Daniken asked, cleaning her hands on some snow. “I need for you to be strong. The nine worlds depends on warriors like us.”
Leona didn’t like it, but she nodded her agreement.
“Abbie,” Rorick called, catching up to her.
Abagail stopped, her bare right hand clenched in a fist at her side. She looked up into the silent trees. It had been a while since the darkling birds and wolves had followed them. Though she was grateful for the silence, Abagail wondered what had driven them away. What was on their trail now?
A soft wind stirred the branches, clacking them into one another. Abagail stared up at the trees. It was a warmer evening, and on the breeze there was a hint of spring. Abagail shook her head. Too bad it’s supposed to be summer.
“What was that outburst about?” Rorick asked. “Why did you storm off?”
Abagail clutched her aching hand, willing the pain to abate.
“Rorick, we’ve been here much longer than we should have been,” Abagail told him in much calmer tones than she’d just used with Daniken. “Celeste said we had enough seed to last us through Singer’s Trail. We have been relying on Daniken’s conjuring animals from the forest and slaughtering them. We should have already made it to the harbingers.”
Rorick sighed and looked out into the forest. His eyes were dark under his mane of golden hair. “I know.”
They were silent for a time, feeling the warmth of the breeze. They hadn’t ventured far from camp. Abagail could smell the camp fire.
“Why do you think she’s leading us in the wrong direction?” Abagail asked.
“Are we sure it’s the wrong direction?” Rorick wondered. “I haven’t seen any other branches off the trail.”
Abagail knew he was going to say that, and she’d been thinking the same thing. “What if she can do more with her wyrd than attack? What if there was a branch and she covered it up somehow?”
“I understand you don’t like her,” Rorick said. “I even see that she antagonizes you sometimes, but I don’t think she would do that, do you?”
“She wants me to fail,” Abagail murmured.
Rorick took a deep breath, willing himself to calm down. “What would be her purpose in doing that?”
Abagail shrugged. She hadn’t figured that out yet. “I don’t know, but I feel like she’s leading us in the wrong way, and every moment we are away from the harbingers, the plague takes a stronger root inside me.”
Rorick opened his mouth to answer when Daphne shuttled up the trail toward them, the pulsing of her purple light stronger and more frantic than Abagail had seen it in some time.
“What is it?” Abagail asked, unclenching her hand. She stepped toward the pixie, barely able to make out what the tiny figure was doing. Daphne seemed to be saying something, but Abagail just couldn’t hear her. She could see the worry on the pixie’s face, however.
Daphne pointed behind herself, and looked back down the trail where she’d come from.
“Is that light down there?” Rorick asked.
Abagail frowned. The sun was setting behind them. Furthermore, the canopy of the forest was too thick to let the weakening sunlight through to the forest floor.
The smell of smoke wafted to her again and Abagail knew that it wasn’t the smell of smoke form their camp.
“Oh no,” Abagail said. She grabbed Rorick with her left hand and started tugging him backwards.
“What is it?” Rorick asked.
“Fire,” she whispered.
They raced back to camp, Daphne following overhead, keeping pace with them. They broke into the clearing at the same time, gasping for air. Daniken surveyed them perplexed, and Leona jumped to her feet, on edge by their sudden appearance.
“What’s happening?” Leona asked.
“Fire,” Rorick gasped for air.
“Behind us,” Abagail said.
“What? How?” Leona wondered, turning to the elf.
Daniken’s eyes were dark. She looked around behind Abagail and Rorick as if she didn’t believe them, and maybe she didn’t.