Checking my gear, I take inventory of what I have available, including the natural resources. Food is an option if I can start a fire. That is at the top of my list. Weapons from the claws and stingers can be crafted, and the shells can be used as a shield for protection. That leaves me in need of water and cover. Just two out of the three basic needs for survival are missing. Pretty good if you ask me.

Utilizing one of the stingers as a knife, I shape one of the claws into a more useful tool; the bigger, heftier claw makes for a better wood harvesting tool than the stingers. Claw in hand, I target a tree and gather what I need.

The claw proves to be effective against the branches. Sharp jagged edges towards the bottom allow me to do a good amount of sawing, and the top section of the claw is strong enough to split the wood. That is, as long as I work with wood that isn too thick. Thinness happens to be a trait that these blessed bushes excel at.

Now that I have a good pile of wood, I use the stinger, my smaller knife, to create some kindling and tinder. Starting a fire from nothing becomes easier with preparation and suitable material. Preferably the kind of material with an optimistic disposition for burning. None of that damp, soggy stuff.

Fuel preparations ready, I start the process of creating fire from friction. Using a more round, sturdier stick, I drill into a thicker branch, applying loads of pressure. Thirty minutes later, bloody hands and a bit of smoke are all I have to show for my work. Sweat keeps dripping into my eyes, making it even harder to maintain a consistent drill.

I take a moment to reassess my technique and what I am doing wrong. I blame the wood mostly for refusing to just burn. That leads me to collect more things to burn, specifically the finely dry hair fibers that cover the scorpions claws. I repeat the process by scraping a claws worth of fibers into my drill hole.


Hair fibers are quick to react to friction turning into tiny embers. Carefully I place the embers into my prepared pile of shredded wood fibers and blow softly. Smoke thickens. Each breath fuels the heat catching onto the fine threads of hair.

One blow later, the nest for the fiber is covered in smoke.

The nest begins to glow with another blow, putting off a little heat.

After two more soft blows, my nest of tinder catches flame. Moving the quickly burning tinder to the kindling, I provide the fire with longer-lasting fuel. As the fire grows, I add more substantial fuel. Crackling noises from burning wood ensure the fire is off to a healthy start. Now I just need to feed the flame, a task made more accessible with the bountiful wood stash I collected prior.

Grabbing a stick, I skewer a chunk of scorpion meat and set it over the fire. It takes a little finagling to get the skew to maintain the proper placement over the flame. All my attempts to lazily spike the stick into the ground proved unsuccessful. Instead, I spike two posts deep into the sand, causing them to crisscross and do the same thing on the other side of the fire. The scorpion meat is slid towards the middle of the skewer, which is then placed on the two makeshift stick holders.

Fatty juices drip off the roasting meat, letting me know it is in enough heat to cook. While cooking my current meal, I decide to take care of my future food. Not wanting bacteria to claim my food and not having an alternative method of preservation, I am limited with my options.

I create two more stick holders with higher intersecting sections to preserve my food. Taking another stick, I skewer as much meat as I can and place the meat stick on the higher holder. The flimsy skewer bends under all the weight but proves strong enough to hold the meat I want to preserve over the smoke.

All my meat cooking or smoking, I take a moment to admire my impending meat fest. That takes care of food, leaving me with only water and shelter to worry about. Hopefully, eating won make my thirst a more significant threat. Im not actually concerned about shelter because I don plan to stay long in the desert. That leaves me with one smaller need still unmet, variety.

Scorpion meat looks delicious. It is going to taste delicious. Its just that I have so much of it. A little more variety would be nice. I know it is a silly thought. Right now, I am hungry for anything. Any food is going to be good food. But now that dinner is cooking, I find it lacking.

Thinking of ways to spice up my meat entices me to observe more thoroughly what is around me. Unwelcoming cacti become the focus of my attention. Sure they are a prickly bunch now, but after some depoking and healthy roasting, they will become much more pleasant. Within minutes, I prepare and add cactus to the meat on the roasting stick.

As dinner cooks, I continue to be productive.

