Saku followed the girl with the devil on her shoulder and tried to imagine how he'd save her. That she needed saving, he didn't doubt. Even more surely than that, he wanted to be the one to do it.
"We'll head a little south and then turn east again." She called back to him, tossed her long hair and skipping in place. Musical Milyi, always dancing, even when she wasn't.
He'd take her to Angel. Maybe. His head hurt, buzzed at the edges and he shook it and tried to dislodge the fog. In the corners, his mind blurred. Saku knew it was right, getting the girl away from that thing. He knew it, but the ache in his head confused him.
Why had Angel dropped him?
Somehow, he suspected it was this T'rant's fault. Horatch, the demon who clung to Milyi like a boil and led them now straight toward the edge of all things safe and human. Maybe the girl lived far enough away not to know about the gap. Maybe she hadn't seen it before.
Saku's father had looked into that chasm once. He'd told stories of hunters chasing prey right over the edge, driven to mad suicide by the monsters on the other side, by the drumming.
Once he got Milyi free, he'd have to find Angel fast. They trod through thick jungle now, ducked and wriggled through vines under a dense canopy. The Wisp would not be able to snatch them up here, but near the gulf, yes. He heard the buzzing agree, in the back of his thoughts. Near the edge of that gap the foliage thinned. There would be an open stretch, a space before the edge.
Yes, my Saku. Bring her to us.
"Are you all right?" Milyi appeared before him, and Saku blinked. He'd stopped walking, and the girl had turned around and come back to him. On her shoulder, the devil spider shifted its wretched legs.
"Sorry." He'd heard Angel's voice. He was sure of it, but now, his brain buzzed like static again. Was she close? Was she looking for him? "I was just watching the trees."
"You were just staring up at the branches." Her dark eyes narrowed. She looked him up and down and a furrow appeared in the center of her forehead. "Do you need to rest? We've pushed you too hard."
"No. no." An urgency pushed him now, new and arguing with his sore muscles. "I can keep on a little more."
Her face darkened, tilted up at him like a little brown heart, and the prodding in his thoughts increased, buzzing him to action.
"I feel great," he lied. "And I'm anxious to arrive."
"Me too!" The girl brightened, but the spider on her shoulder hissed a soft, disapproving note. If Milyi heard it, she ignored the devil and beamed up at Saku now. "I'm so glad you're coming with us."
Saku smiled for her, forced his eyes to stay on the girl's face, to ignore the monster on her arm the same as he'd ignored the thumping from the jungle behind them, the sound of whatever they'd hidden from him making its way in the other direction.
The same direction, really. He'd hunted enough to know he was being led away and around. Still, their destination was East, and the evidence of something else moving that way as well was not easily ignored. Saku did his best not to mark it. He followed the girl and matched her bright mood with as fair a copy as he could force.
She didn't know, perhaps, that they marched into a confrontation. Saku believed her spider friend did. His head buzzed angrily, but it also pressed him to continue. Angel had ideas about their goal as well. The gap, Saku. The great rift.
Angel would be there to help him. She pushed that thought to the front of his mind. Help is waiting at the gap. All he had to do was follow... and possibly, when the time came, dislodge a monster from his friend's shoulder. Get Milyi free of her demon, and then Angel's kind could heal her.
Yes. Good, Saku.
"Saku?" Milyi interrupted his fugue again, frowning, fidgeting from one foot to the other.
"Let's go," he said. "I'm fine."
He passed her on the side with no spider clinging and marched forward through the vines. Already, the jungle thinned here. Though they headed primarily south, his guides had edged that line at an eastern angle. Saku squinted into the trees and thought he saw brighter light filtering in.
A wide, open space ahead. A swath of clearing before the rift. Open air, space where Angel could snatch them easily.
His steps sprang now, despite the twinges of fatigue. The goal lay ahead, and Saku felt it's lure drawing him onward. He heard it, in the buzzing, and let that energy soothe away his doubts.
Milyi caught the excitement too. She scampered to catch up, skipping in place. Twirling, excited and dancing for him. It would be nice to help her. She'd thank him afterwards, once the beast was slain.
"It opens up ahead." She pointed out what he'd already seen, smiled and spun with the wretched spider clinging to her like a cancer. "Look, Saku! We're almost there."