The Lupine Saga 107

“Right at this fork, and then we’ll almost be there,” Link said.

“Right? But that leads east. Rising is to the west,” Va’il said.

“I know, but sometimes you have to take a roundabout way to get where you want to go safely,” Link said.

“I think when we came here, Derlik came from the west side. Can’t we go the way we came?” Va’il asked.

“He probably went a way more familiar to him. He probably has connections outside the cities we know as well. As nobles, it’s a bit more difficult for us. We can’t make friends with those in lower places, after all. Besides, it’ll be easier to be supplied in the larger cities, and to travel on safer roads,” Link said.

The group had travelled north for a day, and gradually took various paths to the northeast over the next few days. After five days of travel, they were going in direction the sun rose, no longer towards the north.

“When is the next city?” Ruby asked on the seventh day.

“We’re actually just an hour away, at this point,” Link said.

“See how the ground has smoothed out compared to two days ago? It means the road is far more travelled. So you can be sure we’ll be there soon. I’m sure we’ll even see the city soon, just over the next hill,” Greta said.

The city soon came in view. It was an enormous city, with giant walls that used to be standing. They had great gaps in them, a shoddy version of what greatness they had once been.

“It’s Belorma. The once-great city. How it’s fallen! But it’s still a wonderful city, even though it isn’t what it once was,” Link said while shaking his head.

“Was it demolished by Grip?” Ruby asked.

“Mostly, yes. But it’s fine. It no longer needs its walls, as it no longer fights. But it is still large, and the best city to go to, for now. But I suggest you stay and wait for us. Greta and I will get some provisions, and then come back. Once we have a few clothes, we can cover your human looks and have you enter. It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” Link said.

“All right,” Va’il said.

The group got closer to the city, and then stopped while Link and Greta got ready. They left the provisions they had with Ruby and Va’il, saying that they would come back with far more on their own horses, and then left.

Va’il and Ruby silently watched as the two bearans took their leave and entered the city.

“What do you think?” Ruby asked.

“About what?” Va’il asked.

“How long will it take for us to get home? I know it’s going to be a while, but how long, do you think? It took a month to get here, and that was with the persistence of Derlik. I know how fast we went with him. It was far faster than this, though that’s a different matter,” Ruby said.

“And we were going in a direct route. He went in as straight a line as possible, based on the roads he knew,” Va’il said. He nodded wearily as he considered the tiresome last few days.

“That can’t be helped. Link and Greta don’t know a better way. Well, they say this is better, overall. It’s silly to think of it, but I can’t help but think that if mother was in my shoes, she’d insist on going the most direct route possible, without exceptions. She cannot be appeased by any means. Sometimes that’s great. Mostly not. I’m easier than her, I guess. Much more accommodating,” Ruby said.

“Accommodating? That’s a lot like getting used to something,” Va’il said. “Maybe it would be better. In fact, it would be. Why didn’t we insist, Ruby?”

“We wouldn’t be helped by them otherwise, that’s why.”

“And who said we need help?”

“Well, we should accept it when possible.”

“It’s in the air again,” Va’il said, his voice becoming quiet. “I knew something was wrong. Look towards the city.”

“What about it?”

“It’s filled with humans.”

“And?”

“And we’ve been betrayed, again,” Va’il said, his eyes opening wide and his voice dropping. He pointed towards the city gates. Ruby squinted to try and see what Va’il was talking about. But it was soon obvious. A large group of human men were riding at the sides of Link and Greta. The nets and weapons held by most of the riders, including the bearan children, were enough to tell Ruby the truth.

Link was pointing a sword in the direction of Va’il and Ruby and yelling. Greta held a net and wore a malicious smile. Va’il could hear her yelling at him off in the distance, telling him to try running while they gave chase in a twisted game of cat and mouse. The Laloo children had fooled them, and led them directly to an enemy stronghold, where they could hand the Rising children over in person. No doubt about that existed in the minds of Ruby and Va’il. Neither waited to confirm it in person, nor did they need to. It was the terrible truth that the entire Laloo family had been deceiving the teens since the very beginning, since the very moment the Laloo family heard of the existence of Va’il and Ruby from the innocent Tico and Spand.

Va’il and Ruby didn’t hesitate to gallop in the opposite direction. They headed directly west, the sun still at their backs.

