Authors: Jaymin Eve
How could they have disappeared like that
? Even if the suns had melted them or whatever, there would have to be something left behind.
Were they still in the caves?
As I had this thought, and was turning around to head inside, something hard slammed into the back of my head. My skin scorched as the shield dropped and the world went dark around the edges. I hit the ground hard, before my legs were grabbed and used to hoist me over a shoulder.
Within seconds the intense heat abated and
we were back in the caves. The burning of my skin distracted me and I was too disorientated to fight back. Warm blood dripped over my forehead, leaving visible marks on the floor. Spots danced before my eyes and nausea rose, probably a concussion, but at least with my Walker abilities I’d be healed enough to fight in a minute. Closing my eyes, I waited for the sensations to subside. In my weakened state my mind drifted closer to the golden thread, and by the time I realized, it was too late to stop from brushing against it. I was reeled in.
, mate. I’m glad to see you again.”
took the first moment to drink in the sight of Brace. It felt like years since I had last seen him.
m not your mate,” I said bluntly. “Let’s not get confused here.”
He smiled, just the slightest curve, which was actually quite sinister. “I don’t know, the more time I spend with Brace, the more I see the attraction.”
Great. Just what I needed, a Seventine who was absorbing some of my melding bond with Brace. Time to cut him off here and now.
“Look, ancient psycho, I understand that you’
ve been buried below for a long time and there weren’t many available females down there. But let me spell it out for you: you’re a power-hungry, crazy-ass who is determined to destroy billions of people and all seven worlds for your own selfish gains ... so I don’t think you and I are going to have much hope as a couple. I mean, what would we even talk about?”
The smirk remained. He dragged me closer by tugging on the golden strand that held me immobile.
“You’re just like us, Aribella, one of the ancient ones. You will come to understand and then you will join us.”
He was close enough that
I could have reached out and touched him, and it was so hard to restrain myself. I craved Brace in a way that would be considered an addiction on Earth. I needed a good rehab clinic.
“Go now, sweetheart, you and I will speak again soon. Once you have decided it is in your best interest to help me free the third.”
I shuddered as the previously endearing ‘sweetheart’ turned to sourness in my stomach. This creature must have full access to Brace’s memories.
Thanks for ru
ining that for me, asshat.
And then he released the golden cord.
I popped back into my own head. I was barely disorientated, my focus zeroing straight in on my surroundings. I was still underground, in some type of rock cavern. And there was no door. Not that that was usually a problem for a Walker but I had no idea where to go right now. I couldn’t leave the planet until I found Fury, and I was really worried for my friends’ safety. I’d wait until my captors came back; I had a few questions and I was kind of hoping I needed to beat the answers out of them.
he pain from the burns and head injury was already subsiding. Despite the many crazies it had brought into my life, I couldn’t complain about the fringe benefits of being a Walker.
“What are you?”
The forcibly spoken words had me spinning around. I obviously hadn’t checked the stone room thoroughly enough. I’d missed the woman slumped in the dark right corner.
“I said: what are you?” she spat out again.
I raised my eyebrows. “That’s what I thought you said
. I was just giving you a chance to be less of a bitch.”
She stood then and my eyes widened as she stepped forward into the lightened area. She had creamy red skin and long white hair that reached to her wa
ist. A female nomad? Unless I was mistaken, Fury was my cell mate.
“You seem to be some type of
pale-skinned creature, one I’ve never seen before and, since you can understand what I’m saying, how about you answer the question?”
She was not a happy camper, her arms crossed across her front. She was slim, around my height
, and had piercing eyes. They were dark. If I had to hazard a guess at the color, it would be gray. I couldn’t distinguish the pupil and iris.
, right?” I was already over this day.
She almost snarled at me. “How do you know my name?”
I sighed. “Look, your attitude is starting to annoy me. How about you take a step back from the bitch-ness and maybe I’ll answer your questions?”
“The nomads have sent you in here to try and figure out my power. I promise you
, they might take my body, but I will never allow them to have my fire. Never!” She flicked the white hair. “So don’t even bother with your witchy persuasions.”
Damn it, now I was angry
. The pain and darkness that had been constantly simmering under the surface of my personality erupted from me.
“Look, you pain-in-my-
butt, I don’t have time for your childish tantrums and threats. My friends are missing, I’m stuck in this stupid rock room, I’m wondering why the hell my claustrophobia has cured itself and, since most of today’s crap is your fault, it’s in your best interest to stop pushing me.”
Her eyes narrowed and her lips started to quiver; she
looked bewildered by my outburst.
I don’t understand –” she started to say.
