“Northeast. Redlands. Right, I’ve never heard of the Redlands,” Crofton says. He looks at Ari. “What does the notebook say about them?”
They’d been walking for almost five hours before resting under a large tree. It didn’t have leaves, but the numerous thin branches provided some shade.
Opening the notebook, Ari’s breath catches in her throat as she sees her father’s familiar handwriting. Forcing the emotion down, she reads the first letter carefully. “The Redlands get their name from the color of the dust. It covers everything, giving a red tinge to skin, clothing, and anything else uncovered. The caravans that travel just south of the lands refuse to travel through them for fear of the Lost Raiders. That and the lack of water, cover from the sun, and the sudden cliffs and canyons that seem to entrap any who don’t pay enough attention to where they’re going.”
“Great. Sounds like a good place to start,” Crofton says, sarcastically. He opens a bag of food and takes a small bite. “We should be reaching a caravan trail soon. I remember my dad talking about some of the ones that occasionally do business with Kellahn.”
“If you want to reach the Redlands, you’ll need to find a caravan further north than those that trade with Kellahn,” a voice says.
Ari and Crofton look up and see Kemp walking towards them, a wide hat covering his head. In his hands are two more hats, as well as three large canteens.
“What are you doing?” Ari asks, holding back her laughter at his hat.
“Why are you following us?” Crofton asks.
Sitting down next to them, Kemp hands each a hat and canteen. “Well, I was on my way out of the city when I saw a mob of people staring off into the distance. When I asked what was going on they told me you two left to go on a long, dangerous journey to find your father.” He points to Ari. “One of the people standing at the back was upset because they hadn’t had a chance to give these to you.”
“Why’d they have three?”
“One of the more important looking guys, Lyrrel, told the guy to bring three. When I asked why, Lyrrel himself told me, ‘Because I saw that three would be needed.’ Then he walked away without saying another word. He didn’t even ask me for my name or who I was. You people from Kellahn are weird, you know that, right?”
“Did he ask you to come with us?” Crofton asks.
Staring at him, Kemp shrugged. “Not really. He walked away without saying another word.” He emphasized the sentence. “But another guy did kind of insinuate that I should get these to you guys before you die of sun exposure.”
Ari puts the hat on her head and the canteen around her shoulders. “Thank you. We did kind of leave in a rush and didn’t really think about that.”
Crofton places his hat on the ground. “And now that you’ve delivered it to us you can continue on to wherever you were headed.”
“I don’t know. I get the feeling you two haven’t done much traveling on your own. You might need my help.”
“What could you possibly know that we don’t?”
“Well, for one, when you’re traveling across lands with little to no shade, you should always wear a hat or some other kind of protective head gear,” Kemp says snapping the rim of his hat with his forefinger. “Also, you need to have eye protection when you cross deserts or any other lands with free blowing dust or else there’s a chance you could get an infection or go blind.” He opens his black bag and pulls out three pairs of goggles with darkened glass.
“How do you know all that?” Ari asks.
“Growing up in Karrion Desert teaches you quite a bit.” Sensing Crofton’s anger, Kemp holds his free hand up. “Look, I know you don’t know me, but that guy Lyrrel told me not once, but twice to help you guys. I think that shows he trusts me. I don’t even know what you’re looking for. I just felt like I should help you out.”
“Yes,” Ari says. “You should come with us.”
“Ari,” Crofton exclaims.
“The ones who attacked Kellahn, they’re after me.” Ari glares at Crofton. “Do you really think just the two of us could take them on? We don’t even know how many there are or how powerful they are. I’d feel safer if we had people fighting with us we can trust. And I trust Kemp.”
Seeing the determination in her eyes, Crofton finally secedes. “Fine. That makes sense and, I hate to admit it but it would be better to have more than one magic user around.”
“Then it’s decided. Let’s keep moving. I don’t want to stay still too long. Are you okay to keep moving?” Ari asks Kemp.
Smiling, Kemp hands Ari and Crofton a pair of goggles. “I’m good to go. So, what exactly are we looking for?”