Chapter 37.4

HAKEEM________________________

Hakeem stared into the orb, seeing the scenes play out before him in simultaneity. It was almost too much, and that was saying something, given all he’d seen. He even almost lost count of time, the intervals shuddering as they passed his numb attention. There were so many things to process. A practical part of him–quiet in these emotional moments–whispered that he should be cataloguing this information for later use. The greater part of him, raw and beating like a throbbing bruise, said that his companions needed help.

But his powerlessness was a black rain, coating his skin, his soul, his mind, and it told him he could do nothing. He was just a small boy again, watching as terrible power undid the things he treasured most.

And Quincy….

His mweze.

His wife.

His shima.

His woman of joy.

He loved her so, but over and over in his mind’s eye, the horrible image played…

Quincy uncorking the vial. Her drinking it. The glass container rolling along the table surface…empty.

He struggled to see it from her perspective–to consider how it would be for someone who had lived through the things she had, to feel helpless and at the mercy of a new life she was unprepared in ushering.

…But try as he might, Hakeem couldn’t help but notice that all Quincy had gone through…so had he.

Why couldn’t she talk to me? he thought with agony. Why…how could she choose to do that?

Even the knowledge that the woman may not have been pregnant at all did nothing to change his feelings. It was the fact that she went through with it anyway, in case she was.

In his homeland of Fanaea, it was believed a soul entered the moment a man’s seed met his partner’s egg. This was something Hakeem learned in Crysen, because he was far too young to know such things when he was last in his native land. In that Talmorian community, ideas on the subject were such a melting pot that the wizard hadn’t been able to form an opinion. Blocking conception hadn’t been the issue. Stopping it after that happened, however…?

The idea killed him.

And it cut even deeper that Quincy suggested she had resorted to such tactics before…and with the horrendous implication that she’d needed to because of the pirate Tulki no less.

Hakeem had always disliked the man, but now he could say, without a doubt, he loathed him.

It was a pity Tulki was dead. The Morettis had collected his bounty years ago. The wizard mourned his lost opportunity for revenge, knowing it was foolish and unproductive. He was man who was firmly grounded. He’d thought he was.

…But damn this Lethia Artaud for ever entering his life! Never had Hakeem had to struggle with himself, to struggle with the reality around him.

The enchantress’s words echoed back at him, almost mocking now.

“You don’t live in belief. You know that life is far beyond anything we can comprehend, and so you adapt. You’ve adapted all your life.”

Hakeem bit his tongue, hard, trying to stifle the scream of rage and sorrow in his heart.

He didn’t want Tulki’s shadow darkening their present. He didn’t want to feel shut out from the chance of parenthood after all he’d sacrificed. He didn’t want to see his wife suffer under her crushing fears while the life they created together withered and died in her womb with every desperate concoction she choked down. He didn’t want to adapt to this.

“There has to be some way…” he whispered, his throat and lips so tight, it was doubtful anyone would have comprehended his meaning.

He glared at the scenes before him as they played on, indifferent to his turmoil.

Then Hakeem’s mouth slackened, and his eyes drew wide.

His thoughts were quick and panicked.

These moments I’m seeing…in them, Lethia awakened to her situation, her memories restored, and each time, there was a tell that heralded her restoration. But these moments happened at different times! And Izma was cross-present in certain moments. Didn’t Lethia say that the demon could only appear to one of us at a time?

It took him only a moment to gather the significance of this fact.

Hakeem’s heart beat a little faster as he let go of the orb and hurried toward the staircase the enchantress had used to retreat from him.

If I really saw Izma in more than one place, then that could only mean all of this has already happened! Lethia must have had her memories back this whole time! But why would she lie to me? Except…

He scowled, his fists clenching.

To protect me.

But how would keeping me ignorant protect me?

Hakeem braced himself in the doorway and shouted up the staircase, “Lethia! Lethia Artaud, are you there!?”

Silence. The man swallowed as his intuition conjured up another possibility.

Maybe this lie wasn’t to protect me.

“Lethia!”

Still no answer came to him. Hakeem felt a sudden strange heat on the side of his face. Confusing this sensation was his sweat turning cold on his skin. The dread squeezed his lungs as he turned his head to see where the strange energy was coming from.

Maybe…

His eyes widened, and he braced himself against a bright blast as the viewing orb he had abandoned expanded explosively.

This lie was to USE me.

And then, Hakeem thought nothing at all.

ELMIRYN________________________

They entered the precinct shoulder to shoulder. Elmiryn wished she could feel more like Bruce Willis. Hell, even Jean-Claude Van Damme. But at the moment she was feeling more like wet toilet paper–weak.

The moment the double glass doors swung closed behind them, Elmiryn was acutely aware of a reality shutting her out. She had sensed that things had not felt right, and she also had sensed that somewhere in her had existed an…alternate history, where she was a different person. Stronger. Less considerate. Much more passionate.

But as Lethia marched on up to the receptionist, Elmiryn couldn’t help but wish she could go back to having just the one reality–the one where she helped car crash victims walk straight again, where she barely managed to pay her bills on time, where her love life was simple but unsatisfying…

Wait, what? She thought distractedly as the receptionist inexplicably buzzed them in.

Lethia glanced at her as she pushed her way through the magnetic door, toward the processing offices. “Jedi mind trick,” she said wryly, in answer to Elmiryn’s bewildered look. The woman blinked after her, but didn’t bother correcting her cousin’s assumption regarding her confusion.

Look at me, she thought miserably. I’m about to shoot up a bunch of cops, and I’m moping about something so stupid!

They were fortunate that the lobby was void of any officers. The processing offices were a different matter.

The moment they exited the adjoining hallway, people slowed to a stop and stared. The moment only lasted a second. After all, neither of them were cops, that was plain to see, and they were armed. An officer who had been stepping out of a doorway, papers in their hands, dropped these and drew their firearm.

“Drop the weapons!” They stammered out. Their eyes were wide. Alarmed. Elmiryn couldn’t blame them, she couldn’t quite believe she was doing this either, let alone that they’d gotten this far.

Lethia’s answer was to simply raise her shotgun and fire at the man.

The shot only grazed him, but it chewed up the length of his arm and his shoulder. He shouted in pain and fired back sloppily as he fell.

Too frightened to think to scream, Elmiryn fell flat to the floor in an attempt to dodge any bullets. In her haste, the pistol–a 9mm by the looks of it–clattered to the floor.

Lethia hurried toward a metal and wood desk that she flipped over. She shouted furiously at the older woman as she took cover. “What are you doing, you idiot!? Get over here!”

The other officers began mobilizing and taking aim.

