Sunday, 8 January 2012

011 - Sent Away

Nelya blinked at the strange pale men. She'd never seen anything like them. The way they stared at her skinned her, flayed her, stripped her to the bone.

She wasn't the only one stunned by it - Frida was frozen, wide-eyed, and Jacob looked like he'd seen something awful.

"Who are... What are..." Nelya began, but her voice dried up.

"These are the Elders. They run things." said Cassidy. She seemed reluctant to say much more. "Please. Just let me deal with this."

The central man spoke first. His voice was low and soft, but it made Nelya flinch. There was something badly wrong with these... things.

“Interesting choice of friends, Cassidy.”

“Yeah. Well.” Cassidy licked her lips. “They've been useful.”

“Still.” said the one closest to Nelya. He looked right at her. She would have backed away, if her back weren't already pressed against the wall. Calm. Calm. Don't show fear. She took a deep, ragged breath and forced her body back into stillness. Fear was useless here, with her unarmed and far away from safety.

“I'm not here to talk about them. I'm here to ask for help.”

“Would this be about the chaos in your bar earlier?”

Cassidy nodded. “And the dead priest. Someone hates me enough to send Snakes to set me up, and I need help with this. You know I don't like to ask.”

“You don't like to owe us favours, you mean.”

Cassidy winced, and the men smiled in unison. They turned to each other, and began to confer once again. Their voices were so low even Nelya's sharp ears couldn't pick up what they were saying. It sounded more like oak-leaves rustling in the wind than any proper speech.

Nelya realised she was toying with her necklace, her fingers stroking the smooth bones with nervous repetition. She dropped it, and forced her hands to stay at her side.

She had begun to think the low, unnerving whispering would go on forever when the three men came out of their huddle.

“It's very probable that certain factions are trying to weaken our power base, going through you. None of us were expecting them to push so far, so fast, though.” The middle man looked somewhat pained. “It's simple. You're going to have to leave Fairhaven.”


“We'll arrange an escape for you. All of you. In the meantime, I suggest you hide here.”

There was immediate protest from everyone, a chaos of loud words, enough to make the head spin. Frida, all high-pitched about a horse, a job, and even Jacob raised his voice a little, before quieting himself.

“But where will we go?”

Nelya risked looking over at Cassidy. Frida was stood behind her, a hand on Cassidys shoulder. Nelya didn't make eye contact. She didn't think she could bear to. She shouldn't be here to watch a stranger's life fall apart.

“We have... connections in other free towns and cities. We'll arrange things with them-”

“You can't just decide this for me! You can't just make me go.” Cassidy spat. She was glaring at them all now. “This is my life.”

"No-one should be forced to leave their home." said Nelya, to her own surprise. It was like the words had been pulled from an aching place inside her without her say-so.

“There's no other option. If they find you, any of you, that's it. They'll find an excuse to... remove you.”

“Ha. If you got me killed Ellis would never do any more of your dirty work.” Cassidy ran a hand through her hair. “Don't bother to lie to me. I know what you really care about.”

She paced, arms wrapped tight around herself like her stomach hurt. Nelya grimaced to herself.

“Fine,” said Cassidy, after a while. “If this is how it has to be. Sort it out. I'll just hide.”

Silence was for the best, Nelya doubted Cassidy would want an opinion from her or Jacob. She followed, glad to leave, as Cassidy stormed out. 

"Could everyone just- give me some time. I need to talk to Ellis." she said. They hovered in the hallway for a moment before collecting their weapons back. Jacob leaned against the wall, face blank.

"I never wanted any of this." he muttered.

Nelya paused. If he had been one of her own, she'd have shown concern with an arm around his shoulder. It seemed wrong here.

"I don't think any of us did." she said. It was the best she could do right now.

Cassidy was being sent away from her home. Nelya's was a long way away. And it was becoming obvious to her that these people would get themselves killed without her.

She would stay, and go where they went. Whether they wanted her or not.

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  1. This almost sounds like Cassidy set up her companions, but that doesn't jive with her personality.

    Interesting that Nelya suddenly thinks she's essential to the others' survival. Maybe there's more to be revealed?

    1. I can't answer either of those questions at this stage. Just keep reading, and all will become clear...

      Thanks for all your comments.