“Where is it?!” Clarke demanded as she forced Bellamy to turn around and look at her. Tracking his trail from Raven’s pod had been disgustingly easy. He hadn’t been hiding his movement. A sick feeling twisted in her stomach, whether it was from what had happened with Charlotte, Finn, or now the radio she didn’t know. Focusing on the immediate threat was all that was keeping her going.
He shrugged her hand off and sneered. “Hey Princess, taking a walk in the woods?” The condescension in his tone was clear.
“They’re getting ready to kill three hundred people up there.” She spat at him, glaring with all her might. Even if the life of one girl didn’t matter to him, three hundred had to… She poked his chest. “To save oxygen and I can guarantee you it won’t be council members. It will be working people, your people.” She emphasized his connection to the people getting killed, hoping it would reach him. Somehow she had to make the bastard care.
“Bellamy,” Finn rushed up from behind her shoulder, shoving the man back. “Where’s the radio?” He asked like he had a right to be self-righteous.
Bellamy brushed off Finn easily, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Clarke didn’t even have time to be angry at Finn for disrupting her attempt to guilt Bellamy into giving them the information before Raven was coming out from behind her boyfriend. “Bellamy Blake?” She ran her eyes up and down him. “They’re looking everywhere for you.”
“Shut up.” He moved away from them.
Clarke’s instincts pinged. He was afraid of whatever Raven knew. She turned to Raven. “Looking for him why?”
Raven was blunt as she revealed what Bellamy had been hiding. “He shot Chancellor Jaha.”
It hit Clarke in that moment, why everything had been happening. Why they’d been stuck in hell. The horror of realization felt like cold water running through her veins. “That’s why you took the wristbands, why you let them lynch that little girl. You needed everyone to think we were dead and you couldn’t let yourself lose the power you needed to maintain that illusion.”
Finn spoke while she was distracted. “All that whatever the hell we want, you just care about saving your own skin.” He spoke with disgust, deriding their rebel king.
Raven stepped in front of Bellamy, who was trying to leave once more. “Hey, Shooter. Where’s my radio?” She demanded.
“Get out of my way.” Bellamy growled at her.
Undeterred, Raven stayed in his face demanding what was hers. “Where is it?”
Bellamy’s face hardened. “I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.” He stepped further into Raven’s space, clearly threatening.
“Really,” Raven goaded him. “Well, I’m right here.”
Bellamy shoved Raven into a tree his hands moving as if to strangle her. She whipped a knife out and held it to his throat. The anger clearly burning under her skin as she demanded again, “Where’s my radio?”
Clarke could feel bile in her throat as she watched Bellamy threatening an innocent again, she knew how this could end after what happened to Charlotte. He didn’t care about the lives of people who got in his way. She stepped forward, this needed to end before someone got hurt. “That’s enough, we don’t have time for this.”
It seemed to do the trick, Raven shoved Bellamy off of her and he released her without added threat. Clarke felt relief that this particular drama was ending without much fuss. She watched Bellamy walking away and considered her next strategy to convince him to tell them the location of the radio. All that mattered right now was finding the radio and contacting the ark. Her father’s death and her year in solitary would mean nothing if those in the ark died from lack of air despite their efforts. The radio was their chance at a miracle and without it they couldn’t save the people of the ark. The horrors of the ground may have transformed her from the girl who naively believed in the good of the people and their right to know the truth, but it hadn’t made her forget her father’s cause. The ground had taken a lot from her but she wouldn’t give up on her father’s dream to save the people on the ark.
Bellamy stopped walking several feet away from them. “Jaha deserved to die, you all know that.” His voice was firm like he’d made himself believe that his murder was justified. She couldn’t even argue against him too stringently at this point, though a part of her wanted to for Wells’ sake. Jaha had done monstrous things on the ark, but then again so had Bellamy on the ground. Jaha’s guilt or innocence wasn’t the point though. It was the lives of those who would be killed in the culling that mattered now. Just as she was about to make this point to Bellamy, Raven interrupted.
“Yeah, he’s not my favorite person either,” Raven snarled bitterly, “but he isn’t dead.”
The pronouncement seemed to drop like a bomb changing everything. Bellamy’s expression shifted into shock with slight hope. “What?”
Raven looked down her nose at him. “You’re a lousy shot.”
If it had been a day ago, when Charlotte had been alive and not dead having been hung up by a furious mob. A day ago when she’d still believed that Bellamy wasn’t weak, and easily swayed by a crowd, when she hadn't known he was a murderer in his own right. If this had been that day, maybe this would have convinced her that Bellamy wasn’t as bad as she thought. However, this was not that day and she had seen Bellamy bend to the will of the populace and let a little girl be executed just as Jaha had done to Bellamy’s mother. No, she couldn’t trust Bellamy, but she knew his weaknesses well enough to use them against him now. Stepping forward, she grabbed his arm even though she wanted to do anything but. “Bellamy don’t you see, the ark won’t kill you for almost killing Jaha. You might not have been part of the original 100 but every one of us on that ship was promised pardons. You have an opportunity to save your people now. People like your mother and Octavia. The ark won’t kill a hero who was part of saving 300 lives.”
She saw his face was conflicted. Every fiber of her being may be sick and angry and disappointed in him, but she needed him to listen so she continued. “You have a chance to not just stand by and let innocent people die, again. Show them that you’re not like Jaha that you can save people instead of killing them.” She couldn’t keep the bitterness over Charlotte's lynching out of her voice, but she could see her points hit home.
“That’s….” He trailed off looking conflicted.
“You didn’t kill the chancellor. Are you going to stand by and let people die and do nothing again? You won’t be able to use your sister as your excuse this time.” She glared at him feeling her anger boiling over inside her chest.
He let his shoulders drop and looked at her like he was asking for forgiveness. “It’s too late.”
“What do you mean it’s too late?” Raven demanded approaching them. “What did you do to my radio?”
Bellamy shifted uneasily. “I threw it in the river. We’ll never find it.”
Clarke stepped back, staring in horror as Raven demanded answers from Bellamy. She was numb, completely numb. Gone, one more thing was ash and death in her hands. Everything she had fought for had proven useless, she couldn’t help anyone, save anyone. Her father’s death and his fight for the truth would save no one now. She remained silent as they began to move back towards the drop ship. In a detached sort of way, she knew Bellamy had agreed to help organize the delinquents into a search party for the radio, but what were the odds they’d find it? Even if they did find it, Clarke was the daughter of an engineer she knew what water did to electronics. There was no way that it would work. It was just going to be another tragedy of the ground, more people who would die because she couldn’t do anything.
Her father, the boys on the drop ship, Atom, Wells, Charlotte...she grit her teeth as she walked robotically with the group. She hadn’t been able to stop the mob; couldn’t convince Bellamy to stand up and stop them when they went for Murphy; couldn’t even get him to stop them when they strung up that little girl. Her eyes burned with tears that she couldn’t shed. Trying to pull herself back to reality, she spotted Finn looking at her with concern.
Anger bubbled up inside her, pushing back the tears. The arrogance of the man, thinking he could continue a relationship with her when his lover who was utterly devoted to him was here. Did he think he could have both of them? Or that she wouldn’t care that Finn had a girlfriend whose loyalty he betrayed after only a day on the ground?
The ground had been quickly destroying her faith in humanity and she was so very tired of fighting everyone and trying to get them to do the right thing. None of her efforts had helped anyone. Since they clearly didn’t want ‘the princess of the ark’ here perhaps it was time she left. There was no use in her staying if no one was willing to listen. She and Wells had always been better off on their own anyway. It would be harder to be isolated without Wells as her partner in crime, but she had survived a year in solitary she would survive this too.
It was freeing to resolve to strike out on her own. She wouldn’t be able to fail anyone, hurt anyone if she wasn’t around them. Nor would she have to witness the savage depths that desperation drove humanity to in times of peril. It would be a relief. As they approached the drop ship she slipped inside making her way to where Monty and Jasper were quietly talking on the second floor. Jasper had dark circles under his eyes, not to mention they were darting across the area looking for a threat. She sat down next to the two boys. Except for maybe Octavia, they were the only ones in the camp who didn’t hate her and hadn’t tried to take advantage of her. They wouldn’t come with her, there was no point in asking, but she would miss them. Monty was an optimist and he would never leave Jasper and Jasper was far too terrified of leaving the camp. So, she sat and just soaked in their presence for a few precious minutes.
She didn’t have time to linger long as she heard Bellamy and those he’d organized to find the broken radio head out. Standing she ruffled Monty’s hair and smiled sadly at Jasper. “You two take care of each other.” She ordered softly.
“What’s wrong Clarke?” Monty asked, looking at her curiously and slightly concerned.
If she told them, they’d try to stop her or tell the others. If Finn heard, he’d do something stupid. Octavia might just come with her to spite her brother at this point and that would ruin the whole thing. So she just shook her head. “It’s just been a hard day. Promise you’ll watch each other’s backs for me though?”
Jasper nodded slightly, “Of course.” Monty echoed him.
“Good.” She went to the hatch before stopping and making eye contact with them. “We’re running low on seaweed, I’m going to go out and get some more.” With that she went down the ladder before they could respond. Quickly she packed the minimum of what she’d need into the shoulder bag Wells had made all those days ago. She took a knife fashioned from the wreckage, some torn fabric, and a day's worth of food. She left her cannibalized medical supplies, the delinquents might need it. With that done, she left the drop ship and walked out past a few loitering teens, none of whom bothered to so much as acknowledge her. She strode through the fence and into the woods.
It was easier than she’d expected as she headed to the river where she knew she could gather the red seaweed. It was further downstream than she knew the others would be. It was as simple as that to disappear into the woods and leave the delinquents to their own devices. They had lost and she was done trying to save people who hated her. She couldn’t help anyone if they wouldn’t listen to her anyway. For the first time since hitting the ground she felt the ever present weight on her back lifting. She walked along the hard packed ground and found she was crying. It wasn’t until she had let go of the burden that the delinquents represented that she realized how much the responsibilities she had taken on were weighing on her. Wiping her face with the back of her sleeve, she came out from the tree cover and stomped into the river to get the red seaweed.
Monty watched the lights caused by the burning up of jettisoned bodies from the ark with a heavy heart. Despite all their efforts, they had been unable to stop the culling. Either the ark hadn’t seen their fireworks display showing them that the one hundred had survived and the ground was survivable or they had been too late. He tried not to think about the possibility that his parent’s bodies could be among those causing the streaking lights above him. Turning away from the perversely pretty display, he looked at Jasper. Times may be tough but at least he had Jasper, who had been his best friend and constant companion for so many years. Monty wasn’t sure what he would do without him. Which reminded him, he should probably check on Clarke. It had only been a day and a half since she had lost Wells and from what he understood they had once been as close as he and Jasper were. Her behavior earlier today concerned him. Clarke might not admit it but she could probably use some friendly support and there weren’t a lot of sources she could get that from in this camp.
With a nudge, he got Jasper’s attention. “Hey, want to go see what Clarke’s up to? We haven’t seen her in a while and she was acting weird.”
“Yeah, she was a bit off. Maybe she could use some of our special tonic.” Jasper said, waving some of the moonshine they had made.
Monty smiled at Jasper. “It certainly couldn’t hurt. Let’s check the dropship. She was probably storing that seaweed she retrieved and ended up reorganizing all our medical supplies.”
Jasper snorted. “See, that’s why we need the moonshine. Clarke wouldn’t know how to lighten up if it bit her in the ass. We’ll just have to explain to her that everyone needs a night off every once in a while.”
It didn’t take them long to reach the dropship but they were surprised to find that Clarke was nowhere inside and that there was plenty of dried seaweed in their stores. Clarke shouldn’t have had to go out to get more. Now quite legitimately concerned about the fate of their friend, Monty and Jasper began searching the entire camp. Considering the size of the camp, it wasn’t long before they were sure that Clarke was nowhere inside of it. That could only mean that she was somewhere beyond the walls.
Truly scared now that there was something wrong with Clarke, Jasper and Monty redirected their efforts and decided to interview the gate guards. Before they could get there, they were interrupted by a rough shove from Bellamy on Monty’s shoulder.
“I’m looking for my sister. You seen her?” He asked, though it was more a demand than anything.
After sharing a quick bewildered glance with Monty, Jasper responded. “I don’t know where Octavia is, but we just searched the whole camp looking for Clarke and she’s nowhere to be found.”
“Clarke is not a priority right now. The princess can take care of herself. We have to find Octavia.” Bellamy growled, clearly impatient with them for getting off topic.
“Maybe they’re together.” Monty suggested hesitantly. Hoping it was true more than believing it.
“No, O was mad. She wouldn’t have taken the princess with her. Something’s wrong.” Bellamy paused, apparently considering what his next step would be.
“Hey, what’s this about the princess being missing?!” Finn asked coming out of his tent with surprisingly shorter hair than the last time they’d seen him. Raven coming out of the tent not long after him with a knife in her hand explained that mystery.
“That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I haven’t seen Octavia since this morning when she stormed off and anything could have happened to her.” Bellamy responded, shooting Finn a heated glare.
“Octavia probably just ran off with some guy to have a good time in the woods so that you wouldn’t ruin things for her. It isn’t like Clarke to go missing like this.” Finn dismissed Octavia’s disappearance with a flippant wave of his hand.
Raven shoved Bellamy away before he could deck Finn for his disrespect. Jasper spoke up, interrupting the conflict. “Look, Clarke and Octavia are both missing. Fighting each other won’t help us find either of them. Can’t you two stop fighting for like a minute?”
Finn and Bellamy grumbled their acquiescence. Before long, a search team was prepared to look for the duo. Monty gave Jasper an uneasy look. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Jasper going back into the world after what had happened first day on the ground.
“Jasper are you sure about this. You haven’t left the camp since your injury.” Monty pleaded.
“I have to do this Monty. I can’t hide forever. Octavia and Clarke need me.”
After gathering the seaweed Clarke had managed to have a very productive evening. By the time night was falling, Clarke was several miles away from the camp, had caught a rabbit in an improvised trap, had made a small lean-to to sleep in, and had collected some edible plants. She had managed to catch a rabbit in a trap but remembering what the grounders had done to Jasper she was hoping to use it as bait to catch bigger prey. She was sitting up in a tree holding a dagger waiting for something larger to come so she could pounce on it, drawn by the sounds of the trapped rabbit. She could survive on her own she realized while sitting there waiting in silence. It had been a freeing day. She’d retched into some bushes when she saw the light show that might as well have been a funeral for three hundred lives, but there was nothing more she could do to help those on the ark and it was high time she started looking after herself. So here she was…surviving.
She was distracted from her thoughts by the sight of a panther approaching the rabbit ready to strike. Clarke was just about to pounce on it when she heard the roar. Adrenaline shot through her system as she looked up and saw trees breaking as something clearly huge came breaking through the woods. She couldn’t move or breath from the sheer overwhelming fear. A strangled hysterical sound choked and died in the back of her throat. Her frozen state saved her as the giant mutated gorilla came crashing into the ground below her grabbing the panther and effortlessly breaking its neck before casually slinging the body around as it left into the woods.
She was unsure of how long it took before she managed to climb out of her tree, her limbs were still shaking too violently for her to climb down quickly. Sitting on the ground, she tried to get her breathing under control. She shouldn’t be surprised, the ground had been one terrifying wonder after another, so of course there was an honest to god monster gorilla.
The journey following the trail Octavia had left in the woods had been harrowing and Jasper was in no way alright. The ominous entrance to grounder territory had been terrifying enough that a number of the search party had abandoned the search and returned to camp. Now he had seen several more of the party die in gruesome grounder traps. It appeared like the grounders were just messing with them. Honestly, he just wanted the search to be over. The tension of trying to anticipate the next trap was pushing him over the edge. His hopes for finding Clarke and Octavia alive dwindling as they continued to run and fight and die. If Finn hadn’t been as frantic as Bellamy to continue in their search for the lost girls, they all might have turned back. He had to remind himself that Octavia and Clarke had come after him and he couldn’t repay them by turning back now. Building up all his courage, he defiantly shouted. “Why don’t you cowards just come out and get this over with?!”
Suddenly, there were six or so grounders appearing out of the woodwork charging at them from all directions. Jasper readied himself to fight for his life scared out of his mind when he heard a loud horn blowing in the distance. The grounders immediately stopped charging them and retreated to who knows where. What the hell was going on to make the grounders retreat like that?
“What does that horn mean? Why are they all running?” Jasper asked, bewildered.
“Acid fog.” Finn replied with dread in his voice.
They all stared at each other for a moment horrified by the implications. Finn proceeded to pull out an improvised tent and tried to get them all as covered by it as possible before the fog came and killed them. Jasper could feel the others pressed against him and he was terrified that at any moment the fog could get in and they would die an agonizing death like Atom did. However, time passed and nothing seemed to happen. Bellamy grew fed up with the long wait and poked his head out to see what was going on since the fog didn’t seem to have descended. He quickly made it clear that the coast was clear. As they all made their way out from under the improvised canvas, Monroe spotted a figure in the woods. Of course, Bellamy and Finn couldn’t wait to go chasing after it not having had enough adventure for the day. Jasper followed behind them as they stalked the figure through the woods. It wasn’t long before they saw him entering into a cavern. They waited a moment to ensure that he wasn’t coming back out and then Bellamy and Finn started bickering.
“We need to go in there he might have Octavia in there!” Bellamy snapped.
