Aaaand here we are as the rebellion slowly, but steadily picks up pace. What happened last time? Our heroes were getting ready for Cole’s and Ashok’s excursion into the unknown, and Abbida was meeting Cole to say her goodbyes… Only that she never got to do so, because after a hearty swig of Cole’s farewell drink things kinda turned out weird. So, the next thing Abbida knows is this:
Oh, by the way, if you are new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1.
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 5, Part 2
With a grunt, Cole climbed inside, bumping his head and swearing under his breath. Abbida felt the cart moving again, and Cole said, “You’re awake, thank goodness. I was worried the drink might have been too much, after all.”
“It was!” She had meant for it to sound accusingly, instead it came out weak and miserable. The ride made her even more queasy.
Gazing worriedly at her, Cole pulled a tin flask from his pocket, unscrewed the lid and held it out to her. Wary, she tried to eye the liquid and sniffed at it. The smell was kind of tangy, but not unpleasantly so. “What is that?”
“Tea. With some medicine in it that will help cure the hangover.”
“Oh, come on, don’t look at me like that. It’ll make you better, I promise,” he pleaded.
“Right. And you are just the guy to be trusted.”
Letting out a long sigh, he sagged down next to her and rubbed his already scrubby chin. He looked as if he’d been up all night. Just how long had she been out of it? She felt her heartbeat quicken, and her headache intensified. Somehow, the thought of her lying around unconscious made her more furious than if he’d just bound her up and stacked her away.
“Hey, listen,” he said. “I’m sorry. I really am. But, if we hadn’t gone through with it like this, you’d never have come along…”
“Damned right!” Realizing he’d planned this long beforehand, she was ready to knock his head off! If only she had the strength to stand upright. “Who else is in on this? Does Ashok know?”
Looking somewhat at a loss, he nodded, blinking slowly. “Him and the council elders.”
The whole freaking council! What in the world…?
Cole seemed genuinely embarrassed now, and as bad as it was, the thought of the council ordering her kidnapped – for whatever reason – didn’t seem as far fetched as it should have. Wearily, she rubbed her face.
Cole exhaled slowly, “If you will pease drink your medicine now, I’ll explain everything, all right?”
“You had me fooled like a school girl,” she muttered, feeling defeated. Scrunching her eyes shut she sipped at the flask. He hadn’t lied this time. It was tea and it tasted okay, considering the state she was in. Relaxing a bit, she leaned back against the cart’s board wall.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. How could you have suspected this?”
“Yeah, how could I, now? It’s not like you get betrayed by your best friend all the time! I won’t let you out of this easily, you know?”
“Yeah, I get that,” he said, ruefully.
Abbida took a deep breath. He was her best friend and could have his reasons. Or think he did, at least. After all the times they’d had each others backs she probably should give him the benefit of the doubt. “Okay, so what’s this ‘expedition’ bit all about? You’re obviously not going to take samples of dirt or the water. What are you hoping to find that nobody is supposed to know about?”
“A ship,” she echoed him, incredulously. What were they supposed to do with a ship? All they would ever be transporting would not go any further than half a day’s ride. Further than that there was nobody there to share any goods with.
Except for the Conquerors.
Horrified, she yanked a hand to her mouth. “You’re not taking me to be recruited, are you?!”
“What? No! How could you even…? I would never do that to you!”
Jumping to his feet he almost bumped his head a second time. The cart was too small for him to pace, anyway, so he dropped to his knees again and grabbed her hand. Caught off guard, she let him.
“Listen, Abbida, you’re a quick thinker. I’m sure you know there’s something off about this so-called ‘return’, don’t you? After all the enemy has put us through, why would they suddenly set them free? It just doesn’t add up, does it? Well, that’s because they didn’t.”
Deep down inside, she’d guessed it all along. The dream of being rid of the Conquerors’ oppression had just been to good to be true. Suddenly feeling dizzy again, she exhaled sharply. “So they’ve escaped. But then… how come there hasn’t been a revenge attack yet?”
“Who’s to say, that’s not happening right now? For all I know, this time they might be coming for the women!”
“I don’t know, really, and I don’t even care. Whatever it is, we can’t let this go on any longer. Not without putting up a fight!” Angry, he stomped the floor with his heel.
“Fight! How? That’s insane. And it doesn’t explain what we are doing out here. You. Them.” She pointed to where Tarek and whoever else where sitting on the other side of the board wall. “How come you even know all this?”
“I’m not entirely sure myself. Mandras wasn’t all that happy about braking his beloved taboos. Maybe it’s because Ashok and Rona were already in on it and they both wanted Tarek to come along. With him being our best hunter that’s a natural choice. Maybe the council elders figured I’d sort of complete the group.” He shrugged self-consciously.
Abbida felt her face burn with anger again. While the elders had trusted him, nobody seemed to have any problems with dragging her along against her will. “So, what’s going to happen to me?”
“Nothing, hopefully! That’s why we brought you along…”
“You shanghaied me,” she growled.
Looking guilty, he brushed a hand through his short hair. “Well… Yes, I guess that’s true. I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving you behind. What if there’s an attack while we’re gone? You’re my best friend…”
“What about Latisha? Or Ilka? Or any of the others? We have to go back!”
