Oh, here we are again, and now for more Fortitude! The guys are almost free... but will they stay that way? This week's prompt inspiration was the phrase, "You and me both."
Fortitude Part 13
“We made it out!” Teddy said.
I clapped a hand over his mouth and whispered in his ear, “Not so loud.”
Teddy nodded, and I slowly moved my hand off his face.
“Loud bad.” Wildman glared at us. I gave him a narrow-eyed look in return. Did he think we were just going to forget his ability to talk? Go back to thinking he was a simple feral creature who was barely surviving?
“Don’t start that. We know you can talk.”
“Not here,” he hissed. Clouds finally hid the moon from view, hiding the terrain around the city in shadow. “Follow.”
Whenever possible I kept my steps in the same path as Wildman and Teddy, as I brought up the rear. We moved quickly, and quietly, but I kept throwing glances back over my shoulder. My heart had never stopped its rapid patter, the leap and then sneaking run out from shadow to shadow keeping my fear honed. Nevertheless, or escape still felt too easy.
I wasn’t thinking that the next night. Wildman was thin, which led me to think half-starved, but he was whipcord lean and tougher than both Teddy and me. He kept us moving, made us freeze hunched over and wait for endless minutes until my muscles screamed, and then without a signal I could tell, had us moving again. He refused to be drawn into more than the most basic of conversations, either. The only upside was that it didn’t rain again.
Our trek back to the city had taken far less time than our path out into the wild. On one hand, I was thankful to be heading back to the world I knew. On the other, there were things going on that, if what Anna said held even a shred of truth, endangered the citizens of the city for the benefit of the few.
I’d spent the few moments of respite Wildman allowed us thinking about Schvesla. I’d found his map, the key to bringing his machine back online—or so I’d thought. Not to mention the Dresfrei Codex. If the map hadn’t been to lead me to that document, so I could decipher the clues and ensure the machine would once again provide clean, free power to the city… what was it for?
What was I supposed to find? The people surviving outside the city? If Schvesla had known about them a hundred years before, then how had it been kept a secret all this time?
There were so many questions, and no real answers.
Stumbling to a half, Teddy slumped to the ground.
“Your tunnels. You go back to the city now. Stay inside.” Wildman gestured toward the yawning black mouth of the cavern entrance that would lead us home. He’d upheld his side of the bargain for us getting him free.
“Why don’t you come with us?” Teddy asked. “You can’t like it out here, not really.”
Wildman wrinkled up his nose. “City bad.” He turned and was gone, melting through the bushes without even rustling the leaves, before I could stop him.
“Well, damn.” I resisted the temptation to take a seat next to Teddy. Exhaustion dragged at my feet, and if I didn’t keep moving, I’d fall asleep immediately.
“Do you think we’ll see him again?” Teddy asked. “He didn’t even say goodbye.”
“I don’t know.” I did know he’d never come into the cities willingly. Not ours, and not Anna’s, either. Did I want to meet him again? That would mean I’d be beyond the walls, outside the city again. “If we do, at least we’ll be better prepared next time.”
Teddy held up a hand, and I reached down, pulling him back to his feet. He groaned. “I’m going to sleep for days when we get home.”
“You’ll have to stay with me. My parents don’t care, but you know your dad will freak out if he sees you in this condition. We don’t need any scrutiny from anyone right now.” Besides, I wasn’t ready for Teddy to go home yet. It’d been years since we spent so much time together, and I found I’d missed it, greatly. “I told them we were doing a city-wide scavenger hunt for parts for something I was making. They’ll just assume we’ve been out doing that or holed up in my study.”
“You’re going to try and find out if what Anna said is true, aren’t you?” Teddy asked. I gestured for him to turn around so I could get the lantern out of his pack.
“I think we have to.”
“We?” Teddy snorted. “I wasn’t any help on this journey, I even got captured! How am I going to help you find out if the nobles are really corrupt like Anna claimed?”
“Stop devaluing yourself. You have skills, Teddy. Your mind sees things in ways mine doesn’t, and you know people.” I’d spent most of my youth alienating those around me in a bid for power, and not caring one whit as long as it meant I’d achieve my goals. “If there is a way to turn on Schvesla’s machine, we have to find it, and expose the nobles for who they are. The citizens deserve to know the truth.”
I was able to believe the nobles were guilty, if only because I’d been so like them in my own quest for greatness. Only Teddy remained my friend. I grabbed the lantern and imagined it bursting into flame. My power rolled outward, and the wick caught, glowing a dim blue. I’d wait until we were under the walls to turn it up higher.
“Ready?” I asked.
Teddy shook his head. “I’m scared, Will,” he said in a shaky voice.
“You and me both. But we’ll stick together, right?”
He took a deep breath and let it out. “Right.” I held out the hand not carrying the lantern, and Teddy took it.
“We’ll do it together.”TBC
Now head on over to see more flashers! (you know you wanna!!)