The Chimeran hunters meet to discuss plans for the upcoming battle.
“So your largest source of food was mostly unguarded?”
“That’s not even close to what I said, jackass.”
Safiena and Nayila both had to close their eyes and sigh. We were not even far enough away from my mother’s house for the voices of my siblings to have faded and Fayne and I were, already, butting heads again. Storm put his hand on my shoulder in an attempt to keep me relatively calm.
“I mean, they haven’t seen that area of the coast,” Storm said, trying to be reasonable. Fayne sighed, and looked up.
“I mean, there were no defenses where we came.”
I growled. “And you think we have the means to have better defenses through the whole coast at the moment? We’ve been barely scraping by keeping together, we’re not about to spread out our defenses.”
“That’s why we’re going to try to help, Fayne,” Safiena said, her voice sounding airy as if she she was exhausted. “I know what you’re about to say. You’re about to point out that this is your way of trying to help. But it’s not helping until we have more resources.”
Fayne shook his head. Nayila looked around for something to distract us all. “I think we might all be irritable just because well… lack of food and all.”
“Well, that doesn’t really help our position at all,” Storm agreed. “But we’re no strangers to hunger.”
Fayne scoffed. “The Lassanian soldiers probably have enough food.”
“Fayne!” Safiena snapped, punching his arm. “Enough already!”
“What? I’m just stating the truth. I’m not trying to insult you guys. You saved my life.”
I looked down. “Unfortunately, I have to agree with Fayne. But don’t let that get you guys down. We do have our advantages.”
Fayne looked at me and narrowed his eyes. “Like what?”
“Constant hunting experience. Determination to not be tortured again. Determination to not see everyone we care about tortured again.”
“And knowledge of the dust,” Storm added, which Safiena and Nayila nodded at.
At the same time… I couldn’t help but think back to the amount of dust that flowed out of the Dungeon.
Did Lassania actually know more than us…? Had they, somehow, created it, even…?
We arrived at the Guard’s House and were immediately greeted by Red and his mate. Red looked like how Rune might if he were more muscular, and she had light yellow skin, white hair, gray eyes, and black wings and a black tail that matched the scales covering her arms and legs and her horns- which had almost completely been removed before we had escaped from the dungeon. However, her left wing… was a lot more torn than when I had last seen her. And her left arm was… missing.
I made eye contact with her, and gave a slight nod. “I’m glad you recovered, Quiver.”
“And you too,” Quiver said. She had a smile that seemed to pierce anything bad that happened to her. “I’m glad there are so many people ready to fight in this fight, even…” Quiver glanced at the elves, and her voice trailed off. She narrowed her eyes, and returned her gaze to Red, who put his arm around her shoulders.
“We appreciate you three being willing to fight alongside us,” Red said. Quiver nodded.
“It’s the least we could do,” Safiena said, returning the nod. “I’m just glad we’re in a state where we can do so. The dust got us pretty good when we got here.”
Quiver nodded, with an exasperated sigh. “That damn dust,” she said. “Worst thing about living here.”
At that point, I noticed that Snitch was sitting at the front of the room, watching everyone. He glanced at me and the others, but didn’t seem to remember what had happened with our mom. Either that, or he didn’t care. I wasn’t going to intentionally start anything, either. But I did get an urge to punch Fayne when I heard him say something loudly, before I even heard what he said.
“Hey, Snitch? Are there any plans yet?”
The guard house quieted down. Everyone was either eager to see Snitch’s response to Fayne, or hoping he would have an answer… some of them were looking away and pretending not to notice. Snitch looked up at the elves.
“Not yet. Wait for Sentinel to get here. He’s finalizing our plans.”
Fayne nodded. Safiena turned to me and whispered.
“This is the man who your mom punched earlier, right…?”
“I… he’s not going to hold that against us, right?”
I shook my head, narrowing my eyes at her. “If he did, it would prove very bad for all of us. I don’t think he’s that awful.” I glanced to make sure he wasn’t paying attention, and leaned in closer to Safiena when I was certain he wasn’t going to overhear. “He knows too well what happens to those who try to betray us to Lassania.”
Safiena nodded, a sudden understanding coming into her eyes. “I… I see. Did… you guys do anything to him…?”
“Other than refusing to call him anything but ‘Snitch’ and never being able to trust him again, no. Everything else that happened to him was Lassania’s doing.”
“And, can I ask what they-”
I put my hand up subtly to tell her to stop talking. Sentinel had walked in, and at that moment, that was more important than the past… especially when Torchlight and Dew walked in behind him carrying baskets of food.
“One piece of bread and one piece of meat per person,” Torchlight yelled out. “If you’re still hungry there are blackberries too, but we don’t have unlimited resources right now!”
As some people filed forward, I looked at the people who had gathered. I noticed that Bone, the man who had come with his mate from the coast, was there. Many other people were also gathered. I recognized all of them from the Dungeon, some more than others. However, people were staring at the elves, or trying to avoid even glancing at them.
New faces were uncommon, to say the least, and the elves were the only ones in the room who had not experienced the dungeon first-hand. It seemed like even the elves knew that, and knew just how much that set them apart from us. They seemed to be hanging back while the other Chimeras first got food, and then even when Storm, Red, Quiver, and I all urged them to come with, they seemed reluctant to take the food. It was beginning to irritate me. It didn’t matter how well-fed they had been before they came here. If they didn’t eat, they were going to succumb to starvation, possibly faster than any chimera.
As we all ate, Sentinel and Snitch were talking quietly. Meanwhile, Red and Fayne were talking a lot less quietly. I didn’t pay close attention to what they were saying, and I didn’t care too much until Red and Quiver mentioned wanting to move to the coast if it got liberated. Then, I started paying a little more attention.
“I’d like to help with the farming,” Quiver said. “Even if it’s just by being a guard.”
Fayne looked at Quiver’s missing arm, and I glared at him. He took the hint and said nothing.
“It would be best to have more people on the coast, anyway,” Storm said thoughtfully. “Not even just for the safety in numbers. It’s getting crowded in the Village, especially since some people want to have children, despite… how risky it is.”
Red nodded gravely. “A few months ago, Quiver and I thought she might be pregnant. We… don’t think that’s the case, though. Thankfully. We’re not ready to take care of a child yet…”
“That’s wise,” Safiena praised. “It’s not easy to raise a child.”
All of us chimeras were silent for a moment. “Especially not here,” Storm added.
“And that’s not even considering how hard it is for moms to… you know… survive.” I growled.
“Yeah.” Red glanced at me, and then looked at the ground. “Can I be really, really honest with you, Gray?”
“The day that Quiver told me she might be pregnant, I had a nightmare about… well, what happened to you the first time you were pregnant.”
I took a deep breath. The elves were all staring at me in surprise. Apparently, they had forgotten… or had they just not known... “I can’t say I blame you.”
“I sometimes get nightmares about that,” Storm admitted, smiling gently at Red. “It was terrifying. But, I mean… Mom saved Gray. Really, Mom’s saved Gray at least three times- and that’s only the times she’s saved her from the brink of death. She’s good at what she does, Red. If anything goes wrong, she’ll help.”
“And if she can’t?” Red’s eyes were intense, staring directly at Storm. He looked away. None of us really had an answer.
My mind, however, went to Valla for a second, and I wondered if, with her working with my mom, they would be able to help more people. I hoped so...