“We found some water, Gabbie. Come on. Get up.”
Gabbie blearily opened her eyes and yawned. She used the surface of a rock she was sleeping against to levy herself to a standing position.
Silverskin, Digitalis, and Gabbie had been walking for almost three days. Because they dropped their packs when scurrying away from the Bull fists, the only food and water they could rely on were the provisions left with Silverskin. No matter how frugal they were there was no way they could stretch what Silverskin had between three people. After they had walked along the canyon in search of their friends and another way across the three decided the best course of action was to find Crat.
Easier said than done.
Although the three’s physical injuries were mysteriously healed completely through, Silverskin and Gabbie were drained. Just taking a few steps depleted their store of energy. A cold sweat would gather around their brow and they would both lean against Digitalis for support. The first day passed and then the second. Now their only goal was to find food and water.
“Where did you find the water?” Gabbie yawned again. She was still half asleep and half inside of a comforting dream—a dream were there were a pair of strong, warm arms holding her and keeping her safe.
“There’s a lake about ten minutes away,” Digitalis said. She jabbed a thumb in the direction she came from. “There might be some berries, too. I recognize them from Pottestown, and you know how we like our berries.”
“Right. Berry picking day, I assume?” Silverskin asked. He had also been sleeping before Digitalis came back from staking out the area. They had long left the forest behind them as they continued northeast. They hadn’t encountered anyone on their trek. No people and no animals. They kept on their guard and listened, refusing to be led into another trap.
“You may think making a day for picking different kinds of berries funny, but when you’ve lived for hundreds and hundreds of years, you need something to look forward to.” Digitalis helped Silverskin up. “Especially when we use the berries for cakes, tortes, milkshakes, and teas. You end up being a jack of all trades when you’re a Lived Being.”
“Okay, then what was your favorite day?” Gabbie asked. The two children followed behind Digitalis.
“Hmm, I’d have to say Running Day.” The young woman smacked a fist into her palm. “There’d be races all day to test your sprinting speed and endurance. I’m proud to say that I won each and every race.” She puffed out her chest. “I was faster than even Long Legged Lyel.”
“All that talk of running is making me thirsty,” Silverskin mused. “Are we getting closer to that lake?”
“Just and little further and, ah. Here we are!”
Gabbie trotted over to what Digitalis called a lake. It resembled a puddle more than anything, but she assumed that the Lived Being was trying to be positive. Gabbie collected herself and bent down to cup the murky water with her palms. She never thought that she’d be so thirsty that she’d resort to drinking muddy water.
“I tried some of the water myself,” Digitalis said when Silverskin gave her a dubious sidelong glance. “And I’m still walking, aren’t I?”
“You have to do what you have to do,” Gabbie sighed while shrugging. She let the cold water touch her dried lips. The grainy pieces floating on the top of the water hit the back of her throat and she coughed. “Just like Mom used to make,” she laughed after catching her breath.
“You three!” A voice barked from their right.
Gabbie already had her throwing knives secured within her grip. Digitalis brandished her wooden spoon. Silverskin conjured wisped of wind. The three positioned themselves to face the threat.
“Lower your weapons,” a man said. He was dressed in soft leather armor with a sword tied to his belt. His three fingered hands were held up in the universal sign of ‘I’m not going to hurt you.’
“Guys, he said he won’t hurt us,” Gabbie murmured.
“I know the Glyph language,” Digitalis said, “But that doesn’t mean I’ll believe him.”
“I promise you that we mean you no harm.” The man had a face that was smooth and angular much like a barn owl’s. His long, graceful neck moved when he gestured for others to come out. “See? These five here are part of the search party. We’re here to help you.”
“Search party? Help?” Silverskin reluctantly lowered his hands. “Who sent you?”
“We’re employed by Grawr of Night Mare Inn. Yesterday four outsiders came to the city of Crat asking for our aide in locating their friends.”
“My sister and brother!” Gabbie put away her knives. “Was there anyone named Ginger or Zane in that group?”
“Yes,” the handsome man affirmed. The silver tufts of feathers on either side of his head perked up. “Zane, Lila, a Mr. Glue Pot, and Perceval.”
“Zane and Lila…” Gabbie felt a tiny weight fall away from her shoulders.
“We are to take you to Queen Inana directly,” another guard said.
“Straight to the Queen?!” Silverskin cheered. “Perfect!”
“Hold on,” Digitalis said. She still held up her spoon. “This seems to be a bit too good to be true. What proof do you have that you’re not going to hurt us or take advantage of the situation?”
“We have none other than our word.” The first man pulled out a rolled up piece of familiar sketching paper. “And this note from Master Zane.”
The man held out the scroll tied with a piece of fabric that looked like a scrap of Lila’s tunic. Digitalis inclined her head. Gabbie took that as a cue to take the proffered note.
“It says that Zane, Lila, Glue Pot, and Perceval are fine. They couldn’t find Alastair, Tipper, or Ginger but there’s more search parties out to get them to the Queen.” Gabbie waved the paper in the air. “Perfect!”