Chapter Ten

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They traveled up and around the base of one of the mountains, which were at the top of the caverns they called home for a few days. The trail winded around lazily through a canyon made from a dry, dead river. The path was packed with flakey clay that crunched underfoot as they traversed through it. Rocks smoothed over by centuries of water littered the ground in different sizes. There were signs of drought as they walked along the riverbed. They spied dead bushes and wilted desert sage still holding on though barely. The occasional scent of sage bushes and wildflowers permeated the air, but so did the slight odor of old, rotted vegetation mixed with dirt.

The sand got into everything, clinging to Shade's pants, shoes and gritting against her skin inside her sneakers and socks. She stopped to empty the dust and gravel out of her shoes quite often. Most times, she'd sit on the smooth boulders that were scattered along the path. The advantage of the canyon was that there were many shady areas blocking off the blaring sun and heat that intensified as the day wore on. The occasional desert lizard or jackrabbit darted across their paths. They shimmied their bodies into the cracks of earth beneath the stones or bushes. How could anything survive out there? It was mind-boggling. Water was scarce, and Shade was grateful she had some to enjoy.

The group stopped for a rest under a large overhang of striped red, white, and orange stone. It hovered over them like a massive giant, threatening to fall at any moment. Ewan assured her it would not fall because it was well-anchored and more under the ground than above. Shade sat at the edge of its shadow. She wanted to be ready in case she had to bolt to avoid being crushed alive.

She opened her pack and pulled out her canteen. She drank quickly, and the cool water felt refreshing as it tumbled down her throat. She'd have to thank Jack for the canteen. It refilled itself with the magical water and never ran dry.

Pulling out a bag of rations, she began munching on the nuts, dried jerky, and flat bread. She immediately felt more alert and less tired. Glancing around, she noticed how the desert seemed to be transitioning into a more grassy and bushy area. Off in the distance, greenery weaved itself into the barren desert. It grew thicker and thicker the farther her eyes scanned. Great pines and coniferous trees shone small but bright in color, speckling the mountainsides. She wondered if they would be heading into that forest before nightfall.

Dylan parked himself at the edge of the shadows, too, but not close enough to be considered sitting with her. He had his head down, also stuffing bits of food into his mouth. He never spoke with anyone in the group. If he was angry or sad, it did not show. His antisocial behavior made her wonder what he was thinking.

It was tempting to inch closer to him and try to pry some information out of him. He didn't seem hostile, but he wasn't exactly welcoming either.

Sary, Braelynn, and Stephen were sitting together and chatting loudly. They were in good spirits and enjoying the outdoors. It seemed as if they felt suffocated underground, too. They told Shade that they drew their powers from the Earth and the elements. Outdoors, the sun, nature, and life replenished their strength, what stone could not do alone. The other men were sitting near each other, remaining somewhat quiet as they chomped on their rations. They chatted amongst themselves occasionally, laughing and nodding with full mouths. Their manners were a bit atrocious, and it made Shade giggle to herself. She was enjoying their company, and they were beginning to feel like a surrogate family.

Speaking of family, Shade's thoughts wandered to her mother and siblings. What were they doing right now? Had they forgotten her? She wondered how strong the memory charm was Ilarial used on her family. A sinking feeling in her stomach made tears sting her eyes. It's going to be okay, she told herself. Remembering the times they had all gone camping when she was younger and her father was still alive made her smile and savor the memories.

Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1) by Alexia Purdy (complete)Where stories live. Discover now