The minutes passed, but Va’il and Ruby didn’t once turn around. They didn’t need to see how close the mob was. The yells grew, telling Va’il that something had to be done. The road soon veered to the southwest, but the teens left it in favor of the sparse forest. It was full of trees that were thin and spaced far apart, thus wouldn’t be good for hiding in or losing their pursuers. However, the rough road ended up slowing down the mob just enough so that they didn’t gain further ground on the teens.

The horses were tired. Va’il knew it, but hoped they could hold out for long enough. How long, he didn’t know. Fortunately, the teens were lighter than all of the riders in the mob behind them. Grown men and large bearans didn’t make for quick riders, but their horses had rested longer. They didn’t fall behind, nor did they gain ground, but instead stayed at a close distance behind the teens. They had the advantage, after all. It was land they were more familiar with, and their numbers allowed them to pursue without worry.

“Go ahead!” Va’il said.

“What?” Ruby asked.

“I’ll hold them back. Go ahead. Go!”

“No!”

“I said go!” Va’il stopped his horse and turned it around.

“Va’il!” Ruby turned her head, but didn’t stop her horse. She wanted to, but didn’t. She kept going, no longer looking back.

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The Lupine Saga 106

The morning lit the forest the teens had slept in, waking them and reminding them of their newfound circumstances. They wished the previous day was just a dream, but reality wasn’t so kind.

“So what should we do for food?” Ruby asked soon after waking.

“Some hunting should be fine,” Va’il replied.

“And water?”

“Oh. Well, we can figure that out at the next town. We just have to hurry there and fill up.”

“Hurry, yeah,” Ruby said. She stopped walking along the road and opened the bag she had been carrying.

“Slipskates,” Va’il said, and then dropped his bag as well.

“This road is good enough. This is why we have them, right?” Ruby asked while smiling. Va’il nodded, knowing that the skates would be the only thing to save them from a terrible fate. Without them, he feared the difficultly they would face on foot.

Before they got their shoes off, they heard the sound of horses approaching.

“Let’s hide, just in case,” Va’il said. They put the skates away and we’re about to run back into the forest when the people on horses approached.

“Va’il! Ruby! Wait up!” Link yelled, surprising Va’il and Ruby.

“Link?” Ruby asked. Va’il looked on with a scowl.

“And Greta,” Link said. He and Greta rode two massive horses, and behind them were two smaller horses without riders.

“You two! You ran off in the middle of the night,” Greta said.

“Yeah. We did,” Va’il said.

“Why? Are you planning on coming back?” Greta asked.

“We can leave when we want. And no, we aren’t coming back,” Va’il said.

“So father was right, you did overhear his plotting,” Link said while shaking his head.

“You were told? You’re here to capture us!” Va’il said.

“No, we aren’t. Well, we were. Let me explain,” Link said.

“I don’t plan on listening well,” Va’il said.

“Va’il, Ruby, please. Let Link and I help. Just listen for a moment,” Greta said.

“You and Link? Why? You two don’t work together,” Va’il said.

“On the surface. But that’s an act,” Link said.

“A complete act,” Greta said while nodding. “In truth, me and Link get along perfectly. We agreed long ago to be the ones to obtain father’s inheritance. It’s the younger two we don’t get along with. So me and Link pretend to hate each other, to work against each other, to prove ourselves to our father. Once he decides on one of us, for he will if we show ourselves greedy, we’ll share. It’s the younger two that are each individual and selfish.”

“Yes, it is. Boris and Francine are younger, and each pretend to be good. Each, though, is careful and plotting. They are cunning. They have their own plans, each, but only me and Greta are working together,” Link said.

“By pretending to hate each other?” Ruby asked.

“Exactly. Father admires ambition and strength. He’s greedy, himself, if you haven’t figured that out from last night’s plotting. If it seems like Greta and I are the most ambitious and at each other’s throats, he views that as strength. And since we are at odds with each other, not with father, he thinks we trust him as well. Completely, and utterly. He thinks each of us is greedy and just as terrible as him,” Link said.

“What an awful family,” Va’il said.

“A noble family, indeed,” Ruby said, and then sighed. “I shouldn’t be surprised. But then again, how is this related to the rest, and us?”

