“That’s it! That’s it. I’m done, through. I’ve had enough.”
“Done!? Nem, we’ve barely started,” he let his hand fall to the table, “Besides, they won’t let us turn back. You know this.”
His companion shuttered, her face still held away from him, her expression unreadable. Her hair was cropped short with slight waves as if it were an auburn ocean. It framed her narrow face wonderfully giving her an elegantly young look. Many mistook her age with her bright eyes and impossibly smooth skin, like glass it was. When she smiled, her beauty was amplified leaving Varen’ka breathless.
In their close, dark room with a dying candle as their only source of light, Varen’ka saw none of that beauty now. An agitated sigh escaped her lips as she turned briefly towards him. A scowl was set rigidly on her face. She finally sat down across from him with her slender arms crossed.
Her sparking green eyes moved to meet his, holding his gaze with iron shackles, “You said we would be done with this. That we could leave and forget all of this. Leave it all behind as if it never had happened. To live…” she paused searching for the right words, “To live normally, Varen’ka.”
The word sounded foreign falling from her lips and he knew it felt foreign to her. They had been alienated for so long, having to live in constant isolation. From their own and from others. They weren’t safe from friend or foe. Indeed, he had promised Nem after their last expedition that they would have no more to do with them. Fortune did not favor him and his companion, however. Upon completing their duties they were immediately identified as trespassers and traitors. It was sheer luck and wit that helped Varen’ka speed himself and Nem from prison and from certain destruction. There would be no peace until they got to the bottom of this. Which was what he was attempting to convince Nem of and she wasn’t accepting any of it.
“I just don’t understand,” she muttered, her head slumping onto her chest, “How can we be traitors?”
Varen’ka shook his head, his black shaggy hair getting tangled in his lashes. He blinked not only to remove the hair but to clear his mind. So much had happened within the last week that it was near overwhelming. Their captors were closing in, too. Even so, he would not tell Nem that he had seen a band of hunters two nights ago not a mile from their present hiding place. By dusk tonight, they would not miss searching this place and revealing him and Nem. No, he had to get Nem out and fast.
“Nem,” he pressed his fingers gently under her chin and pulled her face back up, “If they find us, then we are done. We must keep on the move until we derive a better plan. There is nothing for us, anyways. We must leave.”
For a moment, her eyes remained blank, the thoughts behind them hooded. There were no windows in their room, though the late afternoon sounds of birds and animal calls still reached their ears. The occasional band of men moving from town to town could also be heard even though the road was two miles from here. Foresters, Varen’ka had guessed, keeping the towns safe.
Finally, Nem nodded. It was more of a slight inclination of her head. She swept up her few possessions and returned them to her pack without one word. She was frustrated, Varen’ka understood, but it was not him. Oshinae still held too many memories for her, too many feelings that could not be discarded after so many devote years. It would not be easy, but it was a journey they had to make.
As they crept out of their hiding place and moved easily through the woods, Nem stopped shortly and turned back to him. Her face was again gentle, the anger that had distorted her features breathed away with the wind. She held her palm against his cheek, her eyes searching his with warmth.
Varen’ka sat up choking with spasms raking his entire body as great pools of cold water filtered out of his mouth. His body was tensed, his muscles pulled in knots. His leg was bleeding freely mixing with the mud that clung to him. He hardly noticed. He only needed air, precious air to dispel the horrible, heavy feeling inside his torso. He clutched desperately at the mud and dragged himself up the shore. His memory of Nem swam before his eyes before he again passed out.