Heena set a brutal pace for the group. Wod had to convince her to stop because Prin couldn’t take it anymore; the girl had broken down crying as they neared the location she described. The battle happened several nights ago, but Heena felt an urgency to find her sister. The sun was already low in the sky and she knew they had to be close.

Walking over to Prin, Heena put her hand on the young girl’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Prin,” she said, trying muster patience and understanding for for the girl. “I wish to find my sister and make sure she is okay.”

Prin swallowed hard and nodded. Heena stroked her tangled hair and pulled her into a caring embrace. “I need you to find her.”

Wiping her eyes, Prin stood up and nodded. “I am scared,” she said, sniffling. “But, I will go on.”

Heena nodded and went to collect her pack. “We run again!” she yelled, prompting her tribe to pick up their gear and start moving.

Prin moved slowly to the front, taking deep breaths to steady herself. She looked around, taking in her mental map, and then pointed in a direction. Heena nodded then started the run as Prin had pointed, the young girl following close after.

Heena slowed down from her run when she recognized the precise location Prin described. She moved to the side as others came along and stopped nearby. The group dropped their packs and caught their breath.

“Here?” Tama asked, looking around. Prin nodded.

“I found blood,” Wod called out, crouching near the ground near a bush. Heena rushed over and saw the traces of dried blood on the vegetation.

Prin shook as she fought her tears unsuccessfully. “Oh, Bralla,” she cried, falling to the ground as the strength left her. Sobs racked her body. Heena dropped down beside her and lifted Prin’s head to her chest, making made quiet, comforting sounds.

“No bodies?” Tama whispered in Heena’s ear from behind.

Heena shook her head, but then said, “Dees must have taken them to a sacred place.”

Tama stood and walked off to talk with the others. Heena just held Prin close, letting the grief wash over her. “Sorry,” she whispered. “So, so sorry.”

They sat next to the bush for a long time as the sun moved down to the horizon. Heena heard the rest of the tribe setting up camp some distance away from the bloody site, but she didn’t move until Prin finally sat upright and wiped her eyes.

“Hungry?” Heena asked. Prin nodded, so the two stood up and went to the fire to get some food.

The meal was simple and quiet. Something wasn’t right for Heena. Even as the others went to sleep, she got up to walk around.

“Cannot sleep?” Wod asked as she walked near where he was keeping watch.

Heena looked at the moon and nodded. “I wish Ree were here,” she said quietly. “She would be able to comfort Prin better.”

Wod gave a quiet laugh. “I think you give good comfort.”

Heena shrugged. “Maybe.”

“The girl is scared,” Wod said, the mirth leaving his voice. “After what she saw….”

Heena nodded and shivered. “Let us go nearer the fire,” she said as she got up. The fire warned her body, but the growing sense of unease was not dispelled by the heat or light.

They sat in silence for a good part of the watch. Near the time of the deepest night, Wod went to get Skiro and wake him up for his watch.

After the old man had gone to relieve himself, he came near the fire to warm up and wake up. He saw Heena sitting there and grunted a curt greeting. Heena just nodded.

Wod was just about ready to go to sleep when he heard something. “There!” he whispered, pointing beyond the fire. He took a spear and went around the fire to the other side. Skiro grabbed his spear and went the other way, while Heena moved back carefully.

She heard the footsteps clearer now, most likely the sound that Wod had heard. The moonlight showed a figure moving in the night, heading toward the camp. Heena squinted and moved away from the fire, trying to get a better look at the figure. Hope welled up in her as she saw what seemed to be a familiar figure.

“Dees,” Heena gasped, tears coming to her eyes. She jumped up and started to move toward her sister. But, then, something in her mind screamed in fear.

The figure had finally come within the range of the firelight. It was Heena’s sister, but it was not Dees anymore. The face was frozen in a mad expression, her face a pale mask of flesh that once belonged to Dees. The thing faced Heena, blank eyes not focusing on her, but the figure still shambling toward her.

“No, no, no, no, no, no,” Heena cried. Not Dees!

Then the creature opened its mouth and screamed. It screamed for an eternity, leeching away all hope. Darkness swallowed Heena, blocking out the light of the fire and the moon. She felt as if she were falling in endless space. The darkness surrounded her, suffocated her, squeezed the life from her.

Heena caught her breath as she saw Skiro standing where the thing that had been her sister was. His spear had pierced through the thing’s body, and the stench of rotting and death filled the area. Heena doubled over and retched the contents of her stomach to the ground.

Wod gave a shout as other figures appeared in the night. The rest of the tribe was rapidly waking up and leaping to action. The two men barked orders as the others grabbed spears. In the distance, she recognized the forms of others from her sister’s tribe: Erdt, Natik, even Bralla shambled in the darkness toward the camp.

“No, no, no,” Heena sobbed, the acid taste still in her mouth. She fell to the ground in mindless fear as shouts and screams came from all directions.


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