I gathered my leathers and the Scouting implements I had put away upon my return in the Spring for the journey to come.

I decided it best to bring all of my maps with us, for we did not know where we would be sent, nor what we might find on the road. I folded them together as best I could and tucked them away in my pack in a safe place.

I tossed my stickers on the bed, and everything else I had gathered, packing things away and bundling them together for the trail. I then brought my packs to the front of the house, setting them near the door to let Dandi have one more night’s peace.

Having finished my preparations for our journey, I settled down to my letters and a note for any who might come by while I was away…

I went out and tacked my note to the door as the day was coming to its end.

With the challenges that were sure to come on the road, I decided to turn in early and get as much rest as I could while I was able. Sleep claimed me…

…we had taken every path but one, the one that lay before us now. Deverell pressed herself against part of the archway that held the portal…

“We have nowhere else to go, Kaleigh. It will find us at any moment. We are done for,” she despaired.

My vision was clouded by pain, by the gauntlet we had run to this point. I closed my eyes to will it away…

…yet it still loomed before us when I opened them again. I saw stars. I saw a place we could not allow ourselves to go…

“Not yet,” I denied her. “Just let me catch my breath. We will think of something.” I staggered, trying to keep my feet and avoid the ground swelling up to meet us.

“It has found us already,” she said softly. “There is nothing to be done.”

Her words pierced through my denial as an arrow alight with flame, and its fire caught within me. Its heat consumed me, turning hope into ash, causing me to twist into a fury…

…the portal came into view once again. “No! We have not come this far to end this way!” I screamed at the gateway and any who might try to defy me.

“Kaleigh, it is over. Let us spend these last moments in peace,” she whispered, paralyzed by her acceptance.

…I stopped and peered into the portal, trying to pierce the uncertainty that swirled within…

…I crept closer, but it was no use. “Deverell! We need to find another way! I promise I will not lead us astray again if you will help,” I bargained with her.

She could not move save to reach feebly for me. Hers was a healer’s touch even still.

“We did our best. We gave our very best,” she whispered, looking at me through her tears…

…the last of my strength left me, and I sunk to my knees in despair…

“We were so close. So close,” I whispered to her. We clung to each other for a moment.

She nodded weakly, then glanced over my shoulder to the gateway beyond, “But there is no retreat.” She looked back to me.

“There is no retreat,” I repeated. I pressed my cheek to hers, both wet with what was left of our tears. How I regretted letting her take this road with me…

I felt her embrace weaken, and I let her go. She leaned against the archway and looked upon me with a pensive smile. “It is time,” she said.

…I turned toward the archway one last time, gazing into the depths of the gateway it held.

…there is no retreat…

…my resistance gone, I yielded to the gateway’s pull, letting it take me…

A sense of falling roused me from a fitful sleep. The rest I had hoped for was not to be mine this night, for I had only tossed and turned, and the new day was dawning.

I pushed myself from my bed to make ready for the day.


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