Bhar’s house was proof of his status among Outcasts. Rather than a simple lean-to or sleeping in the trees, he had built himself a real house. He had told me once how. He had watched the beavers build a dam, with sticks and mud.
“So I thought, I’m more clever than the beaver. I can take what they have made and make it better.”
His house was thick and warm, built to last him his life. And it did, in a twisted sense.
I crept near to it, placing a hand on the rough exterior. Dried mud and rough bark pressed against my hand. I straightened slightly, peering into a window from the side. It was silent and dark inside.
The memories of what had happened were hazy from the drug, but vivid in feeling. They had burst through the thick wooden door and driven a sword through Bhar’s ribs. He slumped forward, blood barely having time to spread before he’d died.
I couldn’t take a weapon. They took be by my arms and tied me to a chair, force-feeding me narcotics until I felt elated and dreamy. It all blurred together after that until I had collapsed at Alahn’s feet. That, I decided, would be the third of my goals.
The first was to retrieve my bow and arrows. This was the most important, although there seemed to be little real logic behind it. Of course it was logical to have decent weapons, but it didn’t seem worth risking my skin again.
The second reason was to avenge Bhar. Perhaps he had not made life easy, but he had given me the chance at life in the first place. He was no great and noble sir, but he deserved this much.
Finally, to find why they had let her live. To drug her and then let her wander off.
I gripped the knife and contemplated what to do. The door was loud and heavy. To open it would alert them to my entry, no matter how covert I tried to be. If I had my bow now… but that was a pointless path. The windows didn’t open, and I could never saw through the mud and twigs silently before the sunrise.
That left the chimney.
This had by far been Bhar’s proudest accomplishment. Fire was a necessary tool, Elite or Outcast. A chimney to him seemed a sign of prominence. His way of showing the Elites that he might have been cast out of society, but he would not give them the satisfaction of taking society away from him.
I circled the large hut silently and then tucked my dagger in the folds of my tunic. Carefully, I began searching for hand and footholds in the rough exterior of the house. Bhar had made it as smooth as he could, save for a few covert places in case of some occasion where sneaking into his own house was necessary.
With painstaking slowness, I made my way to the top. It was a domed sort of building, with a gentle enough curvature that one could easily stand and move around once high enough. It was sturdily built, and would collapse under the weight of a two and ten year old.
I reached out and took the edges of the chimney in my hands. It was made of clay from the river, supported with long tree limbs and large stones. I slowly eased myself inside. The clay was cold under my fingers. Had the fire died out so quickly?
By now I was very on edge. I climbed down the chimney as quickly as the space would allow, my boots landing with a very soft thunk on the stone and charred bits of wood below. I ducked out of the chimney, knife at the ready.
And quickly stumbled back into the wall.
“Blood. Blood shall water the Sycamores.” I murmured. It was written, in dark red blood, across the mud-packed wall. Below it was pile of mutilated bodies, stabbed and sliced. A single bloody knife was in front of them, like a gruesome alter.
I had done this.
The memories came back with such force that they shattered anything else in my mind. Fury and fear. A pounding fear. A pool of dried blood discolored the dirt floor, stretching from one wall of Sycamore wood to another.
Blood shall water the Sycamores.
* * * * *
I snatched the bow and quiver of arrows and kicked the door open. I had to get out. The smell of blood, metallic and sharp, stung my nostrils.
It wasn’t you that did that, I thought sternly. You would never give a dishonorable death, such ruthless, pointless mass murder. It was the drug.
That wasn’t me, I thought. And if it was… then I need to be someone new.
Anyone who has been in a panic knows the feeling. Your mind whirls and nothing is logic. You cling to sudden thoughts, always random and sometimes pointless. But you cling to them and you see the truth in them, even if there is none. That night, the truth I clung to was becoming someone else. Anyone else. Not ‘Girl’. Not Outcast. Not Crest. Not any of the names I had ever made up for myself or have given to me.
My throat began to close up. I drew an arrow from my quiver and nocked it in the blink of an eye. I twisted my body, drawing back the string with my left hand. The arrow flew and landing in a tree.
I wouldn’t be able to get it out without damaging the arrow. But it cleared my mind. It was worth the minor sacrifice.
“Panic is pointless,” Bhar said. “Do what it takes to clear your mind. You’ll make an even bigger mistake otherwise.”
I shouldered the bow and took off running.