Elmiryn gave a start as a stray bullet struck the carpet inches near her. A low whine escaped her lips as she grabbed the pistol by the barrel and hurried next to Lethia. Her hands trembled so fiercely, she had trouble putting her finger back on the trigger.

“This is insane!” she screamed as bullets pinged and zinged by them. “Why did I follow you in here!?”

Lethia hissed as she rubbed the center of her chest. The recoil of her recent shotgun blast had apparently been more than she could handle. “Gods, I can’t wait for you to drop this whiny persona!”

Elmiryn gave her a stung look. “I am not whiny!”

Her cousin bared her teeth as she fired blindly over the desk. “Elle, remember that time you beat up Jared Host for stealing my bra?”

“Is this really the time for–?” The redhead broke off with a gasp as splinters stung her face. The desk was holding up remarkably well. The woman remembered through the clouds of her hysteria some article she’d read about police offices having reinforced furniture in case of a situation just like this. But given the desk’s modest size and their pinned position, it was only a matter of time before they were overwhelmed.

“I’m asking–” Lethia broke off as she dared another wild attack. She continued as if she hadn’t just shot at trained police officers. “–Because that was the fiercest I’d ever seen you…in this life. Right now? I need you to pretend all of these officers stole my bra.”

Elmiryn stared at her. “If you’re trying to inspire me, you’re failing. Horribly.”

“Fuck you and just shoot someone!” Lethia screamed at her. “Fight or we die! Don’t you want to see Nyx again!?”

“But she’s dead!

Lethia grabbed Elmiryn’s shoulder and shook her. “Elle, wake up! I’m not brave! I’m not a real fighter! You are! I need you here. The real you! Now!”

Elmiryn could only stare at her cousin–stare and think the girl was wild and insane. Perhaps the feeling of wrongness–the sense of not belonging, of not behaving right, of not sounding right–had all been in her head. The reality of their situation was more sobering than a splash of cold water in her face. Elmiryn had made a mistake. She was not a fighter. She was not brave. She didn’t belong anywhere else but in this world–and any minute now, she could be evacuated to an early afterlife.

Lethia could see the doubt in her eyes as clearly as if the woman’s skin had turned purple. She shoved at the redhead in some show of disgust…but not just that. Fear. She had made a gamble, and now she had to face the sad result. Death by cop.

“I never wanted any of this either…” Lethia murmured, slumping down next to the woman. “I just wanted…I wanted to be a good daughter. I just wanted to help Syria. And somehow that landed me here. I wish I could get rid of this power I have. I wish I could forget how to breathe and just die. But I can’t, because I’ve made a terrible mess of things, and until I can get you all out of it…” she trailed off.

Elmiryn reached over and squeezed the girl’s arm. She felt sick with fear.

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?” Lethia choked out. Her voice was barely audible over the barrage of shots.

Would they kill them if they surrendered? Even taking into account Lethia’s shooting, Elmiryn didn’t think they killed anyone. The shotgun didn’t have very far range, and the officers were being careful. Then again, she didn’t know anything about situations like this.

Her cousin had stopped firing. Possibly to save ammunition. How many shots did she have left? Three? The shots fired at them eased as the officers tried assess this sudden change. The woman glanced at Lethia. She was staring into nothing, hugging the shotgun to her body like it were a teddy bear. How did it come to this? What could the woman do to save them?

People can change, Elmiryn thought somberly.

She closed her eyes and tried to remember the impossible.

She tried to remember being the person she had never been.

The minutes stretched on.

Someone shouted over them. Elmiryn bared her teeth as hands took her weapon away and shoved her down. A knee dug into her back. She heard Lethia cry out next to her. Still, the woman kept her eyes closed.

She heard little whispers in her head.

…won’t leave them…chained…can’t fight–

…sir, we can’t…to run…

…go…made my…flea-biters coming…

…Elle, no…

…Saelin, you asshole…

Someone latched on one pair of cuffs and started pulling her arms behind her to put on the other.

Elmiryn managed to turn her head over to Lethia just as they grabbed her other wrist, and saw the girl gazing at her sadly.

“Lethy,” the redhead hissed. She fought against the grip that tried to twist her arm and heard the man barking at her to stop resisting. Red faced, she shouted, “Lethy, do a jedi mind trick! Now!

The girl’s eyes widened. They had already cuffed her and were jerking her to her feet. “But–”

NOW!

Lethia’s head snapped up as they focused on something the woman couldn’t see. Elmiryn felt the grip on her wrist relax, felt the knee on her back shift away. The woman started to roll to her feet, but other officers grabbed her by the shoulders and tried to shove her down again.

“Carl, what are you doing!?” one of them shouted.

Elmiryn heard several shots, all of them deafening. Something warm sprayed her face. The sounds made her flinch every time, and the lapse in concentration should’ve been enough for her opponents to subdue her quickly…

…If only each of them hadn’t had a supporting limb shot out.

The officers around her screamed in surprise and agony as they gripped their injured limbs. More noises. More struggle. More shots. Elmiryn couldn’t take it all in. Her focus was on getting free of the tangle, and when she did she rose up in a crouch and a night stick shoved into her face. The woman gave a start, but quickly saw that it was Lethia who was holding out the weapon. The officer that had been handcuffing Lethia was now crouching with them behind their crowded cover of the desk. The officers that had been shot were knocked out.

Shouts echoed through the offices.

Elmiryn took the night stick from her cousin, and her brow wrinkled in concern as she saw the girl flinch and rub her head.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. Aside from this entire situation.

“It’s taxing…controlling people,” Lethia panted. She pointed toward a doorway behind them–it was across from the one where the officer she had first shot at emerged from. “Move! There!”

Elmiryn nodded tersely.

The officers, their strange silent allies, covered them with gunfire as they hurried into the other room. The woman quickly scanned the space and found it was a simple supply closet. When the officers followed them in, shutting the door behind them, it became very cramped.

“Well this is less than ideal!” Lethia breathed.

The woman twisted the night stick in her hands. “Lethia, we can’t stay in here!”

“Well we can’t go back to the lobby.”

“Why not?”

“I didn’t have time to mention it before, but my power isn’t infinite. The moment I took control of these two, the officers outside, the ones I’d been putting a mental block on… Let’s just say, they’re ‘awake’ now.”

Elmiryn blanched. “We’re stuck in here! Pinned!”

“Not necessarily.”

“Wh-What do you mean?”

“I mean our friends here provided me with some information about the building. Namely, that this vent,” she pointed at the back wall, where behind a large box of papers, a vent peeked. Elmiryn would have missed it. “Can put us close to where Meznik is being held.”

“I thought that only worked in movies.”

“You’re right. That’s why I’m going to need you to do something.”

Elmiryn was immediately wary. “What?”

Lethia’s face became grim. “I need you to make us skinnier.”

