It was still night. Still dark outside. Still cold—colder, it seemed, than when we went in, though maybe that was just in contrast to the heat down below. At least the rain seemed to have finally stopped.
I tripped and stumbled, half sliding, down through the brush and weeds for thirty or forty feet until I found a relatively clear spot. Somehow I kept my feet under me and managed not to drop Celestine. I crouched and, as carefully as I could, lowered her to the ground. In the deep blackness of this night, her body seemed almost to glow. She looked like a ghost.
A ghost who must be freezing. I quickly reached for the clasp of my cloak, but it took my shaking hands a minute to work it. Laying the cloak down on the wet grass, I rolled her onto it, then wrapped the edges around her.
Then I took a break to throw up.
Nothing came, but I must have spent two or three minutes on my knees, immobilized by the violent churn of my stomach. I heard the crack and rustle of someone else making their way down the slope, and some part of my mind acknowledged it was Michel, but had it been a bad guy there was nothing I could have done.
The churn and the tunnel vision started to slacken, and I willed myself to straighten as Michel crouched down beside us. He had Stephan’s shield, and now I could hear the latter pushing through the bracken above.
Michel pushed the cloak back a bit to look at Celestine’s face. “She is alive?”
Chapter 9 of The Mason of New Orleans is now posted at www.charlesmryan.com. (Haven't been reading it? The other 8 chapters are also there! Comments are overwhelmingly positive, so give it a look--you might like it too!)