We were all tired when we emerged from the woods in the fading light.
“Let’s rest.” I stopped and the group followed suit.
I flopped on the ground and fished the last energy bar out of my pack. I was ready to sleep, then and there. Everyone else was doing a bit better than me. I suppose it made sense, seeing as I had acted during each of the four disasters. I looked back into the woods. Everything seemed peaceful and quiet, as if nothing had ever happened. Nature’s only response was a smile and motherly ruffle of my hair with the evening breeze.
Theo is lying beside me, babbling on and on about how awesome that was. Others of the group join in. I hear my name but don’t respond. They are talking about what I have done. I have passed, of that I can be sure judging by their comments. But what does it matter? I stare into my pendant. Ash is suffering and the time has not yet come for me to be able to stop it.
It is Hazel that comes to sit next to me. Close but not touching, as if unsure of what to do. Unlike the others who are so high on adrenaline, she has noticed my withdrawal. Her hand gently reaches out to touch my arm. I turn to her.
“Thank you,” she whispers. “I, I wouldn’t have made it out, if you didn’t help me” She gulps, “especially when the ravine flooded.”
I move my other hand and place it over hers. I give it a squeeze and try to smile.
“I really like your pendant,” she says, “it’s really beautiful.” She leans in close. “It looks Elvin made.”
I blink in surprise and look at the pendant as a whole for the first time since I put it on. I remember the looks the Elvin women gave my Dad at Gloria’s wedding. Do Faerie and Elves not get along?
“It is,” I whisper back.
“Did your boyfriend sneak it in?” she asks again whispering, her eyes alight with curiosity.
“No, my best-friend sent it to me. She married an elf and had it made for me while they honeymooned in the Amazon.”
“Wow, I’d love to see the Amazon. My great-uncle used to describe it all the time. Well when we were able to sneak out and go see him. My great Aunt got banished for falling in love with an Elvin man.” Hazel gives me a shy grin. “Your friend didn’t get banished did she?” Her expression immediately changes to worry.
“No, she’s human.”
Before Hazel can say anything else the group’s attention turns to the two covered wagons that are making their way to us. One of the drivers stands and whoops at us. It’s Charles.
“You’re alive!” Martha exclaims as soon as he stops the caravan in front of us.
“So are you,” Charles chuckles.
The second wagon pulls up and Charles lends a hand to help the woman alight.
“Linn!” Katha immediately takes the woman in a bone crushing hug.
“Katha, please!” The woman laughs. “I need to get a head count.”
“We’ve got everyone but Charlene and Simon,” Katha tells her.
“So I see.”
“Looks like my group is all here.”
“Except Zack,” David states.
“Actually, he’s in the back whimpering like a baby.” Charles gestures to the caravan.
The woman Katha called Linn cocks her head to the side as if she’s listening to something. She lets out a big sigh.
“I’ve got to go in after my other two. They won’t be making it out before sun down. Think you can take the rest of my group back?”
“Certainly.” Charles agrees jovially, “especially as it seems they’ve already been working together.”
The group starts talking again, exclaiming about what happened, but Charles holds up his hand and silence again falls.
“Enough talking for now,” he tells us, “why don’t you all climb on board and get some rest?” He winks at me with the last word.
I grin as I follow the group to the back. I don’t think we have much choice about getting rest. Even though I’m last on I move to sit in the front. Zack is as Charles’s says. He has curled himself into a ball, shaking. I pass a hand over him, without thinking. He eases into sleep. I move to my seat. Looking out the front I see Charles give Linn a loving kiss before they clamber on their wagons and we head in separate directions. I wonder, as I drift to sleep, if my Mom and Dad were ever like that. What a strange heritage I have been born into.