22: Welcome To The Valley

1.5K 155 4

Ever blinked. The man pointing a gun at her had asked her a question. His voice was muffled by the odd mask he wore over his face, like a black scarf wrapped around a protruding assortment of lenses and armored plates. If she hadn't recognized the language, Ever might have thought him some kind of overgrown insect. The glass of the lenses over his eyes reflected the moonlight; Ever could see her own face in the reflection. It was finer work than she had ever seen in Bountiful.

"I'm...my name is Ever Oaks," she said, suddenly realizing she was still holding her knife as if she meant to use it. "I'm going to put this down now." The masked figure nodded.

Following her example, Jared and Acel also lowered their weapons carefully to the ground. The other men seemed to be waiting on the one in front of Ever—was he their leader, then?

A soft groan from behind her reminded Ever that Rolan was injured.

"Please," she said, in what she hoped was a humble and plaintive voice, "my friend is hurt. Please let me help him." The figure in black didn't respond immediately, but after a moment gestured slightly with her weapon. Ever, taking this as permission, moved slowly to Rolan's side and knelt down beside him. Jared, still standing above them, looked down worriedly.

"It mauled his neck and shoulder," Jared said, loudly enough to avoid any accusation of conspiracy from their—what were they, Ever wondered? Saviors? Captors? Killers? "But I think his belly's worse."

Ever stroked Rolan's face gently; the boy was obviously in pain—a great deal of it, now that she looked at him closely. He was conscious, but his eyes were pressed shut; his breathing was quick and shallow. His face had a clammy pallor she didn't like. Carefully, Ever comforted him and moved his hand away from his stomach.

As soon as she did so dark blood welled up and spread; she could see now that it had already soaked his body. Pulling up his torn shirt, she wiped some of the blood away and examined the wound. Her jaw tightened and she pressed her own hands down on top of it.

Jared had gotten to him just in time: another second, another bite, and the beast would have eviscerated him. As it was his wounds were deep—she thought she could see the blue gleam of an intestine inside one of the gashes—and he would soon die without aid. She looked up at Jared, then over at Acel, and finally to the masked leader.

"I need to heal him," she said. "Or he'll die." She didn't particularly care whether they understood what she meant, but she didn't want them to be entirely surprised by what was about to happen.

The leader exchanged a look with one of his men, but said nothing, continuing to watch. Ever turned back to Rolan, who seemed even less lucid than he had been.

Keeping one hand on the wound to his belly and placing her other on his forehead, she closed her eyes and hoped, as always, that the power would come when she called. She prepared herself, starting to gather the ball of emotion that she usually needed in order to summon the healing power.

Something felt different, however: she opened her eyes, looked down at Rolan, and felt the Gift rush out of her, flooding through her hands and into his wounded body. Rolan's eyes snapped open and he arched his back, gasping. In a moment it was done, and Ever sat back on her heels, tired but still awake, vaguely amazed at what had just happened.

Rolan's eyes had closed again, but after a few moments they opened, and he began, weakly, to sit up.

"You're...you're both awake," said Jared. Ever could only nod. Every time she had used her gift before, it had exhausted both herself and her patient to the point of unconsciousness, which usually lasted for hours. This time, both she and Rolan were not only awake but only slightly tired. Jared helped him up and he blinked, pulling up the blood-soaked remnants of his linen shirt. Jared passed him his water bottle; Rolan drank from it, then poured some out into his palm and messily wiped his belly clean.

Exile: The Book of EverWhere stories live. Discover now