She was led to the very bottom of the old silo. A great iron boiler roared with hungry flame that both warmed and illuminated the room. Cynder could feel sweat beading upon her brow. In the center of the room was a long table. At it sat the familiar figure of the lama. He smiled broadly at her as she approached. In his hands was a bag of something spicy and sweet-smelling, a scent she knew well.
“It’s good to see you again,” he said. “I was concerned when you left.”
“How long ago was that?” Cynder asked.
“Three twilights,” Scarecrow replied, before motioning to the bag. “Cynder feed.”
“I was sent to get this for you,” the lama said. “Scarecrow saw you eating this the night you first met him and he figured it’s your favorite because of how you devoured it.”
Cynder smiled weakly as she took the bag and opened it. Inside were burritos filled with eggs, cheese, black beans, and shredded pork, slathered in green chili and hot sauce. It was something she almost always found herself eating after she took the seeds. Her come down food. With having gone through the physical portion of withdrawal, she wondered if this might be the last time she ever had this particular meal.
“Thank you,” she said to both the lama and Scarecrow.
It was almost amazed her how ravenous she was. Certainly, she hadn’t eaten in three days, but the last time she had anything in her digestive tract, her body was being treacherous. These thoughts soon became lost in the need to fill herself as full as she could. There was a sense of disappointment as she finished the last burrito. Although she felt as though she could burst, she wanted more. After what she’d just been through, it was like she was returning from the dead, and she wanted as much of life as she could get. If in the heat of the moment life equated to gorging herself on burritos, then so be it.
“Good appetite,” another voice said from the shadows. “Getting better.”
Cynder turned in the direction of the voice to see two other white-skinned creatures standing off with Scarecrow. The one she heard speak was taller and more slender than the hunter she had first been acquainted with. His hair, the nails of his talons, even his forked tongue were every conceivable color thrown together in a whimsical fashion. He regarded her with purple eyes and what could best be described as an almost maniacal smirk.
Next to him was a female, whom, like Scarecrow, had a mane of long black hair. Her amber eyes held a quality beyond that of aloofness; Cynder at first thought she was being scrutinized, but realized that wasn’t the correct sensation. She was being studied.
“Those others you told me of?” She asked the lama.
“Yes. Poison and Eclipse,” he replied. “They are what you might call bonded.”
“Shake!” Poison said excitedly, offering his left talon. “Come! Shake!”
Gingerly, Cynder reached out. Even before she got close, he drew back with that quickness she’d seen when these creatures were ensnaring their prey. Something, which may have been a chuckle resounded in the back of his throat.
“Too slow,” he smirked.
“Trickster,” Scarecrow said with an almost dismissive gesture to his fellow hunter.
“Fuddy-duddy,” Poison shot back with an equally dismissive gesture and a mocking tone. His shorter fellow made an amused sound.
“Eclipse,” Cynder began. “Nice to meet you too.”
“Charmed,” she responded coldly, her tongue flicking out dismissively.
“She takes some getting used to, but she means well,” the lama said as he walked up to Eclipse. The female hunter ran the back of her hand across his head in a way that probably was meant to be affectionate. “I am their simian.”
“Watch Cynder,” Poison said to the lama.
It was then the hunters exited the room. She could hear them communicating in a series of hisses and clicks. Not all the sensations she got from them made sense to her, although she could sense none of them had any interest in harming her. The lama took her hand and led her back to the table.
“Where are they going?” Cynder inquired.
“Hunting, maybe, I don’t know,” he replied. “But come now, stay with me.”
Cynder didn’t know how long she sat with lama by the roaring fire of the boiler. Her sense of time was still horribly skewed. They spoke of her nightmares of withdrawal from the seeds and how Scarecrow stayed with her through the worst of it. She told of coming upon the room full of cocoons and being punished for it. He merely listened, only saying something when she threatened to lapse into silence.
They felt the hunters before they actually saw them. Scarecrow’s talons teased Cynder’s hair playfully and Poison rubbed the lama’s shoulders. Eclipse hung back in the shadows, her amber eyes giving off a soft glow like that of the butter lanterns at the temple.
“It is time,” Poison said to the lama. “Come.”
“I’ll see you soon, Cynder.”
“I should leave too,” she said.
“No!” Scarecrow hissed. Suddenly, she felt him grip her arm tightly.
“But…”she started to protest.
“Still sick,” Scarecrow stated. “Stay with me.”
“It’s for the best,” the lama said. “He’ll keep you safe.”
Cynder could sense the sincerity from both her fellow human being and white-skinned creatures around them. They were all concerned for her, which she found odd, but comforting. For the first time in a very, very long time, it seemed there were others who cared for her, even if three of them were of kind that preyed upon others of her species.
Scarecrow stroked her hair again and she relaxed. She knew he would do whatever he could to watch out for her, even going as far using his mind to comfort her from the residual demons left within her psyche from the seeds. It was then the felt another hand, another talon touch her. Cynder looked up to see Eclipse looking at her in an almost matronly fashion.
“Cynder get well,” she said softly.