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 hair-brained plan to find some answers about Felix’s vision and Zia’s family.
I arch my back, sticking my chest out a bit. I try to raise my arms, but the family next to us has been shooting us death glares ever since the incident with the drunk. It’s impossible to stretch in such a crowded space.
Zia lies curled up against our bags, brown hair draped over her shoulder. I wonder what would have happened if she had tried to steal food from the drunk instead of me. Maybe the watchwoman or the bald man wouldn’t have gotten involved. I still don’t see why that man freaked out about us talking. He didn’t hit me. He wasn’t rude to me. He was just drunk.
I nudge Fil. “Hey,” I say in a soft voice. Fil’s gaze is fixed at the far end of the wagon. “Fil!” I say louder.
My brother blinks twice before turning to me. “Sorry, what?” His grimy hair sticks to his face, a bead of sweat rolling down between his eyebrows.
“Explain why the bald man got the drunk thrown out again. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, was I?”
Fil sighed. “It happened three weeks ago, Felix. We already talked about it.”
“You said it was because he might try things. What things?”
Fil’s eyes went wide. “That’s, um, that’s…look, there are some people out there who would take…advantage of weaker people. That’s what the bald man thought. I talked with him during the break a few days ago.”
“I don’t have anything of value, though. What is there to take advantage of?”
“Felix, you’re too young to understand. Just trust me.” Fil returned his attention to the back of the wagon. I followed his gaze. Two girls wrapped in red sat in the back, talking with one another. They might have been a few years older than me, I couldn’t tell with their hoods. All I could make out was the glimmer in their eyes.
“Who are they?” I ask.
Fil shrugs. “I don’t know. I’ve been seeing them during the breaks, though. They keep to themselves.”
“So why are you staring at them?”
“Yes, you are.” The two girls keep talking. They don’t look that different from anyone else in the wagon, apart from the red garb.
Zia jerks awake, coughing. “Why are we stopping?” she asked.
“We are?” Sure enough, the wagon was slowly grinding to a halt. How had I not noticed it before?
The flaps at the back tear open. “Everyone out! Break time!” someone shouts.
“Finally,” Fil says, scowling. He hasn’t smiled much since we joined him outside of Haven. Maybe he’s tired of not getting enough food. Maybe it’s just because of how uncomfortable this wagon is. Zia said not to think about it too much. She thinks if he had a problem, he would have told us by now.
Everyone’s jostling around me as we all stand up. I take my fair share of elbows and hands shoved against me. Fil grabs me by the arm, and I grab Zia’s arm. Separating is never a good idea here.
Somehow it’s even hotter outside than in the caravan, despite the gentle breeze. I take a deep breath through my nose, relieved to get a breath of fresh air, but something’s off. “Do you guys smell that?”
Fil sniffs. “It’s not as bad as home. It’s…fresh.”
Zia nods. “It’s a hundred times better than the smell at home.” Her eyes widen, and she points to the distance behind us. “I didn’t know Baress was by a lake.”
I scoff. “It’s not by a lake, it’s…” The words dry up in my mouth.
None of us have ever left Haven before, so the concept of a never-ending body of water has never made sense to me. Looking out across the small field, however, I couldn’t help but gasp. The lake in North Haven seems a puddle compared to this. Deep blue, it bleeds into the sunny sky at the horizon. “It’s by an ocean.”
Zia smiles. “I didn’t know this much water existed outside of a well. I thought it was all pumped up from the ground, like the lake.” She runs across the field, stopping at the edge. “Felix, you have to see this!”
I look to Filion, who nods, glancing at the girls in red. As I run to Zia, the breeze grows stronger, the smell more intense. Zia shouts, “Down there!” She has to shout, it’s that loud.
Waves crash against the rocks below in frothy white, a dull roar audible just below the whip of the wind. I can’t tell how far it is, but it’s definitely too far to jump. “We’re really high up!” I say.
Zia grabs my hand and points it to the left. “Over there!”
Further down the shore is a bay. Dozens of tiny islands encircle the outer edges of the bay, leaving only several narrow canals deep enough to allow sea travel. A red granite wall protects the city on land, one of the strongest structures in the east. I can’t tell where the Baress School is, though. Besides size, I can’t tell any of the buildings apart. Several towers rise up from the maze of buildings, fires blazing at the top as a signal for incoming ships. “The waylights! Those are the waylights, just like I read about!” I can’t help but hug Zia in all the excitement. “We can’t be more than a day away.”
Zia smiles. “Let’s hope we find what we’re looking for.”
I grip the coin from the stranger in black in my pocket. “We will. I’m sure of it.”