She'd been right to feel apprehensive about stupid Aborium.
Kella looked down at her hands, tears dripping silently down her cheeks. They had barely been in the city a day when they'd been captured by those Ludawful priests. She had been in charge of them when Elspeth had gone on ahead—Jik was a child, and Pavo's condition had only gotten worse. But Kella hadn't been able to stop the Herder priests from capturing them. Hadn't been able to stop them take Jik away. Hadn't been able to stop them from questioning Pavo.
The boy was lying across from her, breathing harshly. She'd done her best to alleviate the pain, but knew it was only a temporary solution. Pavo was dying, whether the Herder intervened or not. But Kella couldn't stand seeing him in so much pain. It was wrong. It was just—wrong.
"They're horrible," she sobbed quietly. "They're horrible. I hope their stupid Lud strikes them down where they stand!"
Pavo laughed, wheezing. "This expedition has certainly made you outspoken, Kella," he said fondly, staring at the ceiling. "Perhaps it is a good thing."
Kella started shaking at this, shivering, the tears freefalling. "I'm so sorry, Pavo," she whispered. "I'm so, so sorry. I shouldn't have—I should've—"
Pavo had offered to go in her place for the questioning, had said he knew more than she did. Kella had watched the priests take him away, desperately wanting to scream out to them that she'd tell them all they needed to know if only they didn't hurt him. But she knew that was foolish. Pavo was already suffering from the rotting sickness, and she couldn't betray Obernewtyn for someone that was going to die regardless. It was coercer-type thinking, but at least it made sense to her.
Kella sighed, hugging herself. What would Domick say in this situation? He's content to die—he's helping you because he knows you still have a chance.
She mused that, when she first started out on the expedition, she'd view that as coldness—even that he didn't care at all. But Domick was a strange one. He was rather talented at keeping his feelings locked away, in places where they were hard to reach, even for him. But she was sure he cared.
Concentrate on escape, he'd say. If you have to, leave Pavo behind. He'll understand.
And Pavo would. Kella couldn't bring herself to leave him, though. If Pavo were to die here, then he would at least die without pain. He would at least die with a friend to hold his hand. Kella prayed that Elspeth would find them before this happened, somehow. She hoped the girl was all right. And if Elspeth didn't find them, then surely Domick would come… soon? If he heard no word from them, there was no way he wouldn't come looking. But would he come in time, before the Herder sold them to slavers? Kella didn't know where Elspeth had heard such rumours from, but she was sure they were true. She shivered. Becoming a slave had to be worse than being sent to a Councilfarm. It had to be.
She wished she were brave like Elspeth, courageous like Domick. Maybe then Kella would find the strength to try to escape herself. She wished she was not weak and afraid and fearful of violence. She wished she was smarter, more cunning. She was going to let Pavo down, just because she was not as strong as Elspeth. But—Kella had promised herself she would fight for Obernewtyn. That was something, wasn't it? Some kind of strength? She wasn't sure. All she knew now was that she was afraid for Pavo, for herself.
"Kella," Pavo rasped. "Don't cry. It'll be… fine."
"How can you say that?" Kella shook her head. "You don't know that! What if they—decide to kill us? Or sell us off to…? What if they want to interrogate you more?"
"Ah," Pavo sighed. Kella started trying to draw more of his pain into herself, but he waved her off after a few moments. "…if only you were a coercer. You could put a block on my mind."
She was flabbergasted. "I wouldn't!"
Pavo smiled wanly. "If only I'd thought to ask Domick."
Kella fell silent at that, wiping the tears away from her eyes. Domick. Hadn't she thought before that Domick would sacrifice Pavo to save her? Maybe that was presumptuous, but it seemed like Pavo believed so, too. It would be for the best, in the long run, his voice sounded in her head. As would a block on the poor man's mind. At least then he would not be guilty when he died, for he wouldn't be forced to betray us.
Maybe you're right, Kella thought.
How silly was she, talking to herself? She wished she could farseek—if only she were able to talk to Domick in person! Although that was ridiculous. Not even Elspeth could farseek that far. But he'd reassure her in ways that Elspeth could not. She thought back to the kiss he'd left on her cheek, to the half-embrace he'd given her before he'd left the room. She remembered how cool he'd been with her when they separated properly, but his eyes had been softer than usual. She remembered thinking she was going to die on the raft and knowing that she'd find it easier to accept if she only clung to his hand.
Her heart had started to beat rapidly. What were her feelings for him, exactly? Friendship? Admiration? Respect? Something—more? Kella couldn't bring herself to debate the other, unknown feeling. Love. That was something she'd thought she'd never think about in relation to herself, for she was a Misfit and Misfits were doomed to be scorned. She was also a healer and tried to put other matters in front of her own personal ones. Now, she looked at Pavo and realised there must be more to living than worrying about everyone else's wellbeing. There had to be a little more to live for than the fight for freedom. Perhaps being a little selfish at times gave you strength to face that fight.
Kella was thrilled by the thought, and afraid. How could she be sure that he returned her feelings? She knew he was concerned for her, worried for her, and she'd felt that new, tense emotion from him when they'd parted. But what if it was not the same kind of feeling that had awakened in her? She shook her head. She couldn't afford to think about such things, not in this place. For now, she was not even sure she'd live to see him again, let alone confess any type of feeling she felt for him.
"Do you hear something?" Pavo asked suddenly, staring at the door. There were footsteps outside.
Kella bit her lip so hard that it began to bleed. "They—they must want to question you more…" she said quietly, horrified at the prospect. Pavo squeezed her hand reassuringly. She was struck by the kind gesture—but shouldn't she be doing that for him? She wanted to sob.
But as the door opened, it instead revealed Elspeth standing there. Kella's face morphed from fear to complete shock.
"There's no time to talk," Elspeth said. "We have to hurry."