Two weeks had passed since the battle, and I was still having nightmares.
I hadn’t been trained with the sword. I wasn’t interested in it. The blades were long, unwieldy and slow, but when Griever handed me the Eternal Lion… it felt almost familiar. I could tell why Griever liked it.
“I’ll create an opening,” Griever had shouted, over the din of the battle. People and Fae alike were screaming, dying, all around us. Griever had rushed the king without a thought for himself. The king’s monstrous claws had lashed out, catching Griever across the chest. He hadn’t even been able to cry out.
That was when I would wake up, sitting up in a cold sweat from where my head rested on Griever’s bed, where he lay, alive, and recovering in the infirmary.
Well, now the infirmary was empty. Most of the Hawks had healed enough to be able to move around, or had died of their wounds after the battle, despite Kiara’s best efforts. That number was very low, though.
Griever had been back on his feet for nearly a week now. The falcons, and Corin, had returned to the castle.
The camp was quiet. Nearly silent, actually, and time seemed to be racing past. I felt as if I were merely watching my life pass by; watching myself go through the motions of my life. I was stuck reliving Griever’s death over and over in my head.
“He’s not dead,” a little voice in my head told me. “He’s right there…”
Griever was sitting outside his tent, packing his rucksack with supplies.
“Are you planning on leaving?” I asked, approaching.
“I am a wanderer,” he replied, “there’s nothing left to keep me here.”
“Nothing?” I sniffed.
“Am I wrong?”
“You could be,” I replied, “Come on, I want to show you something.” I began to walk away, across the clearing without looking around. Behind me, I heard Griever hesitate for a moment, before setting the pack aside, and catching up. It only took him a few steps.
I led the way in silence, just enjoying Griever’s presence behind me. He in turn didn’t ask where we were going. It was better that way, I think. I wasn’t sure how to explain it before we reached the clearing.
When we stepped out onto the patch of grass, I let out a little sigh. It was a small clearing, overgrown now with weeds, grass, and small saplings. But you could still see the pile of charcoal and burnt stones in the center, that was all that was left of my childhood home.
“There used to be a cabin here,” I explained. “It was where I lived, before I joined the Night Hawks. I was thinking, with Corin as the new sheriff, we could rebuild it. Start a family?”
Griever looked from me, to the ruins, then back to me. “Is that what’s keeping you here?” He asked finally.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, that with Corin and the Falcons taking care of the townspeople, the Night Hawks aren’t needed here. You could come with me?”
“To wander for the rest of my days?” I asked, half teasing.
“To be with me,”
Now it was my turn to look from him to the ruins, thinking about it.
“Kate is staying in the forest. We’ve been together since childhood, I couldn’t leave her…”
“Is that what’s keeping you here?” Griever asked again.
I didn’t answer.
“You should talk to Kate.”
“Of course you should go!” Kate nearly shouted. “Don’t waste your time taking care of me. I want you to be happy,”
“Kate, I am happy,” I replied. “I can be happy anywhere. I just don’t think you can.”
I’d found her perched in one of our lookout spots near the castle. It was easy to tell where her mind was these days.
“You love him,” I continued. “So, why are you making this so difficult?”
“He’s going to be the Sheriff…”
“So? He’s going to take care of the people, just like we have, without having to hide.”
Kate scoffed, and I felt I was getting somewhere.
“He would take care of you, too.”
“I don’t need anyone to take care of me, Jem. I—“
“You’re the leader of the Night Hawks, and a good fighter,” I interrupted. “I know. But, Kate, it’s okay to stop fighting sometimes. A good leader knows when to rest her troops. A great leader knows when to rest, herself.”
We sat in silence for a moment, as Kate stared at the castle. I could make out soldiers on the walls, Falcons. I knew that if I stepped out of these trees and waved at them, they would wave back, and would not fire. Peace had come to Hamish.
“I’m going to go with Griever. We’ll travel the world, maybe see Spain, or Rome.”
“Fine,” Kate said. I took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
“You should say yes, to Corin.”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t see it,” I retorted, making my way back down the tree. “Because I know you did.”