Chapter 26 - Saltwater and Wounds

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The terrain was rough, but I threw myself into it. There wasn't much else to do besides considering I didn't want to talk to anyone. Sienna approached a few times, but I shooed her off with a glare. She and Mindy seemed to get along okay, and somehow that struck me as perfection.

Of course, the person who left Eluena behind would befriend the new girl. Mindy said she hated herself, but she sure acted like she was fine. I'd give her that she wasn't laughing like she would have if Becka were around, but there she was, walking along talking about if she could pull off Sienna's bangs.

My eyes hadn't stopped rolling at them all day. Did she not wonder what Eluena, Edith, and my mother were doing at this moment? Were they still in Nord? Or had their cages moved on towards Bend and ultimately, the Gateway?

Gord had eased my mind that the bounty on Eluena's head would go to whoever had found her, but that there was no way the Elder Council would do anything other than hand her over to Shasta. The payment was too important.

It had only been a full day since we left the wagon behind, but without our gear loading us down we made better time. I itched for my bow. My hands clenched and unclenched, looking for something to do.

I now relied on setting snares when we made camp, so there was a chance of meat with our meals. Tobin and Gord would have done it, but I didn't give them a choice.

My jaw tightened. I should teach Mindy and Sienna how to identify edible plants then maybe I'd stop hearing about bangs.

Tomorrow.

I'd teach them tomorrow. Today, I'd keep to my self-imposed isolation. One more day to lick my wounds and steel myself for what was coming. There were days ahead of me with the group, and I couldn't ignore them the entire time.

That evening we made camp near a tiny spring, and I set off alone to set up snares. In the morning, I would check them and catch up with the group after they moved on for the day.

A smile spread across my lips. Catching up would mean more time to myself. It was an easy way to be alone but not seem like I was avoiding everyone. At least that is what I told myself.

After I laid my fifth snare, I put a shred of material on a nearby tree so I could find it tomorrow, then I made my way back towards camp. My mind was a blissful blank as I scanned the undergrowth for edibles.

I was climbing out of the gulley where I set the snares. It was a natural place for water, and the animals would frequent the area. Voices drifted to me. I stopped and crouched before considering my foot placement as I crept closer to where the sounds came from.

It was Gord and Tobin.

I crouched behind a large boulder. It was doubtful that they could see me, but just in case.

"We shouldn't be taking them to Shasta. Talia is dead-set on it, but she doesn't know what she is getting herself into," Tobin said, and I pictured him running his hand through his hair. He sounded irritated.

He didn't like the idea the other day, but he seemed accepting that this was my decision to make. I pressed my lips into a line. After always saying he wouldn't decide for us, and did he now want to take that away. Did he lie all those other times? Or was it only as long as we made the right decisions?

"I told you not to get too attached, brother" — Gord paused — "If they want to go, there are benefits in that. The rebels could use people on the inside—"

I could almost see Tobin shaking his head as he interrupted. "It's too dangerous. We don't know what goes on in there, they could come out as mush-brained as the others. She might not be the same."

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