At the hospital, Cord and I slow to a power walk as we approach the waiting room. Dad turns from his pacing which has probably been happening since we left.

"Mr. Brook." Cord holds out the vial but whispers, "This is the last drop of the - um, "antidote" from the Rings of Memory. The tree was cut down so there's no more."

Dad hugs me tightly. He looks at my throbbing ear. "She was hurt?" he asks Cord.

"She's very brave. Fuchsia saved more than one life today."

Dad nods. "Godspeed," he says, pointing in the direction of the operating room.

The doctor, Cord's mom, is writing in a chart when we enter the room. She doesn't smile but says, "Hi Cord," in a way that looks like relief. "Lemon's family is visiting; no one else can go back there now." She glances at the drawn curtain. Mom's behind this flimsy veil with the whirring machines and Lemon.

"You must be Fuchsia," she says, still without breaking a smile. "Your mom is very brave to donate her nutrients."

Guilt much? "Definitely she is, Dr. Arnica. How is she - and Lemon - how are they doing?" I ramble.

She still doesn't smile. I guess because her job is to save people, and when she can't she has to break the bad news. "Lemon didn't reject the second arm grafting, which is promising. We won't know how your mom will react to the nutrient donation for quite a while, but no news is good news, Fuchsia, remember that."

"Mom," Cord whispers. "We have the antidote for her - for Ms. Brook."

She looks at the vial and purses her lips. "Okay, when Lemon's family leaves you can go in. I'll watch the door." She's in on the illegal use of what we tapped from the Rings of Memory. Cord's and my family both understand how to keep a lethal secret.

"Well, what have we here?" The deep voice belongs to an old man in a sharp suit coming from behind the curtain. "Is that what I think it is?" He glances at the pocket where Cord has quickly returned the vial of amber liquid that could save Mom.

"Judge Paintbrush," Dr. Arnica says. "Cord was just offering some maple syrup to Fuchsia's mother; it has soothing properties for those recovering from a donation."

"Well, isn't that generous of the young man. Why, for a minute there I thought that was a different substance, a highly illegal drug that one would not want to be caught with under any circumstances."

"When they confuse maple syrup with an illegal substance, I think it's time for an election change." Dr. Arnica's sting hits the twenty-year incumbent, and he stands a little taller.

"I hope I haven't lost your vote." He straightens his tie.

"We haven't lived here long enough to vote yet, so you can't actually lose it. Listen, I understand you're under a lot of stress. Let's just focus on healing."

He takes out his wallet. "I'll buy it from you."

"My vote? Judge Paintbrush, now you of all people know that is illegal."

"No, the - ah-hem - maple syrup. Surely you can get more of that for Ms. Brook." It's clear Judge Paintbrush knows exactly what's in that vial. What he doesn't know is there's no more left in the world besides this one and it's only enough for saving one life - the life Cord asked to save when he tapped into the Rings of Memory and almost got sliced by that hideous saw.

"It's not for sale," Cord says. He crosses his arms.

The Judge clears his throat. "Do you have any idea how important my tribe is? You're new here, but let me tell you, Paintbrush may need to survive off of others' nutrients, but in return we maintain order and safety in this community. People depend on us as an example of the very best way of life. If we don't recover from a beheading how can we inspire tribespeople to go on? Dr. Arnica, you swore an oath to save those deemed worthy by the Grove, and there's no more worthy tribe than Paintbrush."

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