I.xxv

It was a rush of quiet first, when we all tried to figure on what had happened. Then one of us starts screaming for joy, and another says, “Quiet, fool.” I don’t know who’s speaking. I’m just staring down at the body in front of me.

There’s a blur of white and brown, and Rethi grabs me by the outside of my arms. He’s talking, but it takes a second to come through. He shakes me. Just a bit. “Are you all right?” he says again.

I look at him. The way his skin is gleamed with sweat. I think, It’s cold, and it seems strange and beautiful the way his skin glows in the moonlight. “I’m fine,” I say, and I hear myself say it like I’m standing a bit away from myself.

Rethi looks me up and down, and I wonder what he’s looking at. I think, It’s cold, and I wonder why it is I feel warm. Then I hear my own breathing, long hisses of breathing, and I start to feel my pulse in all my body.

“Can I sit down, Rethi?” I look up to the sky and see that the clouds have covered both of the night’s moons.

“Yes, yes Lidahlia. Sit in one of the wagons. We must move soon. We’ve called attention to ourselves. But sit in the wagon. Sleep if you can.”

It’s a few minutes before I realize I haven’t sat down. Just walked back and forth over everything, walking fast. I can’t seem to stop it. I keep moving. I see Samuel binding Stelen’s arm. Stelen, the one who had the crossbow. Rethi is pulling big twists of cloth from the back of one wagon. Hull eyes me from across the final ember of our company’s fire. I smell ash and steel, and taste it in my mouth, too. I keep moving.

When the bodies have been bound up and put into a wagon, when the horses are hitched up too, the man with the rust-colored hair, the one named Shim, he kicks dirt over the last of the fire.

My body swings to turn around and keep walking from end to end of our camp, but Rethi is standing there in front of me. He holds me by the sides of my arms again, and he’s shaking me, just a bit. Fast shaking, like he’s trying to make me tremble.

Wait. Am I shaking?

“Lidahlia, what are you doing? You must sit in the wagon. We are leaving again. We must make all haste. They will be back on us otherwise.”

I nod. Get to the back of a wagon. I sit, lie, sit again. Lie down. Keep moving. My body itches. I start scratching at the blood that’s caking on my arms, on my pants, on my hands. I scratch at the blood I imagine is on my neck, my chin, my cheeks.

Time moves forward in big chunks, then slows to a crawl. The day passes strangely like this. My fingers dig into my temples, trying to get the world to keep pace with itself. Before I know it, it’s evening again. We’ve gone off the path a ways, circled the wagons. Right off, before food or fire or any of it, I set my tent up inside the circle. I want to sleep, even though sleep hasn’t been coming, so I wrap myself tight as I can in my winter blanket. Outside, where the fire’s been started, I hear the other guards talking. Sharpening blades. Sharing stories. Changing bandages. Laughing.

Quiet falls in, and dark too, and all I hear is whispers, all I see is the glow of the fire—muffled orange through the front of my tent. Sleep dodges out of my way again. I close my eyes, toss, turn, look back toward the wall of my tent that glows from the campfire outside. Close my eyes, toss, turn, look back toward the light of the fire. Close my eyes, toss—back to sitting, eyes fierce to the cloth of the tent. There, a silhouette of someone standing outside. Hovering just outside.

Lines of his body blur in the shadow of him, but I can make out contours well enough. Hull, with his broad body, just waiting there. I swallow hard and search for my dagger, then realize I’ve left it somewhere. Outside my tent. Out with Willow and my satchel and my pack.

My body no longer tries to move. Instead, I watch as that silhouette watches me. I stay still. Completely still.

Next section.

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