157) The Salvation of Eden: Chapter 3 — Pee (Part 1)

         Walking as quickly as she dared, head down, staring fixedly at the ground, she prayed that she looked inconspicuous. The South Gate wasn’t far. Her heart pounded. Her knees shook. One foot after the other. One foot after the other. All she knew was that right now, more than anything, she needed to hide.

         “Spare change spare change spare change spare change,” the homeless woman on the little wooden platform who always sat by the Gate, intoned as she passed. Kohra didn’t make eye contact or give her usual smile.

         Not today. Please please please nobody notice me.

         Where should I go? I need a plan. I need to get somewhere safe.

         What do they even want me for? The Guard? Me?

         Maybe they just wanted to ask me some questions? But about what? What could I possibly know that would be relevant to the Guard?

         Yeah, what the hells? I can’t be in any kind of real trouble.  Maybe I just got freaked because of that parrot.

         No.  That many Guard?  For me??

         Staying off the road, she snuck down footpaths through the woods. She knew this area well, after years of rambling around in here with Dominic. After about twenty minutes, the little forest ended, opening into cornfields. She cut straight through them, listening to their rustling in the breezes that blew across the field. In summers past, when she wanted to get away from everything, she used to come and sit in these cornfields, reading and enjoying the constant rustling that blocked out all other noises. She always felt protected here, like she was in a magical sound-cocoon.

         The river wasn’t much farther, and there were trails that would take her all the way to the woods behind her house.

         Going home was most certainly not a good idea. It was the most likely place they’d look once they gave up their wild goose chase. But going anywhere else seemed just as bad. All she needed was for one person to see her. At least she could check her house from a distance; maybe she could find a way to signal her mom, or Col.

         I have to find out what’s going on.

* * * * *

         It was dark before she approached the house, stealing across the back field and coming in from the rear. She stopped at the outer ring of apple trees, pressing her body tight against a trunk.

         Voices, angry, arguing, echoed from the direction of the house. One was her mother’s; she was upset, but it was impossible to make out any words.

         Four warhorses similar to those she had seen at the market stood in front of the house. She couldn’t see any of the Guard but assumed they were around the corner by the door.

         Something splashed on the next tree beside hers.


         They saw each other in the same instant, him casually peeing on the tree, her paralyzed by surprise. For a brief moment, neither of them moved or made a sound. Except for the splashing.

         “Girl! Stop!” he managed to shout, fumbling with himself as he stumbled toward her.

         She had plenty of time. She could have dodged. Or run. Or kicked him in the shins. Or said “Hey look!” and pointed at the sky. Or…anything! But she simply watched, terrified, as he drew his sword and approached.

         Without a sound, a second figure, all in black, stepped out of the shadows, and a solid hunk of firewood smashed into the side of the Guard’s head, spinning him right off his feet, his body thudding to the ground.

         She tried to swallow. Tried to breathe. Tried to do anything. The black-clad figure turned towards her, dropping the wood and pulling off his mask. “Kohra! It’s me!”

         She stared, disbelieving what was right in front of her. He snapped his fingers in her face. “Kohra?”

         “D-Dominic?” she sputtered. None of this was making sense. “Where did you—?”

         A whistle blast interrupted her. The Guard, head covered in blood, somehow still conscious, was now blowing his whistle as loud as he could. Which was pretty loud, considering.

         Dominic was already moving.

         “No!” she shouted, but it was too late. A sickening crack. A second, smushy thud. The whistling stopped.

She didn’t look.

         Shouts from the house.

         Kohra turned to see her mom and Colwyn,standing with three burly guards, fully armed, one of them carrying a net.

         A net? Seriously?

         This was “that moment” when Kohra’s life changed forever, the turning point after which nothing would ever be the same again. It’s a moment you cannot predict, anticipate or prepare for. It just happens when it happens.

         Her mother screamed, “Kohra RUNNN!!” One of the Guard tried to clamp his hand over her mouth, but her brother slugged him, right in the face, and the man stumbled backward.

         Good shot, Col.

         Dominic grabbed her cheeks in both of his hands. “Look at me Kohra! Look at me! You have to run! They have horses! Go!!”

         He pushed her into the field and she stumbled uncertainly into the darkness. Where do I go? I can’t leave! I can’t….

         “Kohra, RUN!”


         Hoofbeats. Shouts.

         Dominic’s voice cut through. “Wax cave, Kohra! Wax cave!!”

         Her body lurched of its own accord across the field in sheer panic, staggering, tripping, then lurching forward again. She didn’t look back, not even once, until she was past the treeline. Which was good, because otherwise she might not have made it.

         But she didn’t see her mom struck down by a gauntleted fist, didn’t see the blade flash and little Colwyn, fall to his knees. She didn’t see how quickly the two horsemen were closing the distance to her. She didn’t see their horses suddenly plough into the dirt, arrows in their necks. She didn’t see the Guard chasing Dominic through the apple trees.

         She just ran.

         Pounding terror, heart racing as fast as her feet, she tore recklessly through the forest, down a footpath that led back toward town, finally ducking off at the entrance to the “secret spring,” where she stopped, bent over, hands on her knees, chest heaving as though it was trying to inhale all the worlds.

         As best as she could over her own ragged gasping, she listened, straining to hear sounds of pursuit or…anything at all. 


         It seemed impossible.  Had nobody seen her run across the field?  Did none of them know how to track? 

         She shivered with sudden horror.

         Maybe they’re already here.

         Her eyes darted from tree to tree. A snap behind her. She whirled, expecting the Guard, a blade, a net.

         But, nothing. Darkness and trees. She wanted to break down, to collapse, to hide under a bush until Everything Was Ok.

         But she couldn’t allow herself to succumb to fear. Not right now. She had to go back! She had to help her mom! She could sneak back, be more careful this time. She could….

         Hands shaking, she scooped some water from the spring. The little hole in the ground, not two feet wide, brimmed with perfect, pure water. She was pretty sure only she and Col and Dom, out of all the people in Anthor, maybe even all Eden, knew about this place. She splashed water on her face. Then scooped more to drink.

         It helped. She was thinking a little more clearly. She knew she couldn’t go back. Her mom had been so desperate for her to run, to get away, she couldn’t go back now and make it all for nothing.

         But she also needed to know what was going on. And she had no other place to go.

         Her dad? No, surely the Guard would be at his place as well. She hoped he was still ok.

         And Dominic! Where had he come from? Why was he at her house?      

         He’d saved her, and she didn’t even know if he had gotten away.

         She remembered him yelling about wax. The cave! Yes! “Wax cave.” That made sense. It was only a few hours’ walk from here.

         She breathed a silent “thank you” to the Flux. He’d meet her at the cave. She had to believe that.

         If anyone can get away from the Guard, it’s Dom.

         Kneeling on the mossy ground, one hand on either side of the spring, she lowered her mouth to the water, drinking deeply, pausing for air, then drinking more, as much as she could. She had no means of carrying any with her, woefully unprepared for an extended hike. She didn’t even have shoes! Her mother always told her to wear shoes when she went out, especially to the market, but Kohra always resisted, “No, no, I like bare feet.” She rubbed her feet gingerly, feeling the cuts from her mad sprint. Well, now she was going to pay for it.

         Gingerly, she stood, wincing.  She listened one more time, straining into the silence.  Still nothing.

         Fighting back tears, Kohra set her eyes determinedly on the path ahead of her.  This was going to be a long walk.

         “Well, ready or not, here I come.”

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