We made our way in through the kitchen door—quietly in case there was anyone other than my family somewhere else in the house. We didn’t see anyone but Nathaniel washing dishes at the basin. When he saw us, he screamed, dropped a plate into the soapy water with a splash, and ran forward to pull us both into a lopsided hug.
“Stop that,” he muttered, squeezing me a little too tightly around the shoulders, “If I have to wonder one more time if you are alive or dead I swear I will kill you myself—simple as that.”
Nathaniel’s scream brought Angela, my father, Maria and Rose all running into the room. “What’s going on?” Angela asked us, looking sterner than I’d thought I’d ever seen her. “We find you two gone, and then we hear what they are saying about you in town? What are we to expect?”
“What are they saying about us in town?” Jack asked as Nathaniel finally released us from the hug, keeping a careful arm around me still as if I might vanish if he lets me go.
“There are rumors that you killed the Soothsayer, River, and that Jack is a member of the terrorist group who seduced you into it. The Temple isn’t giving any official statement on it, but with the Soothsayer missing and some strange circumstances around you two, I can see why people would be ready to believe it.” My father said with the even voice of a man reading from a newspaper.
“Daddy?” I said, more scared by his lack of emotion than of anything else he’d said. “Daddy—you don’t believe them, right? You know I didn’t kill the soothsayer, right?”
He took a sigh, and I watched as his shoulders relaxed slightly. “Now that you say you didn’t, I know you didn’t.” He came forward and pulled me into a hug, kissing me softly on the top of the head. “But people aren’t going to be so easy to convince. We’re in trouble here—and we need to make a plan. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t just naturally going to end well for us.”
Maria, who was still standing at the doorway between the kitchen and the living room suddenly yelled, “Someone’s coming up the walk!”
Nathaniel hurried over passed Maria, looking carefully out the front curtain. “Brothers. I can’t be sure, but I think one might be Brother David.”
“We can trust David,” I said quickly, “He may act like we can’t but we can, okay?”
“Okay. But still. You two should probably—“my father made a vague gesture with his hand, visibly trying to stay calm.
“Hide. Yeah. C’mon.” I pulled Jack by the arm behind me. There was a cupboard in the hall perfectly matched to the wall. Gods only know what my great-great-great grandfather intended when he first built the house—but my father used it to really piss us kids off during games of hide and seek when we were small. If they didn’t know it was there, there was no way anyone would be able to find it.
Of course, David knew it was there, but once again, I was literally trusting him with my life. Jack and I locked ourselves in, and we were immediately plunged into pitch black darkness.