going to be easy. Jenna struggles on, determined to keep going, but will her final, seemingly unjust, predicament be the last straw? Will her luck finally run dry?


6. Pride comes before a fall...

Lucas just laughed, telling her to pay no attention to Will before deciding they should settle down and sleep for the night, since they had to be up early in the morning. Jenna agreed, and lay down next to Lucas on the cooling desert sand, watching the flames from the campfire slowly transform into tiny red tongues and streaks, before dying down into embers and sparks. The smoke spiralled up in the sky, but Lucas said that no one would think they were bandits, since they just looked like a group of travellers on their way to 'anywhere'. Heartsleeve laughed at that, turning over and whistling lowly, as the moon rose in the sky. It always looked larger when you were out on the Harshlands, Will claimed, and Jesse backed him up, saying it was the same with the Plainslands, in his short, broken version of Desert-Tongue.


Jenna didn't know exactly when she went to sleep, but she woke up early the next morning, with a slight desert breeze ruffling her hair. The campfire had been stamped out, and Will was checking the girth on his mare, while Heartsleeve sat by the trampled sticks and whistled for the whole desert to hear. Lucas and Jesse were checking a compass and deciding on the best way to get to Rairrk, so Jenna sat up and brushed out her hair with her thin fingers, patting her clothes to get rid of the sand that had nestled there. Lucas was anxious to set off, but Will insisted on eating some hard bread for breakfast, before they all finally mounted and set off again. The desert all used to look the same to Jenna, but now she was noticing little differences, like the way some sand shifted into a dune and a cluster of miserable shrubs that hid a tiny pool of water.


The sun was wavering overhead as they slowed to a trot, then a walk, just outside Rairrk. Will, due to his experience and the fact that he'd been trusted with the smoke bomb, was leading the small group that were going to rob the bank, while Lucas and Jenna dismounted and watched them ride off. Sighing, Lucas pulled his sawn off shotgun out of its holster, putting his arm through Devil's Demon's reins and then around Jenna's neck.


"From now on, all of this is just acting, ok? I don't mean anything by it. Boss' orders, that's all." He whispered, and she nodded, understood. Boss' orders.


That was when the act began. Lucas started striding into the town, yelling like a mad man. Jenna played her part well, screaming and crying, just like Will had told her to that morning, over breakfast. Townspeople hurried out of their homes, screaming and yelling at Lucas, calling him a 'dirty bandit' among other, fouler, names, but none dared to throw a stone or fire a shot, not with that shotgun pointed straight at Jenna's head. Everything was going as planned, even if Jenna was scared stiff. Tears flowed from her eyes freely, as Lucas nudged her forwards, never letting go. Devil's Demon snorted and tossed his head, neighing and stamping his feet. Impatient, as if he knew this was all a façade, a ruse. Maybe he was more intelligent than Jenna had initially thought.


It wasn't long before they reached the town centre, a sprawling square of saloons, stores and houses, with the Rairrk Bank standing tall and proud at the other side of the street. Five or six officers, sat on plump, mouse grey horses - mouse grey marked a horse of the Law - had shotguns strapped to their waists, and grim looks on their faces. Grim, but not sympathetic, Jenna realised. After all, this was only a job to them; she didn't really matter. So long as they got the credit for saving a 'young girl in distress', they didn't care who she was, or why she was there, or what she had been through. No one really cared, except her friends. Dead friends, but friends all the same. Of course, there was still a chance that one of them had escaped, but she had come round to thinking that it could have been a bandit she heard, or even a bull or cow that got loose and spooked at the gunshots. It could have been anything, but the chances that it was Ethan, or Raphael, or even Oliver, were getting increasingly slim.


"Now look here, sir!" One of the officers called, a stout man with a walrus moustache and a bald head. "Just leave the girl alone, let go of her, and we can talk about this."

"Never!" Lucas, always the convincing actor, kicked up some sand, and the wind sent it right into the officer's eyes, as well as those of their horses.


What happened next was possibly the most confusing event of Jenna's entire life. She spotted Jesse, Heartsleeve and Will coming out of the bank, laden with unsuspecting beige sacks. Someone started screaming from inside the bank, but, before the officers could turn around, Will's gaze stopped on Jenna's eyes, and he smiled his thin smile at her, before pulling out a strange looking, oval shaped contraption, and lobbing it at the officers. When it hit one of them on the head - making him slump in his saddle and fall to the sandy floor - it suddenly emitted lots of bright white smoke, and it engulfed the town centre, as well as everybody who was in it. More screams echoed around Rairrk, as the officer's horses turned right, then left, confused. Lucas, knowing they had no time to waste, lifted Jenna up into Devil's Demon's saddle, before following her up and spurring him away from Rairrk, in the direction of Jesse, Heartsleeve and Will, who were all turning and running to where they had tied up their horses.


Soon, everyone was galloping away from Rairrk, whooping and praising God for their 'bountiful raid'. At the mention of God, Jenna shut her eyes and sighed: it just reminded her of Oliver, and how he hated people who cursed or praised a God who took away his twin. But no, Jasper was more than that. He was like his shield, or his protector. Maybe even his lifeline. And this supposed God took all of that away from him, when he cursed Jasper with the Sand Plague and condemned him to death, but not Oliver. This time, Oliver couldn't just follow his brother. And that was what stung the most.


Opening her eyes, Jenna noticed a dust cloud on the horizon. Lucas muttered something about a backup group, sent by Jamie to make sure they did the job alright, and Jenna's curiosity relaxed. They got closer and closer to the group of horses and riders, barely visible due to the bright desert sun and the sand they were kicking up. Jenna looked back at Raiirk, and her heart suddenly started thumping faster in her chest. A group of horses and riders were following them from the general direction of Rairrk, and Jenna didn't have to squint her eyes to guess that they were officers. Looking back at the riders in front of them, her eyes suddenly widened, and a stone dropped in her stomach.


The horses in front of them were mouse grey, and the riders were wearing beige uniforms. They had been caught.

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