“No noticeable changes.” The Healer sighed and bowed his head over the cot of the village leader’s son. He was a small boy, his eyes wide and staring at the ceiling. His little fingers clawed at the bedsheets gently.
I left Jasper behind to talk with Beta’s spirit. I could hear their soft voices as I walked away. Climbing down the shield wall I kept the corners of my vision on The Hearing below me. They stood unmoving and grouped, effigies of the men I had witnessed before in the woods. They were statues with their white eyes forward and the hoods of their robes up against the wind. My skin prickled into goosebumps as I passed them.
The Healer was in the abandoned shore market talking plans for the hysterical outbreak with the appointed leaders of the government faction and the village of Purl. Bullet crossed through all the puddles and smoke toward the meeting.
We watched as smoke billowed up into the late evening sky. The ominous column reached into space like a hand grasping at stars. We sailed unswervingly on, straight toward the source. We were close enough that we could see the warm pulsing fire licking up the side of a broken down pillar of a shield wall outside of town.
The stars above us were so bright that we moved our meeting to the top deck. There were five of us now that we added Bullet and Jasper to the team (six if you count Senelala). All of us gathered around the map and pages of notes on the hysterical outbreak. We hoped to reach the site in the middle of the night and camp outside the village before the sun rose.
This morning we docked the boat and clambered off into the woods to pick up two other Rogue Healers. I was nervous to add more people to our little team, but the Healer was excited. I need to start calling him something else now that we have added more Healers. Alpha? He won’t tell me his real name...which is getting really annoying.
We spent most of the day sailing. The rocking of the ship made me a little seasick. I stood by the railing, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Senalala seemed soothed by the motion. The sky was clear, the air salty and crisp. The Healer sailed the boat (or is it a ship?). The Healer’s brother stood on the deck for most of the day. He observed Senalala with a look of passive amusement on his face. Every time I glanced his direction he cracked a smile, but his eyes seemed to focus on something far in the distance. Perpetually.
We cleared Senelala’s shell in the morning to prepare for another box. Senelala had to know what was in store. Every time we dismantled my shelter it meant heavy lifting. I worried he would resent me for the hard work. I hadn’t noticed a change in his attitude as we wandered through the woods toward a place unknown to me.
We paused our journey to observe the day of Looking Forward. Each year all of Juniper Vale stopped working to prepare for a productive new year. All people paused to mend their clothes, clean their houses, and cook huge meals. Most lit candles to cast out the darkness of the impending winter. They left the candles lit until they burned out on their own signifying the passing of the season.