Don't Eat The Foliage - Part Four
The food, if you could even call it that, was nothing more than a bowl of mush. With a consistency much like oatmeal, Megan really didn't like what she saw. Nonetheless, she took the advice of One-eye and tempted her taste buds. To her surprise, the mush tasted remarkably good. She had a hard time believing this stuff was all they had to eat in the entire camp, but One-eye had told her as much and she really didn't have any way to argue the point. When she was told it was actually good for her, as well, she really started to doubt One-eye's information.
Buba seemed to enjoy his meal as well. They sat around, eating their mush and drinking from glasses of water. The conversation remained minimal, as Megan was mostly thinking about Brand and what she was going to do with him.
After finishing, she excused herself to go search for Brand. Buba was also leaving at the same time; he was tired and ready to get some shuteye. One-eye bowed to them both, winked, and bid them farewell.
Outside, the night was surrounding them. The open courtyard was practically empty now; a startling image compared to when they entered the food tent and the courtyard was filled with crowds of people. Megan watched as Buba walked toward their tent, then she turned around slowly trying to find Brand.
The small handful of people spread out around the empty area paid her no attention as she walked along, glancing left and right. When she got closer to the large fire burning brightly in the middle of the courtyard, she paused and took notice of Brand. He sat facing the fire, staring into it, while lightly picking at the strings on his guitar.
She lingered behind Brand, not wanting to make herself known just yet. Really, she'd known him pretty much all her life. They'd met in junior high and to her, that was practically another lifetime ago. He was a complicated person and never really had many friends but Megan somehow managed to work her way into his life, and she was glad for it. Despite outward appearances, he had a lot going on that people rarely saw.
As she took a seat beside Brand, he didn't even bother to look over. His hand came to rest against the guitar strings while a faint sigh escaped his lips. Megan just sat back on the small bench and looked into the fire, without saying anything. She'd let him start when he was ready. Like she expected, that didn't take long at all.
"There's no heat," Brand said quietly.
At first, she didn't know what he was talking about. Her nose scrunched up for a moment then she blinked. Realization set in and she stared at the fire, with her eyes a little wider, in disbelief. She reached a hand out, closer to the fire, and shook her head. There was no heat.
"How& strange," Megan remarked with a slight frown.
"It gets stranger." Brand stood and stepped closer to the fire then stuck his arm right into the flame. Megan shrieked and jumped up, but Brand just pulled his arm back and returned to the bench, unscathed.
She stared at him for a moment. "You should warn someone before you do a thing like that." Sinking back into her seat, she tried to suck in several deep breaths and calm her rapidly beating heart.
"Sorry." Brand glanced at her and smiled faintly before returning his gaze to the fire. "Sorry about earlier, too."
"Don't apologize to me."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. I just don't like the idea that people are expecting us to stay here. We came to get the book. Technically these people kidnapped us and they didn't even do it nicely."
"I'm not so sure they kidnapped us. I got the impression we were in danger from whomever those people on horseback were. If I was their shoes, I would have knocked us out to prevent any kind of argument or stall tactic."
Brand shrugged his shoulders. "All right. I'm wrong again. Wrong about everything, as usual. Thanks for reminding me I never know anything."
"Brand," Megan shook her head and sighed. "Don't start." She looked over at him, studying his face shrouded in the orange hue of light from the fire. No heat, but light? That can't be right. Not shaving did something for Brand, she noted. The stubble on his chin added to his thin face, making it seem just a little fuller. The light scar that ran along his jaw line was almost completely invisible under the new growth but she didn't mind that. She'd rather forget it was even there if possible.
"You look tired," Megan offered to shatter the silence between them.
"Wonder why," Brand murmured. He pulled the guitar strap over his head, then carefully set the instrument down on the ground next to the bench. Megan quietly observed this, then smiled as he turned toward her. The smile faded though. For a brief moment, she saw a look of fear in his eyes. A blink later, it was gone, replaced by the distant look he normally possessed. "How can these people be happy?" He asked. "They can't possibly enjoy this life. This can't be their ideal existence."
"You don't know the whole story yet," a soft voice from behind the fire replied.
Both Megan and Brand turned toward the voice as a figure wearing a long white robe, stepped around the edge of the fire and moved toward them. A hood was raised, covering her face, but Megan knew it was Adara right away. As she walked toward them, her stunningly white robe skidded against the dirt ground, yet remained as clean as if it'd just been washed. Her movements, with her feet hidden underneath the robe, gave the impression she was actually floating. Orange dancing light bathed her left side and Brand was almost positive she appeared to be glowing, or her robe did at least.
She came to a halt in front of the bench, her head slowly moving up and down as she looked over Brand, then Megan. "You must be Brandon."
It took him a moment to realize she was talking to him. He hadn't been called Brandon in a very long time. "Uh, yeah. How'd you know that?"
"I know many things great and small. Knowing you, though, is great indeed."
Brand was at a rare loss for words; Megan saved him. "What do you mean, we don't know the whole story?" She asked barely above a whisper. In the silence that followed, the fire in front of them crackled. A log split and scratched its way down the pit in two different directions.
When Adara finally spoke, her voice was calm and soft. "Long ago these people and I were forced from our city. We may live, as you put it, in filth but we are happy still. It has been written that we would reclaim our home and return to the way things have been and this is what we live on. The hope for tomorrow is what pushes these people to remain at their best, and live their lives as well as they do. We are simply waiting for that freedom to return to us. Each day we prepare for the battle to come and now& now that battle is just around the corner."
"What did you do to deserve getting kicked out?" Brand asked, smirking.
Adara held out her white, gloved hands and shrugged. "We did nothing. We were forced from our home by dark forces that must be eliminated."
"Dark forces?" Brand shook his head. "Well, what is different now? What has changed that this battle of yours can now take place?"
The answer was no surprise to Megan; she'd heard it all ready before. She wondered why Brand asked such a question, but really, she had no idea if he was ever paying attention. Evidently he wasn't.
Adara simply said: "You."To be continued...