Chapter 4 : Before the Storm
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The only thing which broke the sameness was the camel causing him to rise and fall in perfect synchronisation of its steps. He could hear Rose chatting merrily to Dalila and Rashidi a little way ahead of him. To his right, Lorcan was snapping away at everything in sight, subjecting Scorpius to flare of the camera flash every now and then.
Due to the bareness of the land, they had a clear view of the setting sun. The sky was bleached with swirls of orange and red against an ever darkening backdrop. Scorpius hurried his camel along to catch up with the others. He had heard about the dangers of travelling during nightfall, knowing that it would be best to simply give up on their travels for the day.
“Rose, should we stop and set up camp?” Scorpius asked while his camel slowly slipped into place next to hers.
Rose glanced over to the others who gave nods of approval before replying. “Well, the majority voted yes, so I can’t really go against their wishes.”
She pulled on the reins of the camel who kicked furiously into the ground, causing grains of sand to flick up at Scorpius to show its discontent. He eventually gave into Rose’s wishes a couple of metres ahead of where the others stopped. She had been right about having an angry one, Scorpius chuckled to himself.
“We have made good ground today, but I feel a change in the air,” Rashidi said, climbing down from the camel. “It’s getting thicker and rougher, and I fear a sandstorm is on the way. There has not been one at all this season, so it is only a matter of time before it strikes.”
“What happens then?” Lorcan inquired.
“Clouds of sand and whatever it picks up with it whirl around causing mass destruction,” Rashidi answered., giving Lorcan a small smile. “If the storm is fierce enough it can cause suffocation or even death.”
Scorpius let out an involuntary shiver and saw Lorcan’s reaction mimic his. They had always gotten along and had grown to know each other through being in the same house, albeit separated by a few years. It was nice to see him again, even if his inquisitive nature had already become annoying after being questioned about why he decided to go along on this trip. Scorpius himself wasn’t even really sure; the only sort of reason being because it felt right.
“How likely is that?” Scorpius asked.
“It depends,” Dalila replied quietly. “The storms can vary a lot from season to season, so you will only know when it hits.”
Her cheeks were flushed with crimson, and she quickly returned to unpacking her bag after to speaking with him. Scorpius hoped that the only thing which caused her to be like this was shyness. She didn’t appear suspicious to him, just reluctant to talk. Given that she had opened up more and more since they had left Cairo, it was best just to assume that.
“Accio tent,” Scorpius said, and it soared out from one of the many bags placed before him and landed in his hands. He waved his wand around, causing it to come out of its case and erect before him.
Scorpius wandered into it, eager to escape the heat of the outside. Dalila knew a cooling charm which was used a lot throughout the Egyptian magical community, so that at least provided them some sort of reprieve when inside. If only they could use that charm outside, he could even grow to like the desert. He heard the flap to the tent open and saw Lorcan walk in, smirking.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while but I’ve never found an opportunity. The others have taken Rose to look at some sort of herb so I reckon will be safe for a while. What’s the deal between you two? Because I thought you were going to get together but then you upped and left it over here, and Rose was left all confused. I was the one subjected to all her ponderings about you, even though I told her to tell a girl because they would be more sympathetic, she still insisted on telling me. I have a right to know, Scorpius.”
Scorpius let out a nervous chuckle before strolling over to one of the bedroom divisions of the tent. He sat down on a bed and fumbled with one of the tassels on the blanket, not saying a word. He knew the inevitable would soon happen with Lorcan being as persistent as inquisitive, but prolonging it sounded like a good idea for now.
“Are you going to tell me then, or do you just not know?” Lorcan asked, walking over to him. A smirk was plastered onto his face and it was rather akin to his father's own one.
“How about I’m not sure?” Scorpius earned a look of annoyance from Lorcan so carried on talking to try and placate him. “I thought the same too, and I really did, do, like her. Then moving here did put a dampener on things, but I needed to get away from Mum. She’s far too overbearing. When I found about Rose coming here, I didn’t get my hopes up about anything as it was only going to be for a month. Now this has happened it’s confused everything, so I’m really not sure.”
