And yesterday was Goo's birthday! He's five years old now! This is his birthday dinner.
Previous: Chapter 7
Chapter 8 (Healing)
I hopped off Guudra just outside of town as the sun came up behind me, hiding me from whoever was on guard duty at the checkpoint. They probably weren’t using lenses to watch this road, but I glanced back at my two companions anyway, back at Igu’s only hope and my damnation. “If you wear those masks into town, you’re just going to alert the guards.”
Purshis the psychic wielder shrugged before trotting his horse up beside me and dismounting.
Helius scoffed, and instead of dismounting, she rode around us.
The open field around them smelled of dew and ozone as if it had rained, but each step closer to the village brought more and more of the stink of industry. Despite being summer, this morning was a bit chill. Though, that could be because I was still wearing Kude’s beach clothes.
I groaned, watching Helius get farther and farther ahead, wondering why Kude had went off in a different direction than the three who held Burges at the edge of the Gyutrop Forest. “Yep, I’m going to be executed for sure.”
“Wasn’t that what the hunters were trying to do to you last night said,” Purshis said in a soft, rasping voice, sounding like a …
I started then looked her up and down. “You’re. You’re. You’re a woman?”
Purshis nodded. “Not all women have long hair.” She gestured to the cloak. “This thing hides my body, so I guess I can understand how you didn’t notice.”
“So, there are two women in the Fevered Five?” I started forward again, drawing Guudra behind me in a rush to catch up to Helius.
“Three if the twins count as women.” Purshis laughed to herself, a golden sound. “They’re more like spoiled brats.”
“Twins? You mean the wind and earth wielders?”
I gestured towards Helius. “And?”
Purshis’s laughter only deepened. “By all five, no. Helius wants nothing to do with women.” She edged over and elbowed me in the side. “And I mean nothing to do with them.”
I blinked, not entirely sure what she was getting at. “Okay?”
Pershis roared in laughter.
My cheeks burned, but I wasn’t sure why. I was being made fun of or something, so I needed to change the subject. Plus, this was something I really wanted to know. “Just who is Kude? He’s not part of your group, and his attitude feels … off.”
“Like me,” Pershis said in a low voice as we reached the checkpoint that watched over this way into the village, “Kude was once part of the Regime. He turned on them at the battle of the lost spring, and we had a major victory that day.”
I nodded, but something felt off about all that. Even more so than the lack of guards on the way into the village. “And you trust him?”
Helius pulled on the reins of her—I mean his—horse, and he hopped from the saddle when it slowed. With murder burning in his eyes, he glared back at me. “Of course, we don’t. But that’s why my sister, Aiga offered the info to him. To test him before Operation Soul Crush begins.”
“To test—” I choked on what Helius had said.
Pershis nudged me in the shoulder.
Apparently, I had stopped in my tracks. I shook the stupor and hurried forward to catch up with Helius with Pershis in tow. “What do you mean sister?”
“Are you daft?” Helius asked, voice sharper than the murder in his eyes. If only he would take off his mask and give me a better look at his face.
“No?” I looked around.
This section of town, despite the sunrise, was quiet. No one roamed the streets. No one set up shops. No children were running around to play. The only constant, familiar about the town was the stink of industry and the shape of buildings. And that greasy stink was really distinct after being in the forest for the night. If it wasn’t for the Regime’s push for the creation of more weapons and more minerals, this stink would not be so heavy.
I swallowed. Something was really wrong, but that didn’t matter. I needed to focus on the problem at hand. Whatever reason the other villagers hadn’t come out today wasn’t my concern. “I never new Aiga had a sister.”
“Why would she tell someone like you?” Helius asked.
I took the lead and turned at the next intersection, moving towards Aiga’s place. “Because I’’m going to marry her.”
Sounds sputtered from Helius’s mouth, but none actually reached word form. For her part, Pershis gasped in what I assumed was more laughter. For a terrorist, she sure laughed a lot.
There were scorch marks all over the front of Aiga’s place and all three buildings around it—an herb shop, a bakery and a jewelry shop—had been demolished.
My heart thundered in my ears, and I dropped Guudra’s reins and hurried up the steps. I reached out and grabbed the door handle. Searing heat melted the skin from my hand, and I screamed.
The door swung open and threw me from the porch. Guudra whinnied and danced back away from me.
In the blink of an eye, Pershis and Helius stepped in front of me. Six knives lifted from Pershis’s pockets and floated in front of her while a barbed spear of water appeared in Helius’s outstretched hand.
Uncle Weron stepped out onto the porch with two others behind him. Probably my other uncles. Fire, earth and water formed in their massive hands.
“Stop!” I rasped, but neither side seemed to hear me.
Blades flipped into a wall of earth. Fire snaked over the wall and lanced towards Pershis and Helius only for Helius to step forward and swat it out of the air like a pesky sharkfly. Water bound his ankles and jerked his feet out from under him while Preshis shoved on the created wall, crushing it with sheer force.
Scrambling to my feet, I darted between the two groups. In retrospect, not a good idea.
New blades whizzed towards my neck on one side while fire licked my cheeks on the other. Helius’s spear bit into my side, and a jet of water hit my other side to match it. The ground around my feet clamped down onto my ankles.
I wanted to cry out in pain. To gasp or moan. But no words came out. With my legs trapped as they were, I could only turn slightly enough to have the dagger gash into the side of my neck rather than across my throat, but the whirling motion whipped Helius’s spear lodged into my side up into the bolt of fire, turning both to steam. Unfortunately, the twisting motion excluded my feet, and a snap sent a jolt of pain that tensed my jaw and made everything seem distant.
On the bright side, at least I couldn’t feel the wound in my side or across my neck anymore.
My uncles and two of the two from the Fevered Five loomed over me, arguing about something in a jumble of voices. My body lifted into the air, and I was dropped onto a soft bed. Aiga was there. So were my three friends who hadn’t been in such bad condition.
I could hear the beep, beep, beep of the machine hooked up to Igu.
Aiga shook her head. “What were you fools doing?” She place her hand on me as her eyes took on an azure glow.
“No,” I managed to say. “See to Igu first.”
“Helius is seeing to her.” Aiga placed one hand on my side and the other on my throat. “I’m going to stop the bleeding first. Grit your teeth since I don’t have the time to knock you out.”
“Help your brother. I’m fine.”
Aiga started then glanced over to where Helius was probably standing. She shook her head. “Igu will be fine for now, you’re the one dying.”
I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes. I was a target of the Regime either way. At least if I died here—
Raw, unfiltered agony stabbed at every inch of my body like hundreds of thousands of little needles. My bones popped. My teeth ground. And I howled.
Next: Chapter 9