All in the Timing

She wasn’t sure she’d be able to finish her research. Or even start it.

Youth tended to congregate in fields shortly—sometimes mere minutes—before each harvest, and as she didn’t want to end up a subject of her own study, she protected her neck by not cutting visits too close. After a thresher sweep, however, there was no one left to talk. The beasts didn’t even leave behind the jagged bones of their prey.

Scela rummaged around in her pack before pulling out a small, gridded map. She squinted up at the sun, pulled out a pen, and marked a thick “X” through a square near the upper right corner. She was running out of empty squares.

She was also running out of time. This harvest season had started weeks ago. The stoic farmers whose thick, wood houses dotted the edges of the grasslands were already sharpening their blades, preparing for the long, hot days they would spend in the fields, glancing backward at every sound, fearful that the next harvest would start sooner than predicted.

It had happened before.

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