2.12

Oh, lovely, Ember complained. And now we’ve got to go. This is a lovely place, isn’t it?

Nilien glanced at Benoir. Was this some sort of trick — bring her down here, then convince her to flee? Maybe they just weren’t supposed to be here at all. The voices were coming closer, and they seemed to be coming from near the doorway they’d entered by. Maybe if she just hid for a while, they’d pass, and she could worry about getting her books back after that.

There was a dense flowering bush right off the edge of the moth clearing. If she moved just right, she could be hidden from sight between that and another thick, prickly plant. Better yet, they had red foliage, so Ember’s fur might not stick out like a sore thumb, and it looked as if that area was still within the “moonlight” rather than the “sunlight.”

She started to sidle that way, grabbing up Ember as she did so. Benoir looked at her, looked at the path, and looked back at her, biting his lip, forehead furrowed.

“Come on,” he hissed again, and grabbed her arm, tugging her towards him. Nilien looked at her nice hiding place ruefully and let him tug her with him.

It sounded like they were headed straight for the voices, but Benoir kept pulling her back the way they had come and any argument would mean they were heard. Ember was grumbling in her mind, but it was all to do with the way it was being held and the indignity of the whole situation.

“It’s right around here,” came the voice, sounding as if it were right around the corner. Nilien skidded to a halt.

Benoir tugged on her arm. “Come on,” he mouthed. “Hurry!” His gestures made his meaning clear where the mouthed words might not have.

Nilien stared at him. Had he gone mad?

“If you harvest them at this time of year,” the voice continued, “you’ll find their efficacy limited, but for this situation, I believe that’s what you need.”

Benoir mouthed something else, but she couldn’t quite understand it. Something about his?

“Mine”? “Mine-mine”?

He had definitely gone mad. But she had no idea how to get out of here except forward, and he was holding quite firmly onto her arm. Nilien moved forward again, letting him pull her around the corner.

They stopped by a plant she’d hardly noticed the first time by, something with large, wide leaves and a cone-shaped flower. Benoir pointed at it mutely.

“Do you think it’s safe?” the flower asked. The voice was clearly coming from the cone of the flower, with no person in sight.

“Mimic,” Benoir whispered. “It’s a mimic plant.”

“Did you hear something?” asked the flower. Benoir jumped and moved again, pulling Nilien towards the entrance they’d come in.

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