Chapter Thirty Six

Chapter Thirty Six

It took Nora a couple hours to reach the tree. She had to cross a good deal of prairie, which she’d barely gone onto before. She and Cragg had never really gone to the west in their amateur explorations.

“Well, Petto, this is it,” Nora said, dropping her bundle under the tree. Petto, who had been lagging behind Nora as soon as she was put down on her own feet, ambled to the trunk. “Climb.”

“Alright.” Nora stepped up onto the first branch, only about a foot and a half off the ground, and then offered a hand to her sister. She didn’t seem to need it but pulled herself up on her own. The girls went up a few more branches and then sat.

“Look,” Petto pointed back toward the east. “Home.”


Sheen would have anticipated being relieved after Trish’s exit, but not tired. She felt actually, physically exhausted. Zena had offered to walk Trish to the edge of the mountain, leaving Sheen and Jacques alone in her house. No one spoke for a solid minute and a half.

“You aren’t leaving too, are you?” Jacques finally said.


“You heard me.” Gone were the giggles of earlier; Jacques was as serious as Sheen had ever seen him. “You fell apart last time,” he continued, “and I need to know you aren’t own your own way out.”

“Nora’ll be back, Jacques. I have no idea about Atkin, but Nora will.”

“No, she won’t,” he said firmly, “and you didn’t answer my question.”

“I have no plans for leaving, no.” She paused, “and I do think Nora will be back. I really do.”

“Well, you might know her the tiniest bit better than I do, but that doesn’t matter. I have to assume that from now on, this is what we have. You, me, Zena, Trish. No adults, no Atkin, no Nora. We have to decide what our future is going to be, now, and I need to know you’ll be in it.”

Sheen stood and faced him. “I will.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am so sure.” She took his elbow. “Nora left to protect her family. But I–” she stopped.

He moved her hand from his elbow and clasped it. “Me too,” he said, “you and me and Zena.”

“The lonely ones,” she added, no trace of sarcasm.


“Brother, wake up.” Poke. “Brother.” Poke, poke. “Cragg! Wake up!”

He did. “What?”

“There’s some kind of gathering,” Kesle said.

“A heads of houses meeting?”

“I think it’s just everyone. Anyway it’s starting soon, so get your outer clothes on. Here.” She handed his thicker tunic to him.

“You know unmarried women…”

“Yeah, yeah. Move it.”

It was mid afternoon. Cragg hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but really there was nothing better to do. Not much happened in the new colony. At least this was something, though probably not anything Cragg would care about. That would have gone through the heads of house.

Hey, look, we’re the last ones here,” Cragg said.

Obviously. I had to wake your lazy self up.”

Cragg would have pointed out how rude and completely out of line this was, but Atkin was standing on the stool-thing outside of his tent and had begun to speak.

Fellow Kenazians,” he said, speaking far louder than Cragg had ever heard, “thank you for listening to me. I want to remind you how fortunate the Lords have made us. Before, we were held in the Colony, constantly humiliated and mocked. We were nobody. You remember as well I do.

Now, thanks to the guidance of the Lords and my good friend Rouk, I have reclaimed our freedom. We are our own people, one great family, and I have seized the liberty and land we have wanted for years.” He paused, and Cragg, who knew all of this already, hoped he was done. But he wasn’t.

You mean the world to me,” Atkin continued, “and my greatest wish is that you always remain thankful of this gift I have tried to give you. The leaving was for all of us. This land and this new life is for all of us. Claim it and always remember, our biggest strength is when we stand together. Thank you.” He finished and stepped off the stool and into his tent. The crowd had no idea what to do.

Is that it?” A boy next to Cragg asked.

I suppose. Come on Kesle.” Cragg started to leave the courtyard.

I’m going to talk to Imana for a bit, go ahead,” Kesle told him, looking through the crowd for her friend, “that was odd, wasn’t it? Sweet, though.”


Yeah. Wonder what the point was.”

No idea.” Cragg left. He was more inclined to sleep some more than ponder over Atkin’s ego.

Partially hidden by Atkin’s tent, Rouk watched the befuddled Irkas and smiled.

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