Chapter Founteen

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

Sheen woke with the sun, as always, and decided to take a watch walk. She hadn’t had one in a while, since she’d joined the Council. She’d started the practice when she first came to the colony. Trying to break the stereotype that sneak-elves only saw things secretly, she walked through some of the areas each morning, and was back just in time for breakfast. Of course, that was when her mother was there to make it. These days she gnawed on something cold most of the time.

She went to the Trade first, and it was from there that she saw the commotion. She hurried over to the Pieshop to see what was going on. In those words exactly.

“Atkin, WHAT is going ON?”

He looked at her carelessly. “We’re moving.”

“Says who?”

“Me. I am in charge here, you know.”

“Why? Where can you go?”

“The Council doesn’t own all of the Mountains, you know,” he said haughtily.

“No, really, didn’t know that at all,” Sheen was not usually a fan of sarcasm, but she let herself at it for once, “why are you pulling up the stakes?”

His mouth curled. Too late she realized the irony of her comment. “We have decided it would be better for everyone,”

“You mean yourselves,” she interjected.

“Alright. Fair enough. But we’re the ones who hurt when there’s a riot. So we’re leaving. We can exist by ourselves, you know.”

She knew. “You’re giving up,” she said in flat voice. “Fine. See if I care, you gutless coward.” Disgusted, she couldn’t walk away both fast and dignified enough. She tried to block out all the noise of the leaving, but she heard Atkin asking someone “Do you know where Rouk is?” Rouk, I know that name. Who was it? Never mind, just one of his henchmen in that stupid ladder society. Why don’t they live on the Ledges?

Atkin is a lot of things, but I didn’t realize he’d go for a copout. That’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard. What was planning on telling us? Nothing? The Council’s really going to love this one. Poor Jacques. It’ll just crush him. And Zena and Nora will have enough anger between them to take down the whole Pieshop…

                …Oh, my god, Nora!

***

Sheen banging on the door shocked Nora awake, but she still didn’t get there fast enough for the impatient Sheen, who decided to let herself in and start talking immediately. Nora politely waited until Sheen was finished and then said, “what?”

Having let the news out once, Sheen could speak more slowly the second time. “The Kenazians are leaving. Moving somewhere.”

“WHAT? All of them?”

“Looks like it.” Sheen paused for a minute to let her acquire it, and then spewed. “I know, right? They are such lousy cowards, I can’t believe they’re just packing up, and Atkin’s behind it—“

Nora left her talking to go do a lightning-quick change into clothes. A small part of her brain registered that her hair was probably atrocious, as it was most mornings, but she killed it.

The blast of wind outside woke her up some more, so she was fully charged as they neared the Pieshop and bustling movement that it had become. Normally it’s the quietest place in the colony. Actually, they were just about done. The tents had been rolled up around their poles and people were starting to heft them onto their shoulders. The children were being loaded down with packs of various sizes.

“How did they do this so quickly?” Sheen was busy fuming, but Nora didn’t listen. She’d spotted Cragg near Atkin, talking to his twin sister, Kesle.

“Cragg!” Nora called. He looked up. She rushed over to him. “What’s going on?”

“Leaving.”

“Well, I can see that.” She stood with her arms crossed, waiting for details, wondering what possible reasons he could come up with to support the leaving.

“It’s hard to explain.”

That’s all you’re going to say? “Try anyway.”

“We aren’t welcome here.”

“Can’t you just suck it up?”

“We have been sucking it up, Nora, and we’re done.”

There must be a hole somewhere…ah. “We? What about you?”

“I know what I’m doing.”

“Oh? Because it looks like you’re just following Atkin.” She spit the name out like a sour apple.

“My cousin is a good man,” he said defensively.

It took a minute for Nora to realize what exactly was wrong with this statement. In that instant, Atkin called out, “In the sight of the Lords, let’s move!”

The wind picked up, and reality returned.  “He’s not a man, he’s a CHILD!” She was nearly screaming now. “WE’RE ALL CHILDREN!” Several of the Kenazians around glanced her direction, and then away. Several feet away from the edge of the crowd, Sheen studied her fingers. Cragg alone looked at Nora more clearly, an expression other than pride crossing his face for the first time.

“And I don’t want you to go,” she finished, more quietly.

Kesle, who had stepped aside out of respect, was back, twirling her hair, an obvious presence at Cragg’s shoulder. “Atkin’s looking for you,” she whispered. Cragg nodded impassively. “I’ll be there,” he said. She took several steps back.

“Cragg…” Nora pleaded helplessly. The people had passed around them like water, and now they really were behind the group. Cragg took her face in his hands and kissed her gently. Then he stepped back.

“Goodbye, Nora.” He picked up the pack by his feet and turned around.

Sheen thought she had a tear on her cheek, but it was only a snowflake.

One step, two steps, five steps…Nora found herself standing alone again.

The former inhabitants of the Pieshop disappeared around the bulk of Mt. Yenin.

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