an excerpt from The Gatekeeper
RIA waited, perched in a tree a distance away from the open entrance to Nelroote, concealed in darkness. The cold cover of the foliage was laced with dew from the approaching morning. She had not thought to find her way to Nelroote on her own. Even with how small Manticura was, it had taken her a little over three days and many false turns, which had in turn taken her to farms, other lavish out-of-the-way estates, and a military training ground. All of which she had turned away from, because Rose Ville would have served its purpose. The nationwide panic, the questions— there would be no hiding; no burying her under layers of cover-ups and diversions. Not any bloody more.
A sound caused her to tense. She drew her legs up and curled herself into a tight ball against the sturdy trunk of the tree to watch through the gaps in the leaves. There was nothing, perhaps an animal darting within the semak-samun. So she continued to watch, hesitant to approach the entrance until she could be sure whether it was guarded or abandoned.
The first time she had crossed a threshold much like the one she was watching felt like a lifetime ago, even for a medusa. She couldn’t remember Acra’s face now. Only that, for a time, he’d meant so much to a girl who’d done terrible things. She remembered the void that existed after a departure; not a void that was all black, nameless and featureless, but one filled with everything that was empty of the departed. She wondered if that was what it was like for Eedric now the she had left him.
After some time, she could hear the sound of booted feet. She waited for the squad to pass— two men in full helmets and dark uniforms, alert as they walked, rifles pointed down and neither of them speaking. They paused at the entrance to sweep their rifle lights down the tunnel within. It occurred to her how easily anyone could have found the entrance. Eedirc had. And now these soldiers. All it took was for someone to look. For someone to tell them where to look. At this point, she didn’t care who did. Only that what she had planned would come to fruition.
© Epigram Books
by Nuraliah Norasid
from The Gatekeeper (2017)
published by Epigram Books