Pyro

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Chapter 22

Modern Day; January 26th; Parcia; Cierra

I wetted my lips and leaned over the world map that was spread over the table in the meeting room. I turned to Stefan, who stood behind me.

“So you think she’s going to go from country to country?”

“Yes. She’s not the kind of person to go into hiding, really. I picked up on that over the years. She likes to be in the thick of things, manipulating people left and right. When she was here, she manipulated all of us. She seemed kind of off, but we never could have predicted the extent of her madness.”

He took a step towards me and the echo of his boots on the floor sounded like a hurricane in my head. I was used to this, since it was part of my ability I had had since I was a child. Even so, the combination of his loud footsteps and his deep, baritone voice was enough to intimidate me. I couldn’t believe that I was in charge of him now. He was at least seventy years my senior, although he looked like he was in his mid-fifties, and he had a lot more wisdom than me.

“We need to find her, Stefan. She’s a dangerous person.” I closed my eyes and leaned against the table, trying to calm myself down. That was almost impossible these days. “I feel like I’m responsible for her.”

“Why?”

My face tensed up as I said, “Because she’s my mother.”

“You shouldn’t feel that way, Lady Cierra. She may have given birth to you, but the link between you two ends there.”

I opened my eyes and stood up straight, crossing my arms across my chest. Stefan had a similar posture and I almost laughed out loud at our similarities in that moment.

“Whatever you say. We still need to do something. I don’t like us just sitting here and waiting to hear something about her whereabouts. It seems lazy and counterproductive. For every minute that we wait here, she could be plotting something horrific.”

“I agree.”

“Then what should I do? You’re my advisor. Advise me.”

“I think that we should station guards in countries all over the world to keep an eye on things.”

“Like spies?”

“Exactly like spies.”

I paced the room and my slippers seemed to clatter against the floor. I knew it was only a whisper to Stefan, but I was used to cacophony by now. I considered his suggestion as I stared around the room at the bland walls and stone floor. There wasn’t much else I could do.

“Let’s do it.”

“Excellent.”

“Thank you, Stefan. I will leave you to determine who goes where. In the meantime, I am going to see how training is going. We need as many guards as we can get.”

“Yes, Lady Cierra.”

He bowed his head slightly in respect and then left the room. I glanced down at the map thoughtfully before folding it up and sliding it into the drawer of the table.

On my way to the training field, which was two miles from the willow tree – I used a teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock to get there – I encountered several elves, all of whom greeted me respectfully. All of the elves of the Underground did respect me, which I appreciated because I worked hard to make sure that they stayed safe. So far I felt like I had been doing an okay job, but I was always terrified. My mind tended to go to all of the worst possible things that could happen. I was always worrying about everyone’s safety. I had always wanted children, but I hadn’t anticipated getting three thousand of them in one night.

When I got to the training field, I was surrounded by loud noises. Grunts, yells, clinks of metal against metal, and cries of agony as elves were injured. There was always at least one healer on the field at one time to help anyone who was grievously injured, so I wasn’t worried about the sounds I heard.

Frida was in the center of the field, chastising a young elf who wasn’t stepping correctly in his sword fight. She was good at her job, but she tended to lose her temper. She tossed her long black hair angrily and gestured as she yelled.

“What is wrong with you?! Are you trying to get yourself killed? You have to step backwards when she comes at you. Otherwise, you’ll get impaled and die instantly. I’m guessing that’s not what you want to happen. Even if it is, it’s your duty to the Underground to stay alive as long as possible. We don’t want any martyrs.”

“Frida!”

The elf recognized my voice and turned around so fast that she almost smacked the elf she had been talking to with her hair.

“Lady Cierra!”

I walked over to her and said, “I feel like there’s a nicer way to talk to the elves-in-training.”

“Guards-in-training, you mean. They’re already elves. They’re becoming guards.”

“Yes, yes. Whatever. You know what I mean. Tell me, Frida, how are things going with training?”

She cleared her throat and gestured to the elf standing next to her.

“This kid is doing horribly. Did you see what he did?! He completely spaced out in the middle of the fight and it nearly cost him his life!”

“She’s right that you need to be more careful,” I said to the elf. “But Frida, you have to be nicer to them or they won’t learn anything because they will be too focused on how scared they are of you.”

“I want them to be scared of me. But if you insist…”

She scowled and crossed her arms over her chest, but I knew I had won.

