Round 6 - Zakiyah
Phoebe jumped back, almost falling off the bed as she whipped around to look at the intruder. "Hestia!" she stammered in surprise.
Selena’s red-haired apprentice stood in the doorway, her eyebrows furrowed in a scowl. "I thought you needed a healer," she said sarcastically.
"I do – for him," Phoebe replied, gesturing to the unconscious man in her bed.
"Wear him out already?" If anything, Hestia’s frown deepened.
"No, he was unconscious when we captured him, and he collapsed again in the cell and hasn’t woken up. He’s got a nasty bump on his head," Phoebe replied in all seriousness.
Upon hearing that, Hestia hurried forward. "Let me take a look."
"Where’s Selena?" Phoebe wanted to know as she made room for Hestia on the bed.
"Tending Helena. She and Psyche were sparring, and, well, you know Psyche " Hestia mumbled distractedly as she pried Malone’s eyelids open to look at his pupils.
"Oh no. Another accident?" Phoebe winced.
"She tripped just as Helena was making a lunge with her spear. Helena practically turned herself into a knot trying to avoid skewering her. One of her knees is the size of a T-Rex egg." Hestia continued her examination as she spoke, testing Malone’s pulse and examining the lump on his head. Finally she sat back with a sigh. "He’s had a nasty blow to the head, Phoebe. He’s not going to be good for much for a while. He needs to be kept warm and quiet, and once he wakes up, he mustn’t be allowed to go back to sleep for at least twelve hours. I’ll call Kala and have her help you take him back to the cells."
"No!" Phoebe protested.
"No?" Hestia inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"No. I’ll take care of him here." Phoebe got off of the bed and fetched a few blankets, spreading them over the unconscious man.
"But Phoebe, he isn’t good for anything right now!"
Phoebe gave Hestia a determined look. "It will be easier to keep him warm here instead of in the cells. And when he wakes up, I’ll make sure he doesn’t move much."
Hestia recognized the stubborn determination on Phoebe’s face and sighed. Phoebe was a formidable fighter, but she wasn’t the smartest Amazon in the tribe by a long shot. Still, Hestia knew better than to argue with her in this mood. "Fine, Phoebe. Just call me when he wakes – and don’t forget to tie him. You know the rules. Selena would be very displeased if any man escaped from here and disclosed our new location to the outside world."
The blonde Amazon gave Hestia a grateful smile, knowing the young healer wasn’t going to tell. "Thank you, sister."
Hestia nodded tiredly. "Just don’t forget to call me – when he wakes up, or if his condition changes in any way."
Phoebe turned back to her prize after seeing the red-headed healer from the room. Remembering Hestia’s warning, she carefully re-tied the reporter to her bed, trying to make sure the man would be as comfortable as possible despite the restraints. Once that was done, she stripped out of her own clothes and snuggled under the blankets next to him, draping her body partially over his. "I’ll keep you warm," she promised him, tracing one finger along the line of his collarbone. "And when you wake up, you won’t go back to sleep for a while. I promise you that." Sighing, she laid her head on his chest and listened to the steady drumbeat of his heart.
"This is where I last saw him," Veronica announced, looking around the small clearing. The midmorning sun shone brightly, but could not warm the cold center of fear inside of her. "We became separated somewhere between here and the river."
"No sign of a trail," Roxton muttered after scouring the clearing for a few minutes, looking for any trace of the missing reporter.
"Hardly surprising, given last night’s storm," Marguerite said sarcastically. "Veronica already told you there were no traces of him."
Roxton bristled. "Never hurts to be sure."
Marguerite snorted. "Fine. While you’re busy being sure, Veronica and I will scout ahead to the river and see if we can find anything. Coming, Veronica?"
"Let’s go," the blonde replied, anxious to be doing something – anything! – to find Ned, and more than willing to help separate Marguerite and Roxton. The two had been sniping at each other all morning. Maybe with some time apart those two will get whatever it is out of their systems – and in the meantime Marguerite and I can cover a lot of ground. In spite of the irritation of being an unwilling bystander to the fireworks between the two, she hadn’t forgotten Marguerite’s uncharacteristically kind attempt to find Ned the night before – or at least to reassure Veronica by checking the perimeter. Searching with Marguerite as her partner was the least she could do in return.
"Wait a minute," Roxton protested. He scowled at Marguerite. The effort was wasted as she refused to look at him.
"We will cover more ground if we split up," Challenger admitted, shooting Veronica a quick glance and nodding slightly. Aside from the logic of the search, he too could see the advantages of giving the heiress and the hunter some time apart.
"We’ll head east, along the path I took," Veronica continued. "Unless you find some sign, head southeast. There’s a series of gullies there; it’s an easy place to get lost in the dark. We’ll meet back here in two hours." Nodding to Marguerite, Veronica started eastwards.
"Good luck," Challenger called after them.
"If you run into trouble or find Malone, fire twice," Roxton shouted after them.
"Of course. I’ll just refrain from firing otherwise," Marguerite’s sarcastic words floated back to them as the two women disappeared into the jungle.
"Damn it," Roxton swore under his breath. He knew why he and the lovely heiress had been trading insults all morning. They were both worried about Malone, and taking it out on each other. Well, that and she still hasn’t forgiven me for what I said yesterday. Not that I ever apologized. He’d tried apologizing on the trail, only to be met with a mixture of rudeness and scorn that had him losing his temper with her all over again. Not that I should have to apologize – can’t the woman take a joke?
Challenger looked at him with some amusement. "Looks like it’s just you and me, old man," he said dryly. "And if you don’t find a way to mend your fences with Marguerite, it might be the two of us for quite a while."
Roxton gave the scientist a sour look before continuing his search of the clearing.