“Well. Now that you’ve stopped hitting the boy, we can get out of the snow. That is, if you claim sanctuary and pledge to do no harm as long as you’re here.” Eli’s deep voice reminds me of Cedric’s from the pyremen’s tunnels. Cedric is young, though, and he likes trying to make his voice even deeper to intimidate. Eli’s voice is easy and assured. He doesn’t have to try to intimidate. He’s just that big and his voice is just that deep that he doesn’t have to do anything.
Kaynie stands her ground beside me. She’s trying to show fear, but I can tell she’s scared. Well, that instant of trying to hide behind me when Eli startled her told me that, too.
“Will you let me claim sanctuary?” I ask him.
“All are welcome here.”
“You kicked me out last time.”
“We did not kick you out. You chose to forsake us. There was little we could do but allow you to leave.” Eli’s voice is so calm.
I feel my hands tightening into fists. “I brought the girl. She needs somewhere to stay.”
“I think the girl can speak for herself, don’t you?” He almost has a smile in his voice.
I hate him. He shouldn’t be smiling. He should be telling me something about how they’re suffering since I left, or acting as if it’s a big deal that I came back, or something. Anything! Instead he’s acting as if it’s as much a surprise as snow.
He doesn’t pay any attention to my anger. “Young woman, did Aydrik tell you anything about who we are?”
Kaynie shakes her head.
“Do you have a name?”
She answers, “Kaynie.”
“You only have one name?”
Eli raises a thin eyebrow. “I see. I am sorry to hear about your father. We mourn for him.”
Her lip trembles such a little bit, I’m pretty sure Eli can’t see it. I can, though. “My father was a great man.”
“He was important to many people, it is true. And until the ownership of the mines is determined, a great many people will suffer. He had many employees, and they will go hungry unless someone takes charge there. And without the coal mines, many others will go cold. Even the ‘shovels might stop working. Without the ‘shovels, there will be no more heat springs. And without heat springs, the Pits themselves might go cold.”
I bite the inside of my cheek so I don’t interrupt him. He always went on too long. He thinks he’s wise. He thinks he’s so important.
A tear rolls out of Kaynie’s eye. “They don’t care about the workers.”
“Someone tried to kill me tonight. Aydrik brought me here.”
“He is full of fire, but sometimes even fire knows where best to burn. Yes, you will be safe here, Kaynie Tavriss, should you swear that you will never do any harm to this place. We will take you in until it is time for you to travel on.”
Kaynie looks at me. “Can he come, too?”
“If he chooses to reswear, yes. I would like that.”
Kaynie nods. “All right. Get me out of the snow.”
One corner of Eli’s mouth goes up. “Very well. And you, prodigal? Do you also swear?”
“I never ratted you out.”
“I know this. There are other ways to do harm, though.”
It feels like there’s such a pressure on my chest. My fists are ready to punch a new pit all by themselves. My heart is so hot it could melt all the snow in the sky.
Where else can I go?
Eli nods. “Very well. Follow me, and welcome to our sanctuary. We will never send you away.”
Suddenly my wrist aches. I glance down – the tenuous scabs. One’s broken open.
Maybe they’ll welcome me back… but what happens when they find out I might have the plague?
Read the next post here.