The Luminary

March 23, 2016
By laurenlovebug BRONZE, Amissville, Virginia
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laurenlovebug BRONZE, Amissville, Virginia
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"Lu!"
A voice called.
"Lu, wake up!"
It was louder this time.
"Wake up!"
Her eyes shot open. She turned her head to see her mother standing over her. Sweaty hands were clasped against her arm- her mother looked franctic!
"What's wrong?" Lu asked, sitting up in her bed and rubbing her eyes.
"Get dressed, we need to go. I've already packed up your things."
"Wait why-" she started talking, but her mother was already bustling out the door.
Something like this hadn't happened in a long time. She had been eight years old, and had forgotten to pack for a beach trip they were leaving for that very day.
But things had changed in the past ten years. You only went to the beach if you had a death wish. The English had taken over the shores five years ago, and killed any American that set foot on their sand.
Lu threw the covers off and swung her feet onto the floor. A suitcase lay wide open, jam packed beside her bed. Her mother was usually a very neat person. She took her time in doing everything. But you'd never know this from the way the case was packed. Everything was simply thrown in without a care.
Quickly, she threw on a teal tank top and a pair of jeans. She would've liked to do her hair and makeup, but something told her she didn't have time to worry about things like that.
"Alis are you awake?" Lu called into the hallway.
"I'm awake!" a light, squeaky voice replied.
Alis was her eleven year old sister. Despite their age difference, the two of them were very close. They had grown especially close after their father had died in battle.
Lu zipped up her suitcase in case she didn't have time later, before making her way downstairs.
"Where are we going?" she demanded after finding her mother rushing around the kitchen.
"Sit down, honey. You need to eat."
"Mom, I need an answer. Where are we going?"
"I'll tell you on our way there!" her mother snapped, stopping for just a second to stare at her. Lu's breathe caught her in throat when she looked into her eyes. She saw fear. Something she hadn't seen since her father's death.
She sat down without any further protest, allowing her to scoop eggs, then bacon, then pancakes onto her plate.
Alis joined her soon after. She opened her mouth to ask their mother what was going on, but when Lu shook her head, she stopped herself. She wanted to know what was going on, but she trusted Lu, and if she said not to say anything, she wasn't going to say anything.
"Alright," their mother spoke after both of them had eaten,"Go grab your things. Lu, I want you to bring your bow. Alis, the pocket the knife your father gave you."
Alis and Lu exchanged a confused glance, but neither of them objected. Lu had been shooting since she was Alis's age. She had never taken an official archery class, but she was still phanominal at it.
Lu had Alis carry her bow and and quiver filled with arrows to the car, so she could grab both of their suitcases. Alis was young, but she wasn't stupid. There were only two suitcases.
"Mom," she reached up from the backseat to grasp their mother's shoulder,"Where are we going? Why aren't you coming with us?"
Lu glanced back at Alis, before looking expectantly at their mother who sat beside her.
"Girls," she began,"The war... things..." she shook her head. She had rehearsed several times throughout the morning what she was going to say to them, but now, as they sat beside her, her mind was completely blank. She didn't even know where to begin. "This war... It's been going on for a long time now. Alis, you weren't even born when the fighting started. It's all you've ever known." she added sadly,"But things have gotten worse."
"Worse? How can things have gotten any worse?" Lu demanded.
After the war began, any and all men and women with military training had been sent out to distant countries, to attack in hopes of obtaining more lands for the America's. That decision has gone down in history as one of the biggest mistakes ever made. America had sent any and all warriors across the seas- so who was left to defend the territory they already owned?
That was when the English decided to take the beaches. About one year after America first started attacking it's neighboring countries. International trade was put to a complete hault, not that many countries wanted to trade with them anyway. But worst of all, any Americans outside of the country at the time, had no way of ever returning. The English patrol the beaches so abundantly, that it's next to impossible to bypass them.
After the English, came the Germans, then the French, even the Australians were in on it. Because America had no soldiers to protect them, the government forced men aged 20 and older to begin military training immediately. Many lives have been lost over the years. Countless lives.
Rebellions broke out. Crime was part of everyday life. Mothers worked long and hard every day just to put food on the table. Many families were forced to live without electricty and clean water. Lu's familly was one of the lucky ones.
Their mother was an engineer- one of the few left. She was highly respected and highly paid. Despite their mothers constant nagging, neither of the girls had shown any interest in the subject. Perhaps once Alis matured she'd be smart enough to master it, but math wasn't Lu's strongest subject. She was the more creative of the two, loving art and works of literature. Alis on the other hand, was more logical.
It wasn't safe for any of them to be outside alone. More often than not, all three of them would go into town together because it was safer than just two. Girls of all ages were constantly being taken from off the street- never to be heard from again. Children's bodies were found in trashcans in dark allies.
Things were bad, how could it possible get worse?
"Norway, Sweden, and Finland have formed an alliance. They attacked DC last night." their mother explained,"After the white house fell, they started moving downwards. Towards us."
After a few seconds, Alis broke the silence,"Is the president okay?" her voice was no more than a whisper.
"He's fine." her mother choked on the reply.
Lu covered her face with her hands and buried herself in her lap, while Alis hung her head, eyes filled with tears. The president was the reason this war started in the first place. He was a selfish man, with selfish, ruthless, followers. Countless attempts had been made on his life, both by Europeans and Americans alike. Each time his violent followers stopped them, and exacuted them on live television. The only reason he was still in office, was because nobody was brave enough to defy him anymore.
Once he became president, he slowly replaced everyone in all three branches with people eternally loyal to him, to his cause. There was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
Lu raised her head slightly as the car started rumbling. "So, where are we going?" she and Alis had both knew the drill. As soon as the Europeans took DC, all people 18 years of age or younger, within 500 miles, were forced to evacuate.
"You're going to Canada."

"Canada?" Lu asked,"But I thought it was uninhabitable."
Canada was one of the first places America had attacked, and because the US was so well stocked on supplies, they got it worse than any other country. Eventually, everyone was forced to evacuate, and too this day, no one had gone back. It was said that radiation plagued the land, and nobody was dumb enough to test it's accuality.
Their mother didn't reply. Her eyes were focused on the road in front of her as she sped through town. Being one of the only people able to afford a car, they didn't have to stop at all, or go a certain speed.
Alis never enjoyed driving the car- she prefered walking. Everyone else walked, and she felt bad riding in the car. She stared out the window as they raced along, noticing all the stares they were getting. There was so much commotion going on outside, she completely tooned out anything her mother and sister were saying.
People of all ages were not walking, but running alongside the car. They were all running in the same direction. It was like a race, but much, much more violent.
Parents shoved other parents out of the way as they dragged their kid along behind them. Kids that looked about Lu's age thrust there way through the mass of people.
She noticed one in particular. He was tall, with dark hair and pale skin. He looked a bit wealthier than the rest, wearing a clean purple shirt and bright red pants. They were driving pretty fast, but as they passed she saw him rip a child, maybe six or seven years old, right out of her mother's arms. The mother stooped down to pick her child up, only to be knocked over by the oncoming wave of people. Alis gasped as she hit the ground, but the woman was out of sight before she knew what happened to her after that.
"Alis, you stay with Lu, okay? Promise me you won't leave her side?"
"I promise." Alis nodded her head slowly, still in shock after seeing what happened to that woman.
"There will be a village there. It'll have food and medicine, and supplies for you guys."
"What about all the kids that will be there? Are we supposed to take of all of them alone?" Lu asked, refering to herself and the other older teens that would be there.
"I wish I knew, honey." their mother reached over to stroke her cheek.
"Is that it?" Alis leaned up from the backseat, her eyes fixed on the huge building in front of her. She'd never been anywhere other than her school and the department store just across from it.
"Yeah, that's it." Lu nodded her head, although she couldn't share in Alis's excitement. She'd riden on a train before, and she knew this trip would be much longer than any she'd ever been on before. Lu also knew, that this was where they had to part ways with their mother.
The car pulled up beside the curb, and Lu had to shove the door open using all her strength. There were so many people flocking towards the station, she could hardely see the ground.
"Hey!" she yelped as a boy a bit older than Alis pushed her out of his way and into the car. She glared after him, holding her throbbing shoulder before she joined her mother and Alis on the other side of the car.
"You two will have reserved seats on the train. Tell them your names, then tell them your Rita's daughter, okay? They'll take good care of you." Rita grabbed Alis by her shoulders and pulled her into her grasp,"I love you so, so much. You be good. Listen to Lu." she gave her one last kiss on the top of her head and smiled at her reassuringly.
"Lu, I trust you to take care of her and yourself." Rita looked at Lu, who stood level headed to herself.
"I promise I'll look after her."
Lu had never been one for emotions. She was always too embarrassed to show her family any affection in public, but not today. She reached out for her mother and hugged her tightly. She didn't want to let go, she wasn't ready. It was hard enough losing her father, now she was losing the woman that had raised her, the woman she loved more than anything.
"I love you." she whispered through the tears that trickled down her cheeks.
"I love you more." was Rita's reply, using every ounce of energy she had left to keep her own tears from trickling.
"Go, they have seats waiting."
After helping her daughters unload their suitcases, she watched as they walked away. She ignored the people rushing too and fro about her, and even the people that shoved her out of their way. Nothing mattered anymore. Her children were gone. The only things she had left to live for, were walking away.
Lu had Alis's hand locked in hers so they wouldn't be seperated. It was hard dragging the suitcases through the crowds of people, so they were traveling at a much slower pace than they'd have liked. Lu had her quiver slung across her shoulder, and her bow resting on top of it. Knowing where they were going, she wasn't going anywhere without it.
Eventually, they managed to make it to security. Things were a lot less hectic- the security guards had all the children lined up in single file.
"You can't take those with you." the security guard said once they reached the train doors,"We need to as much space possible."
"Our suitcases? But- we need them!" Lu protested as the guard ripped the cases away from the girls,"Rita, you know Rita? We're her daughters! Lu and Alis! We have reserved seats!"
"Yes, I know who you are. You do have reserved seats, but that doesn't mean you can bring these." the guard tossed the cases into a small pile of bags beside him,"Take these two to the front of the train. Lu and Alis." the guard spoke to a man in a suit beside him.
"What about the bow?" the man asked under his breathe.
"Yes, I saw the bow. I didn't say anything did I? That means I don't care about it. Take them to the front. Now."
The man raised an eyebrow at the mans harsh tone, but shrugged it off. Grabbing the girls by their shoulders, he shoved them towards the gate,"Start walking."
Neither of them objected as they were ushered into the train. The first train they passed through was completely empty, as was the second. The door opened to the third, revealing a room half filled with kids of varied ages, shoulder to shoulder. They didn't have enough room to move. At all. They had at long trip of ahead of them, and her stomach fluttered as she thought of how painful it was going to be for these kids.
They manged to push their way through that cart, but then the door opened to another cart filled with at least double the amount as before.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry." Alis apologized as she stepped on yet another foot. She looked up at the owner of the black shoes, and a small gasp escaped her throat. It was the man from before! The one with red pants and a purple shirt! Up close he didn't look so mean, but knowing what he did to get aboard the train prevented her from thinking anything positive of him.
"You're fine." He replied, but Alis wasn't hearing it. She turned her head away from him, and stomped onwards, leaving the boy to stare after her in confusion.
They had to make it through four, maybe five more completely filled carts, before they finally reached the front. Lu couldn't help a smile when she saw their seating arrangements- they actually had seats!
The first cart had seats by the pair lined up along each of the train. They had blue cusions, made of what looked like cotton. There were windows in this cart as well, unilke the ones they'd walked through.
The man showed them their seats, and after they were both comfortable, left without a single word. Lu had given Alis the window seat, knowing she'd need the entertainment on their ride.
"Lu, look." Alis pointed out the window,"What's he doing?"
Lu leaned forward to look at the man Alis was pointing at. He was a security guard, but he was different from the one that had boarded them. There was a mother, with her two year old daughter in her arms. She was trying to board the train, but he wouldn't let them.
"Why isn't he letting them on the train?" she pressed, but Lu didn't reply. She didn't know.
"There aren't enough seats for everyone. In a few seconds we'll be on our way." The boy sitting in the seat directly in front of them turned around to look at them. He had longish brown hair, reaching the base of his neck before it cut off abruptly. Using his pointer finger, he pushed the huge pair of spectacles he wore up to get a clearer view of the sisters.
The younger girl sat directly behind him. She was a brunette, with deep, dark blue eyes. He figured she was twelve or thirteen, from the way she held herself and the way her face curved. It wasn't round and chubby like that of a child would be. Her chin jutted out just a bit, but not enough to make her look unfeminine. She was rather pretty, he thought.
Then he turned his attention to the girl beside her, her sister he presumed. He jerked his head back and blinked several times when he actually studied her for the first time. Her hair was a beautiful blonde color, and from just looking at it, he could tell how silky and smooth it was. She was only a bit taller than her sister, but he knew she was about his age. Even if she wasn't, he didn't care. He knew he was in love.
Her face was rounded unlike her sister, but it gave her a cute, child-like look. Her eyes looked exactly like her sisters, but to him, hers were prettier.
"Um, my name's Lu." Lu shuffled uncomfortably under his gaze,"This is my sister Alis."
"Lore. My name is Lore. Nice to meet you, Lu." Lore thrust his hand towards Lu, trembling just enough for the sisters to notice. Alis nudged Lu with her elbow, snickering as Lu reached up to shake his sweat covered hand. Her first reaction was a grimace, but she forced a smile.
He continued staring at her, and probably would've stared the entire ride if the guard hadn't walked in and told him to turn around.
"I think he likes you." Alis whispered, and Lu's reply was a hard glare. The eleven year old continued laughing, but it was clear Lu wasn't as amused.
Suddenly, the train lurched forward, and just as Lore had predicted, they were on there way. Alis's laughing stopped as she stared out the window, watching sadly as the train left the station filled with kids that weren't as lucky as they were. She wondered what would happen to all of them- would they even survive to see tomorrow?