Technically, I would say I already am productive. Not only am I taking care of my current food needs, but I am also taking care of the next three days of food if I ration. Most likely, I won ration. I can think of nothing better to pass the dull time through the desert than munching on my jerky.

Anyway, to be more productive, I examine the other resources I harvested from the scorpions. Using the scorpion stinger as a blade has been a helpful tool. The stinger is sharp, pointy, sturdy, and about a foot in length.

My only complaint is that it is unwieldy, with all blade and no handle. Likewise, the severed claw has also been valuable in processing wood. With some extra modifications, I think I can make drastic improvements.

Creative thoughts play through my mind as I examine my resources and decide how they will best serve me. Knives with cord-wrapped handles fashioned out of the stingers. Short swords with cord-wrapped handles made from claws. Shields from the shells with a cord to grip onto. Backpack from woven shells, rope, and corded straps to hold my weapons and tools.

I can see how the items from my inventory can be used. How to modify them, and how to carry all my gear. My only problem is I don have any cord. Yet.

Following the thoughts running through my head, I delicately strip the fibers from the scrub trees and plants around me and begin to weave some cord.

Occasionally, as I sit by my fire and work, I catch the aromas of my roasting desert scorpion and cacti kabob. No longer able to withstand the enticing smell, my mouth begins to water.

Or it would start to water if it wasn so dry. My mouth is trying to water…salivate, it is attempting to salivate but can because deserts are naturally thirsty. That checks out.

Cord production is running smoothly as I continue to lament my lack of water. Delicate, brittle fibers are woven together to form stronger, longer fibers. My hands are steady and efficient throughout the entire process.

This proficiency leads me to believe I was most likely a rope maker of the highest order in my previous life. By the time I deem my kabab ready to eat, I have produced five strands of cord, a foot in length each.

Removing the hot dish from the fire, I blow on it repeatedly to get the temperature to a manageable level and take a bite of the scorpion.

Charred meat crunches beneath my teeth, followed by soft chewiness, juices, and flavor. Hungrily, I devour the entire kabob appreciating the textures, bland flavors, and, most of all, the hunger it begins to eradicate. Desert Scorpion Kabobs aren bad. They aren good.

Its edible, and that is enough.

After I finish my meal, I get back to work on my cord production. Another hour goes by, leaving me to work by the light of my fire alone, the sun having gone down soon after I finished eating. Piles of cord and a deficiency of nearby vegetation result from my work.

Now that I have plenty of cord to work with, I can get to the modifications of my gear.

Using the Original Sting Blade, I start to fashion a knife out of one of the other stingers. Hard chitin resists as I whittle away at the base of the stinger.

Thinking of improving the process, I grab a claw and begin shredding the stinger into something more comfortable to hold.

When I am close to the width of the handle I want, I replace the claw for my blade and do some more nuanced work. To add to the durability and grip, I wrap a cord around the handle until it has the right feel.

As a result of my efforts, I am rewarded with something that resembles a hunting knife. This process is replicated two more times.

On my fourth attempt, I try to make the forming of the handle easier by adding heat. Previously somewhat malleable chitin hardens when exposed to the flame, rewarding me with a stinger too durable to modify and a way to improve my newly created knives.

Unwrapping the cord, I place my finished knives into the heat and let them harden. Two of the knives I pull out around the same amount of time as the first hardened blade. The third knife I leave in the heat for the sake of science. A cord is added back on the hardened knives giving me two finished products.

Satisfied with my work, I take advantage of the last bit of night remaining and rest. The warmth from the small fire is comfortable enough to allow me to relax. Keeping my tools close, my eyes shut. Soon after, I fall asleep.

Bright beams of yellow sun wake me from my light slumber. Throughout the night, I would wake up cold and had to add more fuel to the fire. On the plus side of that inconvenience, I could keep my meat in constant smoke. A few more hours and it will be done.

Getting to my feet, I instinctively run through some stretching routines. Pulling on my muscles not only eases me into the grind but also allows me to clear my mind and just be empty in thought for a moment.

Muscles loosen up, and my body relaxes. I feel pretty good. Thirsty? Yeah. Hungry? Sort of, yeah. Other than that, I feel good.

