“You will not go alone,” Amaril told Westing.
He shook his head. “You can’t come with me. It’s too dangerous.”
She placed a hand on his mouth. “I made a promise. Until beyond the end of the Endless Summers, I will be your Bride, and I will walk with you.”
Westing turned away, running a hand through his short dark hair. “I can’t do this to you.”
“You’ve seen the trees. You know the signs as well as any, as a Guardian on the Wall. I’d be in as much danger here as you will on your way to the towers. Besides,” she added with a smile, “we both know you won’t make it very far without me making food for you.”
“Hey! I can make my own camp food!”
“If the trees aren’t handing you their fruit?” Amaril smiled. “I’ve already packed what I need for the journey. We need to go before the cold stops us.”
Westing shook his head with a gentle grin. “Why do you bless me so?”
“Because I love you even when you don’t deserve it. Let’s go.” Amaril strode out of the enclosure atop the wall. She looked down toward the families that had gathered in clumps around the trees. “They have no idea.”
“That’s why we’re here. To protect them, so they never have to know.” Westing turned toward the last few rays of crimson from the fleeing sun, toward the mountains, toward the towers that rose from the height of many of the peaks.
“They know now,” Amaril muttered.
“We need to get out to the towers, find whoever it is that’ll bring the trees back. He’s going to need my protection.”
“Ours,” Amaril amended. She tore her eyes away from the panicked faces below. “Did you see them? Raising their hands? And the trees were holding their fruit up. They don’t understand why the trees are keeping them from their food.”
“Hopefully they don’t have to understand.” Westing found the rope ladder and threw it over the edge of the wall. “Hopefully we can calm the trees before the people go hungry.”
Amaril faced the gardens within the wall as Westing began climbing down into the wastes on the other side. “Who will make them food?”
“I thought you were making me food?” Westing grinned as he climbed down the ladder.
Amaril turned to her husband, back to the huddled masses under the trees. She heard some woman wailing. She glanced back to Westing. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and looked up to the darkening sky.
She set out after her husband.
This is the fourth chapter of Summers’ End.