In the Woods – continued…

Picking up directly after yesterday’s part…

**

Nora heaved a sigh and glanced at Timo.  Then, she nodded and opened her own box.  “The same as yours,” she said, waving at the contents.  Inside, Darius could see that there was a pocket watch, a little souvenir gnome and a pink fluffy chick.  Cursing, Nora slammed the lid back down on the box.  She shook her head.  “I’m not a coward,” she said, glaring at Darius and Sofia, ask if asking them to counter her words.

“Neither of us said you were,” Sofia said, holding up the little chick she had found in her own box.  “Whomever brought us here said that.”

“How do we know that you aren’t behind this whole thing?” Timo asked.

When Sofia flushed, her brows furrowing, Darius held up a hand.  “It’s a reasonable question,” he said, his voice soft.  She shot him a glare and he shrugged.  “We woke before them.  You woke before me.  It’s not unreasonable to think you or even both of us knows more than we’ve said.”

Heaving a sigh, Sofia said, “Fair enough.”  She shook her head and asked, “How could we prove that we weren’t in on this whole thing, then?”

Darius shrugged and looked at Timo.  “We’re in the same position as you: outside in the forest, God only knows where, and dressed in nothing more than what we wore to bed,” he said.  He waved at his bare feet and then at Sofia’s very thin nightgown.  “Does it make sense for us to place ourselves in this predicament dressed like this?”

“If I were planning something like this,” Nora murmured, “I’d have claimed to have fallen asleep in my clothes or, at least, worn a warmer nightgown.”  She glanced at Timo and nodded.  “I believe them.”

“All right,” Timo said, clearly trusting Nora’s judgment.  He grimaced and then nodded at Sofia.  “My apologies for offending you.”

“Fine,” Sofia breathed.  She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and heaved a sigh.  Then, she smirked when Timo shrugged out of the bathrobe he had on over his pajamas and held it out to her.  “You always wear a bathrobe to bed?” she said, as she pulled it on.

“Only when I fall asleep on my couch,” Timo said, shrugging.  He looked down at his feet and smirked.  “I’m the only one of us who has slippers.”

“Thankfully,” Nora said, “it’s not terribly cold here.”  She glanced around and then shook her head.  “Which is a bit odd, since it’s a pine forest.  That indicates we’re either to the north or higher in elevation.”

“Not necessarily,” Darius said.  When they both frowned at him, he shrugged.  “Pines don’t generally grow south of the equator, but they aren’t confined to cold environments or high altitudes.”

“Pine expert?” Sofia asked, arching her brows.

Darius shrugged.  “I just like trees,” he said, his voice soft.  “I read about them a lot as a result.”  He heaved a sigh and set the lid back onto his own box.  Then, he settled down on a handy boulder.  “About six years ago, Singers located Havensburg.  Out of hundreds of people in that village, only twenty-seven people survived.”

Sofia grimaced.  “Two years ago, North Pass Haven was attacked,” she said.  “My family… the eight of us… were the only ones that survived.  There was only a few hundred in the community, but…” she trailed off.

Nora released a shaky breath and nodded.  “It was the same where we were from,” she said, her voice faint.  “My family and Timo’s family – fourteen people in all – were the only ones that escaped the village.”

“We were heading to the Community Center for a gathering when it happened,” Timo murmured.  “I… just couldn’t get motivated and I made my family late.”  He gave a weak laugh and shook his head.  “My elder brother was so angry… until…” he trailed off and looked over at Nora.

Nodding, she said, “I sensed trouble and pitched an all-mighty temper tantrum.  We didn’t arrive until they were gone.”

“This was long ago, then,” Darius said, looking from one to the other.

Timo nodded.  “About thirty years or so,” he said, his voice soft.  “As is typical, that Haven was abandoned and we resettled elsewhere.”

“Where?” Darius said, frowning.  “My family moved to Haven-Shepherdtown, in West Virginia.  We had family there, so… it made sense.”

“North Haven,” Nora said, her voice soft.  “Fair County, Maine.”

When they turned to Sofia, she grimaced.  “Havensport, Georgia,” she said.  She shook her head.  “How could someone find four hammers from three different communities and just… in a single night?”

“I’d say that no one person could,” Timo said, shaking his head.  “It seems to me that would be too much work for just one person.”

“A group, then,” Darius said, nodding in agreement.  His brows furrowed and then he looked at the boxes.  “I do wonder… I know that there were three other Hammers that survived the massacre at Havensburg, but they aren’t here.”

“Why are you?” Nora said.  When Darius nodded.  She grimaced.  “Lots of questions, but no answers.  Who kidnapped us?  Why did they bring us here?  Why were we targeted and not others in our same circumstance?”

“How are we going to get home when we don’t even know where we are?” Sofia murmured.

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