“I’m sure that what you don’t understand would probably span from here to the dark side of your planet. So why don’t you sit down and shut the hell up
My powers were snarling inside me
, demanding to be let free. They wanted to wrap themselves around Fury, and probably do that dream thing. But I was getting very good at keeping them under control. They stayed on the leash most of the time now.
Suddenly she burst into flames. I clutched at my mouth to
stop the shriek about to erupt. I took a step back without shifting my eyes from the spectacle in front of me. A bright blue flame encased her entire body, but she wasn’t screaming or burning to death. And there was no doubt that the flames were hot. I was getting waves of burning heat even from across the room. Fire power, she’d said, and now I understood.
Her eyes widened as they locked with mine.
, she mouthed to me. She couldn’t reel her energy back in.
I took a hesitant step closer
. The room was getting uncomfortably warm now and the rocks behind her were a glowing red. She emitted heat like a volcano.
You need to calm down; I’m not a threat to you. Your powers are reacting to your fear.” I spoke softly, letting my voice soothe her.
I allowed a small
fraction of my power to leak out with my words, but only the calming portions. The angry part of me stayed tightly locked down.
She took a few shuddered breaths.
I could hear yells from behind me and a disturbing grinding noise. I wanted to turn around but was afraid to take my eyes off the firebug in front of me.
It’s okay, Fury, these are just your Walker powers. You can learn to control them, but first you have to let go of the fear and also the strength. I know how addictive the sense of security is, but don’t let the powers control you.”
I had no idea at what point I
had turned into the head counselor for these half-Walkers. But whatever I said had some effect. She drew the flames back into herself. The grinding noise continued behind me.
“They are coming for me now. Dune warned me not to use my powers, that they were a beacon for the nomads. They want me.” She spok
e without an ounce of fear.
“What do they want you for?”
A sad smirk crossed her pale red lips. “I am to be their breeding machine for future generations of nomads. They think my power is the source they need to procreate.”
Sometimes it’s just awesome to be a woman.
She continued. “The reality is that nomads are anomalies on this world and they simply cannot breed. The only way for new nomads to be born comes from the tribes.”
“So why would they think you’
re special or different?”
She laughed. “My mother was a nomad, and the only one to eve
r have a child. They believe I’m the key to their proliferation.”
I nodded, understanding flooding me. “The reason your mother was able to have you is because she was with a Walker
. It would never have happened with another nomad.”
She narrowed her eyes at me.
“That’s the second time you’ve said that. What is a Walker?”
The rock behind me was starting to shift, and I finally figured out what the grinding was
. They were opening the cave up. Keeping one eye on the wall, I spoke quickly.
It seems as if we’re about to have some visitors. I’ll give you the condensed version and any questions will have to wait.”
Her eyes flicked to the slice of opening behind me now.
She nodded once.
ran through the most basic explanation of Walkers, their origins and, most importantly, the Seventine. She opened her mouth, eyes wide and shocked. I shook my head, cutting her off. She blinked but let me finish explaining my mission and the reasons we were on Crais. My story was cut off in the middle of the half-Walkers’ role when a man pushed through the rock opening. I spun around on the defensive. They wouldn’t be smacking me in the back of the head again.
single man stepped further into the room. He was tall and domineering with strong facial features and short white hair. He oozed confidence and power. He reminded me so much of Brace that in that moment I almost fell to my knees. How is it that a metaphorical wave of pain could often be as debilitating as an actual physical blow?
I shook it off
. Now was not the time to fall apart again. Brace would be the one kicking my ass if I showed weakness to the enemy.
“Fury, I warned you not to use you
r powers. They’re coming now. We must escape.” His voice was deep and his English rough.
Was this man friend or foe?
I spun my head to catch Fury’s expression. Her eyes were locked on him. Although, she still looked a little shell-shocked, whether because of me or hunky-man over there I couldn’t tell. But if the way she was eye-devouring him was any indication, she definitely had him in the friend category – very, very good friends.
,” she breathed. “What are you doing here?”
He didn’t answer
. Instead he strode forward and threw her over his shoulder. She looked too stunned to object. He was moving toward the door when his dark blue-gray eyes locked on me.
“If you don’t want
to spend time in the company of a herd of nomads I suggest you keep up.”
And he took off.
I didn’t hesitate to follow.
Dune moved swiftly through the caves, ducking
along low and narrow arterials. Fury’s complaining echoed off the walls.
“Why did you tell her to follow?”
she said. “She’s crazy. She told me this stupid story about end of worlds and that I’m half-Walker.”
At that moment
I stumbled on a few loose stones, falling a few feet behind and missing the rest of their conversation. By the time I regained my footing and caught up Dune’s low voice was all I could hear.
“According to your mother, your father was from an ancient race of beings called Walkers.”
I bit back a smile
. Fury wouldn’t be happy to hear that.