The redhead balked. “Not even Jenny Craig can get the kind of results you’re asking for!”

“Back there, didn’t you remember something? Anything at all about who you really are?”

Elmiryn faltered. “Not…not really.”

Lethia sighed.

There was movement outside. Everyone stared at the door.

“I don’t have it in me to pull a hat trick,” Lethia whispered urgently. “So whatever you need to do to remember your fae power, do it now!”

As she said this, the officers squeezed past Elmiryn and set to work getting to the vent. She looked from them to Lethia and back. Then with a shaky sigh, she stooped down and began to take off her shoes.

“What are you doing??” Lethia hissed at her.

“I’m trying to feel like Bruce Willis, shut up!

“What we need isn’t Die Hard! We need more like…like…” Lethia fumbled, trying to come up with an adequate reference.

Elmiryn glared at her. “I thought you said I could do whatever I needed to!”

“I lied!

“You can be such a pain in the–”

There was a loud clunk outside. Scuffling. The women exchanged looks.

“You don’t think that’s SWAT do you?”

Lethia swallowed audibly. “Maybe?”

Elmiryn’s voice was fast and strained. She tried to keep her voice low so that those outside couldn’t hear. “What’s this fae power you want me to remember so badly?”

“Fairy godmother!” Lethia gasped suddenly.

What?”

“We don’t need Bruce Willis, we need a fairy godmother! You know! Cinderella!?”

“But I can’t–”

Try.”

“You have to make a wish first, jackass!”

“I-wish-my-idiot-cousin-would-make-me-fit-into-that-vent!” Lethia said in a rush.

The officers in the room with them were working out the last screw to the ventilation shaft using a multitool they had found somewhere. Elmiryn waved her arms.

Shazam! Wish be granted!”

The look Lethia gave her made the woman’s throat muscles tickle, but she didn’t know from what. Clearing it, she tried again, this time with more feeling.

“SHAZAM!”

Her mind flashed with the image of the cops outside in the hallway, preparing to burst into their room, expecting a fatal finish…and suddenly hearing her ridiculous cries.

Elmiryn’s throat tickled again, and this time her lips twitched.

Lethia palmed her face. “We are going to die,” she moaned morosely.

The officers carefully set down the vent cover. The shaft was now open to them…but it was much too small for even Lethia to squeeze through.

“No, no, I feel like I’m onto something. Here…” The woman rolled her shoulders and took a breath. Then she threw her arms up into the air and bellowed, “Alla-ka-zoo!

“Elmiryn, would you stop–!?”

But the girl was cut off as the redhead burst into wild laughter.

Lethia stared at her aghast. “You think this is funny?

When the woman calmed down enough to speak, it was with an arrogant smirk. Her cousin’s expression cleared and her eyebrows went high.

“Kid,” Elmiryn said as she patted Lethia on the cheek. “Right now, everything is funny.” She thumbed at the vent. “Now let’s get you in there!”

Continue ReadingChapter 37.4

Chapter 47.2



Author’s Note: First new update to the new website! Here you’ll see the pace of the story shift a little bit as I try out a new format. In an attempt to get back on the horse and make updates easier, I’ve decided to do shorter segments twice a week for a time. Because of this, the story may adopt an almost “slice of life” feel to it. Please let me know what you think!


KALI___________________________

I slept in the room Nyx had been using since arriving at this blasted tower.

The bed felt strange. Uncomfortable. After wasting what precious little night I had left tossing and turning, I gave up and moved to the floor with just a pillow and my back against the wall. 

I only remember shutting my eyes. When I opened them again, the suns had traveled far across the sky and the shadows in the room had grown long. It must have been late afternoon.

I rose and reached my hands high up over my head in a stretch. I paused as I looked up.

My hands

I had hands.

I lowered these before my eyes and furrowed my brow.

So seldom had I assumed this form, and yet I moved with a familiarity that came second-hand from Nyx. It took only a little self-awareness to recognize how foreign this actually was. 

I also felt tall. Not just that. Exposed, too.

As a beast, I walked on all fours, with my belly turned to the ground. Baring my stomach to anyone was a sign of trust. Or, when fighting a threat, a highly defensible position. You could use all four paws to claw and kick with. 

Right now, I didn’t feel particularly trusting of anyone, but I didn’t really want a fight either. My exposed belly fostered uneasy aggression in me, even standing alone in this room.

I wrapped my arms around my stomach to try and quell the feeling as I descended down the spiral stairs to the kitchen.

From my dream-like observation through Nyx’s eyes, I knew that Quincy was usually here, preparing the meals for the day. She wasn’t anywhere to be found. 

Annoyed by her absence, I next crossed the foyer to the study, but she still wasn’t there. Hakeem was, however. He was sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace with his back to me, reading a book.

My nose flared from the archway, and after sorting out the ashy aroma of the fireplace and the moldy stench of the old shelving, I picked out the man’s scent. 

He smelled like the Hakeem I remembered. But Elmiryn was certain he was a pretender. Some evil creation sent by Izma.

It was clear that Quincy didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t really know what to make of the man before me. He didn’t appear to be an immediate threat, but my instincts still murmured to be on my guard. I listened.

I made a point of dragging my feet on the floor as I approached the man. “Where is your wife?” I asked.

Hakeem turned his head. “Oh! Good morning, Nyx. You slept in quite a bit. Arrived late, did you?”

“Not Nyx,” I growled. “I’m Kali.”

Hakeem’s dark eyes went wide. “I see.”

“Where is Quincy?” I asked again.

The man’s gaze cast down and a worried crease appeared on his strong brow. “She’s… ill from overindulging. Quincy has never been a heavy drinker.”

I rubbed my stomach, trying still to make calm my crackling nerves. Even as I did this, I couldn’t help but snap, “I didn’t ask about her wellbeing, I asked where she was!

Hakeem looked at me, clearly startled. “I think she is still in the barn.”

“And has Daedalus returned yet?”

He shook his head. “No. I confess I find it odd. With luck the old elf is safe. His medicine will be needed soon.” The crease in Hakeem’s brow deepened as his eyes took on a shadow of worry. “I went down to relieve Paulo of his watch, but the boy refused. I tried to insist, but he said Elmiryn would react badly to my presence…”

Hakeem looked at me and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as his dark gaze became uncomfortably focused. “Do you have any idea why she would dislike my help?”

I pretended to think about it by placing both hands on my hips and turning my eyes up in thought. I had to be careful. The vermagus powers I shared with Nyx could give away the truth. 

After a short moment, I gave a small shake of my head. “No.”

The man hummed. His eyes turned down to his book again.

I didn’t want to stay here and continue pretending everything was normal. I turned on my heel and started for the front door.

