Ch. 22.2 - A secret meeting

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Lacey got lost on the Herd side. The huts and tents were grouped oddly, in random clusters. The avenues did not criss-cross in an orderly fashion like they did on the Hunter side.

She hurried, less than cautious, as she tried to pick up some clue of which way Goeden had gone. As she came around a corner a breeze hit her in the face with a familiar stink. Golden Eyes. She lurched backwards behind the cover of a woodpile. She waited, holding her breath.

When she couldn't stand it anymore she peeked around the corner again. Golden Eyes was straight ahead. His fur was bone white in the pale glow of the moon. He stood with his back to her, his tail lashing; he was outside Ezerelle's hut. Goeden must be inside.

Worry flashed briefly in her mind, until she saw a light on. Whatever he was doing in there, he wasn't doing it skulking in the dark.

According to Tissy, Ezerelle and Goeden had been here before any of the other Wished, even Wished who appeared older than either Ezerelle or Goeden. It was odd, but not exactly impossible. Not everyone was transformed by the well as a child. Cooper hadn't even been Wished as long as Lacey.

So, Ezerelle and Goeden had been here the longest, and now they were having a secret late night meeting. What secrets did they have to discuss? Was their power struggle an illusion? Neither of them actually opposed each other. Ezerelle benefited as much as any of the others in camp from Goeden's thieving and plundering--which he flaunted in front of everyone until their efforts to pretend it wasn't going on seemed ludicrous. Ezerelle knew like everyone else. And she did not order him to stop.

Maybe asking what Goeden was up to was the wrong question; maybe she should be asking what was Ezerelle up to.

Lacey crept around the stacks of logs until she was on the other side; she would be in full view of Golden Eyes, if he turned around. Shadows cloaked her, but she had no doubt his night vision could penetrate the dark. At least the wind was in her favor. She could smell his musk as the breeze blew toward her; he wouldn't catch her scent as long as she and the wind stayed on the same side.

At the end of the woodpile Lacey crept across the gap to Ezerelle's hut. She saw the cougar shift and leapt the final few feet to the cover of the wall. She crouched there panting and listening.

No growl or steps followed her around the corner. Lucky again. She collapsed onto her backside with a sigh. This was nothing like sneaking around the village from shadow to shadow, unseen on her morning errands. That had been fun and adventure--a challenge to keep the morning all to herself for as long as possible. Thinking back, she wanted to laugh at her silly baby games. Things were different when you had to stay hidden because your life, or at least limbs, depended on it.

She poked her head back around the corner and saw Golden eyes dragging his claws through his teeth, sharpening them. Satisfied, she crawled over to Ezerelle's half window. Behind the flap of hide covering it, she could hear voices.

"The test was conclusive. Or at least as conclusive as it can be in the primitive set up I have here. If we had access to The Geasa we could know for sure." Goeden's voice lacked the vicious edge it had when he was talking to Lacey. He sounded almost human.

"You shouldn't have brought any equipment off The Geasa." Ezerelle had assumed her graceful matron voice once more.

"Don't change the subject, this is important. I am trying to tell you she is one of us,"

"Of course she is; she is Wished."

Lacey felt the blood drain from her face. They were talking about her.

"That isn't what I mean. I mean one of us. Or at least half. I assume the other half is that village cow."

She heard the sneer in Goeden's voice. "Village cow" must be a reference to Lacey's mother. It was like he had something against her and her whole family. What had she ever done to him?

"That is impossible."

"Not with Adeline and her waters."

"What are you saying?"

"You've had your head in the clouds too long. You are forgetting basic science. The human part of her had to come from somewhere, and my tests prove that it came from one of us."

"But we can't have-"

"As I said, Adeline and her waters."

There was silence inside. Lacey strained to hear what was next. She lifted her head closer to the windowsill, resting her hand on the wall. But the hut was poorly made, like everything else in this camp, and a wooden pole that wasn't lashed tightly shifted beneath her touch. The sound of wood creaking was subtle, but the pause in the conversation continued inside the hut. Had they heard? Lacey bit her lip. A few seconds stretched into an eternity. The flap moved slightly. It could have been a breeze, or it could have been Goeden coming to the window.

She wanted to hear what was said next, but she couldn't stand it any longer. She turned and ran back out into the field she had run though before, so carefree, with Ezerelle-only now she was running from Ezerelle, and Goeden. The two of them together.

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