NaNoWriMo approacheth! I don’t know if I can do a full-fledged NaNo this year, what with school and work, but I’ll give it a shot. What do you think this year’s NaNoWriMo should be?
Tag Archives: letters from blackford hill
An intensely rocky start back into LfBH, so I hope you’ll forgive me. A more action-packed piece will be up on Monday. Thanks to everyone who enjoys LfBH for your patience. <3 LfBH is nothing without you.
There was little time. The skies, even here, were a dismal gray, as if Blackford Hill was reaching out to offer its misery like a plague upon the people of the small village. Every time a guard entered the village, he brought with him a depressing silence that lasted for hours after he left. Phaedra knew that their presence was wearing thin on the residents here, and so, once they were healed enough to move about safely, she proposed they leave.
Felix was unhappy. He knew his father would be looking for him. He knew that this wasn’t over for him, and if Silas insisted on tagging along (which he knew he would), then things would be very dangerous for him, indeed. As far as the young Count was concerned, his life had been thrown away the moment he set the flame to that temple. The gallows were the place for him, but Silas had a chance at a new life.
Tully, on the other hand, was eager to be out of here; eager to be as far away from their prison hellhole as humanly possible. She wanted to go home. She wanted to be where it was safe, warm, and dry. She wanted Phae and a life of their own.
Standing at the mouth of the village, where the only broad road led in, the stonework ending at the edge of the populated area and melding into packed dirt, Phaedra shouldered a crude canvas bag with a single strap over her shoulder, and glanced to Tully.
“I’m ready…” Tully responded to the wordless request. “I don’t want to leave them behind, Phae, can’t they come with us?”
Phaedra sighed. “They’re a liability to us, just as we are to them. It’s safer for everyone if we split up. We need the best chance possible at not being picked up again.”
“I suppose that means we’re not going back to The Willow?”
“It’s fine, Phae… it’s fine. Let’s go, alright? We’re losing daylight.” Tully turned to face the road, just as Silas came bounding up behind them, a hand falling heavily on Phae’s shoulder, accompanied by a good-natured laugh.
“Thought you’d run off just like that, yeah? I don’t think so,” Silas laughed as Felix sauntered up beside him, and cast his eyes away.
“We didn’t want to make this any harder,” Phae explained, and gave a faint smile as she turned. For as skeptical as she had been of these two men during their first hours together, she had gained more respect and affection for them during their time here than she had expected. They were good friends, even Felix, the mouthy pain in the ass. It was because they were good friends that they deserved a fair chance; it would be selfish to hold them back by traveling with them.
Tully threw her arms around Felix and kissed his cheek. “If we ever go back home, I’ll find a way to let you know. You can come visit. You’d love the bakery, Felix.”
Felix’s cheeks flared a bit red and he smiled faintly. Friendship had never been something he had been good at, but with Tully, it was so easy. She a sweet person with good intentions and a love for just about everyone.
“I’ll come visit with you, I promise. At the bakery, or elsewhere, I’ll find you when things settle, Tully. Maybe Silas will be with me.” Another faint smile.
“Don’t look so grudging. He likes you. Let him stay. You need someone to support you, Felix. You can’t possibly let yourself be miserable forever. Let him enjoy your company, and for the love of the Gods, try to enjoy his, hm?”
Another dark blush from Felix and he laughed. “It makes me feel guilty.”
“You shouldn’t. Go. We’ll talk again soon. I promise you.” She shoved him lightly, and turned to take Phaedra’s hand, a slight wave behind her to signal their departure. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she inclined her head, as if doing so would keep them from falling.
“It’s for the best,” Phaedra stated yet again, giving her hand a little squeeze. “It’s safer for all of us if we split up. And our work will take us to places where they have no business being.”
Sniffling in finality, Tully brought her hand across her eyes and nodded. “I know. And Felix has business with his father. I just hope he comes out of it in one piece.”
Phae gave a grim nod, and kissed her beloved’s fingers. “We all will.”
