I sputtered and choked, coughing out what felt like an entire ocean. I could hear the liquid hitting leaves the floor. It sounded like porcelain. The back of my throat began to burn the taste of algae. My eyelids felt heavy and refused to open, so when I had finished coughing I lay back on a hard dirt ground and listened.
"How is she?" I heard a gruff voice ask.
"She's been convulsing all night and she's as pale as snow. The Chi Kyuuketsuki mark on her hand is burning deeper and deeper into her nervous system. Before long, it's going to consume her entire soul. I fear she won't make it unless we get her to the sanctuary soon." answered a much higher voice, clearly a female.
"We can't leave now, Yuka. There are Varulv all over the west lines. We'll be ambushed."
"I know I know" responded the female again. "But if we don't get her out of here soon, she'll die. And if she dies..."
"Yes, we know what will happen." The gruff voice interrupted her dialogue. "Let's just try to keep a positive outlook alright? It's not too late to move her. Katashi, you said you scouted the East Lines a few days ago. Were there any Varulv over there?" There was the sound of a chair being shoved across tile of some sort.
"No. I didn't see anyone... alive. Massacred, everything dead." answered yet another man. He spoke solemn and quiet; his words flowed like silk, every syllable lifting gently off the top of his tongue. But he said his words with a hint of harshness, almost as if frustrated with something. He sounded much younger than his questioner. I tried to open my eyes wanting to see what he looked like. I managed to regain some mild amount of strength and my eyelids fluttered open just enough so I could see the shoes and legs of the three people talking.
"I didn't figure it would be any better." started the gruff voice again, dropping off in sadness. A body moved towards a pair of slender legs in knee-high boots. Yuka, I figured. And the voice spoke up again.
"So, Yuka, what do you propose we do now if the East Line group has been slaughtered. You want us to go out there and kill ourselves? You want us to befall the same damn fate as them?" His voice rose with passion. Fear and anger were vividly present in his tone. "I am so sick," he found a chair and threw it, "of waiting around and never doing anything. I'm so tired of this war, the massacres. Why do we have to bear the burden of the butterfly? It's so god-damn unfair." His feet stormed around, pacing back and forth rapidly.
"Well, if you'd like to hear my idea now, I'd be glad to share it with you." Yuka answered, her voice never wavering in panic or shock at the man's outrage.
"Yes, yes go ahead" I could see him wave his arms in a circling movement.
"If we can find a path that goes around the East Lines, we should be able to get the girl to the sanctuary with little interference. It would be risky for her, but it's the only chance we've got."
"Yes but what paths are there? Everything has surely been covered and overgrown. The only one I know of leads straight to the East line and I'm sure as hell not tromping through this damn thicket." The legs by the chair moved swiftly to the other gentlemen's side.
"Would you please watch your language Gregor? It's bad enough that the council chose you to come along with us as it is. We don't need your disruptive temper getting in the way of carrying out the plan. Now please continue Yuka." Hands went in the pockets of the talking pants.
"There was an old path down by Goliath River if I remember correctly. It's not far from here, only about two, two and a half miles."
"Yes," spoke the sultry voice again, "I do recall hearing of one near there. But I thought it had been overrun by the Pequii people, and I'm really not in the mood to trample over their territory and get into more trouble."
"I know, but it's all I can think of. Besides we've never had trouble with their people before."
"We haven't, but the Varulv have and you know how paranoid the Pequii are about them. If they so even as see a moving object taller than their own 4 feet, they are not going to stop to see what it is. They pulverize and ask questions later. There's got to be another way." I strained against my own body as I attempted to open my eyes even a farthing more. They failed me again. It was useless. I was going to die like Yuka had said. But what was with this mark consuming my soul deal? It sounded ridiculous. Sure the mark was strange enough in its design and just how exactly I had acquired it, but sucking my soul? Wasn't that a bit too dramatic?
"Shit. That doesn't leave us much of a choice does it?" Yuka cursed silently to herself.
"Exactly what I have been saying." Gregor grumbled audibly.
"Shut up you old geezer or I'm going to slam you into that tree so fast…" Yuka shot back at him. I imagined her face turning bright red. Her feet left the two men then and made their way towards me.