“Or he might have Clarke! We need to be careful or he might hurt them if he has them.” Finn snapped back.
“We can’t just wait for him to come back out again, who knows what he is doing in there. I’m going in, either follow me or don’t,” Bellamy growled at Finn. Quickly following behind the grounder man and entering the cave. Finn let out a huff, but he wasn’t far behind. Monroe and Jasper followed them both, exchanging uneasy glances.
When they entered the cave, Jasper and Monroe found Bellamy hugging Octavia and Finn searching fruitlessly for Clarke while giving a grounder knocked out on the ground heated glares.
“Where’s Clarke? Was she taken with you?” Finn demanded, interrupting the brother sister reunion.
“I’m fine. Thanks for asking, but no I haven’t seen Clarke. What’s happened with her?” Octavia asked, slightly concerned.
“That doesn’t matter. If Clarke isn’t here, she’s probably just exploring on her own. We need to get back to camp as soon as possible and prepare for the grounders. Clarke can take care of herself.” Bellamy argued.
“To hell with you! All you care about is your sister! We should interrogate this grounder. He might know where Clarke is.” Finn exploded.
“We don’t have time for that. We need to get back to camp. You can moon over Clarke later. Don’t you have a girlfriend?” Bellamy responded.
The two continued to fight, but Jasper ignored them pulled into his own thoughts. If Clarke wasn’t here, where was she? She had been behaving oddly before saying she was going out for seaweed. He and Monty had already discovered she had lied about them needing more. Her last statements to them had almost sounded like a goodbye, but Clarke wouldn’t have left them would she? Just as he was giving the thought more consideration, his thought process was interrupted by the grounder suddenly jerking upwards and stabbing a knife into Finn. After that everything was chaos.
Raven Reyes stood above the loosely packed soil and mud they’d buried Finn under. No one had wanted to help her bury Finn, but she had forced the issue. Glaring at the dirt, she cursed the ground for taking him from her. He was dead, after everything they’d been through, a knife was all it took to take him away from her and there was nothing she could do about it. Back when she had been a child she’d sworn to never be helpless like this again but here she was. Hot tears burned down her face as she stared at the ground. She wanted to run, she wanted to fight, she wanted to force time to turn back so she could bring him back.
“You can do better you know.” Octavia said from where she was sitting on the wall.
Turning she glared. “Don’t you dare speak badly of him.” She practically bared her teeth at the stupid girl playing at rebellion and unrepentantly getting others killed for it. Her fingernails cut into the skin of her palms from how hard she was clenching her fists.
“He was charming sure,” Octavia shrugged but the repressed venom in her tone was unmistakable. She was miserable and going to make everyone else that way as well. Raven didn’t bother giving the girl slack, if she was going to speak badly of Finn, she would end her. Octavia clearly didn’t know the danger she was in and continued. “I mean, he was flirting with Clarke from hour one. Hell, maybe if he hadn’t fucked her she might not have gone and run off leaving us without a doctor.”
Raven stalked towards Octavia. “How dare you say Finn would do something like that.”
“What, you don’t think his obsession with Clarke’s disappearance was a bit much if he wasn’t sleeping with her?” Octavia defended herself.
Raven’s heart rejected Octavia’s words, but her mind remembered what she had seen. Finn had been upset at Clarke’s absence from the drop ship, demanding they go looking for her. When she searched the bunker, she’d seen the metal two headed deer. She’d written it off, but its similarities to her raven were striking. Still, it wasn’t possible, Finn would never betray her like that. “You’re lying.” She accused while glaring.
“Why would I lie?” Octavia said. “He followed Clarke around like a puppy. Ask anyone here.”
“So, Clarke pursued him, doesn’t mean he ever slept with her.” She knew that wasn’t right but she was grasping at straws, she hated Octavia for taking this away from her as well. Especially when it was Octavia’s precious grounder up in the top level of the ship that had stabbed Finn.
“The princess didn’t do the pursuing.” Octavia hopped off the fence, her voice rising to a sarcastic drawl. “He was like the only person who put up with her, then his girlfriend shows up and she fucks off to the woods? Yeah, he totally wasn’t boning her.” She rolled her eyes. “You can do better.”
Raven didn’t care about the facts or what was smart. This girl was dragging Finn’s name through the mud when he was barely cold in his grave. She was doing it just to spread the hurt. She was barely thinking as she punched her straight in the face. There was a satisfying crack of her fist hitting the cheekbone before Octavia hit the ground. Raven ignored the stunned looking girl, walked past her, and headed straight to one of the tents inside the camp. Bellamy or someone would be coming to lecture her about punching Octavia. It was obvious who the true princess of the camp was. For now, however, she had questions that needed answers.
Monty and Jasper both nearly jumped out of their skin as she stomped into their tent and sat down staring at them, daring them to not answer any of her questions. “Tell me about Clarke.”
The boys shifted uncomfortably and side eyed each other. Monty spoke, “Well, what do you want to know?”
“Don’t give me that crap.” She ground her teeth. “Did she sleep with Finn?”
They both blanched, but Jasper surprisingly was the first to speak. “Probably, they were pretty close. We all thought they were sleeping together.”
Monty reached out and touched her hand in an attempt to comfort her. She ripped her hand away, not wanting his comfort. “Did she leave because of me?”
Jasper frowned while Monty replied quickly. “No, I think she left because of Bellamy.”
“She slept with him too?” she scoffed.
Both boys laughed, clearly not having expected that. “No, they hate each other,” Jasper said. “Like they haven’t gotten on since the beginning.”
Monty chimed in, “No, her best friend was murdered and everyone thought Murphy did it.” The boys’ faces darkened and Raven felt a sense of dread. “Everyone lost their minds. They strung him up, he was dying and Bellamy wouldn’t let Clarke cut him down. When suddenly this little girl, who couldn’t have been more than fourteen, screamed out that she’d done it.”
Raven’s eyes widened in horror as the boys both looked downcast and sickened by what they were talking about. “Murphy was cut down, but the crowd was riled up and thirsty for blood. Bellamy didn’t stop them. Clarke, she tried to stop it, but he held her back while they strung up the little girl.”
Jasper rubbed his chest. “I tried to help but they wouldn’t stop.”
“So, she left because they killed the girl and her friend was dead?” Raven asked trying to get a picture of the girl who her boyfriend may or may not have slept with while on the ground.
Monty grimaced, “Everyone hated her. She’s a princess right? So, no one wanted to listen to her. The only reason no one threatened to kill her like Wells was because she was a girl and our only medic. She saved Jasper, she was always trying to help us survive.”
Jasper grunted, “I don’t blame her for leaving.” Both boys looked surprisingly guilty.
“Thanks.” Raven stood and left their tent, it suddenly felt too enclosed inside the thin walls of fabric. Breathing erratically, she stood looking, really looking, at the camp and the delinquents in it. They were toting around weapons so ready to use them. Had these kids really lynched a fourteen-year-old girl? It wasn’t hard to believe. They hadn’t been kind to her in the few days she’d been here. She was an outsider, a grown up, and they’d thrown their lot in with Bellamy. Finn was dead. Suddenly, even the walls of the camp were crowding her in, she couldn’t breathe. She took off like a shot out of camp.
She ran till her legs burned, her lungs felt like knives were stabbing them with every labored breath. Tripping over a root, she went sprawling into the dirt. Screaming into the ground, she grabbed fistfuls of dirt and let her sorrow and hurt come out in great wracking sobs and cries at the injustice of the ground. Finally, her screams and cries tapered off and she was left kneeling in the dirt her chest feeling like someone had scooped everything that mattered out of it. Her joints and muscles ached as she forced herself to stand up and at least pretend to face the world.
The question she was left with was should she go back or not. Her slow and hollow thoughts were interrupted by an arrow embedding itself in the trunk of a tree. Jerking around, she saw the form of a distant figure already pulling a string back to shoot at her again. Not even bothering to think, she took off as fast as she could to get away from the grounder. Branches and bushes ripped at her clothing, but she kept running, dodging behind trees whenever possible. An arrow had already cut across one cheek, nearly causing her to go tumbling. Panting, she kept running up the rising incline. Looking behind her, she saw more than one dark shape following her. She moved forward with a renewed burst of speed. With a sharp cry, the ground disappeared under her feet and she went plummeting over the edge.
She braced her arms around her head as she went tumbling down the side of a steep hill. Sharp rocks and branches smashed into her sides surely bruising them to hell and back. Finally, she came to a stop at the bottom. Not giving herself time to recover, her adrenaline forced her to her feet and scrambling up the other side of what she now realized was a ravine. Her hands dug into the dirt and grabbed at rocks and roots hauling herself up and up towards the far edge. After several near misses with arrows, she hauled herself over the top lip of the opposite side of the ravine.
With every fiber of her being, she forced herself back to her feet and kept running ignoring how her body was screaming at her to stop. Out of nowhere, two hands grabbed at her, yanking her behind a tree. Gasping in, she went to scream even though she knew it wouldn’t help. A hand clamped down over her mouth while a voice hissed in her ear. “Stay still!”
The English made her pause. Wide eyed, she peered at her captors face and was shocked to see the blond hair of the girl she’d briefly met before, Clarke Griffin. Nodding jerkily, she took in great gasping breaths as soon as the hand was removed from her face. Clarke still had a firm grip on her that she was using to hold her against the trunk of a tree. After an indeterminate amount of time, Clarke seemed to relax, releasing her. Clarke didn’t bother asking her anything just speaking quickly and lowly. “We need to get out of the open, you’re chase could have attracted it.”
Raven went to ask what it was, but stopped at the glare Clarke sent her. Deciding to trust in the girl who’d just helped her avoid getting an arrow or spear in the back, she followed as Clarke moved through the trees with a familiarity that was impressive after only a couple of days on her own. Still, her patience wore out. “Where are we going?” she hissed.
“Somewhere safe.” Clarke replied in a barely audible tone.
Rolling her eyes, Raven accepted that she wasn’t getting anything else out of the girl till they got to wherever this ‘safe place’ was. They walked in silence for some time before Clarke sped up their pace. Raven realized that they were heading for some sort of bunker set into the side of a small hill. Clarke quickly opened the door and gestured her inside the building. Slipping in, she was struck by the fact it seemed to be some sort of high tech storage locker. It had piles and piles of books and filing cabinets. She could see where Clarke had made herself a bed. There was a skylight in the ceiling letting in enough natural light to illuminate the place.
The door shut with a clang and Clarke turned, her face was far less serious than it had been earlier. “Sorry about that, we didn’t want to go and attract any predators.”
“Predators? Not the crazy murderous grounders?” Raven scoffed as she dropped down on a dusty cushion by the side of an extinguished fireplace.
Clarke ignored her as she grabbed some wood from a stack of branches cut to size and began to get a new fire up and going. “The grounders don’t come here. This is the beast’s territory.”
“Beast?” That did not sound good. If there was something that scared the grounders away, being near it didn’t sound good at all.
Seemingly Clarke didn’t hear or was ignoring the fear in her tone and she continued. “I didn’t realize why the grounders hadn’t bothered me here till I saw the beast. It’s a massive gorilla.”
“Gorilla?” She asked in disbelief. “Like a giant monkey? The grounders are scared of a giant monkey? There aren’t even supposed to be monkeys on this continent.”
Clarke raised her eyebrows in clear annoyance. Looking back down at the fire that was slowly eating away at the grass and thin twigs beneath the larger sticks, Clarke slid back from it and reached for a book and tossed it to Raven. “Here, I drew it.”
Raven opened the book dubiously and was startled by the vicious looking beast, that was definitely larger than gorillas were supposed to be. “This is real?”
“On my first hunting attempt I nearly got eaten.” Clarke said seriously with a hint of horror in her tone. “Of course, I tried to leave the area but well, we’re surrounded by grounders in every direction. They don’t come here, but if you leave the beast’s territory they’ll attack. You’re lucky you made it here.”
“So, you decided to stay with the giant ferocious beast?” Raven asked in disbelief. This girl was officially crazy.
Clarke shrugged. “Well, I found this place while I was trying to find the edges of the beast’s territory. Since I clearly couldn’t leave and it provided a certain amount of safety, I stayed. Of course, I still have to leave for supplies so I’m planning to kill it and take the territory. Why would I risk the grounders when this territory hasn’t yet been claimed?”
“You’re going to kill it?” Raven was sure the girl really had lost her mind. “How? With a knife?” She pointed to the jagged poor excuse of a knife strapped to Clarke’s waist.
“Of course not.” Clarke looked at her like she was an idiot. “I’m going to poison it.” She reached out and grabbed the sketch pad with the gorilla in it and flipped a couple pages until she found what was clearly a rough map. “I’ve been working on a map of the area. As near as I can tell it lives somewhere within a square mile of here.” Clarke gestured to a location on the map. “The grounders don’t come in a ten or so mile radius of the beast’s lair. If I kill it, I’ll be safe from the grounders and safe from it.”
Raven swallowed and looked at the map. It was insane, but it might work and honestly what did she have left to lose? She didn’t have family, Finn was dead, the dropship was miles away and she didn’t even know if she could bare to be back there, let alone survive the trip. “This plan is insane,” she said finally. “When do we start?”
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Raven stared at the deer laying in their home. She looked up at Clarke, “How exactly is this going to help?”
Clarke was crouched over it, sweating profusely and red in the face from dragging the creature to their home. “It’s how we’re going to kill the beast.”
“Clarke, we’ve tried poisoning animals and all we’ve done is waste food we could have eaten. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we kinda need to eat.” She crossed her arms, annoyed at her companion, who clearly didn’t know when to accept defeat. “We can try and build a trap for it.”
Clarke sighed out in frustration. “That’s because we’ve been leaving dead animals. The beast likes to hunt his prey not be given it.”
Raven stared in disbelief. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but that deer is not exactly kicking and screaming and I’d very much like to eat it.”
“Oh, it's alive. I found a grove of marijuana plants two miles east of here. Just had to wait for an animal to get high enough off the things for me to be able to knock it out.” She waved off as she continued grinding something greenish in a small metal bowl they’d scavenged a week before during on of their ventures into the woods.
Raven stood there and considered the series of events that Clarke described. “So while you said you were out hunting food, for us, because we’re eating fucking dandelions and sparrows, you were catching high deer?”
Finally, she seemed to have gotten through to Clarke, who stood up eyes flashing. “We are going to die if we don’t kill that gorilla Raven. We’re in hostile territory, the ark isn’t coming down, there is no where we can go that is safe. This territory is claimed by a monster. So yes I was trying to kill it so we can have land we can live on relatively safely.”
They stood there staring at each other before Raven finally slumped and nodded. “Ok, so what are we doing with the deer?”
Clarke eyes dropped back down to the bowl. “I’m mixing every plant we know is poisonous that we’ve found. We’re going to paint its fur in it. Then cut a leg tendon or something and let its cries of distress call out the gorilla.”
Raven blinked. “That might actually work. Shit, what do you need me to do?”
“The weapons you’ve been working on, they need to be ready. At the very least this should incapacitate the gorilla, we may need to stab it a few times before it dies.” Clarke ran a hand through her hair. “We have no idea how tough its hide is, so something that could get through some serious resistance.”
Raven grinned. “So, I can make the spring loaded knife thrower?”
“Yup, also a saw might be nice.” She added after a moment to think.
Clarke knew this plan was reckless but it was the best idea she had and Raven’s ideas for traps required to many materials that they didn’t have access to. If this didn’t work though and they survived it, she was going to just accept dangerous scavenging for tools as a viable course of action. She huffed slightly as they made it to the meadow that was near enough the gorilla’s lair that the sounds would most definitely be heard.
“I hate this plan.” Raven wheezed from behind her.
The deer had woken up about five minutes ago and had been struggling against its binds. Over a hundred pounds of desperately struggling deer was hard to carry. Especially since they were having to use a branch they’d attached it to since touching it was a very bad idea. She examined the area warily before speaking. “I think this is close enough.”
“Oh thank god.” Raven said as she unceremoniously dropped her end of the branch.
Clarke regulated her breathing while watching amused as Raven was bent over holding her knees. Finally, once both of them were breathing properly again, Clarke pulled out her knife and approached the deer. “I’m sorry.” She apologized to the creature that was staring at her with abject fear.
With quick movements, she sliced the muzzle off of it. Using her hand that was wearing a pieced together glove, she grabbed its rear leg. With a sharp slash, she cut through the skin and tendons till the knife hit the bone and then she dragged it out. The deer cried out in pain, its vocal cords making sounds that were not meant to come out of it. Cringing, she did the same to its other rear leg as quickly as possible. Before she could cut the leg ties, she heard the crash and roar of the gorilla.
“Clarke!” Raven exclaimed, grabbing her shoulder and hauling her back from the deer.
The two shared a panicked look. “Run!” Clarke commanded and they took off for the bushes. As soon as they hit the cover they spun around hitting the ground flat on their stomachs. Carefully, they crawled under the brush cover till they could see their trap. Apparently, they had reached cover just in time. The great beast came crashing into the clearing, clearly confident it was the biggest predator and had nothing to fear. Clarke wasn’t sure he was wrong.
Clarke cringed at the gruesome sight of the gorilla ripping the struggling deer to pieces before eating it. Both girls were holding their breath, waiting to see if the poison would even work on this creature. Clarke vaguely knew what the poisons should be doing and watched as it seemed to be playing with the severed head of the deer it had just eaten. Its movements seemed to be slowing down but she wasn’t positive. She became certain it was affecting it when the gorilla’s chest rumbled in a sort of aggressive wheeze.
