Don't Look Into The Mirror
His destination was getting close. He wouldn’t have another chance if he didn’t make it now because he would likely be dead in this palace and then there’d be no hope for his tribe. The high shaman had told him that there was only one gate that could be opened and it was located in the holy shrine located on the top floor of the palace tower. After the palace fell into the hands of the Salire tribe two years ago, the royals and their loyal followers were evicted to the outskirts of Marble City, recuperating and silently gathering their forces in order to fight back and reclaim their beloved city. After he’d reached his maturity about a year ago, the high shaman immediately retreated to the Joglo temple on the mountain. So, the leadership of their tribe’s warriors and shamans was laid on his shoulders, as it was his responsibility as the White Prince.
He let out a relieved breath when he saw the golden gilded door of the sacred room. He willed his legs to run faster, sprinting along the white tiled floor and bursting through that door just seconds before his pursuer’s sharp claws could tear into his back. He quickly closed the door and slid the lock before stepping back a couple of feet, watching as the door shook from the repeated blows from the other side. It looked like there were more than three creatures on the other side trying to break in but the door held, for now.
The hooded man turned back around and quickly strode towards the very end of the circular white and gold room. He hadn’t been in that room for more than seven years. The last time he had been there he’d been eleven years old, learning about the Ember from the high shaman. It was five years before the palace had fallen into the hands of the Salire tribe.
He approached the far wall where there was an altar with burnt-out candles and incense spread on top of it, abandoned for many years. He cleared the altar, discarding the table in order to get close to the wall behind it. The wall was made of a collection of little white and gold stone marbles with beautiful patterns carved on them. Each of these little patterns formed a bigger and more complicated design that the hooded man recognized as his tribe’s symbol. He felt around the rough surface looking for a sign, a kind of heat that the high shaman said would answer to him if he called out his power.
A sharp burn licked his palm when he placed it on the south east corner of the symbol. He was not sure that this would work but he trusted the high shaman. This was it. It was now or never. If this failed then he would probably die because he knew that the door would not hold for much longer. He could fight them but he was not sure that he would win.
“Nusngul utonkaku begna waloyn ud!”
Right after the spell came out of his mouth his palm felt like it was on fire. Hot needles penetrated his skin and crawled inside his arm through his veins, spreading throughout his chest and collecting around his fast beating heart. The soft voice of the high shaman echoed in his ears. ‘Don’t be afraid. It will assess you and after it deems your worth and intent it will grant you access.’
And the symbols glowed so brightly it was almost blinding.
When the hooded man opened his eyes he saw the symbols and the stone marble wall around it melted to reveal a man sized mirror underneath. The man drew a sharp breath and was stunned for a moment before he quickly shook himself and reached under his heavy black cloak to retrieve a beautifully carved dagger. He didn’t hesitate to slice into the palm of his left hand and slathered his blood on the mirror’s surface while chanting a spell.
The door broke and three wolf-creatures came barreling in, going straight for him. The man noticed them from their reflection in the mirror and he turned around just as the reflection in the mirror started to change. Scenery flashed by and image after image was shown briefly and randomly but the man’s attention was not on them.
He stood in front of the mirror facing the danger, putting his right wrist on top of his left he struck his steel plate bracelets together to create sparks and spread his arms wide sending a wall of orange flame upon the oncoming creatures.
Fire engulfed the room. It spread so fast that it burned the creatures and even licked the roof. The creatures screamed and wailed in high pitch shrieks as they flailed about in the flames but the hooded man could not stop to enjoy his victory as the mirror started to glow. He took a deep breath and flung his body upon its surface, passing through it effortlessly leaving the rapidly burning room and the wailing creatures behind.
Jensen jumped off the fire truck with a dumbstruck expression on his face. He walked closer to his friend and colleague, Matt, as the guy surveyed the area. There was supposed to have been a fire just minutes ago in this area but all Jensen could see was ashes and the smoldering ruins of what used to be an antique shop.
“What the hell happened?” asked Jensen.
“A fire happened.”
“Yeah, but didn’t we get the call only five minutes ago?”
Jensen walked into the middle of the ruin. His boots made a cracking sound as he stepped on the coals. He drove past this shop everyday on the way to work. Even though he’d never stepped foot inside the shop, he was sure that this two storey shop was made of brick, not wood. A fire, no matter how big could not have burned it down, literally to the ground, in less than five minutes.
“What kind of fire did this?” whispered Jensen under his breath.
“You know, this is the weirdest case I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve seen a lot,” said Jeff Morgan, Jensen’s Captain as he came to stand next to Jensen, hands on his hips surveying the damage. “You live around here, don’t you Ackles?”
“Yes, sir. In an apartment just behind this block.”
Matt approached to deliver his report to Morgan. “It’s clean, sir. The neighboring buildings haven’t been touched. It was as if the fire died down after it had consumed the building.”
“Are we talking about a controlled fire? Arson?” asked Morgan, throwing out speculation but none of his men could answer him. “Did you get anything from the people?” asked Morgan again. He nodded towards the small crowd on the street who had gathered there. To watch.
Jensen turned around towards the street, noting the almost silent neighborhood. The block was not normally a crowded one as it was not one of the busier business streets but the buildings in the area were built closely together. The shop was an old family business and it had been passed down from generation to generation. It was not very popular but it was easily one of the oldest buildings in the town.
“Jackson interviewed the caller. She lives just across the street and she was woken up by the sound an explosion coming from this shop. When she looked through her window, orange and white flames had just started to spread up to the first floor. Then she called us. She also said it had all happened in less than two minutes. All of the witnesses said the same thing,” said Matt.
“Did they see anyone around the building or leaving the building before or after the fire started?” asked Jensen.
Matt shrugged his shoulder and shook his head.
“Well, boys! We’ll wait until the investigator gets here. Shouldn’t be long. As far as I am concerned, our job is done.” Morgan patted their shoulders and walked back to the fire truck to call head office.
Jensen’s team left the scene a few minutes after the investigator arrived. They all gave their reports, which weren’t very helpful. They practically didn’t do anything but they were nonetheless curious about it. Jensen’s mind was still on the incident even after he’d left his shift the next morning. His colleagues at the fire department never stopped talking about it. Many theories were thrown around from the logical to the most absurd but mostly they were just baffled by the strange incident.
A red pickup truck stopped at the end of the Jensen’s block and Jensen opened the passenger door.
“Thanks man,” said Jensen as he got out off the truck.
“You know you should get yourself a car, dude. I’m not gonna give your ass a ride forever, no matter how sweet it is,” said Matt.
Jensen laughed. “You love my ass, admit it.”
“Damn right I do,” said Matt with a smirk and a wink.
Jensen just shook his head in amusement. He knew Matt wasn’t gay but the guy sure loved to tease him. They had struck up a friendship ever since the first day Jensen had started his new job at the fire department in Davord City.
