Ch. 24 - Misery

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The storm raged above the canopy, blocking the moonlight and making it impossible to see. Rain clattered on the tree branches overhead and then dripped down sporadically in fat, cold drops. At least she was sheltered from the wind that howled against the treetops--more or less. Each time a tree shuddered in a particularly violent gust of wind, a shower rained down to drench her further.

Lacey moved through the Wood on pure instinct and animal senses. There was no light to guide her. She was running the lines on her own tonight. There weren’t enough people to spare for teams. Half the hunters were back at camp trying to keep roofs on top of houses. That was fine with Lacey. It made what she had to do easier.

She reached down to feel the ground at her feet until she felt a small furry lump. This was the fifth snare on the line. When she was done with it, she veered to the left instead of continuing to the next trap. She walked until her feet told her to stop. Ahead, the rain pounded freely against the earth in the clearing around the cave.

Lacey pulled her hood tight under her chin and ran to the cave entrance. She ducked inside. This was not the time for hiding or hesitation.

Firelight assaulted her with the ability to see once again. She blinked as her eyes adjusted. It was warm in the cave, though a little smoky. Devan stood beside the fire, holding his knife uncertainly. He lowered it as she shook the rain off her cloak.

“You should hang that to dry by the fire,” he said.

“I am not staying long. I am here to ask you something.”

“You’re crazy going out on a night like this.”

“You know how it is. There are things that need doing. A lot of mouths to feed. Do you need more?” She offered him a rabbit from her belt.

He shook his head. “I have plenty.”


The inside of the cave almost looked homey. She had snuck a few necessities to him here and there. The deerskin blanket was folded neatly at the foot of a woven mat that was cushioned underneath by a thick layer of pine needles. Three branches had been fashioned together in a tripod and placed over the fire. A small pot of liquid hung suspended from it, bubbling gently. Back against the wall was another stand of sticks bound together to make a drying rack. Thin strips of meat hung from it, slowly turning to jerky. Devan was turning out to be a better hunter than she ever thought he would.

He offered her a small battered cup of steaming tea and sat on a rock by the fire. She drank it gratefully and wondered where he found the mint. With her insides pleasantly warmed up, she almost wished she had the luxury of letting her cloak dry, but she would just go out and get it drenched again.

She needed to say what she’d come here to say, so she could finish her job and get back to camp. If there is a camp left to go back to, she thought as the wind blew across the mouth of the cave with a sound like a strangled scream.

“I am going to take you to the well,” she said.

He paused with his cup of tea halfway to his lips. Firelight glittered in his eyes. “You are?”

“Only if you do something for me.”

“Anything,” he said, without even stopping to think.

Before I take you,” she added.

His pupils narrowed to mere pinpricks. “When can we go? Tomorrow? When the rain lets up?”

“Are you listening to me? First, before we go, you have to do something for me.”

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