Danal flung the hatch open.
The thick scent of smoke sent Ffenyi and Aaron to coughing. Sareh braced herself against the sudden flurry of snow. It came down thick now, freezing little pellets that stung skin.
“Breathe light. It’ll keep you from coughing too much,” Danal said. He gazed into the gray mess. He strained his ears.
He heard only the wind.
“That’s not good. There’s always something going on in the Pits this time of day. You can hear the ‘shovels at least.” He stepped out onto the scaffoldwalk. “The town’s gone quiet.”
Sareh helped Mavin as they supported Aaron. “Then we should move before the noise starts.”
Danal nodded. “Yeah.”
Djellian walked beside Ffenyi, even as he stayed away from the edge of the ‘walk. Sareh and Mavin together helped Aaron on his weak legs. Danal led the way through the misty snow. They climbed out of this pit onto the Lattice.
No one stirred in the Pits. The wind and the crunching of their feet on snow provided the only sounds. The sun shone weakly through a gray, gray sky.
Danal fell back by Sareh. “I’ll get the visitors to the hunter’s pit, and then I’m coming back for you.” As he breathed, he felt that burning in his lungs returning already.
Sareh glared. “You need to stay away from the Pits.”
“You need someone here to protect you. It was bad enough before, but if the Pits are really going to war…”
“You couldn’t even protect me if you were here. You’d be no good in a fight.”
Danal pressed his lips together to suppress a cough.
“You’ll help me most by staying away. Don’t come back. Don’t give me a false sense of security or another mouth to feed down there.”
Danal opened his mouth to respond. Coughing came out. He kept himself from doubling over.
“You don’t know crap, do you? You’re as useless as your heattramp!” Mavin almost shouted.
Aaron shushed her.
“No way! He doesn’t know what happened! He wasn’t here when Sareh needed him anyway!”
Danal fixed Sareh in his gaze. “All right. You’ve avoided this long enough. What happened?” He hated that he was wheezing already.
Sareh looked away.
Behind them, Ffenyi whispered to her husband, “How can someone who has escaped the curse still suffer?”
Danal resisted making fists. He pointed as he coughed. “It will be faster if we cut through this pit instead of going around on the Lattice. Come on.” They descended to the scaffoldwalk and walked around the rim of the pit. The boards creaked under their feet and the entire structure shook a little.
Aaron heard it first. “Footsteps.”
Shadows formed from the gray. They resolved into men. Three tall men. “For your own safety, stay inside,” one of them commanded.
Danal looked up at their hats. “You’re not from any officiant’s office.” He coughed. His throat burned. His lungs refused to inflate. Ignore it.
The head goon leered. “No. But it’s for your own good to stay inside. Just some friendly advice.” He glanced away from Danal to see the rest of the group. His eyes landed on Sareh. “Oh! So it’s the holy woman. Too good to listen to orders, are you? I’ll have to teach you another lesson, won’t I?”
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the previous entry, Through Painful Toil, here.
Read the next entry, Therefore We Will Not Fear, here.