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chapter seventeen | losing another lead and then dealing with a weird old man

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"It's not broken."

Julienne relaxed as the doctor's cold fingers left her foot. She pulled her sock back on, carefully, but left the boot off.

"There's a minor sprain, hence the swelling and the bruising, and I recommend she rest it. Her resilience to the pain indicates that it is not serious at all."

Julienne snapped her head up at the doctor. "It does hurt. I just don't cry about it because my dad is missing and my mom is tired and there's this stupid necklace around my neck that means I can't go home."

It was rare, but when it happened, Julienne could rant quite impressively.

The doctor smiled at her, ruffling her curls fondly. "And you're a brave girl. Don't tell many people about that pendant around your neck."

She nodded, sliding to the side of the bed. "Can I go?"

"Yes," he replied, stepping aside so that Uncle Anton could pick her up. "Are both her parents here?"

"Just me," Michele called, poking her head into the room. "Sorry. I'm actually surprised at the number of people who remember me. I haven't been here in a while."

They greeted the doctor, Michele offered to pay for his services and was pleasantly replied when the physician refused to accept her money.

As they left, Julienne now comfortable with Anton, night descended around them with a sudden envelopment of shadows and darker colours.

Michele followed Anton, though she was only half-a-step behind him. "The weather is not normal."

Anton glanced at his sister. "No... we lose the almanack Scrolls."

"You what?" hissed Michele, leaning close to her brother as they passed a group of children.

"It was... there was a decision that had to be made, everyone disagreed, and then it was too late." Anton left the main road. They travelled a small, pebbled path that wound between buildings and up the hill.

The sound of crickets and frogs were heard, intermingling with the trickle of a small stream somewhere in the dark. The stars were visible, twinkling down on them in an array of bright sparks.

"I need to find Mark," Michele suddenly said, walking behind her brother with her eyes on the ground and her hands clasping the straps holding their bags to her back.

Anton was quiet for several seconds. "Mark Nights? Or Mark Burgeux?"

"Burgeux." Michele sighed, an uncertain note in her voice before she nodded confidently. "The one who was knighted the night we left? The rumour back then was that he was supposed to become the next Master Sch--"

Anton had stopped without warning, Michele accidentally bumping into him and cutting off in the middle of her sentence. Stepping back, she frowned as her brother swung to face her.

"Shelley," Anton began, shifting Julienne in his arms. "Mark Burgeux fell away from the Soldiers three years after you left. He first went rogue, then he switched allegiances, and the last I heard, he'd risen in the ranks of... you-know-who's army."

Michele dropped her head into her hands. "He's gone?"

Anton watched his older sister for two seconds, before he sighed and started back up the path, his quiet answer the final nail in the coffin.

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