For the next several days, Nisa and her companions stayed at the town and rested. They ate their fill and the townspeople continued to celebrate the return of the women and the Fabari warrior’s defeat. She wondered if some of the townspeople would have trouble accepting the children, especially the boys who looked more like Fabari instead of human, but no one shunned them so far.
Vanmor woke up and Nisa sat with him to explain what had happened. When she talked about the fight, she avoided the part about Oliver’s arm and how the griffin had healed him. Aleyr’s warnings still bothered her and with how Vanmor always seemed to know so much about Glacea, she was afraid he would confirm what Aleyr had said; that Storm Griffins have never had the power to heal others.
Worries about how Oliver had been healed aside, Nisa spent time learning the language, even though she had her translator that still worked perfectly fine. The others all used it to speak to people like Kor’ok, but he had learned their language years ago, according to what Kor’ok had told her.
Ena turned out to be a great teacher and was patient as Nisa tried to learn. It didn’t take her long to pick up on it and within a week, she already had picked up on several phrases. Just in case.
Vanmor sat up and started walking around, although Mosura insisted that he be careful and take it easy so that he wouldn’t rip the stitches open.
After another half a week of Vanmor resting and walking every day to get stronger again, Mosura finally told them that he was well enough to travel. The town provided them enough thoas to continue their journey and resupplied them. Vanmor offered to pay for everything, but the town leader insisted. “You helped to save our wives and daughters, our sisters and nieces, and grandchildren, whom we never thought we would see again. For that, we owe you far more than this. Are you sure that this is all you need of us?”
Nisa had half a mind to ask for an escort. After the Storm Griffin attack, Kor’ok’s injuries, then the Fabari and how close they’d come to losing Vanmor and Oliver, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea, but everyone in the town had been reunited with someone. She didn’t want to be the reason to tear them away from that, so she didn’t say anything about it.
“That’s it. We’re sure. You’ve already done more than enough.” Vanmor held his hand out and the leader shook it. They all decided to give Vanmor one more day to rest. That night, Mosura placed more healing herbs on his wounds and rechecked them, to help him be more prepared when they left in the morning.
The beds in the inn they slept in were soft and cozy. Nisa shared a room with Susie, Bea, and Ena, though, last week, most of the time the women stayed up gossiping. Tonight, however, they fell straight to sleep, knowing that their day would be long tomorrow as they continued their journey.
The thoa that Nisa sat on was crimson colored. She missed Oliver’s arms around her but an extra thoa meant they could carry extra supplies. Even though he walked his thoa beside her, it still didn’t feel close enough.
Vanmor pulled out the map. “We’re only about a week away from the Tower. We’ll stop when we need to and should make it there soon. Hopefully, without any more problems.”
That was what Nisa hoped for.
The townspeople gathered in a large crowd as they made their way down the main road, passed the leader’s house and on down the road on the other side of the town. They cheered and chanted their names, saying goodbye so much that Nisa’s translator didn’t pick up on everything. She did, however, and turned to say goodbye to them in their own language—even though her Glacean accent was terrible.
Aleyr laughed, just like he always did anytime she tried speaking Glacean.
Nisa shot him a look.
The sun was high in the sky and temperatures warmed up. By now, Nisa had grown used to how often the temperatures in Glacea changed from one drastic to another—not like most of Earth that went through changes and seasons over the course of months. Well, in some countries, anyway.
They made good distance, according to Vanmor, by the time they found a riverbank to camp beside. They tied their thoas to the branches of mushroom trees and used their blankets to try to lay on the ground and get comfortable. After the cozy inn, the hard ground made Nisa’s back ache.
Nisa awoke the next morning to several voices screaming and shouting. “Kova! Kova!”
“What’s going on?” Nisa asked.
Vanmor stood and darted forward, but winced.
“Take it easy,” Ena instructed.
Chris and Oliver both grabbed their guns and swords as Aleyr held up his crossbow. The men took off running with Vanmor trailing behind.
“Do they always have to pull out their weapons first?” Susie muttered.
“Can you blame them?” Nisa sprinted forward and quickly caught up with them.
A man and a woman stood at the edge of the river where the rapids tore through the forest. To the right, they slid further down in a small waterfall and then rushed across, getting faster and faster.
A boy’s head poked up through the water and he lifted his hands up. “Help!” he screamed.
“Kova!” the man shouted.
“Please, you have to save him!” The woman stared at them, eyes pleading for their help.
“Stay with him so I know where to aim the spell,” Vanmor said.
Nisa nodded and she, Chris, and Oliver took off running along the embankment. She leapt over a log and slid down a small incline on the other side. The water carried the boy faster than she could keep up.
“I can’t aim the spell at him to pick him up!” Vanmor shouted. “The water’s too fast!”
Chris and Oliver darted forward on down the river.
Nisa started after them, but heard someone call her name. She climbed back up and met Aleyr’s gaze. “What?”
