Margot shivered again. She wouldn’t stop shivering.
I worried at my lower lip and put another blanket over her. Outside of the tent, a child shrieked, and answering footfalls spoke to a game of chase or tag or perhaps just “run run run.” The sound of their game faded fast, and soon, all I could hear was Margot, the healer, breathing hard and shallow. I waited until her eyelids drifted shut before sliding my sandals on and slipping out through the tentflap.
I blinked into the grey light of the morning mist, wiping sweat from my brow. The wispy fog that clung to the camp rendered the day eerily quiet — the crunch of the gravel under my sandals seemed overloud. The running children were already well out of earshot. I passed dewdrop-covered tents, the families inside enjoying a morning’s rest. The transition from the sands to the rock flats had been a taxing one, steep and arduous. Two wagons had thrown wheels, and the seed-wagon’s axle had split, and we’d had to slaughter a good ox after his leg fractured under the strain of the climb. Everyone was tired, snippy. I’d already decided to take a day’s rest, even before Margot had gotten sick.
“Please, please, please preserve her,” I prayed under my breath. “Please.”
The Gods did not answer.
“Are you talking to yourself?” A face appeared out of the mist, and I smiled even as I saw my friend’s eyes flick away from mine. Naomi still wasn’t used to the Gods Sight. I couldn’t blame her.
“It sure feels like it sometimes,” I said. “What are you doing up?”
“Checking the oxen,” she said, running a hand through her short cap of tight blonde curls. They had relaxed into loose waves while we were on the sands, but the low-slung clouds on the rock flats had sprung them back into spirals, and I couldn’t help thinking the humidity suited her. “If we lose another one, we’ll have to abandon a wagon.”
She looked at me, her mouth pinched with expectation, and I realized that she wasn’t talking to me as her friend. She was talking to me as her Prophetess. “Oh,” I said, blinking a few times. “Oh, right. We, uh, we would probably need to abandon the children’s wagon, right?”
She gave me a gentle smile. “We abandoned that one when we came down the mountain into the sands,” she said softly. I chastised myself for missing that — but then I remembered with a start that when we’d come down the mountain into the sands, my father had begun to die. “I think we’d need to consider consolidating the water wagon and the seed wagon.”
I laughed, a short, sharp bark that was swallowed by the mist. “I’ll let you be the one to tell Liam that,” I said, and her smile twitched. I cleared my throat. “Is there anything that can be done to keep us from losing an animal? We only have to stretch them for nine more months.” I tried hard to keep a note of pleading from entering my voice.
“Is that guaranteed?” she murmured, and if she hadn’t been my best friend — but then I remembered that I was the Prophetess, and that I had a job to do.
“It is written,” I said, gentle but stern. “It will come to pass. Nine more months.”
“Right,” she said. “Sorry.” She still wouldn’t meet my eyes.
I suppressed a sigh. “So, anything I can do to help get us there?”
“I’d like to have Margot take a look at a few of the beasts,” she said.
“Margot’s sick,” I said. “She’s — I don’t think she’s up for it.”
“Sick?” Naomi’s brow creased. “Margot can’t get sick. Healers never get sick.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s… I shouldn’t go into details, but.” But it looks bad. But I don’t know how to fix it. But I’m afraid. “But I can’t make her come do an exam.”
Naomi waved her hand, tossing her curls. “She’s probably just tired,” she said. “We’re all tired, Fisher. You can send her over once she’s rested, yeah? I’ve done what I can for the animals, but it’s hard to identify weaknesses in the bones and I’m worried about—”
“She can’t help you,” I interrupted. Her mouth snapped shut with a click of teeth. “Is there anything else?”
Her nostrils flared, and a muscle jumped in her jaw several times before she finally bit out an answer. “I suppose you could pray, Prophetess.”
I nodded. “I always do.”
The mist was still low by the time I came back to Margot’s tent. A bowl of broth steamed in my hand, a match to the one that warmed my belly. A few precious shreds of uncured ox haunch...