“This elf…” I looked at the other elf. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what your name is.”

“I’m Fancifer,” he said, bowing his head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Cierra.

“Likewise. And what is your ability?”

“I’m extremely fast.” By way of explanation, he suddenly became blurry and was holding an apple in his right hand that he hadn’t had a second ago. “As you can see. My lady?”

He held the apple out to me and I smiled. My guess was that he had zoomed away into Ruoka Hall to retrieve the fruit, which meant that he was very fast indeed to have reappeared in less than a second. Fancifer had a spiky Mohawk that was dyed green. His eyes were a similar color. Instead of the normal black that was worn by guards, he was wearing a blue flannel shirt, jeans, and high top tennis shoes. He looked like he was probably the same age as me. Maybe a couple years younger. It was strange that he was already becoming a guard. Most of the guards got their jobs in their early twenties, I had observed.

“Excellent. I hope the other elves are making progress, as well?”

“I suppose. The actual fighting techniques are not as easy for most of them, however.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that you would say that. Sword fighting is, after all, your ability. It comes easily to you.”

She nodded and began to walk away from Fancifer. He turned back to the girl he was fighting and they started to spar once again. I followed Frida as she walked across the field, looking around at the different pairs. Frida was beautiful. I thought so every time I saw her, but especially when she was on the field in her tight black clothes that showed off how hard and muscled she was. She had always been the most athletic elf in the Underground. Well, one of them. I knew for a fact that Scott was extremely athletic, as well…

I tried not to think about Scott too much when I was doing my job. It made me blush because of all the details I now knew about him. We planned to get married in the middle of March, so we had decided to share our bodies with each other at last. We both took relationships very seriously and had decided to wait. But now there didn’t seem to be a reason to wait anymore.

“Well done, Valerie!” Frida yelled to an elf with cropped hair and many facial piercings as she dusted off her plaid pants. It appeared that she had conquered her opponent, who laid sprawled on the ground in front of her. “That’s what I like to see!”

“What’s Valerie’s ability?” I asked, hurrying to keep up with Frida.

“Human bullet? You could call her a living, breathing version of destruction.”

Frida smiled to herself and I got the impression that she liked Valerie a lot more than Fancifer.

“Frida,” I said as we walked, “I don’t doubt that you will be able to turn these amateurs into warriors capable of withstanding any enemies, but I really need more guards and I need them soon. I was just talking with Stefan and we have a new tactic: we’re going to station guards in spots all around the world to act as spies. We need to keep an eye on Lady Catherine somehow.”

Frida stopped walking and turned around to glare at me. She was always glaring, so I didn’t take her expression to mean anything in response to what I had said.

“Wait a minute. You’re planning to station guards all around the world?” It appeared her scowl was directed at my words, after all. “How realistic is that? If all our guards are in other countries, how will we protect the Underground?”

“That’s why we need as many guards as we can get. I still want the Underground to be protected.”

“Good. Because this is home to some people.”

“Believe me, the first thing on my mind is always the quality of life of our elves. Keep up the good work, Frida. I need to go elsewhere, now.”

She nodded and I teleported.

Scott wasn’t in our bedroom. He wasn’t in the library, either, though Adam was there. He was concentrating so hard on what he was reading that he didn’t even notice me come in and then leave again. I couldn’t find Scott in Ruoka Hall or Margrét’s room, either. I was starting to get anxious. It was ridiculous because he was a grown man, but I just wanted to make sure that he wasn’t losing his mind like I was. Every once in a while, I just needed to have his arms around me.

I began looking into every room I passed and saying his name in hopes that he would be there to hear me. I was beginning to feel rude for interrupting so many elves in my search for Scott when I reached Jibril’s room. I could tell he was the middle of doing something strange, but I didn’t know what.

“Hello, Jibril. What are you up to?”

“I was just using my seeing glass,” he said nonchalantly.

“Really? Who are you contacting? I’ve never seen someone use one before.”

“My… Brother. He lives in South Africa, so I don’t get to see him very much at all.”

“Why not? You know you could just borrow someone’s teleportic Icelandic volcanic rock, right?”

“I suppose. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, though. It is very important to me to serve you, Lady Cierra, so I don’t feel comfortable leaving for long bouts of time without serving some higher purpose.”