"This is your captain speaking. We have approximately 15 hours remaining on our trip. First class, please help yourselves to refreshments and make yourselves comfortable."  A voice came over the intercom.
"He didn't even bother to mention the thousands of kids in the back." Alis muttered.
"There's nothing we can do about it, Alis. So why worry about it? I mean, all of them are lucky considering some kids didn't even make it on the train." Lu didn't agree with the whole 'first class' thing one bit. If they'd all crammed in like the other kids had been forced to, they could've fit at least 100 more bodies. What made matters worse, was that there were at least 20 empty seats in the cart even without cramming in.
"Yeah, but still." despite her young age, Alis was very caring and compassionate towards others. She'd always been the 'nice sister'.
"Oh, there's the food cart!" Lu whispered excitedly, leaning over Lore's seat to get a better view. A woman was pushing a cart filled with snacks like pretzals and chips, as well as cans of soda and bottles of water.
"You're not really gonna take anything, are you?" Alis asked, leaning forward so she could see it too.
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Because. Those people back there don't get anything, why should we be treated to snacks?"
Lu rolled her eyes,"Just because they don't get anything, doesn't mean we don't."
"Two of those mini-Pringle cans please." Lu said to the waitress.
She handed one to Alis and one to Lu, before she continued on down the isle.
"You guys are the engineer's daughters aren't you?" asked the girl from the seat beside them. Like Lore, she was seated by herself. Her hair was blonde, but her roots were dark brown making it obvious she'd had her dyed that color. She was short, like really short. Her feet didn't even touch the ground. She had a long nose, and a large black mole to the right of her lips.
"Yeah, why?" Lu asked, opening the can of chips before turning her gaze to the girl.
"Just wondering." the girl replied, her brows pressed together thoughtfully. Despite her words, her dark eyes said something else. She turned her gaze away from Lu and Alis to stare out the window.
Lu took into note the girls outfit, and realized how underdressed she was. Lu herself was wearing a tank top and flip flops, while the other girl wore a heavy, warm looking leather jacket with matching brown winter boots.
"We're going to Canada." Lu muttered to herself, resting her head in the palms of her hands.
"Yeah, so?" Alis asked, puzzled.
Alis had always been smarter than Lu- she had thrown a thick hoodie and a pair converse. While Alis had had warmth in mind, Lu had only been thinking about how she looked.
"Isn't it really cold in Canada?"
"Oh... It is. You're gonna be freezing."
"Actually," Lore turned around again,"It depends on where and when you go."
"So where are we going? Do you even know?" Lu pressed.
"I do know, actually. My father's the captain of Virginia's militia afterall." He stated proudly.
"So... Where are we going?" Lu asked, annoyance clearly lining her voice.
"We're going to Quebec. In the middle of Winter. Don't count on it being warm."
Lu leaned her head back against the headrest, "Like, how cold is it gonna be?"
"Last year, around this time, it was an average of negative two degrees."
"Welp, I'm screwed."
"Don't worry, if you get to cold you can borrow my jacket." Lore said with a sweet smile.
Lu looked up at him, and couldn't help but return his smile. He had nothing but a thin cotton sweater on top of his white button up shirt and vest.
"Tell me, if you knew it was going to be so cold, why didn't you wear more?" Lu asked.
"I have four layers on under this."
"Oh, never mind then." taking that cotton sweater won't make the tiniest bit of difference to him, but it'll make a world of difference to her.
They rode in silence for a while, Lu fell asleep at one point, only to be woken up by the intercom as the man spoke again.
"This is your captain speaking. We have 10 hours remaining on our trip. First class, please help yourselves to refreshments. Second class, a waitress is coming around with crackers for you."
"At least now they get to eat a little bit." Alis muttered, shaking her head lightly.
"Excuse me, m'am. Is there a restroom?" Lu asked the waitress once she arrived at their seats.
"Yes, it's at the back of the cart to your right." the lady said with a smile, before placing two bags on the trays in front of them.
"Thanks." Lu said as she walked away.
Alis opened the bag in front of her, and continued shaking her head. "Lu, this is filled with food. I'd feel so bad eating all this. It's just not fair."
Lu didn't reply. Sure, she thought it was unfair, but it wasn't their fault they had a rich mother. She was grateful and wasn't going to let it go to waste.
"I'll be right back." Lu got to her feet and stumbled to the back of the train. She'd been so busy trying to keep herself standing, she didn't notice the girl that'd been sitting in the isle beside them get up and follow her.
Lu tugged at the bathroom's door handle,"I'm in here!" a girl called from within, clearly annoyed at the sudden disturbance.
"Sorry." she muttered, backing up a few paces to lean against the other side of the train and wait.
The girl who'd followed her over stopped when Lu stepped away from the door, stumbling as the train turned a sharp corner.
"You waiting too?" Lu asked.
"No, I actually wanted to talk to you."
"Yeah? What d'you need?"
"I just wanted to tell you... My mother, she worked with yours. She was an engineer too. She's the reason I'm in this cart instead of one of the ones back there. Anyways," Lu noticed something slide out of her sleeve and into her hand,"She's dead because of you and your family. And, I've wanted to get payback ever since."
Then, everything went downward. Even the train. It started downhill going 60 miles per hour. Both Lu and the girl lost their balance and slid down the isle, screaming.
Lu managed to grab hold of a seat leg, and the girl ceased the oppurtunity, and grabbed Lu's leg.
"She has a knife!" someone screamed, and immedate chaos brokeo out! Everybody was out of there seats- some even stood on their chairs to get away from her. Boys and girls alike were yelling at the top of their lungs, trying to get somebody, anybody to notice.
"Wha-What is going on in there?" the captain called over the intercom,"Stop yelling!"
The train had picked up speed, and was now soaring downhill! Despite countless attempts, neither Lu or the girl could get back to there feet.
"Lu!" Alis exited the row they'd been assigned to, and one seat at a time, inched her way towards her sister. She was crouched on the ground, so it was easier for her to stay afoot.
She reached her hand towards Lu, and when their hands finally locked together, Alis pulled with all her might. Lu kicked at the ground, trying to regain her footing, and in doing this, the girl lost her grip and was sent flying into the front door.
The sisters finally managed to make it to a set of empty seats where they buckled themselves in. The train hadn't slowed down one bit.
Little did the passangers know, the engine room was just as chaotic as the first car had been. Going downhill was always dangerous, and going very, very slowly was key. At the bottom of this very hill, was a sharp curve which could only be made if going 20 miles per hour or less. They were currenly at 80 miles and counting, heading straight for the turn.
The screams had distracted the captain long enough for him to misjudge the braking time. He and two other men were leaning all there wait on the giant lever that was the emergeny brake, but it was no use.
With a loud snap the railing at the curve broke in two, and the train hurlted into the trees.

The author's comments:

This is all I have at the moment, but I'll update as soon as I have more. :)

