As it turned out, Deliverance was the home of a small group of self-proclaimed rebels. After a few days in the tent, I was finally allowed to roam outside and meet the other inhabitants of the small settlement. When I say small, I mean small. There couldn’t have been any more than fifty or so tents housing the residents of the small rebel group.
The sun was beginning to set as Keera led the way to a large tent located in the center of all the others. This tent caught my eye as it was the largest one among all the rest. The tents were not lined in any particular pattern that I could fashion. More so, they aligned themselves with trees that had the lowest hanging branches. The center tent, the one I was walking towards, had a tall thick tree growing straight out of its center.
Walking into the tent, I was met by a familiar and unwelcome voice. “Slut,” Boss Gage said as he ran towards me. I didn’t see him raise his hands, but I felt when they wrapped around my throat and began to squeeze the life right out of me.
The others in the tent grabbed at him, but his grip was strong. My head swooned and spots of black clouded my vision before Gage’s grasp on my neck was finally broken, and he was pulled away from me.
“Control yourselves,” said the elderly woman with the bone necklace. She stood from a rather wide chair sitting on a dais in the center of the enclosed room. “What is this about?”
“Slut,” Gage called while pointing to me. I was still gasping for breath. Keera stood at my back, holding me from falling back to the ground. “She is a revenant whore.”
The group of people in the tent turned their eyes to me. Some were wide with surprise, others with concern, and yet others stared at me with distaste. The elderly woman walked to my side, the sound of her jangling bone necklace filling the room with an unrhythmic music.
“What does he mean child?” She asked as she helped to pull me to my feet. “Gage, do you know her?”
“Know her,” he answered. “She is the reason I am here in the first place. If that revenant hadn’t fallen for her I wouldn’t have been cast from the city. I would be living in splendor with riches in a home the size of a mansion.”
A man standing taller than Gage with more muscle than fat walked up to him and grabbed Gage by the shoulder. “Careful, pup, your words make it seem as if you wanted to stay a dog to the revenant.”
Gage’s brows raised in surprise as he held both his hands in front of him in defeat. “No, Matthew, you’ve misunderstood. I am glad I am here. I wouldn’t have survived if I had stayed in the city,” Gage reassured. I could hear the sarcasm in his voice, but I guess Matthew was fooled. Matthew released Gage and returned to his former position beside the elderly woman. “It is true that I was cast out of the city,” Gage continued. I could hear the subtle tones of anger through his voice as his locked his eyes onto me. “It was her lover, that revenant, that told the Consulate to cast me out.”
A mummer went through the tent. I had never wanted to hide as much as I did then. My face was red, judging by the sting in my cheeks, and I was starting to feel flushed, but it was more from anger than embarrassment.
“Is this true child?” The elderly woman asked. All eyes were focused on me. If I were a turtle, I would hide in my shell, whisking myself away from the judgment of the unfamiliar faces surrounding me. Gage had centered me out and put me in the spotlight. If I told them about Cassius and his theory about my blood having relations to the revenant, I could very well find myself hanging from one the nearby trees outside this tent (if I made it out of the tent alive).
“It is true that Gage was cast from the city because of the revenant,” I explained. “But that didn’t have anything to do with me.”
“Liar,” Gage yelled. “You slut. That revenant took you to the tower. I know he did. We all know what happens to a girl when she enters the tower.”
A gasp went through the tent as Gage raged on about me being a revenant whore who loved the feel of fangs against my neck. I had never like Gage. He wasn’t the worst boss I had ever had, but he definitely ranked high on the list.
“Yes, I was taken to the tower,” I yelled in anger.
“See,” Gage barked. “She is a revenant whore, one of their wives. She deserves to die.” He ran at me again, but this time Matthew caught him mid-stride and held fast. Gage struggled under Matthew’s grasp, but it was no use. Matthew was twice the size of Gage and seemed to be three times as strong.
“I was taken to the tower,” I yelled over the numerous voices echoing inside the tent. The tent quieted as I repeated my words. “I was taken to the tower to become one of the wives, but I refused.” Turning from Gage I addressed the elderly woman. Her mouth was a thin line as she listened to my words. “Cassius was his name,” I continued. “He took me to be his wife, but it was a ruse. He wanted my blood.”
“So, you let him drink from you,” Gage yelled. “Fang whore. You are nothing but a fang whore.” Matthew shoved his fist into Gage’s stomach. Gage sputtered on his words as the breath whooshed from his lungs.
“Do that again and I will take you out of here and tie you to the tree,” Matthew threatened. Gage stopped fighting against him and stood still, so I continued.
“Cassius didn’t drink from me. He took me to some kind of examination room and took my blood into a vial. He was testing it.”
