Eighteen

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It was all unravelling, like a shawl with a loose thread caught on a thistle. The day had started with the Temple suffering an identified failure; it had ended with Harry's death. Eva made a habit of not believing in luck, or coincidence. She sought patterns and built her world on logic and reason and evidence, therefore the link was clear. Even though she might not understand it, there was a causal connection between the two events.

"It was an accident," Tommy was saying, though Eva's mind was already racing off in half a dozen other directions: how would this impact on the hunts? How badly would it affect morale of everyone in Cragside? Could there even be a Cragside without a Harry there to simultaneously invigorate and irritate? How would Robin cope with what had happened - she could see him standing a distance from where everyone else was gathered together, staring into space. What would the dynamic be in the village, now that the awkward balance of Tommy and Harry was no more? Critically, who would lead the expedition, when the assumption had been that Harry would be in charge.

Tommy was still speaking. "In light of what's happened we've no choice but to cancel the expedition. I know, I know - perhaps we can revisit the idea later in the year. But now is not the time. We need to refocus on home, on Cragside and supporting each other here. Nothing like this has ever happened and we're going to have to figure out where we go from here - and we'll do that together."

It was immediately the wrong decision, of course. Eva also knew at that moment that Tommy would delay any kind of useful discussion about the Temple for a day at least - or as long as he could get away with it, until word started to spread and people began to notice as more systems shut down. It was summer and warm so the lack of the sub-surface heating wouldn't be noticed, but faulty irrigation would lead to blocked sewage, malfunctioning ovens and dry taps. If Tommy thought it was a decision he could put at the bottom of his priority list, he would soon discover otherwise.

Then again, Harry was dead. Eva couldn't pinpoint how she felt about it, and was somewhat distressed at her lack of an emotional reaction. Tilda was doubled over, vomiting onto the grass. Others were wailing, or shouting unintelligibly. To her the accident seemed almost expected, given the Temple malfunction and Harry's usual daredevil antics. They'd never made a definite link between the timely assistance they had all received at one time or another and the Temple but it had always been Eva's best guess. The environment's benevolence didn't extend to other animals, which led her to conclude that the Temple - a distinctly human privilege - was somehow connected. The Temple lessons had never acknowledged or denied it, and they had no additional knowledge to compare against. Nobody remembered a time before the Temple. Some, like Robin, though it insulting to even suggest there had been a pre-Temple period.

Again, her mind drifted from the truth of the moment. Harry was dead. He'd been one of the oldest in Cragside. She'd always found him inherently annoying but she could see his appeal nonetheless. Eva wondered why she wasn't more upset. She scowled, as if trying to wring tears from her eyes, but none came. It wasn't that she didn't care, or had disliked him: nevertheless her reaction remained neutral and cool, her attention still on the Temple and the cancelled expedition. Distantly, she knew what had happened was awful; analytically, she recognised that there was nothing to be done about it. Harry was not coming back. Perhaps they could still do something to fix the Temple, if they found answers outside the valley.

Somehow, in a way she couldn't pinpoint, everything felt unnervingly connected.

She could have spent the rest of the day and night trying to convince Tommy to change his mind. To see her point of view. She could have appalled everyone by talking about a jolly adventure rather than mourning Harry. She already knew that would be wasted effort and that nothing she said would change Tommy's mind. Few of the chosen team would want to go against his orders, or without Harry leading the way. They had all been chosen based on Harry's criteria: mostly his daft physical tests and nonsensical survival challenges - so many of which were based on protections which were now evidently, tragically, absent.

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