I think Elswick almost did the same, he’d been pacing around the kitchen while he tried to explain ourselves, wringing his hands together in nervousness. He looked so relieved I almost went to catch him. I don’t think Warren would ever understand how grateful we were.

“You’re with them?” I asked, just to make sure.

He nodded and the queasiness went away.

“Then why the hell did you make us squirm,” I scolded, half-heartedly.

“I’m allowed a bit of fun every now and then,” he smiled, nice to see. As much as he didn’t talk he lacked facial expressions too. “I never expected this of you, Asha.”

A fresh wave of shame rocked over me, was I really so shallow that people would look at me and never see someone willing to help others. Instead they saw someone intolerant and hateful and thoughtless.

“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think,” I mumbled.

“Maybe,” he agreed, “but I think you don’t either.”

Elswick watched the exchange with curiosity and a hint of confusion, an eyebrow slowly creeping up hi s forehead. Didn’t say anything though, he took his cup of water and drank gratefully from it. Water sounded good right about now. It was an added bonus that when I reached for it, whatever kept Warren looking at me seemed to break and he, too, took a seat.

“So, if you’re part of it why are we still here?” Elswick asked.

“Everyone’s busy,” was the only reply. “You can tell me what you know.”

“If it’s all the same, I’d rather not. How can I be sure you’ll pass it along to the right people. Maybe you’re loyal to the Regent and posing as a supporter of Them.”

“Fair enough.”

Warren’s ever dwindling stream of words finally came to an end and we lapsed into silence, during which I kept on reflecting over the past week. I was one to do that, walking back over my memories rather than pay attention to what’s around me and, I’ll tell you what, I’m not sure it’s ever done me any good.

My eyes started drooping and after a few minutes I found myself jolting awake suddenly as my tipped forward. The cold water was good for waking me up for about a minute and then it happened again.

“Maybe you should get some sleep,” Warren said, he was pointing up the stairs.

“Nah, I’m fine.”

“You don’t need to worry about leaving him alone with me. We’ve worked together for years, Asha, surely you know me,” he sounded genuinely concerned.

It’s not that,” I said in a rush, “I just don’t wanna be alone right now.”

“So, you’re Wick, eh?” It seemed like a pointless question from someone who didn’t like to say pointless things. Maybe he was trying to keep me awake.

“You know who I am?”

“Course I do. You’re Lys’ brother.”

“Lys!” He almost shouted it, he looked as shocked as he sounded. “You know her?”

“Know of her. She’s pretty vocal over the border, from what I hear she’s absolutely tearing her hair out trying to find you.”

“What do you mean over the border?”

Even I thought that was pretty obvious. There was only one border in Solo; the mountains. Although, contact between this country and the next was impossible. Speaking to anyone outside of Solo, unless you were an official, was forbidden. There were three pathways through the mountains and all of them were heavily guarded by Solo outposts. Unless you were meant to be there, no one was getting through.

“Well, she’s in Ewel.”

“How can she be in Ewel? We came to Solo on the same exhibition. No one’s ever been able to get out.

“I dunno,” the baker shrugged, “maybe no one’s ever made it out since. But we’ve found th epath she used to get out. There’ve been a hell of a lot of avalanches or something, or maybe the Regent ordered the path destroyed when she escaped, because it’s blocked. No one’s been getting in and out of there for decades.”

“Hang on a sec,” I jumped in, “what d’you mean decades?” I was soundly ignored.

“She made it out? She’s alive?”

“Yeah. Well, I’m pretty sure it’s her. You don’t hear the name Lys often. She’s the ambassador between the Hebens and the Continent.”

“Wow,” now he really was shocked, “my little sister…”

“In fact, you have exceptional timing. We’ve spent some time picking our way through the debris in the mountain, at least enough to get through. We’re almost there, you should be able to get home soon.”

Well, Warren was just full of surprises wasn’t he.

“First of all,” I said, standing and scooting my chair backwards so it made that horribly grating noise so they couldn’t ignore me, “what do you mean decades? And secondly, how the hell can you keep so quiet when you know so much.”

“Better to not talk than risk slipping up,” he laughed. I noticed that he didn’t answer my first question so I swivelled to Elswick.

“You know what I am, Asha, you don’t need to be so shocked by it,” his said distantly, mind still reeling from the news about his sister. “They call us long-lifes for a reason.”

“And how long is long?”

“Well, for me, I’ve been in Solo for two hundred years,” my mouth almost, almost fell open, “and I came here when I was ninety.”

“Hang on a sec. Three hundred, no, almost three hundred years old?” He nodded and I sat back down. “But, two hundred years ago. You’re people were barely even allowed into Solo at that time.”

“I was one of the first. Actually, I think I’m the only one left.”

“So you’re a part of history?”

“Ouch. What an effective way to make someone feel old.”

“You are.”

“Not for my people I’m not. I’m still quite young, not even middle-aged.”

“And this pass that you’re uncovering,” I directed my conversation to Warren, completely incapable of wrapping my head round, “no one’ used it for two centuries?”

“Yep. It wasn’t the easiest of paths to navigate in the first place, all this extra debris is going to make it extremely treacherous.”

“I don’t care,” Elswick interrupted, “I’m going down it.”

“You’re not part of the rebellion.”

“I founded it, or at least helped too, so I damn well am.”

Amongst all these revelations, which completely and utterly pounded my poor brain left and right, there was something tugging at my memory. Whatever it was wanted to stay unremembered because it slipped away as I tried to reach for it. Because of this I didn’t twig straight away what Elswick had said, when I finally registered it I decided the surprise wasn’t worth it. He’d done so much, so why not this as well?

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