“Testing it?” The elderly woman asked, her brow raised. “What was he testing it for?”
“I don’t know,” I lied. “He took several vials from me before I was finally saved.”
“Saved,” the elderly woman asked as she retook her seat in the center of the room. “Who saved you? One of the other wives or perhaps one of the painted men that work in the tower?”
Painted men? She probably meant one of the ashen covered men that brought me food each day. I hadn’t thought about them being the servants of the revenants, but I guess they are. How did she know about them? I had never heard of anyone escaping the tower before.
Pressing that thought aside, I would have to revisit it later. Right now, everyone in the tent had their gazes pressed upon me as they waited for my answer.
“I was summoned by the high priest,” I explained. “He knew that I had refused Cassius, so he gave me a choice. I chose to leave the city.”
The elderly woman held up her hand and beckoned me to step closer. Placing her cold fingers against my chin, she lifted my chin to look into my eyes. “You have suffered, child. There are not many that have escaped as you have.”
“You can’t be serious,” Gage roared. He bucked against Matthew’s hold on him causing Matthew to stumble backward. “She’s lying. She is nothing more than a slut that sold her body and her blood to the revenant. She deserves to die.” Gage ran forward and grabbed at my neck. His nails scraped against my skin as he lunged for me, but Matthew had caught him before he could choke the life out of me.
“I warned you,” Matthew barked at Gage as he pulled him out of the tent. The room went quiet as soon as Gage had left.
“Phoebe will stay with us,” the elderly woman proclaimed drawing all eyes to her. “She has knowledge that will help us to take down the revenant and return power to the people. Phoebe has seen the tower. She has survived not only one revenant but two.” The elderly woman turned her old yellowed eyes to me. “You were taken before the high priest, so you know how to get to his sanctuary.”
It was more a statement rather than a question, but I nodded in response confirming her thoughts. “Good,” she replied. “Then you will help us.”
“You forget, Reagan,” said Tomas as he stepped forward from the crowd. He approached the elderly woman. “We have yet to find a way into the city. The few people we have on the inside haven’t contacted us for weeks now. For all we know, they have already been discovered just like the last group we sent in. The seer hasn’t sent word to us in a while either. We don’t know the situation.”
“The seer’s information comes and goes like the wind. Although he is our main informant, he is not our main concern. We can send in another group,” Reagan (the elderly woman) replied. “It will take some time before enough of us have entered the city before we can attack, but it is doable. With Phoebe’s knowledge, we will have the upper hand.”
“I know you want to find your daughter,” Tomas continued. “We all have family trapped inside the city that we want to get out, but we have to be cautious. It won’t help us or them if we are all dead.”
The room fell into chaos as the others started to voice their opinions. I tried to follow the arguments, but I didn’t understand most of what they were talking about.
“The only way to get the upper hand is to get more people into the city quicker. Sneaking a few people in every few weeks is not going to work. We get discovered each time, and our people are never heard from again,” Tomas said adding his voice to the chaos.
“What choice do we have?” Reagan asked. “We can’t attack the tower unless we are in the city, and we can’t sneak in more than a few people at a time without getting caught.”
“But we do get caught,” Tomas argued. “We cannot afford to give the revenant any more lives. I want to get our families out of there just as much as you do, but not at the cost of more lives.” The tent burst forth into chaos again as the people divided into two groups—one supporting Tomas and the other Reagan. The argument continued until I couldn’t take it anymore and left the tent.
I had not planned on going back to the city, nor had I intended to use the pendant Hadyn gave me. The rebels missed their families, a feeling I had become all too familiar with as of late. I still felt the pain of loss from Pappy’s death. At least they know their families are still alive. The seer, whomever that person may be, has found a way to get news outside of the city walls. The rebels, although separated from their loved ones, can at least look forward to a reunion.
Walking back to the small tent that I had stayed in for a few days, I lost myself to thoughts of the life I had left behind. A man came running through the tents carrying a small child, a boy, in his arms. Bushy brown hair flopped up and down with every step the man took. I would have walked on past, but the boy looked familiar. I turned and followed the man back into the large tent.
Peeking through the crowd, I saw the man lay the boy on the group before Reagan. The arguments stopped as Reagan began to inspect the small child for wounds.
“What happened to him?” She asked the man as she inspected a nasty gash along the boy’s brow.
“I found him in the woods, not too far from here,” replied the man. I weaved through the crowd to get a better look at the child. My heart stopped when I recognized his face. Falling on the ground next to him, I tucked his hair behind his ear. It had grown longer since the last time I had seen him. His face was pale, and his brow covered in sweat.
“Danny,” I yelled as I shook him trying to stir him back to life. “Danny, open your eyes. Danny!”
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