Waking Other Lives

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New Recruit

I had missed flying with Seth, soaring in the sky, carefree, and peaceful. I closed my eyes, and opened my arms, just living it, feeling it, breathing it. What had happened over there was worrisome; Abby had tagged the neutralizers behind me like a breathing shadow. I would never be safe again by myself, alone. They were not giving up; today was a confirmation of that. Abby had not let it go even for one day; it was evident that she was impatient to see me dead.

How had we come to this point, I still could not believe these had once been my best friends, the ones I’d spent every minute and hour sharing life, creating unforgettable moments together, all of which now had no meaning. The many photos I still had of us on my phone were now a snapshot of a life that had never been real, memories that had been nothing but fake. It had not all been a waste, I reminded myself, my life was richer, fuller with the people who were now in my life. I would not give it up; it was all part of a package, one that was still wonderful despite all the disappointments, the challenges, and the hurdles I faced along the way.

Where was Seth taking us, I had no clue? But, he landed in front of a many-storied building in a deserted looking place. The place swarmed with people, all Drakons I assumed, going in and out, like busy ants, doing maintenance from painting and minor construction to decoration and repairs. It looked as if they were readying the place to be the new home of Drakons.

“This used to belong to Cayman’s grandparents. A deserted building to serve as our headquarters. Now, it is ours.” Dante confirmed my thoughts.

Life below us came to an absolute still when they heard the flap of the dragon’s large wings, saw its giant body swoop down, and its talons grip the earth with its body coming to a full stop, a few inches before them. The dragon roared in greeting, and everybody was in awe with what they thought was nothing short of a miracle. The dragon shifted back to Seth, the transition as smooth and quick as it had been in Rawonia. The Drakons cheered for their leader and the promise of what has not yet come to play. But, Seth had given them hope, and hope was everything in a world where nothing made sense anymore.

“Cayman, gather everyone in fifteen minutes,” Seth ordered. “We have a lot to talk about.” He then lifted me in his arms, despite my extremely vocal objections, and went inside, taking steps up the floor, two at a time, until he kicked open a door.

“What was that?” he asked. “What just happened over there?” he repeated.

“You saw what happened; it was Abby trying to kill me,” I supplied.

“Was this what you wanted to talk about, before?” he said, in a barely audible voice.

I nodded, his calmness scared me; it was like the stillness before the storm.

“And, you thought it could wait till we met, you thought you could make that walk all by yourself when a bunch of assassins was after you?” he said, his voice, almost emotionless. His fists were clenched, a nerve leaped in his cheek as an indication that his anger was raised to an explosive level. His inner emotions were raging, boiling to defy the calm exterior he so casually displayed. “I could have lost you,” he said. “If Dante hadn’t been with you...if I hadn’t shifted...” He could not go on, his fists shaking.

“I didn’t want to worry you hastily. I’m sorry. Baran warned me about this last night; I didn’t think they would make an attempt so soon,” I apologized, barely holding onto the words ‘after they’d already tried in the morning.’

“Baran,” he stressed the name. “I see.”

“He told me Abby had my heart, but he did not know its location.” I was watching Seth try to compose himself. He closed his eyes and opened them again.

“Do you trust that asshole now?” he said, the question, rapped out like the lash of a whip and I flinched inwardly. I hid behind silence, what could I have said? I didn’t know. But, Baran’s warnings had become a reality, and he had done his utmost to keep me alive.

“I will not let you go,” he said, just like in Rawonia, as if that was an option we were discussing.

“I didn’t ask you to, Seth. I am not in love with him,” I assured him, closing the distance between us. “I’m yours, all yours,” I said, wrapping my arms around his waist, and tucking my head against his chest. I felt his body shiver, his arms were immobile at first, tense. Then they enfolded me tightly as if never to let me go, he sighed. The sigh was heavy with all the fettered emotions, yet, in the end, all he did was press a chaste kiss on my hair. “You smell like him,” he said, his voice laced with that icy, controlled anger, and I felt the chasm widening between us as he stalked out of the room.

Holy shit! A sense of unease stirred inside me. What had just happened? Were we good or not? I couldn’t wait to find out. I ran across Dante and tagged along as he made it to the meeting. Seth was standing in the middle of the room, his hand thrust into the pocket of his jeans, and his expression, even in profile, was dark and brooding. An odd expression flitted across his face when he saw me. He forced his eyes away, so apparently, we were not cool. I wouldn’t allow this to go on as I loved him too much to let it be. It all boiled down to insecurity; I was amazed that Seth was uncertain of me, of my feelings. This amazingly handsome, wonderful Drakon King thought my love for him wasn’t big or durable enough to last us a lifetime. He would learn, I would teach him until his stubborn head got it. I would wait for his temper to cool and then I would mend his big dragon heart.