“I’m getting a car next week. I just moved here two month ago dude,” said Jensen in mock indignation. He leaned against the passenger door of Matt’s pickup truck, hands folded above the rolled down window.
“Yeah, yeah. Go home, Ackles. Get your beauty sleep.”
“Later asshole!” Jensen huffed and slapped the passenger door lightly before trudging away, slipping his hands inside his jeans’ front pocket.
“Meet you at Jim’s?” called out Matt.
Jensen waved his hand without turning back and heard the familiar rumble of Matt’s old truck moving away. Jensen lightly shook his head and rolled his eyes. He always hated it if anyone commented on his looks. At his old workplace, his co-workers always made fun of him about it. They said he was too pretty to be a fireman, not cut out to be a man who saved people from a burning building. He should be the one who needed saving like a damsel in distress. Of course, he ignored their mocking and gave them the finger because he knew he was capable of doing the job, sometimes better than they did. He’d graduated with top marks in training after all but it seemed no matter what he did, no matter how many people he had saved, it didn’t stop the slurs. Jensen was bi but the people in his town did not care. They only knew him as the pretty gay guy. That was why after his grandma had passed away, he’d packed his bags and moved out of his town.
He had traveled from town to town for about two months before the Davord City fire department accepted his application. Davord City was an old city full of historical landscapes. Many buildings in the city were old, hundreds of years old, but most of them were preserved and well maintained. Still, old buildings were vulnerable to fire and Davord City’s fire department worked their damnedest to keep their historical heritage intact and for that they needed capable men in top shape to do the job. Jensen was easily deemed qualified.
First time he heard Matt praise his looks when they met in the changing room, Jensen blanched. He liked the city and had decided to settle there. It would be such a shame if he had to face the same treatment from his new co-workers. He kept his distance from them for three days and on the fourth day, Matt approached him and apologized and he turned out to be not so bad. In fact, despite the rough start, Matt Cohen had quickly become Jensen’s good friend. Even if he was a bit of a jerk sometimes, teasing Jensen about his looks, he did it without any ill feeling. Matt just wanted him to loosen up and Jensen could appreciate that.
The block was quiet in the early morning. Jensen’s shift ended at six AM and the sun wouldn’t come up in this part of the world until at least seven thirty. So, the road was still quiet and most people in Jensen’s neighborhood would probably still be asleep. Jensen let out a huge yawn and blinked his eyes a couple of times. He quickened his pace and made a promise to himself to get at least eight hours straight deep sleep before he even considered roaming around the waking world again. He’d got little or no sleep these past three days because every day there had been a fire in the city and two of his co-workers were injured. So, Jensen had to work long shifts along with Matt and Jackson. Morgan had given him a day off that day and the next because Jake had been released from hospital the day before and would be filling in for the next two days.
It could have been due to his lack of sleep or too much caffeine but he thought he’d heard steps other than his echoing through the quiet alley. He slowed down and glanced to the side but the sounds were gone. Jensen frowned and resumed his walk slowly. He always took pride in his sharp hearing and instincts so when he heard it again, louder this time, he stopped and quickly turned around.
Only to get knocked flat on his back by a very big and an angry dog.
The dog was snarling and growling on top of him and its drool was splattering his face. Jensen made a disgusted noise as he held off the dog with one arm on its neck and his other hand pushed its chest back. Then, a sharp pain penetrated his side forcing him to scream. Just as he thought the dog would eat him alive, the ugly mutt went still and it slowly drooped to the side with a blade protruding from its neck.
Jensen was shocked. He laid still in the dirt, wheezing and panting hard. His eyes fixed on the unmoving creature slumped beside him. Now, that the danger seemed to have passed, Jensen could see that the creature was a bit odd to be a regular dog. It had greenish gray skin and no fur. Its arms and legs were muscular and not unlike human’s limbs. Its face looked more like a wolf than a dog not to mention its size. It was nearly as big and as tall as Jensen.
“Hot damn! What the hell’s that?” whispered Jensen fearfully.
“They’re called werewolves. It’s from a shifter tribe.”
Jensen gasped in surprise. He’d been so occupied by the creature that he hadn’t realized that there was someone there, presumably the one who had sent the creature to its timely death with a blade. From his vulnerable position on the ground, Jensen could see that the person was tall but he could not see his face as he wore a long black hooded cloak that shrouded it. Yet, the deep voice suggested that it was a man.
Before Jensen could regain his composure, the black hooded man made a movement with his hand that produced, or at least Jensen thought had produced, a flame. The man flicked his wrist and the orange ball of fire fell unto the dead creature. Jensen had to turn away and raise his left arm towards his face, to protect it against the sudden onslaught of heat. The fire engulfed the dead creature’s body in mere seconds before reducing it to a greenish pile of ash. A thought formed in Jensen’s mind worked furiously connecting the facts from the incidents that had happened over the last twenty four hours before realization dawned on him.
Jensen snapped out of his shock and furiously crawled backwards, away from the strange black hooded man who stood above him. “It was you! You’re the arsonist. You …y-y-you burned that shop…”
The man bent down to retrieve his blade and sheathed it back on his back to join its brother before taking a step towards Jensen but stopped immediately when Jensen screamed at him.
“Stop! D-don’t come near! Or I’ll …”
Jensen actually didn’t really know what he would do. He just knew that he had to get away from this man. When his back hit the trash bin, Jensen knew he was trapped. He used the bin as leverage to pull himself upright. His eyes flitted back and forth from the man to the pile of ash on the ground next to him. Then, the man talked to him in a soft pleading voice that stood in stark contrast to the horror that he had caused.
“Please, my prince… you have to come with me. I am afraid there are more of them here, in this world.” His voice then subdued so low that Jensen had to strain his hearing to be able to hear him as he muttered to himself. “I can’t believe that they’d managed to follow me. The spell shouldn’t have lasted long enough for them to have been able to…”
“He-hey-hey…hey… w-what’re you talkin’ about?” asked Jensen, drawing the other man’s attention back to him.
The black hooded man took two more hurried steps towards Jensen and only stopped when Jensen lifted up his hands to halt his movement. “Stop right there! Don’t you fucking move, you freak!”
“I-I am sorry my prince. Please don’t be afraid. I don’t mean you any harm. Please, we need to treat your wound.”
As if proving the man’s words, Jensen’s side started to twinge in pain. The shock caused by recent developments had made him forget about the wound that was caused by the creature’s sharp claws. His hand unconsciously went to his side and he hissed in pain when his fingers touched his wound. He looked down and saw that his shirt was drenched in blood.
“I can help you treat your wound. Please, let me help you,” pleaded the man. He took half a step forward and shifted his weight from foot to foot nervously.
Jensen still eyed him with distrust but the pain in his side was getting harder to ignore.
“Damn it! Show me your face!” groused Jensen forcefully as he gritted his teeth in pain.
