The Sunangels swoop in with precision while the rest of us hover, and the speed of their transport vehicles makes Burnish's ride look pitiful. These are our surgeons, the species who know how to take the blood donated from Cord's tribe, Arnica, and direct it skillfully to save the severed body. Without them, there would be no healing from the beheadings.

It's amazing to watch as their long needles plunge into the stump that is Lemon. Glittering green feathers whir and buzz as Sunangels move from the Arnica volunteers to the patient, over and over, back and forth until it is enough.

Now we wait. Del looks like he's going to pass out, but I don't think he will - not with all those macho tribesman surrounding him. They shake their heads in comfort but none of them cries.

Just like last night's victim, no one will know if she lives until the guards announce it, but, as always, the Grove will keep the vigil of hope. Scarlet hangs her shocking red hair as if bowing to Lemon―like still being at her beck and call can bring her leader back to life. Maybe it can.

Can Lemon feel anything? Is she in pain or free from it, off fluttering in the great blue beyond? Our Shaman promises us that those who die become the winged creatures called Forevers. But no one who is still here with us knows what actually happens.

I glance over at the guest of honor for the ceremony. Pearl looks pissed. Like it isn't enough to have a beheading the night before your Bloom Fest, and now another has interrupted the actual event. But what Cord and his family are doing makes her look cheap by comparison. Arnica tribe members have sworn an oath to heal whoever is deemed worthy by the community, and not to save those who aren't.

The guards watch all of this with their arms crossed.

I'm so mad for Cord I start sweating and this time I don't care if I stink to high heaven. His grandmother was beheaded last night and he was forbidden to save her; now he's sworn to join his family to rally around Lemon and mend her sorry ass. Arnica are known for being self-sacrificing, but I can't imagine that kind of generosity. I fidget nervously just looking at them lined up in their saint-like poses as Sunangels bandage their altruistic veins. If she lives, Lemon will be stronger for having Arnica blood.

A selfish voice in my head corrects me: If Lemon lives she will be even more desirable to Del.

I'm so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I don't hear Burnish approach. "Excuse me, uh, Fuchsia?"

"Oh―Burnish." He looks eager to deliver his message.

"The gentleman of the Arnica tribe―Cord―wishes to ask for your help. He has heard that the waters by your stream are the most pure, and requests a dram for Lemon, er―to help with her healing―please."

I glance over at the huddled group engaged in deep conversation. Cord sits between his parents and it looks like he's consoling them. He glances my way suddenly and our eyes meet. He nods and forms something that must be an attempted smile. I hate that he even tries, under the circumstances.

Cord's notebook said the waters where I live are most healing and have a high mineral content. Is that the same thing as being pure?

Burnish fidgets with his brakes, waiting for an answer. "Please tell Cord to help himself." If I can help those who have sacrificed so much, does that make me a little less selfish and maybe a smidge more brave? Something deep in my mud-caked toes tells me yes.

As Burnish pedals off, I see Del watching our exchange from a distance. He tips his cowboy hat at me and I wave back like an awkward weed.

A/N: What are Sunangels?

a. bats

b. bees

c. Hummingbirds

Comment with your guess!

Dedicated to: linahanson, whose comments always make me smile. Check out recently featured, CURSED TIMES-WHAT NOW? her captivating saga set in Egypt that is rich in detail and epic in proportion.

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