I finish my forms and then throw some prepared cactus into the flames.

This mornings menu will be cactus jacks and scorpion jerky. Cactus jacks are like flapjacks if you take everything in the flapjack and replace it with a mashed cactus. The verdict is still out on whether it will be a breakfast-time hit. Im guessing it is more of a post-breakfast pre-lunch type of dish.

My new knife makes processing the cactus much more manageable. Im already grateful for the time I put into making the tool.

Thinking about my knives, I check on the one I left in the heat. There is no trace of the extra heated knife in my fire pit. It either burned up, or a thieving knife swiper swiped my knife. Regardless of what happened to it, I decide not to overheat any more of my gear.

Breakfast currently cooking gives me time to tinker with more of the scorpion parts. My next project is working on weapons to protect myself with. Massive sharp claws will soon become slightly longer machetes.

All I need to do is smooth out excess bulk, shape the handles, add cord for support, and cook in the fire to harden. Wait, no, it is hardened in fire, then add cord.

Sloppy thinking almost cost me cordage.

Following the template, I use the hardened blade to bring the design to life. My knife isn exactly slicing through the claws like it is water. However, it no longer feels like Im carving rocks. Instead, I make reasonable progress and have my first machete hardening by the time my jacks and jerky are ready to eat.

Cactus jacks, though drier than kabobs, are actually tasty. Smoke and slight char season the fried mush. Each bite has a satisfying crunch while maintaining enough moisture that it doesn dry out my mouth more.

I enjoy my cactus and undercooked jerky breakfast, savoring each bite. If I hurry, I can take advantage of the cooler morning as I walk through the desert. Or, if I linger long enough, the cool morning will turn to warmer temperatures that aren conducive to walking. Looking around my small camp is all it takes to motivate me to linger.

”Rest now; work hard later if I have to, ” I mutter, convincing myself this is the best decision.

Resting isn entirely resting. I do a good amount of pure resting, sure, but that is mixed in with active resting where I continue to work on my equipment.

I add finishing touches to my machete and test it on nearby trees. I am more than satisfied with its slicing effectiveness. Happy with the results, I make three more.

After the machetes, I work on body cover. This takes up most of my rest time and cord as I tie the segmented shells from the scorpion together to create a loose-fitting armor.

Creating this work of art involves punching holes in various places of the chitin and then hardening them over the flame. Once hardened, I tied the chitin together to have chitin plating covering my upper body and shoulders.

I think I did a pretty good job for not being an armorer. Or maybe I was an exotic armorer. Whos to say?

Leggings are a little more complicated, but with dedication and a strong desire to not walk during the day, I put in the effort and create some covering for my legs. By mid-afternoon, I look like a desert inhabitant covered in desert scorpion plating and armed with desert slicing machetes.

More time is spent working on my gear. To my growing inventory, I add two shields, sheaths for two machetes and the two knives, and a couple of pouches to store the remainder of my gear and food separately.

I also work on the scorpion sled, making it more efficient to pull through the sands by stabilizing the sides and preventing it from being tippy.

To my dismay, no matter how hard I try, I can figure out shoes. They are either too uncomfortable or impractical. Failed attempt after failed attempt leaves me shoeless and absolutely positive I was never a shoemaker in my former life.

It is late in the afternoon when I finish my projects. This was a day well spent avoiding walking. With no more pressing tasks, I sprawl out and nap on my sandy bed.

Lightly twinkling stars and an eager moon have replaced the overzealous sun by the time I wake up. Chilly air no longer combats the heat of my now diminished fire. Raising to my feet, I stretch out my body and then pack up my camp. It is time to continue my journey.

My armor is equipped. Knives are placed in their corded waist sheaths. The shield and machetes are slung over my shoulder and rest on my back, held by more cord. Everything else, including my jerky, is placed in my scorpion cart in their designated containers.

Rested and now equipped with my gear, I continue my heroic sojourn out of the infested desert with a mouthful of jerky and a scorpion sled in haul. Five steps and a drier mouth later, Im already regretting all of my lifes decisions that got me to this point.