The man froze. Then, after a moment, he slowly lifted up his hands to grasp the edge of his black hood, pulling it back to reveal a young man in late teens with shoulder length brown hair, pointed nose and sharp, fox-like eyes. Jensen had to admit that he was handsome but his most striking feature was the mark on his face. It was so strange and oddly beautiful that Jensen could not help but admire it. Yet, before Jensen could say anything, the man spoke again.
“Now, will you let me help you?” asked the man again. His pleading became more pronounced with the addition of a soft beseeching look that hit Jensen in full force. The wound on his side had reached a new level of pain and seemed to burn the surrounding skin, leaving him gasping and groaning in agony.
“Ugghh… fuck! If you can stop this pain I’ll let you do anything,” grunted Jensen between winces of pain, desperate for a cure for the burning pain.
The man jumped towards him and reached his side just in time to catch his slumping body and support him with an arm around his chest. He looped Jensen’s right arm around his shoulder before he hoisted him up and half carried him towards the other end of the alley. He asked Jensen where he lived but Jensen couldn’t answer, already feeling lightheaded, dragging his feet and laying his head on the young man’s shoulder. The young man’s arm around his chest was the only thing preventing him from falling face first onto the ground.
Jensen woke up with a crick in his neck. His apartment was quiet and sunlight streamed in through his window blinds, so he could only assume that it was already late morning. The first thing he did was review his schedule in his mind and then he remembered that Morgan had given him two days off after his three days marathon shift. He vaguely recalled his last duty, the burned shop and its strange fire and finally the memory of the freaky humanoid dog that startled him fully awake.
He shot up suddenly and was immediately hit by a stab of pain from his side. Everything came back to him at that moment and his eyes quickly checked he room. He realized that he was laid up on the sofa and his apartment seemed empty. He looked down and saw white bandages had been wrapped around his midsection. He touched them and noted the neat work of a medical professional that made him think it had all been a dream. It was more likely that he had somehow injured himself during his latest duty and one of the EMT personnel had stitched him up. That was why Morgan had sent him home to recuperate. All of those images of a humanoid dog and a young man with a strange mark on his face must have been figments of his painkiller induced hallucinations. He could never take many of them as they disrupted his perception of things. But just as Jensen had decided to get up and off the couch, someone entered his living room.
“Oh, good, you’re awake!”
The young man from Jensen’s hallucinations rushed to him and immediately fussed over his bandage. He knelt down beside the couch and peaked around the edges of Jensen’s bandage, assessing his wound. The young man made a pleased sound before looking up and giving Jensen a smile. Jensen was so taken a back that he could only sit in stunned silence. The little twinge of pain did not even register in his mind.
“It’s healing nicely. I was worried that the poison was …”
Jensen tuned out the young man’s rambling as he studied his face more clearly. The sunlight that slipped inside the room provided enough illumination and from close up he could see the mark more clearly. It was like a kind of symbol that was drawn from the left of his wide forehead, down along his left cheek in a cursive line, and filled the space under his left eye. His eyes themselves were stunning. Mostly blue-grey but Jensen could see specks of brown and green scattered around his irises too, that made his eye color change with every blink of his long curly lashes.
“…and I’ve added enough liquid ash to clean up the poison residue in your blood. Naturally, you wouldn’t even need it if your own core was able to drive the poison out of your body. But, since it seems never to have been exercised, then I guess you still don’t know how to manipulate your core, let alone bend fire.”
“W-wait, wait … what?” asked Jensen abruptly. He looked at the young man as if he was crazy.
The young man let out a long exasperate sigh. “You haven’t been listening have you?”
“I was, I am, I’m listening to you but you’ve got to realize that … you don’t make any sense, dude.”
“Jared. My name’s Jared not … Dude,” said the young man as he made a face, clearly showing his dislike of being called anything other than his name.
Jensen raised his eyebrows. “Okay… Jared. So, how did you get in? Also can you tell me what those creatures were?”
Jared looked at him with an innocent expression on his face when he answered, “I asked you. You were almost out of it but you mumbled your address and I’m sorry, I took the key from your pocket. Please don’t mad. I needed to treat your wound-”
Jared stopped his rambles when Jensen lifted up his hand. “I get it. Thank you, Jared, for treating my wound and help me into my house.” Jared’s lit up his face, looking pleased with himself. “And the creatures?”
“Oh, sorry. They’re werewolves. Shape shifters of the Salire tribe. Ruthless, blood lusting humanoid monsters that feed on our Ember.” At Jensen’s blank look, Jared explained. “Ember means our energy, our life force. From that we can manipulate fire and bend it to our will.”
“You know, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’ll say that you’re shooting the shit here, man.” Jensen shook his head in disbelief. “Fire bender,” whispered Jensen as he lay back down on the sofa, eyes trained to the stained ceiling above him. Then, he blinked. “Wait a minute. What does that have to do with me?”
Jared, who was still sitting on the floor beside Jensen with his back ramrod straight, stared at Jensen’s eyes solemnly. He seemed to be studying Jensen’s face carefully before divulging his secret, which according to Jensen was more like a fantasy story taken from a children’s book. It started with the missing prince of a fire bending tribe, the Gnijnam Yneg-ie of the Yneg-ie tribe. He was supposed to be the pure embodiment of the spirit of Ember, the life force of all the people of the Yneg-ie tribe.
“He calls out to the fire, brings it to life from the very core of his Ember. Fires talk to him, follow his command and succumb to his will. When he was only two years old, the shaman of the Salire tribe, a very beautiful woman named Safrah managed to infiltrate the palace using her shape shifting magic and kidnapped the prince. To prevent war, Princess Yagnor, the ruler of the Yneg-ie at the time appointed me to be the White Prince, substitute of the Gnijnam Yneg-ie,” explained Jared. He paused for a moment, letting Jensen digest the story.
“So, you’re a prince?”
“Only a substitute. The Salire tribe knew that they couldn’t attack the palace as long as the Gnijnam Yneg-ie was with us. He is the future leader of our tribe, symbol of our power, the only one who can negate the magic of the Salire tribe and decimate them completely. We hid the news about his kidnapping and let the Salire tribe think that Safrah was killed in the palace. Only the shamans and the Royals knew about it. For years they didn’t bother us, until seven years ago…”
Jensen had a suspicion that he was the prince that Jared was talking about but he thought he didn’t need to acknowledge it, yet. “Why would this Salire tribe attack your tribe?”
“I think mainly because our land is vast and resourceful. We have lots of mines of valuable stones and our people are prosperous. But there’s one old legend about the banishment of the queen of the Yneg-ie tribe many years ago. This queen was a princess of the Salire tribe and her banishment offended their King greatly. They took it as insult toward their tribe and declared war against our tribe.”
“Why was she banished?” asked Jensen as he looked at Jared intently, getting totally absorbed in the story.