“She told me some of the story before she
died. I was never supposed to reveal it to you unless there came a time your life was in danger.”
“Well, one might think now is that time
, Dune.” Fury’s voice sounded tense.
He didn’t speak
again and his pace was increasing. I took a moment to look behind us but as far as I could tell we weren’t being followed. Did he know something that I didn’t? While I always enjoyed a chance to run, my white outfit and the lack of oxygen on Crais didn’t exactly create a fun experience. I even used my shield a few times just to clear my lungs of the sooty air.
Finally, Dune started to slow
. The stone surrounding us looked different. It was less red and a sheen of slime ran along it. I’d guess we were further underground.
Dune dropped Fury do
wn. They both moved toward an overrun of water on the wall and let their bodies replenish themselves.
I didn’t wait for an invitation, diving under a shelf nearby
, sighing as the coolness flowed over me, the thick and absorbing nature of Crais water leaving me refreshed. The moment one need was sated, another made itself known. My stomach growled; it had been a long time since we’d dined in the hall. And I’d been expending a lot of energy.
“Come.” Dune turned and
strode around the corner.
We followed him
; he pushed a rock wall aside to reveal a fully outfitted home. There were hammock chairs, padded sleeping surfaces, and an area that looked like a stone kitchen.
“This is where you live?” Fury said as she wandered further into the room. “Why are you underground?”
“I don’t live with the nomads. When I’m not keeping an eye on you I stay here. I like my own space.”
e walked into the kitchen and bent down in front of a small round pot. Within moments I could smell smoke and see the small fire that was beginning to heat the vessel. As I stepped closer, I peered inside to find it half-full of water. Dune continued to fuss around his area, opening weird boxes and throwing an assortment of things into the pot.
Fury hadn’t moved
. She stood in the centre of the room, arms crossed across her front and a glare on her face. Her attention never wavered, and despite her clear annoyance she was far more patient than I’d have been.
Eventually my boredom kicked in and I sat down on one of the hammocks.
Leaning back, I thought about my parents. Damn, I’d forgotten to drop the energy around my mind and contact Josian. He was probably going crazy. Dune was still busy cooking and Fury was busy stalking him, so I figured I had time. With a thought I freed my mind and tentatively reached out to my father.
Aribella, how nice of
you to relieve the worry of your parents.
His booming voice echoed through my head, with just the slightest tone of annoyance.
, I forgot. Things have been a little strange here.
I heard his sigh.
Well, don’t forget that I’ll be kicking your butt when you get home.
I laughed, even though he sounded serious.
So what has happened on Crais? Have you found the half? When are you returning?
Can you see check on Lucy, Talina
and Lucas for me?
. Why? What’s happened?
, please. I’ll explain everything in a moment.
presence left, I focused back on the room. Nothing had changed in their melodrama, except Fury was now tapping her foot.
I tuned out again when
’t easy but I managed to sense Lucas. From what I deduce they are all fine. I heard mention of a meeting hall. Does that information mean anything? And why are you away from the group?
His voice rose at the end.
But at least I knew where they were now: back where we started. I needed Josian to teach me how to do that ‘sensing people’ thing.
We got a little separated. And now I don’t want to leave Fury
, the half-Walker, until I can figure out how to get her to come to First World.
If she’s too stubborn
, just knock her out and drag her back.
I shook my head.
Walkers were not very versed on the best way to ensure a woman’s assistance.
That might have worked for the cavemen, but unfortunately
, if we want her trust and co-operation on this whole Seventine thing, knocking her out is probably not the way to go.
His laughter boomed out.
Yes, things were so much easier in the old years.
Wanting my mind
-protection back, I wasted no time explaining to my father everything that had happened since we arrived. Josian listened intently, adding a few comments. Eventually he let me go, after making me promise ten times I would not wait very long to contact him again. I pulled my energy back around my mind at the same time Fury exploded.
I’ve waited long enough. Explain everything to me now.”
At least this time she didn’t burst into flames.
He turned to face her, finally done with his domestic duties.
“Food will be ready in a little while. Let us sit.”
Since I was already sitting, I assumed he was
n’t talking to me.
Fury marched along behind him before stopping near my hammock.
“I need to speak with Dune alone. Leave.”
I stared up at her, not at all uncomfortable with her prickly personality. She was annoyed and scared
, and I could understand that.
This is not her fault. Your fate has been written from the start. Your mother knew you could not outrun it forever, although I have tried my best to protect you.”
And just like that I was forgotten again as she stomped over to sit next to the surprisingly astute Dune.
“Tell me,” she snarled.
I laughed out loud
. This chick was hilarious. With people skills like that she must be popular here. Dune distracted her from the bitch-slap she was sending my way by starting his story.
