‘You five will patrol the base and the area around it. You five are second wave. Listen to James; he’s your leader for now. He’ll give you battle tactics. You three, and you, too, Alex, come with me in the first wave,’ Gabby calls. I start walking toward her. She called me for first wave… I guess I must.
‘Alex, hurry up!’ Daniel, the main scout, calls. Gabby shushes him and I speed up.
‘Hi,’ I gasp, panting. They nod hello. I’m a new recruit, so it’s a big honor for me to be chosen for first wave. But, I am not excited. Most in this position would be exuberant, yet I am dreading what is about to come.
I’m partnering as scout with Daniel, who is super annoying. He won’t make my job any easier. I’ll just have to deal with him. We are patrolling the pathway so we can safely get to enemy territory. We will be taking breaks along the path, so we can rest in between each short journey. I think Gabby is testing me.
I will prove to Gabby that I can do this. She wants an attack, and I can scout a safe route to the Sunbeam tribe’s territory. I feel extremely confident in my scouting skills. This is a chance to prove myself to Gabby and the tribe! Not very many of them trust me right now. I could feel their scowls and glares burning against the back of my neck as I walked out of camp with Gabby.
‘All clear,’ Gabby’s voice breaks through the still night air. We slowly walk forward, alert as ever, ready to defend if needed. My hand clutches the bow that took a month to carve, knowing full well it could be broken beyond repair in a split second. My daggers shining blade glints in the pale moon light… I will not kill. I cannot kill. I will not kill any from my former tribe!
I was very lucky to even be accepted into this tribe; Gabby must have taken pity on me. The leader of the Sunbeam Tribe, Amira, demoted me until I was exiled, and I roamed the wilderness until I found the Tribe of Shimmering Waters. They took me in as a new recruit in return for my telling them information about the Sunbeam Tribe. Then Gabby and the Council decided to launch an attack and put me in the first wave of it. I need a way to make peace!
I signal to Gabby that I’m going to go scout ahead. She nods and whispers ‘Go with Daniel.’ I sigh and nod. Now I’ll have to shake him off, too.
We tiptoe around a tree and silently run down the path. Once we’re out of earshot, I whisper, ‘I’m going to go look for a stream this way. You go that way.’ Daniel frowns but nods and heads off in the opposite direction. As soon as the sound of his footsteps fade away, I’m off.
I silently, slowly, make my way towards the other tribe’s camp. I have a job to do.
Then, I hear running feet and someone calling my name. Daniel.
Since I couldn’t get away, I had to finish scouting and walk back with Daniel. Gabby whispers, ‘All clear?’ I nod and fall in step with the group. On the walk, I try to think of ways to finish this peacefully. At the next resting point, I could go scout and ask Daniel to split up to try to cover more ground? Yes, definitely. And maybe I could ask to go check and see if there are any patrols around the Sunbeam’s camp. And tell Daniel not to wait for me. Will do.
‘Watch out, Alexa!’ Gabby’s whisper jars me out of my thoughts and into the present. I stop, about to trip over a log.
‘Thanks!’ I whisper back. We’ve reached the next resting spot, the last one before the other tribe’s camp. This is my last chance.
‘Um, Gabby? Can we go scout our path?’ I ask in a whisper. Gabby nods.
I sneak through the woods along the perimeter of the Sunbeam Tribes’ camp. I managed to shake off Daniel by telling him that I was going to check the perimeter of their camp for signs of patrols. He grudgingly agreed and went back to Gabby to wait.
Suddenly, I spot a lone figure in the trees ahead. I recognize the way her back arches and her auburn hair cascades over her broad shoulders as she peers up through the branches of a tall oak, looking for a small creature to bring back to camp for food.
‘Lana?’ I call, gazing in disbelief. She looks around and I hear the unmistakable sound of a bird fluttering away, cooing softly.
‘Alexa?’ A smile plays on my lips as she calls my name and I slip back into memories.
The two of us, three years younger, are calling to each other through the trees, each holding a young bird, our first catch ever. Finding each other, we walk towards camp, grinning from ear to ear, proud youngsters without a care in the world. Then, our acceptance day, the day we were officially considered part of the tribe. Then I see the day that I was exiled and Lana crying silently, as I call out to her around the guards’ bulky bodies.
‘And that’s why we should evacuate?’ Tyrin says. We, Lana and I, had told the leader of the Sunbeams’ tribe about the rival tribes plans to attack. She is a different leader than the last time I had been here and I am relieved. There is no way that Amira would listen to me. Tyrin was a good friend of mine when I was last here.
‘No…. not exactly. Don’t evacuate. Put everyone in the meeting hut. You stay outside with Lana… and your healer, Devin.’
I advise. Tyrin nods in agreement.
‘Uh, OK. Well…….. Good luck,’ she looks nervous, and scared.
‘Any signs of patrols?’ Gabby and Daniel ask in unison. I shake my head no. I feel better knowing that I can count on Tyrin and Lana to do their job. Now it’s time for my part.
‘Well…… actually……’ I hesitate.
‘Yes?’ Gabby inquires, eyebrows raised.
‘Someone spotted me.’ Gabby blinks, but I rush on, ‘Just one. But they ran back to their camp before I could attack. They know I’m here. Our attack is blown,’ I half whisper the lines I rehearsed on the way over. Gabby is probably thinking that I wanted to be spotted, but I continue, ‘We should come in peace instead and join camps. Learn new ways, meet new friends. My best friend is over there right now! Lana was the only one who understood me. She- she is still my best f—‘
I stop. Gabby is crying silently, sobbing into her hands.
‘Gabby?’ I whisper uncertainly, ‘what’s wrong?’
‘Gabby? Try to keep it together,’ I whisper, so no one else can hear. We went back to Shimmering Water’s camp, gathered everyone, and now we are walking to Sunbeam’s camp. Gabby told me about the fire at Shimmering Water’s when she was ten and Lana was seven. Lana had run off and Gabby stayed behind and had been at Shimmering Water’s ever since, waiting.
I step lightly over a log as we trek through the woods. The pale morning light dapples down through the leaves. It’s so beautiful. I feel so much lighter, as though a gigantic weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The plan has succeeded! We are safe.
‘Alex? We’re almost to the last stop. Show us where to go,’ Gabby says, looking expectantly at me. Looking at me. Up to me. Taking orders from me.
‘Wait here,’ I say at the rim of the hollow where the camp lies. They wait. No one is carrying any weapons, nothing except the clothes on their backs.
But, Gabby, Gabby is clothed in the old tribe leaders’ dress. It fits her perfectly, framing her body with silky silver cloth and blue shimmering beads. At her side, in its blue leather sheath, hangs the teal and green handled dagger.
The set has been passed down from leader to leader, Jade to Emmy to Amber to Tea to Gabby. Only Tea is left of the elders. Gabby will join her when she decides. Gabby is the bravest leader. Even Tea admits it.
But now, Gabby must lead the tribe into unfamiliar territory. She is strong, and it will take ever so much courage to complete her new task.
‘We’re ready,’ Tyrin whispers. She is wearing an orange lace dress with a yellow background and red beads. The dagger at her side has a peach and red handle and a simple orange leather sheath, completely the opposite of Gabby’s.
Buh- Buh- Buh- BUH!!!
‘It’s time,’ I whisper down the line, ‘get ready.’ Everyone straightens their backs and takes a deep breath or two, as they receive the message that has been passed from person to person.
Tyrin and Devin emerge from the biggest hut. Right behind them is Lana. Gabby gasps and I can see that she’s resisting the urge to run over and throw her arms around her little sister.
‘Gabby, let’s go.’