Outside the air was so fresh and pleasant that I couldn’t resist stopping and taking a deep breath. The tension in me eased, and I finally let my arms fall away from my stomach.

I looked out over the swaying field, then to the gray-blue mountains beyond. The peaks cut up into the azure sky, some reaching so high as to vanish into the scattered clouds.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Nyx mused quietly from her place in my mind. Since arriving here, all we’ve done is fret and bicker, and we haven’t paused to take in what a wonderful place this once was.

My lips curved down as my eyes narrowed. “Wonderful, save for the mind witch who allowed herself to be led astray.”

My sister sighed. Yes… Poor Lethia.

I snorted. Of everyone, the young enchantress probably had the least of my sympathy.

I crossed the short distance from the tower to the barn and entered to find Lethia standing at one of the stalls, gazing down. She turned when she heard me approaching. Her eyebrows lifted.

“Kali?” she asked.

I blinked at her, stopping short. “Yes. How did you know?”

Lethia tapped her temple, a slow grin forming on her peach lips. “I can usually sense the top layers of people’s thoughts. It’s like a mental signature. Yours is distinct from Nyx’s.” She shrugged. “I’m not actually familiar with your patterns, but when I sensed it was so different, it was easy to guess who you were.”

I nodded. Despite my reservations, I had a grudging respect for Lethia. She was smart and to the point. But she was still naive, and her ambitions were dangerous. I couldn’t stay blind to that.

Nyx may have been quick to forgive the girl for the crimes she was party to, but I was not. Even being unaware of Izma’s exact intentions, the girl knew the demon was a threat. My sister had suffered much because of their brief collaboration, and I shared in that pain. Every aching part of it. 

Until I saw Lethia do more to repay her debts, I would keep my dealings with her short and my eye wary.

“Oh…” Lethia frowned in the wake of my brooding silence. “You dislike me.”

Every muscle in my body clenched. I hissed at her. “Don’t read my thoughts!”

The girl flinched and held up her hand. “Sorry! Sorry. Even without hearing your thoughts explicitly, you bleed more of your emotion than Nyx does.” She blushed and shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s, um… not unlike my readings from Argos.”

My lip curled. “Did you just equate me to your stupid dog?”

Lethia placed her fist on her hip as her gaze took on a sharp glint. “Do not insult Argos!”

I crossed my arms and shifted my weight to one foot. “Then stop drawing ridiculous parallels! I’m nothing like him!”

“Both of you shut the hell up… I’m trying to sleep!” Quincy groaned from the stall.

We glared at each other for a moment before I approached and stopped at Lethia’s side. Looking into the stall, I saw Quincy lying on her side on a bed of hay, her arms covering her head. 

She was in a state of undress. She’d pulled off her boots, but she’d only managed to remove one of her socks, the other only half-pulled off her foot. Her tunic lay discarded on the ground behind me. Quincy’s blouse was sloppily untucked, the front strings loosened to reveal she’d done away with her chest brassiere as well. 

The worst of it was the bucket she’d failed to vomit into completely. Its rancid stench, mingled with Quincy’s desperate sweat, burned my nose and made my stomach turn.

“You fucking moron,” I said. “I told you drinking was a bad idea!”

“Oh, fuck off, Kali,” Quincy groaned. “Leave me alone…”

“You’re a stupid bitch, and I’m not leaving you alone,” I snarled back.

Do you have to curse? Nyx whined.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll curse if I fucking want to, Nyx.”

Actually, I quite enjoyed it. It made it easier to voice my contempt.

It’s a lazy way to voice it

“Piss off. I said I’ll do what I want!”

When I looked at Lethia and Quincy, the pair were giving me weird looks. My cheeks grew hot and I snapped, “I’m obviously talking to my sister! Don’t judge me!”

“Nyx is looking like a beacon of normalcy compared to you, Kali,” Quincy chuckled weakly. She stopped almost immediately, giving me a blip of satisfaction as the wizard clutched her head. “Ugh…”

“Don’t tease,” Lethia chided softly. “Kali needs time to get used to being in control.”

“I don’t need your pity, Lethia,” I growled.

Lethia turned a cool eye on me. “When you have my pity, I’ll let you know. For now, all you have is my disdain. May we refocus, please?”

My eyes turned to slits. 

Then a smirk slowly unfurled across my lips.

Yes. I disliked Lethia Artaud… but she had my respect.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.2

Chapter 47.3

Author’s Note: In case you’re wondering, the navigation buttons will always be done ahead of time. This basically means that if you see the latest chapter linked to a non-existing post, it’s because I’m trying to save myself the effort of logging back on. You are, in fact, not going crazy.

 


KALI___________________________

Quincy groggily lifted her head. “Do you two have to loom over me?” she muttered, before letting her head fall back.

I kicked her foot. “Get up! We have to come up with a plan to deal with Jack.” I looked at Lethia. “She’s told you, hasn’t she?”

Lethia bobbed her head with a little shrug. “After some wheedling, yes.”

“There is no plan when it comes to Jack,” Quincy intoned. She stared forlornly into space. “The only power we possessed that could have possibly resisted him was Tonatiuh, and he was destroyed in the spirit realm.”

Lethia leaned on the stall post. “You’re forgetting something.”

Quincy snorted and curled up into a fetal position. “What’s that?” she asked sarcastically.

Lethia pointed at me. “Kali and Nyx are champions of Lacertli.” The girl blinked at me. “At least I assume you both are? Technically he chose Nyx, but I suppose since you both occupy the same body…?” she winced as she trailed off.

I gave her a sour look. “Of course I have all the same powers as my sister!”

Lethia smiled and waved a hand as if to say, There you have it!

“Just because I’m a champion, doesn’t mean I have what it takes to go up against a Legend.” I argued. “Jack has far more experience than I do! It’s why he’s a Legend with a capital L!”

“Exactly,” Quincy said flatly.

I hissed at her, my cheeks burning. “You needn’t agree so quickly!”

“Do we have to fight him, though?” Lethia asked. Her head tilted to the side and her green eyes turned up. “We’d only need to if, for some reason, he found our dealings punishable in some way. But haven’t we done enough to earn a fair hearing, at least?”

My eyes turned down as I considered this. The girl had a point.

Quincy muttered, “First of all, it’s not like we’re going to be given a Higashan court hearing—”

Higashi is the only country with a judicial system that assumes the accused is innocent until proven guilty, Nyx chirped eagerly.

“Second of all,” Quincy continued, “Jack is the champion of Njord, god of wind. Njord’s domain includes a father’s wrath.”

Quincy paused to let loose an unrefined burp before resuming weakly, “Elmiryn has done enough to earn such wrath. And when Jack finds out about me being involved with you all…” Her expression took on a look of disquiet.

