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They made their way through the plants, taking a different path than the one Dee had forged earlier. The stranger was in the lead, with Dee a short distance behind. Treach stayed close by, walking either in front of, beside, or behind his mistress, depending on what he smelled at any given moment.
Dee kept a close eye on the stranger. She didn't trust him. She didn't even know if she liked him. He could be anything... including something not human at all. The fact that he was walking around mere minutes after nearly bleeding to death wasn't lost on the nurse. She'd treated him as best she could, but Dee knew that her skill... and the supplies she'd had on hand... weren't completely responsible for his seemingly miraculous recovery.
Given what she'd seen so far in this place, Dee wondered if she wasn't following this stranger to an even greater horror.
She considered leaving him. Once they left the clearing, the strange plants closed in around them, giving her and Treach a perfect opportunity to slip away. She didn't. Despite her rising suspicious about him, the 'scarecrow' was the only living person she'd encountered so far. He could answer questions, once she found a way to communicate. He could tell here where she was. He could tell her which way to go for help... and which way NOT to go.
Besides... he was a patient. She couldn't abandon him. Well... she COULD... but that would be wrong. Abandoning her responsibilities is probably what got her sent to this hell in the first place. Doing it again so soon would just be... stupid.
Dee decided to keep an eye on him for now. From a safe distance.
She stayed well out of arm's reach, and kept him in sight at all times. She watched him move. He wasn't exactly sneaking, but he had a way of moving through the plants that was almost silent. Dee and Treach were making ten times as much noise as he was, and he let her know it with an occasional backward glance and a frown. When he did look back at her, his eyes always found the knife on her belt. Each time, his face took on a worried and disapproving scowl before he looked away. He wanted the blade, but more than that, he didn't want HER to have it. The sight of it on her hip disturbed him, and he didn't, or couldn't, explain why.
After a few minutes of wandering through the rows of strange plants, they emerged onto a path. It wasn't the road that Dee and Treach had been on earlier. That was... a road. THIS was just a narrow passage worming its way through the crops. Dee couldn't tell where it went, or even where it was in relation to the road. The fields were probably full of such passages, and the scarecrow had apparently been leading them toward this one.
When they emerged, he stopped and knelt.
"What?" said Dee.
The man raised his hand quickly and made a tight fist.
Dee fell silent, though Treach continued to pant loudly behind her. The stranger listened, and ran his fingers across the dirt. Nodding, he stood, stepped aside, and pointed.
Dee stepped onto the path and looked the way he was pointing. There was nothing to see. More plants. More of the path. A few black birds flying away in the distance. She neither saw nor heard anything worthy of attention.
"What?" she whispered.
The scarecrow pointed emphatically, as if repeating an order that should have been followed the first time.
"You... want me to go that way?"
"What about you?"
The man took a step back... slowly... and shook his head.
"No," said Dee. "We're not separating; I'm sticking with you!"
He pointed a third time.
"I'm not-" Dee began.
The stranger darted into the plants to his right and vanished. Dee rushed to the spot where he'd re-entered the fields-
There was no sign of him. There was nothing to see... nothing to hear. He'd disappeared without a sound, and if she went back in after him she'd be instantly lost.
Dee turned to Treach.
"Go get him!"
The dog gave her an amused look, then started vigorously licking himself.
"Fine," Dee sighed. Then she shouted. "Good luck taking care of those wounds on your own! All the painkillers are in my bag, so you have fun out there!"
She started down the path in the direction that the stranger had indicated.
She followed it for about ten minutes before it ended, and Dee found herself back on the main road.
"Hmph," she said. "At least he pointed us the right way. Now... which direction doesn't lead to more crazy?"
"YOU!" A man's voice shouted from Dee's left. She spun, and saw a quartet of figures emerging from the field about thirty yards further down, on the same side of the road as her. It looked like they'd been on a path similar to the one she'd walked.
"Oh, thank GOD!" Dee shouted. "PEOPLE! And you can TALK!"
The four men started toward her immediately. And rapidly. They sprinted as if chasing her... even though Dee wasn't moving.
The smile of relief froze on Dee's face as she saw their clothes. Dark coats with high collars. Rough pale shirts and knives at their belts.
Or guards, or whatever they were.
"STOP RIGHT THERE!" one of them shouted. Three of the men looked young, but the one who'd spoken was older. He had a rough, leathery face decorated with scars of varying sizes and ages. It was the face of a man who'd been in more than a few knife fights. He'd apparently won them.
Treach positioned himself between the men and Dee. He began to growl.
"Shhh... this might not be a bad thing," said Dee. "Let's find out what's going on. Finally."
When they realized that Dee wasn't fleeing, the men slowed... but kept coming. They stopped six feet away from Teach, who had planted himself two feet in front of Dee.
"What kind of... dog... is that?" one of the younger soldiers whispered. He hadn't been talking to Dee. The soldier too his right shook his head.
"Pit?" Dee offered.
"What are you doing on the road!" the older man growled. His age marked him as their leader, as did the emblem on his coat. All of them had the same wheel symbol, but his had two lightning bolts beneath it. It was some kind of rank designation. "Why are you here! WHO ARE YOU!"
"I... don't even know where here is," said Dee. "I fell... I mean..."
"SIR!" one of the young men shouted. He pointed at Dee. "She has a BLADE!"
Everyone's eyes went to Dee's waist. Dee looked down at the blade hanging from her belt.
"Uhh," she began. "This? I can explain-"
The lead soldier hissed, face twisting into a sneer. He pointed at Dee and roared.
All four men drew their knives, and three of them charged toward Dee.