“He will suffer the way his parents did.” The woman said, and people around her agreed. His neighbors, the ones he had watched bring their water to the gathering, scowled at him and turned away.
Rowen didn't try to fight. There was no point. There were too many, and running during a heat spell would only bring on his death faster.
“Tie him up!”
Rowen heard Alain protesting, and then he was silenced. Those tying him worked quickly and quietly, stripping his clothes off and binding his ankles with cord, his wrists behind his back. For a sacrifice, it was all very civilized. Everyone knew not to waste energy in this heat.
“Leave him in the sun,” the man spoke. “One less to take your water, and one more death to bring the storms faster.”
Hot tears formed in Rowen's eyes, but he was too old to let himself cry. He hadn't wanted their water anyway.
They dragged him into the sun, and the ground underneath him burned. He shut his eyes tightly, and the sun baked him. Nobody watched.
Rowen knew that death would come quickly.
The sweating had already begun, and his head swam in the heat. He didn't dare open his eyes, to see the merciless sun beating down on him. His skin was pale, and if he lasted long enough he would be covered in blisters.
He tried to think of his parents. He had been close with them, as an only child. His father had introduced him to village girls, and had not shown disappointment when Rowen had confessed to feeling nothing for any of them.
He thought of Lucas. Lucas, blacksmith's apprentice, a boy his age with blond hair and an eager smile, full lips and bright blue eyes. Rowen had never told him how Lucas had made him feel, quickening his blood and stirring him in his dreams.
Lucas had died in the same heat spell that had killed his parents. Since then Rowen had felt nothing. Too much loss, all at once. He groaned on the heated ground, but it was useless.
He had survived the heat spell. It should have killed him, like it killed his parents, but he had lived, eating pit seeds that silenced him forever and leaving him mute to defend himself to the villagers when they claimed he stole his parents water.
A wave of nausea surged through him. Heat sickness was setting in. He rolled over to vomit, nothing coming up but whitish bile. Rolling made him dizzy, and that made the sickness worse.
Soon, nothing came up at all. Heat surged through him, but he could no longer sweat. The ground spun.
This was fitting. He couldn’t survive again.
He opened his eyes, and was greeted with darkness.
Night had not come. He rolled, impossibly slow, to look up. The sun had been covered, a thick, dark cloud blanketing the village.
Rowen almost smiled. He had been sacrificed, and the storm had come.
Rain began to pelt the ground, the drops hitting as hard as thrown stones. Rowen opened his mouth, instinctively hoping to ease some of his dehydration, before thunder boomed, a fork of lightning splitting the sky and unleashing torrents.
More died during the heat spells preceding the storms, but the storms themselves were deadly too if caught outside. Wind lashed rain into his face, hard enough that if he were not already prone he would have been knocked over. He could no longer look up; opening his eyes only invited the rain, the cold drops making his dry eyes burn.
Rowen lay on his side like sodden rags, listening to the power of the storm. He had not expected to die this way. Water began to pool around him, the flood coming fast despite the dry ground underneath absorbing it. Eventually it would absorb it all, filling the underground wells, but for now the water would run into Rowen's nose and mouth, drowning him because he was too weak to move. He tried to drink; it tasted like dust.
Gusts of wind blew over him, whistling in his ears and hair, and he began to shiver with cold despite being overheated just a short time ago. The thunder deafened him, the flashes of lightning only visible as a red sheen behind his eyelids. If one struck him, at least it would be over quickly.
Suddenly, everything calmed. The darkness was accompanied by silence, the pelting rain gone, and for a moment Rowen knew he was dead.
“You.” A voice called, one that he did not recognize. He opened his eyes, watching the water flow by him.
“You. Look at me.” The voice called him again. Without the rain hammering him down, Rowen managed to roll over. If he was dead, why was the weakness, the pain, not gone?
A man stood over him. No, hovered over him, his feet not touching the ground. He was clad in dark green, a rare color here in this desert village. His short dark brown hair was plastered to his head, dripping onto his nose and chin, and he wore a necklace with a grayish stone around his neck. Rowen focused on the deep blue eyes, like a clear summer sky, so different from the hazy blue that had accompanied the heat spell. They promised something.