“Father sent us after you to see if you had overheard his plans. If not, we were to persuade you to come back. If so, we’re supposed to force you to come back. And he promised us rewards and a chance of being the sole inheritor if one of us succeeded over the other. It’s a competition. That’s what he thinks. What he doesn’t know is that we pretend to obey him. In truth, we want to help you get away. Grip has complete control over Grizz, and all the nobles who own land are subjugated as well. They have been allowed to keep ruling as long as they tribute materially and with some servants from time to time. Additionally, there are rewards for capturing foreigners and delivering them to Grip. People from lands not yet conquered by Grip are used as slaves, hostages, bargaining chips, or converted into spies. And if they are noble, there are greater rewards based on their status. And, Ruby, father figured out your nobility from the very first moment. He’s been waiting to capture you since then, and was supposed to today.”

“And so, let me see, you’re going to help us get away,” Va’il said, slowly relaxing his guard.

“Exactly. Our competition with each other won’t really matter if you escape. We can make it up to father in other ways. It’s despicable, what he and Grip are doing. If we inherit the city, we can protect people,” Link said.

“Your father has no idea, you say? Are you sure?” Ruby asked.

“Yes, positive,” Greta said. “Our father may be greedy and a bit cunning, but not more than us. We made our pact long ago, at an age when our father wouldn’t have guessed our thoughts, and haven’t spoken with each other about it much since then, knowing we may be overheard. It’s an act that has required absolute confidence in each other for years, without actually confirming it. Many times, we fight for real since there is no way to confirm what the other thinks without being alone like this. To put siblings at odds like this is awful. But we did it, and well. We have his absolute confidence in our supposed goals and loyalties.”

“Supposing that’s all true, what now?” Va’il asked.

“We brought water and provisions, enough for you to survive a couple weeks on foot. Take them now. Also, here are two horses for you to take. And we shall travel with you to the next city. It’ll be a while, so our father will believe us when we say we followed as far as we could, and we can help you out at the next city. It’s a bit tough being foreign, after all. We’ll help you get stocked and show you the way to go,” Link said.

“What do you think, Va’il?” Ruby said. Va’il looked back at her and realized she believed them. Va’il nodded, believing the Laloo children as well. They took the bags and horses, and rode with the Laloo children for the rest of the day.

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The Lupine Saga 105

“Are you sure he will be here tomorrow?” the baron asked. Only a small candle lit the room, just enough for Va’il to see the outline of the baron and another person, one cloaked in all black.

“Yes. Just keep them here until the morning,” the man said.

“And my reward?”

“A standard one. Two for the girl, half for the boy. If they are as you originally said,” the man said.

“I need to revise it. I was sure she was of good birth before. But I judged her status wrong. She is above the status of a marquis, that I’m relatively sure of. That must make her worth ten times that amount. The boy is just a Rising commoner, so that’s fine,” the baron said.

“Did you confirm she is noble? Did you check her ring?” the man asked.

“A ring? I cannot recall. She may have had one on her left hand. I don’t know. But I’ve spoken with her. Though I pretended to be a bit uneducated, she exceeded what I thought a child of Rising should know. Unless you can say that the education they provide is at such a level that even common children over there can exceed the rest of the world’s nobles, then I have no choice but to believe she is special. Well?”

“It’s possible. Provide me with her description. I will pass it along to Gardos. He will make the final decision tomorrow. If your description matches who he is looking for, even twenty times may not be enough. A hundred or more, if it is who he is looking for.”

“A hundred? That’s incredible! No longer will I be stuck as a measly baron! I’ll soon be in the palace itself! And of course, only under the wondrous hand of Grip!”

Va’il rushed off as silently as possible. His heart felt as if it were about to knock down every wall in the house. But most of all, his feelings were hurt beyond repair. He wanted to cry at the outright betrayal, but didn’t have time for it.

“Ruby, wake up,” Va’il whispered into Ruby’s ear.

“Tickles,” Ruby mumbled.

“Ruby,” Va’il whispered, “wake up. But be very quiet. Wake up, but listen to me without speaking. We have to go. We have to go now. Very, very quietly. Please trust me for now, and I’ll explain later. We have to go, now!”

“Understood,” Ruby said quietly. She looked at Va’il with sleepy eyes, watching the silver eyes filled with panic. His words sunk in, prompting her to move swiftly. She put on her shoes and slung a bag over her shoulder. Va’il also held onto a bag, and together they exited though the large front door without making too much noise.

