By nightfall they had only reached the ragged edges of the wood, where the trees still crept outwards into the star-lit prairie. The grasslands rolled out over the horizon, swallowing all sense of distance.
Parn and Tuli stopped to check the maps, as the rest of the party looked out into the emptiness. The moon was full and it was easy to see, but the forest-bred horses balked at the sudden openness. Even Cris’s quiet coaxing couldn’t get them to leave the protective foliage behind.
Which left them with leagues to go, and only the two draft beasts to carry them. Food, water, shelter; there was room for little else with all the children in the wagon. The group pruned what they could, leaving a disheartening pile of belongings at the edge of the wood.
Their memories would still live strong without the mementos of the fallen city, but it hurt to have to walk away from history. Bellina was only a handful of days behind them, and the past wasn’t as precious as the future.