Barrett couldn’t even muster up the strength to turn around. “I’m… not… an idiot.” He said, straining to speak as he breathed heavily- each breath stretching the wounds on his stomach. “August… was going to kill me… at some point. So I… *phew* so I killed him.”
The young woman walked around to in front of him. “Oh, that? I guess that’s a problem, yeah. What I meant was…” She poked Barrett’s forehead, one of the few places he wasn’t injured, “Why-” she poked again to emphasize each word, “Are- you- out- of- bed! You literally almost just died a day and a half ago. Now you’re bleeding again!”
“It’s fine, I got the equivalent of like… two weeks of healing.”
“You should be on bedrest for a month!” She threw her arms up in the air, then shook her head, shaking her short hair side to side. “Though it’s too late for that now. Thanks for helping me, but you have to get out of here.” She looked over at the bodies and then pulled out a piece of paper- real paper- and a pen. The pen was the sort that magically refilled on ink, instead of having to deal with inkwells. Barrett had always wanted one, but they were rather expensive. She quickly scribbled some words down. “Take this note to Laura. She works in the supplies section, Long curly hair, can’t miss her. Take whatever she gets you and get out of camp before someone notices this. Then give this one to the guards so you can leave.”
Barrett took the notes, “What about you?”
“Nobody will touch me.” She looked down at August, “Nobody not-stupid will touch me, because Master Stieber would make them regret it, if I don’t first.”
Barrett frowned in concentration, though it barely shifted his bandages. “Master Stieber… you’re Shanta?” Barrett stuck out his hand, “I’m Barrett.”
Shanta raised an eyebrow, “Master Hykel’s student? No wonder you can stand. Or really, that you aren’t very dead.” She shook his hand, “How did you get here? I thought you were exempt from the draft… Oh, you should get going, fast.”
“Yeah. There was some weird stuff with exemptions… and that guy. I uh… hope to see you later, with me not dead… but I might get expelled or killed before that.”
Carrying a bundle of supplies didn’t make walking any easier, but munching on an apple did. Barrett was glad for the note to Laura, as he got a bundle put together in less than a minute… and the second note got him out of the east entrance. It wouldn’t have been long before people were out chasing him, but by that point Barrett was already heading south.
Barrett almost threw aside the core… before realizing it was best not to leave any trails, even if they weren’t prepared to track him. Instead, he ate it. He was still hungry anyway. He trudged along, step by step. It was like he was carrying a person on his back. Several people, actually. It wasn’t the pack that did that- it was fairly light- but rather just the effort of standing. Some blood was soaking through his bandages, and he was lightheaded. He drank from one of the flasks. Was it a beer of some kind? That was good, it had liquid and might numb the pain a bit.
He kept eating, slowly, but it kept him awake and focused- as well as providing much needed energy. At any point, he could fall over from exhaustion, and he knew he would sleep well even in a pile on the forest floor. Until someone found him and killed him.
Barrett hoped they didn’t have any tracking hounds at the camp. He couldn’t exactly think of reasons why they would, unless desertions were high. Barrett supposed he was now both a deserter and a fugitive for murder. He would have to avoid cities, as his face would be plastered all over. Actually… if he removed his bandages maybe nobody would recognize him. Then again, he had no idea how long it would take for fast riders to get to Verton and get an accurate description of him… some people there had seen his face.
All the worrying made Barrett more tired, so he focused on putting one foot in front of the other. His brain was just about ready to give up… but his body was holding out. His legs were, anyway, if not the wounds. They continued to ache, throbbing as each pulse of blood went past them. He stepped, left, right, left, right… until the exhaustion of trying to recover from wounds and generate berserk energy caught up with him all at once, and he collapsed onto the forest floor.
Barrett woke up because a stick poked him in the eye. It was actually the cheekbone just below his eye, but it was about the same. It took him a few groggy moments to remember where he was, as he smelled the trees and felt the leaves and dirt. Then his mind focused.
He looked around. How long had he been out? The sky was dark, but it seemed to be brightening. It was before dawn, which mean he’d been sleeping ten or more hours. It hadn’t been evening when he last remembered. It still hurt to sit up, but the equivalent of a few days of rest had helped some. He was ravenous again, and scarfed down about half of the food in his pack. That was probably a week’s worth of food for normal people, but he had been eating large amounts ever since starting training with Master Hykel. That was especially true when recovering from injuries.
He knew he would run out of food soon, but he wasn’t too worried. He could hunt something if he needed to, and his immediate energy needs were taken care of. As for how he would hunt… Barrett realized he didn’t have a weapon except a knife that had been put into his pack. Well, if he got a rock he could just throw it at something… or if he could get close enough he could just strangle whatever animal he found.
The real problem would be his injuries. They were recovering some, but all the activity wasn’t helping. He was worried they might not heal right. If that was the case, he would have to take some pills. He didn’t have any with him. Even if he’d had them with him before, he only had his pants and bandages, and his pants had some holes. He also didn’t have shoes… but that wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but his feet could handle walking on the bare ground or even stepping on rocks without issues. He could get the pills at the sect… he hadn’t carried them around with him all the time, and he hadn’t been planning to travel, so they were still in his room.
Barrett finally arrived at the sect. The hardest part had been climbing the mountain- which was actually just walking. After all, he took the actual path instead of the cliff. Master Hykel didn’t seem to be back yet. Barrett wasn’t actually sure if he should stay. People would likely come looking for him and master Hykel might kick him out for what he did… but he didn’t have anywhere else to go. For the moment… he needed rest. This time, he actually made it to his room before collapsing onto the sleeping mat instead of on the forest floor like the past several days.