Lethia’s eyebrow tilted up. “Njord’s demesne also includes change—”

Demesne. For mortals, it refers to property, usually of an estate, but for gods, it refers to—

My face twisted in irritation. I don’t need play-by-play for everything! Our knowledge is shared, remember?!

I could feel Nyx wilt. I was just trying to help… 

I tuned back just in time to hear Lethia say, “—Our collective efforts have cleared obstacles that kept many parts of the Sibesona stagnant. Those places are starting to flourish. Shouldn’t that count for something?”

I waved my hands, impatiently. “This is stupid conjecture!” I reached down and grabbed Quincy’s foot, pulling her off the hay bed roughly.

“Hey!” Quincy shouted as I dragged her into the middle of the barn. Her azure eyes became large circles as she dug her hands into the dirt and tried to sit up. Her fingers left deep gouges in the ground and her unkempt hair shed hay with her struggles. “Let go!”

“Get up!” I snarled back. She kicked at my hands and I finally released her. “Until Jack gets here, we must assume he’ll be aggressive!” I pressed hotly. “If he is, we need a plan!

“Fuck you!” Quincy spat, crawling pathetically back to the stall. She moaned and collapsed back onto the hay bed. “Stupid crazy cat…”

I spat a hiss from the back of my throat, my hands curling like claws before I stalked forward—.

Lethia blocked me with her body, her head shaking quickly.

“She needs time,” she whispered. Then she grimaced. “And she needs to finish sobering up.”

My lip curled. I paced in front of her a few times before I growled and stomped back to the barn entrance. The girl followed me. 

Once outside, I turned and asked, “Did you at least take away the gods-damned bottle?”

Lethia nodded. “I did. I poured what was left of it far out into the field.” She glanced over her shoulder before asking me seriously, “Is there any more?”

I sighed. “Yes. Two. Some wine and absinthe.”

Lethia’s look darkened. “Kali, we must get rid of it. All of it.”

I gave her an annoyed look. “Obviously!” I sighed roughly and crossed my arms. “I would have done so last night, but… I was tired.”

That wasn’t actually the reason. I could feel Nyx squirm with discomfort.

Lethia waved a hand behind her. “I’ll work with her.”

I nodded. “Do that. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go relieve the boy. Paulo needs rest.”

We started to part… But then I saw Hakeem running out of the tower. My eyes narrowed. What now?

He ran up to us with a deathly serious expression. “Is Quincy well enough to stand?” He asked in a rush.

My stomach clenched.

Oh no… Nyx murmured.

“What is it?” I asked.

Hakeem pointed back toward the tower. “It’s Elmiryn… Paulo told me she’s having a heart attack!”

Continue ReadingChapter 47.3

Chapter 47.4

KALI___________________________

 

Of course…

 

Of course this would happen while Daedalus was gone and Quincy was completely hungover! What was wrong with these people?! How in the world did they even survive this long?

 

I turned on the ball of my foot and charged into the barn. “Quincy, Elmiryn needs you!” I yelled.

 

At her stall, Quincy looked up with evident surprise and dread. “What? Now?

 

“Yes!” I snapped.

 

“Can’t someone else—?” Lethia started, suddenly pale and big-eyed.

 

“Do you know revival methods, or how much tincture to give?” I hissed at her.

 

“N-No—?”

 

“Well, neither does anyone else, so at the least, this cajeck needs to be there!”

 

Without waiting to hear Quincy’s reaction, I stood over her body, grabbed her under the armpits, lifted her up, and hefted her over my shoulder. The wizard yelped, but I didn’t pause. If this fucking warrior died on account of someone else being too drunk to help her…

 

Let’s just say Quincy’s body would have multiple resting places.

 

“Kali, I can walk!” Quincy shouted, pushing against the small of my back.

 

“Don’t care. You’re slow!” I grunted back.

 

I cleared the barn doors and charged for the tower, Hakeem and Lethia following close. 

 

“It’s a heart attack, wizard. What do we need?!” I asked between puffing breaths.

 

Quincy gasped in pain. No doubt all this jostling was torture for her head. “Um, um— There’s a small case in the kitchen, to the left of the entryway on a shelf! There should be a vial of digitalis tincture that we can use

 

“Lethia!” I shouted as we came through the tower entrance.

 

“I’ve got it!” The girl exclaimed breathlessly as she veered a hard right into the kitchen.

 

“What about me?” Hakeem asked.

 

“Bring two buckets, one filled with water, the other empty. Also, whatever cloth you can find!” Quincy hollered as I carted her down the cellar steps. Her voice echoed on the narrow walls. “Leave it at the top of the stairs!”

 

“He can’t be involved, Quincy,” I growled.

 

“I know. We don’t need any of that,” she muttered. “I’m just trying to keep him busy.”

 

When we arrived at the bottom, it was to find Paulo kneeling at the edge of the containment circle.

 

“It’s all right, lia. Just hang on!” He said urgently to Elmiryn.

 

Lethia arrived a short moment after us. “Here is the vial,” she huffed, holding the small bottle up.

 

I set Quincy on her feet and the wizard reeled a little with a grimace as she tried to keep her balance. Lethia handed her the vial.

 

Paulo turned to us, and the weariness of a long night was evident on his glistening face. “She says her arms hurt and her chest feels tight! She’s having trouble breathing!”

 

I pointed at Elmiryn. “Help her, Quincy. Now!”

 

The wizard shook her head vehemently. “Are you mad?! I can’t go in there! She can smell the sake on my breath! Just my being here is problematic!”

 

“Your weakness was problematic,” I snapped. “This hesitance is dangerous!

 

“Kali, she’s right,” Lethia said quickly. She gestured at Quincy. “She reeks of indulgence. Better that she guides from a distance. In fact…” She looked earnestly at Quincy. “May I borrow your knowledge?”

 

Quincy’s eyebrows lifted. “You can extract it safely?”

 

Lethia scowled. “I’ve had more training, you know!”

 

While they talked, I stepped closer to the containment circle, looking over Paulo to where Elmiryn lay, just near her sloppily reassembled hay bed. Her eyes were squeezed shut as she clutched at the front of her sweat-drenched shirt, her breaths coming in quiet but unnervingly quick takes. Her hair was a messy halo about her head.

 

“Are you sure?” Quincy asked Paulo next. “Did she seem lucid to you when she told you how she felt?”

 

“Lucid enough!” he snapped. “Just look at her!”

 

“I need to know for certain!” Quincy snarled. “Lethia will be at risk the moment she steps inside. She’s still healing herself!”

 

She had a point. Was this a ruse?

 

Quincy looked sharply at Lethia. “Can you read Elle’s mind?”

 

Lethia shook her head once. “No. Since the last time, her mind has become an impenetrable maelstrom!”

