Previous chapter: Chapter 4
Chapter 5 (Alone)
I bit into my lower lip as I stared up at the mayor. “There has to be something.”
The mayor’s expression turned dark. “Don’t push me, son. According to regulations, I should have you arrested for even suggesting we work with terrorists. But I know Igu is your friend.”
The mayor’s office closed in around me, and despite my heaving chest, I found breath hard to come by. “Please.”
Clapping his hands, the mayor turned back to his desk. “Escort Tima out of here before I have to give orders for his arrest.”
Yalrein bowed then grabbed onto my arm and dragged me from the mayor’s residence.
In the street, I stumbled forward, lost in a part of town I should know like the mining tunnels I helped craft. But all I saw were faceless buildings. A road that crisscrossed with other roads and stretched for miles. Mocking clouds in the sky.
Where should I go? What should I do?
Clacking sounds came from the left. Someone shouted, words just beyond recognition.
I trudged forward, falling deeper into my haze of loss. Igu was going to die. No one was able to help her. No one was going to help her. The Regime and all their stupid rules and laws could rot.
A horse screamed. Something hot smashed into my stomach and hurled me backwards to crash I to the mayor’s now closed front gate. Words came down from the top of the gate.
I could barely suck in a breath.
And nothing mattered.
What was I going to do without Igu? She was always there for me. Looking out for me. Helping me up whenever I fell. She’d been there for me for as long as I could remember, and now that she’s in trouble, I was helpless. Hopeless. Worthless.
I groaned as a strong hand jerked me to my feet.
“Damn, boy,” Uncle Weron said from somewhere in the distance, his voice just above a whisper. “What happened to you?”
What had happened to me? I. I had given up. On my best friend.
I shook my head. No. I wasn’t going to give up. Not now. Not while there was still a chance. Even if it cost me everything. Even if I never got the chance to show Aiga how great I was by winning in the arena. As long as Igu lived, it was fine.
“Nephew?” Weron asked. Everything snapped back into sharp focus. Uncle Weron stood in front of me, the blacksmiths’ shop behind him. A cart driver, hauling food or something, glared at me from the center of the road, his horse dancing back and forth with about as little skill as I had.
“Uncle,” I said, feeling at my shirt which ended in burned cloth around my chest. “Do you have a bunch of small chunks of metal? Preferably, no bigger than one inch by one inch.”
Weron nodded in apology to the driver as he herded me across the street and into the shop. “We have a whole mess of that kind of scrap metal, but why do you need it?”
“I want to try something out. I’ll pay for them as soon as next month’s salary comes in.”
“No need. We just throw that kind of scrap away.”
I nodded then took a breath. “And can I borrow a horse. Preferably Guudra?”
“You still haven’t told me why you need this stuff.”
My other two uncles sat by the forge, one banging away while the other used his power to cool the metal with water. Luckily, my mother was nowhere to be seen.
After another deep breath to still my trembling hands, I nodded towards my other two uncles. “Is it ready?”
Weron’s brow furrowed. “Yes. Stop evading the question.”
“A new shirt and some protein bars?”
“Tima … you’re getting dangerously close to pushing my patience.”
I looked up at my uncle and shook my head. “I can’t tell you.”
“What I’m going to do is already stupid enough. I don’t want to risk anyone else.” And that was true enough. If Uncle Weron, or anyone for that matter, knew I was going out to meet the Fevered Five alone, I’ll be locked up with everyone else who had lost their wits. But I had no other choice, so I said, “I won’t give up on Igu without a fight. So please, don’t tell Mother.”
Next: Chapter 6