Nothing.
Lu couldn't feel anything
She couldn't see anything.
There was... Nothing.
It was this way until her head started tingling, then as time went on it started hurting more and more. She reached for her throbbing head. She felt warm, sticky blood pouring out of a gash on her forehead. Her vision was still darkened, but her memory was started to come back.
She remembered getting on a train with Alis. She remembered a boy named Lore. And she remembered some crazy girl with a knife. But what happened after that? She didn't know.
Slowly, in small, fuzzy bits and pieces, her vision began returning. She shook her head, hoping that would give her a clearer image, but it didn't. All she could see now was blue.
Time went on, and she realized this blue color was textured. She reached forward, and her hand was greeted by one of the cotton seats. Despite her current condition, a faint grin appeared on her face, but only lasted a second.
Alis.
Where was she?
After jerking her head to the left, she found her answer. Alis was bent over in her seat, unmoving. Lu went to reach for her, but something prevented her from moving. Looking down at her lap, realization struck her.
They must've crashed. That was the only reasonable explanation. She took a moment to appretiate the fact that she and Alis had been buckled in, before unbuckling herself and crouching down in front of Alis.
"Alis, baby are you okay?" Lu clasped Alis's cheeks between her hands,"Please wake up."
She started moving, twitching really, but this gave Lu what she'd been looking for. She was alive.
"Good, now let's get out of here." Lu unbelted her sister, and lifted her into the air before tossing her over her shoulder. She stumbled into the isle and started down it. Bodies decorated the cart, drenched in their own blood as well as other peoples. She couldn't help but cringe at the thought of that being her or Alis. Maybe it was a good thing Alis was unconcious- she didn't have to see any of this.
Her head was still throbbing, but she was determined to get Alis out. What if the train caught fire? She wanted to get out before anything like that happened. Surprisingly, the power on the cart was still on, but she knew it was only a matter of time before that cut off. After all, she didn't know how long they'd been in there- they could've crashed days ago.
Reaching the door, she pushed it open, and in doing so, a body fell out. It's face was dismantled, but she recognized it from the clothes she was wearing. It was the girl that attacked her.
Respect the dead she was always told, but tonight, she didn't care. She kicked the body down the stairs that lead to the ground, and followed slowly afterwards. To her dismay, the moon was still high in the sky, meaning the night was still young.
The wind nipped at her bareskin, sending a shiver down her spine. They were in for a cold night. She glanced down at the girls body, tilting her head slightly.
A moment later she was off again, wearing a warm, brown leather jacket and matching winter boots.
"Hey! You there!" A voice called from behind her. She stopped abruptly, and turned around to see who it was calling her. Lu presumed it was another survivor.
"Hey, are you okay?" she noticed a figure running towards her. A man.
"I'm fine, my sister's unconscious though."
"We have a camp right over there." the man pointed from the direction he'd come running from,"Good thing I caught you. Here, do you want me to take her?" he asked, refering to the girl slung over Lu's shoulders.
"No, thanks though." she had just meant the guy and didn't trust him just yet.
"Alright, just follow me." he didn't seem offended at all. The man turned around and lead them back through the trees and into a large cave tucked into the side of a mountain.
"I've got two more!" he announced upon entering.
Warmth and light raditated out of the cave as Lu stepped in. In the center was a huge fire, and around it, several people sat warming themselves. They all looked up as the three arrived, but only a few of them got up to help.
"Lu!" she heard a familiar voice,"You're okay!"
It was Lore.
Guilt bore down on her when she remembered him for the first time that night. She hadn't stopped to check if he was still in the cart, or if he was even alive.
But then, she realized, neither had he, and any previous guilt was washed away.
He rushed towards her and wrapped his arms around her,"I thought I'd never see you again."
"Yeah, good to see you to." Lu gave it a few seconds, but eventually lightly pushed him away from her,"Anybody here know anything about medicine, or nursing, or anything along those lines?" she called out, looking around the cave for any nods, but unforetunately, everybody was shaking heads.
"Everyone here is just as useless as I'm sure you are." a girl about her age was walking towards her. She stood several inches above Lu, and her thick brown hair hit the middle of her back. She had a rough look to her. She wore mostly black- a black leather jacket, combat boots, and black leggings. The only thing that differed was the purple tank she wore, but even that was dark and dreary.
"I'm sorry?" Lu asked, despite having heard her loud and clear. It was more a dare. A dare for her to repeat herself.
"Alright ladies, that's enough. Be, leave the new girl alone." it was a man speaking this time. It was strange how similar the two looked. They had the same rectangular face structure, the same brown eyes.
"Come on, Ian. You know I was kidding." Be shrugged, trying to look innocent and cute, but failed miserably.
Ian shot a side glare her way before he spoke to Lu,"Put her down by the fire. Don't want her to wake up freezing like the rest of us did."
Lu carefully lowered Alis to the ground, close enough to the fire where she could feel the heat, but far enough away that it wasn't dangerous. Ian left for a few moments, and returned with hat filled with water. He dipped a piece of fabric into it, and pressed it against the gash on Lu's forehead. At first it stung a bit, making her flinch, but after a while it started feeling nice.
"Your name's Lu, isn't it?" Ian asked, dabbing the clothe in the water before returning it to her forehead.
"Yeah, and this is Alis."
"Sisters?"
"That's right."
"Be and I are twins." Ian explained,"I'm sure you figured that much out yourself though."
Lu nodded. She'd figured they were siblings, but it hadn't accured to her that they may be twins, even though basically everything about them was identical. They had the same thick brown hair, they even dressed the same. Ian wore black combat boots and a black teeshirt. He wasn't wearing black leggings, but he was wearing dark colored jeans. He even wore a jacket the same purple color as Be's tank top had been.
"My name's Arian by the way. Be calls me Ian, just like I call her Be. Her real name's Bear."
"Bear? As in the animal?"
"Yeah I know, it's weird. That's why I call her Be. I'd suggest you do the same."
Lu opened her mouth to reply, but Alis suddenly started moving, and all her attention was immediately directed towards her. Arian dropped the cloth in the water, and went to return it to it's original owner.
"Alis?" Lu placed her hand on her arm.
"Lu." Alis mumbled, her eyes still closed,"Where am I?"
"The train crashed. You were knocked unconcious, so I carried you to a cave."
The girls eyes shot open. She grabbed Lu's arm, distress shown clearly in her eyes,"Did everybody survive?"
That was just like her, Lu thought, putting others before herself,"Don't worry about. All that matters is you getting better."
"I am better." Alis pushed herself into a sitting position,"Did everybody survive?"
"No, Alis. The train crashed. Barely anybody made it out."
Alis closed her eyes. She didn't reply. She couldn't stop thinking about all those people. All those children. Many they had past on their way to the front of the train were younger than she was- much younger. Just thinking about it hurt her.
"I'm sorry Alis, there was nothing anybody could do." Lu said in hopes of comforting her even a little bit, but it was clear nothing anyone could say would make her feel any better.
Lu looked away from Alis, leaving her alone to grieve the losses of those she didn't even know, to study their surroundings. In total, there were ten people including the two of them, huddled inside the cave. There wasn't much in terms of supplies. In the corner she saw a cooler, which she presumed was filled with food from the train. She remembered the snack cart, and wondered if they had stumbled across that.
After scanning the cave several times, she came to the conclusion that it was still inside the train. There was probably medicine there as well, and other things that might come in handy. It hadn't crossed her mind until then, but they were actually dealing with a life or death situation.
Nobody was coming for them, in fact, the likelyhood of anyone knowing they crashed in the first place was slim to none. They were stranded in the middle of winter, miles away from their destination.
She'd been so lost in her thoughts, she hadn't noticed Arian approach her.
"Lu," she jumped as he spoke,"we're having a meeting if you wanna come."
"Yeah, I'll be there." Lu got up to follow Arian after glancing back at Alis. She hadn't moved at all, and Lu didn't think she was ready to be disturbed.
The two made there way towards the end of the cave, where there was enough room for all nine of them to sit comfortably. Lore joined them shortly after, followed by Be, until eventually everyone was gathering in a neat circle.
"Guys, we're in a not so good situation." Arian began,"In case anybody hasn't noticed, we're in the middle of nowhere, and the village we were headed towards is miles away. We had ten hours left in the train, so walking... That would take us days, weeks, maybe even months depending on how fast we can go."
He stopped. Looking around to see everyone nodding their heads, he continued,"At first light we'll be stripping the train- taking anything of use and packing it up. Then, once we're able, we'll continue to the village on foot."
"Yeah? And what if we don't want to?" someone challenged, and looking to see who it was, Lu was surprised to see it was the man who had brought them to the cave in the first place.
Taking a better look at him however, he did look like the type to challenge things. He wore camoflouge pants with a black tank top, and a forest green jacket. His hair was brown, but if it weren't for the fire's light reflecting off of it, she would never have known that. It was shortened to a buzz which was hardely visible at all.
"Those that don't want to come, can stay here and freeze to death." Arian replied calmly, but deep down he hated the fact that he was questioned,"Lore says we're about 500 miles away. We can get there in 10 days if we travel for 12 hours every day."
"And that's if we don't run into any problems along the way." Lore added, pushing his glasses up,"Rememeber, we haven't reached Canada yet, so we have to be careful to avoid beaches."
"Yes, thank you Lore." Arian said sarcastically,"We'll walk wide circles around any beaches."
After nobody had spoken for a while, Arian said,"Anymore objections?" he asked. Everybody shook their heads in reply,"Then everyone needs to get a good nights rest. I'll take first watch, and I'll wake you, DH when it's your turn."
"You're only choosing me cause I don't like your plan." DH said angrily,"Why can't Cuser take second watch?"
"Because Cuser is taking third watch." Arian countered,"Anything else you'd like to say?"
DH muttered something under his breathe, and was the first to break the circle they had formed. He splawed himself in front of the fire, and soon, everyone else copied his actons.
Lu snuggled herself up beside Alis who, while they were all talking, had curled herself into a ball and fallen asleep by the fire. She wrapped her arms around her younger sister, and closed her eyes.
It was going to be a busy day tomorrow.

"Guys, was it smoking yesterday?" asked the worried voice of Mat. He wasn't the youngest there, that was Alis's role, but he was definitely younger than everyone else. While most of the survivors were between the ages of 16 through 18, Mat was only 13. He was short and scrawny, with bushy brown hair. Oddly enough, he was wearing the same thing Alis was- a hoodie and converse.
"Yes, Mat. Don't worry about it." Arian replied, grabbing the stair railing and pulling himself into the first cart.
Lu and Lore followed right behind him. Alis had stayed back at the cave, for obvious reasons. Lu thought it best she wasn't exposed to the gory sight that awaited them inside.
"Do you know where the cart is?" Arian asked, kicking the body of a young man out of his way.
"No, but it should be somewhere around here." Lu had told them about the cart on the walk over. None of them liked the fact that first class had been treated to such luxuries, but none of them complained either. If the cart hadn't existed, there would be a lot less food for them to scavenge.
"Alright, Be and I are going to check the engine room. They may have medical supplies, and possibly more food there. I want Mat, Lu, and Lore to check around here for the food cart, and the rest of you, search the other cars. Grab anything that looks worthwhile." Arian said, and not a single person protested- not even DH.
Lu walked up and down the car a few times, scanning each row of seats carefully. She looked under each of them in turn, but the cart was nowhere to be found.
She lowered herself to the ground, and peered underneath yet another pair of seats. This time however, something caught her attention. It was Alis's knife! She suddenly remember the bow her mother had made her pack, and after grabbing the knife, rushed back to the seats she and Alis had been seated in originally.
"Hello old friend." Lu said, a grin on her face as she pulled it out from the crevice it had fallen into. Her arrows had fallen out of her quiver, so it took her a while to gather all of them together. She only found nineteen of the twenty four she had brought, and one of those nineteen was broken in half.
Eighteen is better than zero, she thought.
She slung the quiver over her shoulder and carried the longbow at her right side as she made her way out of the car. Mat and Lore were there waiting.
"Any luck?" she asked.
"No, you? What's that?" Mat asked, eyeing the stick-like object she carried.
"What does it look like?" Lu replied sarcastically, before adding,"My mom made me bring it, and I thought it might come in handy. We'll run out of food eventually."
Mat continued staring at it in confusion, before he eventually shook his head and shrugged.
"If the cart isn't in here," Lore said,"It must be in the engine room. That's the only other place it could be."
"Well it's not." Arian called his reply as he approached the small group, with his sister at his side.
"What if somebody else took it?" Mat asked frantically, looking around as if someone or something was hiding in the woods that surrounded them.
"Does it look like there's anybody else here, kid?" Be's voice was harsher than necessary,"If anybody took it, it'd have been one of us not wanting to share the food."
"Be-" Arian started, but she cut him off,"No, Arian." she said,"There's a traitor among us. I just know it."
"Be," Arian began again, ignoring the glare his twin shot his way,"if one of us did take the food, where would they hide it? It's not like they could eat all of it in one sitting, and we would've found it on board if they'd hidden it there."
"We still have a few people searching," Lu added,"Maybe for some reason it's back there."
"You'd better hope so." Be said, her fists clenched as she stared at Lu,"I'm better you're the traitor. And that's why you've been kissing up to my brother! So you can get on his good side and he won't suspect you!"

Little did they know, that while they were fighting, a group of three men were watching them from high in the trees. Wearing thick and bulky fur coats, they were experts in the art of climbing and living in the harsh winter conditions. They'd had years to practice after all.
"They don't sound very friendly." a man, younger than the rest of them, said in a hushed voice. On his back was the pelt of an arctic fox, which despite it's small size, was enough to cover his entire back.
"You're right, Fox." replied a gruff voice. He clearly surpassed Fox in age- his graying hair and wrinkled face gave that away. He had a long, deep gash down the right side of his face and a gaping hole where his eye should've been. He lost his eye tussling with a wolf. That same wolf was now slung over his back and was also the reason he received the respectable title of 'Wolf'. "I don't think the king will be happy to hear about this."
"Should we bring one of them back with us?" Fox pressed.
There was a moment of silence as Wolf mauled on the thought, before he turned to the third man that had accompanied them,"What do you think, Wolverine?"
"The boy." his voice was calm and steady, but firm and authoritative at the same time,"The others disregard him."
Fox and Wolf turned their gaze to where Wolverine was staring. While the majority of the group was fighting among itself, the young boy had plopped himself onto the ground, his back leaning against the train they had arrived in.
"Fox." Wolf said, and Fox nodded his understanding.
Like the skin he wore, Fox was known for being agile and cunning- clever to say the least. Fox slithered down the tree, barely making a sound as he dropped onto the ground. It was only a moment before he had slunk around the group, and was peering through the cracks between the cars at the boy on the other side.
Pursing his lips together, he made a sound that was much like one a bird would make, but wasn't. It was a call all of them had to learn- it was their form of communicating without talking.