 

My nose flared, trying to sift through the sweaty, musty, vomit tainted air. Humans had a certain smell to them when they were in severe distress or suffering from illness. Elmiryn was still part human. Could I pick out that fresh scent of body failure, or would her fae nature deceive my nose?

 

If she smells differently from the last time we saw her, then we know this is true.

 

My jaw clenched.

 

But if she doesn’t…

Continue ReadingChapter 47.4

Chapter 47.5

KALI___________________________

 

The longer we took, the closer Elmiryn was to possible death. Maddening obstacles kept us from making quick decisions.

 

Was the warrior lying to us or not?

 

I inhaled again, slowly. I needed to pick out a distinct shift in Elmiryn’s scent. A true sign of malady. If I didn’t find this, then I knew this was an act. 

 

I could sense so much… but there was too much interference. Elmiryn’s specific scent was lost in the cloud of our fear-reeking bodies.

 

We need to get closer, Nyx urged.

 

I knelt by Paulo and went as close to the containment line as I dared. I tried to take a whiff again—

 

“I can’t… I can’t breathe!” Elmiryn wheezed. Her legs kicked weakly along the ground… Then stilled.

 

Her eyes rolled up, showing their sickly yellowness, blotched with angry crimson veins that had burst from her distress.

 

“Get in there!” Paulo shouted waving frantically at Lethia. “Get in there now!

 

I pressed my eyes closed and tried to block out the ruckus…

 

Elmiryn smelled… She smelled…

 

Nyx’s horror jolted down my limbs like frigid ice.

 

NO!

 

My eyes flew open and I jumped to my feet, just as Lethia’s foot crossed the containment line.

 

“Don’t! It’s a lie!” I screamed.

 

My arms wrapped around the girl, just as Elmiryn shot up, quick like a striking panther. The Fiamman’s hand grabbed Lethia’s ankle, wrenching it so hard the girl lost her balance. She pulled her back, deeper into the containment circle, but I held on, shouting incoherent denials as my boots scraped along the cellar floor.

 

“Don’t break the line!” Quincy shouted. “The salt, Kali, the salt!

 

I spared a quick glance at the floor. Fuck. The containment line was made of salt. If we broke it in our struggle…

 

My eyes lifted up and met Elmiryn’s over Lethia’s shoulder, and I could see the crazed vehemence in Elmiryn’s gaze as she bared her teeth at me like an animal.

 

I slid further over the floor and barely raised my right foot in time over the boundary. I felt Paulo grab onto my waist.

 

“Pull!” he shouted in my ear. “Quincy, pull!

 

A frantic look over my shoulder informed me that Quincy had also grabbed the boy’s waist.

 

Lethia screamed as Elmiryn’s dirty hands traveled up her leg. The girl tried to kick her away with her other foot, but the Fiamman only used this as an opportunity to catch her other leg. Now the enchantress was horizontal over the floor, caught in a sick game of tug-of-war.

 

How was the warrior able to keep her grip? Surely the three of us could outmatch her!

 

Kali, look down!

 

With effort, I craned my head to the side and did so. My eyes widened.

 

Elmiryn had used her fae powers to morph the stone to encase around her feet.

 

My head snapped up again, my lips squeezed into a grim line. If Elmiryn’s powers had progressed to such a point, then we were all in very grave danger.

 

“Elmiryn, let go! Please!” Lethia squealed.

 

“Why should I?!” Elmiryn spat. She looked up, her face twisting with her torment. “I see those drinks you’re hiding! I can see the weave of everything from here!”

 

She pushed back against her makeshift footholds, causing Lethia to whimper as we all slid a harrowing inch along the floor. I spread my stance wider, trying to keep my left foot away from the containment line. 

 

I could pull harder. I could use my full therian strength and end this… but doing so would seriously injure Lethia. Maybe even break the containment line. 

 

I couldn’t risk it. 

 

A thick vein appeared in Elmiryn’s forehead as she screeched, “Quincy reeks of spirit, yet you keep me trapped here like some fucking animal and share nothing with me!”

 

“I was stupid, Elmiryn, I’m sorry! I was upset!” Quincy wheezed.

 

I pulled, my arms linked tightly just under Lethia’s armpits, and the others pulled with me. We didn’t budge.

 

“I succumbed to my fear!” Quincy went on. “My fear of losing you! My fear of seeing my father! My fear that what you warned me of is true!”

 

“Nyx bought the drinks on our outing, not knowing what you were trying to do!” I gasped next. It wasn’t that I was getting tired, but Paulo’s hold on me was so intense it was making it harder to breathe.

 

“We should have thrown it all away!” I said. “But…” 

 

I clenched my teeth, wrestling with my own pride to say the rest. 

 

“But Nyx and I both felt the same temptation Quincy did! We wanted to numb our feelings! Her for her pain! Me for my nervousness of this new world!” Every word came haltingly through tight lips.

 

I wanted to seem capable. I wanted to seem confident. I hadn’t even had an entire day out in this sapien form, and already I was admitting my weakness. I could feel my gorge rise.

 

There was still more to say.

 

My eyes closed. I wasn’t good at this sort of thing. Fortunately, I could feel my sister guiding me gently. I suppose I needed the play-by-play after all. 

 

“There was a bottle of absinthe that was meant just for us,” I said. “It was… selfish and wrong. We should have known we couldn’t support you fully if we gave a pass for ourselves!”

 

Shut up! I’ve had it!” Elmiryn barked. Her voice sounded off. Thick.

 

I opened my eyes and was shocked to see the warrior’s face had crumpled, tears streaming down her face. She looked at me, a pitiful creature swept up in sickness, rage, and dogged addiction.

 

“You fucking idiots, it’s all just noise!” She screamed next. “Every single word! I don’t care about what you have to say! It means nothing to me! Understand?! FUCKING NOTHING!

 

She pulled on Lethia again, this time sliding her right leg back. I could hear the stone crackle as it morphed to follow her movement. We slid three more inches. 

 

The inside edge of my left foot dangerously nudged the salt. 

 

At this rate it was clear that we couldn’t win through brute strength. We had to try something different. Drastic, even.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.5

Chapter 47.6

KALI___________________________

An idea leaped into my head, but Nyx recoiled from it.

Kali, wait—!

“Was what Nyx said yesterday nothing too??” I asked through clenched teeth. “Hmm? Did my sister’s pain make a dent in your greedy mania, or are you that far gone, Elmiryn?”

Elmiryn’s eyes fluttered. “What Nyx… What Nyx said yesterday?” Her expression gradually smoothed to blank confusion. “What did— What did she say?”

Kali!

“What Izma took away. What she did. You honestly don’t remember?” I pressed.

Elmiryn’s brow creased slightly as her eyes started to tick rapidly side to side. “Izma… hurt Nyx?”

