• Rebekah Olson

Chapter 58 THE END (or... to be continued)

Pain filled all of Jerryck’s senses. With every breath a hot knife stabbed into his shoulder. He couldn’t draw in enough air,and his lungs burned for the lack. His body felt only half solid, trying to tremble and quiver, without the energy to pull it off. It was so weighty he couldn’t really move anything properly. At least the void no longer crushed him. He was alive. He would recover. Especially since Sakila was still out there somewhere. She must be safe. He could still feel an influx of energy from her. It was just a trickle at this point, slow and measured. That was a good thing. He was so depleted, if the influx had been too strong, it would have put him further in a state of shock. He struggled with that as it was. Lying on his back, nauseated, he turned his head in case he puked. Then he had to wait for his head to stop spinning and the ground to stop swaying beneath him, increasing the nausea. “Jerryck?” Someone put a hand on his good shoulder. “Lay still. Try to relax.” Opening his eyes didn’t help. At first everything was blurry. As his eyes slowly focused, nothing made sense. He was surrounded by the enemy. None of the village’s buildings were in sight. And where was the sky? He saw only rock. The hand on his shoulder belonged to the blond interpreter. Someone else spoke to him, and he leaned in close to Jerryck. “Do you remember me?” “I’m sorry we hit you so much.” The words came out. Jerryck heard them. It sounded a lot like his voice, but breathless, slurred, and he didn’t feel his mouth moving. “Do not worry about that,” the man said. He exchanged a few words with the other person, a large man, almost as large as Heston, almost. Then he talked to Jerryck again. “Do you remember my name?” Jerryck shook his head. That was a mistake. The ground swayed again and he shut his eyes against the nausea. The blonde squeezed his shoulder gently, reassuringly. He said, “It’s Adam. Do you know where you are? What happened?” “Village,” Jerryck said. “Fighting.” “The fighting is over,” Adam said. “And we are not in the village. We moved under an overhang of rock to shelter. A day has passed. We have stayed the night here. It is almost morning. You were injured. And we cannot figure out what is wrong with Tajor.” Magic was wrong with Tajor. Jerryck could feel it better now. They lay side by side. The magic flowed at only trickle because it was spread out, which dissipated some of it, but affected everyone in Jerryck’s immediate vicinity. Tajor’s curse acted almost as a filter, dissipating it further, which kept it at exactly the level Jerryck needed. Khata sat behind him, wrapped in a coat and watching silently. A coat? It looked like the one Adam was wearing, and like the man beside him wore. Adam pointed at Khata. “Do you know her? She asked for you by name.” “Why is she here?” Jerryck asked. Khata saw him looking at her and she smiled briefly, just a flash before she went back to staring wide-eyed at everyone. Adam exchanged a few more words with the large man before answering Jerryck. “She came to us in the night.” “You didn’t kill her?” Jerryck was just being sassy now. He knew it. And yet, he somehow couldn’t stop. Maybe because he was hurting and weak? “Such a pretty little Goldlöckchen?” Adam smiled at her. She gave him the same brief flash of smile she had given Jerryck. He said, “And so brave, to come to us after what we did.” “There were a lot of other little kids in that village,” Jerryck said. Adam clenched his jaw and looked down at the ground before meeting Jerryck’s eyes again. “There is nothing that can make good what we did in that village. Or any of the other villages. But understand, we were ordered to come to these mountains by people who will kill the families of these men if we do not obey.” He waved a hand to encompass everyone around them. Jerryck spoke again before thinking, “Does that include the raided villages in Brend and Shontarra this winter?” “Ziegfried did that,” Adam said. “Without permission. We have stopped him. And if we could talk to your king, we could give him an apology. We should have figured out what he was doing long before we did.” “Would you also apologize for the poison in our river last year?” Adam sat back with a frown. “Poison?” “The poison he made with magic,” Jerryck said. “That was put in our river.” Adam blinked at him a few times, saying nothing. Then he turned to the large man. With the tone he used, it sounded like he was asking a question. As the two exchanged words, the large man’s expression went from confusion, to dark anger. Then Adam turned back to Jerryck. “We do not know of any poison in a Brendish river.” “I know his signature,” Jerryck said. “He did it.” “We believe you. It sounds like something he would do. You can tell us more later, when you are more healed. Maybe after we get back to our camp.” “I’m not going to your camp,” Jerryck said. Adam gave him a droll look. “There are dangerous animals around. You are injured, and it is our fault. We will keep you safe, and make sure you heal enough that you can return to your home safely.” “Why would you care for our safety?” “I cannot give you a short answer for that.” Adam sighed. He rubbed his eyes, then winced when he pushed at the one the bruises the guard had given him. He dropped his hands, looked at Tajor, then at Khata. “Some of us, we