It began to claw at its throat, more rumbles coming from it as it stood up, gagging like there was something stuck in its throat that it just couldn’t get out through coughing. As it stood, it began to sway. Its claws digging into its own throat before it fell over with a great crash. On the ground, it began to spasm. Clarke was on her feet instantly. “I’ll stab it, we don't know how long this will last.”
“You want to get closer to it?” Raven hissed in horror while getting up cautiously, despite her words.
“We don’t know if is dead or just knocked out for a while. This maybe our only chance.” Clarke whispered urgently as the creature began to gurgle as it twitched. Darting forward, she made sure to stay out of the gorilla’s range of sight while drawing the makeshift sword Raven had managed to make the day before they left on the hunt. She motioned for Raven to stay behind in the bush. At least one of them should survive this after all.
Raven didn’t seem to get the message. “This is insane!” She hissed as they approached the still very much alive creature.
It was of course, at this moment, that the damn thing twisted and saw them. Clarke didn’t even think. She knew she only had a moment before it would attack them. She took three steps and drove the sword straight through its eye. Before she could be swatted like a fly, Raven tackled her to the ground. They hit with a thud as the beast's arm hit itself in the face driving the sword further into its brain. It began to twitch uncontrollably before shuttering still.
“Damn Griffin you’re crazier than your mom.” Raven laughed out into the quiet left after the struggle.
She gasped slightly. “Thanks for the save.”
“No problem, can’t let my insane partner get squished by…whatever the fuck that thing is.” Raven was staring at the gorilla in a sort of stunned disbelief.
Clarke understood her disbelief as she raised herself off the ground. “You still have that saw on you?”
“Of course, ye of little faith.” Raven walked over to the bushes where they’d hit the ground and triumphantly held up her crowning achievement from while Clarke had been making poison. It was a four-foot-long metal saw with handles on either end. The teeth were jagged and uneven. For the work of a couple hours, it was impressive.
“Right, let’s make sure this thing is as dead as we can get it.” Clarke said decisively as she moved to the opposite side of its head.
Raven seemed distinctly unsettled as she moved so she was across from Clarke and held out one end of the saw to her. Moving in tandem, they stuck the teeth against the neck of the beast before dragging it back and forth across the throat. It took a lot of effort and soon both girls were sweating as they dragged the blade across the increasingly foul gristle, veins and finally bone. When they hit the first artery things got bloody fast, both of them were quickly covered in the spray from their work.
“This is the worst thing I have ever done.” Raven gasped out as they broke through the spinal cord.
Clarke shoved her side of the saw back towards Raven. “It has to be done.”
“This is why I like machines and gears, no blood, it doesn’t smell like this.” Raven was staring at the creature in disgust as they tried to get through the last of the skin.
Clarke grunted as the saw was thrust towards her. “At least it's dead.”
“Yeah that’s kinda obvious with the whole decapitation thing.” Raven snarked back.
They both stopped as the last piece of skin snapped, leaving the head separate from the rest of the body. Raven cocked her hip and stared at the body and looked up at Clarke. “What on earth are we going to do with it?”
Clarke slumped against the shoulder of the creature and paused. “I don’t know. I never really thought past killing it.”
“Seriously!? We’ve spent over a week risking our lives trying to kill it. Hell, we just severed its head and you’re telling me you don’t know what to do with it now?” Raven exclaimed, clearly furious.
“Well, I was a bit preoccupied with the not dying part.” Clarke defended. “Still, we have territory now. We just have to figure out how to hold it. I doubt the grounders will just leave us be once they realize this thing is dead.”
Raven began to pace. “Okay, so what, we fortify a position to secure our claim?”
“Yes, we’ll need to make them uneasy enough to leave us be once they realize the beast is gone.” Clarke said, her mind already running a million miles ahead on possible repercussions. “We’re still for all intents trapped in this territory, leaving it would be a death sentence.”
“Right, so we build ourselves a fortress and don’t let the locals realize it’s only two of us?” Raven said sarcastically. “Great we kill the killer ‘whatever the hell this thing was’, and now we have to prepare for a war against the locals with just the two of us.”
Clarke shrugged helplessly, it was true after all. “If you want to try and get back to the others at the drop ship, they might still be alive.”
Raven’s posture seemed to slump like a balloon with the air taken out of it. “If I even survived getting to them, it’s not like they’d be happy to see me. Especially not after abandoning them. Not that they ever wanted me in the first place.”
It hurt Clarke’s heart to hear Raven speak like that. Stepping forward, she squeezed Raven’s shoulder. “I want you here, but I won’t lie, we’re on the edge of survival and killing this didn’t make our lives much safer. At least, not for long. Once the grounders realize the beast is gone, they’ll attempt to claim this land and we need to be ready to keep them out of our territory.”
Raven brushed off the moment but Clarke could tell something had settled in her companion, her friend? She wasn’t sure if they were friends yet. Clearly ignoring Clarke’s thought process, Raven started talking. “Right, so we need to move our base then. The bunker isn’t secure and it’s too close to the border.”
Clarke nodded, deciding that Raven was right. “We could always take this things den? I mean it has to be reasonably safe from the elements and it’s the last place the grounders would attempt to approach if they suspect it’s dead.”
“And hey, this means the stuff you catch we can eat now, instead of poisoning.” Raven said with some satisfaction.
Raising a brow, Clarke resisted laughing, clearly not eating their catches had been wearing on Raven. “We can use the bones and hide from it as well, fortify our position. Make sure we have water and a smokehouse to preserve enough food for winter. We’ll need traps that can take out any enemy forces, since neither of us are going to be winning any fights with a grounder.”
“I can handle fortifying our position, building a water system, and the traps. You’ll have to handle food and any plant life we’ll need. Also I expect you to be the one tanning any hides.” Raven said, clearly thinking before running a critical eye over her. “First, can we get this blood and gristle off of us? Cause we stink.”
Raven tightened the screws holding the pulley system she was putting in their fort. The old zoo that they’d taken over was a gold mine of defensible positions. The hard concrete walls made getting in without climbing or going through the drain pipe nearly impossible. Building wire and spike filled rims around the open air sections to prevent climbing in had taken a while. Nearly led to several fatal falls but Clarke’s hand woven rope had held strong. Using piping they had found in an abandoned supply house they had been able to get running water. Clarke had spent a week digging a trench to the river and laying the piping before burying it again.
Their food stores were healthy and her fish traps had brought in a great deal of food. While she’d been turning their shelter into a heavily fortified defensive structure, Clarke had been proving to be a brutally effective hunter. The remains of the gorilla's kills had been stripped. Bones and skins saved while the rotten flesh was disposed of in a way that satisfied Clarke’s health concerns. There was a room with bars and a lockable door that Clarke had filled with the drying plants that had medicinal and poisonous attributes as well as fabric that could be used for bandages.
In a month, their home was starting to come together. With this pulley system, lowering kills into the second ring of defense and where they actually lived would be far easier. Not that they both hadn’t been building muscle but still it would make their lives more efficient. The woods were dotted with traps of various sorts to give them warning of any encroaching enemies if not killing them. She grinned as she grunted one last time fixing the screws on her new pulley. Looking down at where Clarke was braiding more rope from hide or tree bark, she wasn’t sure which, she hollered down at her. “We’ve got a working pulley system.”
Clarke looked up with a wide smile. “You’re a genius! That will make getting firewood down here so much easier.”
“I had not thought of the firewood.” Raven admitted, “Damn, I’m more brilliant than I know.”
Snorting, Clarke hopped up onto her feet. “Need me to help you get down.” She was standing with her hands on her hips looking up to where Raven was hanging from her harness.
Rolling her eyes, Raven replied. “Duh, can’t leave brain's like these just hanging here. You’d never make it without me.”
“Who does most of the hunting again?” Clarke asked rhetorically while untying the knot on the end of her line.
Using her legs to repel down, Raven replied not one to ignore a challenge. “Who makes the weapons and the traps you use. Thank you very much. You’re my minion, admit it.”
Clarke let the rope jerk her a bit playfully. “I don’t know, who does the food preparation again?”
“What so you’re my cute little house wife?” Raven joked as her feet hit the ground and she began to unbuckle her harness. “I mean you do make clothing, cook, clean up our home.” Grinning wickedly, she added, “You’re just a doll.”
Clarke slapped her shoulder lightly. “Yeah, keep saying that but remember who could poison you anytime and who guts and cleans the animals? I’d be happy to switch places with you if you’re tired of building traps.”
“Naw, I guess you're right. The bones of our fallen foes as home decorations is a bit grotesque for a housewife.” She teased as Clarke re-secured the rope.
“Uh huh, keep telling yourself that. Those ‘decorations’ might make the grounders pause before attacking us.” Clarke snarked back, though her tone had gotten more serious.
Raven stared at the prominent pair of antlers being used as a coat rack. “The human corpse we could have at least buried instead of turning into hanging warning signs a mile into our territory.” She was still uneasy about desecrating the dead.
“We need them to think we’re dangerous Raven.” Clarke said, sounding tired. “We couldn’t let the opportunity go.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s just, they used to be people.” Raven said carefully. She knew Clarke had been sick and violently scrubbing her hands for days after scavenging the human corpses that had been in the animal's lair.
“It had to be done.” Clarke’s voice had gone hard. “If we’re going to survive, they have to fear us.”
“So more traps for grounders then?” Raven asked, wondering what the next order of business would be.
Clarke seemed thoughtful for a moment. “Yeah, we can’t afford for them to get far into our territory. If they realize it’s just two of us, they’ll slaughter us.”
“Got it. First though I want to finish the oven.” She gazed fondly at her baby. It was a stone square she’d been turning into an oven with metal plates and stacked rocks to hold the heat. It would help them cook with less burning, or smoke. After all, a regular amount of smoke would be a dead giveaway that someone had moved into the area.
Clarke nodded. “I’m going to do a run of the western border and double check our traps there. I should be back by nightfall.”
Clarke slipped through the woods on ever more soundless feet. She’d come a long way from her early days of crashing. Necessity truly was the mother of invention. Their primitive bow was still ineffective, so hunting was done by waiting and then jumping down on her prey or through traps. Raven had been a godsend. Dividing up the work had allowed them to get more done than she could have possibly dreamed of doing without Raven. They were creating a home. A little over a month and already it was taking shape. They had food, shelter, water, security was what they needed most now.
During the early hours, after the sun had set but they were still awake, she’d been turning the hides they’d tanned into clothing. Warmer clothing would be necessary, also if they didn’t want to stand out, they needed the grounders not to recognize them as from the ark on first sight. The gorilla's hide had been the strongest and thickest so she’d made large, fairly loose jackets for both of them out of it. Next, she was planning on new pants. Their old clothing from the ark was threadbare and wouldn’t last long, let alone provide heat or protection from the elements.
Keeping the black fur lined hood over her distinctive hair, she moved closer and closer to the border where the grounders patrolled the boundaries of their territory. She knew it was dangerous but they needed to know what was going on with the grounders. There had been several horns and clearly a great deal of grounders had been moving around their own regions. If they were preparing to move into their territory, she and Raven would need to run. She had no illusions that they could do much of anything to survive if a large group or army of grounders attacked them. Maybe, if they finished the outer defenses as planned but that would take months.
Pausing, she felt every muscle in her body stiffen ready for action. She’d heard something. It took her a second to realize she needed a higher vantage point if she wanted to see anything. Scrambling up a tree, she made it to a sturdy branch and let her weight rest on it as she began to examine her surroundings. Just on the edge of what she could see because of the thick trees were two, no three forms. One looked to be a grown man, clearly a grounder. Behind him was a child, most likely around Charlotte's age who had a small child hot on his heels.
Frowning, she wondered what on earth a grounder was doing bringing children this close to the territory of the gorilla. Surely, no responsible adult would take kids this close to almost certain death. The man was dressed and acting like he was tracking something. He was bending to examine something on the ground every few feet. The fact that the older of the two children was holding a knife in his little fist made her feel sick. Knowing if she moved she might bring the man’s attention to herself, she remained frozen watching them move slowly ever closer. Her heart was beating faster. This could not be how they were discovered. Still, could she kill them?
She didn’t get a chance to find out as she saw too late that they weren’t the only things hunting. Prowling behind them was one of the black panthers she’d become wary of in her time in the woods. It didn’t give her a chance to even consider calling out to warn them before it had pounced, taking down the man who gave out a great cry of pain. Clarke couldn’t let the kids be savaged by the creature, she just couldn’t. Decision made, she dropped to the ground with a thump. Drawing her sword, much nicer now that Raven had a chance to work on it more, she sprinted through the woods, ignoring the sound she had to be making as she went. It didn’t matter as long as she reached the scene of the ever increasing violence before the children were killed.
As she came breaking onto the scene, she felt her stomach roll in horror. The adult grounder had his stomach ripped open, entrails spread upon the ground and his throat was a gaping wound. The older of the two children had clearly taken a paw swipe to the chest, leaving great red strips bleeding freely across his body. His younger sibling or friend was shoved protectively behind him. The panther turned to her, ignoring the children. The slight reprieve was enough for the older child to fall to his knees from pain, blood loss, or both.
Focusing on the creature, she lowered her center of gravity, showing her teeth in challenge and gripping the hilt of her sword. They both circled each other before it finally leapt at her. Ducking its outstretched claws, she drove her blade into its soft underbelly as they rolled back together. Clearly, she’d aimed well as it died almost instantly. Panting, she shoved it off of herself before sitting up and examining her surroundings again. The older child had passed out, and the younger child was left staring at her in fear, having placed himself between her and his fallen companion.
Panicked, she felt a single word ring out through her head. “No!” She would not let one of the children die after killing the beast that attacked them. Leaping to her feet, she approached the younger child carefully. As soon as she was within striking distance, she grabbed his wrist, twisting the dagger out of his hand. As soon as it hit the ground, she grabbed it and shoved it into her belt. Ignoring the kids pained yelp, she got on her knees next to the child that was bleeding out far too quickly. Swearing, she moved to the corpse of the man and ripped his torn shirt off of him before returning to the injured child and binding his wounds with swift efficiency. If his wounds didn’t stop bleeding, the boy wouldn’t live long.
Looking at the smaller child, who she could now see was somewhere between four and five years of age, she decided on a course of action. Raven was going to kill her for this. Gesturing to her back, she crouched down in front of him. “Climb on.”
The kid looked at her clearly confused and not understanding. She made the universal sign of picking up and pointed to her back again. The kid seemed to understand as his eyes widened and he stared at the boy she could now tell was his brother due to their similar genetic traits. Finally, the kid seemed to make up his mind, darting over to her and scrambling up her back before looping his arms around her neck.
With the first part of her plan done, she scooped up the limp body of the older child. His breaths were coming out pained and quick. She needed to get him back to their home and quickly. Standing, she began to jog as fast as she dared with her burdens.
Raven was just getting a fire going inside of the stove and attempting to heat some water on top of it to test its effectiveness when she heard Clarke’s voice. “RAVEN!”
Panic filling her, she darted up the ladder and headed for the gutter they’d converted into an entrance. Coming through the pipe, she saw a sight that stopped her cold in her tracks. “Clarke?!” She asked in horror.
“I’ll explain later, just go get the pulley setup so we can get them down.” Clarke ordered, her voice hard as she made it out of the pipe with a child held in her arms and another hanging onto her back.
Raven nodded and jogged up the stairs they’d put in and hit the top of the enclosure, threading rope through their new pallet that could be raised up and down. “Ready.” She barked to Clarke, who was right behind her as she set the bleeding kid down on the pallet.
Swinging her arms around, Clarke hauled the kid who was hanging onto her back and set him on the pallet with his fellow grounder. “Lower them down.” She ordered before swinging onto the ladder they’d made and climbing down into their home.
Raven did as ordered, her mind presenting several options for what on earth had happened for Clarke to have brought grounder children into their home. Lowering the rope till it went slack, she tied it off before following Clarke down to their level. Cursing, she saw that Clarke was laying the kid out on one of the beds they’d scrapped together from a nearby bunker and was cutting the kids shirt open. “Clarke do we need to be prepared for an attack?”
“No, not yet at least. Panther attack, I couldn’t leave them.” Clarke said as she pulled away the bandages she had applied to take a good look at the injuries. “Get the fire going and grab my medicine bag.”
This was so not going to go well Raven decided as she darted to the medicine and plant room grabbing the bag Clarke had converted into a first aid kit. Setting it beside Clarke, she moved to their wood pile and began to stoke her stove. It would have to do regardless of whether it was ready or not. Turning to Clarke, she asked. “What next?”
“I need boiled water.” Clarke barked.
“Right,” Raven grabbed a scavenged pot from their old bunker and stuck it under their pipe, filled it and then set it on the stove. “Next?”
“We’re going to need more light, it’s almost dark. Is the lamp done?” Clarke asked, her face was drawn with fear and worry as she poured the whiskey they’d found a few days back over her hands and the needle before soaking a rag in it and cleaning the injury. The kid’s back arched up, a scream coming out of his mouth. “HOLD HIM DOWN!”
