Previous: Chapter 20
Chapter 21 (A new plan)
Ekanli walked out of the healer’s room on the first floor of the in, curling and uncurling her toes with each step. Her heart still raced faster than they had to get inside the walls of the city.
Modaj looked groggy sitting at the table in the center of the inn’s common room while Igu, across from him, shoveled food into her mouth. At this early hour, only the red-eyed, portly innkeeper was moving around. With his flabby cheeks and soft smile, he looked like he was saving up food for a large-scale battle.
The smell of bacon made Ekanli’s stomach growl, so she made her way across the quiet inn common room and waved at the innkeeper before pointing at Igu’s plate.
As if Ekanli was planning to steal her food, Igu leaned over her plate and wrapped her arms around it protectively. Paper rustled in her pocket.
“I’m not going to eat your food.” Ekanli sat down then glanced over her shoulder.
The innkeeper headed into the back.
She scooted her seat closer to the table and whispered, “What are we going to do?”
“Wait for Orshis and Weron,” Modaj said, voice sounding as unsteady as he looked.
Ekanli shook her head. “Impossible. Not with that monster so close and the Regime Hunters probably knowing we’re here.”
“Speaking of that monster.” Modaj’s hands trembled in his lap. “Did either of you get a good look at it?”
Igu shook her head, still staring at her plate and putting small bites of food in her mouth. “Something knocked me out, the monster I guess, and the next thing I know, I’m waking up next to you with Ekanli running towards me.”
“You’re lucky it didn’t kill you,” Ekanli said, voice cracking. “It. It was horrible.”
Modaj swallowed. “What was it?”
“I don’t know. Ekanli hugged herself to still the shivers rolling across her body. “But we broke the seal on the door, so whatever it is, it could come here next. Which is why we can’t wait.”
“Well,” he said, shrugging, “what else can we do? There’s no way we can make it across the wastes without a map or someone to lead us.”
Ekanli’s foot began tapping, and she placed her hands in her lap to stop it. “What else can we do?”
Igu looked up, still trying to guard her food. “Find Tima. He has a map, right?”
Ekanli opened her mouth then shut it. She blinked. “Well, that would be good if we knew where to start looking.”
Igu bit into her lower lip as if she didn’t want to share something. After sighing, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a flyer. “I found this on the bar of the inn while waiting for you and Modaj to get healed.”
“So?” Ekanli reached out for the paper.
The bumping of doors announced the innkeeper coming out with her food, so Modaj took the chance to grab the paper. His brow scrunched.
“What?” Ekanli asked, mouth full of grits and ham.
“Why would a flyer for the Gladiatorium Preliminaries in Jutzoran let you think you know where Tima is?”
Half-eaten chunks of ham fell from Ekanli’s mouth and plopped onto her plate. “The Gladiatorium. Or course.”
Igu narrowed her eyes and scanned Modaj’s face. “Are you really Modaj?”
“Yes?” he said.
“And how long have you known Tima,” Igu asked.
“Since we were both old enough to walk. Same as you and Ekanli.”
Igu nodded as if Modaj were stupid. “And what has he always wanted more than anything else?”
Igu flinched, Modaj’s words striking her.
“Besides that, ass,” Ekanli said.
“To compete in the …” Modaj’s eyes grew wide. “Oh. But Jutzoran is more than a week by horse from here, even if we ride hard.”
“Good find, Igu.” Ekanli went back to eating.
Igu stood. “I’ll ask the innkeeper to get us supplies and leave a message for Orshis and Weron if they follow after us.”
“Be careful how you word that,” Modaj said, always the careful one.
“I’m not stupid.” Igu spun on her heels and stalked off.
Ekanli washed her food down with some cold water then burped. “Let’s check the route and make sure we know the fastest way there.” With that, she rose and moved towards the healer’s room, the old wind wielder seeming more knowledgeable about these sorts of things than the innkeeper.
Next: Chapter 22