Return to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Four

The Art of Burning Bridges

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: PG-13
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Disclaimer: I own nothing but the clothes on my back...

Willow poked at the burning fire with the stick in her hand. She fingered the broken transmitter on her belt, the same as she'd been doing for the past two hours. She had examined it earlier and had seen that it had sustained damage during the fall she'd taken. Willow could fix it, she knew, but for some reason she was in no great hurry to do so.

Willow rotated her arm; the pain was swelling up again causing the once dull ache to become piercing, like the edges of jagged rocks pressing into her joint. Willow leaned back against the trunk of the tree behind her; there was nothing she could do to ease the ache tonight. Willow silently wondered at how she would be able to climb the steep inclines in order to get out of this valley, in order to do so, she would need the use of both arms. She had attempted the climb earlier this night, but had found it too excruciating to continue and had had to stop. Maybe if she gave her arm a good rest, she'd be able to climb it in the morning. Willow thought about what she would do for her next meal, she tried to remember if she'd seen any wild berries nearby or small mammals that could be easily caught by such an inexperienced hunter as herself. It was true that she was no Shinty woman when it came to the finer art of meat gathering...Willow told herself that it was not in her nature, she could barely pull a fish up out of the water without feeling an immense amount of guilt over the ordeal. This weakness was not something she was proud of and very few people knew of its handicap within her life.

The fire popped and Willow drew her attention to it. Its red-hot heat reminded her of the story she'd heard earlier, about the Gammbot and the women hunting it. Willow closed her eyes against the vision of the Tara that was conjured in her mind. She remembered Tara's movements as the woman had glided around the fire, smoothly and with the complete assurance of her next words. She remembered the teasing wink Tara had given the boy for his inquiry and her stomach grew tense. She thought about what it would take for the blonde to want to look at her in that way. Was she out of her mind? Willow silently wondered at her own sanity where the blonde was concerned. She couldn't even trust her own feelings. Apparently when it came to Tara all her usual rationality became dust in the wind for all it was worth.

Willow had to remind herself of the reason she was in these woods in the first place – the mission, the mission she whole-heartedly supported. There had to be order...because without it only chaos could exist. But there hadn't seemed to be chaos when she'd sat with the Shinty this evening. Willow remembered the way the women and few men had gathered around the fire. The look on their faces speaking of great...what? Respect? Were these people capable of such a thing?

Willow closed her eyes against the glow of the fire. Only tonight would she allow herself to think about the blonde haired woman and her soft, silky voice, tomorrow it would have to be back to business as usual. She'd call in the troops and be done with it. In the morning everything would be normal again.

Tara sat up. She couldn't seem to get to sleep. The story she'd told earlier at the fire-pit kept playing and replaying in her head. She didn't want to admit it, but she was worried for Willow. After all, the redhead had said herself that she didn't have a camp nearby...Tara tried to remember if she had seen Willow with any equipment earlier, but she couldn't recall. The falling seemed to be the only thing she could remember about the redhead's decent into her life that afternoon.

Tara tried to think about where Willow might have been going and the people that would befriend a person such as Willow once she arrived. Willow had said that she was simply passing through...had she originally been going to meet friends or family? Tara tried to imagine what they would do or say when they saw her. Would they hug her? This was all just assumptions on Tara's part, she didn't even know where Willow had been headed... she really should have asked more questions. Tara pulled the heavy blanket up over her head. Trying not only metaphorically but physically to block Willow from her thoughts.

Tara tried to think about her mother. She should have gone over there after she'd seen Willow away, but she had been too full of emotion and hadn't wanted to visit tears and sadness upon them, not at this hour of night. She'd go over for a lengthy visit in the morning, Tara told herself.

Tara's mind turned again to the softness of Willow's hand and how the woman's fingers had felt warm against the wetness of the single tear that had traveled from her eye. Tara contemplated the many different ways she should have handled the situation – she shouldn’t have sat so close to Willow, she shouldn't have had even one serving of drink.

Cursing with the breath she expelled, Tara got up off the pallet and threw a shirt over herself to cover her nakedness. Tara slipped into the skirt she had warn earlier then threw open the curtain. Barefoot she padded out onto the smooth dirt path that slid past her dwelling. Tara squinted her eyes into slits and willed them to see into the blackness. Behind her the candle still burned, she could see its glow seeping around the curtain covering the entrance but it did nothing to illuminate the view ahead of her. Where was she going? Tara didn't answer her own question; there was no need. She was going and that was the end of it as far as her feet were concerned, because they kept a steady pace against the cold, hard ground.

Tara didn't know what she was looking for...proof maybe that Willow had moved on? If she came out here to satisfy her curiosity then she'd be able to put all thoughts of the redhead from her mind and get some sleep. Tara brushed a few stray hairs back behind her ears as she carefully slipped across the perimeter of the Shinty camp.

Tara's hand rested on the trunk of a Hammock tree as she turned her body to the east. She sniffed the air for any aroma of fire that might mark Willow's position in the woods. She smelled nothing. Was it possible that the scent was too high in the atmosphere already? Tara calculated that Willow could only be a few miles walking distance from the Shinty camp as it had only been a few hours since she had left.

Tara told herself to stop being foolish and to turn around and go back to her own dwelling. If Willow had wanted Tara involved in her business, she would have said as much...or in the least stayed the night. But Tara's feet refused to heed her warnings, instead they moved carefully along. Tara stepped lightly against twigs and leaves so as they would not snap and alert possible predators of her presence. The Gammbot may not cross her path this night but there were plenty of things that would.

Willow shivered in her sleep. Having the faintest sense that the fire must have gone out, but not owning the ability to pull herself up out of the heavy sleep in order to remedy the situation. Instead she pulled the drogs up higher across her body, but her dream had already begun and she had been transported again to that night...

"Death to all who resist us!" cried the plains people as they stormed through the heavily barricaded perimeter of the encampment. It was nightfall and the air had been abuzz with the excitement of this planned attack for many hours before this moment. Willow hunkered down, her slight body felt heavy against the wooden barrel at her back and her front was crushed up against the cool metal of the 5-7-80, a cannon that she had seen in action only two times before and each time had frightened her beyond belief.

This was supposed to be a small attack so she felt safe hidden against the monstrous weapon. She was certain no one would see her there, or even come looking for her, everyone was too caught up in what they were doing. Willow hated these attacks, she hated watching people she knew die, she hated how driven her people were to impose their own will against others. Willow held her breath against the cries for subservience and with it's disappearance the white fog marking her life's breath in the frigid air also ceased.

She wanted to call out, when she saw the knives appear, she wanted to call out to her parents as they held their stance against the approaching people "Liberation! Liberation!" came powerful cries in response. All around her, the bloody battle began. Willow closed her eyes...shutting out all but for the cries echoing in the air around her.

Continue to The Art of Burning Bridges Chapter Six

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