Diana stumbled along the way, her feet bare since she had to kick off her heavy boots when they got out of the river. The water and mud weighted her legs so much that it was dragging her down. It was bad enough that the Bliss was in their systems, the dizzying effects and hallucinations clouding the path for their escape.
The cries of the woman behind her were upsetting and heart-wrenching, but they couldn’t stop. They needed to cross over into Holland Valley before the hounds got there… before Boomer found them. He was the Deputy’s Champion and was as deadly as a Judge.
“I can’t!!” The girl whined.
“Yes, you can, Faith.” She decided it was safe enough to come to a halt. “Say it with me…” Diana faced her companion and placed her hands upon her ice-cold face. She leaned in close, feeling them both shivering from the cold water as she pressed her forehead against hers.
“Yes… I can.” They recited together.
It was just like Brother John always said: Just say yes… except this time, instead of succumbing to the inevitable, the words were a mantra for them as they desperately clung to their survival. She hoped that the familiar gesture, one used by the Father was enough to bring Faith down from her panic. Diana lingered there as long as Faith needed to calm down, but when the barking in the distance drew closer, she pulled away. “We don’t have much time.”
The rays of flashlights and torches trailing behind them forced them to run again. Diana was certain her feet were cut up by the sharp rocks along the shore but suffering for a moment to get to safety was a better fate than what the county-folk would do to them if they were caught. It meant meeting a certain death… or even worse, the slow burn of unrelenting torture beneath their blades, bullets, and the like if ensnared by the wrong people…
Sheriff Whitehorse’s men, The Forsaken, and their wrath.
Diana pushed past the brush and spotted a dock not too far from their location. Faith stumbled behind her, yelping out as her own bare feet were cut, but Diana pulled her along. To their relief, a single boat was left on the docks at Silver Lake. There was still a way to sail before reaching Joseph’s compound and after the long run they made away from Marshal Burke’s den in the Henbane, it would be a lot easier than traversing the county on foot.
It wasn’t until Faith stepped aboard that Diana noticed something was off about its balance; it rocked unsteadily on the tranquil waters. She reached underneath and discovered a cluster of holes, possibly caused by bullets or spearheads. It caused water to seep in, so there was no way she would be able to climb in without taking on more.
“Diana…” Faith whimpered, her thin tremulous hand reaching to help her on board.
“No, it won’t hold. We need to split up, Faith. You take the boat and find Joseph.” Diana was already leading the boat and its passenger into the water, not caring that she would get soaked again. She tried not to let her fear show as she moved deeper into the black water. From what she could remember, there were only trout here and other small fish, nothing dangerous. No matter, it was her main priority to get Faith to safety, and far from this point.
Voices were echoing closer them, the search party adamant of finding their location. Splitting up seemed like her only option since they couldn’t risk getting spotted and taken together. The boat was quiet enough and the mist of the night hung low to obscure her from sight, so Diana knew this was the best course.
“No… No, I can’t face him, not like this, he’ll—”
“Faith!” Diana barked to keep Faith from derailing again. “You’ll be fine, I promise you. Stay the path… don’t lose hope. Joseph will understand.”
Her words were hollow, but necessary. Diana honestly didn’t know how Joseph would react to seeing Faith again, after her failure, after her capture, that caused her to lose her way. But in the County now run by the Sheriff… Joseph was their only known ally nearby.
The fragile blond Herald sobbed, her tears like falling stars shimmering on her nearly translucent skin under the moonlight. She hugged her arms around herself to keep warm, as her drenched white lace dress clung tight to her weary body.
“Over there!” Someone had spotted them, igniting an urgency to push on. Distance was key. Diana could still swim beneath the surface and make it to the next patch of fog to lay low. Faith would soon vanish and take her out of their crosshairs.
“Persist, Faith! Remember… Yes, you can!” Diana kicked off of the boat, using what little momentum she had while holding the pillar of the edge of the dock.
The look in Faith’s eyes was one she wouldn’t soon forget, the strain on her heart imminent as the Siren of the Bliss drifted away on the broken craft.
Once she was at a safe distance, Diana dove into the black waters. She hoped to find the junction of the Moccasin River without being discovered. She felt the comfort of the warm water, still laced with Bliss. Her legs were numb, compressed by the tightness of her jeans as she was fully submerged. A tingling sensation fluttered all the way to her toes, as the Bliss seeped into her open cuts and burns.
The farther she swam, the current picked up pace. It was unforgiving, but she kept on until she washed up somewhere far from the danger that followed them into the night.