”Succubuses! ” The thought turns into a vocal curse.

That is where I went wrong. I fell in love with a succubus, and since succubuses are monogamous in nature, she had to ditch me. No, that does not add up. Succubuses collectively fell in love with me. A whole flock of succubuses and me, the world-famous roper turned exotic armor maker, courting, societal norms be damned.

However, succubuses are naturally monogamous. They couldn cope with the shared relationship. Adopting the all-or-nothing mindset, the flock of succubuses united in their decision. Heartbroken and empowered, the demon seducers stripped me of all my armor and rope and left me unbound in the dry wild.

It was a long con.

The succubuses never really loved me. They just wanted me for my discounted goods. Now they have it all, and I have nothing. Well, not any more flocking succubuses! This armorer doesn need inventory to equip himself. I can do that on my own. Like I said when the demons walked into my shop, succubuses are the worst customers.

Five steps later, Im still miserable. Maybe some people just aren made for walking. Perhaps deserts are just the worst.

Thats the nugget of truth I was digging for.

Of all my travels, this is the absolute worst. Sure, this is the only trip that I remember. Yet I have the utmost confidence that of all my travels, including my previous life, this one is the worst.

Five out of five scorpions would agree.

First, sand is only good when it is next to a body of water. If sand isn next to water, what is the point?

Secondly, every footstep requires way more energy than it should. It takes two steps to move one pace forward. Forcing your inhabitants to take double the steps is unnecessary and redundant if you ask me.

Secondly, part two, why don I have any shoes? Who would abandon someone in the desert without shoes? Succubuses have no use for shoes due to their cloven devil feet, which would most definitely interfere with witches brewing process. Bats have no interest in shoes, and vampires have more honor than that.

A soulless act of cowardice. Thats what that is.

What is the deal with shoes anyway? Why do they have to be so sandblasted hard to make? They are the epitome of the bottom of apparel and have no right to be so complicated to make.

On top of everything else, the food is bland, drinks are not included, my lips are beyond parched, scorpions are popping out of nowhere, and there is no shade. Even at night, the desert moon is brighter than it needs to be. Im certainly not impressed, Moon.

Just then, I lift my head to examine the scenery unfolding before me. Enhanced by the low light-giving moon, the scrub trees, cactus, and dunes give off their most majestic look.

”I take that back, Sir or Miss Moon. You are doing great. ” I say, appreciating the low light setting.

Still, desert trips are the worst. Bright lighting or low lighting, it doesn matter. Its all just sand with no water—definitely a bottom-tier environment.

In fact, I swear as the relenting moon as my witness when I get out of here, one day I will return and burn this desolate sandpit and all of its unwelcoming, unreasonably giant scorpions to the ground. And when the sand has turned to glass, I will flood the land into an oasis. And then I will make signs that will not permit a single scorpion or scorpions into my beautiful oasis. And there will be trees. Lots of shade-giving trees.

Yeah…that feels right. Perhaps I let my thoughts run a speck too wild. On the other hand, its good to be thorough when it comes to schemes, and my revenge plot is practically perfect.

I am willing to place my bets the desert is the only reason I was stranded in the first place.

Somehow the lifeless desert sought me out, grabbed me while I was in the deepest depths of sleep, and brought me to its dried-out lands. Most likely, the desert was hungry and thought the handsome sleeping man would be a tasty treat. All the minions of the desert are its weird way of devouring food and nourishing its gritty greedy self.

Well, not anymore, greedy desert. Here is one morsel you will not swallow. Consider me the chink of meat perfectly lodged in your tooth that you will never get out. Now your gums are swollen and bleeding.


Thats quite gross. I am the morsel you swallowed and choked on. Your own gluttonous nature is your downfall, and there is no one here to blame but yourself.

Nameless, thirsty, and lost in more ways than one, I continue to walk towards the mountains blindly. Perhaps near the mountains, there will be more direction. If nothing else, I will no longer be stuck in the desert.

Step by step, I push forward. Slowly, I escape my capturer.

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