Raven was at Clarke’s side in an instant, grabbing the kid’s shoulders and forcing him down flat on the bed. She reached over, grabbing a piece of rope Clarke had been working on earlier and shoving it into the kid’s mouth so he didn’t bite his tongue off as he struggled. Humming a long forgotten song from the ark, she held the kid down while Clarke cleaned and then stitched up the jagged slices across his chest. They were deep and she could tell that it had been a panther’s claws that had done it. She breathed a sigh of relief when the kid passed out from the pain. Jumping to her feet, she grabbed the lamp and lit it, setting it down so that Clarke could see her work better before bringing the boiling water over to the bed.
As Clarke worked, Raven stared at the other kid. He was a tiny scrawny thing, huddled in the corner. His eyes were wide and stretched with fear, nearly unblinking. She lowered herself down and approached him carefully while showing her hands raised palm outwards as a sign that she wasn’t armed. “Hey there. It’s ok. We’re not going to hurt you.”
“Nou laksen osir.” The kid said while curling away from her in clear fear.
Stopping where she was, she frowned. So the grounders spoke a different language then, great. How do you communicate with children that think you’re going to murder them? Pointing to her chest she began again. “Raven.” She pointed to him and cocked her head in question.
It took a couple repetitions before the kid seemed to get it. “Bottar kom Trikru.” He raised his chin defiantly at the ‘kom Trikru’ part.
“Ok, that’s good.” She offered out her hand. “Hi Bottar kom Trikru.”
She waited till he finally seemed to jerk towards her. Instead of shaking her hand, like she’d expected, he grabbed her whole arm before releasing it and shrinking back into his corner. “Hei.”
“Right ok.” She twisted slightly, pointing towards Clarke. “That’s my friend Clarke.”
The kid’s face scrunched up before pointing to his brother. “Biliak’s ai bro. Sond kom Trikru.”
She slowly pointed at him. “Bottar,” Moving her arm, she pointed at the unconscious kid. “Sond,” then to Clarke, “Clarke.” Finally, to herself “Raven.”
The kid seemed to relax. “Sha.”
“I’m gonna assume that means yes.” She noticed Clarke looking at her curiously if slightly amused as she finished wrapping bandages around Sond’s chest. Glaring, she ignored Clarke’s expression. “What happened?”
Clarke’s face got more serious. “I was near the western border when I spotted these two and I think their father. I couldn’t warn them in time before the panther attacked them. Their dad’s dead, I killed the panther, but this one was already injured. I couldn’t just leave them there.” Clarke looked at her resolute in her decision.
“If we have to leave our badass home cause grounders come for the kids, I hold you entirely responsible.” She said. “So, what do we do now?”
“I need you to stay with them. If the injured child wakes up, you need to get some of the tea down him. It should help with infection. Otherwise, feed them I guess? I need to go take care of the bodies. The panther would be enough meat for a month between the four of us and we need the fur. Also, we can’t have the grounders finding the sight of the fight.”
“Shit, Clarke it’s night. No way you’re going out there by yourself.” Raven protested. They’d long since learned that the predators came out at night and it was dangerous to be about after dark. Especially alone and near blood.
Clarke stared her down. “We don’t have a choice. If the grounders find the scene of the fight, they’ll track us.”
Raven bit her lip. “Fine, but don’t you dare die.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to die on you, I still have to prove I’m the one keeping us alive here.” Clarke gave her a lopsided grin.
Scoffing, she watched as Clarke went up the ladder and disappeared over the edge. Grimacing, she returned her attention to the kid, Bottar. This was going to suck. She was terrible with kids.
Clarke panted as she dug. There had been a naturally forming ditch here and increasing its side had been the obvious choice for a quick burial. It had taken her a while but she was almost deep enough. Her hands were blistered over the top of her new callouses but she ignored the pain. It had taken longer than she’d expected, though after the digging the damn ditch for their water system it really shouldn’t have surprised her. Hauling herself up, she made her way across the quarter of a mile to where the body was. The exhaustion from the day was weighing her down but she didn’t have time to deal with it. The corpse was cold and limp. She heaved it over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry before stumbling off to the grave.
Dropping the man with a thud next to the hole, she began to strip him of everything on him right down to his underwear. It was disrespectful but necessary. With that done, she unceremoniously rolled the corpse into the hole. She was disgusted by the remnants of his intestines that were stuck to her from carrying him. Shoving her feelings on the matter down, she began to shovel the dirt back down over the top of him. It took a good hour before she was done. Sitting down, she took a long drink from her canteen and considered her next move. She went through several plans and nearly just gave up as she settled on the best. Taking the belongings of the dead man, she bundled them up, tied them off, and slung them from her shoulder before marching back to the scene of the fight.
With a grunt of pain and exhaustion, she heaved the panther over her shoulder and began the track back to their home. She’d have to return to cover her tracks in the morning. For now, she brought it to their outer bunker. With now practiced hands, she hung it from the ceiling of the rafters and dressed the creature. Once the guts had been cut out and the skin removed, she left it to drain. By the time she was stumbling into her home, she was beyond exhausted. Coming to a stop at the bottom of the ladder, she moved it away from the ledge before checking on Raven, who was passed out in her bed roll while the younger boy was curled around his still unconscious brother. Stripping her dirty and bloody clothing off, she fell down on her sad excuse of a bed and was asleep in seconds.
Sorry for the wait, Rhino had a bit of trouble with this one. Hopefully the wait won't be so long between now and the next chapter.
Clarke woke up to being poked in the face. Blinking groggily, she looked up into the face of the Grounder child. He had dark shaggy hair that looked like it hadn’t been cut in far too long. His fringe was in his eyes causing him to blink too much. Where a child of four or five should have had chubby cheeks and wide eyes, his were hollow and his eyes seemed to skitter about looking for danger. There were smatterings of freckles across his dark cheeks she hadn’t noticed before that she realized were rather charming. Moving, she just groaned. Every muscle in her body protested the movement. She’d strained every muscle in her body the night before and she was going to pay for it now. Unfortunately, the child was still squatting in front of her and she doubted rolling over would get rid of him.
Grimacing at the burning sensation, she pushed herself up and trudged to the morning fire Raven had going. Slumping down, she picked up a mug of dandelion tea and began to sip at it. Raven was slumped beside the fire and Clarke decided against waking her. Once she felt vaguely human, she went to check the injured kid. He hadn’t developed a fever which was a good sign. There was also no scent of rot to his injury and the look of the skin was acceptable. Wrapping his injuries with clean linen, she looked at the small kid who was anxiously moving from foot to foot. She pointed to the older kid and smiled. The child nearly drooped in relief.
“Bottar.” She said, waving him closer her.
The kid cautiously walked over to her. She patted the ground beside her. He looked nervous but dropped down on his knees besides her. “Good.” She reached over, taking his hand in hers gently. Pulling it slowly and carefully, she brought his hand to his brother’s neck and pressed the boy’s fingers to the pulse.
She smiled as the kid’s eyes widened and he looked up at her. Taking his hand, she brought it to her throat and pressed his fingers into her own throat till she was sure he’d felt her pulse. His eyes were sparkling with understanding. With a grin, she brought his hand to his own pulse point and watched as he giggled at the sensation. Dropping his hand, she stood up leaving him to put his hand back on his brother’s neck, clearly double checking and comparing his brother’s pulse to his own.
While the kid was busy, she made some more of the dandelion tea and pulled out some of the jerky they’d made. Once the water had boiled, she softly approached the child and pulled him away from his brother and sat him down by the fire. She pressed the mug of tea and food into his hands. He looked at her suspiciously but began to scarf down the food like it would be taken away from him if he didn’t.
Raven made a groaning sound as she sat up on her bed. “You chew too loud.” She said, taking Clarke’s tea out of her hands.
Clarke just smiled at her friend in amusement. “Yeah, we need to plan our next move soon so it’s good you’re awake.”
“You’re the one who kidnapped a couple of Grounder kids.” She muttered.
Clarke shrugged. “I couldn’t just leave them.” It may have been stupid but she couldn’t regret saving them.
“So, what’s the plan?” Raven asked, slightly exasperated. Raven narrowed her eyes. “You do have a plan don’t you?”
She winced slightly. “Not really no. I mean what has the plan been?”
“You seriously don’t have a plan past fortify this place?” Raven cradled her head in her hands. “Clarke you do know I will kill you eventually if I’m trapped with you in this place for all time right?”
Clarke shrugged. “Well we fortify this place and figure what to do after we’re secure?”
“And when the Grounders come looking for the kids you just kidnapped? Cause I don’t know about you but I don’t want to find out what an angry Grounder mommy is like.”
Clarke stood up and started grabbing her gear. “For now, the Grounders shouldn’t know what happened. Until they find us or the kids, we keep going as we have been. Unless you have a better idea?”
Raven sighed in exasperation. “Right, you’re helping me with the trip wire set crossbows today then.”
“Sure, I need to recover the panther first though and double back and clear up any tracks from the site of the attack to the outer bunker.” Clarke said, strapping her canteen over her shoulder.
Raven glanced at the kid who was watching them with big eyes. “You’re not leaving me to babysit.”
Clarke stared at Raven and sighed in defeat. “Fine, you’re watching Sond though. He should be fine but if he wakes up make sure to get some liquids down him.”
Reaching her hand out, she beckoned to Bottar. He walked over one hesitant step at a time. Once he was within arm’s reach she hooked her hands under his arms and swung him up onto her back. He quickly realized what was going on and curled his little hands into the fabric of her jacket to hold on. She waved at Raven. “See ya in a bit.” With that, she climbed up the ladder and out of their home.
Raven used her knife to cut the wooden saplings into the appropriate shape for her crossbows. She smirked as the little kid, Bottar, hung over Clarke’s shoulder wanting to help her string the weapons. The kid seemed to have decided that they weren’t a danger and were actually kinda cool. He seemed to bounce back and forth, annoying them into showing him something. He’d proven to be better at sewing than either of them. Clarke kept trying to get him to work on sewing the leather pants she’d been trying to make.
She smirked as Clarke threw her hands up in exasperation. “Alright you little hellion.” She said, jumping up to her feet and picking up the kid, who squealed in delight. Clarke turned, glaring at her playfully. “Yeah laugh it up.”
Raven snorted as Clarke swung the kid around her shoulders. Shaking her head, she went back to her weapons. She nearly jumped out of her skin at a cry of pain from behind her. Spinning around, she saw the older boy was waking up slowly. She and Clarke reached the kid at roughly the same time. Bottar was talking at the kid in a stream of unfamiliar words while Clarke had put her hand on the kid’s shoulder keeping him from sitting up and hurting himself. “Raven, can you get some water?”
“Right.” She moved to their hose and quickly filled one of their metal cups before heading back.
Clarke was lifting the kid’s shoulders slightly. “Easy.” She instructed him as she helped him a bit further up. She glanced up at Raven and Raven understood her meaning well enough.
Squatting down beside the kid she pressed the mug to the kid’s lips and waited till he began to drink the water. She recognized the suspicion and pain in the kid’s face, the way he flinched every time one of the them moved, the way his body was coiled like solid steel waiting for a chance to run. Crap, she was on the kidnap the kids side now. There was no way she was letting this kid back anywhere near whoever made him this guarded. “Come on kid.”
Clarke gave her a curious look at the change in her tone. She pointedly ignored it as she went to go make the seaweed tea to help prevent infection. Anyways, it might be nice to have some people around other than Clarke. Really, she and Clarke would have murdered each other eventually. That was totally why kidnapping seemed like a legitimate option. Totally.
Clarke watched as Sond showed her a beautiful slip knot. Apparently, they’d adopted the kids. She was unsure of why but once Sond had deemed them not to be murdering child kidnappers, he’d settled himself and his little brother right into their camp.
She took her piece of rope and mimicked his movements till she had a curious but effective knot tied. He grinned up at her. “Sha!”
Reaching out, she fluffed up his hair. “You’re a good teacher kid.”
Snickering, he jumped up, “Sha!”
“Come on, help me clean up this mess.” She narrowed her eyes as he blinked up at her innocently. Placing her hands on her hips, she looked pointedly at the floor with pieces of rope lying about till he shrugged and started picking up the rope.
Huffing, she started preparing the rabbits that had been draining while they were tying knots for travel. She’d taken to cleaning and gutting any meat they caught in the outer bunker so as not to contaminate the ground near their home. It had the added benefit of making sure any predators would be drawn away from their home as well. Using the newly tied slip knots, she fastened them around the rear legs of the gutted animals before looping them over her shoulder. With the food settled, she took a moment to make sure Sond had cleaned up the rope before waving him over to her. “Let’s go home.”
Sond trotted over and soon the two of them were walking through the forest. He’d been immensely helpful in further quieting her footsteps. It was still mid-morning and there was a freshness to the air that had yet to pass. Even with familiarity, she had to watch her step to make sure she didn’t set off any of Raven’s traps. She hummed as they came in sight of their home and ducked her head into the drainage pipe with Sond on her heels.
The two of them made their way to ladder and climbed down into the main area. Sond’s feet had barely touched the ground and already he was by Bottar’s side and checking him over carefully for any harm. Clarke caught Raven’s eye and they shared a smile at the kid’s behavior. She checked and saw the pieces of tech scattered about Raven’s work area. “What are you working on?”
“I’m building us a shower.” Raven said excitedly. Pointing to various pieces of pipe and what she assumed was a pump of some sort she continued. “Heating for the water will take a while though, I was thinking running some of the pipe through the stove now that I have that done. At the least it should prevent the water from being too cold when winter hits.”
“Shit.” Clarke blinked. The idea of no longer having to brave the river to bathe was appealing. It was dangerous being in the open, naked, and that wasn’t even counting the predators in the water. Regular safe cleaning would be amazing. “We can be clean.”
“Yup!” Raven said triumphantly. “Also little Bottar there is a mechanic in the making I tell you Clarke. He’s picking up how to seal pipe almost as quick as I did.” She gave a proud look to the kid, who was excitedly babbling in their language to his brother.
Clarke unhooked the rope the rabbits were attached to from over her shoulder. “Well I’ve got some more meat for us. The crossbow trap on the north hill was triggered by them. I think we need to unhook a few more traps. We’re going to over hunt the region if we’re not careful.”
Taking a knife, she started to skin the creatures so she could prepare them for smoking. They’d already filled a room that had been an enclosure of some sort with food. It wasn’t seasoned well, and a bit bland, but it was enough food to surely get them through the winter. Even with four bellies to fill, they had a lot of variety in their meats. Finding and drying fruits and nuts would have to be the priority now. She was not going to let them get scurvy. “Speaking of winter stores though, what do we need to winter proof this place?”
Raven hummed slightly. “Our walls are all stone and that will add chill factor. We’re good on blankets but we’ll need to cover the walls in our sleeping quarters. Those winter clothes you’ve been working on would be helpful.”
Clarke nodded. “Anything out here?”
“We don’t know how much snow is going to come down.” Raven said slowly. “I think snow can be heavy and if we put a roof of some sort up it could end up collapsing if we don’t support it enough. We’ll be protected from any wind chill though. An overhang of some kind over the cooking area is probably best through.”
Clarke ran a critical eye over their cooking corner and frowned. They’d need supplies. Wood especially, which would mean cutting down a tree. They could use the wood as fuel as well. Glancing around the area, she frowned. A lot of wood at the rate they were going through it. So more than a single tree. She could bring one in by this time tomorrow if she started on it now though. “I’m going to go take down a tree then. Mind if I take the kids? They can help hack off the branches once I have it down.”
“Stealing my minion, I see how it is.” Raven teased. “But go on, rob me of the cheap labor.”
Snorting, Clarke whistled, summoning the boys over. They seemed chipper once she handed them each a machete while she hooked an axe on her belt. “Let’s go.”
Cutting wood was hard work. Sweat was running down her back as she swung her axe in a graceful arc before it hit log. She could hear the others hacking at branches in a well-practiced manner. This was their eighth tree and their home was starting to be filled with neat stacks of firewood. They’d used the bark cut into thick sheets to make cover for the wood stacks. Straightening, Raven popped her back into place with a satisfying crack. Reaching down, she picked up her canteen and took a long draw from it. Clarke was a few yards down cutting a cross section in the log while the boys gleefully hacked at the branches.
“Think we’ll get any of this in tonight?” She called out to Clarke.
Clarke straightened and examined the tree critically. “No, I think we should get it set up for being chopped into smaller pieces tomorrow. Maybe bring some of the branches in?”
“Works for me.” She shrugged screwing the lid back on her canteen and gripping the haft of her axe once more and then swinging it back into the log.
It was a few hours before the four of them were heading back home. Raven yawned as they walked nearly tripping over her own feet. “Think this tree will be the last one?”
“I don’t think we can fit much more firewood.” Clarke said with humor in her tone. Bottar was sound asleep drooling on her shoulder as he rode on her back.
Raven smiled and slung her arm over Sond’s shoulders. “So what do you want for dinner kid?”
His face scrunched up in thought, “Trilipa!”
She paused and ran through her short list of words she knew in his language. “Deer, you want deer?”
“Sha, Yes!” He said excitedly.
She nodded seriously. “We can have trilipa then little dude.”
It was as they were cresting a small hill between them and their home when she stopped in her tracks. Ducking down, she pulled Sond down with her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Clarke doing the same while swinging Bottar down below her so that she was sheltering him physically from any threats. Peering through the foliage, she checked to see what it was that she had seen. There hanging from a tree by an ankle was a Grounder. He was swinging back and forth but had clearly passed out already. “Is he dead?” She hissed, though she doubted it due to the fact he was still swinging back and forth.