Between his extreme boredom and curiosity, Mat couldn't help but turn around to look for the bird that was whistling. He stared through the gap between cars, expecting to see the bird come hopping into view. When it didn't, he pushed himself to his feet, and slowly followed the noise. He moved cautiously, not because he was scared, but rather, because he didn't want to frighten the bird away.
He could hear it getting louder as he approached the tree line. The boy squatted down, waiting patiently for the bird to reveal itself.
Fox felt a surge of pride as the boy fell right into the trap he had set. Once Mat had lowered himself to the ground, Fox knew it was time to strike. Quickly, silently, the fox pelted man darted out of the woods, and before Mat could say or do anything, he was laying unconscious in Fox's arms. Fox dragged him back into the woods, where his comrades were waiting.
"Nice work." Wolf said with a nod of his head, watching Wolverine sling the boy's body over his shoulder.
"Let's get going before they notice." Fox said.
"They won't notice." Wolverine grumbled, already beginning the trek back home.

And he was right. The group of survivors had been so busy trying to decide who was the traitor, that they didn't even notice Mat's disappearance. As a matter of fact, he could've been gone for days without anyone realizing if Alis hadn't spoken up.
"Where's Mat?" she asked, seeing the entire group enter the cave. Everyone except her new friend Mat.
He was the only one that had bothered to even talk to her since she and Lu had arrived. Maybe because she was the closest to his age.
"Um," Arian glanced around helplessly,"I haven't seen him since we were at the train."
"I didn't even know he came with us to the train." somebody added.
"That idiot must've gotten lost." Be said before shrugging,"Well, it's his own fault. He's probably long gone by now."
"Don't say that!" Alis yelled, although her high pitched voice wasn't threatening at all,"He's fine! We just need to find him."
"Aw, was he your friend?" Be faked a frown,"It's okay, I'm sure the wolves finished him off quickly."
"Alright Be, that's enough." Arian held his arm out in front of the enraged Lu before she could get any closer,"We'll find Mat tomorrow. It's too dark to go back out now, it'd be pointless."
"I want to come with you." Alis said,"He's my friend. I want to help find him."
"Listen," Lore spoke up from the back of the crowd,"We can't stay here any longer than another day. We need to start moving. Our rations will run out very soon, seeing as we didn't bring anything back from the train today. If we're lucky, we'll be halfway there before that happens."
"But we can't leave him!" Alis cried.
"Lore's right," Arian said after a moment's thought,"We can't risk the entire group because of one kid. We're leaving in two days. If we don't find him tomorrow, we're gonna have to leave him."
Everyone except Alis nodded their head in agreement. She couldn't understand how they'd be willing to leave one of their own behind! She was determined to find him, no matter what.

It had been a sleepless night for Mat.

When he finally woke up, his head was throbbing from where Fox had hit him, and he'd had no idea where he was. There was nobody around, it was as dark as anything, and to add to it, he was tied up. He didn't know who had taken him or why, but he knew something was up.
He stared into the trees surrounding him as the sun began it's way across the sky. After several hours of waiting, he was ready to face his captors. He'd been tied against an old Oak tree, so there was no way he could fight them when they arrived, but that didn't cross his mind. He just wanted to know who took him.

Lucky for Mat, Fox had been told to check on him first light. He peered around the corner at the boy he'd taken the day before. He guessed the boy was only a few years younger than he was.{ He had probably been an infant when the fighting started. Fox had lost his father and mother at the age of six. They died in the first wave of bombs. He had moved in with his uncle, and later found himself merging with a group of people that had made camp in the woods. } edit later
It was strange at first. Catching your own food, living in the wilderness like animals... But over time, they adjusted. Traditions were made, and a new way of life was formed. This life was all most of their children knew.

"Who are you?" Mat called out, seeing a person's face appear from behind the tree directly in front of him.
"Fox. My name's Fox." the sixteen year old boy said, stepping out to reveal himself completely.
Mat tilted his head slightly, staring at the boy curiously. He was short, and rather scrawny looking. His hair was bushy and clearly unkept.
"Are you the one that captured me?" was the first question Mat asked the stranger.
"Yes, I am."
"Why?"
Fox didn't reply. He wasn't sure how much he was allowed to tell the boy. They hadn't told him what they planned on doing with him yet. If they freed him, and he knew Fox and his people were watching his group, he'd definately be planning on telling them.
"I'm not going to tell you that." he finally said.
"Why not?" Mat demanded,"If you're gonna tie me up and leave me for hours on end, I desserve to know why I'm here!"
Fox shook his head. He wanted to tell him. In fact, he felt bad for the boy, but he didn't want to risk putting his people in danger.
"I'm sorry. I just.. Can't."
"Fine, if you won't tell me that, tell me this. When are you planning on letting me go?"
"As soon as my people decide if you're a threat or not."
"There are more of you?"
Fox hesitated. He cursed himself for slipping up so easily,"I never said that."
"Yeah, you just did."
"It's alright, Fox." A deep, rumbling voice sounded from within the trees. Suddenly, another man appeared. He was much older looking than Fox was, and like Fox, he was wearing the skin of an animal on his shoulders.
"Wolf." Fox dipped his head in greeting,"I was sent to check on the boy."
"And I was sent to collect the boy." Wolf pulled a sharpened stone out from his pocket.
Mat, seeing the knife like object, immediately began scooting away. He kicked vigurously at the strange man, fear gripping at his chest as he brought stone closer and closer to him.
"Hold still boy, or I will hurt you." Wolf grumbled, grabbing the rope that had kept his attatched to the tree.
Using the stone, Wolf cut the rope in two and pulled Mat to his feet,"Don't bother trying to run." he said, before blindfolding Mat with a strip of cloth he had pulled off of his shirt.
Firmly, he gripped Mat by the shoulder and began pushing him forward and Mat had no choice but to oblige. With Fox trailing after them, the three made their way deeper and deeper into the forest.
Mat felt himself being pulled further away from his people. He had no idea where he was, or where he was going. All he could do was hope his friends knew where he was, and that they were going to rescue him.


"This is so stupid. We could be halfway to the village by now!"
"Bear, you're being over dramatic and you know it."
"My point is," Bear snapped impatiently,"We're wasting time. He's just a kid anyway- he can't contribute anything to the group!"
"That doesn't matter." Arian insisted,"He's one of us."
Bear rolled her eyes at her brothers words, but managed to calm down after muttering a few things under her breathe.
Arian had decided they should start looking at the train wreck, since that was the last place anybody had seen him. Unfortunately for them, nobody in their group knew hardly anything about tracking.
"It looks like something might've happened here. Oh.. I hope he isn't hurt." A girl named Ace was crouched on the ground, staring at what looked like dragmarks. She was known for being an over worrier-someone that didn't like conflict at all. Despite their current living conditions, her blonde hair looked neatly kept and well cared for. She wore light colored jeans, which surprisingly didn't have many stains just yet. Most of her clothing were in the exact same condition as a matter of fact. Her floral dress-like top was smooth and unwrinkled, and her brown boots were clean. The white, fur-covered throw over she'd brought however, had been stained gray from the smoke of the train wreck. Normally she'd have thrown it out straight away, but it was one of the only things she had to keep her warm. She'd resolved to wear it for the time being, however, once they reached the village, she'd find something else.
"Guys, she's right." Lu called over, crouching beside Ace.
"Okay, so we follow them then." Arian concluded,"Nice work, Ace."
Ace turned her face upwards to return his words with a sweet smile, before she rose to her feet and began dusting off her jeans. Although she could be prissy at times, she had a sweet side to her.
"You don't expect all of us to go, do you?" DH was leaning against the train cart with his arms folded across his chest. Like Bear, he thought it was a waste of time to be searching for someone that wasn't worth anything to them.
"No, don't be stupid. I want Lu and Cuser with me, and I want the rest of you here searching the train."
At the sound of his name, the boy with red trousers joined Lu and Arian near the drag marks.
"Can I come with you guys?" Alis asked, looking up at Arian with hopeful eyes.
"No, you stay here with everyone else. It's too dangerous out there for you." he replied, hardly even looking at the girl standing several inches below him.
"Meet us back at the cave." After seeing a few nods, Arian led his group of three into the woods, with Alis staring helplessly after them.




"Bad news! Bad news!" a girl no older than Alis came flying into camp, her beathe coming in short spurts.
"What is it Squirrel?" Fox poked his head out of shack he called home as his friend came running into camp.
The camp itself was hard to find unless you knew what you were looking for and where to find it. Behind one of the many waterfalls in the area, there's a cave. On the other side of this cave, lies their camp. Made by people having years of experience, using the strongest wood in the area, their houses were small but safe and reliable.
The walls of each house were made up of several tree trunks running vertically and were all bound together using vines. Their roofs were made in a very similar manner, except of course the logs ran horizantally. The only way in is through a small gap in the logs, which in every house, leads into the clearing where they all gather for meetings or to simply socialize.
"The train people, they're looking for the boy!" she managed to gasp, her tiny legs shaking beneath her.
"Wait how do you know?" by now, several people, all wearing the pelts of different animals over their shoulders, had joined them in the clearing. Fox placed his hand on Squirrels shoulder, hoping to calm the frightened girl as he did so. She was always a bit on the jumpy side, but he'd never seen her this bad."It's okay squirrel, they're not gonna get you in here." he continued, lowering his head so he could look her in the eyes,"We need to know everything you saw."
Squirrel, eyes still wide with terror, nodded her head at Fox's words. "Okay," she said, taking a gulp of air before she began,"I was out tree climbing like I always do. I wanted to get a closer look at the train, so I climbed over that way and that's when I saw them." her eyes broke away from Fox's as Wolverine approached the two of them, his arms crossed as he stared at them.
"Don't mind him," Fox cooed gently,"Please, continue."
"Okay..." Squirrel had to drag her gaze away from the cruel looking man,"They found dragmarks, the ones you left Fox. And three of the people started following them. I think one of them was the leader. They were coming straight for me, so I came back here as fast as I could."
"They didn't follow you, did they?" Wolverine's deep voice grumbled from only a few feet away.
Squirrel shook her head franctically,"No, no, no. Of course not. I made sure I wasn't."
Wolverine muttered something under his breathe, before turning away from the pair of them and heading into what was known as the palace. It was the biggest house in the entire camp, which of course only meant one thing.
"Is he going to tell the King? Are they gonna punish me? Fox, you can't let them sentence me!" the girl went from panicked to scared for her life. She began trembling uncontrollably as tears slithered down her baby-soft cheeks.

"Squirrel of the Trees, please join me in the palace."

