Ash and Cinder | chapter 6
Posted August 22nd, 2018 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: Shout-out to Chicken123, she(?) commented on the last chapter :'), thanks fam.
friendly reminder that if any single person gives me like two seconds of attention it strokes my fragile ego and encourages me to be more active. Because I'm petty and small like that.
IN other news, in case you live under a rock and haven't heard, Ena made a discord for KP and you should defintely go check it out. Discord is free, and all you have to do to get added to the KP discord is head over to the wb and send Ena a heads up on the thread they created specifically for that purpose.
The song for this chapter is *drumroll*, Heart of Fire by Black Veil Brides. Even though I'm pretty sure I already listed this as a previous chapter's song..
6 | Storm
We keep a steady pace, heading east into the foothills of the Ural Mountains. We stick to the patches of wooded areas where we can, a majority of the terrain is grassland, but the many rivers and streams are lined with tall pine trees and bushes that droop over the river bank. The water flows downstream, providing us with a well-covered path to travel. The hills we climb are getting steeper, and while my muscles are conditioned for this, my bones ache. The throbbing in my knee has gotten exponentially worse as the storm draws nearer, but I grit my teeth and march on. I can only imagine that the slant will get steeper and steeper as we go along. After all, we’re headed straight at the Urals. Delilah has a permanent frown, and Piper keeps casting uneasy glances at the sky. Bakari lags, breathing heavier than the rest of us, the steady pace is wearing on him and I keep waiting for the moment he stops entirely. I can’t help but feel bad for him, the whitecoats might have given me constant pain, but at least I can breathe and run at the same time. Maverick should have taken him and the others somewhere safer. If something happens to them, it will be on me.
I catch myself staring up at the roiling cloud that rapidly eats up the sky between us and dark northern horizon. Bolts of bright gold lightning snap free of the growling storm head and the wind is picking up. A few minutes ago Maverick sent Sky to check out what was going on below the storm. If he reports back that the storm is much more than a bad rainstorm we can use the time before it hits to find shelter. That shouldn’t be too hard, from what I’ve seen, caves are common here. They dot the landscape like braille.
When nobody is paying attention, I reach out and knock on the scratchy bark of a couple of the trees we pass. I’m not superstitious, but the action is reassuring, as if I’m giving a voice to my silent hopes without actually speaking. With any luck, we’ll only catch the edge of the storm. But the creaking of my warped bones and the heavy scent of ozone hanging in the air tell me that my luck ran out a long time ago.
The blur of orange and tan comes tearing from the north, a dust tail kicking up in Sky’s wake as he speeds towards us. By the looks of it he’s moving much faster than he was headed there. That’s a bad sign.
He gasps something unintelligible as he plows into the group. He slams down on his heels, skidding to a stop barely short of body-slamming Bakari. He bounces back on the balls of his feet, words fly a mile per minute from his mouth while rainwater runs down his freckled face and plasters his ginger hair to his forehead. “We have to haul serious arse right now, or we won’t have any arse left to haul latter.”
Maverick springs into action less two words into Sky’s warning, “Go, run!” He shoves Delilah and Piper between their shoulder blades to get them moving faster before breaking into a run himself. The rest of us, finally processing what Sky said, follow suit. The wind swirls between the tree trunks, setting the hair on the back of my arms on end. The trees groan in anticipation and a nearby stream that was bubbling before is roaring now. We don’t have much time.
“How bad is it?” King calls, or rather, wheezes. He’s already out of breath from the trek, if we don’t find a cave before the storm hits, I’m not sure he’ll survive it. Sky, now running only slightly faster than me, throws his hands in the air to pantomime an explosion.
I want to convince myself that he’s exaggerating, but the guy is soaked from head to toe and winded like he had to wrestle his way out of the rain. I grit my teeth and lean into the run. The woods we entered not long ago whizz by on either side. My calves burn and my lungs ache. Deep down in my bones each step vibrates dully. I’m not a sprinter and I’m less of a runner. The whitecoats made us run for hours on treadmills, side-by-side until we all collapsed one at a time. I never ran the fastest or the longest, and after I shattered my legs, the running labs were the worst. The duels were bad, but at least I knew I had a chance at winning them. My legs hurt now, but not in the same deep, shattering pain that used to come from thumping foot after foot after foot on the treadmill for hours on end.
Rain pelts down, soft for now but not for long. The only sound I can hear above the howling wind is the crash and rumble of the flooding stream. It’s closer than before, so either we’re angled towards it and we’re about to run out of land to walk on, or it’s swelling dangerously fast and we have flooding to worry about on top of everything else. A night in a damp cave, sleeping in an inch of water, isn’t appealing, but I’d rather have that than nothing. For all the caves and hovels that we passed before, there’s nothing but roots and ridges now. Maverick looks like he’s considering turning back. I already know that if he does, I’m going on ahead. I refuse to give up the distance we’ve already traveled. I don’t know how many miles are left in my tank, or how many pills I have left, and I can’t afford to lose any more time or distance than this storm is already costing me.
