As my brother received a few final words from the Queen, I followed Sebastian's orders to prepare to leave without fussing, as did the rest of our group. I knew there was no point in making a fuss about leaving. The Queen had told me we all must go, it wasn't anything against me.
When it came to leave I embraced Katrina, feeling like another small part of me was being torn from me. She was a sister to me. We had both taken the same risks leaving our homes to come to Handrin and now we were going to be parted again.
"We'll see you again soon," I promised as I hugged her tightly. "Take care of yourself."
"I will," she responded, tears beginning to well up in her eyes. As Katrina moved over to embrace her father once more I turned to Jon.
"I want to see you both home safe," I said. "And that's not a request."
"Then you look after yourself and the others," he replied. "Your journey home is going to be just as dangerous as us remaining here, and I don't want to hear any bad news from you until this war is over. I got you into this and I'm going to see you out of it."
"Don't flatter yourself," I laughed. "We both know it's my fault that I'm here. I was the one that persuaded you having female spies was a good idea."
"All the same. Get home safely."
"I will," I said, unsure whether to embrace him in the same way I had Katrina. Just like Eliza, Nellie and Katrina were like sisters to me, Jon was becoming a brother. He was one of the few people I was beginning to trust. After a moment's hesitation I threw caution to the wind, opened my arms and embraced Jon. "Good luck," I breathed as I drew away and went to collect my things.
As I turned to catch my final glimpse of the people I was leaving behind I saw Jon and Katrina standing together, their hands clasped tightly together. They'll be alright, I thought. And if they aren't then someone is going to have to watch out.
We trudged on through the darkness, following Sebastian's lead. Angel Hurst was walking at his right hand. I had a strange feeling in my chest as I watched the two men walking together up ahead. Jealousy? At any road, I wasn't going to let Hurst think because I had been decommissioned I was going to take a back seat on this mission.
"Sebastian," I called, leaving Nellie's side and running to catch up with my brother.
"What's wrong Alex?"
"Nothing is wrong. I just wanted to ask what your plans were?"
"I know what I'm doing Alex. I don't need your help to organise this mission."
"Unless you've forgotten already, the Queen entrusted this mission to both of us," I pointed out. "I should know what is happening."
"I am handling this Alexandra," Sebastian said sternly, trying to put some authority into his voice. "And I would appreciate it if you wouldn't try to undermine me by assuming I don't know what I'm doing."
I was taken aback by Sebastian's sudden need for complete control. It wasn't like him at all and I wasn't quite sure how to react to him.
"We should reach the end of the caves soon," Hurst interjected. "And then we'll have to avoid the main southern road-"
"So you'll tell him what you're planning but not your own sister?" I exclaimed.
"Mr. Hurst is guiding us safely home, it would be foolish of me not to tell him my plans."
"I don't want to cause any friction," Hurst began.
"If you don't mind," I said pointedly, "I'd rather have this conversation with my brother. Alone."
"Don't take this out on him Alex," Sebastian protested. "I make the decisions about who I share information with and just because you feel left out doesn't mean that you can demand to be told everything."
"Fine," I snapped. "If that's the way you want to play it then that's fine by me." I stormed off ahead, ignoring Sebastian's shouts for me to calm down and be reasonable. Being stuck underground for so long had made me unwilling to behave like a normal person and the sooner I got outside the better.
After another immeasurable period of time I saw light up ahead and broke into a run.
I felt so exhilarated as I emerged into the sunlight, drinking it in through every pore of my body. It felt so good.
"What possessed you to do that?" Sebastian said, emerging from the cave with the rest of the group hot on his heels. "What if there had been someone here waiting for us?"
"But there wasn't," I retorted. "And I was sick of being stuck inside that city and in those tunnels. It's suffocating!"
"Just be more careful next time," Hurst said, putting a hand on Sebastian's arm to stop him from saying any more. "We both know how dangerous this is."
"But you know what? I'm sick of being the responsible one. If I'm not worthy enough to be told my own brother's plans then why should I behave like I am?"
"Right now I am not your brother," Sebastian interjected forcefully. "I am your commander and you will do as I say. I will not tolerate these childish tantrums."
"Then stop treating me like a child!"
"Stop fighting," Nellie shouted, stunning us all into silence. "Just stop it. It's not going to get us anywhere." She clearly looked distressed by our fighting and I immediately felt guilty that I had been acting so selfishly.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know what's wrong with me. It's probably stress or nerves or something. I didn't mean it. Now can we get moving before someone hears us?"