"At least they took the blind fold off." Mat muttered to himself as he leaned himself against the walls of the pit.
Wolf and Fox had lead him deep into the forest- they walked him so far his legs had started cramping! He had been hoping for something at least kind of exciting... But as soon as they took the blindfold off, Wolf pushed him into a big hole in the ground, which is where he'd been for the past few hours.
He'd come up with a few games to pass the time, like count the sticks, and another one called count the rocks. His favorite by far was count the leaves though. Mat had managed to befriend a tiny lady bug whom he'd named Henry.
"Don't touch me!" in the distance, Mat heard voices along with hurried footsteps approaching him.
The boy scurried to his feet, backing up and standing on his tiptoes so he could see the ground above him. There were two figures- they were both men. One was much smaller than the other. The big one seemed to be pushing the smaller one along while the smaller one, naturally, was trying to get away from the bigger one.
Before he had time to react, the pair were standing at the top of the hole, and the small man was thrust in. He fell with a harsh crash as a painful yelp escaped the man's throat.
"The king will deal with you later." the big man sneered at him before taking his leave of the pit.
"Are you okay?" Mat asked, approaching the small man carefully,"Hey, I know you!" seeing him closer up, the boy recognized the small man, but only after he noticed the small fox pelt on his shoulder. It was the man, or boy, that had captured him.
Mat wouldn't have recognized him if it weren't for the pelt because of how battered and broken the boy was now. His right eye was completely swollen over and his lips were puffy and bloody. Both of his arms were covered in fresh bruises- just looking at him made Mat wince.
"What happened to you?" Mat pressed, but Fox turned away. He remained in the position he had fallen into, because it was to painful for him to move into any other.
The beaten boy muttered something inaudible under his breath, tempting Mat to scoot in closer,"What did you say?" he pressed.
"I said," Fox snapped still facing the opposite direction,"She didn't deserve that."
"Who didn't?" Fox's delicate state wasn't going to stop Mat from prying him for answers.
"Squirrel."
"Who's Squirrel?"
"My best friend..." he added, his voice changing from harsh to forlorn suddenly yet obviously,"Well, she used to be anyways."
He closed his eyes tightly, trying to stop the flow of tears that had sprung up, but he couldn't. His entire body shook as he sobbed,"I told her she'd be okay." he gasped between breaths, replaying what had happened over and over in his head vividly...

The king had called her into his palace. He had known right away something was up- the king hardly ever spoke. Ever.
"Fox, I don't want to go." she had said to him,"Please don't make me go. I'm scared!" Squirrel's face had grown white with terror. She had seen the king sentence other people. It would be better to die on the spot than go through what he put people through.
"Everything will be okay. You'll be fine." Fox stroked the top of her head gently,"I'm sure it's nothing. He just has a few questions for you, that's all." he told her, giving her a reassuring smile.
Squirrel, trusting him completely, nodded her head slowly. She stumbled to her feet with Fox assisting her on her way up.
The clearing had fallen into a ghostly silence after the king had spoken, and everyone seemed to be holding their breaths as the tiny girl made her way towards the palace. The darkness of it's entrance engulfed her and before long everyone had returned to their daily routines- everyone except Fox that is. He had a feeling something bad was about to happen and he couldn't take his mind off of it.
An hour or two went by and Fox was still staring at the palace. He had taken a seat and crossed his legs, awaiting Squirrel's return patiently.
"You worried about her?"
Fox looked up as the hoarse voice of Wolf spoke to him. The man slowly lowered himself to the ground beside Fox, crossing his legs in the same way the boy had.
"Yeah, I am." he admitted,"I just... I just don't want her to go through what my parents went through." the boy cast his gaze to the ground solemnly, plucking at a patch of small weeds that were still sprouting.
Wolf, despite his rugged appearance, was always able to sympathize with people. He placed his hand on Fox's shoulder, regarding him earnestly,"You're parents did what they thought was right. They did not deserve to go the way they did. But remember, what they did was much worse than what Squirrel has done. I don't think the king will---"
His sentence was cut off by a loud shriek from the palace. Fox sprung to his feet, his eyes wide and fearful. Wolf, shaking his head in disbelief, pushed himself off the ground to stand beside the boy.
Everyone stopped once again and stared at the house of the king. Some were frightened, knowing what was about to happen, while others, who had only heard of the horrors that were still in store, tilted their heads curiously.
Wolverine, the king's cruel second-in-command, was the first person to emerge. In his hand, he had tightly clasped a chunk of brown hair and behind him, dragging on the ground, was Squirrel. Fortunately for her, she'd been knocked unconscious before hand, so she was dragged along without any protest.
Fox stepped up out of impulse, wanting to help his friend, but Wolf thrust his arm out in front of him, blocking his way. "Don't." he muttered, pulling Fox's head closer to him so he could whisper in his ear,"It's too late. Don't get yourself killed too."
The boy tugged himself free of Wolf's grasp, but stayed where he was as he had instructed.
"Listen my people!" Wolverine's voice echoed throughout the clearing,"The king has requested we make an example out of this girl. Her carelessness has put us in danger, and everyone needs to know what will happen to them if they follow in her footsteps."
Hushed whispers spread throughout the group of gathered people.
"Badger." After Wolverine called his name, a burly man came forward in rigid steps.
"Retrieve the sentencing post." Badger nodded his head and tottered away.
The gathering remained eerily silent until Badger's return a few moments later.
Slung over his shoulder was a large, wooden post, which Fox was all too familiar with. The post was worn and splintering, with burn marks dappling it's surface. It was rare that the post was actually used, but when it was... It was used.
Badger brought the post to a hole in the ground that lay exactly in the center of the clearing. The post slid into it without any hesitation and stood upright when the burly men let it go. The hole had been there for many years, and had been dug to the exact diameter of the post. It was only used when the post was used.
"Wolf." Wolf looked up at the sound of his name. "Tie her up."
Wolverine cast the seemingly-lifeless body of Squirrel onto the ground, keeping his menacing stare on Wolf as he did so. It was almost as if he was daring Wolf do refuse.
After a moments hesitation, Wolf stepped forward, scooping Squirrel's body up in his arms.
"Don't do it Wolf!" Fox called desperately from the sidelines.
Wolf cast a glare in Fox's direction. "Don't do anything stupid, boy." he muttered under his breath as he carried the girl to the post.
"You have something to say, kid?" Wolverine asked, clearly addressing Fox.
"Actually yeah, I do." Fox separated himself from the crowd, taking a few steps towards Wolverine. "Squirrel made a mistake. She doesn't deserve to be sentenced. This isn't right." he stamped his foot on the ground, clenching his fist.
"Fox, stop it." Wolf had turned away from the post and was facing Fox, the girl still dangling in his arms.
"Shut it!" Wolverine snapped at Wolf,"Tie. Her. Up." he annunciated every word,"Now."
Badger had taken the initiative to fetch rope from the tool shack and threw it on the ground next to Wolf. With a heavy sigh, Wolf crouched down to pick up the frayed rope and continued towards the post.
"Wolf, stop! You can't do this!" Fox tried once again to stop his friend from progressing any further.
Wolverine, having enough of the boy's defiance, slapped Fox across the cheek. The force of it made the boy stumble backwards, lose his balance, and fall to the ground.
"Learn your place." Wolverine muttered, spitting on the ground beside Fox.
Fox glared up at Wolverine, but said nothing else. He placed his hand on his throbbing cheek, wincing.
While this had been happening, Wolf had tied the girl to the post and had taken a few steps away from it, meshing himself back into the crowd.
Wolverine left Fox and approached the girl, who was just starting to come to.
"Wh..." her eyes slowly flittered open,"Where am I?" she muttered, shaking her head slowly to clear away the blurriness. "Why am I tied up?" she puzzled.
"Squirrel of the Trees. You've put you're tribe at risk of being found and had brought potential danger to your people. This will not be tolerated. You have been sentenced by the king to scorching and flaying." Wolverine turned back to the crowd,"Let everyone use this as an example of what will happen to you if you put our people at risk."
"Please!" Squirrel struggled to break free of the rope that bound her,"I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry! I'll do anything! Please..." Uncontrollable sobbing filled the air and her wailing echoing around the clearing. But there was nothing anyone could do. The king's mind was made, and Wolverine would carry through whatever the king wished.
Fox, launching himself off the ground, flung himself at Wolverine, not thinking or caring about any consequences that may fall on him because of his actions. He couldn't just stand by and watch without trying to do anything.
Wolverine fell to the ground with Fox on top of him. Blow after blow, Fox pounded the man's face until it bled. This went on for a moment before Badger, one of Wolverine's loyalists, tackled Fox, pinning him to the ground- the tables had turn.
"What do you want me to do with him?" Badger asked, glaring down at the boy, who returned his glare with an equally disgusted look.
Wolverine sat up, spitting the blood that had been spilled within his mouth onto the ground. His eye was encircled with a black bruise, and his nose was bent at an unnatural angle- he looked battered and beaten.
He approached the pair, his eyes pinned on Fox. "You need to be taught a lesson." he growled, cracking his knuckles.
Badger got himself up, taking a few steps away from Fox, who remained on the ground.
Wolverine said nothing further. He never liked talking anyway.
Instead, he lifted his foot off the ground and kicked Fox's cheek as if his head were a ball. Fox's neck made an eerie popping sound as his head spun in a half circle.
He lay motionless.
"Is he dead?" whispers circulated through the crowd, wondering if they were to lose not one, but two of their people that day.
After a moment or two, Fox let out a pained groan.
"I'm surprised you're still breathing." Wolverine said,"Badger, please take care of this filth."
Badger, with a menacing smile on his face, hovered over Fox's damaged body. He reached down to grab him by his collar and pulled him up. His feet dangled in the air as he stared into the face of the burly man. Badger drew back his arm and punched Fox square in the face as hard as he could. Then he did it again, and again.
Fox had stopped fighting at this point. He'd almost grown numb to the strikes he was dealt. His face was disfigured as blood streamed down his nose and out of his mouth. He could no longer see out of his right out because of the swelling.
"Alright, that's enough. Bring him to the pit so we can continue the sentencing."
Badger obediently lowered Fox to the ground, but as soon as his feet touched the surface he collapsed, unable to keep himself upright.
"Get up." Badger hissed. Grabbing his arm tightly, he yanked him upwards. This time, Fox managed to keep himself up.
Badger did not release his grip on Fox's arm as the pair made their way out of the clearing,"Stay strong, Squirrel!" Fox sputtered, blood spewing out of his mouth as he did so.
Despite the fight that Fox put up as Badger dragged him through the forest, it didn't prevent him from ending up in the pit with the boy they had captured not long ago.

"Can you even here me?" Mat pressed, still crouching curiously at Fox's side.
Fox didn't reply. He didn't have the energy or the motivation. He had given up.
"Wait, do you hear that?" Mat jumped to his feet,"Somebody's coming."