A deafening pop and shriek splits the air to my left, just another noise in the cacophony of the approaching storm until Delilah throws her hand in front of my chest. She stops me seconds before a jack pine crashes to the ground in front of us and splits the group in half.
“Thanks,” I shout over the wind. She ignores me and high-steps over the fallen tree.
Sky might’ve under-exaggerated a tad. Lightning cracks and thunder shatters the air every other breath. Rain like razors beats down, gusts of wind rip up trees by their roots and fling them like twigs. Guess we know why there isn’t all that much greenery around here. We press on, we don’t have another option now, we can barely tell which direction we’re going. We wouldn’t know if we were walking in circles. The going is slow, every other second the wind knocks someone down and it’s a struggle to drag them back onto their feet against the gales. Delilah is the only one not getting completely bullied by the storm. I’m not sure why she isn’t having as much trouble as the rest of us, maybe she’s aerokinetic. At any rate, anyone not getting flattened by the wind is still nearly blinded by the pouring rain.
Maverick is supporting Bakari, with one arm around his waist and the other shielding his own eyes from the rain. In the flashes of light, I catch sight of Bakari clutching his chest, the veins in his neck are popping out. I should be more concerned about whether he’s going to make it the next five feet without collapsing entirely, but a bigger part of me realizes that with the only geokinetic member of our group struggling to keep his own heart beating, we have no chance of creating our own shelter.
We’re moving too slow. Time is of the essence and we’re wasting it trying to beat back an uncontrollable force of nature. Frustration builds as the minutes tick past and we press on at a snail’s pace. Where are all the damned caves!
Ice it, Trick.
Maverick’s voice projects in my mind. It’s crystal clear and laced with irritation. He’s tired, like the rest of us, and his telepathy is the only way he can speak to anyone over the screaming wind. Telepathic communication is one of the many tricks in the grab-bag of skills the white coats unlocked when they messed with Mave’s brain. Right now, I really wish it wasn’t.
Out of my head! I snap. My mind, as previously stated, is off limits. The rules don’t change because we’re in the middle of a disaster. To my minor satisfaction, Maverick does not reply. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not still poking around my thoughts. It’s hard to sense him if his face isn’t visible, and impossible now in the discordant storm. I stop grumbling to myself, mostly because Mave might be lurking, ready to chide me again and he doesn’t need that distraction to add to his self-imposed responsibility of keeping us all alive.
“Shelter, ho!” Piper bellows. His words are nearly lost to the wind, but that faint shout feeds relief into me. A bright flash of lightning reveals the shelter; A teensy cave mouth that juts from the ground like a beastly maw. It could not be more inviting. The entrance is pitch black, for all we know a wild animal has made its home in there, prepared to tear apart any poor creature that dares seek shelter inside. None of us are too concerned with that at the moment, not when there’s a beast already beating down on us with ice rain and falling trees.. We straggle to the cave, feet slipping in the silty ground, rain blinding us. I can’t see through the splatter on my glasses, but I see even less without them on.
Skyelar is the first to reach the cave, his hand grips the stone lip, he scrapes his palm dragging himself inside. Piper stumbles in after him, and I after him. The relief is instantaneous. Most of us fall to our hands and knees. There’s a lot of coughing and sputtering, a lot of heavy breathing, and underneath all the noise I can hear Maverick talking to Bakari. “Where’s your glycine, hey? Which pocket is it in?” Followed by wet squishing and the rattle of a pill bottle.
Water runs from our sodden clothes and forms puddles on the cave floor. Thankfully, the cave mouth opens to the east, it blocks the wind swooping in from the north, only the occasional frigid gust manages to sneak its way in. The cave itself isn’t fantastically warm, and since we’re all chilled to the bone from the icy rain, the cold is that much more noticeable. Anyone not on the brink of dying, curls up, shuffles around. Sky rubs his arms and Piper and Delilah shoulder up against one another. I shiver and tuck my knees up to try and bundle any body heat I might have left into one place. My glasses slip down my nose, I swipe at the lenses half-heartedly. The glass is fogging up, the temperature in here must be just high enough. With a tired grimace I take them off and scrub at them with the corner of my sweater. While I wipe all the grit off my glasses, I watch Mave’s blurry form slump over Bakari, exhausted.
I wonder if Bakari’s alive.
Maverick answers as if I spoke out loud; he’s fine.
Good, I don’t want anyone else to die, even if I don’t know these people.
Piper is the first to move. He is the only one not shivering, which I find strange considering he has the slightest build of our group. He extricates himself from Delilah and begins running his hands over the cave wall and scuffing the floor. I watch him scrape lichen from the rocky surface, he kicks something and it skitters deeper into the cave. He sighs and follows it. When he bends to retrieve it, I see that it’s a dried-up twig. He straightens and pivots to return to the group, his eyes skimming for more of what I assume is going to end up fuel for a fire. Something catches his eye, and he hesitates. A puzzled expression crosses his face. I close my eyes, and silently beg for there not to be some angry wildlife glaring at us from the cave mouth. He says nothing, and after a moment I hear his footsteps coming closer. Relieved, I breath a heavy sigh. We’re safe, for now.
Then Piper speaks up.
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