Sendes, the blue moon, was directly overheard and provided enough light for the teens to see the majority of the town. They took the main road north, out of the city. Far to the south was Derlik’s house, but Va’il had already made the decision to not return. They moved quickly until they were out of the city, and started walking once out.

“What’s this about, Va’il?” Ruby asked.

“I don’t know how, but they knew we are from Rising,” Va’il said.

“And what about it? Sure, we hid it, but is it really that bad?”

“Gardos, remember that name?”

“That villain, how could I forget such an incident?”

“And Mister Laloo knows him as well. I overheard him talking with a man in black, a human man, about a price for you and I, about you being a noble, and that Gardos was coming tomorrow.”

“No, wait,” Ruby said, and then she stopped walking. “Is that everything?”

“That’s about all I heard.”

“But why? Why is he betraying us? Why does it matter that we’re from Rising?”

“Ruby, we still don’t know why we were taken from Rising in the first place! Whatever reason there is, it doesn’t matter now. I think I heard more. Something about a reward, and raising Mister Laloo’s rank. And something even worse, too.”

“Greed? A terrible reason to betray children! But one that happens all too often. Fine, we were tricked into believing that baron was good! I should have known better! Mother always said those with the worst intentions were those with the most eager smile. She knew that best of all, of course. What was the worse thing you heard?”

“About Gardos looking for a particular person, and that you might fit the description. They asked about a noble ring, the one on your left hand. Mr. Laloo didn’t remember if you had one on, but I know you do, turned inwards. And a hundred-fold reward for the person that fit the description of the noble they are looking for. What do you think, Ruby?”

“Coincidences can be weird. I doubt this is one of them. No wonder. No wonder, indeed. Va’il, I’m going to say something frightening.”

“Isn’t this all?”

“Derlik. The reasons are still hidden, but what if this all is part of the same plot? What if our encounter with Gardos years ago has something to do with Derlik? What if, terrible as it could be, that those people have some influence in Rising?”

“Rising, under the hand of Grip?” Va’il asked, musing aloud part of the conversation he had overheard.

“Grip? Did you say Grip? Where did you hear that?” Ruby asked, her voice filled with panic.

“Mister Laloo mentioned it. He said something about being under the hand of Grip.”

“Grip spies. Infiltrators! Planting people in the nation in the aftermath of Fidel’s passing! Of course! Of course! Va’il, it’s terrible! I don’t know what you know of Grip, but it’s bad if they are involved. Wait, it’s even worse than we thought. If Grip already has control over the baron, then it might be that all of Grizz is already in their hands! I heard about the expansions they had been doing, but didn’t think it would matter. If their influence has extended even to the hidden places in Rising, then the country is in trouble! How many other nations have fallen without us knowing?”

“Ruby, what’s Grip?”

“The nation on the eastern side of the continent. Just as Rising is on the west side, Grip is on the east. Just like Rising is ruled by a human, so is Grip. But that’s all for the similarities. Grip is militaristic, and has been the source of a few conflicts. It has its own internal struggles, so it’s usually been dealing with those instead of conquering other nations. But they still try. They are run by a different ethos, and look at the world differently. Rising’s main feature, unique among the nations, is the blended populace. Sure, there are different species everywhere, some blending into one nation or another at times, but only Rising is where you will find that no one group is the majority. Every species is there, and has a place.

“Discrimination against the others exists, but isn’t very pronounced for the most part. We live in an open nation, Va’il. One that allowed you and Zeick to be born. No other nation has that kind of intermingling. Grizz is all bearan, you’ve seen that. As with the hare lands, the swine lands, even the bovine lands. Those nations are all very uniform. And Grip is different. It’s one of the all human nations. But unlike the others, they don’t tolerate the other species the same way.”

“So is Grip only humans, and no one else?” Va’il asked, worried at what he was hearing.

“In the actual area that makes up the main nation, yes. However, they do conquer other nations. But those nations are taken for land and labor and subservience. Grip believes that humans are the only ones with the right to rule, and that all other species must be under human subjection. Every other species is lower. Anyone that is conquered is still kept separate from the human population. That’s why all these connections I’m now seeing are so terrible. They are the exact opposite of Rising.

“That also means Rising and Grip have been at odds with each other for a long time. Rising’s kings have usually opposed Grip, and helped other nations out when Grip made aggressive moves. And so, for agents of Grip to have such an influence in Rising, I can only fear what may happen. If it was due to Grip’s influence that you and I were, for some reason I can’t figure out yet, supposed to be killed, then there must be some terrible plot.”