"Are you sure this is the right way, Lu?"
"I've already told you, I don't know anything for sure." Lu called back to Arian who was walking a few feet behind her,"It's not like I've taken tracking classes before." she added under her breath,"I haven't even been in the forest for years."
"If you haven't been in the forest for so long," Cuser, who had been walking much nearer to her than Arian,"How do you know how to shoot the bow? Or is it just for decoration?"
"It's definitely not for decoration and it's not a toy either- so don't go near it." Lu had slung her quiver over her shoulder before leaving the cave, and naturally brought her bow as well. If Mat really had been taken, she didn't want to risk running into his captors without anything to defend themselves.
"I think I'd be able to handle it." Cuser said, very sure of himself,"If you can do it, it can't be that hard."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well," the boy in bright red pants explained,"If you, a female can do something, that means that I, a male, can do it better. I thought that was common knowledge but I guess not."
Lu was about to reply, but Arian, who had been listening in on the conversation called up,"Are you sure you're a dude? Cause those pants are telling me otherwise."
Cuser threw a glare over his shoulder,"These are designer brand, thank you very much."
"My point exactly." Arian trotted forward to catch up to Cuser,"I'm just saying what everyone else was too nice to." he patted him on the shoulder before continuing onward so he walked shoulder to shoulder with Lu.
"I think we should've found something by now. We've been walking for hours." he said.
"I know... I just don't want to give up on him. Alis will be so disappointed if we come back without anything." Lu's reply was following by a heavy sigh.
"Hey guys, I'll be right back." Cuser had stopped in his tracks,"I need to take a leak." he turned to the right and continued walking.
Lu leaned her back against a nearby tree while Arian plopped himself down beside her,"Lu, we have to turn back."
"We don't have to."
"Yes we do. There isn't anything here. If someone did take Mat, then chances are, they know this area a heck of a lot better than we do." Arian replied, trying to reason with her.
"If somebody took him, that means they have been living out here, which means they have resources. What if they let us stay with them?" Lu countered.
"And what if it was an animal that took him? What if he's dead right now? Torn to pieces?" Arian had gotten to his feet and slowly started raising his voice,"Lu, you're being irrational. This kid is not worth the safety of the entire group!"
"I didn't think you were as heartless as Lore, but I guess I was wrong. He is still one of us. If he's out there, he's waiting for one of us to come help him. You can go back. Take Cuser with you. I'll go on by myself if I have to." Lu had abandoned the tree she had been leaning on previously as she stared Arian in the face, her brows furrowed with a determined flare in her eyes. She wasn't going back until she knew what had happened to Mat.
"Hey guys!" Cuser ran towards them, but stopped abruptly,"I don't meant to interrupt anything... But I think I found something."
"Show us." Lu didn't wait for Arian's reaction to Cuser because she didn't care,"You don't have to come if you don't want to." she told him, before falling Cuser back the way he had come.
Arian, rolling his eyes at Lu's words, followed the two of them at a distance.
"Look. There's a rope." Cuser pointed at a rope lying on the ground, encircling an Oak tree. It was clear that it had been cut.
Lu stooped down to pick the rope up before fumbling it around for a bit, lost in thought as she stared at their latest discovery.
"Do you think this is where they tied Mat up?" Cuser pressed.
"I'm hoping that's the case." Lu replied, dropping the evidence. "The question is, where do we go from here?"
"Maybe there will be more drag marks." Arian stepped out of the shadows to join the group. The rope had been enough to convince him to keep looking- and he knew Lu was going to keep looking with or without him, so he figured he might as well go to keep her safe.
"Look around for some." Lu instructed, before crouching down herself to inspect the ground around them.
"I don't even know what I'm looking for." Cuser heaved a heavy sigh as he walked along, eyes fixated on the forest floor.
"Just look for anything that seems disturbed. Like bent leaves, broken twigs, crumbled dead leaves... It's really not that hard."
Despite Arian's words, none of them found any signs of a struggle.
"Well, what if he wasn't dragged? What if he walked away?" Lu suggested,"Nobody said he was forced away from here."
"Even if that's true, we still have no idea where to go now." Arian countered.
"Whelp, it looks like we'll just have to pick a random direction and start walking." Lu said, before turning her back to the Oak tree with the rope and walking that way.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Arian called, trotting to catch up to Lu,"We have no idea what's out there."
"That's why I brought this." Lu pointed to the bow slung over her shoulder.
Arian opened his mouth to continue the argument, but stopped himself short. He realized there was no point in fighting her- she was as stubborn as a mule.
The three walked along in silence for a while, all lost in thought, wondering what they were to find, if anything. The branches above them trembled ever so slightly when the wind blew, showing stray twigs and bark onto their heads. The forest had remained at a below freezing temperature ever since their arrival, and the darkening skies threatened snow at any moment.
"We need to find him. Soon." Lu muttered, covering her nose with the collar of her stolen jacket as an especially harsh breeze blew straight at them.
"Wait, hold on." Arian stopped suddenly, holding out his arm to stop Lu as well.
"What is it?" Lu asked in a hushed voice, glancing around as she tried to see what Arian was seeing.
"Get down!" Arian dropped himself to the ground, before crawling behind a big evergreen tree.
Lu and Cuser naturally copied his actions, each finding a hiding spot similar to his. Moments later, they heard footsteps. Footsteps that got louder and louder at every passing moment. Whoever it was, they were headed straight for them.
The three held their breath as two people came into view- a man and a boy. The boy, although Lu couldn't see his face, she could tell was hurt. He stumbled along with the man grabbing his arm tightly. The pair of strangers walked right past the group, without even suspecting they were there.
"That was Mat!" Cuser whispered after the two were out of sight,"I know it was. We need to follow them."
Arian nodded his head, wiping the pine needles and twigs off of his knees as he got up. Lu did the same before voicing her consent quietly,"We have to stay quite a ways behind them though."
Slowly and as silently as possible, the three followed the pair of strangers at a distance. Because of their neutral colored clothing, Lu could hardly tell the difference between them and the trees.
"They've stopped." she whispered, before quickly ducking behind a nearby tree. Peering out from the behind the tree, Lu saw the bigger man shove the boy to the ground.
"There must be a hole there or something." Arian commented when the boy disappeared from view.
"Guys, get down!" Lu snapped. The man had turned and was headed straight for them! Arian and Cuser both scrambled to the closest trees they could find and crouched on the ground. They each found themselves holding their breaths once again as she man walked by, thankfully, unaware of their presence.
"Mat!" Cuser lept to his feet and made a dash for the hole after the man had been gone for a while.
"Cuser, get back here! We don't know what's in there!" Arian called, charging after him.
Cuser was naturally the first the reach the edge of the hole, with Arian and Lu at his heels.
"He's okay." Lu let out a relieved sigh as she gazed down into the giant hole.
Mat stared up at his friends, grinning from ear to ear,"I knew you'd find me." he said,"Now pull me out before they come back!"
"Who's that with you?" Arian asked, staring cautiously at the boy on the ground beside him. He wasn't moving and he looked badly injured, but Arian still didn't trust him.
"Oh, this-" Mat glanced down at Fox,"This is Fox. He's the one that captured me. But we have to take him back with us."
"Are you insane?" Lu snapped,"He's the one that started this whole mess and you want us to bring him back to camp? I don't think so."
"No, he's not like the others!" Mat insisted,"He didn't want to capture me, I don't think... Anyways, they're gonna kill him if we leave him here. Look what they've done already!"
"Who's they? Ugh, never mind it doesn't matter. Let's just go. Cuser, help me find something to pull him out. Maybe a stick or something." Arian said, looking around for a vine, a long stick.. Anything that would be able to hold Mat's weight.
"I'm not leaving without him." Mat stared up at them in defiance,"He's.. He's my friend and I won't leave him behind."
Lu stared down at Fox thoughtfully. He looked like he could be dead- he hadn't moved or said anything since their arrival. His face was covered in what she presumed to be his own blood, and from what she could see of his face, it looked disfigured and painful. She finally said,"He doesn't look like a threat. We can bring him with us- if for nothing else, to get Mat to come back with us."
Cuser tossed a long, sturdy branch down into the pit,"So... Are we bringing er, whatever that kids name is, with us?" he asked hesitantly, looking to Arian for an answer.
Arian crossed his arms, tapping his foot as he weighed his options. What Lu said was true, the boy didn't look like a threat. But could they really trust someone that kidnapped one of their own? Did they really need another mouth to feed? On the other hand, if they did help him, chances are, he could take them to where they needed to go. He must know the forest pretty well if he'd been living here. How long had he been living there though? They didn't know anything about him!
After a while, Arian waved his hand dismissively,"Let's bring him. We will easily be able to put him down if he feels like causing any trouble." he said, making sure he was loud enough for Fox to hear.
Fox had been listening to them speak but having no strength to move or even speak, didn't do anything. He'd silently been hoping they'd decide to bring him with them- he would surely be dead by tomorrow if they didn't.
"Awesome!" Mat exclaimed,"Hear that Fox? Can you move? We need to go." he reached down, wrapping his arms around Fox's stomach to get a good grip. Fox let out a involuntary moan,"So you are alive, that's good." Mat commented, dragging Fox to the branch.
"Okay, I'm gonna try and lift him out." Mat called up, although, he was unsure as to how he would manage that. Just bringing Fox across the pit had been challenging, let alone lifting him above his head.
"How about this," Arian said,"You climb out and I'll go in to lift Fox out."
Mat nodded his head,"Yeah, that sounds like a better idea." gently, he layed Fox on the ground and grabbed the branch. He gave it a few tugs, making sure it wouldn't snap while he was being lifted out. "Feels safe enough." he muttered, looking up at his friends above. "I'm ready!" he called, clasping the branch.
Arian nodded his head at Cuser, who returned the nod. They both grabbed onto the branch, and heaved it upwards. Lu crouched on the ground beside them, her arms outstretched. As soon as Mat was close enough, she grabbed him by his shoulders and hauled him out. "Geez, Lu." Mat said after he was safely out of the pit,"You didn't have to be so rough." he began rubbing his shoulders where Lu had grabbed hold of him.
Lu rolled her eyes,"I could've just let you dangle there. Would've been easier for me."
While they were squabbling, Arian had lowered himself into the hole. "Cuser, be ready to grab him!" He called up.
He eyed the boy cautiously,"Listen, we're here to help you. Don't try anything." Arian reached down and grabbed him by the waist, before lifting him into the air, high enough for Cuser to reach him.
It wasn't long before everyone was out of the pit. "Okay, now we really have to go." Mat said,"They could be coming back any time now."
"Who are they?" Lu asked,"Actually, you can tell us on the way. Let's get going."
Arian slipped his arms under Fox's arms and Cuser grabbed him by the feet,"Now we're ready." Arian said,"Head to the right." he nodded his head in that direction.
Fox, who had remained silent and motionless the entire time finally spoke up,"No..." he muttered faintly, his eyes fluttering open.
"Hey, he's talking!" Mat ran to his side,"What is it?"
"Camp is that way." Fox told his rescuers,"I know a shortcut."
"Oh, good." the young boy said with relief,"I don't feel like walking all that far anyway. Which way should we go?"
"Hey, hey, hey. Hold on just a second." Arian interrupted,"What if he's leading us into a trap? You haven't said anything this entire time and you just coincidentally wake up in time to tell us which way to go?"
"He's right though," Lu said,"Remember? That guy came from that way and that's the way he went back."
"We just saved his life. Do you really think he'd lie to us after that?" Mat asked hypothetically,"Of course not."
Arian sighed,"Alright fine, let's just go. But stay alert."
Lu nodded her head before looking to Fox,"Which way?"
He feebly lifted his finger to point in the opposite direction of where Arian was originally going to go. Without hesitation, Lu started off in that direction. Mat followed shortly after, and bringing up the rear were Arian and Cuser carrying Fox.
They had barely taken ten steps before the first snowflake touched the ground.

After departing from the train, the group of survivors that were not a part of the search party built a giant fire as soon as they reached the cave. It emitted massive amounts of heat, enough to reach the tiny figure that stood several feet outside of the shelter. Alis had not gone inside since the flames first began to grow. She was willing to help get it started, but only to help the others keep warm. All that she wanted was her sister's return- nothing else mattered.

"Alis..." a feminine voice murmured from within the cave,"Why don't you come inside? It's cold out there."

"I'm waiting for Lu." Alis replied, not looking back at the speaker,"I'm not cold."

"When was the last time you ate?" she pressed.

"I..." Alis took a moment to reply,"I don't remember."

"That's terrible!" the woman sounded distressed,"Come inside right now and eat something. Then you can go back out."

"But..." Alis tried to argue, but the woman in the cave quickly interupted,"Lu would want you to take care of yourself, wouldn't she?"