Felix cast a glance to Silas, his eyes sliding over him head to toe, and he gave a very bare, helpless smile. If Silas were ever to change his mind, Felix knew that it would be now and he would be left alone. Silas was a good man, and he knew that he liked him, but how could the Count expect someone like Silas to suffer his upper-class woes?
“That was hard, yeah?” Silas drawled, drawing on his cigarette and tossing it aside.
“Smoking is disgusting…” Felix muttered and turned toward him, pulling his cap over his head and meandering alongside Silas.
“I know. So, what’s the plan, Count?”
Felix rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know. Go to my father. Kill him. Take what he doesn’t deserve and try like hell to do some sort of good with it, I expect. We need to do something about Blackford Hill.”
Silas slipped a hand discreetly into his and tugged him between two buildings, where he promptly stole his lips in a reassuring kiss. “Let’s do that, then.”
Felix swallowed hard and stared at him, before he dropped his eyes to their clasped hands. “Let’s,” he breathed with a faint nod. “Yes. Well, to my father’s then.”
With a single glance back to the departing women as he came out of the narrow alley, Felix drew a breath and pulled Silas down the road in the opposite direction.
Two posts in one day, I know, I’m flooding you guys!
This is important, though, and it concerns you all, my amazing awesome readers. <3 I have a project in the works in my head, and I need your input. I’m going to be trying a spiffy self-pubbing venture and I need to know what you think. Should I edit and revamp LfBH and put that in print, or do you want to see a completely new piece of fiction from me?
I’ll be using IndieGoGo to raise funds to have the project completed and given decent cover art. This is your chance to see LfBH in hard copy (or something else if you’ve all had enough of LfBH!)
Opinions, please! <3
Salut! So, some of you must be wondering what happened to my posts for the last week and a half. WordPress decided that it won’t post my scheduled posts in full. The post text is deleted and replaced with my initial draft line, like the post was never saved. So, I apologize for any emails that didn’t link to posts. I think I have it under control. To rectify the situation, both of the last two Writing Life posts will be posted this weekend.
LfBH will now be posted bi-weekly. I can’t keep up with the volume and quality, and if I want to have less editing work later, I need to put the time in to make sure each post is up to standard. The next LfBH installment will go up on Monday, October 24. I know, it’s a long time from now, but I’m plotting a NaNo novel, and editing the hell out of the first 13 chapters of LfBH. So, wish me luck. =]
Now, for the writing prompt!
Write a scene in which a lie lands yourself or your character into a pot of hot water!
The small village they’d managed to find was a godsend. The people were so sympathetic and willing to help. Silas was just waiting for someone to yell ‘Surprise!’ and burst in, yanking them out of this safe haven. A safe haven that was a barn. Felix hadn’t stopped complaining since they arrived, but Silas was just happy to have a dry place to lay his head. After all, the townspeople were kind enough to give them first aid supplies and food, even a pile of blankets to soften the hay beds and keep warm.
“If you die, I swear I’ll have you resurrected so I can personally beat you to death,” Felix said irritably as he wrapped Silas’ battered ribs, the bullet hole in his right shoulder was already doctored and patched the best Felix knew how. “I’m not a fucking doctor.”
“You’re not much a conversationist, either, Count,” Silas grinned, his face pale though he was making the effort to keep the other from worrying. Felix was an unpleasant little bastard when he was worried.
“I’ll talk how I want. If you need me to, I can just sit quiet an’ look pretty, but I got no one but you to impress out here.” He poked him in the ribs. “And I’d say you’re pretty impressed by my amazing act of heroism back there, huh?” Another grin.
“Shut up, you could have died.” Felix shoved his companion’s head back on the pile of hay. “You still could.”
Silas couldn’t help laughing, though it was through a grimace, a sense of humor didn’t do well for broken ribs.
“Hilarious, I know,” muttered Felix, shaking his head. “But… you know, thank you… for what you did. We’d never have gotten out without you and Phaedra. Even if we lost that girl they tried to save. I wasn’t happy about her being dragged along at first… but I never wanted to see that happen to her.”