“I can respect that,” I said. I looked around at his room, which was boring and empty of excess possessions. We could learn so much from the elderly, just by looking at how simply they lived. “What would you say if I told you that you could be stationed in South Africa instead of here?”

“Leave the Underground?” His eyebrows traveled so far up his forehead, I thought they would disappear over the side of his head. “But why?”

“I was thinking of stationing elves around the world. We will have guards here too, of course, but I need the others to keep a lookout for Lady Catherine. I believe she is a very dangerous individual and we need to know her whereabouts for the sake of the safety of elves around the world.”

“I see. Well, I certainly never expected to be asked to be a spy.”

He laughed hysterically.

“I’m glad you’re amenable to the idea. I must go now, but I will see you later, Jibril.”

“Yes, yes. I must tell my brother the good news!”

He was pouring water into the bowl made of seeing glass when I left the room. As I walked through the Underground, peeking into rooms again, it occurred to me that there was one place I hadn’t checked for Scott.

I closed my eyes and was there within seconds. There was a barn near the training field that used to house horses. Now there were no animals, but it was where all the weapons of the Underground were stored and forged. I eased the heavy wooden door open with my foot and peered around it. I saw Scott in the middle of the barn, twisting his body around and hefting the hand and a half sword that he held. I realized I had never seen him hold a sword before and my breath caught. There was something so regal about a weapon like that and it made me realize all at once how old we were getting and all of the responsibilities we had now.

He suddenly swung around to face me and I wondered if he had seen me. But his eyes were still on the heavy weapon in his hands and he swung it through the air, slicing open an invisible opponent. He growled loudly and fiercely and before I could stop myself, I had squealed in alarm.

His fierce eyes fell on me and then his face softened as my presence registered with him. He stowed the sword in a scabbard at his waist and strode towards me with his arms open.

“Cierra. You found me.”

“Scott!”

I ran towards him and he wrapped his arms around me. I looked up at him and then his lips found mine. We kissed each other urgently. His arms dug into my lower back, pressing me tightly against his second hilt. As he began to kiss my neck, I moaned in his arms.

“I miss you,” he whispered.

“It’s only been a few hours,” I said, though I felt the same way.

“Let’s make love,” he said as he unbuckled his scabbard and dropped the sword to the ground with a clatter.

“You really should treat the weapons better.”

He didn’t respond, but pulled me to him and kissed me again. Our bodies were tight against each other and I could barely breathe, I was so filled with desire. When I opened my eyes again, we were standing in our bedroom in the Underground and we tumbled onto the bed together. I wanted him so much now that I didn’t care if he tore my clothes in his haste to get to me.

When the deed had been done and we laid in each other’s arms, I looked into his eyes and smiled.

“What?” he said.

“I just treasure this time we have together. I’m afraid it won’t always be like this.”

“What do you mean?”

“Now that Lady Catherine has shown her true colors, I can see that we will never be safe from her until she is gone. Something tells me we still have a long while left of living under threat of her. “Things are going to get a lot worse. We can’t take anything for granted anymore.”

“It’s scary,” he said, kissing my forehead, “but I think you might be right.”

“Yes.” I closed my eyes against his kiss and tried not to let the sadness overwhelm me. I wanted to be happy right now, so I blocked out all of the bad things that had happened and that I knew were destined to happen. “I love you, Scott.”

“You know that I love you, too. I always have.”

I smiled when I thought about the first time I had met him. He had been twelve and I had been nine. At the time, of course, we did nothing but tease each other and I was the victim of many of his pranks. It wasn’t until I entered high school that he began to show any signs of how he really felt about me. He was suddenly nice to me and went out of his way to do nice things for me. That was the man I had fallen in love with. The man who would do anything for other people. I felt like the luckiest person ever because he was willing to be in charge of the Underground with me. Of course, I had the most responsibility. He was “second in command,” you could say. But it meant so much to me that he would abandon his normal life of being a guard in the Underground in order to marry me.

“Scott? What were you doing in the weapons barn with the sword?”

“Practicing,” he said matter-of-factly. “Physical strength may be my ability, but I am less skilled in forms of defense like sword fighting. I figured it would be important to have brushed up on fighting before it becomes a necessity.”

“Have I mentioned that I love you?”

“Yes.” He frowned. “Just a few moments ago. Have you already forgotten?”

“No. I could never forget.”

I kissed him again. Then we dressed and returned to our duties.

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