Autumn – Chapter 3 – Marin – 09

            “I’m sorry, Marin,” Kellin said one afternoon a couple days later.  She and I were out walking along the ward-lines, checking to make sure nothing had happened to them.  I startled, missing a step but covering it in a spin toward her.
            “For what?”
            Kellin shook her head.  “I know that I’ve been terrible lately.  Hard to deal with, general pain in the ass.  I’m just…I’m sorry.  I know I shouldn’t act like that, and I’m going to try to stop.  You guys are right.  I’m still alive and that’s what’s important.”
            What brought this on?  I was relieved that she’d finally started to screw her head on straight, but I was leery about what had brought on the shift.  Had it just been time, like Phelan had counseled?  “Did something else happen?”  I asked.
            “Not really,” she said, shaking her head and shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket as she started to walk again.  “Not directly, anyway.”
            “Then what—?”  I ran directly into her back as she stopped dead, tilting her head slightly as she stared at Leah, who was struggling up from the ravine, a basket over one arm.
            “Leah?  What are you doing out here?”  Kellin asked, her voice a little strange as she kept watching her crest the top of the ridge.
            Leah’s head snapped up and for a moment she looked like a child who’s been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  Then she smiled sheepishly and tugged a fistful of greenery out of her basket.  “Witch hazel.  There’s a patch down there and I was getting some more for the poultices for Phelan.  It wasn’t far, so I didn’t think it was a big deal to go alone.”
            I shook my head.  “We made that rule for a reason, Leah.  No one goes alone.”
            She gestured toward Kellin as she tucked the witch hazel back into her basket.  “She goes alone often enough.”
            Kellin winced as I turned my stare to her.  All she could do was shrug.  “It’s true, I’ve been wandering out a little to clear my head.”
            “After what happened to you?”  I whispered.  “What were you doing?  Hoping they’d show up and finish you off?”
            She met my gaze, eyes hard.  “Yes.”  She shook her head.  “I’m over that shit now, but for a little while, yeah, I kind of was.”  She looked away from me and toward Leah.  “But I was being stupid and suicidal, and you’re neither.”
            Leah shrugged.  “I just didn’t think it was that big of a deal.  There’s nothing out there that’s going to hurt me.  I know that something attacked you guys a few weeks ago, and then something else got Phelan the other night, but I haven’t seen any sign of anything like that when I’ve been out there.  Just trees and rocks and wet.  I think we could stand to ease up a little.”
            “No,” I said.  “No, we can’t ease up.  The minute we do is the minute we start to forget why we set the rules in the first place.  Don’t go down there alone again, Leah.  I know that it’s inconvenient, but drag someone along with you.  I don’t care who as long as it’s not Angie.”  Angie was too little to be of much good down there, other than her amazingly astute senses.
            Leah just stared at me for a second, then made a face and shook her head.  “Why the hell do you worry about it so much, Marin?”
            I touched the spot on my arm that  still was still ice-cold most of the time, where the Greys had hit me that afternoon in the ravine.  “Because I know there’s stuff out there that’s dangerous.  You should know it, too, you were on the receiving end like the rest of us.”
            “I really don’t know what happened.  All I know is that something hit me in the head.”  Leah crossed her arms.  “I just don’t see what the big deal is.”
            “You don’t have to see what the big deal is,” Kellin said quietly.  “You just have to follow the rules, Leah.  Like everyone else.”  She scuffed a toe in the dirt.  “Even me.  I was being stupid and doing things I shouldn’t have.  Almost dying has that effect on a person, and I wasn’t listening to other people the way I should’ve been.  It was dumb and I’m not doing it anymore.”  Kellin tugged on my sleeve.  “Come on, we’ve got three more wards to check before lunch.”
            Leah sighed and shook her head at the two of us as we kept walking and she headed back to camp.  I looked sidelong at Kellin.
            “Did you mean that?”
            “Every word,” she said, squinting up through the trees at the sun, as if trying to gauge what time it might have been.  “I’m better now, I think.”  She sighed and shook her head as we walked to the next ward in the ring.  “What happened to Phelan—hell, that whole attack the other night—kind of shocked me back to my senses.  I’m still here for a reason, even if I don’t know what it is.  I never should’ve begged Jac to just let me die.”
            “I didn’t realize you did,” I said softly.
            Her shoulders rose and fell in a shrug.  “It doesn’t matter anymore.  I’m here now, and I’m not going anywhere.”  She grinned.  “You guys are stuck with me, for better or worse.”
            I put my arm around her shoulders and squeezed.  “Glad to have you back.”
            “It’s good to be back.  Hopefully it’ll stay that way.”
            “We can only hope.”  I put my hands in my pockets.  “Phelan said she’d be back.”
            Kellin nodded slightly.  “What she said about it not being a victory kind of made me think she would be.  When did he tell you?”
            “Two nights ago, when he woke up.  He doesn’t know how long we’ve got before she shows her face again, but she’ll be back.”  I barely managed to suppress a shudder.  “I don’t know what we’re going to do when that happens.  I don’t even know what he did.”
            “None of us are sure of what he did, but we should be safe inside of these wards.  I have no idea what you were trying to keep out, but they’re insanely strong.”
            My nose wrinkled.  “Strong enough to keep something like her out?”
            Kellin shrugged.  “I guess we’ll see.”
            “Yeah,” I said.  “I guess we will.”

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6 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 3 – Marin – 09

  1. Antonious says:

    I bet Leah is still consorting with the enemy. She may have stopped screwing up the wards, but I think she is still up to something.

  2. Antonious says:

    With that warning I think I will move to the floor so that I cannot fall off my seat. Safer that way.

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