Smoke. She remembered what happened.

The sweet smell was gone as was the Nan. She sat up quickly and felt the warmth of the fire hit her face. The night had passed and it was bright out. Well, as bright as the trees would allow. She stood on her shaky feet. Her ankle that had throbbed the night before was now a mild tingle. She looked around once more for any sign of the old woman. Finding nothing new from the night before, she started out of the tent.

Outside she found a flurry of activity. Bodies moving back and forth, women cooking, men talking to each other. No children seemed to be around. The view seemed wrong without them. How could there be so many here but no children?

A bright round face with straw colored hair turned away from the others and walked to her. The woman stood a head taller then her and was pale. She smiled and Vennessa could see that there was nothing to fear from her. Vennessa didn’t trust everything going on around her but she was ready to face any problem at this point.

“You must be our injured deer.” The girl looked to be a bit older but not by much. “My name is Arie, I was told by Mother to care for you.”

“Mother?” Vennessa had never heard of this word. Arie looked at her with almost a sad look.

“Yes, Mother. She is the one who brought you here with Adam. They heard the alarm and went in search for anyone who might have escaped. We have been waiting for someone to try to get out! We knew they keep others there like ourselves but anyone who tried to escape ended up being captured or died before we could get to them.” This bright flower was quite a talker.

Vennessa noted that the girl was holding a cup. “OH, yes this is for you! Sorry! I am meant to give you anything you may need. I know you eat differently from us, but I have little experience with what to feed you.” Meant as a joke? Yes, this girl was trying to relax Vennessa. She handed over the cup. Vennessa sniffed the cup, it was bitter but warm. “This is tea, Mother mixes special herbs that allow for us to be strong, fast and ready for birth.”

“… Birth?”

“Yes!” She said cheerfully.”It is our job to grow strong and have children with one we are chosen for,” The girl turned to look at the group of males eyeing them. “And it looks like you have caught the eye of more than one man.” She giggled.

“But where are your children?” The young girl looked around slightly confused. Vennessa wasn’t sure she liked being here with all these grown children. One thing she knew was that children coveted anything new to their nest, and fights happened. Now that they are big enough to cause harm it would be deadly if they fought.

“I need water, a stream maybe?” Vennessa hoped her charm would work on this daft girl. She had luck on her side as the girl smiled even brighter and started to walk away from the crowd that was forming.

“Yes! I can take you there it isn’t far. You seem to walk fine on your own so lets head down!” The girl continued in front to lead the way. Winding in and out of trees. Then went a good distance from the camp.

Maybe I can run when she turns around to let me clean. Vennessa looked up to start planing her route when she saw the bright flower stripping out of her coverings. “Wha-what are you doing?!” Vennessa quickly looked away from her, feeling the heat flash to her face.

“I am getting ready to get clean with you, silly! Do your sisters not help you clean?” The girl looked as though she really didn’t understand. Just like a child with innocence.

“In the nest if you uncover the Keepers get ideas of things they might act out on you. So no, they do not help me clean.” Her tone came out harsher then she meant but it seemed to have gotten the reaction she wanted. The girl looked sad and helpless.

“I understand. Would you like me to teach you how we clean or would you rather be alone for a moment?” The girl was still standing there naked, unafraid.

She must have never felt the chill of a Feeder’s eyes scanning over you for a meal, or the Keepers showing you how you can’t fight them when they push you around with their confusing words. This girl who has more curves and softness to her then Vennessa had ever seen on another. No one she could recall had the wide hips or supple top that this girl held proudly now, and her skin is so pale, almost glowing in how bright it is. The other girls seemed to mimic her pale skin and the men looked like the dark cream she was used to seeing.

Vennessa shook herself out of her own head. “Please replace your rags, I need only a while.” The girl gave a curt nod and pulled on her dress again. Moving out of the way of the stream Vennessa could see that it was not just a stream but a full river. The full width of it being more then she could forge on her own. The shallow and slow moving bank allowed for her to clean and see without much risk.

The girl headed back up the path and moved behind some brush. “I will wait up here. If you need my assistance please just yell.” The girl was friendly. She wanted to help but didn’t know how. However, this could lead to more trouble then it was worth.

Vennessa walked down to the edge of the water. It was cold, but felt nice. She squatted down to take a deeper look. Her reflection looked back, dirty, scratched but still herself. Now to figure out how to get away from here to look for the pod.


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