Felix, Part 6: On the Road

This will the last installment of Felix for some time. I need to take time to edit Elements, work on some other projects, and plan out Felix a bit more before continuing with it. Keep an eye out for it in the next few months, however.

Felix has always been fascinated by the world around him and unafraid to try new things. Ever since he read about the rise and fall of the Elementals, however, he hasn’t been able to think about anything else. 

After Filion makes a significant announcement, Felix and Zia hatch a plan to get some answers about Felix’s vision and Zia’s family.

 

One of the crates bounces as the wagon shakes. The road has only grown rougher since we left Haven hours ago. Beads of sweat roll down my face as fast as I can wipe them off. I struggle to discern the smell of the cargo from my own body.

“It’s too hot inside here,” Zia says, sweating through her tunic, “I’ll open a flap.”

I shake my head. “You know we can’t let them catch us!” I whisper, wiping my forehead with my sleeve. I reach for the leather skin in my bag and shake the last few drops of water out of it. “Do you have any water?” I ask Zia.

Zia reaches into her bag, her face flush. She tosses me her canteen, but at the last minute it slips out of her fingers. I grasp as it arcs towards the back of the caravan, but it flies just out of reach and bounces off the flap at the back of the caravan. It clatters on the floor of the wagon, and the wooden cap breaks. Water sloshes out with the rocking of the wagon, a puddle spreading with every bump. I gasp, and Zia’s eyes grow wide. She scrambles over a pile of sacks, knocking one over. Dark green powder erupts from it, and my eyes are on fire. My tongue burns, and I’m coughing and shaking. I hear Zia coughing and cursing.

“Stop!” someone outside shouts. With a jolt I tumble over, rubbing my eyes as the tears begin to form. I hear a rustle, then the same voice says, “Put your masks on. One of the spices spilled.” I feel the wagon shake with a thud, and Zia screams. I’m forced to my feet and tossed away. Blind, I stumble forward, but on the next step I plummet into the air and hit the ground hard.

Pain lances through my bruised shoulder. Zia’s tearful cries next to me and the commanding voices above blend together. “Grab a bucket!” the same voice shouts. My heart pounds in my chest, and I’m rubbing my eyes. With a crash, my face and chest are soaked, and I blink twice. My eyes feel fine, though my mouth still burns. My heart beats in my ears. Zia lays in the dirt, equally wet. Her mouth hangs open.

“They’re just kids,” a man says. Two watchmen in full leather armor stand over us, spears drawn. The big one is holding an empty bucket, and he says in a deep voice, “Zeke should know about this.” He takes off, leaving us alone with the other watchman.

“Take this,” she says, tossing a waterskin on the ground between us. “It’ll help with your throats.” She takes off her helmet, shaking out her matted brown hair. I grab the skin, eyes on her spearpoint, and begin to drink. The burning in my throat instantly vanishes. I toss it to Zia, nodding my thanks to the watchman, who’s brushing her prominent cheekbones with the back of her hand. Should I call her a watchwoman? “I’ve never seen anything like this before. How did you sneak in the caravan?”

I stare at her. Between her cheekbones and her glimmering eyes, she looked even more beautiful than the woman with the white hair. “Are you a watchwoman?” I ask. I hear Zia sigh next to me.

The woman’s eyes narrow, and the corner of her lip turns up. “Yes. People don’t usually call me that, though. Do you know what we do with stowaways?” I nod, glancing at her hands. She grips her spear firmer, eyes fixed on us.

Footsteps and voices rise on the other side of the caravan, and a skinny man with a red face comes bustling around the corner followed by the big watchman. “What should we do with them, Zeke?” the watchwoman asks.

“Dammit.” The man shakes his head, running his hands through his thinning hair. “Did we lose any of the shipment?” He climbs into the wagon.

“Just a bag of spices, but I don’t think it’s anything substantial,” the Watchwoman says. I share a look with Zia, whose eyes dart between the two watchmen. A bead of sweat rolls down her forehead. I can only imagine the thoughts running through her head, if her Dad’s stories are all true.

Zeke clamors out of the wagon. “We didn’t lose much. The school won’t notice, at least.” My pulse races. Did he say school, as in the Baress School? “You,” he says, pointing at me, “do you have a brother?”

I blink. “Yeah. Why?” Zeke nods to the larger watchman, who runs back the way they came. Zeke starts muttering to himself. The Watchwoman stares at us with narrowed eyes. I finally take a look around.

Yellowed grasses sway gently in the breeze. I stand stand to see better. My shoulder throbs, and I massage it despite the sting. Two massive trees stand stout in the distance. A thin column of smoke coils upwards back the way we came. “Where are we?”

“Outside of Haven,” the Watchwoman says.

I point to the smoke. “Are those witches?”

“Sure, if they haven’t been eaten by wildcats or hyenas.” My throat catches. I look to Zia, who shakes her head, eyes wide. The woman chuckles. “Have you heard of hyenas? Have you seen them rip the flesh off-”

“Felix?” I recognize that voice. Zia and I turn around. Filion stands next to the big watchman, brow raised.

Zeke claps, grinning. “I knew it! You two had to be related. No one else in Haven has red hair.”

Fil’s brow furrows. “What? That’s ridiculous. Plenty of people have red hair!”

“Not in Haven, they don’t. Besides, you reek of the Floral District.” Zeke strides over to us and sniffs. “You all stink.”

“Sir, what should we do with the stowaways? We need to get moving.” the Watchwoman says.

“I know that!” Zeke breathes in through his nose, glaring at us. I can smell something raw emanating from him. “It’s not far from Haven. They can walk.”

“No!” Zia and I shout. My heart races. How far is it to Haven from here? What if those hyenas catch us? What about the witches?

“Would you rather they take care of you?” Zeke slaps the big watchman on the back. “I’ve seen them do it before.” The Watchwoman glances at him, and her eyes soften.

“No!” Fil wrenches himself from the big watchman’s grasp. “They’re just kids, you can’t-”

“I can’t?” Zeke glowers at Fil, towering over him. “My job is to take care of whoever pays to use my caravan. Your parents paid for your passage. They didn’t pay for two stowaways!”

Fil glares back at Zeke. “He’s my brother. Zia probably talked him into this. You know they won’t last a day out here.”

My heart races as they stare each other down. Zia’s hand wraps around mine, and I squeeze it. Zeke takes a deep breath, never breaking eye contact with Fil, and sighs. “Their food is coming from your portion, and they’re your responsibility.” He leans in close to Fil. “Don’t make me regret this.” Zeke glares at us, then turns to the Watchwoman. “Get their things out of the wagon. We leave in five minutes.” He marches off in a huff.

I look at Filion, his face twisted in disbelief. I pick up the waterskin and take another sip. I wave to him, saying, “Hey, Fil.”

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