Unmarred by clouds, the perfect blue sky mocked the parched brown desert. The wastelands had been denied precipitation for too long. The drought pushed away people and animals and turned the sparse vegetation the color of dirt to match the rest of the scenery. Wanderers escaped to cooler areas between rock outcrops, but just when the desert seemed devoid of human life, peddlers looking to make money would arrive from across the canyon with food, water and supplies. People appeared from all edges of the desert and swarmed the makeshift trading stands like hungry locusts.
Thalia didn't like the company. She preferred days spent in fellowship with only the wind. Not that she was at heart a loner, but there wasn't much chance of inclusion into one of the many tribes when they had formed their alliances long before Thalia set foot in the desert. The only time she felt welcome was when she had something to offer: perhaps hunting for a starving family, or trading and fixing gadgets and other