Chapter Nine

That night and the next day the six people hung around near the river, glad to be so close to water. In the afternoon, as the sun set, Ryth filled up all the water bottles and sat at the waters edge thinking.

"What's up, Ryth?" Libby sat down next to him.

"We should get moving soon," he said, ignoring her question, "once it's dark we should be able to travel a good distance." He didn't like talking about his worries.

"Come on, I won't laugh or anything. I was fifteen once too, you know."

"I'm…a little scared I guess. I don't want to be running my whole life," Ryth admitted in a very quiet voice.

"Ryth, none of us like running, but what else can we do? And, if it makes you feel any better, me and Jackal have decided to take turns staying up while you guys get sleep during the day. As long as we're around you won't have to worry too much about being caught." Libby had spoken to Jackal about watching their camp because she noticed that Ryth hadn't been getting much sleep and thought it probably had something to do with feeling threatened.

"you two don't have to do that. It wasn't your fault we almost got caught so why should you guys do all the work?" Ryth protested.

"Why not? We're the two oldest, so we should be looking after you all."

"Well, it is a good idea, but I'm going to help as well then," Ryth also felt a responsibility towards the other people and he didn't want Libby and Jackal to be the only one's making an effort.

"Okay, if that'll make you happy Ryth, then that's what we'll do. Only us three for now and if the others want to help out later then we'll see," Libby smiled because she knew how much Ryth liked being the leader and he was so stubborn sometimes. It was quite amusing to her.

She helped Ryth with the water bottles and they walked over to where they were camped. Jackal was figuring out ways to ration food, Skylar was making a whistle out of a small piece of wood and Hazel and Alexis were laughing about something. Ryth told them that it was time to get moving, and while Libby, Jackal and Skylar packed up their stuff, he went over to Hazel and Alexis to see why they weren't helping.

"You two are so lazy," Ryth said, half-serious, half-joking.

"Ryth, you know we packed up a lot of the stuff befre you went to get our water bottles," Hazel said, "So I guess you're the lazy one now." Hazel smiled and stuck out her tongue at him.

"Smart arse," He retorted.

"She can defend herself, so that makes her a smart arse, does it?" Alexis joined in.

"Oh, right, you're being defensive are you? Is that what sticking out your tongue is called?" Ryth asked, making both of the girls smile. Hazel didn't really seem that pretty until she smiled, it made her whole face light up. They teased each other for a while longer and then helped organize who would carry what. The group of people were always so organized and it paid off for them.

By the time the sun was dipping behind the horizon, they were leaving the river behind and weaving their way between trees. They continued this way for about two hours before it slowly started to get darker. Big, dark clouds were rolling in and devouring the starry sky.

"I hope it doesn't rain on us," Alexis said, staring up at the threatening clouds.

"I don't reckon they are rain clouds though," Skylar informed her.

"I think they are Skylar. See how they look darker in places?" Libby joined in. They were walking in a sort of line, with jackal a bit further back a Ryth some way ahead. Hazel wanted to join in the conversation, but there was something on her mind and it was continuously bugging her. And to make it worse, she wasn't sure who to talk to about it. Hazel compromised that she couldn't interrupt the conversation and drag one of them away, so she decided to go ahead and talk to Ryth. He seemed to be a bit of a leader anyway.

"You're walking fast," Hazel said, not know what to say really.

"If I don't then we'll gain no ground."

"Where exactly are we going?" Hazel blurted out the question in a rush.

"You don't want to know," He finally said. "Not really anyway. No one wants to know, they just want to know if all this is pointless running or if we are actually going somewhere, that way you don't feel useless." Ryth's words made Hazel feel such ambivalence over such a little thing. She was angry that Ryth would accuse her of only asking the question for that reason, but she also felt a little guilty because it was a small part of he reason why she had asked him.

"You don't get me, do you Ryth? I do want to know where we're going because I happen to be a very curious person. Yeah, I don't like feeling useless, but that's because for the past year all I've done is run away from Them with no direction and no point except to not be caught. But the real reason I want to know is 'cause I want to help, and I can't exactly help if I have no idea what the point is, can I?" Hazel said.

They walked in silence for a long time. Each listening to the sounds around them. Ryth was surprised by Hazel's outburst. He thought she had been only interested in wanting a reason, but she really cared. Maybe she actually understood him. He felt he owed her something because she had been so honest with him. "Thank you, Hazel."

"What for?" She asked, slightly confused.

"You were honest with me," Ryth wasn't sure how else to explain it.

"I'm always honest with things like this," Hazel shrugged.

"Well, I guess I should tell you where we are heading. A friend of mine was captured by Them. She was my only true friend while I lived with my parents, and ever since They took her, I've planned to find Their head quarters and free her. I'm pretty sue that the head quarters are in a city some way from here, I'll show you when we stop if you like. After we free her and a few others, we can build up a team of people and attack Them," Ryth had never told anyone about his plan to destroy Them until now. He really did trust Hazel.

"So, how close were you and your friend then?"

"She was my sister Hazel, so don't worry, she won't give you any competition," Ryth knew that Hazel was blushing bright red now.

"I didn't mean that Ryth," Hazel objected. "What's your sister's name?"

"Jade. She'd be about eighteen by now I think," Ryth said. Hazel picked up that he didn't want to talk about it and quickly changed the subject. They talked for a little while, then it started to rain.

Lightening illuminated the forest as if it were daytime, and the explosions of thunder that followed seconds later assaulted the people's ears. Heavy drops of rain fell through the canopy and soaked the six of them quickly. They traveled on, know it was their only choice. Eventually Ryth stopped, he was tired and worried by how close the lightening was. He scanned the area and spotted a tree that's branches were brushing the ground, heavy with water. Ryth indicated for the other five to follow and crawled under the wet branches. It was damp underneath the tree, but reasonably dry and definitely better than nothing. But once all six of them were underneath her could see a big dilemma – there wasn't enough room. Jackal had to sit half in the rain so that no one else would get wet.

"I don't think this is going to work," Ryth yelled over the roar of the storm.

"Maybe someone should go and look for a better place to rest?" Libby suggested.

"I'll go," Skylar quickly offered. As the youngest he wanted to do something helpful on his own for once and this was his chance.

"Skylar, you can't. You're's too dangerous," Alexis objected.

"No it's not. I can probably teleport back here if I need to anyway. What's the worst that could happen? The only thing I can think of is getting wet, but I'm already wet so that's not a problem," he looked around, pleading for someone to say he could go.

"Be careful, and be quick," Ryth warned. Skylar nodded and ran out into the storm.

" I hope he'll be all right," Jackal said.

Skylar jogged through the forest, searching for somewhere sheltered. Anything that could fit them all in would be good. He had started to regret offering for this job, but if he hadn't have offered there would have been a fight, so he wouldn't complain. But it didn't seem like anything would shelter them better than that tree. It might as well have been a desert for all the shelter it gave. Skylar squinted ahead, and he thought he saw clearing hrough the trees. He wasn't sure what use a clearing would be in the middle of a storm, but he thought that he may as well check it out.

The ground was soggy and squelchy underneath him and Skylar wasn't even thinking about watching his feet when he tripped over and fell over, covering himself in mud. He got up off the ground and continued forward, now following the ground with his eyes. When Skylar reached the clearing he knew because the wind whipped at his face and rain attacked him more severely than before. Over the storm, Skylar could hear something else, running water. He looked to his right and saw the outline of a river. Lightening flashed and Skylar drew his attention away from the river to stare at a giant shape looming up into the sky. Terror and excitement pulsed through his veins. He waited for the object to be illuminated again. Finally, it was.