Her grip on Lethia weakened. 

I let out a sharp kai, signaling my intent to the others, then together, the three of us pulled in unison. The enchantress was wrenched out of Elmiryn’s slack hands with ease.

We crashed in a heap on the floor, each of us panting. I sat up quickly and was glad to see that—though the salt had been harrowingly moved, the line of the circle was still complete. The containment spell held.

Elmiryn hadn’t moved, her hands still up like she still had Lethia’s legs. “What did Izma do…?” she mumbled. “What did she—”

Slowly…very slowly. Her eyes grew large. Her features slackened.

“No…” Elmiryn whispered. More tears slipped from her shocked sickly eyes. “No… no! She stole my face! She stole my face and—”

The stone retreated from Elmiryn’s feet, melting back to the floor as though it were water rolling off of glass. The woman gripped her head and fell to her knees.

I stood up carefully and went back to the line, my boots nearly touching the salt. I stared down at Elmiryn as she pressed her forehead to the floor and wept silently. She punched the floor hard once. Twice. 

Within, I could feel Nyx’s fury with me. She paced inside, sending aching waves along my skull. I sighed. I’d have to hash it out with her. For now, however…

Without turning around, I said, “Paulo, go get some rest. Quincy, check to make sure Lethia’s wounded arm is all right.”

I sat cross-legged next to the circle, my eyes turned away from Elmiryn’s sorrow to the floor. “I’m taking the next watch.”

QUINCY_________________________

Quincy didn’t want to linger. The shame and queasiness demanded a hasty retreat. 

She and Paulo helped Lethia up the stairs where they found Hakeem waiting with a bucket of water and two scraps of cloth.

He looked at her eagerly. “Should I take this down, or–?”

“No,” Quincy said quickly. “No, just… leave those. Kali will fetch them later.”

Paulo gestured for the man to take his place supporting Lethia on one side. “Can you help Quincy? I’ve got to sleep.” He sounded weary beyond words. Heavy dark bags hung under his eyes.

Hakeem nodded, and when Paulo slipped out from under one of Lethia’s arms, he slid in quickly and held the girl by the waist.

“I trust you’ll tell me what happened?” Hakeem said to Quincy as Paulo lurched out the front door to find his usual sleeping spot.

She nodded mutely.

Quincy pulled Lethia and Hakeem toward the kitchen. There they sat Lethia down in one of the chairs.

The young girl was sickly pale and trembling, tendrils of her long wavy hair sticking to the sides of her sweaty face. Her eyes stared glassily forward.

“Lethia,” Quincy said as she pulled the pine box of bandages and salves they’d been using for the enchantress off a shelf. “Lethia, say something.”

“Something,” the girl mumbled.

“Good girl,” Quincy said, trying to feign strength. Trying to feign control.

But they didn’t really have a damn thing under control, did they? Not Elmiryn. Not themselves. And certainly not the dangers that sought them out.

Hakeem watched at the end of the table with arms crossed as Quincy sat next to Lethia on the right and placed the box down.

She gently took hold of Lethia’s amputated arm. “I just want to check your stitches.”

“Of course,” Lethia said quietly. She still didn’t look at Quincy. “Don’t want any setbacks on the road to recovery, do we?”

Quincy frowned at Lethia’s numb response. Being in shock was understandable, but the more Lethia spoke, the less the woman believed this was the case. There was something lurking in the girl’s words. Some muted emotion she couldn’t name.

Carefully, Quincy undid the bandages over Lethia’s stump. They’d been changing it regularly with a steady application of fresh salves, and so far the wound had been healing just fine. Daedalus had been confident that the stitches could be removed in just a few more weeks barring any setbacks.

Too bad they’d just had one.

Still, if the stitches held, then all Quincy would have to do was reapply the elf’s salve (comprised of secret ingredients he refused to divulge) and redress the wound. Otherwise, they’d need to have another painful round with the needle and thread again.

As the last of the bandage wrap came off, the pungent stench of the healing salve filled the room. Quincy’s nose wrinkled a little, but she leaned in and used the sunlight from the small kitchen window to inspect the integrity of the stitches.

She smiled. “Thank the gods. Everything appears all right.”

Continue ReadingChapter 47.6

Chapter 47.7

QUINCY_________________________

Obviously. She grabbed my legs, not my arm,” Lethia grumbled. “Why did we even wonder?”

Quincy paused in her opening of the salve jar to lean back in her seat and eye the girl warningly.

“Better to check and be certain,” Hakeem said with a soft frown.

He placed a hand on Quincy’s shoulder. The woman resisted the urge to shrug it off.

“Forgive me,” Lethia murmured. Her lips barely moved. “I’m upset.”

“As we all are,” Quincy said, keeping her stern eye steady. “But you have something on your mind, girl. Just say it and be done with it.”

Lethia took a deep intake of breath. Then she turned and said with steel in her voice, “I’m upset that I had to step in for you.”

Quincy stilled, letting that sink in. Eventually, she said, “Understandable.”

Lethia tilted her head. “You must have been aware that you being drunk left us open to this.”

“Lethia…” Hakeem rumbled, but Quincy held up a quieting hand.

“I understand why you did it,” Lethia continued. “You were scared of what was coming. But I’m…”

Quincy exhaled harshly through flaring nostrils, trying to resist the natural urge to defend herself. “You’re angry,” she murmured through tense lips. “Go on. Say it. I won’t deny that I failed.” 

Lethia’s left hand clenched in her lap. Her green eyes augured into Quincy’s. “I am angry. Since the incident with Paulo, I’ve fought against my frustrations with everyone because I was the one who helped the demon’s pet. I had no right to judge.”

Her lower lip pushed up hard in self-disgust, wrinkling her chin as her eyes misted. “I had to bear the brunt of everyone’s anger and suspicion, and in no way did I have room to say how I really felt about anything.”

“Do you want us to feel sorry for you?” Quincy asked with a squint.

Lethia laughed caustically and shook her head. “Of course not.” She leaned in, her eyes widening. “But I can see the anger in you too, Quincy. You know that you’ve messed up, so you’re refraining from saying what you really feel. I’m saying I know what that’s like.”

“And what do I really feel, Lethia Artaud?” Quincy snapped, feeling the thorns of her frustration tearing from her skin. “You’re so fucking smart and saavy? Then tell me, what’s on my mind?”

Lethia snorted and sat back in her chair. She averted her eyes to the window. “We both know you and Hakeem have excellent thought protection.”

Her eyebrow arched. “But I don’t need enchantment to see that you’re sick of playing den mother. Pretending we’re almost like a family. Now your true family is coming, and the charade feels unbearable. You couldn’t carry on for even one more day.”