Clarke lifted her head up to get a better look. “I think the blood rushing to his head must have knocked him out.”
“So what do we do?” Raven asked, looking at her. She hadn’t been prepared for one of her traps to actually work.
Clarke let out a low hum. “We can cut him down and then figure out what to do with him.”
Standing, she walked forward. Bottar was shadowing Clarke’s every move. Raven rolled her eyes, “Oh hell.” And began to creep forward, following till they got to the side of the tree where the Grounder was hanging. Peering up, she took in the features of the Grounder and found her hand falling to her axe and unhooking it from her belt.
A hand gripped hers as Clarke looked at her in concern. “What are you doing?”
“He killed Finn.” She spat out, ripping her hand out from under Clarke’s, drawing her axe. She was going to kill the bastard. This time no one was here to save him.
Clarke seemed to shutter to a stop as she let out a pained wheeze of air. “What?”
Raven spun to face Clarke and realization dawned. She’d never told Clarke exactly why she’d left or what had been going on with the delinquents at the time of her departure. Clearly, she’d blindsided her friend. Still that wasn’t what mattered right now. What mattered was that Finn’s murderer was hanging from a tree and at her mercy and she could hurt him, hurt him like he’d hurt Finn. Ignoring, Clarke she swung her axe up over her shoulder and then swung it into the taut rope from which he was hanging.
There was a crashing thud as the body of the Grounder hit the ground. Once on the ground, she got a good look at his face. He was more savage looking than she remembered, with white face paint and smeared blood around his mouth and front. Grime was clinging to him and his clothing. She noted that as soon as he’d hit the ground, Sond had grabbed Bottar and hauled them both back and away from the Grounder. Looking at the boys, she saw the absolute paralyzing fear in Sond’s face.
It was her pause that was her mistake. Clarke seemed to have recovered and dropped down beside the grounder between her and the man, checking his vitals. “Raven something’s wrong with him.”
“Clarke get back!” She yelped, reaching out, grabbing Clarke’s shoulder and hauling the girl back from the Grounder. “He’ll kill you.”
“Raven, something is seriously wrong with him.” Clarke protested, glaring at her over her shoulder while jerking her shoulder out of her grip.
“He’s a monster!” Raven protested. They were not helping this man. She was going to kill him and that would be the end of that. She knew that killing him wasn’t something Clarke had problems with, or well at least not when it came to their safety and the safety of the kids. Which was odd... Stopping, she looked at Clarke seriously. “What are you planning?”
“Look at him?” Clarke said, gesturing sharply.
She did, and apparently at just the wrong time because the man began to convulse violently on the ground. “Shit.” She spat out as Clarke dropped down beside the man moving branches away from his head. Reaching out she forced his eyelids apart, checking his eyes. “He’s in withdrawal.”
Raven stood there conflicted. This was the man who’d killed Finn. Still, she knew what withdrawal did to a person and no one deserved to go through that. She also knew it had been nothing but confusion when Finn had been killed and that she probably didn’t know the whole story. Maybe it would be best just to kill him quickly and end his suffering. Withdrawal was hell and that would be enough justice for Finn. “Looks like he’s going to die anyway. Why not let me kill him?”
“We need information. There is just too much we don’t know right now. This is the most vulnerable Grounder we’re ever going to find. If we can save him, there are all sorts of things we can learn from him. Come on, we have to tie him down before he hurts himself. We can discuss this later. We need to save him now.” Clarke snapped back before clearly going into doctor mode. “He’s going to crash.” She yelped suddenly as the jerking of the man slowed.
Raven dropped down, rolling him onto his back while Clarke began CPR. She cringed slightly at the sound of cracking that she was sure was a rib from the force Clarke was using to pump his heart. Then, she was closing his nose and breathing for him. With a desperate energy, she pumped at his chest again and again until the body gave out a breath and began to breathe on its own again. Clarke bowed her head, panting slightly. “Alright. We need to get him back.”
Grimacing, Raven got up and pulled some rope out of her pack and handed it over to her. Sond came skidding between her and the man. “Hod op!”
“Kid, out of the way.” Raven bit out, already deeply frustrated she was helping the Grounder who had murdered Finn.
He gestured to the man on the ground a shrillness to his tone she’d never heard before from him. “Ripa! Yu souda frag em op!” He glanced at the man in abject fear. “Beja, frag em.”
Raven looked helplessly at Clarke. She didn’t understand much of what the kid had said but she’d got the meaning. Sond was terrified of the man and wanted him dead. “Okay, we’re going to tie him really tight so he can’t hurt us.” She looked into Sond’s eyes seriously. “I’ll kill him before I let him hurt you.”
Sond seemed to understand some of it and dubiously stepped to the side, but his eyes were flickering around and he was nearly vibrating with nerves. His hand gripped her sleeve loosely like letting go was a prospect he didn’t want to deal with right now. Raven hooked he axe to her belt again and used her now free hand to wrap around Sond’s in comfort. She hoped to steady the kid. He seemed to relax marginally, releasing her shirt. Once sure he wasn’t going to panic again, she dropped down helped tie the hands and legs of the Grounder. If she tied them viciously tight, well you could never be too safe. Clarke could stuff her knowing glances where the sun didn’t shine.
Clarke grunted as she re-gagged the Grounder. They’d had to gag him after he’d tried to take a bite out of her when she’d given him CPR the last time. He’d already thrown up the contents of his stomach so she hoped she wouldn’t be having to cut the gag out so he could vomit again. She’d spent weeks on the ark helping people through withdrawal. As head of surgery, her mother was always too busy with more important tasks to deal with what she saw as the lowest of the low. However, Clarke had to start somewhere and she couldn’t help but pity those going through the awful process. So, she had plenty of experience. The worst of it was dealing with the initial seizures and other crippling symptoms while the drug was expelled from their systems. Once it was out of his system, dealing with the cravings would be its own battle. Of course, she had no idea how they were going to deal with the man once he was through the worst of it. She looked up to where Raven was sitting with her arms crossed and was glaring at the man.
“We need information.” Clarke said lowly.
Raven’s brow furrowed. “Did it have to be him?”
Taking a rag, Clarke began to clean the grime off the man’s neck that was full of puncture marks. “He came to us. We aren’t likely to get this promising of a chance again.” She wrung out the rag. “We can’t just hunker down without any knowledge of what’s going on outside of our territory. The Grounders could know we’re here and not intend to attack. Or they could be preparing to attack. Or they could still be clueless to our presence. Regardless, we need to know. If we save him now, he may tell us. If he doesn’t,” Clarke felt her face hardening, “well an addict will do anything for their next fix.”
Raven’s eyes widened. “Do you even know what drug he’s on?”
“No,” Clarke shook her head. “I know how it’s administered though.” Pointing to his neck, she continued. “Syringe straight into the carotid artery. He just needs to think I can give him what his body will crave, and we have several syringes from the bunker.”
“Good, let him suffer.” Raven said sharply.
Clarke shifted back against the wall. “What happened to Finn?”
Raven stared at the ground. “Octavia and you were missing. A group of them went out, Finn tracked them.” She kicked the Grounder with her foot sharply. “He had Octavia captive. They got her and he stabbed Finn.”
Swallowing, Clarke absorbed the information. She hadn’t wanted to know what was going on with the delinquents. It was clear they were self-destructing and were destined to die if they didn't start taking their situation seriously. A part of her had thought she wasn’t invested in them any longer. Instead, she felt grief over Finn’s death and over the possibility of the others dying. Now that she was forced to think about it, she wanted to claw the feelings out from inside of her chest. They hadn’t wanted her, what could she have really done to help?
It eased her guilt to logically lay out what had happened. Even if she’d been with them, she couldn't have done much. After all, she was aware it was fortunate that they hadn’t attempted to murder her like Wells. Taking in a breath, she held it before letting it out in an attempt to let out her emotions with it. They weren’t her people. They had made that clear. Raven was her people. Sond and Bottar were her people. They needed the information that this grounder tied to the floor of their home could tell them. Taking in another breath, she held and then released it, letting more of her guilt go. She was not responsible for the lives of people who had not wanted her. Hopefully, her father would understand. She’d done her best and it hadn’t been enough. She hadn’t been enough. It didn’t matter, she was going to be enough for the people who depended on her now or die trying. She couldn’t lose anyone or anything else.
Lincoln hurt. Everything ached and pounded. His chest felt tight and burned in pain. His breathing was labored, lungs not wanting to exert the strength necessary to force the air out and bring it back in so he could breathe. His throat stung with acid washed up from vomiting. He’d never felt so utterly miserable in his entire life. Just opening his eyes was difficult. They’d barely squinted open when the light dug into his eyes like knives, causing him to close his eyes again immediately. He’d seen enough to know he was on his side. Shifting slightly, he let out a low moan. He was tied securely he realized. The distorted shape and color of the world under the red was gone. As soon as that thought hit, his whole frame strained with horror. The mountain, that vile man must have him again. He had to fight, had to get out of here. Death didn’t matter he needed to get out, to fight. Fight!
“Hey, wakey wakey.” A voice taunted from in front of him. It wasn’t a familiar voice to him.
It was the lack of cruelty in the voice that prompted him to squint again. That and a need to see what his new torment was going to be. Squatting in front of him, looking at him impassively but with sharp eyes, was a girl. She had dark hair and skin. He recognized her, he realized after a moment. She was one of the Skai children. The angry one, who’d tortured him with the wires and what he’d learned was electricity before the others had pulled her off of him. Maybe this was his fate.
She slapped his face with a wet rag. The cold water a shock to his system. “That’s right fucker, wake up time. We’ve got some questions for you, if you’re not going to try and take a bite out of us this time.”
He grimaced at the mention of biting. It dawned on him though that he was aware enough to know the blood in her veins wasn’t the red he craved. For the first time since that first injection, his mind was mostly clear. Shifting, he stopped as soon as he noted the bite of the ropes. He wouldn’t be moving from this position without being untied. Which...was a wise precaution.
The girl gave him a brief glare before standing and leaving his field of vision. Warily, he looked around at what he could see. He wasn’t in the mountain. The walls were cracked and sunlight filtered in through bars. There were drying herbs hung from strips of bark woven into uneven rope. The room smelled of unwashed bodies and vomit. Scents that, he realized a second later, must come from him. Before he could learn more, he was being rolled onto his back and then dragged to the bars at one side of the room and secured to them. Seeing the whole room, he could see plants hanging from the ceiling and walls. There was a pile of furs in one corner that looked like a bed. What riveted his attention were the people though. The dark-haired girl was apparent and with her a blond girl. They both were dressed in dark furs and looked confident that they held the power in this situation, and they weren’t wrong. Standing in the doorway to the room was a boy. He couldn’t be very old, maybe just entering his years to be seconded. His skin was darker than any of the others and he was gripping a knife tightly. Clearly, he was prepared to kill him if he was a threat.
Attempting to swallow, he realized for the first time that his throat was dry and cracked. The blond noted his movement and pulled a canteen off her belt and screwed off the lid before holding it to his mouth. Squinting, he considered his options and decided to accept the water. Once he’d drank some of the gloriously cold water, it was pulled away from him. The blond spoke to him in an even voice. “We know you speak our language. Don’t bother lying about it.”
He glanced at the boy in the door in his Trikru colors and realized the kid must have informed them. Grimacing, he considered. Was it treason to speak? More importantly, could he forgive himself if he didn’t? “I was a ripa.”
“Yeah, not sure what that was but Sond here was pretty firm on what you are.” The dark girl stated with a light of accusation in her eye.
He bowed his head in shame. It was like memories from when sick with fever, but he remembered what he’d done. Though, not how he’d gotten here.
“Raven enough.” The blond said. “What is your name?” She directed towards him.
“Lincoln.” He said lowly. He wondered how they’d kill him once they had all the answers he could give.
“Lincoln then.” The blond gave a sharp nod. “My name is Clarke. This is Raven. What is a ripa exactly?”
He blinked at her in surprise. The unsettling nausea from both the memories and his condition settling slightly now that he wasn’t thinking on it. Opening his mouth, he began to tell them everything he could about the mountain and their crimes. He told them everything he’d learned by being inside of it. The knowledge must be passed on, even if he didn’t have much hope that it would make its way to those who could use it.
Clarke ran her fingers through Bottar’s hair as he lay with his head in her lap as he slept. The sun had long since set while they sat there in muted horror. Lincoln had clearly needed sleep and they’d left him over an hour ago. The concept of turning a man into a cannibal willing to kill and capture his former friends and family was horrible. She’d recognized what had been done to him. Torture, altered mental state, the bloodless bodies. While she was unsure of why the blood was stolen from the bodies she knew enough for the actions of the Grounders towards them to be seen in sharp relief. The Grounders were afraid of them, feared they would either attract the attention of the mountain or that they would be like the mountain.
“What are we going to do?” Raven asked from where she was poking a stick into the fire. “He killed Finn.” There was anger and pain in her voice. “Still, what they did to him...” She drifted off, Clarke could hear her own disgust at the man’s torture echoed back at her.
“We treat him and gain more information. He may know more of what’s happened to the people at the dropship.” Clarke winced and wondered what she’d do with that knowledge. Would she sneak back and try to convince a few of them to follow her? It was impractical and she knew it. They weren’t her people, she reminded herself. “He could be valuable. If he wants to leave, we knock him out and dump him outside of our territory. I want no part in harming someone who’s already been harmed so much.”
Raven made a grunt before looking up and meeting Clarke’s eyes. “I want to know why he killed Finn. If I can live with it, we can do that. If not, I’ll kill him.”
Clarke considered fighting it but couldn’t bring herself to. She hadn’t really known Finn, not really. His death hurt, but it wasn’t a deep wound. It was more painful that she didn’t grieve more for the boy she’d slept with once. “Alright.” She sighed. “But tomorrow.”
Raven stood in front of the tied up, fully incapacitated man and tried to force herself to ask the right questions. “You kidnapped Octavia, why?”
He looked up at her with his sunken-in eyes and stubble across his face and head. “She was hurt, I helped her.”
She frowned. “If you were trying to help her, why chain her up? Why attack us?”
“I was keeping her safe till I could take her back.” He defended, though his voice was gruff. “But then your people were there and being killed. I saved them, drew the others away. Octavia knocked me unconscious.” He smiled sadly looking down at the ground. “When I woke, I was disoriented and all I knew was that there were strangers in my home. So, I stabbed the one closest to me.”
Raven let the information soak in, a cluster-fuck was more understandable than murder. She examined the tired clearly on rock bottom Grounder in front of her. He was completely at her mercy and she didn’t know what to do with that. Clarke would judge, but she would also help get rid of the body if she killed him. Could she blame this man, and this man alone for the death of Finn? She didn’t know.
She was surprised to feel Clarke’s hand on her back steadying her. A part of her was shocked, not having noticed when Clarke had followed her into the room, wondering how much she’d heard. Mostly she found herself relieved by the message of the hand on her back, ‘you’re not alone’. It’s ironic, she realizes, that the boy who taught her that she was not alone only to betray that very message had brought her Clarke. Clarke’s voice came out lowly. “How did you escape from the drop ship?”
“Octavia.” He said her name like it was an explanation, and it really was.
Raven stepped back, letting Clarke take the lead. She had the answer she’d come to get, even if it wasn’t what she’d wanted it to be. Not that she even knew what it was she’d wanted from the man.
Clarke hated that she didn’t want to ask but she owed at least this much to the kids at the dropship. Even if they weren’t hers, they deserved for her to ask after them. “What happened to the delinquents at the dropship?”
She saw the guilt and though the withdrawal shivers almost hid the slightest cringe he gave. “They’re dead, all dead.”
She blanched and could feel Raven do the same beside her. “What do you mean?” She demanded harshly.
Lincoln seemed to brace himself weakly. “Octavia came to me, they had begun to bleed from the eyes, ears and mouths. The disease is a weapon my people use. She hadn’t begun to bleed, she was strong.” He seemed to be lost for a moment before continuing. “I could not help, there is no cure. It is used to weaken before an attack. I waited near the edge of camp for her, to save her before it was too late. Then the guns started. I believe several of the ill were shot out of fear. Her brother, brought her outside of the walls after the gunfire started, she was unconscious.”
“What happened after that?” Clarke asked hoarsely.
“Octavia made us go back to search for survivors after she woke.” Lincoln was pale and looked sick. “Anya’s warriors had already attacked. It was too late. Those who did not die of the bleeding had been struck down by her warriors.”
“Octavia?” Clarke managed to ask after a horrified moment dwelling on how the delinquents had died. It didn’t matter, she had left. Still, a part of her still was shocked by the news.
Lincoln truly looked like everything had been ripped from him then. “Two weeks later reapers came. None who enter the mountain survive.”
“She was taken by the mountain?” Clarke asked while gripping Raven’s hand in a vice. She needed the support to handle this news.
“I don’t know.” He said, sounding broken. “I was taken trying to distract them. I know while controlled by the red, I went back to my home looking for her. There was no sign of her there. Where else could she have gone?”
Clarke stared and then kneeled, pulling her knife out of her sheathe. She saw the resignation and acceptance in Lincoln’s face and she was angered at a world where he would fear death for not saving those who would not allow themselves to be saved. Carefully, she cut his bonds while holding his eye. “If you harm any of us, I will make you wish for death.”
He shivered but looked at her like he’d never seen her before. “...Why?”
