Previous chapter: Chapter 6
Chapter 7 (Help)
I awoke on a small, backbreaking bed in the corner of a room. No, a cave. This was happening way too much, being taken out and waking up in strange places.
What had happened?
There were several lights around this section of the cave, and a stone desk protruded from the wall across from me. The stink of mildew and sulfur hung heavy on the air and went well with the constant drip, drip, drip somewhere in the distance.
I pushed myself up, focusing on the small things around me to help orient myself.
My clothes, a river patterned shirt and shorts with trees I had never seen before, were too tight. In fact, they weren’t my clothes at all, but they smelled fresh. My backpack was gone as was my ring. Barges sat beside the bed, head down, handle up.
I guessed that my uncles’ ploy with the ring worked. Where are we?
There was no answer.
Barges? I wrapped my hands around his handle and gritted my teeth as I picked him up. So heavy. This isn’t funny. Take some of the weight off or I won’t be able to fight efficiently with you.
Still no answer.
“You recover quickly,” a gruff voice said from the left. The yellow man in an unbuttoned shirt and shorts, both with patterns that matched the clothes I now wore, strode over to the bed. “You’ve only been out for a few hours.” He knelt down to a level with me. “Now, tell me what Aiga knows.”
“Only if your water healer helps my friend.” My heart beat against my chest, and my breathing hurried. “Igu. She doesn’t have much time. She’ll die—”
“The information, kid.”
“I’m an adult.”
“You’re powerful alright. Even Purshis couldn’t manage a psychic push like that. But you’re still an untrained kid. Now give me the information.”
“It’s important information. She said Kude would want it.”
The yellow man grinned. “I am Kude.”
“And your part of the Fevered Five?”
Kude shook his head. “No, but they work for me. Now tell me what information you have, or I’ll gut you.”
My hands gripped Barges’s handle tight. “You’ll try.”
“Without your ring, you wouldn’t stand a chance against my earth powers.”
“The ring was a decoy.” I took Barges in both hands, forcing the strain from my arms.
Kude nodded. “I see. So, you want one of my Fevered Five to sneak into the village with you and heal your friend. Then sneak out. And you think we’ll trust you to give us the information after?”
“My word is better than yours.”
“Says you. I don’t even know you.”
“And I’ve never heard of you.”
Kude blinked then shook his head. “Never heard of me? The great Kude Menuk?” He thumped himself on the chest. “Let’s just say the Regime would love to get their greedy, environment destroying hands on me.”
“Then what can we do?”
“I could torture you until you tell me.”
“Jokes on you. Only Aiga has that information.”
Kude scoffed before a small grin tugged at the edges of his stony looking lips. “Good kid. So, let’s trade.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying. What the offer was.”
“But we need something to make sure you hold up your end of the bargain.” Kude snapped his fingers, and the other five who had been with him, the Fevered Five, came into the light.
Each wore a plain, colored mask with thin slits for the eyes and no other features. Red, brown, blue, green and yellow. Each color representing an element and probably denoting what skill the person had. The fire wielder in the red mask looked to be far taller than me, with shoulders half as wide under his ill-fitting tunic. The water wielder in the green mask was clearly a woman with her long hair hanging over her shoulders. The wind wielder in yellow and the earth wielder in brown looked to be mirrors of one another.
The psychic wielder, Purshis, was the only one with skin showing and that was only to show his scarred, metallic tattoos.
My back pressed against the wall. “Hunter.”
Kude smiled. “He was.” Holding out his hand, Kude gestured towards the hammer. “Purshis and Helius will go with you to the village. When you come back with them after they healed your friend and give us the information, we will return your things.”
I swallowed. These terrorists were not trustworthy, but this was all I could do for her, so I nodded and offered Kude Barges.
He grunted as he took it. “What is this monstrosity?”
“My soul container.” I stood. “Can we hurry? Igu doesn’t have much time.” My stomach roared.
Kude handed the hammer to the fire wielder who held it with ease, drawing on the strength fire gave him. Then the earth wielder touched the floor, and the entire cave began to shake. The ceiling opened into a meadow and stairs came down to create an exit. This … was new information. This was how the Fevered Five stayed hidden all this time.
Groaning, Kude pointed back at the earth wielder. “Did you have to do that in front of the kid?”
Kude proceeded up the stairs and glanced back at me. “Don’t bother trying to tell anyone about this. It’s just a waste of time trying to find our earthen barracks.” He didn’t sound very confident. “But if this trade really is valuable to me, it won’t really matter even if they did find it.”
I swallowed as I stepped out into the moonlight. That didn’t sound very good.
Next chapter: Chapter 8