Day Thirty ➣ Part One

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THEY WERE SO CLOSE.

Raina awoke with a hole in her chest. She felt herself sliding into numbness again, the obscurity that rang through her like an old friend, echoing inside the hollow tombs of her limbs, slipping under her skin and emptying her until she was surprised she did not blow away in the wind. She looked out to sea.

Her eyes trailed over the surface swells, tracing them out to the first bands of convective clouds, as her head gave a small throb. Pressure drop. She turned around and spied Rance, already awake, frowning at the horizon as he reached the same conclusion as her. Maeve slept beside her, tears still fresh on her face.

"Hey," Raina said, hesitating before she placed a hand on her shoulder.

Maeve's eyes cracked open. The chaos behind them punched Raina in the gut.

"Are you going to be okay?" she asked.

Maeve's eyes flicked to the hurricane approaching behind them, then back to Raina. Then to the waterfall. "Yes," she said. Her voice said anything but. 

"The outpost is fortified, somewhere along the coast," Rance said, filling their silence. "On the other side of the water."

Maeve looked down. She clasped her hands together, squeezing and releasing them, her knuckles turning white to red. She took a deep breath. 

Raina put a hand on her shoulder. "We're going to make it. For Kieran. Anything less is unacceptable, do you hear me?"

Maeve did not react at her touch. She kept her eyes fixed on the ground, the slightest tremor running through her body. 

"Maeve, you are one of the most brilliant minds I have ever met in my life," she continued. "Your strength has taken you this far, and it will get you to the end. And as your captain, I'm ordering you to help us find a way down past the falls." Her voice was hard and strong. Her hand was soft.

A second passed, then a minute. Maeve nodded. She looked up, a familiar edge in her gaze. "For Kieran."

"For Kieran," Raina echoed.

Running alongside the waterfall, the cliff face shone with white stone, bright against the brewing clouds drifting too close for comfort. Below, angry waves hurled themselves against rock, crashing over each other in a mass of swirling currents begging to devour them. And not too far beyond it, a strip of rocky beach.

They looked down at the base of the falls. The roaring had become white noise to them, but as Raina watched the water pound the rocks at the bottom and spit back toward the sky in a cloud of mist, the sound enveloped her. It screamed, and the water twisted and spun as it shoved itself away and out to sea only to be hurled back, treacherous currents whipping beneath the surface.

"There's no hope for him, is there?"

Raina looked at Maeve. Her eyes were still fixed on the waterfall, shining in the clouded light.

"No," Raina said. "I don't know that even Kieran could have survived that fall."

Maeve barely breathed. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. 

They stripped off their boots and strapped them to their backs, the ground sharp and unfamiliar on their feet. Raina stood back, waiting for Maeve to make the call.

"Let's go," she said. Without another word Maeve crouched by the edge of the cliff, lowered herself, and began to climb down. Raina followed close behind her, sucking in a breath as she tore open the wounds on her hands. Her grip left red palm prints in her wake.

Waves sprayed up beneath them but they kept climbing, their hands slick and their grip fragile. Maeve's foot slipped on the wet stone and she dropped, seizing the rock with wide eyes as her legs lost their hold and dangled. Biting her lip, she let out an agonizing grunt, hauling herself back up to her foothold. 

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