“You’re lost, and have nowhere to go. You told us yesterday that your people kill reapers. Raven and I are the last of our people because they couldn’t accept us or any help. I’m not sure why the boys won’t leave, but they have something keeping them here. We’re all lost. We belong to no people but each other. They are mine, and maybe together we can become something more than lost remnants. For now, you may stay here till you are well enough to leave.” She could see something broken in the man that she could feel broken in herself, see broken in Raven, in the boys.
He shuddered, whether from the withdrawal or emotion she didn’t know. “Thank you.”
We're sorry for the wait. Life got in the way, but we're still here and excited for this story.
Lincoln slotted a strip of bark onto the beam before hammering in a nail to secure it. Rebuilding the roof over the wood stores was a good survival measure. Even while he worked on such a mundane task, he felt jittery and a strange sort of longing craving for the numbness of the red. He ached and ached, not only physically but mentally as well with the after-effects of his time under the red. The labor helped. Having something physical to focus on was good. It made him feel human, helped him stay grounded away from the fog of his memories from while under the red. He had learned to overcome physical pain as a child training to be a warrior. The memories and the shame they brought were another matter.
Lincoln wasn’t sure what to do with himself now. Octavia was surely dead now. Killed by the members of his own village for trespassing on their territory. Even if he were to return to the village and they were to forgive him for his betrayal and efforts to help and save Octavia, they would never forgive him or trust him knowing the monster he had become under the red. Perhaps Luna’s people would accept him. They had always been accepting of outsiders as other clans were not. Or perhaps he could die honorably ending the suffering of those afflicted with the madness of the mountain. Whatever he was going to do, he would have to decide quickly. He had a feeling that his welcome among this strange group of outcasts would last as long as his recovery. They had no reason to trust him and many reasons to mistrust him. What kindness they had shown him was beyond what he deserved anyway. He would leave them once he was sure they were capable of surviving the winter on their own.
Carefully with wooden movements, he dropped down to the ground and made his way to the central fire. He could feel the watchful eyes of Raven on him, from where she was working. She was working on a large convoluted series of connected pipes and what he was fairly sure were rudimentary barrels. If he didn’t know the woman was likely stab one of her tools through his hand, he would offer to help. Instead, he sat down carefully, his body still stiff even with the work he’d done. Grabbing the bag of thin strips of bark, he began to weave them together into a rope. It wasn’t as distracting as physical labor but it gave him something to do.
His fingers folded the bark into rope methodically and his thoughts soon began to wander. He was brought out of his thoughts by a small rock hitting the side of his head. Looking up deeply confused, he spotted the older of the two Trikru children glaring at him. He must have just returned from the errand Raven had sent him to do. He furrowed his brow and tilted his head in question. “Chit?”
The boy, Sond’s, face hardened more. “Yu nou frag osir, chomouda?”
Lincoln balked slightly. He knew the boy’s fears were reasonable. He had grown up hearing horror stories of reapers but the idea of killing these people who had done him no wrong, had helped him, it was repulsive. He spoke his voice raspy with emotion and damage. “Ai nowe fragon yu op.”
The kid didn’t look convinced but gave him a short nod while still looking at him with hard, narrowed eyes. Raven intervened pulling the kid back down beside her. She looked up at him. “What the hell are you two saying?”
He set down the rope he was braiding. “I promised him I wasn’t going to kill any of you.”
She seemed to consider him for a minute. Squeezing her arm around the boy’s shoulders, she spoke lowly. “If you even tried, I’d gut you.” There was no doubt in her voice, she stated it as a simple fact.
Glancing at his hands that still trembled at times, he gave a slight nod. “It doesn’t matter. I owe…” His voice cracked. “I was a monster.” His hands clenched uselessly. “Without you I would still be that...that thing. I can never repay that debt.”
“So what, you’d have killed us if things were different?” Raven asked sharply.
“No,” He shook his head. “I would never have killed you without cause.”
“Could have fooled me.” She spat while returning her attention to her work.
Lincoln considered replying but decided against it. He would have done worse if she had stabbed Octavia. He clenched his teeth sharply at the memories brought up by thinking of Octavia. Standing, he hauled himself back up to the partially finished roof. He needed to do something physical. It didn’t take long before he’d fallen back into a rhythm with hammering in pieces of bark across the beams he’d helped set up the previous day. It wasn’t enough though, it could never be enough because she was gone. He’d found the most beautiful soul. She was a flame he’d been unable to resist and now… now he was lost.
Clarke grinned up at Bottar, who was stuffing dirt down the opening of a rabbit burrow near her. They’d found six entrances to cover and he was on the last one. She carefully wrapped her left hand in the thickest leather they had before darting her hand into the last open hole. When she was in up to her elbow she felt the movement against the tips of her fingers. With a bright smile of victory, she shoved the rest of her arm in grabbing the rabbit. With a final yank, she hauled out the struggling creature. It began to scream as soon as she got it out of the hole. Cringing, she drove a knife through its head instantly killing it.
Tossing the carcass to Bottar, she prepared to reach back in to see if there were more rabbits to catch. Bottar whooped in joy and began to carefully tie the hind legs together. Feeling oddly proud that he’d learned how to do that from her, she focused back on moving her arm carefully through the hole. She felt another rabbit and hauled it up and repeated the process of killing it as quickly as possible. Looking at the soft, fur she smiled. It’d make for good mittens come winter. Tossing the second rabbit to Bottar, she reached back into the hole. Three more rabbits quickly joined their fallen brethren on a rock waiting to be carried back to camp. Just as she was about to declare them finished with this particular hole, she felt the faintest movement at the very edges of her reach.
Something felt different about this rabbit as her fingers finally closed around it. Pulling it out, she was relieved when this one didn’t scream. While on the ark, she had only the vaguest conception of what a rabbit was. When they had talked about the possibility of hunting and catching small forest creatures on the ground they had in no way prepared her for the truly soul rending screams rabbits gave off before death. This one though seemed to be almost frozen in terror. Looking at it, she could tell it was younger than the rest. It was the last one though and it didn’t seem likely that it would survive on its own. Killing a creature so young was a shame. She looked over at Bottar. Sighing, she looked back at the rabbit. Well, a breeding program would cut back on the hours spent hunting and they would be a guaranteed source of food during the winter too. Nodding to herself, she stuffed the still live creature into a sack. Raven was going to kill her.
“Come on kid, we need to check the fish traps before we head back.” She said gently as she stood up and cracked her neck.
Bottar scrambled to his feet eagerly. The dead rabbits were quickly stuffed into another sack which he proudly slung over his shoulder. She smiled at him softly before heading towards the river at a pace he could keep up with without trying too hard.
He trotted after her on short legs. She had no doubt she’d end up carrying him part of the way back but that was fine. The boys were helpful at keeping grimmer thoughts from gripping her. Without them she would have been unable to stop dwelling on the horrors of the ground. Especially now that she knew what had happened to the delinquents at the drop the ship. It made her feel worse that she didn’t regret her decision despite knowing what had happened. Forcing herself out of her thoughts, she listened as Bottar babbled in his native language. She was fairly certain he was talking about the rabbits but she wasn’t totally sure.
She heard the gurgling of the river and rested her hand on his head as a soft indicator to stop. He fell quiet and looked up at her with big shining eyes. Clarke gestured for him to stay where he was. Afterwards, she winked at him before making her way carefully down to where they’d left a fish trap. Her feet crunched the pebbles of the shore under them as she dropped down beside the water. Sticking her hand into the cold water she closed her fingers around the rope and pulled in the basket. It was a carefully woven basket that allowed fish to swim in but not out of it. Looking in, she was pleased to see three small fish. She was unsure of their species but they were still edible enough. Looking over her shoulder, she waved Bottar over so he could see.
“Fousen?” He asked excitedly as he scrambled to her side on his short legs.
She smiled ruffling his hair before unsheathing a small knife. Pulling him onto her lap, she pulled a fish out of the basket before sticking her knife through its eye. With its struggling over with she guided Bottar’s hands with hers. “See, we slice it open along the gut like this.”
Slipping the knife easily into the fish’s stomach, she cut a deep line from the bottom of its body cavity to its chin. Scooping the guts out onto the rocks barely fazed her. Pulling the next fish out, she stabbed it through the eye before handing it to Bottar. “Here, you try.”
Her hands remained cradling his as he bit his lip and cut carefully mirroring her movements with the previous fish. It was a bit sloppy but it was workable. “Good job.” Carefully, they removed the guts before moving to the next fish.
She began to hum softly as they finished off the fish and began to gut the rabbits. It took a while but having cleaned out food was worth the time. With their take cleaned and ready, she packed up the carcasses with leaves before wrapping them in bark and packing the hunting sack with it neatly. That done, she tied it to her lower back. Bottar was yawning and she smiled fondly before standing and then swinging him up and onto her back. His hands promptly wrapped around her neck.
Walking back into the woods, she headed for home. Feeling the small boy’s breath against her neck settled her. This, this was something worth living for.
The sun was beginning to set as they reached the drainage pipe entrance to their home. Rolling the grate away, she unhooked the trip wire. Entering, she reset the trap and rolled the grate back into place. That done, she made her way carefully down the pipe, after all the trip wire was only one of the traps on the way in to their home. It was just the only one that needed to be reset before you could get inside the building. Once they were out the other side, she poked Bottar’s cheek carefully. He shifted against her back before yawning widely. He murmured against her neck. “Nomi, ai stomba raun.”
He’d been calling her that recently. She pulled him gently from her back setting him down gently. She could always ask Lincoln what ‘nomi’ meant later. “Come on little man.”
He wiped at his eyes to get the grit out before nodding and beginning to clamber up the stairs. She laughed as she watched him light up on realizing his brother was there already. He was down the ladder and happily speaking to Sond by the time she had made it to the top of the stairs. In no rush, she made her way lazily down the ladder.
“There you are you lazy ass. Here I am toiling away all day while you’re out playing in the woods.” Raven gasped while throwing her hand against her forehead. “Oh, woe is me.”
Clarke barked out a laugh. “And here I brought in fresh fish for dinner, but I’m sure you can manage without it.”
“I love you. You’re my one true love.” Raven batted her eyes. “Dearest heart how would I ever survive without you?”
Devolving into laughter that prevented her from speaking, Clarke made her way into their store house and began to properly prepare her catch from the day. She’d found that while it was difficult to find larger prey in the area that the smaller animals on the other hand were plentiful. She theorized that the larger prey had been thinned out by the gorilla while the smaller prey escaped its notice. Rabbits, fish, birds, any manner of animals that the gorilla wouldn’t have bothered with were plentiful. To be fair they had brought in some large game, most of which had gotten caught in their traps designed for grounders.
Washing her hands in a basin of water after finishing skinning and laying out the new meat, she grabbed her latest attempt at a bow and headed back into the central area. Sitting down on a log, she began to attempt carve down her bow. Seeing Bottar walking over to her, she pulled out the sack with the still live rabbit in it and handed it over to him. Curiously, he reached in pulling out the petrified animal. His whole face lit up as he crushed it to his chest and took off for Sond and Raven. Clarke was not looking forward to the lecture she was going to get about getting the kid a pet.
“Your string is wrong.” A deep voice interrupted her work.
Looking up, she stared at Lincoln before shifting so there was room for him to sit near her. “How do I fix it?”
He sat down stiffly beside her and picked up the string she’d been intending to use for the draw on her bow. “It’s too brittle. It’ll snap under light use.”
She frowned, resisting the urge to toss it into the fire. “What will work?”
“We use strips of gut woven together. It will have the give to work with your wood, but strong enough to last.” He said carefully.
Mentally considering the options she had in the store house, she hummed slightly. “Is there a particular animal’s gut that would work best?”
“I prefer elk, but many warriors use different animals.” He said calmly while rolling the now useless string between his fingers.
Nodding, she jumped up and headed into the storehouse and carefully picked up the gut from the jaguar she’d killed. She had been planning on turning it into thread for stitching wounds but this seemed like a better use for them. Heading back to where Lincoln was still sitting, she paused. He was staring at the ground with his shoulders slumped. She sighed, she could tell just be looking at him that he was as lost as any of them. Clarke knew they couldn’t trust him yet and that Raven and Sond weren’t fond of the idea but she wished they could offer him a place and healing. Still, the others came first and even if Lincoln had proven incredibly helpful during his recovery it wasn’t worth keeping him around if he was a danger. There wasn’t much she could do about the situation but watch and wait, trying to see where his loyalties lay. After another moment of observation, she sat back down next to him and showed him what she’d grabbed. “Will this work?”
He smiled slightly. “Sha, that will work.”
They carefully sliced it into the appropriate length and width. Then, once they had several thin strands, they began to wind them together to create a strong cord. Once done, he carefully examined the work she’d done on the young tree she’d cut just for this purpose because of its give. Using a curved sharp blade, he showed her how to thin the wood in certain areas. He tilted his head looking at her. “The hand you most use is this one correct?” He pointed to her left hand.
“Yes, I’m left handed.” She said curiously, watching him work with fascination and trying to imprint it all in her memory.
He began to fashion the grip she’d already begun and she could tell how it was angled specifically for her. Time passed quickly as they worked together, falling into a steady rhythm. First, he would begin a cut, showing her how and talking in low tones explaining how and why he was cutting it. Then he’d hand it to her and watch as she carefully repeated his motions until he was satisfied with what she’d done.
The moon was high, the stars bright in the sky, by the time he finally reached out stopping her motions. “It’s done, for now. As you work with it you may wish to adjust but more now would be foolish.”
“Would you assist in making arrows?” She asked curiously. After all, she had never made such a thing and while the rough bolts on their rough crossbows were workable, they weren’t exactly accurate.
“I could do that.” He said calmly and she could tell he was happy for the distraction the task represented. She too found a peace in burying herself in work.
“What type of wood should I bring back for fashioning them?” She asked curiously.
He seemed to think about it for a while. “It is still autumn. It would be better to continue to trap and fish till the first snow. Once it begins to snow you can fashion arrows and hunt larger game. The small game you are bringing in now will be more difficult to find then.”
It dawned on her then, that for the first time they actually knew what season it was. Of course, with the red and yellow leaves she’d suspected but there was also glowing fungus and who knew how the earth had changed during their time in the sky. It wasn’t exactly reassuring that there were things like glowing fungus that her earth skills teachers had never mentioned. “How long do we have till winter?” She could tell Raven was listening in now by how her hands had slowed.
“Not long now. He looked up at the sky and breathed in deeply. “It should begin to frost soon. Several nights more.” He gestured to the air. “Can’t you feel the bite to the air?”
Clarke caught Raven’s eye though she also looked confused. “The air?” She frowned. Air was air. On the ark the air had always been stale and musty. Of course, on the ark everyone learned how to tell if there was enough oxygen in the air but that was more of an unconscious awareness of breathing patterns than anything. The air on the ground was different than anything they were used to on the ark. It was thick and full of scents she could scarce understand. The sensation he was describing was beyond her.
Lincoln stared at them like they were foolish children. Looking at Sond, who was listening with a puzzled expression, Clarke was glad to see that she and Raven weren’t the only ones not to understand. Sighing, he tried to explain what he was sensing to them more clearly. “Yes, it is cleaner, sharper.”
She considers all the variables from earth studies, and what she knows now from being on the ground. It’s woefully incomplete. “What do we need to do first before the snow hits? Are there any preparations we can make now?”
The man seemed to take in their home carefully. “It is open here. You will have a difficult time keeping it warm. Though you will be free from the wind here which is good.”
She glanced up at the open sky. “Would a roof help to keep in heat?”
He frowned. “There isn’t time before the snow to put in a full roof. At least, not one that could hold up under the weight of a long snowfall. Perhaps a small building over this section?”
“Would you stay long enough to help us build something that can withstand the snow?” Clarke asked him already forming plans in her head.
Raven made a surprised sound. “Wait, seriously?”
Clarke looked over at Raven. “We need the help, neither of us are prepared for winter on the ground. If he is willing to help then I say we accept it at least until we are more sure of ourselves.”
Raven grumbled but didn’t protest as Lincoln let out a breath of surprise at her defense of him. He seemed to recover though as he spoke again. “I failed Octavia and my people think me a monster.” He looked up at her seriously holding her gaze. There was a quiet desperation to his face. “I will help you if you let me.”
Raven double checked the complicated pulley system she’d installed the day before. Crossing her arms over her chest, she followed all the lines with her eyes. “It’s set.”
“Let’s get started then.” Clarke said, stepping over to where an end of rope was hanging from a pulley.
Raven grabbed her rope as well, Sond grabbing on above her grip. She grinned, looking over at Clarke. “I bet my minion and I can take more weight than you and yours.”
“No way, Bottar is stronger than he looks.” Clarke glanced down at the short kid standing beside her with a serious expression on his little face. He seemed to understand what Clarke had said because his little chest seemed to puff out with pride.
Laughing, she grinned getting ready to haul. Catching Sond’s eye, she spoke. “We better win kid.”
His eyes glinted at the challenge. “Ai wimplei!” He proclaimed.
“That’s right, we’ll win because we’re awesome!” She seriously turned back to Clarke. “On the count of three; one, two three.” With that she put her full weight into the rope. It didn’t seem to matter how carefully she’d added pulleys so as to reduce the weight, the wooden frame they were lifting weighed a ton. Grunting, she felt the rope biting into her hands. Sond was making grunts of effort as he helped haul.
