Neither Raeza nor Avalyn said a word, but both were clearly worried about the same thing. Where had J.A. gone? Was she okay? Ordinarily, Raeza wouldn't trust or care about either of them, really, but they were all here in the same boat, on the same side, in the same cell, and Raeza respected J.A. She'd never have the strength to do something like that, to sacrifice herself for others, and she knew it
I guess it proves that I'm human, though, she thought to herself, I'm still pretty selfish. Time to fix that.
"Should I try to wash it off? There isn't really anything to do that with, unless I use some of the drinking water..." Avalyn trailed off as Raeza shook her head.
"J.A. wanted you to have it, Avalyn. She wants to help."
"But if she thinks we're not going to help her, she's wrong. I have a plan, okay?"
"Okay." Avalyn nodded and went back to sleep. She looked so fragile, and young, like she was actually in her twenties.
Raeza took a deep breath. J.A. had made so many sacrifices, now it was her turn. The first whisper didn't come out, so she took a deep breath and tried again. "Mom? I need your help."
Seth's voice was desperate. "No, I don't understand, J.A., why? You could've left at any time with those tunnels of yours, and yet you--"
"No. I couldn't, they just go from cell to cell, not out."
"All the same--"
"Just listen to me!" J.A.'s voice cracked, and she felt like she might cry.
Seth put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm listening, Jule, but I'm not going to let you give up. If we can get out of here..."
"I already gave up, Seth." Her voice was a whisper as she showed him her arm. "I'm dying. The least I can do is help other people." She didn't look him in the eye, but took his hand and the pen and drew the symbols. "You'll be safe, you can escape. Raeza and Avalyn can go with you. But I'm staying, people need me."
"If I leave, you're coming with. I didn't wait all these years so we could be separated again. If your time is limited, the least you can do is spend it with me, please." He didn't voice his hope, that he could get her to a powerful enough healer, that would only make her less likely to agree. He hated it when she put others before herself, it was like she thought she didn't matter, didn't count.
J.A. didn't respond for a while, and the only sound Seth could hear was his own heartbeat. Finally she spoke up. "Okay." It wasn't a promise she planned to keep, but it would do for now.
"I thought you'd never call on me, my dear." Aevil was only speaking through her mind, but Raeza was sure her mother was smiling. She wished she wasn't.
"I still don't like you."
"I noticed, but you need my help."
"Yeah... My friend needs a new arm, maybe even a new body. Please? I'll...I'll join forces with you."
"That's my girl." The smile was probably even wider now. Raeza felt like crawling in a hole.
"Also, you will tell me: is Faeris alive?"
"No, some murder-dude didn't like her jacket. And Maeve's a potato."
Raeza's eyes filled with tears. "Stop messing with me, Aevil!"
"Mo--" The word cracked in Raeza's throat.
"And I'm not messing with you. I would never---"
"That's what you've done my whole life, you've messed with it. I hate you."
"And you're still willing to join me if I make your friend a new body?"
"Yes, I am."
"Very well." Raeza could almost hear Aevil laughing as she disappeared from her daughter's mind.
((Again, this chapter is making me cry. Make it stop. [Pouts] [Starts crying again]))