This time Jared looked away. He fixed his gaze on his lap where Jensen could see his fingers were twisting around his left thumb. His voice sounded small and nervous when he replied, “She … she practiced the Salire tribe’s forbidden magic by leeching the power of our Ember. She managed to kill her own unborn child in her womb.”
Jensen raised his eyebrows in stunned disbelief. “What a bitch!” The words flowed freely from his mouth making small deprecating smile bloom on Jared’s lips which Jensen promptly ignored. “I mean, I don’t really care about this so called magical experiment or shit but killing her own child is just low.”
Jared still hadn’t looked up and Jensen didn’t understand why he was suddenly acting so shy when few minutes ago he couldn’t stop talking. Deciding to dismiss it, Jensen got up from the sofa carefully so as not to pull at his healing wound. Jared quickly stood up and helped him.
“It’s alright. I can do it. Just going to take a piss man,” said Jensen fighting off Jared’s assisting hands.
“Are you sure?” asked Jared, eyes full of concern.
“Yeah, sure. I’m not gonna fall down and break just because of a small injury. I’ve had worse than this, you know.” Jensen dismissed him, feeling uncomfortable with the amount of concern shining in Jared’s expressive eyes.
He shoved Jared’s hands away and walking slowly toward his small bathroom. Jensen never felt comfortable with other people’s attention. He wasn’t sure why; maybe because he never had that much attention growing up and that made it unfamiliar to him. His grandma was a stern woman. So much so that he often wondered if she even loved him.
Sarah Ackles had been a stage actress during her youth. Jensen thought she had been brilliant but even now he never understood why she had thrown away the chance to play on the big stage. She was the diva of the small theatres and always moved around. She had never spared Jensen any of her attention, despite keeping him near her all the time. She had given him many rules and never hesitated from punishing him whenever he broke one.
When he was just a kid, Jensen had often asked her about his parents. Why they would have left him and whether they hated him. Sarah’s features had always turned darker whenever Jensen had asked her that. She’d snapped at him and called him an ungrateful brat. So, after many punishments, he’d finally learned not to ask her anything about his parents anymore and as far as he knew, they didn’t have any other family. Jensen had just accepted the fact that he was all alone and his grandma, despite her cruelty, was the only family he had.
Jensen spent the rest of the day sleeping while Jared pottered around his apartment. He wasn’t sure what the other guy had done while he’d slept but when he woke up around eight that night, there was food ready on the coffee table beside him. The delicious smell of grilled meat made Jensen’s stomach growl. He sent a grateful smile towards Jared that made the younger man blush and dip his gaze to his lap.
“Dude, did you sit there all day?” teased Jensen. He knew that Jared hadn’t been just sat next to him all day, the mouth watering food in front of him was proof enough of Jared’s work. Ignoring his wound he quickly jumped up from the sofa to grab a plate.
“No. I … I prepared you some food. I hope you don’t mind that I took some of the ingredients from your cool storage and shelves,” said Jared earnestly as if looking for Jensen’s approval.
“Cool storage?” asked Jensen with a frown, the meat was halfway to his salivating mouth, before the thought entered his mind. “Oh! You mean my fridge?”
Jared’s blank look told Jensen that the guy didn’t understand what he was talking about.
“Never mind.” Jensen waved it off dismissively. “Man, this is delicious!” praised Jensen after he had taken a few bites, making a shy but pleased smile bloom on Jared’s face and a hint of dimples peak through on his cheeks. “Where did you find a grill? I didn’t think I had one of those around.” Then, another thought filtered into his mind. He stopped chewing to look at Jared who was still sat on the floor in front of him.
“Jared, how did you cook this?”
The look on Jared’s face filled him with apprehension.
“Uh … I don’t know how you cook your food since I couldn’t find your stove so I made it myself. Don’t you worry, though, I haven’t scorched anything,” assured Jared quickly before continuing his explanation. “I have become very good at controlling my fire this last year. That’s why the high shaman entrusted me with this mission.” A proud smile spread wide on his lips.
Jensen fought the urge to check his floorboards for scorching or even burnt cinders. Then, he remembered how this guy had created fire out of his bare hands only hours before. He decided that he might need to have some faith in Jared because if Jared wanted to hurt him or even burn his apartment down he would’ve done it already while he’d been laid up unconscious. Instead, he had treated Jensen’s wound and cooked him food. Moreover, it didn’t seem like he would be going away anytime soon.
So, Jensen just shrugged his shoulders and continued eating. “Have you eaten?” he asked him instead between bites of tasty meat.
“Yes. I ate just before you wake up,” answered Jared with a nod of his head.
“So, what’s your plan now?” Jensen asked as he polished off the last of his meal.
“I don’t think it’s safe to stay here for much longer. Who knows how many of the shifters have managed to follow me through the portal. The werewolves were the only ones that I could see as they tumbled through the mirror after me. I had to burn them all lest they managed to escape into this world but one escaped through the window.”
“That’s why you burned down the whole two storey shop? To bury them?” Jensen raised his eyebrows.
“I’m very sorry.” Jared looked down immediately and his voice became subdued and full of remorse; a contrast to his earnest tone mere seconds ago. “Wish I hadn’t had to do that but I hadn’t seen any alternative. I had to destroy the mirror too to sever the magical connection.”
“At least you didn’t kill anyone,” said Jensen, ignoring the way Jared’s hunched shoulder flinched a bit. He opted to address something else instead. “Your portal is through a mirror?” asked Jensen again and he was answered by Jared’s nod. “Huh…”
There was something nagging his mind about this whole thing but Jensen quickly dismissed it to prevent unpleasant memories from resurfacing. Jared’s presence had already disturbed his somewhat monotonous but comfortable routine. Jensen found himself at a loss for how to deal with Jared’s overabundant attention and genuine concern.
It was morning again when Jensen woke up for the third time. When he peaked at his wound, he noticed that it was healing nicely. He was definitely impressed by the medicine that Jared had applied. Never had he seen a wound heal that fast and not with human’s medicine anyway. Jensen smirked. This was kind of nice.
There was a knock on his front door.
Jensen didn’t know where Jared was but he heard the sound of running water from the bathroom and assumed that Jared was in there. He walked faster when he couldn’t feel any twinge of pain from his wound. He unlocked and opened the door to admit a man on the other side. This man wore some kind of tunic and had really strange markings on his face and practically his whole head. Intricately designed black and green tattoos covered his bald head.
“Hey, can I help you?”
The man eyed Jensen closely, studying his body and making him feel uncomfortable and self conscious. He was going to tell the man to back off and close the door on him when he said something strange.
“Of course you can, Gnijnam Yneg-ie. I can’t believe that little runt finally found you,” said the strange man as his smirked.
“I’m sorry I don’t…”
Jensen felt someone grab his collar and yank him backwards. Too seconds later and his guts would have been spilled on the floor. The strange man kicked the door off its hinges, broadsword in his hand. Jensen didn’t know when he came out of the bathroom but Jared suddenly stood in front of him brandishing his own two smaller but identical swords. The strange man sneered at Jared before launching himself at him swinging his broadsword down at his head. Jared quickly blocked it with his twin swords crossed above his head.