“Ok, now you’re beginning to sound like Rose!” Lorcan joked. “I don’t really know what to say other than it’s up to you mate. It’s your life not mine.”
“Thanks for the great advice, you were so helpful,” Scorpius quipped.
“Glad to be of service.”
Their conversation fell into a lull but was soon penetrated by new voices.
“So this herb can be used to cure Scorpion bites?” Rose asked Dalila while the pair of them walked into the tent. Scorpius mentally pleaded with Lorcan to not mention anything about their conversation.
“Yes, it has to be mixed with others to create a potion but it is the key ingredient.” Dalila held the flap open to Rashidi who stumbled into the room and collapsed onto the chair nearest the door.
“I believe a storm is coming. There are no animals around except for the saw-scaled viper which can withstand these things. We will need to leave quickly in the morning to escape the force of it.”
The others gave murmurs of approval before Rose started clattering around in the kitchen making cups of tea for everyone. Scorpius wanted to go over and help, but with that conversation he just had with Lorcan he felt as if anything he would do would be watched with eagle eyes for any double meaning.
Rose pulled open a cupboard door and started pulling mugs out and placing them on a tray. It was only then that he had the guts to go over. “Do you need a hand at all?” he asked.
Rose looked up from tray and smiled at him. “I think I should be alright for now. It’s only tea making, after all.”
Scorpius shuffled over to an armchair near Rashidi and saw Lorcan smirk at him. So he hadn’t even been able to help Rose and his assumption about Lorcan was proved correct.
Rashidi smiled at him before returning back to looking at the floor. It was nice to see that with some people talking really wasn’t necessary. Solitude could be just as comforting at times. It allowed thinking to occur.
Thinking had proved to be a necessity to Scorpius over the past few days. He had certainly practised it a lot over the past few days with wondering whether coming on this trip to Acanthus would be a good idea or not. Analysing every possible situation, debating each outcome. Scorpius often wondered how much more productive his life would be if he didn’t think so much. Then that would bring him back to his original problem. It was a never-ending paradox.
Rose woke up to the sound of something similar to rainfall. The rhythmic noise of it falling against the canvas of the tent proved to be so loud that Rose was surprised no one else had woken. She lay on the bottom bunk, listening to Dalila’s light snores above her, hoping that would soon come to her too.
This adventure to find Acanthus was different to how she imagined. They were mainly relying on what Rashidi and Scorpius knew of the legend, and that wasn’t exactly much to go on. Hints and rumours could never be trusted at the best of times, but when they involved a tale with a high fatality rate it made Rose wonder about their reliability even more.
The dawn light seeped through the lining of the tent which illuminated the room in a soft white glow. That could never be used as a safe indicator over whether it was early or not. The days grew longer and the nights shorter as it got closer and closer to summer and further and further from winter.
There was a crack in-between the door to her room and the main area and not a single disturbance could be seen or heard through it. Deciding that one of them would have to be the first up no matter how ridiculously early it was Rose stretched her legs before pulling the light cover off her and walking to the door.
Pushing that open, Rose headed towards the door to find the main source of the rainfall-like noise. When she pulled back that she found that Rashidi’s prediction about the sandstorm coming was found to be true. Grains of brown, orange, cream and beige swirled around coating everything in a fine film of them. Rose hoped this wasn’t the calm before the storm.
They grazed across Rose’s skin deceiving her about the true force of them. They appeared to be soft to touch; having an almost ethereal power to them, but as soon one rubbed against her they showed their true might.
Rose ran back into the tent. Not knowing what to do, waking the others appeared to be the best option for her. She ran first into her own room yelling at Dalila, “The sandstorm’s come. It’s here and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon!”