With her head hanging in defeat, Alis retreated back to the cave. "I'm going right back out though." she said firmly to Ace, the woman who had been talking to her.

Ace gave her a reassuring smile, wrapping her arm around Alis's shoulder. "Don't worry about her. She can take care of herself- besides, she's got Arian with her."

"Darn right." Bear spoke up from the side of the cave where she sat sharpening a stick with a pointed rock,"With Ian there, nothing's gonna go wrong."

"See?" Ace reaffirmed herself,"Nothing to worry about."

She ushured Alis towards the cooler which sat in the farthest corner of the cave. If there were people out there, they didn't want the only food they had to be stolen. There were rumors flying around that they were ones that stole the food cart off of the train. Still others said that they were the ones that derailed the train.

"They're gonna pick us off one by one. They'll take us back to their camp where they'll eat us! Skin and bone!" Bear had told the group after arriving at the cave. Everybody had been a bit on edge since.

Ace opened the cooler, but didn't offer Alis any food. She simply stared inside, her eyes widening more and more every second that passed by.

"What is it?" Alis asked worridly, peering inside.

A tiny gasp escaped her throat- It was empty! There was nothing left!

"Who could've done this? How did this happen?" she asked nobody in particular as she tried to sort out what exactly was going on.

"What's going on over there?" Bear threw the material she'd been working with to the ground dramatically and stomped over to the cooler. "I knew it!" she yelled, picking it up and throwing it across the cave,"There is a traitor! Somebody took all of our food for themselves!"

The cave went silent as fear filled the eyes of everyone within it. They all knew the predicament they were in, and the only person that could hunt was gone, maybe never to return.

"How do we know it wasn't you?" It was DH that finally broke the eerie silence as he approached Bear,"You're always the first to blame someone else. Maybe it's to take the spotlight off of yourself." muttering filled the air, followed by nods of agreement from the onlookers.

"Woah, woah, woah. You're all insane! I would never do something like that!" Bear exclaimed as she agrily defended herself.

"You've done nothing to prove that!" DH countered in an equally loud voice,"You've done nothing but bully us around since we got here."

"Let's throw her out!" Someone called out.

"She doesn't deserve to be here!" Sounded another voice.

"Nobody likes her anyway." was yet another.

"The people have spoken." DH said with a menacing grin,"You're the traitor and you will be thrown out like the trash you are."

"Don't touch me!" Bear snapped as DH made an attempt to grab her wrist,"I'm telling Ian when he gets back!"

"Who cares what he thinks?" DH asked,"He thinks he's our leader but he's no better than the rest of us."

"Guys, we can work this out peacefully." Ace spoke up feebly,"Please, we don't have to turn on one another." she reached out to grab DH's shoulder softly,"Let's just calm down."

DH shot a glare at her,"What makes you think I'm gonna listen to you." he shrugged her tiny hand off in one try,"Things can't always be worked out peacefully."

"We're a group- I would go as far as saying we're a family. You don't cut a sibling out if they make a mistake." she continued thoughtfully,"The moment we start throwing people out is the moment we condemn ourselves to failure. If we throw Be out, you could be next. Or I could be next. We can't let what's happened to us take our humanity away."

DH, Bear, and the rest of the group listened in silence to Ace's words. Each of them hung their heads in shame- they knew she was right.

DH stared at her for a moment, his previous coldness had melted away and had been replaced by awe. He turned his gaze back to Bear slowly, and extended his hand towards her. Bear eyed him warily, before somewhat hesitantly placing her hand in his. Delicately, he gripped her hand and shook it softly. "Truce." he murmured, offering her a small smile.

Bear was taken aback by his actions. She hadn't been treated so kindly in a long time. For the first time since the crash, a genuine smile crossed her face,"Truce." she replied softly.

"Guys... Look." A girl who refered to herself as Void stood at the cave entrance, gazing into the forest. Everyone had been so focused on the fight that nobody had noticed the snow. Four, maybe five inches had already accumulated. The trees threatened to snap in half as heavy gusts of wind pushed them downwards, filling the air with wolf-like howling. Massive snowflakes pelted the ground at an unbelievable speed. The trees only a few feet out were barely visible.

"Lu is out there..." Alis whispered, staring at the ground in disbelief. It seemed like an inch of snow fell every second that ticked on.

People slowly trickled away from the cave entrance, losing interest and getting cold, but not Alis. She was worried about her sister and worried about her friends. She wouldn't be able to sleep even if she'd wanted to.

"I hope they found Mat... I hope they're okay.." the girl muttered to herself, frowning as she stared hopelessly into the unknown.

And she was right to worry, for two miles away were her friends, heading in the wrong direction.

"I think we're going in cirlces!" Mat called, his voice getting lost in the howling wind. Lu had tried leading them in the right direction, but after the blizzard commenced, it was impossible to hear what her friends were saying or to even know where they were headed. Lu's goal had gone from finding their cave to finding any cave- they needed shelter. She could barely walk because of the snow that had built up around them, so each step took an enourmous amount of effort. Her nose and ears had grown numb, and she could barely move her fingers. If they were caught like this by the people that stole Mat or a beast of some sort they would be completly defenseless, and the thought of that frightened her.

Arian and Cuser still brought up the rear, but were unknowingly falling behind. They could no longer see Mat, but they presumed he was only a few feet in front of them. Arian tried to take another step forward, but his back foot became stuck in the snow and he collapsed to the ground, losing his grip of Fox as he went.

"Arian!" Cuser called out as Fox's weight pulled him to the ground.

Fox moaned painfully as his bruised body was dropped carelessly into the snow. His body was used to this weather and he was more dressed to the occasion so he wasn't as cold as the others. He hadn't grown numb and could still feel every wound that had been inflicted.

"Where did that kid go?" Cuser tried to call over the wind, stumbling around on the ground as he searched for their lost cargo.

"Cuser, can you hear me?" Arian had recovered from his fall and had gotten to his feet. He couldn't see anything through the snow and the intense wind threatened to knock him over once again.

Fox tried to call out, but no sound escaped his lips. Even if he had been able to speak, it wouldn't have mattered. Nobody could hear or see anything.

Suddenly, Fox felt himself being lifted into the air. "I've got you, kid." he recognized the voice immediately, and he couldn't help the smile that crossed his face despite the pain that throbbed throughout his body.

"Now to find the others..." the man muttered to himself.

He took a few steps forward before finding the first straggler. Cuser had stopped searching and lay motionless on the ground. Already, he was covered in a layer of snow.

"Get up." the stranger kicked his side hard enough to get him to stir. Blinking slowly, Cuser looked up to see the figure looming over him. "Arian?" he muttered, trembling as he pushed himself upwards. "Take my hand." Wolf stretched out his arm and grabbed Cuser's hand, forcefully dragginig him to his feet. He threw Fox over his shoulder and trudged onwards, leading the weak and pitiful Cuser along behind him.

Before long, the man managed to stumble across the boy he remembered taking prisoner. Mat was still on his feet and had somehow managed to stay right behind Lu. The stranger released Cuser from his grasp to grab Mat by the shoulder, who grabbed Lu. "Follow me." The man bent down to say into Mat's ear, before he grabbed Cuser's wrist and dragged him forward.

Without hesistation, Mat grabbed Lu's hand and pulled her with him as he followed the stranger. He reached up and grabbed Cuser's hand, creating a chain of refugees all relying on the man that had appeared out of nowhere. It wasn't long before they reached their destination. The man let go of Cuser's hand once again as he bent to the ground and pulled open a wooden hatch.

First, he lowered his injured friend into the hole. He then grabbed Cuser by the shoulder and shoved him head first into he ground. Be then, several handfuls of snow had already fallen into the shelter and the man knew the longer they took, more and more snow would build up within. Quickly, he did the same with Mat and Lu before leaping in himself, pulling the hatch down as he did so.

"We will be safe here until the blizzard passes." the man said, stooping down to scoop Fox up in his arms. He brought him over to some stones that encircled a charred patch of earth and layed him down a few feet away from him. Quickly, he grabbed four small logs and a handful of smaller twigs that he had stored away and arranged them neatly inside the circle. Twiddling two of the sticks together, he created a tiny spark which he then threw onto the pile to create a much larger fire. The fire grew farely quickly and heated the entire shelter.

Cuser lay motionless on the ground where he had fallen, but Lu and Mat were already stirring. Lu pushed herself up into a sitting postion and looked around curiously. The area was surprisingly spacious; there was plenty of room for all five of them to rest comfortably. Along the edge of the far wall was a cozy looking wooden cot with several wool blankets folded neatly on top of it. Beside it were two wooden trunks, one of which she knew to be filled with logs and sticks- that was where the man had gotten the materials for the fire.

Her gaze quickly shifted back to their rescuer. He had removed Fox's hefty coat and his leather boots, laying both close to the fire to dry.

"Who are you?" she finally asked, gazing at him as he drew a piece of fabric across Fox's face.

Not looking up from Fox, the man replied,"I am Wolf."

"Wolf?"

"That is correct." he said, opening the second trunk. Reaching in, he grabbed a ceramic bowl filled with what looked like an ointment of some sort. Using his fingers, he spread it across all of Fox's injuries.

"Why did you help us?" Lu pressed.

"Because of Fox. He is like a son to me."

Lu nodded her head in understanding. She turned her attention to Mat who was shifting around beside her. "There's Mat... Cuser.." she gave Cuser a sharp nudge. He was splayed out in an awkward position, so she wanted to make sure he was still alive. A loud groan sounded from his throat, giving Lu the sign that she was looking for.

"Arian?" Lu looked around anxiously. She scanned the entire shelter several times before speaking up,"Wolf, was there another man you rescued? There were five of us.."

"There were only four." he looked up at her for the first time,"If what you're saying is true, he is still outside."

Lu had been afraid that would be his answer. Her arms shaking, she pushed herself to her feet and took a wobbly step towards the hatch.

"What do you think you're doing?" Wolf demanded.

"We need to rescue him." Lu replied weakly, staring up at the exit.

"You will not be able to get out without my help."

"Then help me!" she yelled, unable to keep tears of desperation from streaming down her cheeks.

"No."

"Why not? He is going to die out there!"

"Because if we go out there," Wolf replied calmly,"We will die."

Lu stomped her foot angrily, lost her balance, and fell back onto the ground. She buried her face in her lap and wept. Wolf frowned, sad that there was nothing he could do to help. Waves of guilt washed over him. How could he have missed him? Their friend was going to die because of him. He heaved a heavy sigh before returning to his attention to Fox.

He gazed down at the boy, sorrow clear in his eye. Fox was the only family he had left in the tribe. Though they were not related by blood, they were closer than most. He hated seeing the boy in the condition that he was in and hated that he hadn't done anything to prevent this from happening.

Although Wolf had just single handedly saved every person within the shelter, guilt still bore down on him like a stone. Was he to have the death of yet another human being on his hands?

They spent several days within the shelter. Wolf had had a few cans of beans, but between five people, they didn't last very long. They had also run out of water after three days, so between hunger, dehydration, and discomfort, everyone was itching to get out.

"Wolf, we should open the hatch." Fox said as he sat crisscrossed on Wolf's cot,"I feel a lot better now and that's the only reason we waited so long, isn't it? So that I could heal?"

"That was only part of the reason." Wolf replied,"Do you not remember the blizzard that trapped us down here in the first place?"

"Well yeah, obviously I remember it. But we've survived worse before." Fox said with a nonchalant shrug.

The ointment that Wolf had applied to Fox's bruises every few hours seemed to have worked miracles. Already they began to fade and Fox said they didn't hurt at all anymore. By the way he winced whenever he strained himself however, everyone knew that he was lying.

