Chapter Nine: An account of our escape to the mountains


Monlan is known for the fact that it’s full of rivers, streams, lakes, and marshes. Needless to say, it is very wet and muddy. The mud we were standing in was also full of reeds and grass that scratched our legs and attracted insects. We spent the night back in the woods so we could stay dry and then set off the next day through the swamp. We tromped along in the mud, not knowing what to do or where to start looking for Moxi. It was Chaman who saw the Grumans.

“Over there,” he told Ichoi. “If they see us…”
“Quick,” Ichoi said. “This way.”

I noticed that we took a sharp turn east, away from the Grumans and the sea. I thought we should have gone the other way if we were to find Moxi, but I didn’t want to be caught either. Ichoi must have thought the same thing because the next day, after a wet and sleepless night, he tried to turn back. But more Grumans showed up and we had to keep going inland. Late that afternoon, we tried to go back to the sea again when the Grumans saw us and started running towards us.

“Run for it!” Chaman yelled.

We did. Fortunately, the Grumans couldn’t run very fast with all their heavy gear weighing them down in the mud, but we weren’t a whole lot faster. I didn’t notice how far we’d gone until I stopped for a breather on a rock and looked behind me.

The swampland stopped some distance behind me and I was now in a rocky area. I gazed ahead to what must have been the Midland Mountains. I didn’t realize how long the range really was, but these looked just like the ones not far from my village in the north. I also noticed that I didn’t see anyone else.

Not knowing what else to do I started climbing. The rocks got steadily steeper as I drew closer to the mountain range. Only the hard and steady work of moving on kept my mind off of the inevitable.

“Where did the others go?” my mind would say. “Not only have they lost Moxi…they’ve lost me too. Will I ever see them again? Are the prophecies really true? They can’t be that far. Where are they?”

I kept climbing. I was on a steady peak now and it was getting dark. There was a winding trail going around it. I figured it might be the path to Welvale. I kept going until the trail ended at a drop-off. I turned around and kept climbing upward under the full moon. If only I could get to the top. I didn’t ask myself what to do if nothing, or no one, was there. I decided I needed to stop for just a minute and catch my breath…

I didn’t remember passing out, just waking up. I was lying on something soft with murmuring noises coming from somewhere. Wherever it was, it was dark. A glimmer of light came from somewhere behind me. I rolled around to see what it was.

“Oh look,” said Bri’s voice. “Leroi’s awake.”

I sat up and saw the girls coming towards me, all of them stooping over for some reason.

“Where am I?” I asked, trying to get up. “Where’s Jundon? And Chaman? And Ichoi? And…”
“Quiet,” said Wallia, pushing me back down. “Jundon’s sleeping over there next to Groblar. The girl’s gone out to find the others.”
“Some mountain girl,” Bri told me. “She found us and brought us here. Then she went and found Jundon and Groblar…then you. She’ll find the others I think.”
“I hope she doesn’t find the forest guy,” Wallia grumbled.
“I don’t care for him much either,” said Lulinda. “But he’s still part of the remnant.”
“As long as I don’t have to marry him,” Bri said, moving over to Groblar. “He’s rather rude.”
“I don’t know,” said Wallia. “Doesn’t look like we’re much of a remnant now.”

I was at least glad Jundon and Groblar were there. Jundon seemed really worn out and I let him sleep. Groblar looked like he had fallen off a cliff and Bri kept coming over to tend to him. When I woke up a second time, Simron and Jojo were there, both asleep, and I barely caught a glimpse of someone crawling away. It was then that I realized that I must be in a cave.

When I woke up the third time, I surveyed my surroundings a bit more. It was a very low cave, with a fire at one end where a hole let the smoke out. I wouldn’t have been able to stand up in it at all so I decided lie there and wait for the others to wake up. The girls sat at the other end, chatting away.

The entrance was a tunnel across from the fire. I was wondering how long it was when something came out of it, or rather was pushed out of it. There, lying flat on a long mat of sticks, was Ty. His arm was bandaged and I figured he must have passed out like I had. After him I saw Ichoi crawl out, pushing the mat ahead of him. Someone else came out after Ichoi, but backwards so to drag another mat in from behind. Riglo was also out cold. They pushed the mats over to the side of the cave and Ichoi crawled over to me.

“Man is it good to see you,” I said.
“I feel the same,” he said. “I assume you’ve met our rescuer.”
“Actually,” I stammered, looking at the girl crawling up next to him.
“Out cold when I rescued him,” she said, gazing at me. “All alone on the third mountain. How many are there still missing?”
“I dunno,” Ichoi said, looking around. “Who’s all here?”
“All the girls,” I said, counting on my fingers. “Well, except Moxi. Jundon, Groblar, Simron and Jojo, and now Ty, Riglo and you…and me…who does that leave?…Chaman’s still out there…Is he the only one?”
“I think so,” Ichoi said, trying to stand up. “Chaman and Moxi.”
“You sit,” the girl said, pushing him down. “I will find them.”

Ichoi started to protest.

“I’ve lived in these mountains for thirteen years,” she said firmly. “Trust me. I will find them.”
“Moxi’s in Monlan somewhere,” Ichoi said.
“They will flee to the mountains in time,” said the girl, a firm hand on Ichoi’s shoulder. “They will come to me.”

And with that she parted and crawled back into the tunnel.

We didn’t see her again that day or the next. The girls found a stash of nuts, berries, and even some salted meats for us to live off of. There was also a small spring at a lower part of the cave on our side. We lived quite comfortably for a while, but I began to worry about Chaman…and Moxi…and the girl.

The mountain girl, as we called her, had looked very pretty. Her hair was long, brown, and curly and she wore a short dress of leather. It was rather dark in the cave when I saw her, but I engraved the image into my memory. I thought of her often and tried to think of what it would have looked like when she rescued me. Then again, she must’ve thought we were all idiots for getting ourselves lost in the mountains like that. Of course she’s lived here thirteen years, which means she would have been six years old when the Grumans came. A year younger than I was.

This made me think of our journey. I calculated that it took two days to get to the capital from my village. Then we spent five days in the dungeon. We escaped on the evening of the sixth day, the day of the storm. After that, five days at sea, running aground on the sixth day. That same day we met Ty, and traveled into the forest. After five days, we reached Monlan. After two more days, we had to flee into the mountains.

“That makes,” I said to myself. “Twenty days since I left my village. But how long was I in the mountains before I was found?”
“You were found the next day,” Lulinda said, carrying some water up in a jar.
“Really?” I said. “What about the three of you?”
“I think we were ahead of you when we were running,” she said, sitting next to me. “We saw the mountain girl and followed her here the same day. We told her our situation and she found Jundon and Groblar that night. The next day, she came in with you, although you didn’t wake up until evening.”
“So twenty days,” I said. “Plus the day I came here, plus the next day when I woke up again…”
“Actually,” Lulinda said. “You were here for two days before you woke up again, the day Simron and Jojo were found, and then you woke up the day after that.”
“So how long is it then?” I asked her, as I was rapidly losing count.
“Twenty days you say,” she said. “We’ve now been in this cave for nine days. The adventure for you has been twenty-nine days.”
“For me?”
“I got to the dungeons after you remember?” she said. “I count my days from the day we were brought to the capital and it took us three days to get there. For me, it’s been twenty-six days.”
“So for all of us,” I said. “We should start from the day of our escape from the capital, which was…only twenty-two days ago? Three weeks.”
“Yes,” Lulinda sighed. “Strange isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It seems like we’ve known each other forever.”


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