He fired his crossbow and a rope led from it to a tree hundreds of feet down the river. “You’re the lightest. I’ll tie off this end and hold it. You glide down and grab him as he passes by.”
Nisa’s eyes widened. “Me? I can’t—“
“We don’t have time or he’ll pass it! Go!”
Nisa grabbed a stick off the ground and bent it to make sure it was strong. When it didn’t break, she held it over top Aleyr’s rope, grabbed it on either side tightly in her hands and then jumped.
The stick carried her down the rope above the water. She held her ankles up since it lowered in some parts, close enough to get them in the water, but she didn’t want the rapids tearing her away from the rope. Fortunately, this part of the river flowed down a hill, so the force of gravity kicked in and dragged her down the river faster than the water carried the boy.
The tree Aleyr had landed his bolt in stood at the edge of the riverbank. It hung over the edge, so as Nisa neared it, she kicked her feet out to help her stop. Her feet slammed into the trunk and then she lowered them to the ground.
The boy’s head bobbed out of the water and he reached out to her. “Grab my legs!” she shouted.
His hands wrapped around her legs, but the water slammed against them both.
“Hold on!” came a voice from above her. Oliver had climbed a tree across the bank and stood at the edge of the mushroom dome at the top.
“Wait, what is he…?” Her voice trailed off.
Water surged at the boy and he shrieked.
“Don’t let go!” Nisa told him. Both her hands had to stay on the stick, where they hung over the river. She might have been able to swing the boy over to the bank, but wasn’t sure if he could hold on and didn’t want to lose him.
Oliver stared down at her and jumped down.
Nisa cried out, but Oliver dove toward both her and the boy. He slammed against the both of them at the same time she let go of the stick. The force of the movement threw them both backward and the three of them landed on the bank of the river, breathing heavily and desperately trying to catch their air.
“Kova! Oh, Kova!”
“Thank the Creator you’re alright!”
The boy’s parents waved at them from the other side of the river.
“There… should be… a safe… place to cross… on down…” Oliver said in between sharp breaths.
Nisa fought to catch her own and rolled over to make sure Kova was alright. He shivered and every part of his body was drenched. “You alright?”
Kova nodded and wrapped his arm around her. “Th—thank you so much for saving me. Both of you. Wh—what are your names?”
“Oliver. Come on. Let’s… get you back… to your parents.” With a groan, Oliver stood to his feet and held out his hands to help both Nisa and the boy stand. Ollie picked Kova up in his arms and followed the riverbank on down. It took them deeper into the forest than Nisa wanted, but the boy’s parents and the companions followed them on the other side of the river, along with their thoas and supplies.
Finally, the river quieted and narrowed enough for them to cross.
“I d—d—don’t want to cross!” Kova said, staring at the water in fear.
“Hey.” Nisa peered at him from where his head leaned on Oliver’s shoulder. “The water’s shallow here. It won’t even touch you.”
“Promise?” Tears filled his eyes.
“Promise.” Nisa gently kissed his head and nodded to Oliver. The two of them waded into the river side by side. Water barely even lapped at their ankles here, but she stayed behind Oliver, mostly to help calm Kova’s fears. Finally, they reached the other side of the river.
Kova leapt out of Oliver’s arms and sprinted toward both his parents. The two picked him up and kissed him, hugged him, and told him how much they loved him.
“Here’s your thoas,” Ena said. She handed Nisa the reins to her crimson thoa as Teho handed Oliver his.
Nisa glanced up where Aleyr smiled at her from on top of his. “Great plan. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if Kova would have made it. The rapids got worse before the river calmed down.”
Ena shot him a look. “I guess the pirate has a heart after all.”
Aleyr rolled his eyes. “Don’t go telling that to people. I have a reputation to uphold.”
“You and what ship?” Ena lifted an eyebrow.
Aleyr narrowed his gaze at her, but Nisa shook her head with a chuckle and hopped on her thoa.
“Please,” the man started, holding his arm around his wife and son. “come back to the village with us and eat with us. It’s the least we could do for saving our son’s life.”
Nisa glanced at Vanmor. They probably should have kept going, but no part her wanted to miss an opportunity to meet others and learn more about this world…
Before they left it.
Vanmor shrugged. “You guys are the ones who want to get home. The decision should be yours.”
To Nisa’s surprise, Susie, Bea, Chris, and Oliver all stared at her.
“What do you guys think? I mean, Ollie and me don’t have families to return to, but you all…” Her voice trailed off and guilt welled up inside her.
Guilt for wanting to stay, when her friends deserved to go home.
Susie smiled at her warmly. “Ah, it’ll be alright. We’ll get home in another week or so, right?”
Chris nodded. “No harm done here. Bea?”
Bea grinned. “You guys know I prefer animals to people. And animals here on Glacea…. Far more interesting than the ones back home.”
“If all of you are sure.” Nisa turned back toward the man. “We would be honored.”