There was still no sign of Arian, and Lu hadn't been the same since she discovered he was missing. "The only reason he was out here in the first place is because of me." she said continuously,"If we had gone back when he wanted to we wouldn't be in this mess."

Mat tried to block her out the best he could. If they had gone back, they wouldn't have been able to rescue Mat or Fox. He knew that Lu knew that. The fact that Lu preferred Arian's company over his upset him, but the fact that she was so open about it made him resent her.

"I still think we should open the hatch." Fox restated,"There's really no reason we're still down here."

"I second that." Cuser spoke up,"It's getting a bit cramped in here and everybody's getting irritable. I don't like it."

Taking a look around the room, Wolf could see the sense in Cuser's words. Lu sat silently in the corner, hugging her knees to her chest as she stared at the wall. Mat sat with his back against the opposite wall, fumbling a small rock around, shooting an occasional glare in Lu's direction. Whenever Lu said anything, he would spring to his feet and fire some rude remark. It didn't surprise him when Lu stopped talking altogether.

Nodding his head, Wolf approached the cot where Fox remained seated. Grasping the boy by the shoulder, he shoved him off of the bed. "Ow- I mean, Hrm, that didn't hurt at all." he grasped his arm tightly, grimacing as he walked away.

"Not in pain... Yeah right." Wolf scoffed quietly, an amused gleam in his eye. He lifted the mattress up enough to see the bed frame, revealing a wooden ladder.

"What the- that was there this entire time?" Fox asked, shocked at the discovery,"We could've left ages ago."

"There's a reason I didn't tell anyone." Wolf replied, leaning the ladder up against the wall. "Somebody come hold this for me."

Cuser, who was the closest to him, stood up and grabbed both of it's legs. Slowly, Wolf ascended the ladder and reached up to push open to hatch.

"It must be covered in snow." he muttered to himself, pushing it up several times for it to only fall back once again. "Hold it steady, Cuser." he called down, before taking yet another step up to stand on the very last bar. Placing his hands flat on the door, he threw himself upwards with all his might, sending the hatch flying open.

Sunlight beamed into the shelter, piercing the eyes of everyone within it. They held up their hands to block it, shielding themselves from it's bright rays.

"So this is what it feels like to be born." Fox said with a cheeky grin, looking to Mat for his reaction. Mat gave his buddy an equally goofy grin, though it took him a little while to make the connection.

Wolf reached out of the hatch, got a good hold of the snow covered ground outside, and heaved himself out. Fox had been right, they definitely had survived through worse. He stood up, brushing the snow off of his pants. "Come on guys, it's safe. We should get going."

"We should try to find food." Fox said after joining Wolf above ground only seconds later. He had rushed to the ladder as soon as Wolf spoke, and had slithered up as quickly as possible.

"Hey!" Cuser exclaimed as Fox's spastic behavior nearly knocked the ladder out of his hands,"You two need to be more careful." he told Mat and Lu, the two remaining in the ground.

"I can-" Lu began, but was once again interrupted by the grudge holding Mat,"I can go."

Mat was at the ladder before anybody could say anything else, and not a word was spoken as he ascended.

"You can go ahead, Cuser. I'll steady it for you." Lu said, grabbing the leg that Cuser did not have in his grasp.

"Thanks Lu. To be honest, I was a little scared of climbing out without support." he admitted.

Soon, everyone was out of the shelter and staring into the woods surrounding them. Wolf slammed the hatch shut and shoveled handfuls of snow on top of it. No one in his tribe knew it existed, besides Fox of course, and he planned on keeping it that way.

Mat grabbed his stomach as a loud and painful sounding rumble filled the air. He looked up at Wolf, "I hope you're a good hunter."

"Of course I am. How do you think I got this pelt?" he patted the wolf pelt that had been sewed to his coat,"Fox and I can go, while the rest of you stay here. Lu, I would invite you along, but I'd feel much better leaving if I knew there was something to protect you." he said, nodding his head to the bow slung over her shoulder.

Lu nodded her head understandingly, reaching back to grab her weapon,"Look for Arian while you're out."

"Don't worry, I was already planning on doing that." Wolf said with a reassuring smile and nod, before setting out with Fox by his side.

Lu stared after them until they disappeared in the trees. Cuser and Mat had taken seats in the snow, each leaning back on a tree. Mat had picked up a handful of snow and was taking small nibbles out of it.

"Did you make sure it wasn't yellow?" Cuser said with a teasing grin.

"Yeah, don't worry." Mat replied,"I've been eating snow since I was two. I'm pretty much an expert at this point."

Lu took a seat a bit away from her two comrades, not wanting to be distracted by their conversation. She knew she needed to stay alert and ready for anything.

An hour or two ticked by, and nothing had stirred. Not a bird had fluttered by, no deer had mistakenly wandered into their presence. Everything was still.

"This is kind of creepy..." Lu muttered to herself.

Snap.

Lu jerked her head to the right where she heard a twig break.

A low, menacing growl sounded from a patch of dense brush. The girl shot to her feet, gripping the bow in her left hand and drawing an arrow from the quiver slung over her back with the right. She nocked the arrow, but kept it pointed at the ground.

And she waited.

She could hear her heart beat increasing as the seconds ticked on, the hair on her neck standing on end as the growl continued threateningly. Slowly, one paw after another, a wolf-like creature stepped into the light. Lu had only heard stories about such creatures, so she couldn't be sure that that is what this beast was.

White foam oozed out of it's mouth, leaving a trail behind it as it strolled towards her. Lu raised her bow, drew it back, but before she could make a clean shot, the wolf turned and ran off in another direction. With a relieved sigh, the girl lowered her bow once again.

But then she remembered. Cuser and Mat.

Lu followed the wolf without hesitation, her feet barely touching the ground as she pelted after it, and she arrived just in time. The wolf was circling the frightened pair as they clung onto each other for comfort.

"Lu, help us!" Mat cried out after seeing her emerge from the trees, his desperate eyes fixated on her. All grudges were forgotten in that moment as his only hope for survival lie with her.

Quickly, she raised her bow once again, resuming the correct stance as she did so. The wolf however, refused to cooperate this time. He wouldn't hold still, and if she missed, the arrow could hit one of her friends.

She drew the string back, closing one eye to assist her aim and enhance the chance of her accuracy. Suddenly, the wolf stopped. It pawed the ground, a menacing snarl escaping his throat, before it pounced.

Thud.

An arrow thundered into it's head, and mid-pounce, the wolf fell to the ground. A whimper or two escaped it's throat as it thrashed on the ground, but not a minute later, it's breathing slowed and eventually stopped for good.

"That... Was awesome!" Mat exclaimed, squatting beside the deceased wolf and prodding it with a stick he'd picked up.

"That thing almost killed us!" Cuser said angrily,"How in the world is that awesome? You know what, never mind. I don't know why I even asked." he stormed away, his arms crossed as he tried to come to terms with what had just happened.

Putting her foot on the wolf's head, Lu grabbed the arrow she'd shot and tugged it out. After shaking what she could of the wolf's blood off, she returned it to her quiver.

"Whoa! What happened?" A familiar voice sounded from the trees, before Fox emerged from the darkness surrounding the group.

"Lu killed a wolf all by herself!" Mat said, beeming about his friend's accomplishments as if they were his own.

"Um... Sorry to break it to you, but that's not a wolf. That's a coyote- they're much smaller than wolves are. Nice job though." Fox said, squatting beside Mat,"I guess we'll have to call you coyote now." he joked, casting a teasing grin Lu's way.

"Yeah, I guess so." Lu replied with a smile,"Where's Wolf?"

"Skinning the pair of rabbits we caught." he added,"Wolf thought it best you guys didn't see that."

"Aw, poor rabbits." Mat frowned,"Why did you guys have to get rabbits?"

"Because they were the only things dumb enough to be out and about so soon after a blizzard. Only things besides this guy." Wolf appeared after Fox finished speaking. In each of his hands was the rabbit meat.

"Did this thing attack you?" he asked, placing the rabbits in the snow before joining Fox beside the coyote's body.

"Yes, it did." Lu answered.

"That is strange... Coyotes are timid creatures. It is not in their nature to attack humans."

"I think it might've been sick..." Lu explained,"There was white stuff coming out of it's mouth."

"Yeah, it was really gross." Mat piped in.

"That explains it." Wolf stood back up, wiping the snow off of his pants,"It had rabies. We will not be eating coyote tonight. We will burn the body to keep it from spreading to any other animals."

"It didn't bite any of you did it? Or even scratch you?" Fox asked worriedly.

"No, we're all okay." Lu replied with a reassuring nod.

Fox and Wolf exchanged a relieved glance, before departing from the group once again. Wolf had told them to look for sticks to fuel the fire, but to not stray far away from the coyote. The last thing they wanted was more infected animals.

Soon they had a fire going, but were careful to not build it to be too big. They didn't want to risk their tribe seeing the smoke and finding them that way. First they roasted the rabbit meat, and as soon as they were done, they tossed the coyote in.

"We will leave at first light." Wolf told the group as they devoured their dinner hungrily,"We will need to travel swiftly, as well. Your people will not wait for your return forever."

"Sounds good to me. The sooner we get back to everyone else, the better." Cuser said, wiping his mouth with his arm.

"What about Arian?" Lu had been waiting for the right time to ask, and there seemed like no better time than now.

Wolf and Fox looked at each other, exchanging weird nods and blinks as if speaking in their own, silent language. Finally, Wolf stood up, turning his attention to Lu. "Walk with me." he said, offering his hand to Lu.

Lu gazed up at him anxiously, before grabbing Wolf's hand and allowing him to guide her to her feet. As they disappeared into the woods together, Fox could be heard saying,"Hey guys, watch this..."

Wolf stopped once they were out of hearing range, and turned to face the girl behind him.

"Lu, I thought it best I told you this alone." He began,"We found your friend. But, something else did first. He was barely recognizable by the time we found him. I was able to salvage this." he had reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring- the ring that Arian had been wearing.

Tears streamed down Lu's face as Wolf handed her the item. She clasped it close to her chest, visibly shaking as she wept increasingly.

"I am very sorry." Wolf said sympathetically, sad to see the usually chipper girl so distraught,"If there is anything I can do to help..." He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder,"Let me know. I am here for you."

Lu nodded her head slowly,"Thank you." she spluttered, wiping her eyes and cheeks as she tried to contain the tears that flowed so heavily.

"If you're ready, we should head back. I don't want you out here alone."

Once again, Lu nodded her head and followed Wolf back to the group, much slower this time, lagging some distance behind him.

They returned to find Fox covered from head to toe in snow and entangled in what looked like vines, with Cuser and Mat laughing at him hysterically.

"I'm not going to ask what happened." Wolf said with a sigh, before settling down beside the fire.

Lu joined him, fumbling to ring around as she gazed into the flickering flames. Things had not panned out the way she had thought they would or hoped they would. What was she going to tell the group? And Bear? How was she going to react? Arian was the only person that could tolerate her. These and many other questions buzzed around her head, all while grieving the loss of a close friend.



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This book has 4 comments.


on Apr. 5 2016 at 7:52 pm
laurenlovebug BRONZE, Amissville, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 2 comments
I'll add more as soon as I can lol XD

on Apr. 5 2016 at 8:27 am
ilovereading123,
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please update soon! i want to read more! its really good

on Apr. 4 2016 at 8:46 pm
laurenlovebug BRONZE, Amissville, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 2 comments
Thank you! That means a lot! :)

on Apr. 2 2016 at 3:57 pm
Writergirl009 BRONZE, Hudson, Ohio
2 articles 0 photos 13 comments
Sounds interesting! You obviously are quite a talented writer!




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