Jensen sat stunned on the floor watching Jared and the stranger ransack his apartment. There were splinters everywhere as Jensen’s furniture was reduced to nothing. Long gashes decorated his walls and ceilings and glass shards littered the floor. Jensen couldn’t believe it. In just a short time, they had managed to turn his apartment upside down, yet, somehow, he was untouched. He supposed it was because of Jared. Every time they got too close to him, Jared pushed the stranger back forcefully and distracted him with deadly moves. But the stranger was no less deadly. Jensen thought he enjoyed toying with Jared. There was always a smug smirk on the stranger’s lips.
Jared did a backwards flip before flicking his wrist to throw Jensen’s threadbare rug with the tip of his sword onto the stranger’s face, successfully blocking his view for long enough for Jared to take advantage of his momentarily lapse and clink his metal bracelets together. Sparks flew from his hands and the fire was ignited. Panic seized Jensen and he involuntarily shouted.
Jared looked at him with wide eyes and his fire quickly diminished. At the same time, the stranger who had regained control of his surroundings, charged at Jared with a growl. Taking advantage of Jared’s divided attention, he swiped his broadswords upwards. Jared jerked his left-hand sword to block it but his momentarily lapse in concentration resulted in a lack of power making his sword fly out of his hand.
Jensen’s breath was locked in his throat as Jared’s sword flew towards where he was huddled away from the fight. The sword stuck in the wall just to the right of his head, half an inch from his sweaty neck. He didn’t dare move.
With only one sword, Jared’s movements looked imbalanced. His empty left hand hung loosely at his side as his right was busy fending off the stranger’s attack. Jared was soon cornered against the far wall beside Jensen’s bathroom door, clutching the handle of his one sword with both hands blocking the force of the stranger’s broadsword attack. Jensen couldn’t see Jared’s face clearly as the stranger’s back blocked his view but he could imagine the dire situation he was in.
Jensen’s hands were clammy when he grabbed the sword but he managed to pull it out of the wall. He was sure his palms would bear the marks of the sword’s handle design judging by how tight his grip was but his feet were surprisingly steady as he crept up behind the stranger. He held the sword high above his head and swung down as hard as he could.
Two things happened, that Jensen was aware of, after that. The first was the clang of the stranger’s broadsword against his (Jared’s really) sword which was followed by tremors that rocked his arm muscles. The next was rather scary by Jensen’s standards. Jared had activated his fire and two balls of orange flame danced on his palms. He slammed his palms on either side of the stranger’s bald head and in seconds there was a human torch in Jensen’s apartment.
Hands grabbed him and pulled him away but Jensen couldn’t look away from the horrible sight. The human torch stood unmoving but he could see the stranger’s hand move in a certain pattern and the tattoo on his head lit up before he turned the corner out of his front door. He ran along the corridor, following Jared out of his apartment building.
“What did you do?” asked Jensen in panic. “What the fuck did you do, Jared!”
“I’ve just saved you from your death as I am sure you must be aware. That shaman had come to kill you,” retorted Jared.
They walked side by side down the side of the road, catching their breath after spending the last hour running like mad. It was clear that Jared was not in a good mood because he had answered Jensen’s question with a harsh retort instead of with the deference that he’d been using ever since they’d met. Jensen was glad. It was easier to vent his own frustration at someone who would fight back and Jensen really needed to punch someone right now.
“You burned my apartment down!”
“I did not!” snapped Jared indignantly.
“Dude, you burned a man in my living room. Judging by the rate your fire was growing my apartment must be nothing but ashes by now.”
“Trust me, I didn’t burn him. I just incapacitated him for a while so we could get away. He’s a shaman of the Salire tribe. He must’ve had come through the portal while I was preoccupied with the escaping werewolf,” explained Jared. “He has a way to dispel my fire using his magic tattoos. It was one of the things that they stole from us. The tattoos are made from the minerals in our land. They’ve been using our own resources to fight us. That’s why we must drive them away from our lands and to do that we need you.”
“That’s what I don’t understand. I mean, I don’t know if I can accept that I’m supposed to be this powerful prince of yours.”
“Gnijnam Yneg-ie,” supplied Jared.
“Yeah, whatever. I’m just a fireman. I fight fire; I don’t have fire power.”
Jared stopped abruptly making Jensen step back and stood in front of him. They were in the city now and people are walking around them on the side walk. Jensen thought it was probably around nine and it was working day today. They were standing in the middle of morning rush hour.
“The reason why we took this long to locate you is because whoever took you when you were a baby must have suppressed your power in her efforts to shield you from us. We would’ve come sooner if we had known which world you had been taken to.”
“Then, how did you find me?”
Jared took a deep breath before answering, “The power shielding you disappeared a couple of months back and we were finally able to locate you. We strongly believe it was because she had died. Her power died with her.”
Those nagging feelings at the back of his mind returned and wouldn’t leave him alone. Jensen was afraid but he knew he had to ask because there were too many coincidences to ignore.
“You said her name was Safrah?” asked Jensen. He was answered by Jared’s nod. “You said your gate was through a mirror, does any mirror work?”
“In my world, we must go through one mirror only because that’s where the gate is. But the high shaman has a small mirror that she checks regularly. From here, there could be any number of mirrors because the high shaman once said that she had had to shift through millions of mirror reflections in order to find you.”
“In order to be found, I have to stand in front of a mirror?”
“Wouldn’t work if you were still being shielded.”
Jensen nodded his head slowly and his gaze drifted far away. Jared’s explanation had helped Jensen to understand a couple of things from his childhood. The way his grandmother, Sarah Ackles had been so adamant about not installing any mirrors in their house and specifically forbidding Jensen to look into a mirror since he was a child. It was weird when he thought about it because Sarah was a stage actress but Jensen never saw her use any mirror even in her workplace. There were people who handled her make up on stage and she never needed them at home. She was beautiful enough not to need them regularly. Of course, when Jensen grew older, she couldn’t monitor him twenty-four-seven like when he was still a kid but, just like Jared said, he must still have been being shielded.
There was a sound of stomach rumbling that brought Jensen out of his reverie. He looked down at Jared’s stomach then raised his eyebrow at the younger man, feeling amused when he saw Jared blush and rub the back of his neck shyly.
“Come on, kid. Let’s get you fed.”
Jensen turned back around and led the way. He entered the nearest big shopping store on that street with Jared trailing behind him. There was a kind of food court at the back of the store. Jensen was glad that he hadn’t changed his jeans from the day before because it meant his wallet was still there in his back pocket.
“Look, Jared. I know that you risked your life coming here and perhaps you have this lofty notion of me being a powerful …. What-you-call-it…”
“Yeah, that. Whatever that is,” Jensen said as he waved his hand dismissively. “I’m not him. Well, maybe I am him but I definitely don’t have any super power. I can’t create fire like you.”