“Me, either, but it’s not like we can go back now. We can’t let losing one person take us down. We have too much riding on this escape…. I’m not going back there, Felix, not for anyone.”
The Count only nodded somberly, patching up his companion to the best of his ability—which wasn’t exactly top notch. He was far from a doctor. In fact, the slightest scratches he’d retained as a child were tended to professionally. Tearing bullets out of living human flesh was nerve-wracking, stomach-churning, grueling and unpleasant work. Besides, Silas’ muffled screams into the folded up bridle they’d pulled off the barn wall were enough to make Felix’s hands shake so violently it was a small wonder he didn’t make things worse.
Once finished, the temporary doctor plopped down next to Silas and sighed, arms around his knees as he looked up into the spider-laden rafters. The whispers of Phaedra and Tully two stalls over caught his attention, though he couldn’t make out much of what they were saying. Sleeping in a barn, on damp hay, dirty and caked in flaking blood, his fingers stained from his tending to Silas…. Still it was better than Blackford Hill.
“You’re thinkin’ too hard.”
Felix glanced to Silas, who used what little strength he had to yank Felix down beside him, his unaffected arm looping around him to pull him against his chest.
“Don’t touch me,” Felix grumbled, though there was little weight behind it.
“Shhh, you’re ruining it.”
Felix rolled his eyes. He’d just ripped bits of metal out of the man, he still he was completely placid and ready to just go to sleep. “Shouldn’t you be in excruciating pain?”
“I am, and you’re making it worse by bitching. Shh.”
Felix had to admit, relaxing against the warmth of another body was a special sort of comfort. Or maybe it was just Silas’ body. If anyone else had put a hand on him at this point—well, it wouldn’t have been pretty.
“You trust me, don’t you?” he asked, tilting his head up a bit to look at Silas, before he propped himself up on one hand to he could look down at him.
“Why wouldn’t I? You planned this whole thing, and here I am, right? That’s not nothin’.”
Felix gave a little nod, though he didn’t seem satisfied. His eyes drifted down to to the bandage on his counterpart’s shoulder, his fingers brushing over the slowly-blooming bloodstain.
“What?” Silas stilled his hand, and kissed his fingers, dried blood and all.
Felix turned away, cheeks flaring red. “Nothing. Just worried. It’s a big plan. I don’t know if we can—”
“We can because you want it bad enough. It’s going to work out.” Again, Silas pulled him down and kissed the top of his head. “I trust you. Go to sleep.”
Felix rolled his eyes, but didn’t argue. “My father will know I escaped. He’ll know I have people with me.”
“Then we’ll compensate. If we can bring down your father, Felix, we can bring down Blackford Hill, and any other places like it in your father’s lordship.”
That was true. Felix wanted revenge more than anything, but his will for revenge was fading now that he was out. Now that the pressure of torture and starvation was lifted. Now that Silas wasn’t dying and he didn’t have the Overseer breathing down their necks about every little thing. Though, if removing his father from the equation brought the ruin of Blackford Hill, then it would be well worth pushing forward.
“Alright. We’ll continue with the plan,” he offered finally, and gave a small, resolute nod.
Silas smiled and gave the Count a firm squeeze. “Good. We’ll plan it out better if it puts you at ease. Just relax and sleep for now. We have time.”
Time. Just last night, time was what they were running short on. Now, they were reasonably safe, even if they had to move within a few days. They had time, and Silas trusted him. Satisfied in that, Felix finally closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
Do you guys remember Stitches? It was the first flash fiction I wrote involving Phaedra and Tully. A Letter from Count Malrais was the first, and together, they sparked Letters from Blackford Hill. I had to add and alter a bit, but here’s Stitches, revisited. Enjoy. <3
“You haven’t even flinched.”
Phaedra’s eyes flicked up to catch a dreamy smile on her friend’s lips, before glancing back down again. The gash on her forearm pinched together at the top when Tully pulled the thread taut, tying off the third in a series of stitches.
“Would you rather I were howling in pain?” asked Phaedra, her voice soft as it always was, though for once a light humor crept into her tone. The woman was always so severe, Tully couldn’t help but worry for her sometimes.
