“This is unbelievable,” Bevan said once Magorian had crossed through the opening. He flopped down into the long grass.
I joined him, looking around meekly for something to do.
My eyes fell on the thick coil of smoke rising beyond Fiery Hill. The meadow ended right on the slope of it.
Once again Bevan followed my gaze, then shook his head unbelievingly.
“Can you never stop wondering?” he asked in exasperated tones.
“I shall stop once I know,” I replied simply.
“Then you never will stop Astrid,” he said, ripping some grass out of the earth out of anger. “Not even the grown-ups know.”
I snorted. “The sages know,” I pointed out. “And so do the warriors.”
“There’s only one warrior left and he’d sooner go and pick daisies than tell anyone, especially a fifteen year old girl.” He put extra emphasis on ‘girl.’
I looked down at the ground. I was sick of everyone discrediting me. I needed to know why I was so obsessed with this.
My eyes fell on the smoke again. The whole sky covering the city was full of it. Twisting, rolling, drifting above, so different from our bright azure sky.
I stood up suddenly, causing my ankle to ache. Pushing on I headed towards the slope.
“Where’re you going?” Bevan asked, looking up at me.
“Where do you think?” I asked, looking around at him.
“Astrid don’t,” he said, standing up and hurrying towards me. He put his arm out to stop me but I ducked beneath it.
“I’m sick of this Bevan,” I said, trying my best to walk vigorously with my ankle.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” he said, still walking next to me, waving his arms as though it would make me understand.
“What would you care?” I asked, my anger rising. “Your daddy’s whip has you so scared you wouldn’t breath if you didn’t have his permission.”
“I’m not scared of him!” Bevan shouted as we pushed through the trees and reached the grassy slope.
“Then prove it,” I said, coming to halt. He looked at me. I could tell his conscience was fighting against his pride, and I knew which would win.
“Fine,” he said, a dark look crossing his face. His eyes had a yellow glint of foreboding. Almost as though he was steeling himself, he pulled his shirt right and ran a hand through his hair. I watched him incredulously, wondering what it was for.
“Ready?” I asked, smiling at his insecurity. He’d always come off unafraid, but now he seemed so nervous it was actually cute.
“Yeah,” he said, exhaling deeply.
It felt weird. We stood there, almost as though we were about to race. We began up the hill simultaneously, my mind playing it in slow motion.
When we reach the hilltop, normal speed returned.
I looked over the city, letting out a gasp of surprise. The high glassy buildings stood gloriously between the smoky dust, but at their feet chaos flared. People were running around in panic, trying manically to get away from a fire raging at the bottom of one building. I couldn’t see any of their faces, but knew mouths were open in fiery screams. A few dark figures moved around slowly, between the running people. I let out a yell of indignation as one of them hit what looked like an old woman. It stroke over and over again until the woman collapsed on the ground.
Before I knew what I was doing my feet carried me over the boundary. A blast of sound threw me backwards. Screaming and crashes filled my ears as I scrambled up.
I stopped. The screaming stopped and every singly head turned towards me, then to the sky. I looked up too.
The swirling grey clouds all seemed to turn on their backs. Now a crimson blanket covered the city, as huge drops started to fall. I realized they were red too, staining my clothes and running down my skin. The dark figures all turned towards me as one. I felt a pitch of coarse energy and was once again thrown backwards, but much further this time. The wave had carried me right over the boundary. I scrambled to my feet and ran flat out down the hill, Bevan beside me. My ankle gave way and I toppled head first down the steep slope, my clothes snagging on spare twig as thorns tore into my flesh.
I landed with a thud at the base of the hill, Bevan skidding to a halt beside me.
I looked up to find the angry eyes of Magorian staring down at Bevan and me.