“I don’t create fire either,” mumbled Jared.
He was playing around with the last of his fries on his empty plate, having devoured two cheeseburgers and two plates of bacon and eggs. At the rate he was going Jensen was sure he’d go bankrupt by the end of the week, if they could manage to stay alive that long.
“What’s that?” asked Jensen, leaning forward.
“I don’t create fire. I can’t.”
Jensen frowned at that. “But I saw you create fire with your hands. Hell, you burned that shifter wolf to ashes in mere seconds!”
“It was because of these.” Jared held out his hands, showing Jensen the metal plates that circled his wrists. “I use these to create sparks. These are my stone lighters. Every shaman of the Yneg-Ie tribe has them. We control fire, we don’t create it. You’re the only one who can create fire from your own Ember.”
Jensen took hold of both Jared’s wrist, examining the metal plates. It’s true. Embedded around the plates were small white and clear stones. He then remembered that Jared made a kind of motion with his hands before fire erupted from them. He supposed that Jared did use these stones as a lighter to create his fire before he can control it.
“That’s interesting,” commented Jensen before letting go of Jared’s wrists. “But I still digress. I don’t have any super power. Even if I did back then, I don’t right now. Probably I just lost it.”
“I’m sorry that you have had to travel for nothing. I can’t help you man,” said Jensen with a shrug. He couldn’t look Jared’s in the face for fear of seeing the disappointment he knew would be there but there was nothing he could do. He was just not the guy Jared was looking for. So, he busied himself with his own food.
Jensen let the sound of chattering people wash over them. He shouldn’t feel bad, really he shouldn’t but there was nothing he could do. It was wrong to give this guy and his tribe false hope. Yet, looking at Jared’s down turned mouth, he couldn’t help but wish that he could do something. The main reason why he chose to be a fireman, other than his personal fascination with fire itself, was he wanted to help people.
He leaned back on his chair and heaved a big sigh, looking at Jared’s serious face in front of him. A frown marred his forehead and he looked as if he was contemplating something. Jensen wondered if he was thinking about a way to travel back to his world. Too bad. He kinda liked this kid.
When he glanced around the food court he glimpsed someone familiar out of the corner of his eye. He thought he saw the Salire tribe’s shaman lurking behind the window at the corner of the food court. Jensen frowned.
“What’s going on?” asked Jared.
“I thought I saw that shaman outside the window,” muttered Jensen, his attention still fixed on the window.
Jared stood up abruptly, scrapping the foot of his chair against the floor in his haste to drag Jensen out of there. Jensen almost tripped over his own feet, following the pull on his arm. He vaguely wondered if what his old colleagues had said about him was true. After all, Jared had been dragging him to safety a lot lately. The thought didn’t sit well with him.
They were running out of the food court through the side door opposite the corner window when a voice called Jensen’s name. Jensen ignored it but when he and Jared turned the corner, someone intercepted them.
“Jensen, man, what’s up?”
It was Matt. He grabbed Jensen’s shoulder to halt his movement. “We didn’t see you at Jim’s, man. What’s going on? Don’t tell me you were sleeping,” said Matt with a teasing grin. Then, he noticed Jared standing next to Jensen, noticed the way Jared’s hand was clutching Jensen’s arm and his grin turned salacious. “Then again I guess you were still sleeping.”
Jensen groaned exasperatedly. “Matt, I’m really sorry but we really need to get going, now.”
“Oh, not to worry. I understand,” said Matt with wink, “definitely understand, man. Look we’re gonna have few rounds tonight at Jim’s again to celebrate Jake’s return, you know. Just … try and get your boy to come and meet us? You know we don’t bite.”
Matt gave a light punch to Jensen’s shoulder and Jensen felt Jared’s grip on his arm tighten. He felt the urge to assure him that Matt was harmless but before he even open his mouth, screams and shouts were heard around them. People were yelling and running away from the direction of the food court almost trampling each other in their haste.
“What the fuck’s going on?” asked Matt bewildered.
“Oh no!” breathed Jared, his face turning pale and his eyes going wide as he looked over Jensen’s shoulder.
A huge, green, slimy tentacle destroyed the side wall of the food court, killing people in the process. It seemed to grow bigger and longer as they watched before its twin followed writhing beside it and growing just as fast. The second tentacle wrapped itself around one of the big pillars of the shopping mall, squeezing and cracking it. The first tentacle burst through the ceiling wiggling. Between them, another one grew, sweeping the floor, knocking a woman and her child to the ground.
“Damn it!” cursed Jensen under his breath as he saw the woman’s back hit a wall and her child fall from her grip. The little girl, perhaps not more than two years old, was crying as she rolled on the floor, trying to crawl to where her mother was slumped against the crumbled wall, oblivious of the tentacle that wriggled above her.
Jensen quickly snatched his arm from Jared’s grip and ran towards the crying little girl, ignoring Jared’s shouts. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Matt had already sprinted towards the mother checking her vitals. As if sensing his presence the tentacle swung down on him when he got within two feet from the little girl, prompting Jensen to jump to his right. A huge gash appeared in the floor where the slimy monster hit and Jensen couldn’t even stop to take a breath before the tentacle rose again ready to strike. Jensen leaped the remaining few feet, swept the little girl off the floor and rolled out of the way seconds before the tentacle slammed into the ground, creating a deep hole where the girl used to be.
Huddling near the base of the first tentacle, Jensen learned that they were coming from somewhere in the ground as more burst through the cracks in the floor. The first tentacle, which was the biggest of the three, acted as the main trunk and sprouted slightly smaller branches from around its body. Its greenish skin was covered in a sticky yellowish slime that smelled awful. Jensen held the girl close to his chest and wrapped his arms around her, thankful that she was no longer crying. She just wrapped her tiny arms around his neck and held on for dear life.
He saw that Jared had summoned his twin swords and was fighting the third tentacle. He had managed to cut it off several times but every time a new appendage regenerated in its place and it grew just as fast as Jared could destroy it. The cut off parts shriveled on the floor and were reduced to ashes in mere seconds. The little girl’s cry startled him. He turned to look over his shoulder just in time to see two more tentacles had sprouted from the main trunk and were reaching towards him.
“Oh, shit!” Jensen crawled backwards away from the fast growing slimy monster
“Jensen, hurry!” shouted Matt. Jensen saw his friend was waiting a few feet away behind Jared who was still fighting and he backward-crawled as fast as he could, yet, one of the new tentacles still managed to wrap itself around his ankle.
“I’ll hold them off while you get the prince away!” Jared told Matt. Then, Jared performed a difficult move, twisting his body and spinning forward cutting at the tentacles at twice the speed until he was close to its base and could cut off the one that had got Jensen’s foot.