She jumped to her feet, hammering her fists against the cart’s front wall. There might still be time to warn everybody – at least they could hide in the woods! The sudden movement made her head burst in pain. Swaying, she stumbled forward, but Cole caught her by her shoulders and prevented her from hitting her head on the boards. She tried to free herself, but he held her close as if afraid she’d crumble to her feet.
“Four of us won’t make any difference, you know that!” he said. “There’s a plan. Ashok told us about it. Hopefully, it will help prevent our enemies from taking any more people. That’s why we’re looking for this ship.”
“What kind of ship? How is that supposed to help anyone? Are you trying to sail away? Where to? Those people are powerful enough to enslave our whole village. Surely, they have the means to stop a ship at a whim!”
“They might, they might not. First, they’d have to find us. I think you don’t realize how big the world really is.” Smiling wearily, he rubbed his eyes. “Anyhow, this ship we’re looking for is not taking anybody anywhere. It crashed about a hundred linears ago.”
Suddenly, the cart rolled over some obstacle, bumping them up and Abbida’s head got knocked against the wall after all. Cole had to brace himself against the railing to keep his balance. There was a jolt, the cart’s wheels spinning in thin air, then they crashed back onto the ground. They heard Tarek shout and crack the whip.
Abbida rubbed her forehead. “But, if it’s wrecked, there can be only one reason to break the taboo and risk all our lives trying to reach it: something on board is valuable enough for the council to want it at all costs. A treasure? Are you trying to buy us out?”
The way Cole looked at her, she knew exactly what he was thinking: What ever could be valuable enough for the Conquerors to give up on interests they had been enforcing ruthlessly for so long?
He wiped his hand over his beard stubble. “Well, there is something there that we need. Nothing like a treasure, but a device. A device that will hopefully enable us to call for help.”
“Call where? To whom?!”
Dumbfounded, Abbida stared at him. Had they discovered other villages? Then how come nobody had ever come across any traces of other peoples at all – besides the Conquerors? Was it possible, they lived so far away, that it took a ship to reach them?
For the first time, she wondered just how big the world really was. Cole was right, she had no idea what to expect beyond the river. Or in any other direction for that matter. As far as she knew their world reached to the end of their crop area and hunting grounds. Suddenly ashamed, she slumped back on her bunk. How ignorant of her, to assume there was nothing of interest out there.
Not to mention the strangers. They most definitely hadn’t come from anywhere close or they wouldn’t have stayed undetected until it was too late.
“So there really are more villages. Like the one Kyle came from? And you want us all to stand together and fight? But, isn’t that pure madness? Those other villages – if they exist! – obviously were as helpless as we are.”
Frowning, Cole moved to sit more comfortably, resting his head on the side of Abbida’s bunk. He closed his eyes and stifled a yawn. “I wouldn’t know. That’s what Ashok suggests, anyway.”
“So you trust him?”
Startled, his eye lids flew open. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, because he made you drug and kidnap me for a mission we might or might not survive, how’s that for starters?!”
“He didn’t make me do anything. That was my idea. None of this mess is Ashok’s fault, he was just the bearer of bad news – and of a solution, maybe.”
“How? How come he knows all these things? What makes you so sure he’s not gonna sell us all out to save his own life and that of his brothers?”
Cole was about give a heated response, but then he just shut his mouth and shook his head. Rubbing his chin he said, “Because that wouldn’t make sense. The Conquerors don’t need hidden allies in our village. They can overrun us any time and take what they want.”
That much was true.
Wearily, Abbida sunk back onto her bunk. In all true honesty she didn’t want to be suspicious of Ashok – or any of the people she was close to. That way lay madness.
”Surprisingly,” Cole said, “not all of the Conquerors see eye to eye.”
“No, really. There seems to be at least a small faction who don’t agree with the way we are being treated. And, for whatever reason, they’re risking their lives to help us.”
“But why? What’s in it for them?”
It didn’t make sense, or did it? Four linears in the past, when the soldiers had surrounded them at the cabin in the woods, she might have been shot if it hadn’t been for the younger officer. His intervention had almost certainly saved her life. Why had he bothered? Could it be true, that some of the invaders did not agree with the way things were handled? Did it make any difference for the villagers? Was it wise to set their hopes on strangers they might not ever understand?
Seeming at a loss himself, Cole shrugged.
Abbida felt the cart slowing down again. “Ho!” she heard Tarek call, and shortly after, they stopped altogether. Wooden planks creaked, then she heard Tarek jump off the coach box, causing the cart to slightly dip to the side. His footsteps gave off smacking sounds in the mud while he busied himself with the ox, talking to somebody. Abbida couldn’t hear what he said, but at last the other person got off the cart, too, came around, tore open the door and climbed inside.
It was Rona.
Thank you for reading!
If you’re already looking forward to chapter 6, I will be posting updates every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month here in Joey’s Café .
So, if you don’t want to miss any chapters being loaded up, please be sure to push the follow-button! Thank you <3
Keep on rollin’, rollin’, rollin’!