She didn’t even wait for a reply from Dalila before hurrying into the boy’s room to awake them. “Rashidi, you were right! The sandstorm’s come. What do we do?” Rose despaired and began pacing the room. She knew she might be slightly melodramatic given the mildness of it now, but with what the others told her yesterday, she didn’t want to take any risks.
“Whatareyouonabout?” Rose scowled in the direction of Lorcan’s bunk. She didn’t particularly want to deal with his morning moodiness.
The creaking of bed springs could be heard, and Rose saw Scorpius stumble down from the ladder attached to his bed and rub his eyes when he landed on the floor. “What were you saying, Rose?”
“The sandstorm’s come. I don’t know how dangerous it is right now, as the air’s still quite clear and I can see far out. I don’t know how long it will last for though. I thought Rashidi or Dalila might know what would be best living here and all.” Rose smiled Scorpius, grateful that he at least understood the severity of the situation more than Lorcan did. She could always count on him.
“Oh, are you alright Rashidi?” Scorpius asked and Rose followed his line of sight to see the eighty-year-old stumble even more precariously out of bed. Thank Merlin, he had at least accepted their suggestion of him taking the lower bunk. It was one of the only times he acknowledged that his age needed extra help.
“I am fine; it is just the early morning which has got to me.” Rashidi grabbed hold of his cane and started towards the main room. “Let me see what you were talking about Rose.”
His agility was even more impaired at this time of the morning and for each step he took, Rose couldn’t help but take in a deep breath, petrified that this would be the one which caused him to fall. As they entered the main area of the tent, Rose saw Dalila standing to one side of almost fully dressed looking worried.
“I went to look at the sandstorm, and Rose was right to wake us,” Dalila stated. “The air is so thick and the winds are growing harsher and harsher for each moment I stood out there. It’s worrying to think what it could grow to be in a few hours. We’ll have to find a proper shelter elsewhere while we still can.”
“Can’t you use magic to hold it off at all?” Lorcan asked, finally having made it down from his bed.
“We could use the bubble head charm as it does hold off some of the sand blowing towards us, but in cases like Dalila is describing, it is hopeless,” Rashidi replied.
“So leaving it is,” Scorpius said simply. “We should get dressed and then make a move for it while we can.”
The others meekly copied his orders and headed off in the direction of their own room. Rose dressed in silence, while Dalila packed up all of her things in the room. Rose couldn’t help but feel a little guilty about leading them blindly into this. It was meant to be this great adventure, but on the fourth day in it was already being marred by something which was potentially life-threatening and could delay their search for Acanthus by several days.
Several minutes later, Rose was forced into wearing the longest sleeved top she could find and trousers. For once, the heat was taking the back seat in being the most dangerous weather condition around, and Rose wasn’t entirely sure whether that was a good thing or not. Dalila had already gone outside to begin placing the bags on the camels, so Rose decided to go and help her friend out.
“Will we find shelter at all?” she asked Dalila, remembering the isolated route they had taken so far.
“I should think so,” Dalila said confidently. “A lot of flora is grown out here for the perfume industry so we should find farms for them along the way. Grandfather does know the way we are going, and as we are not too far from the Nile now according to him. We will find many along the banks of that.”
Rose gave a nod in return before tying her bag onto the camel and climbing up onto it. Lorcan, being the last one out, was given the task of dismantling the tent while Scorpius guided Rashidi over to his awaiting camel. Rose smiled as he waited patiently while Rashidi gingerly climbed up onto, noting how not that many people would have the patience to do that for him.
Scorpius turned to face Rose and quickly returned her grin before casting a bubble head charm on himself. Rose decided to do the same; with each small grain clawing away at her face anything which might lessen the stinging sensation would be fine by her.
“It works quite well, doesn’t it?” Scorpius’ voice echoed against the see-through barrier each reverberation becoming louder and louder as he stepped closer towards her.
“Yeah it does. I’m surprised that they haven’t managed to find a solution to it here yet. If it causes so much trouble for them, I would have thought that they would do.”