Matt hurriedly swooped in to pull Jensen away. “Damn it, man! You okay?” asked Matt. Jensen could only nod his head before unwrapping the little girl’s arms from around him. Matt coaxed her off Jensen and brought her to her mother who was still laid up unconscious a few feet away from them. Then, he returned to check on Jensen’s right ankle.
The ankle was now covered in rashes and slime but was otherwise okay. “You’ll live,” said Matt, tapping his knee before helping him stand up. “Say, did he call you prince?”
“Not the time, Matt.”
The monster had added five more tentacles to the existing five and no matter how fast Jared cut them off, he couldn’t get the better of them. Each of the slimy tentacles reached out towards Jensen.
“Use your fire, use your fire,” mumbled Jensen under his breath.
One of the tentacles slithered along the floor and caught Jared, pulling and curling around his right foot, upsetting his balance. It lifted him up and hung him upside down a few meters above the floor. Jared immediately sheathed his swords then struck his wrist plates together creating sparks that grew into a brilliant orange fire. He threw the ball of fire onto the tentacle that held his foot. High pitched shrieks were heard as the tentacle trembled. Two other tentacles grabbed hold of Jared’s arms as the first one released his foot. Jared summoned his fire to burn the tentacles around his arms, forcing them to release him. Once they had, he quickly rolled away.
However the monster was targeting Jensen and while he was absorbed in watching Jared’s fight one of its limbs hit Matt and snatched Jensen around his waist, rolled him up and raised him ten feet off the floor. The slimy tentacle wrapped around Jensen’s body, suffocating him slowly. Jensen fought it with his bare hands, clawing and scratching its slimy greenish skin in a hopeless effort to get it off his neck but it strengthened its hold around him and choked him.
Jared believed that Jensen was dead when he slumped down inside the tentacle’s grip and stopped moving. He screamed at Jensen to fight and not give up but it was futile, Jensen couldn’t hear him. “It can’t be. No!”
Jared ran closer, hurling an orange ball of fire to burn it. The other tentacles protected it, catching the fire with its limbs. But Jared’s fire didn’t hold for very long even as he summoned his wall of fire, just like he had back at the holy shrine, the sticky yellowish slime that came from its pores effectively snuffed it out.
Jared had tried to hold up his fire as best and for as long as he could but he had almost lost hope, when Jensen’s body started to light up from the inside. It burned hot and grew hotter and brighter until his whole body was alight. Jared looked on, breathless and wide eyed. He finally knew what it was. It was Jensen’s Ember. His Ember that had been subdued for years by Safrah’s magic refused to give up.
Jensen’s Ember was green and it sparkled like emeralds. Many shades of green fire danced around his body. When the flames licked and burned the tentacles that held him, the monster shrieked. It trembled and unfurled its limbs around Jensen and tried to shake him off. But Jensen had awoken, eyes glowing bright green. He took hold of the escaping tentacle and swung his feet around it. He jumped off it to the next limb just as the one in his grip was burning to ashes fast, faster than the ability of its yellowish slime to snuff it off. Emerald green fire burned through its thick skin and fried it from the inside.
Jensen continued until he got to the centre of the monster, the main trunk, the point from where all ten tentacles sprouted. He thrust his hand forward, penetrating the hard skin and through the wet greenish white meat underneath. He dug deep, arm buried up to his shoulder. He ignored the burning and shrieking tentacles around him, ignored the high pitched scream of the monster. There was something inside, something pulsing with energy and he could just feel it. If only he could get his hand on it and grab … yes! There you are.
Jensen pulled his arm out in one swift move, clutching something in his hand. It looked like a big round nut. It was brown and wrinkled with small tendrils of green flailing around its surface. He jumped down from the burning monster. Its tentacles had burned to ashes and its body had started to follow. He walked over to where Jared still stood stunned, looking at him half in awe and half in shock.
“Do you know what this is?” asked Jensen calmly, showing Jared the nut like thing in his palm.
Jared quickly shook his head and blinked a couple of times to regain his focus before he trained his attention on the thing in Jensen’s palm. The recognition in his eyes told Jensen that Jared definitely knew what it was.
“It’s the seed,” answered Jared. When Jensen raised his eyebrow at him Jared went on to explain. “It’s from one of the plants that grow in Salire land. For some twisted reason that I can never comprehend, their shaman experimented with plants to turn them into animated weapons. Damn hard to kill and seemingly fireproofed by that blasted slime. We needed at least five shamans to subdued one back at home. Thank the gods that there are not that many of them.”
“Huh … genius. Disgusting, but genius.” Jared snorted and Jensen smiled at him. He closed his fingers and green fire erupted around his fist for two seconds. Then he opened it again to reveal the brown ashes of what was left of the seed.
He saw Matt’s unconscious body over Jared’s shoulder and went to check on his friend. Matt was more or less fine, he’d got knocked out if the small bump on the back of his head was any indication. He’d probably have a slight concussion because of it. Jensen lifted him around his armpits and dragged him to the far wall next to the unconscious woman and her little girl.
“Would you watched him for me, sweetheart?”
The little girl nodded, looking up at him with innocent curiosity in her eyes.
“Don’t worry. There’ll be good paramedics here to check on him and your mommy soon. You will let them, won’t you? So they can get better?”
Again, she nodded. “That’s my girl,” praised Jensen as he patted her head.
He heard the telltale sirens of fire trucks and paramedic’s vans closing in. He traded a look with Jared who stood behind him before walking away. He didn’t want to have to explain anything to his co-workers.
They snuck outside with ease as the people around were still distracted by what had happened. Jensen led them away from the building, walking through the gathering crowd. Jared whispered in his ear as they turned the corner into another busy street.
“I saw him,” whispered Jared quietly. Jensen questioned him with his look. “The shaman. I saw him a few paces behind us, hiding behind a glass box.”
The glass box that Jared meant was probably the telephone booth that they had walked past, thought Jensen. “You think he’d try anything funny among the crowds?”
“Don’t know. This is a strange world. Back home, he wouldn’t hesitate to start a fight with us but if he does try anything I doubt it would be funny,” Jared looked perplexed, “but I think he must be afraid of you.”
Jensen just smirked.
“Could it be that he just wants to go home? Can’t he open the gate by himself?”
“After your kidnapping, the high shaman shielded the mirror gate that’s in our world, put it on lock down. So that no one would be able to use it even if they knew the spell. If he knows the spell, he’ll be able to open it from here but won’t be able to go through because the shield in our world will have been activated once I disconnected the magical connection in the antique shop.”
“What happens if he tries to go through anyway?” asked Jensen.
“He’d get lost? I don’t know,” said Jared with a shrug. “Probably get stranded in some other world and wouldn’t know how to get back.”
“Excellent! So, what we do now is to lure him to the gate. Any mirror would do, you said?”
“Yes. As long as it’s big enough for us to get through.”
“Then, I know just the one. Come on!”
