Sìneag ran and ran until it felt as if her legs would give out and her lungs would burst. She stumbled back into the village of Dale, panting and breathless and tears pouring down her cheeks. No one had to ask her what had happened; there could only be one reason why someone would appear so distraught in the village these days: the dragon had come.
She stumbled into her parents' home. "Helena's been taken," she said.
A number of possible reactions had run through her head: her parents' fury, dismay, confusion, despair, anguish, an intermixing of any of these. But what she did not expect was what happened – complete and utter apathy. They glanced up momentarily and returned to what they were doing, her mother darning a sock, her father cleaning his boots.
"Did you hear me?" Sìneag cried, her voice cracking. "The worm took her. She's gone."
"We heard you," her mother muttered and Sìneag realized what had happened. Her parents had changed, just as Damhàn had. They had lost so much of their lives already that they could not even bear to accept or care that their own daughter was gone.
Sìneag stepped backwards; slowly at first, then rapidly, until she had thrown herself back outside into the cobbled streets. She was struck by a sudden nausea and collapsed to the ground, becoming violently ill. It passed but she didn't dare to move. The world seemed to be spinning and falling apart around her and all she longed for was her eldest sister's arms around her, telling her everything would be alright. But she was gone.
Tossing her blonde hair to the side, Sìneag laid her head on the stones, enjoying the pressure of their coldness against her throbbing temples. What was she going to do without Helena? She didn't want to stay in this town, waiting to die. She couldn't fight back. The only option was to leave, to leave the place where she'd been born and the only home she'd known for her short but turbulent ten years of life.
Over dinner, after her tears had abated for the time being and her sickness had faded, she brought up the issue to her parents.
"We have to leave Dale," she said bluntly, trying to make her thin voice sound stronger than it usually was. "We can't stay here; there's no point. No one is going to slay the dragon and if we don't leave, we'll just be eaten. We might as well go."
No one said anything. Tammara, the youngest that was only seven began to silently cry.
"You must listen to me," Sìneag urged. "This is all senseless. We –"
Before she could say another word, Damhàn burst in. "I am so sorry for your lost," he said grandly. "I tried to save her, I tried, but –"
A fury overtook Sìneag and a rage and power she had never felt before threw itself into her tiny frame. "You did no such thing!" she bellowed. "You fled like the lowly coward you are. You let my sister die, you bastard!"
"Sìneag!" her mother snapped in dismay. "Watch your tongue! You forget yourself."
"No, mother," Sìneag choked, "you've forgotten yourself. You all have." She leapt up from the table and fled to her room, throwing herself onto the straw mattress she shared with Tammara and the next eldest, Moriah. In a matter of hours, her entire life had fallen apart and she was left with the broken pieces and no knowledge of how to piece it back together.
She had to leave; this was resolved in her mind. But she did not want to leave her family. They were those she loved and cared about anymore in the world and they were the only thing she had left now. How could she just abandon them?
The door opened to her room sometime later and she felt a pair of eyes watching her. Glancing up, she saw Tammara's brown, doe-like gaze studying her.
"When you leave, I'm coming with you," she said softly.
"How do you know I'm leaving?"
"Because it's the only thing to do. I don't know what's happened to mother and father, but we have to go. Without Helena to hunt, we'd die anyway. But please, when you go, take me with you."
"Of course. Absolutely. The others…"
"The others won't come. They'll stay with mother and father. But I want to be with you."
Sìneag sat up and scooped her into her arms. "Of course. Of course I'll take you. I'd loathe leaving you behind. I just don't know when…"
"Tonight," Tammara said simply. Sìneag gave her a confused look. "Damhàn told us he's planning an attack against the dragon. Not so much because he lost Helena, but because he feels he must do something to make a great show. I think he wants to die now and he simply wants to go out with a bang."
It was terrifying to hear her younger sister talk like this, but Sìneag knew it to be true. "And you want to leave before he starts a war with the dragon."
Sìneag swallowed deeply. "Alright. We'll leave tonight, just after dark. Slowly get your things together and we'll slip out while the others are in the main room before bed. Where we'll go… I don't know. But anywhere is better than here."
So I thought I'd write another chapter to this, following Helena's sister in the aftermath of her death. More to come, it seems. Sineag has her own tale to tell :)