Adara stood outside her house, arms wrapped around the third of the four thin wooden pillars supporting the porch roof, eyes set on the horizon.
Only three miles away now, a fire blazed in the nearby forest, any sensible girl would have fled before now, salvaging what they could upon hearing the news, but Adara’s home was surrounded by a bowl shaped cliff, covering three sides of her house, on the fourth side lay the forest, the forest currently engulfed in flames.
On the other side of the cliff lay a large lake, across which was a small mountain town, but she couldn’t leave. Six of her dearest loved ones dwelt in the forest that was now up in flames, on the slightest chance that they all made it, Adara waited.
An hour passed and ash began to rain down on her house, Adara sat leaning against the same post she had been clinging to, praying, weeping, refusing to look up at the forest ahead.
A small voice, barely above a whisper echoed through Adara’s being. Instantly she stood and gathered enough bread and meat for seven to make the journey. She then tossed them into a sack and tied it to the rope she had used as a child to climb the cliffs, at the top it was secured to an old oak tree.
Her grey dress fluttered slightly in the wind now coming from the forest, and her dark red hair hung loosely around her shoulders. A spark lit in her blue eyes when a voice echoed through the small valley, a voice calling her name. No, three voices, four.
She turned to see a cluster of figures emerging from the woods. “Adara!” her dear friend Connell’s voice came like a sweet fragrance to her. She spotted him leading the group, a bundle on his shoulders.
Within minutes the group had made it around the house, at the foot of the mountain. Connell, the eldest, Nitza, the loyal, Nikyla, the brave, Maeko, the youngest, and Ezekai the skilled. The five stood before Adara, ready to brave the mountain, hair and face coated heavily in ash.
Adara’s face lightened a shade as she searched her friend’s sullen faces. “Where is Nyla?” Connell took the bundle from his shoulders and unrolled it, the bundle had been made of blankets containing Nyla’s small form. She lay, coughing on the blankets now, her golden brown hair matted with soot and ash, the ends blackened and short.
Adara looked up to Connell who answered the question in her eyes. “Nitza and Maeko found her in her house, nearly burning alive. They put out the fire that had overtaken her, but it took some of her hair, breath, and most her energy, she hasn’t said a word yet.” Adara gently rubbed the soot from her friend’s face, her face was cold to the touch.
Stepping back, Adara nodded to Connell who loaded Nyla back on his shoulders and addressed the group. “We must leave now, before the fire threatens our lives as well. Nitza nodded slowly as the group moved towards the cliff. “How will we get up?” She rested her left hand above her hip and stared at the top of the cliff, her light brown hair blowing behind her.
Adara pulled a rope free from the vines growing on the cliff’s side. “We will climb, it will not be easy, and if one of us slips up, we shall all surely die. Timothy now dwells at the top of the cliff, surely he will meet us there and the eight of us will continue on to the lake. Nikyla shuffled her feet a little and nodded along with the others. “What if he has fled, like the others?” Adara shook her head steadily, but her hands shook as she clasped them behind her back. “He will wait for us, I am certain.”
Ezekai and Nitza freed two more ropes from the vines and tested their strength before beginning the climb. Nyla was evidently weighing heavy on Connell’s shoulders as he climbed, but no one else possessed the strength to carry her up the cliff’s side. A mile up the cliff, a small ledge jutted out. Ezekai reached it first and hoisted the food up with one tug. Nitza rolled her eyes as she pulled herself over the edge. Ezekai beamed at her and reached down to take Adara’s hand to pull her up. As Adara reached the ledge she looked down to Connell who was still struggling with Nyla halfway down the grey mountain. Nikyla and Maeko reached the ledge at the same time and helped Adara hoist Connell up to the ledge.
While the group struggled to bring Nyla and Connell up safely, Ezekai retreated to the furthest point on the ledge and let his legs dangle over the edge. His eyes scanned the blazing forest and ruins of the scores of homes below. Nitza placed a hand on his shoulder, he barely flinched.
“There will be no returning, will there?” He sensed sorrow in her voice as they looked over their old village, oblivious to the grunts and struggling on the other side of the ledge. He shook his head and continued to look out, the fires were almost to Adara’s house now. The valley that had once been green and full of life lay desolate and blackened, with a red blaze overtaking every inch of it. “How many do you think didn’t make it?” Nitza’s voice wavered, she knew many more in the village than any of the others, especially Ezekai who knew only a handful outside of their group. “Less than twenty, probably. Many were warned, most were a part of this blasted fire.” Ezekai’s arms and face reddened and became warm as anger surged through him. Nitza embraced him from behind and pulled him away from the edge. “We will make it out.” Ezekai kept his gaze on the fires, his soft brown eyes becoming sharp as they reflected the blaze. Nitza tilted his face towards her by his chin. “Do you hear me? We will make it out.” Ezekai nodded, “I’ll remember that.”
Connell successfully pushed Nyla over his head far enough that Maeko could wrap his arms around her and pull her up. Breathing heavily, he dragged her to the back of the ledge and laid her down in the blankets. She coughed heavily and pulled the blankets tighter. Maeko sat by her, rocking back and forth slowly. “Does someone have water?” Nikyla nodded and brought a canteen out of her side bag. She knelt by Nyla and lifted her head to the mouth of the canteen. Nyla’s eyes fluttered slightly as she lapped up a small amount of water. Maeko’s eyes hid under his dark hair as he pretended to examine the cliff wall. “She’ll be fine.” Nikyla smiled at him, “Don’t worry Maeko.” He nodded and wiped his hair out of his face. Nikyla spotted the tears and hugged him gently. “Do not worry Maeko, do not fear.”
Adara and Connell unloaded enough bread and meat for a small meal before nightfall. The meat had already been cooked, so Connell rationed it out with one piece of bread each. He also raided his bag, in which he had enough fruit for every member of their group to have one each. A tear slipped from Adara’s eye but he wiped it away quickly and ran his right hand through her hair. “Timothy will be waiting for us with supplies at the top of the mountain.” Adara smiled slightly. “Why do you cry? Are we not all here, together?” She nodded and looked over the group. While everything was falling apart, they were indeed together, and in a day they would be reunited with Timothy as well. Connell motioned to his neat line of food. “Shall we feed the natives before nightfall? I am sure we all agree that we will not be setting a campfire tonight.” Adara nodded slowly.
Indeed, we are together.
To be continued…. Here.