Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty

Nora’s new trust in Zena was tested a little bit by the inside of her house. For one thing, it was an actual house—as evident by the wooden floors. Nora considered herself well-off, but she knew no one else with real wooden floors. Most people sucked it up with canvas, rugs, or fur if you could afford it. Boots and strong shoes were the trade’s best-selling item, not counting food, which really didn’t count because people only paid with rations.

“Do you want some spidri?” Zena asked as she took her cloak off  and hung it on a hook.

“Some what?”

Zena blushed a little bit. Nora could barely keep from staring. “Spice drink. Spidri.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Zena gestured at the couch for Nora to sit down and poured two cups of something that had been warming on the stove. Nora perched on the edge of the seat. “You kept a fire going while you were gone?” then she saw the type of stove it was. “Oh. Cast iron. Right.”

“Yeah.” Zena handed her the cup and sat next to her. Nora looked down into the glass. It was a slightly ominous light brown, like it was hiding it’s true worth. At least it isn’t purple or anything. She took a small sip. Well then. That small sip was enough to fill her mouth with flavor. They certainly don’t call it a spice drink for nothing.

Zena had already drained half of her drink. “Do you like it?”

“It’s very strong.”

“I know.” Zena smiled shyly. “That’s why I like it. It’s so…overwhelming. Like you take a big drink and it’s all you can think about for the moment.” Nora looked at her. “Does that make any sense?”

“Have you ever been drunk, Zena?” Nora asked in a sideways way.

“Not really. Not so I wake up the next morning not knowing anything. Only party wine. And I wasn’t allowed to have much of it.”

“Cragg and I drank a small bottle of whiskey between us.”

“YOU and CRAGG?”

“We didn’t steal it, so…”

Zena looked at her.

“I made him,” she admitted, “but he was curious. You think they don’t ever doubt their laws?”

“In all honesty, no, I don’t think they do.”

“Maybe you need to have more conversations with them.”

Zena had a sudden urge to tell her, but wasn’t sure about it. Nora sat waiting for a snarky reply. Zena decided, oh, hell with it. “I have.”

“Really?” Nora was pretty skeptical.

“Yeah. Outside my door. In the middle of the night.”

“Who exactly was this mysterious visitor?”


“Do I want to know what he was doing at your house at midnight?”

“Actually he broke in looking for something I didn’t have. Then he sat outside and we talked about how screwed up our society is.” She stood up and finished her drink, abruptly adding, “did we have a reason for being here?”

I am so confused. “No…I’ll leave if you like.”

“Please,” Zena said tartly.


By that afternoon, the new territory was fully theirs. Atkin stood in what was now named the courtyard. It was the entrance to their new land. His tent was pitched just inside of it. Several people had, at his request, donated a rug or two for Rouk and they had made poles out of tree branches, so he had a miniature tent next to Atkin’s. A few people were probably wondering what exactly he was still doing with them, being technically not a member of the faith. Atkin himself was a little uneasy about it. But he owed Rouk the idea of moving in the first place, even if he wasn’t ready to pick up the Irka name. And without Rouk, he doubted he would have really gotten the group motivated to go. The truth of the matter was that they were all relieved to see an adult to give them direction, even if he was a little—well—sketchy.

At least the good thing about Kenezai was that it came with its own rules for how to set up a community. As  Head, once Atkin had claimed the spot for his tent (with urging from Rouk) the others fell in behind him, the most influential gaining the familiar snowy terrain closest to the courtyard and the others pitching tents among the sparse trees. Cragg was just barely off of the snow and into the trees. There was snow in the woods, but it was damp and sticky, the kind you could wipe away with one sweep of your foot and mixed with the mud below it. It was rather annoying, but the colder weather would be coming in a few months. Maybe the ground would freeze up a little then and hold the poles in the ground a little better.


Cragg was standing right outside the “gate” (courtyard entrance) when Atkin came up behind him. “What are you watching? Is someone coming?”

“No,” Cragg responded shortly. Then he realized how rude that sounded, and how powerful Atkin suddenly seemed. “I’m just gazing, I suppose.”

“That girl Nora…” Atkin didn’t finish, waiting for Cragg to supply the information.

“Nothing you’re concerned about.” Cragg actually turned to face his cousin now. He saw that Atkin was leaning on a walking stick. “When did you get a staff?”

“Rouk just gave it to me.”

“Of course.”

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