Chapter 12 - Good

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As the storm rolled in, it obscured the ruins, making it hard to find shelter until a lightning flash lit the landscape. As the rain pounded harder, my panic increased. The ground beneath my feet turned to mud, causing me to slip as I jogged. I had weathered these storms while hunting with my dad, but I was never the prey before.

It was only a matter of time before anyone followed me, and they'd have the advantage of horses. The panicked part of me wanted to push through the storm. The rain hardened into ice pellets. I had to find shelter. Hail, the kind that would really hurt, would be next.

I scoured the surrounding landscape. Worst case scenario I could find an overhang. Anything to keep my head from being pummeled with ice chunks. I kept moving, scanning the area. A lightning flash revealed a small building that didn't appear to be fully collapsed.

Relief sang through me, and I slowed my gait, approaching with caution. Old structures built with common materials — wood, cement, brick — failed unless cared for. Most of the houses in the vicinity proved that point. Their rubble guts spilled across the old roads, rusted and decomposed.

Boards covered all of the windows. So much for peering inside to check the interior. My bow would do me no good in close quarters, especially with little light. I reached into my satchel and grabbed the knife from my father. It was sharper than the one from the shelter. I gripped it hard, trying to calm the shaking in my arm. Water dripped onto my face, making it hard to see as I pushed open the door.

It creaked loud enough to be heard over the now torrential rain and hail, and I gritted my teeth. My backpack protected my back from the ice pellets, but my head only had the protection of my cloak. The pounding in my chest continued, and I held my breath, waiting. No one attacked me. No rustling noise. Nothing. I didn't allow any sigh of relief before I darted in through the doorway, a silent prayer that I wasn't jumping into danger, a trap lying in stealth.

The wind slammed the door behind me, and I jumped, my backpack scraping the wood behind me. I squinted trying to discern anything as I wiped the water out of my eyes. No knife to my throat. At least I hadn't stirred a hornet's nest. Still holding my breath, I pressed my backpack up against the wall near the door, holding my knife in front of me. Moments passed, and nothing happened. No sounds came from nearby, not that I could hear much over the pounding of the rain.

I let out a ragged sigh before letting my hand with the knife drop to my side.

A flash of lightning revealed the empty room, void of animals or people. A mattress lay in the corner on top of some old slats of wood. I waited for more lightning, which flashed as if it had known I needed the light. Thick dust covered everything. Someone had been here, but not for a while.

Could it have been Tobin?

No. He shouldn't be this close to town, and this amount of dust meant whoever it had been is long gone. I stamped down the lurch of hope, chiding myself. Eluena was my concern, not some guy. But, as odd as it was, he seemed like the only person in this world who understood me now. Him and Eluena. Or maybe it was only a shared experience that made me feel close to him.

I shook my head, ridding myself of the silly daydream. There was no time for that. I'd find him tomorrow, and he'd help me find Eluena.

I shrugged out of my cloak, hanging it on a peg in the wall so it could dry. I dumped my backpack on the foot of the bed. My mother's and my handiwork had done its job, keeping my backpack and me dry. A cool wind whistled in through some cracks in the wall, causing me to shiver, and I flipped my bedroll onto the bed. If I was waiting out a storm, I might as well try to rest. With the rain as bad as it was, there would be no way to track me directly here. It would be a lucky guess. Curling up on the bed, I ate some bread and cheese before my eyes shut to the sound of booming thunder and hail on the roof. 

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