“I don’t know what we’re looking for,” Amalie complained, as they made their way over the rocky terrain. They’d left the wagons, with the rest of the company, on the last smooth place they’d found, the old road still standing, the encroached trees making it a deep, dark tunnel.
“Same thing as always,” Dor answered, as he always did. “Food. Livestock someone let wander. Plants we can eat. A lot of this area was settled and then abandoned, when the bandits moved in. Come on, Ama, you know this.”
“But why is it always us?”
“Okay,” Karida inserted tiredly, “that’s just a stupid question. Amalie, if you can’t come up with a new song, work on the tune to this one. It’s gone flat.” Turned to look at her cousins, she missed seeing the low outcropping until her shins barked against it. “Blasted returned gods!” She kicked the rock again angrily, then looked at it. Not rock, but a wall. “Like Dor was saying, settlements, see? Here’s a foundation.”
“That doens’t look like anything I’ve seen before.” Dor crouched down next to her feet, studying the remnant of a wall, tracing the lines with his fingers. “Is there anyone else around, Ama?”
With a swallowed grumble, their youngest cousin whispered the Working that would tell her if they were being observed. “Far away,” she answered after a moment. “Over that way,” she gestured out in front of them. “Ten, fifteen minutes’ walking, maybe longer. They’re faint. Maybe three of them, maybe five.”
“Should be safe.” He traced the wall while Karida walked along it, seeking a corner. She could hear him, as she found a stairway, murmuring “Idu eperu… hunh. This is some sort of formed rock, like the roads.”
Turning the corner brought Karida around the tall stand of trees that had grown up inside the foundation. She caught her breath, looking at the crumbled buildings, the trees and vines taking over, and, in the distance, the monoliths still standing. “It’s a lot more than that,” she murmured. “We’re going to need the whole company for this one.”
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