Day Sixteen ➣ Part Two

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THUNDER CRACKED AGAIN AND the rain hissed against the ground as she scanned the forest, a hand held up to shield her eyes. She squinted and strained her ears. Nothing. But as she turned to walk back into the cave, she heard it again.

"Kieran?" she called. "Arleigh?"

"What is it?" Arleigh asked as they approached.

"Do you hear that?"

The wind whistled past the cave entrance. Thunder growled.

"No," Kieran said at last.

"I'm probably imagining things," Raina said, wiping rainwater out of her eyes. "Got too caught up in the moment." She hobbled back into the cave.

"Wait," Arleigh said. She furrowed her brow, and took a step into the rain, her eyes locked on the trees. 

This time, they all heard the shout.

"It's Maeve!" Arleigh said.

Raina made to take off, but Arleigh grabbed her arm. "No way. You can't run on that leg right now."

"It's Maeve. And Rance--"

"It won't matter if you get worse. We're in danger of losing two already. Please don't add yourself to the list."

The worry in Arleigh's voice was enough to give her pause, to think logically, even as Arleigh's words tore open another fear within her. She turned to the cave. "Niska!" she called. "Niska!"

Niska scrambled over at the panic in her voice. Raina pointed to the trees as the shout came again. Niska looked to the forest, then at them, taking in the fear on their faces--and the hope. They called to Tarak, and with Arleigh and Kieran, they left at a run. A moment later, Tarak followed.

Raina watched from the edge of the cave, bouncing on her good heel. She could not leave Finn and Calen alone. But Rance, Rance...

She took a step, then another one, and tried out a trot, but pain shot up her leg and her vision flashed white. Her good leg buckled and she dropped to the ground. Rance. Maeve. She lay on the ground, the rain pounding down on her back, and she swallowed against the nausea that rose as her leg continued to throb. She twisted her head to look back to the cave. She wanted to find Rance and Maeve. But she had to stay with Calen and Finn.

Gritting her teeth, she dragged herself back to the cave, just enough to get out of the worst of the rain. Then she sat, waiting, watching the forest for any sign of life.

Lightning lit up the sky. Thunder clapped and crashed. She sat and watched, soaked and shivering, brimming with prayers that they would find them, that they would all be okay. She was nearly jumping out of her skin at being left behind. But if they thought she was too weak to help them... 

She looked down at her bad leg. She could not, would not consider it. Not then, not when her crew was in trouble, when Rance was in trouble. So she continued to watch, rubbing her hands on her arms, rainwater dripping into her eyes. The winds began to ebb. The thunder grew distant. But still she saw nothing as she braced herself against the stone, her heart hammering from fear, and from hope, and from questions brimming in her mind, all the words that she wanted to say to her best friend. The rain lightened. Cracks began to appear in the clouds, small glimpses of the night sky.

Her breathing hitched as a pop echoed into the evening. A gunshot? She sat straighter, straining to see into the shadows of the trees. Everything was still. 

Then, a figure.

Raina scrambled to her feet. She squinted, but could not make them out until they reached the clearing. Kieran and Niska with... Maeve. Relief pulsed through her. She scanned the rest of the tree line. Another figure appeared, and she held her breath.

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