“Your mother and her Walker mate were very much a strong couple
,” he said. “They lived in this cavern for many years, happy and secure in their love.”
Fury’s expression didn’t soften despite the
seemingly joyful tale he was weaving. I guess she knew there was no happily ever after at the end.
“And then your mother got pregnant. The Walker said
it was forbidden and that no one could ever find out about your half nature, that there would be wars and more death than any could handle. He said the only way to assure this secrecy was for him to leave and never return.”
ed at his hands. His stilted way of speaking eased as he got into the story.
“Your mother swore me to secrecy and together we spread
rumors that you were the chosen child to save all nomads. That way we explained the birth of a nomad and assured that no one would come looking for a half-Walker. Your mother died of a broken heart. She mourned away her days waiting for the Walker to return, but he never did.”
“Yeah, good of her to forget about the child she had.” Fury’s eyes flashed.
“She loved you, but it was as if she had lost half her soul when he left her. She fought it but was never the same strong woman again.”
I spoke up.
“How has Fury escaped the nomads until this point?”
Dune turned his dark eyes
“At first, when she was
a baby they never worried about her. She was too young to be of use. And she seemed so vulnerable. She could not be in the sun or garner energy the way we do. But once Gena, her mother, died, she was up for grabs by anyone who wanted to influence the chosen one. I took her away, hid her with the tribes, hoping that she would stay safe until she was of an age that she could make her own choices.” He sighed. “I never counted on the desperation of the nomads. They have tried everything to propagate our race and, after a time, they decided it all rested with Fury.” He captured her gaze. “And then she used her power.”
“At the last tribe gathering
,” she whispered.
He nodded. “Yes, and it drew every single one of us lik
e a dragoona to the sun. They’ve been desperate to find you ever since.”
I interrupted their intense stare
-off. “Are you talking about that fire-encasing that she did before?”
Dune nodded. “Yes, when she uses it, energy flows through our people.
I’ve never felt a draw like it before.”
“So what do I do? I can’t run from them anymore
. They know I’m with the tribes and they’ll just keep taking the women until I give in.” Fury’s face flushed in anger, her eyes narrowed, fine lines spreading along her red forehead.
“You leave with me
,” I said.
She sneered and actually rolled her eyes at me. “Uh, I don’t think so
. You’re crazier than the nomads.”
Dune stood then, moving to check on his food. “You should consider her offer, Fury.”
He spoke over his shoulder. “I’m only one person and cannot protect you here.”
She flew to her feet. “Oh right, you
’re so ready to just throw me away. What? Are you already sick of the responsibility?”
He took two large strides to stand a mere breath away from her. His hands gripped her upper biceps.
“Fury.” His voice was laced with unrestrained anger. “You have been my sole focus from the moment you were born. Our life span is two hundred sun years and I have spent twenty of those keeping you safe.”
It didn’t look like she was even
breathing as she absorbed his every word.
You’re everything, and while I think you should leave Crais for a time, I will not let you go alone. You belong to me and I keep safe what is mine.”
Fury sucked in deeply and then she kissed him. I could see the surprise on Dune’s face
. He had not expected that from her, but of course that didn’t stop him responding with passion. My eyes widened as the intensity of their kiss increased. I was pretty sure they’d forgotten I was sitting here. Dune lifted her slightly and moved backwards until Fury was cradled against the rock wall.
You two just continue on your merry way ... don’t worry about me. I’ll just check on the food.” I shook my head.
impossible to see that adoration and not think of Brace, not to mention it was a little weird and uncomfortable.
“But if I see one scrap of your outfits removed
, I will not be happy,” I finished.
And considering they wore
like two leaves and some string, it would not be hard for them to get naked.
After ten minutes of studiously stirring the broth mixture and humming loudly
, I noticed Dune standing at my side.
m sorry. That has been a long time coming for Fury and me.”
I laughed. “I understand, but maybe next time you see it coming you can give a girl some warning. I’ll take a walk or something.”
In reality my eyes were burning and my stomach churning. I needed to do some fighting, because this love stuff was killing me.
A brief grin crossed his rugged features. “Agreed.”
They spent the next few minutes with their heads down, shoveling in the food. It was delicious but I was no longer hungry, the ache in my stomach making it impossible to force any in. I sighed as they exchanged a few more light kisses.
“If you guys want to tak
e a breather from all the adoration, I need to explain to Fury what exactly is required if you both leave Crais with me.” I had reached the point where I couldn’t take one more second of their love.
Fury sneered at me
, “I really don’t like you.”
miled back. “I really don’t give a flying crap. All I ask is that you do your part to stop the Seventine from basically destroying all of our worlds, and all of the people on them. Including your precious Dune.” I flicked my eyes toward him. “No offence.”