“We’re going back,” Va’il said.

“Of course. Do you mean now?”

“Yes. I figured it out earlier that we needed to go back. We’ve been living too easily the past months. We got used to it, complacent, comfortable. I realized we should have left before. Ironic, that I’d notice at the same time we are forced to leave.”

“No one could have known. These things, these discoveries and assumptions, you couldn’t have known. I still don’t know if I’m right, or just guessing. I’m ready too. We should head back home, no matter what awaits us.”

“It’s going to be tough,” Va’il said. Ruby nodded, and then started walking. They walked for another hour, and then turned off the road. Once they were far away from the road, they slept uncomfortably.

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The Lupine Saga 104

The night had ended pleasantly, and Va’il and Ruby slept in the large main room by the fire. The baron had offered them rooms to sleep in, but they refused, citing what they were used to normally. They had also slept this way the first time they had stayed over at the baron’s, though at that time it was only the children who had been present. Never did Va’il and Ruby ask about Missus Laloo. As she was never seen, the two of them knew not to ask prying questions.

“Hey Va’il, are you asleep?” Ruby asked.

“No. I won’t sleep before you. Just go to sleep for now, Ruby,” Va’il said. He yawned afterwards, damaging his credibility.

“I just wanted to tell you something. But you cannot tell anyone else. And don’t think about it too much! It’s just for while we travel, so you need to be one. You’re a lupus, partly, anyways, so that’s why you should be one as well.”

“I don’t get it. What do you want to say?”

“You’re my chevalier. It means knight, guardian. The person that protects me. I know I’m a selfish and willful girl. I know we’re both out of our comfort zone in this country. But I want you to know that you’re the one I’ll have to look to when I’m in trouble. I’m weak. I don’t want to burden you. But this is what I think of you. I don’t know if that’s placing too much on you,” Ruby said. Her voice trailed off a times, but Va’il’s sharp ears didn’t miss anything.

“That’s what it means? A knight, huh? I guess so, in the crudest way. Don’t worry, Ruby. I’ll be here for you until we return.”

“Thank you, my lupine chevalier. If only it were longer,” Ruby said, though she assumed Va’il could only hear the first sentence. Ruby trailed off with the second, and was soon in a blissful world of slumber.

Va’il wondered what he should do. He was stuck in Grizz without much of a plan, and he knew it. But as much as that bothered him, he couldn’t think of the answer just yet. And he didn’t want to, not when he was being cared for by so many people.

Va’il discarded his thoughts, one by one, as each minute that passed told him that sleep was coming soon. A final thought occurred to him: why did Ruby place so much trust in him, even going so far as to call him her knight? He felt warm at the thought, but couldn’t describe the feeling. He knew he could do it, but couldn’t describe why. All he knew was that he must protect her until she returned to the place where she belonged. That was his duty for now. One he wished he wouldn’t fail at.

Va’il drifted to sleep, his mind eventually coming to peace with his circumstances. All thoughts of either distrust, puzzlement, or guardianship dispersed as he embraced the sweet relaxant that came with sleep.

Va’il awoke, but he didn’t know how many hours had passed. It was still dark, though the embers from the fire told him that it was only recently that the fire had died. He had awoken due to the call of nature, instigated by the large amount of water he had drunk so soon before bed. But that wasn’t the only think that had awaken him. His ears were perked; he had heard something that had triggered his subconscious mind.

Va’il’s nose was keen, and there was something strange, but unidentifiable, in the air. It was familiar, something he had smelled earlier in the night, but wasn’t something he could identify right now. As much as that and his bristled fur troubled him, the pain in his bladder was a more urgent concern.

He avoided making a single sound while making his way to the washroom closet. He mainly avoided disturbing others, but part of him didn’t want to be discovered awake at all. He relieved himself with as little noise as possible, not enough that a bearan would notice, and then left the small room. He was about to make his way back to the main room, but he heard voices in the distance. He told himself not to pry, to return to his bed and sleep the rest of the night away. He told himself to ignore it and return to his bed, where he could spend another day without worry as he adjusted to his surroundings. And then his thoughts turned on him.

