12: Setting Out

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Erlan wandered out of their bedroom as she reached her pack.

"What's happening?" he asked, scrubbing at his eyes with one knuckle.

"I have to go," Ever said, swinging her the heavy pack over her shoulders. For the span of a heartbeat she met Erlan's eyes. They widened slightly, but he didn't speak. Ever didn't spare him a second thought; moments later she was out the door and heading down the lane towards the green.

The booming continued in a slow, staccato rhythm. They were at the gates again with a ram—a better one this time, from the sound of it. She trotted as fast as she could under the weight of the pack, trying to control her breathing. Another volley of fire arrows launched over the walls ahead of her.

Men were running across the green toward the walls as she arrived. Elder Betenson had already appeared at the far end of the green and was calling orders to the frenzied troops forming up haphazardly under his watchful eyes. She looked about, momentarily torn about where to go.

The plan had been to meet at Storehouse 7 just after dawn, where the packhorses would be loaded down. Elder Meacham's riflemen would then escort them through the gates to the Southwestern tip of Bountiful's peninsula, where it met the mainland. From there they would part ways with their comrades and begin their trek north.

Ever felt a hand grab her arm and she looked up to find her father staring down at her.

"I have to go," she said, feeling silly even as the words left her mouth. If he even understood what she was talking about, her father would no doubt tell her to get back to the cabin, or to the infirmary, where she would be safe and could be of some use.

"Yes, you do," said Elder Orton, pulling her after him as he strode toward the storehouses. Surprised, Ever followed after him quickly, and soon they were running.

Her father led her behind Storehouse 1, giving them some cover from the arrows. They ran until they reached the back of building seven, on the western side of the green. Peering through the narrow alley between Storehouses 6 and 7, Ever could hear commotion and arguing, followed by the distinct snort of a horse. Her father led her down the dark passage and they emerged into the sunshine just in time to see that two of her party were already there. Elders Higbee and Belnap appeared to be having a disagreement over the small packhorse standing nervously between them. Elder Higbee had a rifle strapped to his pack, by the look of it one of the refurbished antiques Elder Betenson hoarded so closely.

"Where's Bingham?" barked Elder Orton.

"Haven't seen him," Elder Higbee said and returned to lashing a sack to the back of the horse. Elder Belnap frowned, but didn't say anything further.

"The main gates are under attack," said Ever's father. "You can't leave that way."

Elder Higbee nodded.

"We'll have to take one of the Scout passages," he said. Just then Elder Bingham jogged up from behind Rolan and Acel. Panting, he bent over to catch his breath. Like Elder Higbee, he also carried a rifle strapped to his pack.

"You'll have to leave the horses," said Elder Orton.

"We can get them through," said Higbee, reaching for another sack of flour from the pile at his feet. "The tunnels are narrow, but if we pack them right—"

"Don't be foolish. There's no—"

The rest of her father's sentence was cut off as the world exploded.

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