“Of course not,” replied Tully, pressing the point of the curved needle through the split flesh. Still, Phae didn’t react. “I just… admire your strength.”
She was still smiling. Phaedra gave her head a light shake. Tully baffled her sometimes. It was a long fight to get out of that colony, free from the fences and the locks, and rifles trained on them every second of every day; still, Tully smiled. Even when they were captured, bound and carted off to that awful place, Tully still managed to smile. Fiona was left at the edge of the woods, lifeless. Phae knew Tully was pushing back the pain that dwelt there; the pain that exploded from her love when Fiona took that bullet. There were tears, tantrums, fury from everyone else, dozens of others all desperate for answers….
Tully tried to stay on the bright side.
Phaedra wasn’t aware of any bright side.
Their lives had gone completely out of control, all because they had chosen to share an inn room while Phaedra helped Tully find a cure for that awful cough she’d had. Fortunately, the cough was alleviated, but they had hardly gotten their things packed to go back to work at the bakery, when the door came crashing off the hinges—
Phaedra shook her head and sighed. Going back to the bakery seemed useless now. Would they go so far as to wait for Phae and Tully where they worked?
The small town they’d stumbled across in their escape had no knowledge of the horrors of Blackford Hill. They knew only that the government had a compound there, but were left in the dark about what was held within it. The soldiers made it clear that they would shoot anyone on sight if they came snooping around. Now, huddled in yet another inn room, together, though this time accompanied by Silas and Felix—two married couples on holiday? Could they pull that off?—Phae submitted to Tully’s pleas to stitch the gash in her arm, and rub balm on the bruises and scrapes.
It killed Phae to see the blond’s arm wrapped up in blood-stained linen. Tully deserved so much better.
“Done.” Tully started packing up her first aid kit, and Phaedra lifted her arm to look over the other woman’s handy work. The stitches were clean, and the cut wasn’t even bleeding through the gaps.
“Thanks,” murmured Phaedra, and grabbed a strip of cloth that had been torn from Tully’s underskirt, starting to wrap the newly-sewn arm. Torn and used clothing was suddenly a luxury she’d never appreciated before. “Where did you learn to do that, anyway?”
A sad smile was cast over Tully’s shoulder as she tucked her things away. “I wasn’t always a baker, Phae. Somehow, I don’t expect you were, either.”
Their eyes met, and a silence passed between them, understanding and steadying. Something in that silence earned a smile from Tully, and Phaedra’s eyes fell to the fabric on her arm.
“No. Not always.”
It’s been a busy summer, folks! But I’m back at home at my desk, G&L HQ, and ready to throw myself back into my work. So, here’s the run down:
- Tomorrow, you’re getting Letters from Blackford Hill Part 12. It’s going to look familiar to some of you. <3 I hope it brings back fond memories of the beginning of LfBH, because it certainly did for me.
- Wednesday, Writing Life is back on track with a brandy-new post on clustering! The how-tos and the whys are hopefully answered. <3
- Thursday is a special day at G&L! For those of you unfamiliar with the Speak Out with Your Geek Out movement, I urge you all to check out the Facebook event page. It urges the geek community to embrace its geekiness! Let us all blog about our favorite geeky activities! Share them with the world! So, any day from Sept. 12 – 16, blog about your geeky hobbies, and Speak Out with Your Geek Out! Thursday is G&L’s day. =P Enjoy.
- Friday is another scheduled writing prompt. I hope these are helping you guys out! You’re all still welcome to share the pieces spawned by the writing prompts, and I’ll link them in the post! <3
I’m working very hard to get back on track, and three of the four above posts are already written and scheduled, so NO MORE FALSE PROMISES!
Speaking of false promises, does everyone remember when I promised you all a G&L e book exclusive? I’ve been working on it, and I’ll be releasing it on Tuesday, Sept. 20th. Everyone who has subscribed since May will receive a .pdf or .epub (other formats available upon request) ebook of exclusive G&L fiction! The offer continues until October 31st, so if you haven’t subscribed and want the fiction that isn’t posted here, subscribe to the blog! =]
One more thing! Letters from Blackford Hill has been plotted to the end. When it’s finished, I’ll leave it up on G&L while I edit, and when that’s done, it’s coming down. LfBH will then be available on Lulu in ebook format… possibly in print, I haven’t decided. What do you think?
