I stormed angrily through the forest with Savana hurrying to keep up with my long strides. Why? Why had this happened? How had people been so damn careless?!
Luckily enough we had a neighboring camp that I could send my people on to, but first I wanted to find those that were missing before I sent anyone anywhere. There was a mutual silence between myself and Savana as each of us was consumed by our own private thoughts.
Something seemed wrong to me and my mind went back to what one of the women had said in a panic last night.
It was like the flames just rose up out of nowhere....
I stopped suddenly and Savana looked up at me. "Kevin?"she ventured uncertainly and I grabbed her by the arms and stared deep into her eyes. "The King, Queen, Princess or whoever, have they any enemies? Anyone that would be purposely out to hurt them?"
Savana shook her head, a little frightened. "No not that I can think of..." she whispered. "Why are you aski....." a high pitched wail cut her off and I turned sharply towards the sound.
"What is it?" Savana's eyes were wide as the two of us stared through the dense thicket, trying to identify the source of the wailing.
I began to move without thinking, my feet taking steps of their own accord. "It's a child." I began to run and as I smashed through the thicket and stopped dead as I saw the one thing I had hoped I would never see again.
"Kevin wait! What are you..." Savana appeared from behind me and her eyes widened and she raised her hands to her mouth with a gasp. "Oh my god."
A tiny little girl of about 2 was crying, wrapped in the arms of a woman who had been badly burnt. The woman sat propped up against a tree, her arms tightly frozen around the body of the little girl. She had been dead for several hours.
My mind flashed back to the night I found Oti, curled up between the dead bodies of his father and mother, their blood thick in his clothes and hair as he begged for them to answer him. Anger began to bubble up inside me and I strode forward and the little girl stopped her wailing and looked up at me.
"Kewen!" she reached out her tiny arms to me and I smiled gently at her as I pulled her from her mother's death grip. "It's ok sweetheart." I cradled her in my arms and she began to sob into my shoulder.
"Who is she?" Savana appeared at my elbow and I gazed down at the dead woman. "Trish." I murmured. "And this is her daughter Mia. She was Tom's wife, the sister in law of the man you attacked."
Savana went pale. "They are going to hate me now for sure." her voice shook a little and I put a hand on her shoulder. "No, you will bring Mia back to her father, safe and sound, and they will forgive you. The superstition is, that those who bring curses can never do a good deed. This is a good deed from you." I handed Mia to her and she looked down at the little red haired girl who was now exhausted from crying. "Sleep little one." she crooned and began to rock Mia in her arms.
I set about burying Trish, pausing only to remove her necklet as something for Tom to remember her by. When I was finished, I placed a simple mark in the tree above her grave and turned to Savana.
"Let's move on and try find any of the other missing people. We return to camp by nightfall. This is no longer fun and games like it seemed it would be. I have a priority to my people to get them to safety."
She nodded and we pushed on through the forest, occasionally stopping in order to pick certain herbs and medicinal plants.
As I watched Savana move around I felt an overwhelming urge to protect this beautiful, strong, but delicate woman. To keep her out of harm's way at all costs. It was in those next hours that I decided my future. Once I had arranged for everyone to go to the other camp, I would stay and accompany Savana and Irene across the border and maybe even further then that if they needed me. There would be uproar about it in camp, but I had no intention of telling anyone until the last minute.
It was almost an after thought when I remembered about Oti being around the influences of Eamon and his few supporters when I was gone.
"I'm keeping Oti with me." I said aloud, and Savana looked sideways at me. "What?" she sounded puzzled.