Shoot! I thought as I stepped on a small twig that was a bit too brittle. There was a loud snap as I put my weight on it. I froze, cringing. I listened carefully for any sign that Jack and Valak had heard me. I inched closer to the pair.
I had followed them for two reasons,
1 Because I wanted to get away from the craziness around Lyra, she was so upset. And
2 The sudden seriousness that Jack had when he led Valak away intrigued me.
So here I was, in trouble if I got caught, but far too curious for my own good. I inched closer until I could hear them having an argument of some sort. I could feel the tension sizzling in the air. They started raising their voices, I could hear clearer
“What will you do then, huh Valak?” That was Jack.
“I’ll just tell them how you worked for Sethos, how you technically still are.” Valaks voice was so nasty, I didn’t catch the words at first. Then it sunk in: Jack was working for Sethos!
I stumbled back a few steps. I cracked another twig, but I didn’t care. Urysus was right?!
Suddenly I heard loud footsteps coming from Jack and Valak’s direction. I spun towards the noise, just as Jack trudged through the brush, a dark look on his face. Then he saw me and his face registered surprise, then turned dark agaon.
“What did you hear?” His voice was cold. I felt my face turn dark as well.
“Traitor!” I would have screamed it, but my voice only came out in a whisper. Jack stepped forward, reaching for me, I stepped back out of the way. He reached again, grabbing my shoulders and giving me a shake.
“What did you hear!?” He yelled in my face.
“Traitor!” I found my voice. “ All this time you’ve just been spying on us to let Sethos get the upper hand! I can’t believe I actually trusted you! Morre than that I was starting to like you! And you – you--!” My rant sputtered out as I ran out of steam, my anger melting away. I hung my head, Jack let go of my shoulders and I sank to the ground.
“Brena, you don’t under--” Jack started to argue, crouching to my level.
“No, don’t try to deny it I heard everything.”
“Even the part about--”
“Yes, what part of all of it didn’t you understand?” I was bluffing now; I just wanted him to leave me alone.
It was just one thing after the other: first Urysus trying to get my to mistrust Jack, and then all the problems in the marsh, then Valak and the trouble with Lyra’s father, not to mention the night no one remembers because we were all so drunk. Now this.
“I need to know what exactly you heard! Because--” Jack started again. I held up my hand.
“I don’t want to hear it.” I stood up and pushed through the brush to go back to camp. No twigs snapped under foot, I must have snapped them all before. I thought ruefully.
“Fine, think what you like! It’s your fault that you didn’t hear something you liked!” Jack called after me. “That’s what you get for eaves dropping!”
I shoved through the final line of bushes into the camp. Unfortunately it wasn’t much better than the trees I had left behind. Lyra was crying in Yara’s arms, I looked around for Zakhon, he was up in a tree, Destran was sitting by the campfire, his head in his hands, I leaned against a tree, feeling listless, not willing to tell these already upset people what I’d heard. I resolved to keep it to myself until I had the strength to find out more about this. And the courage to talk to Valak about it.
Jack and Valak came back separately. Jack was in a bad mood, I heard him taking out tree branches and other plants on his way back. The crashing in that side of the forest scared all the animals away, I saw the birds flying away from the site. Valak came back looking surly like usual. He sat down away from everyone else and started drinking from a flask he kept at his side. Eventually Jack entered the clearing looking upset, but more sad than angry. I started to go up to him, then stopped myself, remembering.No interaction, you have to stay away from him.I thought, leaning back against the tree. The rest of the day went normally. I made the usual stew, supplemented with local edible plant life.
Jack and I kept our distance from each other. Rather, I kept away from him and he didn’t seek me out. But it did the trick. As we traveled Lyra came up to me several times asking what was wrong. I brushed her off every time. Yet I knew I couldn’t keep it up for long, I knew I had to ask Valak about what I'd heard soon.