Anyway! I’m back! I missed you all! And I’m eager to be posting again!
It took me a long time to write this. I hate it. It didn’t want to be written, and it killed me to trudge through. This is what I came out with, so this is what the blog is getting. Bleh. Onward, ho.
“I don’t trust them.”
Tully glanced over her shoulder at Phaedra as they began slinking through the dark, ankle-deep in mud. She could hardly blame her companion for her doubt, but if they stayed here because of mistrust, then they’d definitely die. At least this gave them some glimmer of a chance.
Or so she hoped.
“No one wants to stay here, Phae…. If we don’t trust them, who will we trust?” she whispered, but heard no response. Phaedra’s mind was more than just in the moment. It was terrifying to see her reacting to the lunacy they put them through here. Tully could see her rash actions, but something always told her there was more to it. Where they saw Phaedra reacting in the heat of the torture, Phaedra’s mind was five steps ahead of them. Nothing was ever put to chance with her.
She was vicious.
“Fine. But if they want to escape, and wind up getting in the way—”
“Don’t suggest it. Please,” Tully hissed, and kept walking toward that rickety porch on which she’d met Felix only hours earlier. Before they even rounded the corner of their own bunk house, Tully and Phaedra lurched forward, a force from behind knocking them both forward several steps. Tully gasped, and Phae spun around and pinned the culprit to a wall.
“Nonono! I’m sorry!” Fiona wailed in a hushed tone, cringing as she struggled against her own weight, Phaedra’s fists balled in her shirt.
“Are you crazy?” Phae scolded and let her go, watching Fiona slump a bit and burst into quiet tears.
“I’m sorry, I really am!” She sniffled, hugging herself against the cold. “You can’t leave me here, please… please don’t….”
Tully sighed, and rubbed her forehead with her fingers, trembling hard. “Come on, then. Be quiet. We can’t babysit you, Fiona, you have to handle this on your own, alright? When we move, you move, and if you fall behind—”
“I won’t! I won’t fall behind, Tully, I promise,” she sniffed again, and rubbed her eyes with the back of her sleeved hand.
Phaedra shook her head, and turned away, motioning them along. She loved Tully for her compassion, but it was likely to get them killed if they weren’t careful. Fiona was a sweet girl, but she was flighty and panicked easily. ‘Babysitting’ was a very accurate word for what this would turn into, Phae was sure.
The gray, illusory feel of dusk enveloped them as they passed around the bunk houses and through the mud pits, braced against the cold. It felt like an eternity before they finally reached that tilted old porch, Tully leading the way onto the sloped platform. Felix and Silas were pressed against the wall, speaking quietly, until Silas spotted the three women and nodded in their direction. Felix turned and drew a breath.
“You made it,” he smiled a little to Tully, and opened the door behind them. It was dark, and Silas slid in on his hands and knees, setting up a few candle nubs and lighting them with a pilfered match.
“We did. We brought Fiona,” whispered Tully, and glanced back to the quaking redhead behind her.
Felix looked them all over and gave a nod. “That’s more than I expected, but I think we can compensate. Come in.”
The three women followed the pair into the shack that had, as far as Tully knew, gone unused since their arrival. When they stepped inside, dusty crates with clothing hanging out over their edges loomed in the dim twilight. Glancing down at herself, Phaedra cursed, touching the filthy bag-like dress she was wearing. It was ridiculous that they kept these things in bulk. How many more people were they expecting here?
Phae glanced over to see Felix on his knees in the center of the room, spreading things out amongst the stubby candles. Pages and even a pencil pilfered from the office were laid out neatly in minutes, and Felix drew a deep, steadying breath.