The girl looked at Quincy sidelong and hissed through her teeth. “If you’re tired of that, then I’m tired of being the last fucking resort.”

Now Quincy’s face twisted in confusion. “What do you mean?” She paused to look back at Hakeem, who only shrugged.

Lethia sighed roughly, her eyes turning up to the ceiling.

“Everyone holds on to something that hurts them. Nyx’s trauma. Elmiryn’s drinking. Paulo’s guilt,” she cut a penetrating look at Quincy. “Your fear.”

The girl shook her head. “For the last few weeks I’ve had to take it upon myself to step in when no one else would. Paulo backed out of his promise, so I did what had to be done. Elmiryn nearly kills everyone, and I break through to her. Today, I thought I was the only one who could administer aid to Elmiryn…”

Quincy sighed heavily. “And then you were placed in harm’s way…”

Lethia pressed her lips together, lifted both eyebrows, and turned over her hand. 

The enchantress closed her eyes and her throat moved in a silent swallow. “I see how everyone thinks and acts. I can’t help but apply my teaching and see solutions. I know that can make me a bit insufferable. Maybe meddlesome.”

Hakeem laughed. “Maybe?” 

Lethia cut him a weary look. “I just… I want to help you all.”

Quincy scoffed. She stood and went to the bucket out by the cellar stairs and used the water to wash her hands. She returned to her seat and began to apply the salve on Lethia’s arm.

“Don’t act like you’re so perfect,” Quincy muttered. “Your principles are radical. Your ambition is self-destructive. You’re also annoyingly arrogant.”

“Don’t forget impertinent,” Lethia added with a little smirk, before that was quickly followed by a wince of pain from Quincy’s sudden firm hand.

“That too!” Quincy snapped. 

She picked up the bandages and started to wrap Lethia’s stump. “You have a serious savior complex, Lethia Artaud, and for your information, we are not the side characters in your story! Stop placing the burden of our progress on yourself! It’s ridiculous!”

Lethia considered this quietly. When Quincy finished and began to put away the supplies, the girl held out her hand.

“Wait,” she said.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.7

Chapter 47.8

QUINCY_________________________

Quincy paused, her hands holding the medical box.

Lethia looked at her, chagrined. “You’re right. About me. I lose sight of that.” She shrugged awkwardly. “I’m waiting to heal so that I can do what I have to. I feel like I’m going mad, waiting to resume my life, that I can’t help but get overly involved with everyone else’s. That… that doesn’t mean I don’t actually care.”

She ran her hand through her hair, her forehead wrinkling. “And what I said earlier… about your playing den mother being a charade…” 

Lethia shook her head and placed a hand on Quincy’s wrist, making the woman’s eyes grow a little. “It’s true that we’re not a real family. But thanks to what you’ve done to make everyone feel comfortable here… We’ve all started to get along! That means something! It could even make the difference between us surviving what’s to come or not!”

Lethia took her hand away and stood. She looked steady on her feet. “So, please. I hope you won’t pull away. And know that I’ve already forgiven you. I’m sure the others will be swift to do the same.”

She squinted one eye and held up her hand. “When it’s all said and done, we’ve all almost killed each other several times now!”

Hakeem laughed suddenly at that, and Quincy was startled enough to allow for a grin.

Lethia started for the front door. “I’m going to rest in the barn if you need me,” she said over her shoulder.

Quincy watched the girl leave before rising and putting the medical box back onto its shelf. “She’s hard to keep up with, that one,” she mumbled.

“Yes,” Hakeem said, taking a seat.

He leaned his cheek on a fist and asked, “Now… about what happened below?”

Quincy turned to regard him.

The man before her looked so much like her Taika. He moved like him. Smelled like him. Tasted like him.

“Of course I’ll tell you what happened,” Quincy said, making herself smile. She sat down at the table, but frowned like something had occurred to her. “Though I fear the elf should have been back by now…”

She looked at Hakeem. “Taika, could you tell me how long it’s been since he’s left? Perhaps it’s all in my mind.”

Her husband frowned hard in thought. Quincy’s heart lifted with hope.

But then the man pushed back his chair, stood up, and went to the window. He looked out at the suns. Quincy felt her throat clench as a fierce ice seized her heart.

“Hmm…” He looked back at her. “Judging by the suns movement, I’d say it’s been… nearly ten hours? It’s hard to say,” he chuckled. “Seems we should have asked Nyx to bring back a clock!”

Quincy conjured the spirit of her smile back onto her face, but it was a ghost. Dead and lifeless–

For now she knew that Hakeem was truly gone, and this thing in front of her needed to be destroyed.

KALI___________________________

After everyone had gone, and Elmiryn’s tears had subsided, I finally dared to lift my eyes from the floor.

Elmiryn was now lying on her side, back to me, curled up into a fetal position.

Nyx’s anger was so thick, I could feel it bleeding into my thoughts. The growing heat in my veins spurred me to confront my sister.

I did what I had to do, Nyx.

No, she hissed in my head. You didn’t have to use my pain as a weapon against her!

Our pain,” I snarled aloud.

In my head, I continued, You know as well as I do that just because one of us sinks out of sight from the world, that doesn’t mean we do not experience some of it!

Izma put you to sleep! You weren’t even there for it!

I pressed my hand to my heart and ground the heel of my palm into my breast till it hurt. Tears clouded my eyes. You think I didn’t hurt, going over the memories?

My eyes squeezed shut.

I may as well have been present for every awful moment!

That didn’t give you the right to use it against Elmiryn! My experiences are not your weapon to wield!

I covered my face with my hands and exhaled harshly into my palms.

Against her? AGAINST her? Nyx, remembering your rape was the only thing that got THROUGH to her!

I dropped my hands and looked up at the ceiling, a pleading expression on my face. You’re right. I wasn’t there. I didn’t suffer through it, as you did. But if there is one thing I understand, it’s that Elmiryn cares for you!

No matter how far gone she is, she will ALWAYS respond to your suffering! And right now? We are far past the point of polite decorum!

My eyes turned back to Elmiryn, still curled up on the floor.

I am trying to keep the one you love alive, Nyx. Please forgive me if I resort to uncomfortable measures.

Nyx said nothing to this. I waited a long time for her to respond, but she never did. She felt distant. Her feelings and thoughts were hidden from me.

I chewed my inner lip and leaned back on my hands, my eyes roving over Elmiryn’s form.

This woman… My history with her was fraught. She’d cursed me and hurt me. Her opinion of me had never been high, and neither had mine been for her.

But she had returned me to my sister. We were whole thanks to her. And whatever my thoughts, Nyx loved Elmiryn. She was just too foolish to say it aloud.

So I had to keep the woman safe and alive until she could.

Continue ReadingChapter 47.8