This was an auditorium, large enough to accommodate hundreds of Drakons; it looked like one of the large lecture rooms on campus where we were given introductory classes, with portable chairs and tables. Though I couldn’t count the number of Drakons gathered inside, there were many. Dante moved next to Seth, dragging me with him. Seth’s voice started the meeting.

“Today is the day the war started; today is the day the neutralizers attacked my mate in open daylight. We have already begun training centers in many places for humans, for all those who remember. Fileas sees to those preparations. Unfortunately, not all humans are aware, and that’s why we’ll face many hurdles, obstacles from them, some of whom will be your mates. We have to be hundred percent prepared to be targeted as monsters. They will be wary of what they do not know, and Abby and her neutralizers will do their negative campaign to bring us down.” He walked to the center of the room, gazing at every Drakon one by one, his commanding voice holding each one under his spell. “You need to know we cannot underestimate the neutralizers. Rawonia’s heart told us they were created with an essence of the witch. Today, we saw that, with our very own eyes. They are fast and strong, and shifting is the only way we will have an edge in this war.”

There were murmurs in the room right after that statement.

“So, mark your calendars, today is also the day we all become Uruloki, as we were always meant to be,” he said, and the room gasped in shock to this revelation. Even I was surprised. How was he planning to do that? A wry smile curved Dante’s mouth, but he was silent. I was mesmerized by Seth as he started touching the Drakons one by one, like a priest sanctifying his flock. Each Drakon he touched had a look of wonder on his face. It took me a few seconds to grasp what he was doing; he was touching their tattoos, their life sources to awaken their dragons. Dante slowly walked towards Seth with a questioning look on his face. Dante had been the younger Drakon Prince at Rawonia; he’d been royal just like Seth, and he’d had the touch, just like Seth. Would it still work in here though he was no longer Seth’s brother? That was the unsaid question. Seth shrugged and touched Dante on his chest. Dante sighed deeply as though he was feeling the change in him. Then he took a few uncertain steps towards the left row of Drakons and started touching them. “Yep, it works,” I heard him say.

As I watched their dragons wake up one by one, ‘beware Abby’ I thought with a smile. The Drakons were back, for real this time.

***********************************************************

Seth was driving me home along with Dante whom he was going to drop at the hospital. Dante was sleeping, and there was a cold silence hanging inside the car. Seth had not uttered one word to me since our row in the room. When he parked, he didn’t even get out of the car, all he said was, “Be careful. Don’t leave the house without me escorting you.” He then asked,” You have my phone number?”

I nodded. “Seth, please... ”

He looked at me, his eyes reflecting deep regret. He opened his mouth but was not allowed to speak. “Oh, are we at the hospital?” Dante asked, stretching, and yawning as he woke up. He’d ruined the moment, but it was not his fault, not really.

“Go, we’ll talk later,” Seth said, softly holding my hand. I smiled in relief. That was a positive gesture, he’d given me something to work with, he’d taken a step. I’d take thousands tomorrow. I nodded and walked towards the house. I didn’t hear the sound of the engine. Apparently, he was waiting until I was inside.

I checked in on my parents who were asleep. Mom stirred, barely opening an eye. “Oh, good, you are now home baby,” she said, going back to sleep.

I turned on the light of my bedroom and gasped with the scene of a severely beaten, bloodied lump of a body lying on my bedroom floor.

I barely managed to stifle my scream, afraid it would draw my mom in here, whose sleep was as light as a feather.

Was he dead? Oh, my God, please don’t let it be, I begged.

“Baran” I whispered kneeling on the floor, but he didn’t move.

I flew down the stairs, opened the door, hoping Seth would still be there. He was. I ran to the car, but Seth was already out, sensing my agitation, and panic. “What’s happening, is it Abby?” he said, holding me firmly.

“No, please come up, I need your help,” I said. Dante was completely awake by now, and out of the car. “Don’t make a sound,” I warned them as we went up the stairs; I pointed at Baran whose blood was staining the wooden floor. “Please, help him,” I said to Seth.

“You want me to help him?” Seth asked, disgusted.

“The neutralizers must have left him for dead,” Dante commented. “After all, he did help us today, just saying,” he said, shrugging.

I knew what I was asking was extreme, too much, but Baran wouldn’t make it to the hospital, his life was ebbing away right before my eyes. “Please,” I repeated, touching Seth softly.

He knelt down, his face emotionless, and started licking Baran.

“Yuck,” Dante said. But, Seth continued.

“I guess we have a recruit,” Dante said, chuckling.

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