Jensen led them across the street, very much aware of the shaman who trailed behind in the distance. Then, he stopped a cab and ushered Jared inside. He told the driver to take them to the Davord City Museum. From the cab window they saw the shaman watching them, pissed off. Jensen got the urge to give him the finger but, thought that the guy probably wouldn’t know what it meant.
The Davord City Museum was one of the many old buildings in the city. Coincidently, Jensen’s first mission in the job had been in this museum, fighting a fire in the historical section. Some school kids had thought it would be funny to light a fire in the historical section to imitate the big fire that had happened a hundred years ago. Stupid brats. They were lucky that there were no casualties from their mischievous behavior although the museum did lose few important artifacts because of it.
In one section of the museum, there was a huge ancient mirror with beautiful carvings on its frame. It was a donation from a very wealthy family who lived in the 1900s. Its frame was decorated with beautiful multicolored stones that sparkled under the lights. That was where Jensen stood now, in front of the seven foot tall ancient mirror, fingers tracing around his left eye in fascination. It wasn’t like Jared’s mark. Where Jared’s was drawn in an elegant cursive, Jensen’s mark was sharp pointed tusks zigzagging and overlapping each other. It looked harsh and ferocious, unforgiving. He swallowed nervously and closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths to compose himself as he clutched one of Jared’s swords along his hip. He waited.
There were crowds of visitors, a bunch of colleague students, families, and individuals. They walked around for a few minutes before going on to the other sections of the museum. They talked, they laughed, even jostling with one another but Jensen didn’t miss the quiet step of the shaman as he entered the room. He could see his reflection in the mirror, weaving among the small crowds.
Predictably, he drew his broadsword, scaring the people around him.
“Where’s the runt?” grunted the shaman in a hoarse voice, a mocking sneer on his lips. “Shouldn’t he be here, protecting you?”
“Why? You scared of him?” Jensen challenged back as he turned around. “You’re the last of them. We’ve killed you all, haven’t we? Your shifters, your tentacled plant.”
The shaman’s sneer turned nastier as Jensen’s words seemed to hit the right nerve. “You won’t win. We’ve taking over your land, gorging on all of your resources and enslaving your people. Your bitch of a princess has fled her marble palace to save her hide leaving the responsibility to a snot-nosed runt who called himself a white prince. A traitor.”
“You done?” asked Jensen calmly. He never understood why the bad guys loved their monologues so much. “Honestly, pal, I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’ve come to kill me just go ahead. Give it your best shot!”
The shaman had already moved before Jensen could finish his taunt. The tip of his broadsword was swinging fast towards his neck but Jensen was able to deflect it with Jared’s sword. He quickly grabbed hold of it, heedless of the way its sharp edge cut through his skin and drew his blood. Like lightning, green fire ran along the length of the broadsword onto the shaman’s arm, burning his body for the second time.
Once again, the tattoos lit up and Jensen’s green fire was subdued before diminishing completely. The shaman laughed.
“Your fire won’t kill me. I have drawn protection on me,” said the shaman, gloating gleefully at Jensen.
“You mean the one that you stole from us,” said Jared from behind him.
“Little runt! See, even your Gnijnam Yneg-ie can’t kill me.”
Jensen saw that Jared had spread his hands up with an orange-white ball of fire ablaze but Jensen shook his head. He had another plan.
“You know, I was just kidding,” said Jensen with a grin. “You’re right. My fire couldn’t kill you but I was just testing your protection tattoos, to see if my fire knows them.”
Jensen lifted his right hand, palm up and the tattoos on the shaman’s head were suddenly ablaze in white fire, making him scream and clutch his head in agony. The white fire spread to his hands and soon consumed his body as he writhed and contorted on the floor until all of him was turned to grey ashes.
Jared walked slowly towards him eyes fixed on the grey ashes on the floor. “You burned him,” he breathed in awe.
“I’ve never killed a man before,” said Jensen in a flat tone. He was feeling queasy and he sent a pleading look at Jared.
There were sounds of footsteps on the floor, coming closer towards them. Jared quickly built a wall of orange flame at the front of the section preventing anyone from getting closer to them.
“Hurry! My fire will hold them off while we cross the gate.”
Jared swept the broadsword and his own sword off the floor where Jensen had dropped them earlier then grabbed Jensen’s shoulder and turned him around towards the mirror. He fished a beautifully carved dagger from the inside pocket and sliced his left palm before slathering his blood on the mirror’s surface, chanting a spell under his breath. Jensen heard shouts from the other side of the fire wall. The visitors must have called the security when they saw the shaman draw his sword.
Jared finished his spell and Jensen could see that the reflection in the mirror in front of them had started to change, slowly at first but faster and faster with every second that passed.
“Don’t worry, I can find our way home and I can open the gate from here. Basically, any mirror in this world will do but there was only one mirror that could open a gate from our world.”
“It’s your world too, Jensen.”
Jensen did not reply to that. He had never fit in here, why would he fit in there? At least, he knew a few people here, had been living in this world for the last twenty-two years of his life. This new world, he knew nothing about it. He did not know anything about it. He only knew that there would be high expectations piled up on his shoulders from the moment he entered and he didn’t know if he could meet all of them. He did not know if he could handle it.
“Are you ready?” Jared asked from beside him.
Yes, but there would also Jared there. Looking at Jared beside him, waiting, made Jensen think that it might not be so bad with Jared there with him. This young guy who had come barreling into his not so pathetic life, who had turned his life upside down, who was now looking at him with hope and a bit of adoration and something else that he could not decipher in his eyes, would be with him all the way. He had promised Jensen that; because he was the white prince, whatever that meant.
So, Jensen thought, ‘what the hell! I’ll never know if I don’t take a chance, right?’
“Yeah,” answered Jensen quietly with a nod. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
Jared’s smile widened and his dimples came out in full force and his white teeth were blinding, making Jensen’s heart skip a couple of beats and his breath get caught in his lungs for a second longer. Oh, yeah. Things might be not so bad with Jared around. Jensen refused to admit that he had fallen head over heels in love with Jared but he suspected he was getting there, and fast. He should steady himself before he stumbled headlong into love.
Jensen grabbed Jared’s hand all of a sudden making Jared’s smile even wider in surprise, if that was even possible, as he looked down at their joined hands. Jensen felt Jared’s hand squeeze his hand back, clamping his big hand around Jensen’s before lifting up his left hand to touch the mirror’s smooth surface, chanting in a foreign language under his breath.
The next thing Jensen knew there was a blinding white light emanating from the mirror engulfing him and Jared. At first, he panicked but then he felt Jared squeeze his hand tighter, reminding him that Jared was there all the way with him and it was enough to calm him down. Then, there was a tug. Jared’s hand pulled his forward and Jensen could do nothing but follow. Stepping into the blinding light and through the mirror … into a world that he was not familiar with but was willing to get to know better if only to have Jared beside him.
Fin ( For Now, Who knows... :-D )