“What are you thinking?” Va’il asked himself, his thoughts suddenly stirred and unquenchable, the lupus in him waking and taking control. “How many months have I spent in this foreign town? I’ve been waiting and waiting, and have become accustomed to it! Why aren’t we gone? Why didn’t I go back right away? I was concerned for Ruby, right? Idiot! She can take care of herself, or at least you can assist her. Do you think she’s alone? The noble girl, and you were afraid for her, thinking that together you wouldn’t be able to fend off the secret attacks of an unknown foe? If she were to stay with her overbearing mother, she’d still be safe, even if unhappy! What have you done? Where did your will go? Have you forgotten what peace you fought to achieve? And now that something is obviously going wrong, you ignore it and seek safety for yourself and a friend you love? Just like a scared avian fleeing, remember the regrets of one who doesn’t fight. I’m a fool, I’m no one. I’m just a pathetic half who cannot save himself, cannot save the girl who trusts me. Maybe the kids back then were right. Why did I fight to keep myself relevant? Why didn’t I retreat? Because you’re not just a fool; you’re a great big fool who cannot see beyond the here and now. And that was great at times. But now, you need to look at what’s more important. Do I see where this is going? Get out of here, go home, and fight, tooth and claw, against anyone that tells you to leave. Rising is your home! You are the son of Fidel, the great king! I need to go back!”

Va’il couldn’t move. His own thoughts told him of truths and questions he didn’t think of and couldn’t have answered before. He counted the months since he had left Rising, and realized that he shouldn’t have let a single day go by, let alone the months and the seasons, before his attempt to return. He had been overly concerned for Ruby, against her own wishes, without realizing just how overbearing it was. She had been willing to take the risk to her life. Frail human that she was, possibly the target of a greater hatred, she had still been determined to return. Va’il realized that even back then, Ruby must have acknowledged him as her chevalier. As such, she let him take her away, to a land where no one knew them.

He internally laughed as his own foolishness. The past year had been one where he calmed down much more from his younger years. Life had become easier in Rising. And then with his move to Grizz, things had become different, but simpler. He had grown accustomed to things becoming easier ever since Fidel’s death, but only now could he realize that only made things worse.

“I’m not that much different compared to a while ago. I’m still that child. I need to move forward with my gut, not resting on my paws. I’m far more lupus than human. I take after Mum, not dad. The man who I thought loved someone so much he abandoned them. Mum wouldn’t, a lupus wouldn’t. I’m not like him, I shouldn’t prioritize what’s easy over the pursuits of happiness and what is right,” Va’il thought. He grinned, and smiled widely into the darkness. He made up his mind. Tomorrow, they would pursue the path of hardship.

A voice in the distance interrupted Va’il’s thoughts. He heard another voice, what sounded like a whisper in the distance. He again considered ignoring it, but his renewed determination told him to plunge headfirst into everything, even if it would cause a problem later. His curiosity took over, and he silently made his way to the source of the voices.

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Tomorrow’s post starts the next arc with the start of the new year

How fitting, that tomorrow’s post lines up with the start of a new year. Last week the teens Va’il and Ruby were having a good time at the manor with friends and a friendly city lord.

But as stated before that started, they are not going to see Derlik’s family again. It won’t be revealed why in tomorrow’s post, but everything is now in motion. And so, though it is more a set of events within the larger arcs, the next arc will be called the escape arc. And  one character comes to a realization that the escape arc should’ve happened sooner.

For though the exact days aren’t spelled out, a lot of time has passed. The year on Fervi is similar to Earthtime, 7 days a week, 30 days a month, 12 months a year, 360 days, which aren’t exactly 24 earth hours, but close. There are also 4 seasons, and being north of the planets equator, follow similar patterns of Winter Spring Summer Fall like the northern Earth hemisphere follows.

And Summer is when their schooling at Makeen was to start, when Derlik took them away a day or two before school began. It was still Summer when Va’il and Ruby met Derlik’s family. It’s now Spring or the very end of Winter. Fall and Winter have barely been mentioned as part of the story for good reason: Not much happened during the cold months other than the teens going about their work. And, the cold that comes with Winter didn’t seem ideal for travelling across the continent.

So much time has passed that they’ve almost grown complacent. Off-guard even. They haven’t made much progress. Not many have. Because many months have passed with no action.

Tomorrow, that changes. And the stagnation lifts. The escape arc begins.

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