She watched as the two sides of their future house rose up in the air. Clenching her teeth, she realized the side Clarke and Bottar were hauling was moving at almost the same pace as hers and Sond’s. “Come on kid!” She encouraged as she threw her entire body weight into hauling up their side.
“Careful!” Lincoln yelped as he stood ready to secure the frame as soon as it was up all the way.
Ignoring him, she kept hauling till there was loud thunk as the frame settled into the runners they’d made the day before to hold the base in place. Panting, she held the rope to keep the whole thing upright for a moment as another thunk was heard as Clarke’s side settled into place. Offering her hand out to Sond, they high-fived their victory.
Clarke let her head fall back. “Stupid cheaters.”
“Rude! You lost fair and square.” Raven laughed slightly breathless as she looked over at Clarke and the pouting Bottar.
Lincoln seemed to be ignoring them, which was fine with her, as he started securing the two sides of the frame in place. They’d of course already set up the foundation so he was securing the two sides of the building to each other. Instead of watching him, she went back to needling Clarke over her victory. “How would I have even cheated?”
“Oh, I don’t know, you did set up the pulley system, maybe you did a better job with your side.” Clarke attempted.
Raven snorted. “I don’t need to cheat to beat you Griffin.”
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what you just did.” Her friend replied playfully.
Lincoln interrupted them. “It’s done.”
“Onwards to the next side!” Raven proclaimed, releasing her rope and making her way to the next one that was already set-up ready for them to haul the last side up into position. The out building they were constructing was an offshoot of the cement wall leading into their store room. It would be separate from their wood piles and smoke house but hopefully it would make a warm lodge during the winter months. The stove and fireplace were both under its roof. Thanks to the cement wall they only needed three walls. Of course, four wooden walls would have kept more heat in, but getting logs large enough for the frame into their home was hard enough. That wasn’t even considering how hard it was getting everything in place and stable. Ultimately, they didn’t have the time or the energy to build it exactly how they wanted it. Functionality had to take place over comfort.
Clarke joined her on the last rope and pulley system while bumping her shoulder lightly with a smile. She looked over at Lincoln. “Ready when you are.”
He gave a brief smile and nodded stepping back so that he could make sure the frame went up properly.
Raven ignored him and gave a silent countdown to Clarke before they both put their weight into it and hauled. Raven could instantly tell it was easier with another person who wasn’t a child helping. It was still heavy though and she could feel the sweat beading across her face. With a final heave, they managed to get the frame upright as it slotted in with a heavy thunk. “Damn, we did good.”
Laughing, Clarke nodded. “Yup.” She seemed to be examining the frame while Lincoln was securing it in place. “Once we get the roof’s frame work on we’ll be good.”
Raven was not excited for the roof. The series of pulleys would have to be moved around again. They’d finished the roof’s framework the day before but putting it in place would be a chore. They would need to lift it up, then swing it over the top of the rest of the frame. It was going to be delicate and dangerous. One of them would need to use every pully she had made just to be able to lift it. The boys and someone else were going to have to use ropes to pull the thing over the frame, while Lincoln made sure it settled into place. If any of her measurements are wrong they could end up with the whole thing collapsing. It was going to take her the rest of the day to get the complicated pulley system set up to her standards she realized. Yet another setback on the heated water project she was still working on in what time she had. “This is going to take forever.”
Clarke cocked her head to the side looking at the work they’d already done. “I believe in you. Everything will work out in the end.” She rested her hand on her shoulder. “We’ve already got the siding ready. Splitting the bark off all of the beams and other framework will let us finish putting that roof over the wood piles as well as over our new roof.”
Raven felt a warm bubble that she’d been feeling more and more since she had decided to follow along with Clarke’s insanity. She felt like she belonged. Her feelings for Finn were all twisted up and painful. However, standing here in a real home, on the ground, with someone who trusted and believed in her, with two kids who were quickly becoming family, and enough food that she hadn’t gone hungry in over a month, all she could feel was grateful to him. On the ark, none of this would have been possible. So, she let herself enjoy the freedoms of the ground and let a bit of her sorrow over Finn’s actions here on the ground go. The results of them mattered more than anything. She belonged somewhere, she didn’t have to fight for everything from recognition to food.
Putting her hands on her hips, she felt a proud smile grace her lips. “Well, I am brilliant.”
“Course you are, we’ve made it this far, a roof isn’t going to defeat us now.” Clarke said confidently.
Rocking back onto her heels, Raven snorted. “We’ve made it this far by flying by the seat of our pants.”
“Well, we’re still going so I think we must be doing something right.” Clarke replied.
Bottar came tearing towards them after the live rabbit Clarke had given him. Raven narrowed her eyes at Clarke. “Did you have to get the kid a pet?”
Clarke held up her hands in surrender. “Did you want me to kill it?”
“You are the hunter in this family. That has got to be the fifth leash the damn thing has chewed through.” Raven muttered darkly. She was going to have to create a new harness and leash the thing hopefully couldn’t chew through…maybe Bottar wouldn’t catch it in time and the whole point would be mute. Sadly, he triumphantly grabbed his pet and stuffed it into his little bag he’d taken to carrying everywhere with him. “He’s going to suffocate that thing at some point.” Raven remarked as he came trotting towards them.
Clarke winced slightly. “He’s copying how I got it from the burrow here.”
Bottar was nearly to them when his foot hit some of the scrap they had yet to clean from lifting the frame. He went crashing to the ground face first.
Clarke was at Bottar’s side instantly helping the suddenly sobbing boy and pulling him into her lap so she could check on him. Lifting his little face up to look at her, her hands jerked to a sudden stop. Pouring down from his nose was black blood. She’d never seen anything like it, nor had she heard of such a thing. Still, it was clearly blood based off the circumstance and location. Coming out of her confusion, she decided to ask about it later. For now, she ran her hands over his arms and legs quickly establishing he wasn’t injured outside of what seemed to be a bloody nose. “It’s going to be ok, just a bumped nose.”
His big wet tears seemed to slow as his upper lip trembled. He looked up at her as she gently touched his nose pushing it a bit to check the bone. Calling over her shoulder she kept her eyes on the boy. “Lincoln go grab some fabric to stop the bleeding.”
She used her sleeve to wipe some of the black blood from his chin when she saw Sond charging towards her at full tilt. He practically slid to a stop at his brother’s side. Wide panicked eyes took in the blood before looking up at Clarke in sheer terror. The moment was broken by Lincoln dropping down beside her with bandages and freezing. “Natblida.” He breathed.
Sond shoved Lincoln back hard, sending the man tumbling back while drawing the small dagger he’d taken to carrying around on his person. He planted himself between Lincoln and Bottar. “Ai bro nou hos of.” He practically snarled, showing his teeth. “BAK OP!”
Raven stepped forward, instinctively putting herself between Sond and Lincoln. “What the fuck is going on?!”
Clarke pulled Bottar into her arms tightly, nothing was going to harm him. “STOP!” She stood with Bottar held in her arms where he ducked his head into the side of her neck clearly afraid. She glared at them all. “Lincoln hand Sond the bandages.” Taking in Raven’s serious expression, she continued. “Raven go get a fur for Bottar.”
While Raven silently nodded and went to go grab the fur, Lincoln cautiously handed over the bandages to a still incredibly tense Sond. Once he had the bandages, Sond took a step back before handing them to her. “Thank you. Lincoln go sit by the fire.”
Once he’d done, that she pushed firmly on Sond’s shoulder moving him to the fire and convincing him to sit. With both of the boys sitting down, she sat beside Sond and held the bandages up to Bottar’s nose helping to soak up the bleeding that was slowing some now. Keeping him sitting up so he wasn’t just swallowing his blood, she examined the faces of the two boys. Raven finally got there, handing her a fur that she quickly wrapped around the kid’s shoulders. Holding him tightly, she narrowed her eyes. “Lincoln what just happened and what is a natblida?”
Lincoln’s face was still pale and almost awed. “Those born with black blood are natblida. They are to be sent to Polis for training as soon as they are discovered. It is a great honor.”
Sond interrupted furiously in his broken English. “No. Natblida fragon other natblida gon raun. Fraggon them op.”
Frowning deeply, Clarke tried to piece together what he was saying. “The natblida kill each other?”
“In a conclave.” Lincoln said nodding. “The winner of the conclave becomes Heda. They receive the spirit of the previous Hedas.”
“Wait,” Raven said sounding downright furious. “You people make a bunch of kids kill each other!?”
Shifting in clear discomfort, his shoulders hunching in slightly, Lincoln replied. “It is the only way to determine who is the Heda reborn. It is...not kind but it is a great honor.”
Clarke looked over at Sond who looked frankly sick with anger and fear. “Sond, it’s okay. We won’t let anything hurt you or your brother. We are just trying to understand.”
Lincoln translated her reassurances and Sond seemed to crumple before he began to pour out words in his native tongue. His voice was thick with emotion and he rubbed roughly at his eyes with his sleeves as he spoke, clearly trying not to cry out of frustration. Neither she or Raven understood much of what he was saying but Raven still slung her arm over his shoulders. Clarke looked up at Lincoln again, his face was drawn and tired. “What did he say?”
Lincoln sighed. “His mother died in labor with Bottar. When the babies first blood was drawn, their father realized he was a Natblida. Their father decided they would hide him and impressed Sond with the importance of protecting his brother and making sure no one ever saw his blood. Not long afterward his father was killed by reapers while out on a hunting trip. Their mother was an outsider and the village decided that two deaths in quick succession meant the union of an outsider and a village man must have been cursed. They thought the curse must have been passed on to their children so they were wary of the two. Their village chief made sure they got enough clothes and food but otherwise had little to do with them. When Sond here reached the age to be apprenticed to a hunter he was apprenticed to the villages worst hunter as a punishment for his failings. Sond didn’t want to be his second but knew he didn’t have any other options. It was the only way he could learn to provide for his brother and protect him. The villagers would not provide for them much longer.” He paused.
Raven stuffed another log into the fire while they stayed silent.
“His first let him take his brother with him but they had terrible luck at hunting. This was likely due to incompetence of his first but his first blamed it on the misfortune Sond and Bottar brought with them. His first took them further and further from the village to find prey. Which is when the panther attacked them and you found them.” Lincoln swallowed thickly.
Clarke ran her fingers through Bottar’s hair. He seemed to be half asleep and his nose had stopped bleeding. Looking at Sond, she sighed. “You wanted us to protect Bottar from the conclave?”
Sond seemed to understand enough because he nodded quickly and emphatically.
Lincoln poked the fire with a stick. “You cannot protect him. The sentence for hiding a natblida is death.”
Clarke looked over at Raven. There was a grim expression on her face and Clarke could tell Raven hated everything about this situation just as much as she did. Raven seemed to have reached her own decision. “Well, it’s not like your grounder buddies were going to let us survive if they found us anyways.”
“True.” Clarke said, taking in the kids. “Might as well actually do something worthy of execution if it comes down to it.” After a small pause, Clarke glared menacingly at Lincoln. “If you try and report them, I’ll make sure your death is slow. I’m trained as a medic, I know all sorts of ways a person can die.”
Lincoln opened his mouth but then seemed to look thoughtful. Sond seemed to have realized what they meant though because he’d turned and grabbed onto Raven and started sobbing in earnest. Clarke enjoyed the slightly panicked expression on her face as she tried to figure out what to do with her arms.
“I won’t tell anyone. Actually, I’d like to help.” Lincoln finally said.
Clarke raised both of her eyebrows staring at him in surprise. “What?”
He nodded sharply to himself. “My people were wrong to treat Bottar and Sond in such a manner. It would not be right to separate these two, to sentence the little one to death. They deserved better than to be thought cursed and to fear their own people. You have given them better. You saved me from being a monster. I...” His voice cracked. “I have nothing left.” Staring her straight in the eye he spoke. “Allow me to stay, not just to repay a debt but to be one of your people. I think together we find a better way than the one’s of our peoples.”
Clarke blinked in surprised and then smiled. This was unexpected but they needed all the help they could get. He had been more than helpful so far. She and Raven had left their people, broken and outcast. They had taken in Sond and Bottar who apparently weren’t much better off. She like the idea that they were building a community of those broken and rejected by their societies and Lincoln, with his past, fit right into their group. She shot a quick look at Raven who seemed unhappy but wasn’t protesting. Reaching her hand across the fire to him, she smiled tightly. “Welcome aboard.”
Raven was crouched over some pipes she was trying to weld two pieces together with sap and a camp fire. It was not going well. The two ends fell apart with a sharp crack. “Shit!” she tossed them to the side in anger.
“Do you need assistance?” Lincoln asked cautiously from where he had been working on a piece of the roof before they hauled it up and into place.
Closing her eyes, she forced her annoyance out, trying to answer calmly. “You wouldn’t happen to know how to weld would you?”
“Weld?” He asked heading over to her.
Raven picked up two pieces of pipe. “We need heated water in the winter. If I can run the water through enough loops around the oven we can heat water while we heat food. The problem is I can’t get the blasted things to stay attached when I heat the joints.”
He dropped down beside her and rubbed his chin. “What if you heated a tank instead of a pipe?”
She shook her head. “We’d need more fuel and have to expand our camp more if we want a heated water tank.”
“I may know of a place where there are similar parts. Would that help?” He looked at her for approval.
“YES! If you know where I can get parts like this, I can stop turning pieces of shit into something useful!” She slapped him on the shoulder. “You’re taking me there right now big guy!”
She bounced up to her feet and grinned as he followed her. “Let’s go!”
It was as they were picking their way through the woods towards some tunnels he informed her were nearby that he spoke up again. “Do you think…”
“What?” She threw a look at him over her shoulder.
He pushed a branch to the side so she could pass. “Do you think that if you captured more ripas you and Clarke could save them like you did me?”
“Maybe.” Raven cocked her head to the side considering. “We almost lost you a few times you know. I’m not sure if most of the others like you would survive.” She shrugged. “Sorry.”
“It does not matter if they die in the attempt. Death is a kindness to ripas. If there is even a possibility that they could return to men once more...” He paused. “What the mountain did to us was worse than death. No one deserves what was done to us. I know it is not your problem but …” He trailed off unable to complete his thought.
Raven blew out her nose. “You can talk to Clarke about it.” She snorted, yeah, no way Clarke bloody Griffin didn’t try and save the drugged-up grounders. For now, she was getting some good pipes though before they started in on any more nonsense.
....so we didn't forget this one. We are really sorry for how many months this update took...uh...right so we'll probably get more reliable about updating this one after we finish the last three chapters of Through the Looking Glass. But this is the one we want to focus on after we finish up that one. So, no fears we do intend to finish this.
Raven woke up to a feel in the air that something was different. There was a certain nip to it. Rolling out from under her furs, she made her way out of the small room they were all sleeping in. As she poked her head out of their central area, she noticed the amount of light was off for night time. Cautiously, she moved out from below the roof and then tilted her head up towards the sky. She didn’t move, just stared up in awe.
It was still dark outside. Against the black of the night, she could see white powder glowing in the night floating gently down to the ground. It was almost like the stars had been plucked from the night sky and were now drifting down to earth. They’d been preparing for snow for so long that she’d begun to hate the stuff out of principle. However, standing here and seeing it, she couldn’t bring herself to hate it. It was like something out of a fairy story. She reached out her hand and watched as a snowflake landed on her palm and melted into a water drop.
In awe, she spread her arms and tilted her head up towards the sky. Laughing, she felt the cold tickle of the soft flakes landing on her face. Spinning, she looked down startled as her feet crunched in the inch or so of the powdery stuff. Lifting her foot up, she deliberately stepped down, the powder making the same sound.
Looking around, she took in how different their home looked with this white coating. Suddenly, she felt the need to share this. It was wonderful. Spinning on her heel, she rushed back inside and into the sleeping area. Everyone else was still sleeping. Dawn was still a short ways off. Well, that wouldn’t do. Grinning wildly, Raven called out as she skidded into the room, “It’s snowing, it’s snowing! Get up you lumps. It’s snowing!”
Her calling failed to elicit anything but grunts and attempts to cover their heads. Raven rolled her eyes and dropped down and started to shake the nearest body. Which happened to be the dense shoulder of Lincoln. “Come on, Grumpy. You have to come see the snow!”
Lincoln’s eyes remained firmly shut as he grumbled. “It’s just snow. It’s cold and wet and I’m sure I’ll see plenty of it in the morning.” With that, he turned over on his stomach and began to snore softly once more.
Well, she wasn’t going to get a better response from Lincoln. She sat back on her heels and looked for her next victim, Sond. Shaking him a little, she smiled triumphantly when his eyes squinted open to glare at her. The effect was rather ruined by how bleary eyed he was. “Come on, don’t you want to play in the snow?”
Sond mumbled a few words that she was pretty sure were swear words. She flicked his nose. He seemed to realize that he wasn’t going to get back to sleep and he glared up at her. Begrudgingly, Sond crawled up out of bed. His expression was mulish though. It was definitely curses falling from his lips as he went to his brother’s bed.
Bottar slept like the dead, but it was clear that Sond wasn’t going to let his brother sleep through this if he had to be awake. Raven looked on amused as Sond sat on his brother. Smirking, she crawled over to the blond bundle.
Waking Clarke wasn’t difficult, which was unfortunate she had so many ideas if she’d been a deep sleeper. Sticking her finger in her mouth, Rave grinned before sticking her drool covered digit into her victim's ear. Clarke let out a yelp while batting her hand away. If death by eye laser was a power of Clarke’s, Raven would have been six feet under. Fortunately, it wasn’t.
