Rowan rolled over in her sleeping bag, her mouth dry and mind groggy. The warmth of the animal fur drew her further in, and the wind served her a cool blast of air that promised an icy day ahead. But the day ahead was nothing she could hide from, so despite her reluctance to do so she opened her eyes and rubbed away the sand that had built up over the night.
As she stretched, a figure emerged from the bushes some way ahead. Rowan immediately woke up, and after several moments of her mind racing to find places to hide she realised that the person was Sage.
“By the stars, Sage, you scared me half to Unalir!”
Sage’s response was a nonchalant shrug as she tossed an apple in the air. Rowan’s eyes grew wide. It was an unbelievable shade of red and shone like a star. Her mouth watered at the sight of it. Sage saw her look, grinned, and took a bite out of it. The juices dripped down her chin, and Rowan licked her lips, mind filled with stewed apples, apple cider, apple pies, apple sauce…
Sage raised an eyebrow. “Yes, yes, I’m ridiculously good-looking but come on Rowan, you’re drooling.”
Rowan wiped the spit from her face with a dirty hand and hot face, though her eyes narrowed in suspicion when she noticed the bag Sage held in her other hand. It was filled to the brim with more apples.
“Where did you get those?”
“Didn’t steal ‘em, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“You better hadn’t,” Rowan shot back, bending down to dig around in her satchel, “we won’t be able to deal with any more wailing dragons after you…” She stopped searching for a moment. A sliver of doubt crept in, and she started searching again, trying each space and hidden pocket two, three, four times. “No,” she whispered. “No, no, no! It can’t be gone!”
“What’cha looking for?” Sage asked, a chunk of apple in her cheek.
“What do you think? The map!”
“Oh, that old thing? I traded it.”
It took a good moment for Rowan to process Sage’s response. Her mouth slowly opened in shock. She stared at her, unblinking, mind refusing to accept what was happening. “Wh…wh…wh…”
“How did you think I got all the apples? It fetched a pretty good price, too. Dunno why, it was just some piece of paper.”
Rowan put her hands to her head and slowly sank to the dirt, shaking. “Please tell me you’re lying.”
She gave her an odd look. “Dude, it was just some map.”
Rowan’s eyes turned dangerous. “Just some map? Just some map? That map was one of the most important maps in the entire galaxy, and now you…you…you’ve ruined everything!”
“Rowan, I didn’t—”
“I said leave!”
The tears that fell stained the pink earth beneath her. The very sound of the twigs and leaves crunching underneath Sage’s feet were an insult to Star. Rowan thought about her big sister, and her body sitting limply in a cell in who-knows-where. She would never get her back now, all thanks to Sage, that utter turnip of a being.
Sage walked towards her. Rowan’s head snapped up and she was about to let loose a stream of profanities with some spells mixed in until she saw what she was holding out.
“That’s…” she breathed.
“I’m a thief, remember? Like I’d willingly part with something that got me all these apples and ten thousand diamond brabené,” she said simply, dropping the map in front of Rowan.
Rowan’s mouth dropped open. “Ten thousand?”
“Diamond ones. We’re rich!”
Rowan leapt up and ran to envelope Sage in a massive hug, eyes tearing for a much different reason. Now they’d be able to get a ticket across the Uncharted Plot – hell they’d be to get their own ship with the money they now had. Her sister would be saved.
She frowned, “Wait, why didn’t you tell me you had the map in the first place?”