The Trial of Heat

 
 

The desert’s glare was all around him. He had to squint to not be blinded. It felt like the heat of the sun was burrowing itself into his body. All the while the aching in his head was growing worse. He glanced over at Achen, his fellow acolyte who seemed to fare no better than himself. The young man's movements were sluggish and unsteady. His otherwise so arrogant posture, one that always seemed to broadcast his disdain for those of lower birth, had been replaced with a hunched but determined stride. Ahead of them walked Nakim, the high priestess, using her obsidian scepter like a walking staff. If the heat had any effect on her, it did not show.

The water skin at Mekraths waist was calling to him like a siren, begging him to empty its contents into his mouth. The temptation was strong, but he knew the consequences of straying from the path. He would have to return home to his father’s farm, branded as a failure. He could not afford to pay that price. He sent a silent prayer to the Demon Head, begging that it not prolong its arrival. 

The shapes of the scorched landscape in front of him started to become blurry. For a moment he was losing his balance, almost toppling over. Unconsciousness wasn’t far away. It seemed he would fail even before the real test had begun.

A flash of light appeared above him, right at the edge of his vision. Could this be it… ? He turned in the direction of the light. As his eyes fell upon the thing in the sky above him he let out an awed breath. Hot, burning eyes looked down upon him. From them radiated a heat that rivalled that of the sun.

Mekrath met the eyes terrible gaze. Suddenly his entire being became wrapped in light. He could no longer feel his body. It was as if his spirit had been lifted out of it and away to some different realm. It seemed to him in that moment that his body with all it’s weaknesses and pains was just a meaningless vessel.

A voice that wasn’t truly a voice entered his mind like an ember setting fire to dry wood.⁠

I am destruction⁠

I am strength ⁠

I am purity⁠

I am rebirth⁠

Become the flame⁠

And burn with me⁠

In an instant he was back inside his body again. All of his burns and aches returned right away. It was more than he could handle. The next thing he knew he was lying on his back, barely able to move.

Something wet and cooling began to drip onto his cracked lips. Water? He let it slip into his mouth, tasting it then swallowing greedily. A sliver of strength returned to his body. He looked up and tried to focus his eyes. Leaning over him was Nakim. In her hand she held his water skin. An approving smile played upon her lined face.⁠

“You did well,” she said in her dry voice. “Welcome to the priesthood.”⁠

Upon hearing those words some relief managed to penetrate the wall of ache and exhaustion that occupied his mind.

“Achen… ?” he asked sluggishly.

“The Demon Head did not approve of him,” she said and gestured to the right of Mekrath. A pile of ash lay on the ground there, slowly getting dissipated by the warm desert winds.