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I took the moment to glance back, and could see our pursuers crossing the glen. I breathed deeply, pondering the fight that lay ahead, if we did not escape them. My confidence was weak, after my poor performance in the temple. "Stay low," Amina admonished, as we came clear of the gate, and surged out onto the overgrown path. She didn't have to warn me. I could see that the branches had grown in over the path. My shield was awkward, as I pulled myself down against it. I swung it out to the side, but did not free it from its blanket. The pursuers could not be allowed to see it. If I had my way, we would be two entirely different people when we found ourselves among men again.

I gritted my teeth as a branch pulled at my shield. Its weight was already making my arm ache, and my shoulder had become simply unbearable. I lifted myself high enough that I could switch the shield to the other side, careful not to lose my knapsack in the shuffle. I was smacked in the face by a couple of smaller branches, but I luckily failed to be hit by anything too big during my operation. I put my arm through the straps on the shield, underneath the blanket, so that I would not lose it. When I was done, I leaned low again, pressing my cheek against Amina's back, and closing my eyes. I was starting to feel nauseated. How much blood had I lost?

Time blurred for a while. There were trees, and trees, and pain, and Amina screamed something at some point, but it was lost on my ears, which thudded hard with the sound of blood in my head. More time passed, and our motion seemed to stop. Amina was asking me something over, and over. I tried to answer, but I don't think anything I said was coherent. I remember a falling sensation. She was beneath me, trying to break my fall. She wasn't strong enough, and the two of us tumbled to the ground together, in a heap, with my knapsack.

It was nearing dusk when I came around again. I could feel a cool, wet rag on my forehead, and it seemed pleasant to me. The hard stones beneath me were not pleasant, however. "Amina?" I queried, craning my head to see if she was nearby. After a moment, I spotted her to my right, holding one of my gemstones up to the sky.

Amina furrowed her brow, as she noticed my attention, "I should kick you."

"Kick me? Why?"

"For fading out on me like that."

"I couldn't--Amina, I'm wounded."

"I know. I bandaged your shoulder," she said. "I was scared, though. I might've needed your help fighting them. I didn't know if they'd turn away before we got here."

"Here? Are we in Vanders?"

"Yes. No one comes here. They're scared of the pox. If anyone came here, it would be to burn the place down."

"But you weren't afraid to come."

"There's no one left to catch it from. The town is empty."

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