Found- Part Thirty Six
Read parts one through thirty-five here.
Haven’s End was in full-blown panic. People were still flowing into The Willow. Fractured families clung to each other as the vestiges of their safety languished before them. Arion’s Tree was ablaze with bright red leaves. Some had dried and fallen. Each fallen leaf was another stake in my chest. Before there was time to process what happened, Cyrus and Dasha pulled me through the woods back towards Haven’s End.
There was no time to think about it, no time to mourn him.
“We don’t have much time,” Cyrus announced to the distressed denizens. “The Magic will only hold until sunrise, and so we must be gone by then.”
Fresh horror bloomed in every heart. Most succumbed to their fear, and others feigned bravery.
My heart continued pummeling against my rib cage and grew more frantic with each outburst.
You can’t. Not now.
I was a ghost. While Cyrus and Dasha did their best to abate the inevitable frenzy, I was fighting with my control.
Someone else. I’ve lost someone else. The words played on a loop in my mind. Familiar pressure was building in my chest, and the edges of my vision blurred. Acute pain set off critical alarms within me. I wanted to fall apart. I needed to fall apart.
“Remember, we have to be gone before sunrise,” Dasha repeated. She spotted her father in the crowd and waved him over. “We have to be ready, Papa. And you have to stick close to me. Okay? We may have to run. Can you run? Will you be able to run?” Dasha held his hands in hers. Her fraught pleas were accented by measured tears.
Wilbur kissed her on the forehead, and smiled.
“Let me go to the farm and pack some essentials.”
“We need to destroy the apothecary,” Cyrus said as Wilbur walked out. “Perhaps if he doesn’t suspect any Magic happened here, we could deter him from following us.”
“There isn’t enough time,” I countered. “Leaving it behind may buy us more time. He’d stay behind to investigate it.” Stay in control. Please stay in control. “Also…,” the words caught in my throat. It was the last thing I wanted to say. Despite my best efforts, I’d grown to care for Cyrus and Dasha. Despite my better judgement, I wanted to stay with them. They were my friends. You aren’t allowed to have friends. Friends equal affection. Affection causes weakness. Weapons cannot be weak.
I had to leave them, but they’d never allow it. I was going to have to get away from them somehow.
“Also, what?” Cyrus pressed. A knowing look played in his eyes. He doesn’t believe you.
“If we touched anything Magical, he’d find a way to track us,” I lied. My body was electric with dread. When I finally did lose control, I knew it would be bad. Pain fluttered through, and I could see faint waves of darkness began to roll off my skin. I was grateful for Cyrus’s potion. It was the only thing keeping me from exploding.
“We have to stay together,” Dasha said to me. She was vibrating. Her valiant mask was slipping away. “We’ll be safer that way. You can’t leave us.”
“I have to,” I whispered. Before either one could react, Wilbur ran into The Willow.
“There is a tower of smoke rising from beyond the valley. We have to go. Now.”
Pandemonium was alive in the square. Everyone was trying to gather the scraps they collected while under the guise of safety. They argued with each other about what couldn’t be left behind, what trinkets held the most value, what things were necessary parts of their lives. They squabbled over paintings, heirlooms, favorite spoons, dolls, toy horses, and all sorts of useless things. It started as irritation and grew to a passionate, hot fury.
“There is no time to save your pathetic possessions!” I yelled. The crowd went silent. Several sets of eyes stared at me—some with fear, some with contempt.
“Nox—” Dasha attempted to soothe me. She set her hand on my shoulder. I shrugged away from her.
“No! We have no time for this! Every passing second, we become more vulnerable to being found. You have lived in your bubble of safety for so long that you don’t know what being found means!” I seethed. “You all claim to have arrived here after having your lives and families destroyed. Did you forget what you fled from? Who is out there?”
Shouted protests began to swell from the crowd.
“Some of these things are all we have left of our loved ones!” someone cried.
“You’ll be able to see them very soon,” a voice called out. It was a voice I never wanted to hear again. That voice extinguished the boiling wrath that was building inside me. It slithered in my veins and awakened every nightmare in my soul. My body became bound by its poisonous tenor. A sadistic thrill rang in it. And I was frozen with abject horror.
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