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Chapter 36

“Calypso?” Kase’s cautious voice called. From the way it sounded, I guessed he hadn’t exited the warehouse.

“If she’s not out there, I’ll look for her,” Kai’s voice echoed. I assumed he was behind his brother.

“No, I’m here,” I said, pushing off the wall. I couldn’t see them, but the picture I was imagining was probably about as accurate as they get without seeing the real thing. They were oddly cute and naïve considering the wreck this place seemed to be in.

“Okay,” Kase bounded out, his eyes landing on me after stepping out a few steps. “Ready?” He asked eagerly. I noticed that a bag was now on his back and briefly, I wondered what it was for.

I smiled at him, both hating and loving the way my heart softened again. “Sure,” I said. I looked at Kai. “Anything else I need to know?”

Kai shook his head, smiling. “Nope. Have fun.” He looked at Kase. “Don’t drive her nuts, okay?”

“No promises,” Kase said very seriously.

Kai rolled his eyes and turned back to me. “If he starts to get annoying, just tell him to shut up.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t think I would end up doing so, but the option was nice, I supposed.

Kase began tapping his foot against the pavement. “Kai,” He prompted impatiently.

Kai held his hands up. “Okay, okay,” He said, smiling. He nodded to me. “Have fun, you two.” He turned around and walked back into the warehouse.

After seeing how protective he seemed to be about Kase, I was surprised that he left without some sort of embarrassing response. In my experience, they seemed to be unable to resist.

“Here we go!” Kase grinned, bounding ahead. He kept pausing and coming back, acting almost like a dog who was worried his owner wasn’t following.

“Slow down,” I told him, smiling despite my more wary mood. “We’ve got a while to go, I’m sure.”

“It’s just across the river,” Kase said, coming back. “But the hardest part is going down the ravine to get to it without any of the royal sentries noticing.” He was dead serious, which made me think he knew the area well.

“Anything else?” I asked, a slightly sarcastic note creeping into my voice.

Kase missed the sarcasm. “Well, we have to go to the other side of the village and round up to the woods, then we have to creep down the hill and get into the ravine so that we can cross the river—by the way, you’re going to get wet—then we can climb up the other side to get some wood. At that point, I’ll take some wood and head back and let you keep gathering wood.”

I blinked, trying to map it out in my head. Finally, it just seemed so silly and unreasonable that I had to ask the question that was resounding through my mind. “Why do we have to go to the North Forest to get wood?”

Kase glanced at me, but explained. “One of the ways that Black get’s money is through logging. Right now, they’re in the West Forest, so the North and East forests are empty, but the East forest is full of saplings.”

That didn’t explain anything that I was asking. “How…” I thought through my question. “How do they log the areas?”

Kase smiled and kept walking through town, weaving through people. He waited until I was closer to answer my question.

“It takes about five years for them to log one forest, but when they do so, they cut down all the trees and replace them with new trees. The royals have some sort of greenhouse dedicated entirely to growing saplings so that they can keep growing trees. The trees in the greenhouse are probably anywhere from two to five years when they plant them.” Kase’s eyes sparkled as he kept going.

Honestly, the kid was some sort of encyclopedia.

“They move through the forests in a circle, so the trees in the North Forest are around ten to fifteen years old, give or take. Since they’re big enough to start dropping decent sized branches, we go to this wood. Although, they’re finishing up logging in the West Forest, so we’ll have to go to the East soon.” Kase frowned, “I haven’t checked there in a while, but I’m not sure there are enough bigger trees. We might not be able to get wood from there for a while. Because of that, Russ has been sending more people up here for wood. We don’t need it right now, but we’ll get it while we can.”

I nodded slowly, still thinking. “So, you guys don’t plan on moving?”

Kase looked over at me, a slight smirk on his face. “Do we look like a group that would be easy to move?” He looked away, not looking like he expected an answer. “I think he tells all the new people that he’ll move the group if they disappear to make them understand that he tries his best to protect the group.”

We kept walking.

“Although,” Kase continued, grabbing my arm and pulling me down a side street. “It’s gotten a lot bigger over the past few years, so I’m not sure what Russ could possibly do to protect us all. It might be better for us to just start thinking about how we could change the kingdoms.”

“So, you want to change the government,” I said, trying to figure out his angle. “You want to go from a monarchy to… what? A democracy? An anarchy?”

Kase shrugged. “I don’t know. There used to be a democracy, but that fell through, too. So we just reverted back to a monarchy structured government with the more modern inventions because we could.” Kase’s face darkened for a moment. “Or… they could. We didn’t have much say in it.”

I was beginning to get confused.

Kase brightened. “Personally, I think we might do better with some sort of oligarchy or federation, but maybe that won’t work—I don’t know the full extent of the business stuff. I do think that whoever is in charge of all of this isn’t doing it right.”

“Right…” I halfheartedly agreed.

Kase looked at me with a confused face. “Are you okay?”

I looked back at him, smiling sheepishly. “Oh, I’m fine. How willing are you to explain half of that all over again?”

Kase laughed. “Kinda figured you’d stare off,” He said. “Alright, here’s where we’re quiet,” He gestured to something ahead. “There are the sentries.”

I looked around him and, sure enough, there were uniformed sentries set up all along the hillside. It was particularly interesting because I knew for a fact that the front of the castle wasn’t nearly as protected.

Also, how long did they stand out there? Just wondering.

I nodded silently, lowering my voice. “So this is where we whisper?” I asked.

Kase shook his head, “This is where we both take Kai’s permission and tell each other to shut up.”

I blinked, but nodded again.

Kase nodded back and gestured for me to follow him.

Despite myself, I did so. I hated being led, but this was probably high above my head.

And eventually, I had to suck it up and let myself be led.

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