Home > Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(11)

Tales of the Peculiar (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children 0.5)(11)
Author: Ransom Riggs

“And, Millicent Neary, I’ve seen you light fires with only your breath. Imagine how terrified those normals will be when you set their clothes ablaze!”

“You paint quite a picture!” said Millicent. “Yes, it would be something to send them running for a change.”

At that, the crowd began to mutter.

“Yes, it would be something.”

“Those normals have had it coming for a long time.”

“Did you hear what they did to Titus Smith? Cut him into bits and fed him to his own pigs!”

“If we don’t stand up for ourselves now, they’ll never stop.”

“Justice for Titus! Justice for us all!”

With little effort, the councilmen had whipped the peculiars into a fervor. Even mild-mannered Englebert was spoiling for a fight. Ymeene, whose stomach had turned at the first mention of a battle, couldn’t listen anymore. She slunk out of the village and went for a long walk in the woods. Returning at dusk, she found Englebert by his cook fire. His temper had cooled, but his resolve to fight had not.

“Come away with me,” Ymeene said to him. “We’ll start over somewhere else.”

“Where will we go?” he replied. “They want to chase us out of Oddfordshire!”

“Wontshire. Therefordshire. Peacewickshire. You’d rather die in Oddfordshire than live elsewhere?”

“They’re just a few dozen men,” said Englebert. “How would it look if we ran away from such a puny threat?”

Even with victory practically assured, Ymeene wanted no part of it. “How it looks isn’t worth sacrificing a single hair from our heads, much less a life.”

“So you won’t fight?”

“I lost one family to war already. I won’t watch another throw itself willingly into the furnace.”

“If you leave, they’ll think you a traitor,” said Englebert. “You’ll never be able to come back.”

She looked at him. “What will you think?”

Englebert stared into the fire, struggling for words. The silence between them seemed answer enough, so Ymeene slipped away and walked to her tent. As she lay down to sleep, a great sadness stole over her. She was sure it would be her last night as a human.

Ymeene left at the first inkling of dawn, before anyone else had woken. She couldn’t bear to say good-bye. She walked to the edge of the camp and turned into a hawk, and as she leaped into the air, she wondered if she would ever find another group that would accept her, human or avian.

Ymeene had only been flying a few minutes when she spotted the normals’ fighting force massed below. But it was no loose brigade of a few dozen men—it was an army of hundreds, and they blanketed the hills in glinting armor.

The peculiars would be slaughtered! She turned around at once and flew back to warn them. She found Tombs in his tent and told them what she’d seen.

He didn’t seem surprised in the least.

He had known.

“Why didn’t you tell them so many soldiers were coming?” Ymeene said. “You lied!”

“They would have been terrified,” he said. “They would not have comported themselves with dignity.”

“They should be terrified!” she shouted. “They should have fled by now!”

“It wouldn’t have done any good,” he said. “The normals’ king has ordered Britain cleansed of peculiars from mountains to sea. They would find us eventually.”

“Not if we leave Britain,” Ymeene said.

“Leave Britain!” he said, shocked. “But we’ve been here hundreds of years!”

“And we’ll be dead a lot longer than that,” Ymeene replied.

“It’s a matter of honor,” Tombs said. “I suppose a bird wouldn’t understand.”

“I understand all too well,” she replied, and went out to warn the others.

But it was too late: the normals’ army was on their doorstep, a swarm of well-armed soldiers already visible in the distance. Worse yet, the peculiars couldn’t even run—the normals were closing in from all sides.

The peculiars huddled in their camp, terrified. Death seemed inevitable. Ymeene could easily have changed form and flown to safety—the peculiars urged her to, in fact—but she could not bring herself to leave. They had been tricked, lied to, and the sacrifice they were about to make was no longer voluntary. To leave now would not have felt like an exercise of her principles, but like abandonment and treachery. So she walked through the camp, embracing her friends. Englebert hugged her the hardest, and even after he’d let go, he spent a long moment gazing at her.

“What are you doing?” she asked him.

“Memorizing the face of my friend,” he said. “So that I might recall it even in death.”

Silence fell over them and over the camp, and for a while the only sounds were the thunder and clang of the approaching army. And then the sun came out suddenly from behind a dark cloud, bathing the land in glinting light, and Ymeene thought the sight so beautiful that she wished she could see it once more before they were killed. So she repeated it, and the peculiars were so mesmerized that she repeated it a second time. Only then did they notice that, in the minutes they had spent watching the sun, the normals’ army had not come any closer. With every repetition, their enemies faded and reappeared farther away, many hundreds of yards in the distance.

It was then that Ymeene realized her time-looping talent had a use she’d never fully understood—one that would change peculiar society forever, though she couldn’t have known it then. She’d made a safe place for them, a bubble of stalled time, and the peculiars watched in fascination as the normals’ army advanced toward them and then faded away, over and over again, in a three-minute loop.

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