By the time Scarlett made her way out of the village and across the stream, Pakuri and Voty had rescued over forty girls and one boy who had been visiting his mother. She had searched for other kids as she rode through the village, but it seemed that most of them had run away with their mothers or sisters.
Voty was desperately trying to calm the infants, who were sleepy, tired, and hungry. Pakuri seemed like she wanted to murder them all.
"Do you know where we're regrouping?" said Voty, holding a fat blonde baby who was thrashing and hitting her.
"We have to go find help. I don't think we can resist the Hova for much longer. There… were a lot of casualties in the meadow near the arena," said Scarlett, trying to hold it together. She feared that if she started crying, the scared looking kids would all start wailing. Luckily, some of them had no idea what was going on, and they were just excited to be taking a trip to the other side of the stream.
What Scarlett really wanted to do was to go and find Mimbi. She hadn't seen her since she left her sleeping in the barracks.
"There's nowhere close enough," said Voty, still struggling with the baby. She had only two teeth, but she was just as vicious as the Hova, trying to bite Voty's arm. Exasperated, she set the baby down on the grass.
"They're going to need food and shelter. I think the closest town is Arandana. Maybe we can find help there," said Scarlett.
Pakuri, who had said nothing until then, let out a soft grunt.
"What is your problem?" said Scarlett. She was no longer drunk like the night before, but after everything that happened, she wasn't going to tolerate Pakuri's bullying anymore. They were now both Karainas, even if she had no magic, and she wasn't going to let the over-sized girl intimidate her any longer.
"What is my problem?! My problem is that I'm stuck with two of the most useless, spineless girls who have ever become Karainas. That is my problem. Do you even know what's between here and Arandana? THE COVE OF THIEVES. Do you know what they do to people who wander into the Cove of Thieves? Yeah… you don't want to know. They'll sell the babies into slavery and keep us as slaves before we even see them coming," said Pakuri, sitting down on a rock. "And how do you plan to take forty kids through the forest? They are little people, not sheep."
"Well, we'll just have to risk it," said Scarlett, trying to sound confident.
"They would hurt little girls?" asked Voty to Pakuri, sounding more frightened of the thieves than she had been of the Hova.
"Everyone and everything is a trading good for them," said Pakuri.
"But we're Karainas. They wouldn't dare hurt us…" said a wide eyed Voty.
"When they know, and they will know, for sure, that we have been attacked, they won't see us as Karainas. Look at us. We look like cave dwellers more than warriors. She'll be the first one sold," said Pakuri, pointing at Scarlett.
"What? Why?" she asked.
"Have you seen your clothes?" said Pakuri, giving her a mocking smile.
Now that the sun was high in the sky, Scarlett understood what she meant. The dress she was wearing was almost transparent, and the blood stains only made it stick to her skin. It was torn in the bottom and the center, showing off her stomach. She looked like a common prostitute more than a warrior.
"I'm making the decision for us. We will hide in the forest until we hear news of what's going on. Someone will come to find us eventually… or we will go back to the village to see what's… what's left," said Scarlett. But she doubted her own words.
What if there was no one left?
What if there was nothing to come back to?
"Who put you in charge?" said Pakuri, standing up.
"Ok. I've had it with you. What is your problem with me?" said Scarlett, dismounting Sunu. The bird sensed something tense was going on and it took a few steps back and chewed on some grass.
"I don't like you and I don't like the fact that you trained to be a Karaina. You have no magic and have done nothing of merit. The only reason you joined was because your "friend" begged her mommy to let you in," said Pakuri, taking some steps towards Scarlett.
The two Hova swords, which Scarlett had tied together with scrap of her dress, clanked together as she untied them.
"I am a Karaina because I passed all the trials. With no magic. I don't need you to like me, Pakuri. I don't give a shit if you like me or not. But you will stop acting like a little girl, or I will make you stop. If you're not going to be helpful, then go away. Or I will make you go away," said Scarlett, grabbing one sword with each hand.
If Pakuri decided to attack her with fire, the two swords wouldn't do much good.
But the large girl only stared her down, scowling. She seemed to be weighing her options, when Voty started to cry, and even a cold hearted creature like Pakuri couldn't say that it wasn't heartbreaking.
Scarlett tried to hold back her tears. There'd be no use in crying.
"Please stop," said Voty, choking on her words.
Scarlett thought she saw Voty's sister among the wounded, but she wasn't sure if Voty knew. She was just probably as overwhelmed as they were.
"Let's just wait a little longer. Someone will come," said Scarlett, as she tied the swords together again.
Pakuri seemed to be in conflict, wanting to comfort Voty, but at the same time, trying to keep up her strong facade. She turned and sat on the rock, with her back turned towards the two girls. Scarlett also sat down. She had never been so exhausted in her life, not even after the long training of the past few months. The weight of what had just happened started to sink in. If the Karainas were done for... it meant her world was also gone. And all in one blow. It took one attack to finish them.
She shook her head, trying to stop her negative thinking.
Some of the older kids had tried to calm the younger ones while the girls argued, and they were now playing something that had them running around in circles. They'd forget they were hungry, at least for a while. Some of them were curiously trying to pet Sunu, who took small steps trying to get away from them. One of them pulled out a feather, and Sunu ran to the top of a rock formation and perched there.
It was hours before someone came down the slope towards the stream. But it wasn't a woman.
It was a Hova.
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