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The journey back to the Village was long, but thankfully, uneventful. The Elves were eager to go to the village as soon as we mentioned it to all of them; even Fayne seemed to welcome the idea of a safer place to stay. We let them all rest for a while after eating, but then they were ready to set out, and we walked back with more breaks than usual and with me frequently having to remind the elves to stop talking lest a beast overhear them and take advantage of their weakness.
When we were close to the village, Scout stopped us, and turned to face the elves, his face more grave than usual.
“You should all stay back. Only come forward when I’ve told the guards that we found friends.”
“That sounds good,” Harold said with a nod. Fayne narrowed his eyes but didn’t question Scout, at least not out loud. The other elves looked forward at us, waiting for us to go forward.
Scout walked out to the gate first, followed closely by Rune. “Guards!” He said, calling their attention calmly, but loudly.
“Is there a problem, Scout?”
“Yes- but one that I think Shadowforth and Sentinel would best handle. We… found some friends near the coast. Elves, from Akalai, who we spoke to and seem to need our help- even needed our help before they got sick in the last dust storm…”
Storm and I stepped out with the elves. Valla was still wearing my facemask, and I had made a makeshift one out of a corner of my cloak. The rest of the elves had managed to form scarves or spare pieces of cloth into face masks for themselves. They were all still clearly sick… but I knew that since the guardians were still carrying their weapons, it was possible the guards would have a problem with them.
Sure enough, the guards both began to grow anxious. One flicked her tail in anxiety and the other had his ears pinned and eyes wide.
“Scout, what are they doing here?!”
“They’re not related to the humans. They came here because they saw the dust, and didn’t know what it was or how dangerous it was. They need help from Shadowforth… please let them through.”
The guards looked at each other. “We… how do you know they’re not lying? How… why are you trusting these humans?”
“We’re elves,” I heard Fayne mutter under his breath. I would have shot him a glare if all of the other elves hadn’t done so before I got the chance.
“They’re too sick to do any damage right now,” Scout said. “And besides… during a dust storm by the coast, they slept in our shelter with us, and even before they got sick, they didn’t try to hurt us. Besides… it may be safer for everyone to have them where our guards can watch over them.”
The guards glanced at the elves. I could feel their anxiety- especially Valla’s. Her anxiety was even causing her aura to tremble. But she and Harold both nodded, agreeing that it would be safer for them, but also acknowledging that if they hurt us, we’d know. This seemed to ease the guards’ nerves just enough.
“...We can let them in, but someone has to go and let Sentinel know right this second that there are humans here.”
“Rune, are you willing to do that?” Scout asked. “That way Storm, Gray, and I can all take them to Shadowforth without any guards having to leave their post.”
“I can,” Rune said, walking forward. One of the guards unlatched the village’s solid doors, opening it for him and then motioning to Scout to come in quickly. They didn’t take their eyes off of the elves at all, even as Scout motioned for us all to follow him in. I heard Harold say “Thank you” to the guards, but the guards stayed silent.
Until Fayne collapsed, right in the doorway.
“Fayne?!” His sister yelled out. He was coughing harshly, bent over himself. The guard held the door open, but closed it as much as possible, looking around in alarm to make sure that there wasn’t so much dust that leaving the door open was dangerous. I glanced around, seeing Chimeras beginning to gather around, staring at the elves.
“Get him inside,” Scout said. “Storm, Gray? One of you go get Shadowforth.”
“On it,” Storm said, immediately leaving the area. I knelt down next to the elves to get a better look at Fayne. He wasn’t coughing up blood- that was a small mercy, at least. But he looked pale and was leaning against his sister heavily, his eyes closed. All of the elves still looked sick. Fayne’s sister looked up at the open door.
“Fayne, can you stand up…?” My stomach dropped a little bit as she waited for a response. When there was none, she tightly wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him further from the door slowly, allowing the gate to be closed. As soon as it latched shut, she let go of him a little bit, and seemed to collapse herself.
“It’s not much longer,” Scout said softly. “Once he wakes up we can move there…”
We were silent as people tried to watch without getting too close. I closed my eyes and just hoped that this wasn’t going to end in death. We’d all seen too much of that.
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