The sun was lowering in the sky. It was almost time to head back home, so we used our last half hour making plans. I had Shadela’s old map, and we talked through the interior: where was the security room, what were the patrol routes, and how we’d get out with Raven and ourselves in one piece.
As we started to break camp, Shadela came over and asked to speak in private. “These guys remind me of my older brothers,” she stated, smiling. “That’s how I got so tough. Plus, I had a little sister to look out for.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “She, um…she passed away…about three years ago. Got in a carriage accident.”
I stayed quiet. We watched as Falcon and Kael started another scuffle over who tripped whom first.
“I’m sorry, Shadela. I…I understand. I have two sisters, and I would never want anything to happen to them. There’s nothing as wonderful or as challenging as siblings.”
Tracer and Gator did some slow-motion punches at each other, mocking the Faetrix, until Gator fell over and sat on top of Falcon where he lay, trying to pull off Kael’s shoe without being kicked in the face. Falcon said something about his glasses, and “Gator, you thick-headed squirrel, get off me.”
“Emmaline, do you really think they’re ready?”
Tracer laughed as Gator got pulled into the hustle. Wayk stood by, grinning quietly.
“Strength of the mind always beats strength of the body, Shades. They’ve never been readier.”
She nodded, letting the idea sink in. “And what about you?”
My smile faltered. I felt her eyes piercing me like all the times they had before, but with a different purpose. My mind raced to find an answer. Any answer. Anything but the exact, unavoidable truth of the future.
I looked her square in the face. Execute evasive maneuvers.
“Nothing will make me change my mind. Nothing. It’s worth everything to save someone’s life. Even putting your own on the line.”
She took it.
Shadela smiled faintly and looked back at the half-grown boys. They’d started wrestling and ended up dog-piling in a giant, laughing mound.
“You know, I never thought I’d hear somebody else say that.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish