(Yes, this is a different chapter, even though it is kind of a continuation of the last chapter. Alex will be back in the next chapter. I have to make their plots even first.)
When Perin woke up he was very close to a tree. It was dark. Perin moved his head around, trying to focus on where he was. He remembered what had happened to him. The light… what was it? Was he dead? I am conscious, aren’t I? I can’t be dead. His heart was still going, pounding horribly in his head. I’m still breathing. I must be alive. I have to be. Perin sat up quickly, his head swimming. A pain shot through his torso. Yes, I am very much alive.
It was too dark to see the wound in his leg, but he felt it gingerly. Somehow there was a new cloth covering it and the arrow was gone. It was completely dry, although his pants were still a little damp. His left side, the side that had been broken by the fall, felt much better as well. How long have I been here? He wondered. And where is here anyway?
A horrible thought came to him. Jessica… where is she? He tried to look around but his vision was horribly blurry. He thought of calling out, but stopped. If you don’t know where you are, it’s not a good idea to do that. You don’t want to attract unwanted attention. Instead he lay there for a minute and let his head stop spinning.
A few minutes later, Perin tried getting up. His head was still pounding. Now that he could see better, he reached for the wound again. The new cloth was completely clean. When he removed it, there was only a small mark where the arrow had been. He touched the spot. There was no pain. Perin blinked. How could I have healed so quickly? How long have I been out here?
Perin got to his feet slowly. He decided that he would figure out his healing miracle later – for now he needed to find out where he was, and if Jessica was anywhere nearby. He scanned the forest for her. It was far too dark to see anything except the trees right in front of him. He tried poking around the nearby bushes, hoping that she was not that far off and trying desperately to see in the dark. It’s useless, he thought. I’ll never find her in here. Hopefully she found her own way out. I would kill myself if I tried to find her. He turned around and walked back to where he had originally been. He needed to focus his thoughts on survival.
Perin remembered what Nico had told him. Sulci? Really? I’m supposed to go there? Hell, I’d rather be dragged back to Pons. Perin recalled the cats… If he returned to Pons,Tyler would have something much worse in store for him. Every time that Perin had been around Tyler, he talked of two things – how to take over all of Karst, and how to torture people. By the time Perin would get back to Pons, he was sure that some new torture would be waiting for him.
Perhaps I could survive out here, he thought. Shelter would not be a problem. I would not be able to make a fire; it would give away my position. He heard water running in the distance. Water, good. Now, what would I eat? He heard birds, but they were small song birds, not enough meat to be worth the effort. Perin did not know which kinds of animals lived in the forest. Then all I have is plants. He sighed. He had never liked the taste of plants, with the exception of some fruits. Besides, he had no idea which plants were safe to eat and which were not safe.
A bright light from the other side of the trees caught his eye. Perin crept to the edge of the trees. What he found was an enormous metal wall with metal spikes coming out, the rising sun reflecting light in every direction. Along the top was a solid stone walkway, protected by large pillars of the same stone, with armed guards stationed a few feet apart. It was an absolutely breathtaking sight. Perin swallowed. He knew where he was. There was only one place he could be. He was at Sulci.
How did I end up here? He wondered.When I stopped I was no where near Sulci… was I?
Perin assessed his situation. He had three choices. Return to Pons – suicide. Stay in the forest – possible starvation, plus some very odd events are happening in this forest. Get into Sulci… Perin took a deep breath. Nico was right; Sulci was his best option.
He knew that Sulci sat between the forest and a mountain range, nestled within the grooves of the mountains. The main gate was down a narrow path between the mountains and the forest to his left.There has to be another entrance somewhere, he thought. For water, maybe. A city needs water. He went back into the trees a bit, so that no one would see him, and then slinked down along the length of the wall. He walked until he reached the mountains on the other side, keeping one eye on the guards for any signs that he had been spotted. He saw no holes. The metal wall looked impenetrable.
Maybe I can climb up the mountains, and sneak in from the back, he thought. Perin began to climb, moving quickly behind large rocks to hide himself. A few times he slid backward a bit. A shooting pain went up his left arm whenever he tried to use it, which made climbing very difficult. As he got closer to the wall, Perin flattened himself against the rock and slithered along. He was right under the guards, but they did not seem to notice. He got half way up a hill and saw something – a hole in the wall. A small river came through the mountains and then split. One side went down the hill, to the main river that led through the forest and eventually to the sea. The other went into a small hole through the wall. Perin felt himself smile triumphantly.
Perin went to the hole slowly. The drain was not very large, but he could fit through it. At some point it had been covered by a metal grate. Now only small shards of metal stuck out of the stone, marking where the grate had once been. He got down as low as he could and looked through the hole. On the inside was a field that extended to the back of a building. No one would notice him.
The guards above him suddenly moved away. Something had caught their attention down in front of the forest. Perin made himself as flat as he could, and then wormed his way through the hole. The splashing sound he was creating seemed very loud to his ears, but the guards did not seem to notice anything odd. After he had pulled his legs through, he quickly darted to the building he had seen before. It was a tall building that was built into the mountain side and made of white stone. There were no windows, so no one in the building would see him. That was the least of his worries, though, because the guards were returning to their posts. The two that had left and given him the opportunity to enter were now on the ground, pulling two large black dogs with them. The dogs were supposed to be guarding the drain hole, but had broken off their chains. The guards had left their posts to retrieve the dogs.
Perin felt his body tense. To get down to the city, he would have to go past the dogs. Or, maybe, he could go up around this building. He glanced behind him. There was another white stone building behind him that had large stained glass windows. Damn, if I go that way someone will see me. Perin’s heart was pounding.
The dogs suddenly barked and ran after something, forcing the guards to let go of their chains. A cat scurried away, the dogs chasing it, and the guards chasing the dogs. Perin quickly looked up at the other guards. They kept staring outward, unconcerned with what was happening behind them. Perin took the opportunity to walk briskly toward the city. He did not want to run and attract attention, but he did not want to take too long either. He kept his head down, his heart racing. Every sound was the dogs returning, or someone coming after him, or a shot being fired. Soon he came upon a row of houses. He slid between two of the houses, entering a narrow alley that was just big enough for his shoulders to fit between the walls. Perin leaned against one of the houses. He knew that no one could see him, but he still felt vulnerable, and tired, and hungry. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting out of a window in the adjacent house showed him his next move.