Read Chapter 1 here!
Well, they weren’t dead yet. That was the good news. The shot had been a one off, either an accident or someone who decided it wasn’t worth the risk after all. Either way, not knowing caused an increase in tension within the group that made it difficult to concentrate.
And the bad news was Terrin still hadn’t found a good source of water, they were still more than three hours away from town with injured crew, and the sun was inching ever closer to the horizon. They weren’t well equipped to deal with an injury, and they were not at all equipped to staying overnight in the desert. Even now, with the sun still hanging threateningly in the sky, Terrin felt a chill ripple across her ribs. Her bloodstained shirt was now being used to rest Yumi’s head in the dust.
Terrin was sitting on the ground, her hands resting flat against the earth, desperately listening to the quiet shifting underground. Moving water was easy, even buried beneath several feet of rock. Out here, most of the water was resting in a still aquifer, and the faint movements were near impossible to decipher from the other sounds of the creatures scuffling around and the constant motion of the earth itself.
She felt Mags approaching, her footsteps thundering in the earth and up into Terrin’s palms. She gritted her teeth. Mags sat down beside her, weariness radiating from her body. Terrin sighed and lifted her hands up onto her knees.
“How are they?”
Mags sighed, and it rumbled in the earth beneath them.
“They’ll live. If we get back, we’ll all live.”
She didn’t sound convinced. Terrin looked back at Connor, still leaning over Yumi, who now at least looked as though they were resting peacefully.
“We would have to ride slowly,” Terrin said, turning back to face the setting sun. “But we could make it. Even if I don’t find anything.”
Mags let out a quiet scoff that seemed to bounce off the earth and ring in Terrin’s ears. She looked down at her hands, then reached one out for Terrin to inspect.
Terrin winced. It was worse than she thought. She had felt it herself, the ever dryness, the scraping of bones twisting drily against rough skin. But the skin on Mags’ hand was cracked like the earth, the skin peeling back and forming ragged edges.
“Does it hurt?”
Mags scoffed again and pulled her hand back.
“Of course. It always hurts.”
“How long do you think you have?”
“An hour or so. Maybe.”
Terrin twisted to face her.
“If we leave now, maybe we can make it. Maybe I can find something on the way…”
“You know it’s all used up around town. Why do you think we’re all the way out here? No, there’s nothing on the way back.”
“I can kill something, bleed it.”
Mags eyed Terrin, then stood.
“Save it for Yumi,” she said, and walked away.
Terrin reached down into the earth, one last desperate time, then pushed herself up in frustration. It was her first time out for Panlassa, and she was not going to lose someone on her first assignment.
She trudged back to the ground, where Connor and Mags were conferring quietly. Terrin glanced at Connor. His skin wasn’t as bad as Mags’, but she could see lines forming in his bronze skin. They were drying up, from the inside out. Terrin was supposed to be able to help.
“How are we going to carry Yumi?,” she asked, sidling up to the others so she could speak without the sound skittering away to unseen ears.
Connor and Mags gave each other a glance, then looked down at Yumi. Yumi was quiet, and almost seemed to be sleeping.
“Well, they can’t ride,” Connor said, lifting his hat and running his hands through his dark hair. “We were thinking of making a hammock, hang them between two of the horses.”
Terrin glanced at Mags, but she was looking off into the horizon and wouldn’t meet Terrin’s eyes.
“Use mine and Yumi’s,” Terrin said, leaning down and beginning to pull off her boots. “They are a better match, and can match their gaits to not jostle them so much.”
“What are you doing?” Connor asked incredulously as Terrin stuffed her boots into her pack and pulled out some rope. She handed it to Connor.
“I’ll walk ahead. I bet I can find something on the way back.”
Mags turned to look at her, her gaze hard and difficult to read. Terrin could see that Connor was looking to Mags for orders, although it was obvious to all of them Terrin had the most experience here. Terrin couldn’t tell if Mags thought the plan was stupid, or if she was just sore she didn’t come up with the idea herself. Finally, she turned to Connor and nodded.
Terrin turned and started walking away, not bothering to watch Mags and Connor rig up a hammock. She had her job. And time was running out.