“Yes but this is interfering with atmospheric weather patterns and trends across the region,” Lorcan added, as he climbed onto his camel. “Meddling with something as complex and unpredictable as that would be stupid.”
Scorpius nodded in agreement. “Yes, if someone did want to do that they would have to have a good grasp of muggle physics, geography, maths and chemistry. They would have probably have to have a good knowledge of the weather patterns and of atmospheric charms too.”
Rose gave a little nod, pretending to know what they were going on about. Though people said she was her mother’s daughter, she certainly didn’t possess the multitude of Ravenclaw traits her brother and those two did. The only idea in her mind was the idea of finding shelter.
“Shall we go?” Dalila asked tentatively. Rose looked over and saw her and Rashidi sat on the camels, tugging on their reigns to prevent them from running away.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise that you were ready!” she apologised. “Let’s go.”
With a nod to Lorcan and Scorpius, Rose pulled on the reins of the camel and fought against the sand around her. She quickly cast a bubble head charm on the camel too, hoping it would speed up the process of finding shelter. Now they only had to hope that they wouldn’t run into muggles because explaining this would be hard.
The sandstorm worsened considerably throughout the few hours of its arrival. It had begun to penetrate through Scorpius’ bubble head charm; each molecule of it finding its way of trapping itself in the most painful position.
The sand scratched at the back of his throat, as if it was trying to smooth it down but only irritating it instead. “Achoo.” Scorpius held an old hankie to his nose for about the tenth sneeze of the minute. It was another side effect of the sandstorm.
Lorcan, who was a little way ahead of the group, began motioning wildly with his hands and veered off the track they had been following and to the right of it. Scorpius could see Rose, who was not far behind Lorcan, veer off after him. Dalila and Rashidi had gotten a little left behind, so he held back waiting to inform them of the change of direction.
“Where are the others?” Rashidi wheezed, his hand clasping at his mouth making his words even more incoherent.
“They’ve gone off somewhere, I’m not sure where but they disappeared off there.” Scorpius gestured with his hands the path they had taken, earning a nod from the pair of them before they setting off after them.
They carried on riding cautiously, battling against the swirling storm of sand. Scorpius could make out a building rising up out of the distance and gestured with his hands again that they should head towards it. Not being able to see the other two anywhere near it, he hurried his camel on eager to find out what had happened to them. He could only guess they had gone inside of it.
Once he approached the building he found the two camels standing aimlessly outside. Their crude attempts at trying to shield themselves from the sand were so bad Scorpius almost wanted to lead them into the building with the flung open door.
He burst into a dimly lit room; furniture littered it sparsely, all being in a dismal shade of grey. His eyes scanned the room and found the pair of them standing opposite to him, oblivious to his presence. They held a small, translucent glass in their hands which was slowly being raised closer and closer to their mouths.
Scorpius wanted to yell out and stop them from doing it. What if they had just found it here? It could be anything left by anyone! He began to stride over to them, ready to snatch it from their hands when they lifted it to their lips. It was done in perfect synchronisation.
He strides grew quicker, and he began to call out to them. It wasn’t an assumption he was making about that drink, it was something instinctual and that feeling was a lot more potent. He had one final look at them before the room exploded. Screams pierced the air, and the clatter of furniture falling could be heard everywhere.
His body shook violently, and everything swirled around in his eyes. He could feel blood seep from his head. His legs felt as if it had been crushed on impact. It was all inconsequential to the possible pain Ros-the others could be feeling, he thought. He allowed himself a few seconds to recover before hobbling up through the wreckage to check on them.
Scorpius stumbled over to where they were and not finding them there, he began running around the room searching, hoping, looking for them. It was when the person began to speak did he realise he wasn’t alone.
“You won’t find them here, Scorpius Malfoy,” the voice said. “That would ruin the fun.”
Author's Note: I'm sorry about the ending, but the next chapter's nearly done if that's any consolation! I would love to hear your thoughts about this chapter, because I've really, really enjoyed reading them so far, so it would be great if you left a review! Thanks for reading!
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