“We need to make this quick before someone sees the candle light through the windows.” He slid his hands over a page. “These are all parts of one map, and we managed to arrange them together. Look. This is Blackford Hill, here.” He tapped a finger against a fenced octagon on the map. “We’re right here.” His fingers slid over a little black rectangle, and gave it a little tap. “It puts us close enough to the fence to make a break for it. The mud has gotten so out of hand just behind this building that it’s made one of the fence posts sink a little. If we can dig under the fence while the ground is soft, we can make it into these woods here.” Another tap of his finger and he slid it through a patch of puffy-looking treetops.
“Fantastic plan, but what’s beyond those woods?” Phae asked, staring Felix down. “We can’t just run off blindly—”
“The river,” stated Silas, arms folded as he leaned on the wall behind his companion. “If you follow the river north, it leads to a small town—the one I was taken from. I’ve got friends there. We’ll be alright if we can make it.”
Sated, Phaedra gave a small nod, and looked over the map. “What else do we need?”
“Nothing. It’s risky, but it’s now or never,” Felix replied, gathering up the pages and folding them, stuffing them under one of the crates as Silas leaned down to blow out their candles.
Fiona’s hand slid into Tully’s and gave a squeeze, trembling a bit. Tully smiled weakly, and pulled Fiona into a gentle hug, conscious of her injuries.
“It’s going to be fine. We’re getting out of here, I promise.”
“Can… I stay with you and Phae? I don’t have anywhere to go,” Fiona whispered, tears welling in her eyes as she slid her arms around Tully.
Glancing to Phae, Tully offered a pleading look, earning a small nod from her love. “Of course you can,” she answered without missing a beat, pulling back and tucking a bit of hair behind Fiona’s ear.
“Probably shouldn’t dilly dally here, kids,” noted Silas, tugging the door open and letting Felix out ahead of him. “I expect we’ve drawn a bit of unwanted attention. You hear ‘em?”
Phae cringed. “I hear them. Come on, let’s go.” She snatched Tully’s hand, and dragged her and Fiona off the porch at an awkward jog behind her. “We’re ill-prepared. We should have found a means of getting provisions.”
“It’s an escape, not a camping trip,” muttered Silas, wading through the ankle deep mud without a moment’s hesitation. The fence post dipped where they said it would, leaving the chain-link warped and sunk beneath the mud. It was almost imperceptible, hidden behind the storage building with the rickety porch. No one would have guessed—unless they were looking for a way out.
Felix dropped to his knees by the fence and started pulling handfuls of mud away,piling it as best he could at his side. As Felix dug, Silas pulled at the fencing, tugging it back with grunts and groans, his hands bruised and bleeding as he used all of his strength. Phae stood beside him, wrapping her fingers around the links as she pulled along with him. Tully was beside Felix, digging frantically, pushing and pulling mud from under the fence, creating a gap.
“Fiona, slide under…” Tully panted, smearing some mud from her cheek with an equally filthy forearm. “If you can get under, you can push the fence while they pull and Felix and I can get through and push it so Phae and… and—”
“Silas,” Felix corrected as he caught his breath.
“Silas can slide under behind us.”
Fiona gave a faint nod, and crawled beneath the fencing, sliding through the mud with a groan. On the other side, she threw all of her weight into the woven wire, shoving Phae and Silas back a few steps. Though, once they got back to pulling, the fence lifted and Felix shoved Tully through.
Sirens sounded, the five escapees stopped dead in their tracks. Men with guns were pouring in from all sides, schlucking through the mud like a stampede of horses. The night had closed in, and all they could see were the flashes of gun metal, belt buckles, and coat buttons in the moonlight like glowing eyes in the darkness—advancing.
“Felix, go,” Silas said, and shoved the count with his foot. “Go! I’ll be right behind you!”
“I’m not leaving you—”
“You’re not! I’ll be right behind you!” Silas grabbed Phae’s arm, and she swiftly disengaged him. Shocked, he stared at her. “We don’t have time for this.”
“You’re going to need all the help you can get,” stated Phae, unflinching, staring him down. The guards were closing in, and a shot rang out—still Phae didn’t move.