“What?” Clarke griped.
Raven couldn’t keep her excitement out of her voice. “SNOW!”
Her eyes widened and then Clarke was scrambling to her feet, kicking her blankets off of herself. “Why didn’t you say so earlier!” She was smiling widely as she grabbed for her shoes.
Sond let out a grunt from the side. Clearly, he was still exasperated to be up. Bottar was jumping up and down while hanging onto his brother’s arm. “Koken.” Sond said with a grumble.
Impatient to see their reactions to the snow, Raven rolled her eyes. “I know that wasn’t complimentary.” She reached out grabbing Clarke who’d just hauled on her second boot. “Come on!” Raven rushed them outside, her hand fisted into the soft fur of Clarke’s pauna jacket.
Skidding out into the open, she felt and heard the strange crunch. Releasing her hold on Clarke, she stared, awestruck by the beauty of the snow. Just in the time it had taken her to get everyone but Lincoln up and outside, the footprint she made earlier had almost disappeared. Everything was covered with a blanket of white. The snow seemed to light up the night, gently reflecting the moonlight.
Clarke let out a sharp gasp beside her as she took it in with wide, wonder filled eyes. “It’s… it’s beautiful.”
There was also a strange silence to the world. The usual sounds of the night muffled or altogether silent in a way Raven had never experienced before. It was like the world had changed while they were asleep. Raven’s breath puffed out in fog.
Bottar darted past them on eager little legs, wide smile splitting his face, his steps leaving dark footprints in the snow. There was a crunch with each step that fascinated her to hear, lighter now as the child crunched it underfoot instead of her. Raven watched curiously as Bottar bent over and began to gather snow in his little first. Looking back at them with a big grin, he chucked his handful of snow at Sond. Sond spluttered as it struck him in the face, he’d been lingering in the doorway seeming to huddle towards the warmth inside.
Sond growled as he wiped the snow off his face. Then quick as a shot, he was darting off for his brother, tackling him into the snow. They went sprawling into the ground in a tangle of limbs and yelps. Sond grabbed handfuls of snow, stuffing them into his brother’s face. Botter yelped and giggled while struggling helplessly. Finally, Sond stood back up looking incredibly smug. Reaching out, he offered his hand to help his brother up.
Raven gave Clarke an amused look at the kids’ antics. She smirked as she spotted Clarke looking up at the sky not watching the game.
Raven raised her finger to her mouth and looked pointedly at the boys before swooping down and mashing snow into her hands. It wasn’t a good snowball but it would do. Straightening back up, she chucked it into the side of Clarke’s face.
Clarke’s back straightened as she let out a high pitched gasp. Turning, she stared at Raven, her eyes flashing. “You’re dead Reyes.”
Cackling, Raven rushed for cover only to take a snowball to the back from Sond. “Traitor!”
Turning, she caught the boy around the middle. She snapped her head around at the sound of a yelp and spotted a sleepy Lincoln dropping an armful of snow over Clarke’s head. Oh, the war was on!
“Kom daun goufa.” Lincoln called from the doorway into their living quarters. He had his arms crossed over his chest, though he had a gentle curl to his mouth. The early morning light lit the surrounding area brightly.
The boys, both damp but pleased looking, trotted over to Lincoln, who rubbed their heads, knocking the snow off before pushing them into the room. He looked over to Raven and Clarke. “I’ll get them into dry clothing. You two should do the same soon. The cold isn’t safe.”
Raven waved lazily at the man before dropping down on their workbench besides a panting Clarke. "I got you 24 times," Raven gloated happily while letting her head fall back.
"You've got lousy aim, I got you 27," Clarke retorted while rolling her head to the side and sticking her tongue out at her.
Raven reached for snow to retaliate. Clarke started to do the same. They exchanged a look and dropped their snow and leaned back against the work table. They were too tired to continue their war.
"Who knew Lincoln could unwind like that," chuckled Clarke, looking back to the sky.
Raven hmphed, "Not me." She paused as she considered this different side of Lincoln. As much as she resented acknowledging it, she was beginning to see Lincoln more as a person and a little less as a murderer. Deliberately turning away from those uncomfortable thoughts, she changed the subject, "Sond actually looked his age for a while there. I forget how young he is, always has a little frown on his face.”
Clarke hummed in agreement. A more or less comfortable silence stretched between them as they watched the sun continue to rise through the clouds, over the still falling snow.
Clarke broke the silence, "You know for all the danger we’ve faced since coming to the ground, moments like this make it worth it. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as snow and I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened to Sond and Bottar if we hadn’t come down to the ground.”
“Yeah, screw the ark. The ground is where it’s at.” There was a pause before Raven began speaking again. “I miss Finn, the Finn who wouldn’t betray me, who stuck by me through thick and thin. The ground took that Finn from me, even before he died. I wish he could have seen this. He always wanted to see the snow.”
Clarke sighed. “Wells would have loved the snow. He’d be all practical about it because that’s what everyone expected from him. Still, he wouldn’t have been able to hide how much he loved it. I wasted so much time being angry at him.” She sounded so sad before taking an audibly deep breath. “I’m glad though, that I got to experience it with you.”
Raven didn’t respond but her mouth smiled in contentment. The silence that stretched between them this time was affectionate almost.
After a few minutes of silence, Clarke spoke again. “Lincoln’s been a real help. I don’t think we would have been able to get prepared without him."
"Probably not.” Raven admitted grudgingly. “You know, he wants to free more reapers. Crazy bastard. What does he think we are, a free clinic?”
“Yeah, he talked to me about it too. I know we can’t save them all but maybe there’s some merit to the idea.” Clarke replied with a shrug.
“Clarke, I know you have this thing about saving people but we barely saved Lincoln and we only caught him by accident. From what I can tell, reapers are dangerous as fuck. We’re not endangering those kids so that you can play nurse to a bunch of crazed out druggies.” Raven responded sharply. She felt a prickle of irritation.
“Look, what’s being done to the reapers is too horrible for words. I admit part of me wants to help them because it’s the right thing to do. However, it is also practical.” Clarke turned staring at her directly and impassioned.
Raven narrowed her eyes. “Clarke.”
“Someday, the grounders are going to notice that we killed the gorilla and it’s not going to be safe here anymore.” Clarke spoke with that effortless conviction of hers. “Just in the time he’s been with us, Lincoln has done so much to make us more secure here. If we can save more like him, we have a much better chance of surviving here long term. Not to mention, with the information we have from Lincoln, we can trap areas they frequent without risking a direct attack.”
“Of course, you start thinking long term now.” Raven groaned out in exasperation. She didn’t like the plan, but damn it, Clarke had a point. “Fine, I guess we could do some planning while we wait out the winter. I reserve the right to veto any ideas we come up with if they get too crazy."
Clarke smiled at her. “That’s all I ask.”
Raven ducked her head and shifted feeling the chill from her damp clothing setting in properly. "Let's go, I'm freezing. We need to get dry. I’m just glad that Lincoln suggested we make gloves."
Clarke stomped through the snow, she was absolutely miserable. It hadn’t taken long for the excitement of the first snowfall to turn to feelings that were less pleasant. Since then, she had grown to hate the cold and damp. No, hate was too kind a word. Perhaps loathe? Despise? Something horrible and awful anyways. “Stupid, wet damn snow.”
The snow made everything more difficult, she thought as she trudged through the snow to check on one of their traps. She already knew that the blasted things were likely going to be empty. The animals had retreated into their burrows and the warmth of huddling together just like the humans had. Thank goodness for Lincoln. He had taught them how to make snowshoes that made getting around a tad bit easier but they still had to spend a majority of their time inside.
She made it to the first trap and was frustrated to find that it had tripped but was empty. Which meant she would have to reset it. The rope was cold and stiff and hard to work with. Her cold fingers slipped, “fuck.”
At last she finished and got ready to move on the next trap. The snow and ice made things slippery and heavy.
Just as she was getting to the second trap, a pile of snow fell on her from a branch above her. “Oh come on!”
Reaching up she brushed snow from her hair and shoulders. Shivering. she realized snow had gotten into her boots. The horrible sensation of it melting into her socks clawed up her spine. As if her feet weren’t cold enough. “That’s it, screw this!” She grit her teeth and turned back for the camp. “Raven can just suck it up.”
It was a miserable walk through the wood. Each step was accompanied by a crunch as her feet sunk down into the snow. She was sweating from the effort of trudging along while her face, hands, and feet ached with cold. Finally, looking through the glistening trees, she spotted the entrance into the zoo. Her shoulders slumped in relief.
Grabbing the grate, she hauled it to the side before moving into the tunnel and closing the grate behind her. The metal made an abrasive groan at being moved. She gave it an annoyed look, a better door was going to have to go onto the list of necessary tasks.
Shaking her head, she made her way through the tunnel before finally managing to straighten up as she entered the old den of the gorilla whose hide she was wearing. The snow was dirty and mostly ice here from them walking over it repeatedly. With solid, slow steps to avoid slipping, she made her way up to the top of the former den before climbing down the ladder into their home.
Clarke looked around camp and was reminded of how extremely glad she was they had been able to finish their hastily constructed roof before the snow had really begun to fall. Sure, it periodically needed clearing to make sure it didn’t collapse under the weight of the snow, but the warmth and protection it provided were worth it. Clarke didn’t want to think about how cold they would have been if they hadn’t had any protection from the snow making its way into their shelter. Or, if Raven hadn’t finished her pipe system to bring them heated water.
Bottar was the only one who seemed to thrive in the cold weather. He loved playing in the snow with his pet rabbit and cuddling for warmth around the fire. Sond was just the opposite. He hated the snow and hated the enforced downtime. Clarke could see him pacing around their shelter as she entered. Lincoln tried to engage him with sparring sessions but Sond got frustrated quickly by his lack of progress against his much bigger opponent.
Stamping her feet, she shook the snow from herself as she entered their shelter. Once inside, she began to peel her outer layers off and hang them by the fire to dry. That done, Clarke went to find Lincoln and inform him that they would need to check the traps tomorrow. It didn’t take long to find him in their small shelter. He was in Raven’s ‘forge’ pumping the bellows for her fire. Raven shot her a glare when she saw her.
“You’re back early. I take it we won’t be having fresh meat for dinner tonight.” Raven scoffed at Clarke’s nod. “Great. Just what I needed more dried meat.”
Raven quickly turned back to her work and Clarke didn’t bother responding. Instead, she rolled her eyes. It would just start an argument and Clarke was just too tired for that. She wasn’t sure what Raven was working on but honestly, she wasn’t even sure if Raven knew. Raven had been snappy and antsy since her excitement at seeing snow had worn off.
The hardest part of the winter was getting used to the inactivity and as difficult as Sond was finding it, Raven was worse. Since Clarke and Raven had been on the ground, they had always been active doing something. Hunting, building, healing, crafting, it all took time and energy and now that the snow had come there was nothing to do but the most basic of chores that had become routine at this point. Clarke could feel a restlessness itching under her skin constantly.
Lincoln gave her an apologetic look over Raven’s shoulder. Of the adults, Lincoln seemed to cope the best with all the troubles that winter had brought them. He was always busy, whether it was sparring with Sond, teaching Trig to Raven and Clarke or English to Sond and Bottar. He was also teaching the basics of how to fight to Raven and Clarke and he was the best suited for a lot of the more difficult chores that needed to be done in the snow. If that wasn’t enough, Raven had recruited him as her lacky to do all the heavy lifting and grunt work involved in all of her ‘projects’. Considering that by this point Raven had taken apart and put back together everything within reach at least twice, it was a miracle he ever managed to do anything else.
Giving up on talking with Lincoln for the moment, Clarke retreated to her own little work area. She picked up one of the branches that she was whittling into an approximation of a chess piece. The ones she had made so far were pretty grotesque, but it wasn’t like they had to look pretty to work for her purposes.
Besides, she was getting better with every one that she made. The last one even looked enough like a horse head that she had thought it would work as a knight. All the rest had come out too poorly and she had to settle for making them into pawns. She hoped, once she had finished a set, to teach the others how to play. She had loved playing chess with Wells on the ark. If there was anything she wanted to remember and honor about her time on the ark, it was her friendship with Wells. She liked to think that Wells would be proud. She had a new family to protect and care about and they needed her at her best. So, she began to carve at the wood, her foot tapping anxiously.
Lincoln let out a groan of content. “Well done on that trap.”
“You taught me how to build it.” Clarke replied, the Trig syllables clunky and stiff over her unpracticed tongue.
He smiled, proud at her progress in the language. “You learned well, and we have fresh deer for your reward.”
Raven made a grunt from where she was licking her fingers. “Listen to the big guy, I’ve missed fresh food.”
Lincoln looked around at his companions. They all look sated and warm as they sat around the fire. There was a comfort and ease to them that had been missing. The boys were snoring softly, their fingers still coated in grease. Little Botter’s rabbit was curled inside the boy’s jacket, just its ears peeking out of the front.
“They’re adorable, aren’t they?” Clarke remarked from where she was sitting. “It’s funny,” she began to play with her own fingers while pulling her knees to her chest. “I never thought this would be my life.”
Raven snorted. “You think I thought this would be my life Princess?” The girl leaned her head back, looking up at their roof. “I thought I would be floating in the dark. That I would be a legend on the ark.”
“Well, if they were still alive you probably would be.” Clarke said with a shrug. “I… I’m glad I have you, both of you.” Her eyes flicked from Raven to Lincoln.
Lincoln felt himself warm at the sentiment. They were acknowledging his presence in their lives. His lips curled as Raven gave him a head tilt in acknowledgement. “I would still be mad with red if you had not found me.”
“Do you still crave it?” Raven asked curiously.
He swallowed thickly. “Always.” Turning his face away, he glared at the ground. “I hate and want it and hate myself for wanting it.”
Clarke poked him with a stick. “Hey, you’re recovering better than I’ve ever seen an addict that far gone. The red was certainly more addictive than the moonshine on the ark. You should be proud of yourself, you’ve shown real strength. The shakes have been gone for weeks.”
Lincoln looked to his steady hands and felt a light thrum of pride. It was true, his body was his own once more. Still, how many of his fellows were still stuck in those filth covered caves, the red burning their humanity from their souls? Bile rose in the back of his throat. His face must have given away his thoughts.
“Everything alright?” Clarke asked quietly, her voice concerned.
“I’m fine.” Noticing her skeptical look, he continued, “It was just a fleeting thought.”
Clarke searched his eyes for a moment. “Once the winter has passed we will try and save more reapers. We might not be able to do much for them but we will try.” There was a resolve there that he’d come to know meant a thing would be done.
Lincoln sent her a grateful look and nodded in acknowledgement. He glanced at where Sond was snoring slightly and Bottar was nuzzling into his brother’s side.
Raven got up and shook the boys awake. “Alright bedtime, squirts.” She pushed at their shoulders till the sleepy and blurry eyed boys made it to their bed rolls.
Once they’d disappeared into the inner area, she came back and dropped back down by the fire. “So, what’s the plan?”
“You’ve told us Lincoln, that the Reapers use tunnels to move from place to place. Is there a tunnel exit in the area that isn’t patrolled by the grounders due to the gorilla?” Clarke asked.
“Yes, but it is not often used by the Ripas. They do not fear the pauna but there is not much reason to travel there since there are no villages nearby.” Lincoln replied.
“Why were you near us then?” Raven questioned while looking at him in confusion.
Lincoln looked down in shame at his own weakness. “I think I was hoping the pauna would kill me but my time under the red is not clear to me. Some memories are blurred and foggy and some all too clear.”
Clarke quickly steered the conversation away from his discomfort. “So, you don’t think we would get many if any reapers, by trapping the tunnel exit near us.”
“No, we might get one or two but even that is unlikely. Unless something draws them in that direction, the Ripas rarely use that exit.” Lincoln explained patiently, pleased they weren’t pressing him on his weakness.
Raven spoke next. “Couldn’t we use some kind of bait to get them to go where we wanted them to?”
“The only thing Ripa’s want is the red and to capture people so that they may get more of it.” Lincoln said grimly, the ghost of his desire for the substance licking at his mind.
“Perhaps, we can use that. I found some syringes in the abandoned bunkers. If we filled them with something that looked like the red, the Ripa’s would do anything to get it.” Clarke mused.
Lincoln considered her point. “That would indeed be quite the effective bait if we could make the syringes sufficiently convincing.”
“What are we going to do with them once we’ve trapped them. No offense big guy, but it was hard enough taking care of you. If we take more than one at a time, there’s no way we could deal with everything involved.” Raven pointed out, obviously still skeptical of this plan.
“I think we would have to limit ourselves to taking one reaper at a time and letting any other reapers we capture go until we’re ready for the next one. We might be able to do more once we’ve cured a few and they can help out, but until then you’re right Raven. Once we’ve captured them, we just have to treat them as best we can until the withdrawal symptoms diminish.” Clarke responded her head slightly tilted and brow furrowed in thought.
“You’re getting a bit ahead of yourself aren’t you Princess? We don’t even know if we can cure more Reapers. Let’s not go planning what we’ll do with more cured Reapers until we’ve at least saved one.” Raven grumbled, giving Clarke a pointed look.
Clarke rolled her eyes. “Fine, Lincoln what traps do you think would work best for capturing them?”
Lincoln smiled at them as he answered and felt real hope for the Ripas as they continued to plan late into the night.