Chapter Thirty Five

Chapter Thirty Five

There was a solid five seconds of silence as the four looked at each other. Then they all spoke at once.

“What are you doing here?” Zena asked.

“Why is she is your house?” Sheen demanded.

“Do people always barge in without knocking?” Trish wondered.

Jacques laughed incredibly awkwardly.

“What’s so amusing?” Sheen said.

“What is it about this mountain that makes everything happen at the worst time?” He was still giggling a little. They all decided to ignore him.

“Zena, we have to talk,” Sheen said urgently, “Nora’s gone.”

“Nora? She still in your group?” Trish asked the room.

“Yes, she is—or was, apparently,” Zena told her, standing up, “What do you mean, ‘Nora’s gone?’”

“She left. Took her sister and decided to live alone on the prairie. In a tree.” Sheen took Zena’s place on the couch.

“….Did she say why?”

“Because she’s pissed at the world and her heart’s broken and we can’t control the future or some such shit. I don’t even know. She wasn’t making sense, but she kind of was, in a stupid emotional way. She said to apologize to Jacques and talk to you, and then she headed out. So here I am.”

Trish looked around, brows together. “Does everyone in your colony feel the need to leave without warning?”

Jacques started laughing again. Sheen kicked him.

“Sorry,” he said, attempting a straight face. He cleared his throat. “Sooo…Nora, huh? Wouldn’t have expected her to jump ship.”

“Excuse us for a minute,” Zena said. She grabbed Jacques’ arm and pulled him outside. “WHAT is your DEAL?!”

“What?”

“Are you completely insensitive?”

“No…”

“Do you remember the last time this happened? We practically fell apart. We almost lost Sheen. Now there are three of us, the rep from the largest and most neutral area is gone, and Trish picked now to come and talk to me. I don’t know why, but the last time we saw her she was pretty pissed, so I’d take it as a good sign.”

“Okay, okay. I get it.” Jacques held up his hands.

“Do you?”

“Yes!”

“Alright then.” Zena gave him a dark look and led him back inside. Trish and Sheen were still sitting on the couch. Zena joined them.

“Where am I–” Jacques began. Zena pointed at the floor. “Oh.”

When they were settled, Trish decided to get right to it. She cleared her throat importantly. “The others felt that my action the last time I was here were…unsatisfactory. I was sent back to learn more about your colony and discuss the future relations of our two groups.”

Sheen got the distinct impression the adults in the group had prevailed. “How come you came on your own?” she asked.

“My language is the best. And I am not shy.”

“That’s an understatement,” Jacques said. The girls looked at him. “What?” turning to Trish, he asked, “what do you want to know about us?”

“What kind of people you are. Why the leavers left. Why Nora is now apparently gone, too.”

***

Atkin was just finishing his midday prayer when Rouk entered the tent. “Excuse me, sir. There are things we should discuss.”

“Certainly.” Atkin snuffed the last of the candles. “Why don’t we go outside?” Rouk nodded and they went out into the courtyard. Atkin settled himself on the stool and Rouk stood. “What is it?” Atkin said.

“There are those in the population I am worried about.”

“Worried? What do you mean? Are they healthy, well-fed?”

“I’m sure,” Rouk replied smoothly, “but that is not what I meant. I am worried about their attitude.”

“Unhappiness is a part of life, given by the Lords as a reminder of–”

“You misunderstand me, sir,” Rouk interrupted. “I am concerned that your people are not as united as they once were. They do not feel as close as they should be. Especially with regards to yourself.”

“Our people are united by the bonds of blood and faith. The leader is the head of the family.”

“Yes, yes. I know the words. My only fear is that the people do not realize that words are meant to be practiced. They owe you more respect than you are getting.”

Atkin thought for a moment. “It is true. We are not the family we should be.”

“Exactly my meaning.”

“What do you recommend we do about it?”

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