In the next few days, by the grace of precious supplies, the fever settled.


"It is not often that one crosses paths with a minor Magi. Not amongst the sands." Swordeater commented while seated on the centre platform. Sandhailer had quickly realised that he preferred the sickly moans over his current ability to speak.

He remained silent and propelled the sailer on conjured gales. The sands were deep, sending them sliding across the sides and struggling up to the very crests of the sharp mounts.

"Wouldn't you rather reside in one of the settlements?" Swordeater continued several moments later, as he still hadn’t answered.

"I prefer the sands. They are predictable." He said, his eyes never shifting from their destination. His focus was stronger than one soldier's questioning.

"But they change every day, weaving new waves around us even as we slumber." Swordeater gestured around them.

"Only on the surface. Unlike men."

"Ah, so it is people you take issue with." Swordeater said with a faint smirk and a soft huff, as if he could agree with such sentiments.

"Politics." Sandhailer corrected him.

"I favour politics over the desert and it's wiles – she is more powerful than any emperor."

"Only arrogant men fear powerful women." He stated, well acquainted with the empire's attitudes and practises surrounding women.

Swordeater could not help but laugh. The act appeared to hurt him, as he clutched his abdomen.

"I can assure you, not just arrogant men, nor solely powerful women. Perhaps that is why she is so mad during the day and cold at night." The man's gaze fell on the endless seas of sweltering gold, the very sky trembling as if afraid to touch the sands.

Sandhailer did not respond – he did not have the pretence of understanding the desert's needs and wants. He steered his sailer, and finished his missives without ever considering her goals. It was wasted effort, when his own aspiration was survival.

"Have you ever been with a woman?" Swordeater suddenly asked, as if it was not a sensitive subject in the slightest.

He remained silent. Even better men than him would be hesitant to answer such a question.

"Or are you a deviant? I have heard they get banished to the sands." Deviant – a man who lies with other men. His eyes finally shifted to Swordeater, staring at him for a long moment without so much as wavering. It lasted until they crested the next slope and he had to peer down to where they were going.

"No." He stated, his voice frigid. No man would confess to such a thing, whether true or false. He considered slitting his throat solely for inquiring.

Swordeater glanced away, his eyes noticeably caught on the khinjar strapped to his side.

"I am merely curious about the ways of the desert." The soldier excused himself, his voice shaking slightly with fear.

"If you weren’t so believably stupid, you would be dead." Sandhailer responded. He meant it.


"The desert does not ask questions. Neither should you." He added after a moment of silence, before they rapidly slid down into the shadow between gilded ridges.


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