Enturi is waiting at the other end of the bridge, along with a couple of Rien’s enforcers.
“You’re wounded,” he says, seeing my hand holding the blood-soaked bit of cloth to the edge of my neck where Lynae’s throwing knife skewered the skin.
“Could be worse,” I reply, coughing.
He looks behind me, searching the bridge with worried eyes. “Where’s Lynae? Where’s Raichon?”
“Dead.” Behind Enturi, Rien’s men gasp in dismay. “I’m the last elf out.”
The two enforcers seem lost, not sure what to do. Enturi takes the matter in hand.
“Are you sure that they are dead, Arq?” he asks me.
“I'm sure,” I reply wearily.
“All right, then,” the pretty boy says, with a crispness that belies the exertions of the long night. “We need to go.” He gestures to one of the others. “You, get down to the shore and give the mate the bad news. Tell him to be ready to shove off as soon as we arrive. You-” he says, pointing to the other, “-help me carry Arquë down the hill to the skiff.”
Together, one on each side, they support me as we walk down a steep path to the beach below. The sounds of the world begin to fade as I put one foot in front of the other, leadenly. Within moments of being placed in the skiff, I am out.
* * *
I wake up in a hammock in a dark room to Enturi’s gentle but insistent touch. I am rocking softly, so I must still be on the ship.
“Arq, wake up,” he’s saying.
“I’m awake,” I mumble. I try to roll and my body protests stiffly, pain shooting from my neck. Damn, it hurts. Still, not as much as it ought to. I run my fingers over the wound. It is mostly healed. Some healer must have worked on it while I was sleeping. Ship’s healer, maybe? Whoever it was, he was not as good as Bolin but did a fine job nevertheless.
“Hey hero,” Enturi says, smiling.
“Hey, hero yourself,” I reply, matching his smile. “Thanks for waiting for me last night. What’s up?”
“Time to go ashore and join the exodus. You’ve slept most of the day. The elves have been marching since mid-afternoon. We are stopping to eat, then moving again. Rien wants you to sing on the march. Keep spirits up, or something.”
“How’s it going?”
“So far, so good. No sign of pursuit yet. It seems the humans were somewhat unprepared for our escape.”
When I get on deck, I can see that the ship has moved up to the first column of elves – those from Rien’s ward, who escaped first through the tunnel. I see the other four stretching away south along the coast at regular intervals. Guess we’ll be marching in defined groups. Seems a good idea for keeping order.
As Enturi leads me to the side of the ship where a rope ladder leads down to a waiting skiff, I feel a hand grasp my shoulder, next to my neck wound. Wincing in pain, I turn around. The hand belongs to the human captain.
“How did Lynae die?” he asks, his face a painting of controlled grief. His pain at losing her is genuine and deep. Idiot. But who knows, maybe she loved him as much in return.
I look away.
“Arrow,” I reply. “There was a surprise attack as we were evacuating.” It’s true enough, even if it’s misleading. The human nods, eyes glistening. Lost in grief, he doesn’t seem to recognize me from the Bouncy Tart. Probably a good thing.
“I thought she would live forever,” he whispers.
I put my hand on his shoulder and squeeze it in commiseration. “I’m sorry,” I tell him. I am, actually. Sorry that he is suffering from her death, anyway. That’s about the most empathy I can muster. It occurs to me that my sickle, hanging from my belt, is still covered in Lynae’s dried blood. Her throwing knife is on my weapon belt. Shit. Don’t look down.
I turn away, toward the skiff and there is Rien.
“And Raichon?” he asks.
I no longer feel the desire to kill Rien. My vow was satisfied with the death of Lynae, and perhaps Raichon. I expect Rien was involved in some of the unsavory decisions the liberation movement made, like taking out Jet’s operation, but my revenge was for Alvar’s death. Still, I am not telling him that I killed Raichon or Lynae, or why. I will not put my freedom at risk. I bite my lip and respond carefully to his question.
“Raichon was too focused on directing his –“ what did Leith call the scuttlers? Oh, yeah. “-magic crabs to pay attention to his own protection. He was almost to the trapdoor, almost off the battlement, when he fell.” I shake my head in seeming regret.
Rien echoes my movement, though his regret, like the Captain’s, seems genuine. “Those two always took the dangerous risks.” He gestures to Enturi and me and several of his enforcers. “Let’s get to shore.” He turns to the Captain. “I’ll be back after our meal.”