“Fuck! Fine! Felix, take the girls out of here!”
Felix cursed, and sprang to his feet, snatching the front of Silas’ shirt and yanking him forward, their lips crushing together in a quick, frantic kiss. “Hurry the fuck up.” He stated and ducked under the fence, grabbing both girls by the arm and dragging them along.
“Phae!” Tully shouted. “Phaedra!”
“Stop it!” Felix yanked her again, tugging them into the trees where Fiona finally collapsed and wept. “We have to keep moving.”
“We have to wait for them,” Tully snapped, arms sliding around Fiona, rocking gently with her. “I thought you had some grand plan. This was the most half-assed—”
“I did what I could with what I had!”
“And now Phae and Silas are fighting a ton of men with guns! They’re unarmed, Felix!” Tully cried out, holding Fiona a little tighter.
Felix leaned against a tree and scrubbed his face with his palms. Tully was worried for Phaedra, he knew that. He knew how she felt, though his sudden affection for Silas only irritated him a little, on top of making him sick to his stomach when he thought of what might be happening to him right now. Sliding down, he leaned back on the tree truck, and swallowed hard. “They’ll find us here.”
“They won’t. Just… be quiet and wait,” she whispered, stroking Fiona’s hair as the girl finally started settling down.
The gunshots were numbing, Tully only closed her eyes, praying that Phaedra would make it through, and would burst past the trees any moment. She didn’t mind running. She could keep running from those soldiers all night if it meant Phaedra would come through alright.
The knot of soldiers rushing them was a little alarming, but Phaedra didn’t care. They had worked too hard and come too far trying to get Tully better, then make it through this mess. This hellish place wouldn’t survive. It wouldn’t be allowed to keep doing this to people. Good, innocent people, lumping the best with the worst, corralling decent citizens and labeling them, torturing them, treating them like defective livestock.
Glancing to Silas, Phae watched him draw a breath, and take on the first of the dozen or so that were charging them. Everything slowed down. Phae looked around, she could feel her lungs heaving, her heart pounding, the rush of the air around her—and before she knew it, she was in the thick of the fight, throwing men off of Silas, dodging rifles and bayonets, trying to keep behind the men around them to avoid the bullets flying from those that weren’t.
Her eyes darted to Silas, who had yanked up the fence, a stolen rifle in his hand. With a stout nod, she bolted for the fence, bruised and bleeding, aching in places she had no idea had been hit. Rolling under the fence, she darted up the hill as her very new acquaintance dropped the woven metal.
Phaedra spun, eyes wide as Silas toppled forward into the mud. The fence was being lifted…. She darted forward, and hoisted him up, his arm slipping over her shoulder as she dragged him up the hill.
“Felix!” She screamed. In seconds Felix, Tully, and Fiona burst through the trees, Felix helping with Silas as Fiona and Tully held back the branches to let them through. Bullets were flying. Silas was bleeding. The woods were just so far— when they burst through the trees, Phae glanced over… everything seemed still. Too still.
“Phae… Phae!” Tully cried out, holding her arm with blood leaking through her fingers, but her eyes were on Fiona, her expression twisted in horror.
No one had heard the shot… There was no scream… Fiona was slumped against a tree, a clean hole in her neck, her eyes were wide as she choked and sputtered. Tully fell to her knees beside her—
“We have to keep moving.” Phae said reluctantly, trying not to look at the girl they’d tried so hard to save.
“No…” Tully let out a sob as she watched the light leaving Fiona’s eyes. She couldn’t speak. Blood spattered over her lips and poured out of that angry little hole as she fought not to drown. Bullets were flying through the trees again—
Fiona took one more gasp, gurgled, and fell still.
“Tully!” Phae shouted, using her free hand to yank the blond up by her sleeve. Tully screamed and sobbed, fighting even as another bullet clipped just below where the first was lodged in her arm. Phae continued dragging her with Silas under one arm, Felix still trudging ahead with the other half of their wounded friend.
And Fiona stayed by the tree, bloody and broken, a sacrifice to Blackford Hill.