The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Chapter 23: The Journey Home

Last time on The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa escaped from the Invierno camp, wandered aimlessly through the desert, and used a new ability to tumble into Humberto’s camp. Will Elisa and Humberto make it back to the hidden village? And how will the villagers react when they hear about Belén’s betrayal? Find out after the cut.

TRIGGER WARNING: An infected wound gets lanced, with graphic results! You’ve been warned.

Part 1: Stockholm Syndrome Finally Sets In
Elisa wakes up to find Humberto feeding her soup. This reminds her of when she was kidnapped, except she remembers the experience fondly. I don’t know, I’d still be pissed for being kidnapped, even if I did help my kidnappers form a guerrilla army and accompanied them on a botched recon mission. Whatever, Humberto apologizes for the whole kidnapping thing, which I guess makes everything cool? I wouldn’t be cool with just an apology, but I’m not Elisa.

Anyway, Elisa explains that Belén totally betrayed the party, and that they have to tell everyone at the hidden village about it. Humberto wonders why Belén betrayed the party, and Elisa tries to justify Belén’s presence at the camp by assuming that he was there to save her.

Elisa then finishes her soup, and discovers a little too late that Humberto drugged it with duerma leaf. Is this a sudden, inevitable betrayal? No. Remember, Elisa was badly injured from her fall into Humberto’s camp, and Humberto just wants her to recover quickly.

Part 2: Eww, Gross!
The next day, after Elisa recaps her escape from the Invierno camp, Humberto offers to drain Elisa’s now-infected wounds. It’s just as gross as it sounds:

He holds his knife blade in the flames for a moment, then lets it cool. He chatters to distract me while he slices me open, and I’m surprised at how little it hurts. I feel mostly pressure, like he’s cutting into a very close layer of clothing. But when he starts to squeeze, black spots flash and swirl just behind my eyelids. I sneak a glimpse, just once. The fluid oozing from my arm is viscous and greenish, tinged with blood. I turn my head away and grit my teeth as Humberto pinches down the length of my forearm. When he flushes it with icy water, tears spring to my eyes.

Humberto then recaps what happened to the rest of the party while Elisa was busy being captured. Jacián and Cosmé returned to the hidden village, and Humberto stayed behind to find Elisa.

Elisa insists on returning to the hidden village immediately, despite her injuries. She suggests that Humberto can scout out a good camping spot, then come back for her. Humberto thinks this is an excellent idea.

Part 3: Walk It Off!
Elisa and Humberto try the suggested traveling arrangement for a couple of days. On the second day, Humberto drugs Elisa’s food again so she can get a good night’s rest.

Part 4: A Warm Welcome
Eventually the party returns to the hidden village. Humberto tells the villagers that Elisa totally killed an animagus. Elisa argues that she doesn’t know if she actually killed an animagus because she didn’t see a body. (Remember, she only poisoned the Cat and set his tent on fire.) Cosmé doesn’t believe Elisa’s story and gets pissed at her. Elisa gets tired of all this BS, so she throws the Cat’s severed braid at Cosmé and runs off to take a bath.

Part 5: The Cost of War
After taking a bath, Elisa joins Alentín for dinner and a minor infodump:

  • A party of five Malficio boys tracked an Iniverno hunting party and picked them off until only five remained.
  • The Malficio now have an official slogan: “Each one kill one.”
  • A Malficio girl poisoned a river with duerma leaf upstream from an Invierno camp. The rest of her party killed the Inviernos in their sleep and looted their camp.

Now that all of that rather disturbing child soldier stuff is out of the way, Elisa shows Alentín the animagus’s amulet and reveals that it’s a Godstone. Alentín’s like “Oh, no way, that’s impossible!” And then, after Elisa hypothesizes that some Inviernos may be Chosen Ones, Alentín goes, “Seriously, no way, that’s really impossible! Inviernos can’t be Chosen Ones because they don’t follow the path of God!” Elisa then argues that she can probably use her Godstone to do magic. Alentín isn’t really cool with this, but at least he tells her to be careful.

Elisa finally reveals that Belén’s a traitor, and recaps her little adventure in the Invierno camp. Alentín reveals that Belén hasn’t returned to the village yet. If he does return, the villagers will totally believe Elisa’s story because they think she killed an animagus. And if Belén really is a traitor, Elisa has every reason to kill him. Elisa decides to let Belén live if that happens because he may have useful information for the Malficio. Alentín agrees to let the sentries hold Belén for questioning if he ever returns.

Part 6: In Which Stuff Happens
A week goes by, and stuff happens.

  • Other villages have copied the Malficio’s tactics for fighting the Inviernos.
  • More refugees arrive at the hidden village.
  • The villagers come to the aid of a neighboring town that was razed by the Inviernos.
  • Humberto reveals that Cosmé and Belén promised to get married after the war with Invierne.

Eventually, a messenger arrives with a letter for the leader of the Malficio. It’s from Conde Treviño, and he wants to form an alliance with the Malficio.

——————–

Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
It took the messenger three weeks to reach the hidden village! Why? Because nobody told him where the Malficio was headquartered. Everyone just told him to head towards the desert.

Food Porn!
All the foodstuffs mentioned in this chapter:

  • Spiced lamb shanks with buttered spinach

——————–

Next time: Elisa comes up with a ballsy plan. Belén makes his not-so-triumphant return.

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