are tired of all the fighting, all the killing. Too many people have died.” “So you’re going to risk King Terrence attacking you by making us go back to your camp?” “We will not make you. We are hoping.” He spoke again with the large man. Then he pulled out a piece of soft leather with words written on it in what looked like charcoal. “Khata brought us this.” Jerryck rubbed his own eyes with his good hand. “I can’t read that.” “It is in your language,” Adam said. He nodded at Khata, “Not hers.” “My eyes won’t focus right,” Jerryck said. “The letters are blurry.” Adam handed it back to the large man. “It says that your sister demands we release you and Tajor, or she will gather shamans from everywhere and kill us all. We are waiting for morning when it is light before we send Khata back with our answer.” “That you’re making us go to your camp?” “That you are injured and we want to heal you.” For half a moment, Jerryck was actually tempted to leave them to the mercies of the shamans. They certainly deserved it. But only for half a moment. While he had taken lives as a defensive measure in times past, he couldn’t purposefully refuse to save people, even if they didn’t deserve it. Not without at least warning them first. “They’ll kill you,” Jerryck said. “With what? Their shamans? We just killed them all.” “No you didn’t.” Adam paused for a moment. Then said, “There are more than what had gathered in that village?” “A lot more.” Adam didn’t look very surprised. He simply nodded his head, then spoke with the large man. Jerryck looked over at Khata. She flashed another smile at him. Then she reached out her hand and placed a button on a string beside him. Then she pulled out some little sticks of wood with a bulb of red on one end and set those beside him too. Then a couple of pieces of what looked like wrapped candy. And some kind of biscuit. “Where did she get all this?” Jerryck asked. Adam interrupted his conversation with the other man to say, “I gave them to her.” Jerryck picked up the button, trying to figure out why anyone would think a button was a gift. Adam said, “I made it a toy for her. You wind up the string, and see how long you can keep it spinning.” “And the coat?” “I gave her that too. She was shivering when she first came, like she was cold. So I took my coat off and gave it to her.” “You’re wearing a coat.” “After this last battle, we had a few extras.” Jerryck picked up one of the little sticks. Adam said, “We call those Streichhölzer. We use them to make fire.” Jerryck put the stick back down. “In her culture, a gift is an apology.” Adam’s eyes bulged. “It is?” “They have some sort of system to measure how sorry you are,” Jerryck said. “I don’t really understand it. I do know that a Chemwanee never threatens anything they won’t actually do. So maybe my sister hasn’t killed you because you gave Khata gifts. Maybe? I don’t know.” “You really do have a sister here in these mountains?” Jerryck nodded. He didn’t feel like explaining it right at the moment. All this talking was making him tired. Not sleepy. Just tired. “And you really do think she could get shamans together to try and kill us?” Obviously Adam still felt like talking. “She can get all the other shamans together.” “Would that not put them in danger of us killing them?” Adam looked away, presumably out from under the overhanging rock. “Perhaps we should ask her not to gather them so we do not have to.” “You might not even know they’re in the area,” Jerryck said. “We knew about the shamans in that village.” “They were talking. Not acting. You killed them. The next group will act, not talk.” “What will they do?’ “I don’t know for sure.” Jerryck almost shrugged. The mere start of the motion nearly sent him into twitches of pain. “You do not know, but you are certain they will kill us?” Adam just wouldn’t let it be, wouldn’t let Jerryck just lie back and give in to misery, kept him focused. But was that really such a bad thing? At the very least, it was a distraction from how much he hurt. A distraction was good right now. “One way or another, they will kill you all, if you can’t convince them to let you leave.” Jerryck said. “They work with earth magic. They could uproot trees on your head… Break a natural dam and flood a creek you’re trying to cross… Make a mountainside slip and bury you… I don’t know exactly what they’ll do. When they fought with the Gathering of Seats, they made that volcano erupt.” “Volcano.” Adam pronounced the word very slowly. “I do not know that word.” “A mountain that blows up,” Jerryck said. “Spews out fire rock that flows like water. Burns everything in its way. And that’s what doesn’t get buried by all the ash raining out of the sky from the explosion.” “Oh! Vulkan! I know what that is.” Adam repeated the word a few more times under his breath. “Vulkan?” the large man asked. Adam talked to him. As the two spoke back and forth, a slow smile spread across Adam’s face. Then the large man stood, and moved further back under the overhang. “I think that will work,” Adam said. “What will?” Jerryck watched the large man moving away until he was out of sight from where Jerryck lay. “Work for what?” “That is enough of a threat, I think we can stop killing, and leave these mountains.” Adam grinned. He looked in the direction the other man had gone. “We will make it work.”

 

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