"You've probably woken her." The slender figure bent down and a stern yet fair complexion appeared.
"Hey you, can you hear me?" she pressed on my wrist with her thumb and then placed her face close to mine. "Well, she's breathing, but it's shallow. We should get moving before dark or we wont make it anywhere in time. Come over here and help me Katashi." I was lifted steadily into the air and placed higher up from the floor, possibly on a table. A blanket was placed over me.
"Alright now you and Gregor start working out our traveling course and Ill try and fix her up a bit." For what felt like the next two hours, I my wet clothing was removed, bandages were applied and new clothing put on. My eyes had grown strong enough by then to open all the way and I could see who had been talking and where I was laying; only I could only really stare straight up, my head felt like a hundred pounds. There was a canopy of trees above me, leaves so thick that barely a fraction of sunlight shone through. Yuka was standing over me, bandages and supplements in hand. She had a pretty face, almost glass-like. Big, gorgeous blue eyes and pointed ears and ever-flowing brown hair truly made her something to see. Her hair had to be nearly three feet in length but it was shiny and beautiful none the less. I admired her for a few minutes before turning my attention to a voice that had begun to speak. It took me a moment to realize it was addressing me.
"Can you sit up?" Yuka's voice queried. I responded with a sound that rather mimicked a dying mouse.
"Ah shit. The first time I get to make an impression on these people and I make a bumbling fool of myself," I thought. Thankfully however, Yuka didn't laugh.
"I'll take that as a no. Well I've fixed up a couple of your cuts and redressed you in dry clothes but I can't do much more for you until we get to the sanctuary. For now it would be best for you to rest and try to keep yourself together while the venom spreads through your nervous system. I wish there was something we could do to extract it but it's already too deep into your blood. The only thing you can do is concentrate on staying alive."
"Venom? Wait. Wait, wait, wait. There is venom in my body? You can just leave me here! If I'm bit by a snake or something I'm going to die! Oh my God. I'm going to die. No. Stop Grace. You have to relax. Breathe. Breathe. Okay keep yourself awake here. Just concentrate on breathing." I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down.
"I will explain more later when you are in better health." She continued, "For right now, we have to figure out how you are even going to get to the sanctuary. I'm going to walk over here," she said pointing to the two men to my left, "and figure out if they have come up with a plan yet. I promise I'll let you know what's going on as soon as I can."
Her face disappeared from my sight; her long boots could be heard crunching leaves towards the distance. A dull murmur of voices kept me company for a while as I attempted to retain consciousness. The venom must have been spreading farther because I felt sleepy and nauseous, very nauseous. I couldn't feel anything hurting me though. Pain: it was almost as if I had become used to it. I no longer felt anything but heat, like I had a high fever, and nausea. I was uncomfortable however and the lack of ability to see the sun. It made me wonder what time it was and how long I had been with these three strangers. It was all I could do not to fall asleep then. Everything was so quiet and nice…
"LET'S GO NOW!" My eyes flew open at the sound of the scream. I desperately tried to look around to see what was amiss but my head still wouldn't turn. I could hear grunts and shouts, the click and clang of objects smacking against each other. Feet were shuffling back and forth along the forest floor. The beating my chest quickened to a horrifying rate. Was there an ambush? Suddenly I felt myself being picked up by strong hands and slung over someone's shoulder. All I could see was the small of a man's back. The nausea overtook me and I vomited, just missing the broad left shoulder of my kidnapper and landing on the forest floor beneath me.
"Aw shit. She's worse than I thought." said the voice of my captor.
"Get her to the meeting point at the river. We'll meet you there. Hurry! And be careful!" Yuka's voice streamed through my ears, loud like a cannon.
Leaves and dirt rushed violently and suddenly from my sight, meshing into a blur of brown. Wind whipped at my uncovered legs and up my skirt, stinging my thighs. "How fast was this guy running?" I yearned to turn my head and look ahead. Luckily the nausea had ceased and I once again felt sleepy. How I could fall asleep while being carried on the shoulder of a sprinting man, I have no idea. But it came to me eventually.