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BRINGER of BALANCE - Book II of THE LAND series

By smatusky All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 12 - Connections

For five days the alliance had been stranded on the protector’s island. Everyone was apprehensive and agitated. I found myself wandering the island everyday sure that something was here that I was supposed to remember. My visions showed me somewhere on the island, looking out over the ocean, the sun in my eyes. What was this? Was this the end of the road for me, for my alliance? Would we be stuck looking out over the ocean until our supplies ran out? After walking most the afternoon along the west shore, I sat down on a smooth, flat stone to watch the sun set over the ocean. Before long I saw a young man shuffling through the waters, his pants rolled high. As he came closer I noticed his shirt was bloodstained and ripped. He was holding something to his face.

“Wolfe!” I shouted. “What happened? I didn’t recognize you.” I grabbed his hand and led him over to the stone bench. Blood dripped from his nose and his eye was swelling fast. “It looks like you were in a brawl. Let me see.” I took the cloth from his hands and gently raised the bangs covering his eye.

“I’ll be fine,” Wolfe moved his head to avoid my gaze. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Tell me what’s happened! Who did this to you?” He kept his head down, glancing at the stones on the ground. “You know I’ll find out, especially since you can’t shield your thoughts.”

Wolfe wiped blood dripping from his nose and I sensed something familiar. I stared at him, but the image did not take shape. Although blood stained his hand, I grabbed and squeezed it. His eye returned to normal, and his nose stopped bleeding after I healed him. I lifted his hair again and spoke softly.

“This is familiar. But, I don’t know why.”

Wolfe finally looked into my eyes. “You don’t remember, do you? I thought you always knew.” I stared vaguely into his deep blue eyes.

“Knew what, Wolfe?” I was confused and could not understand why Wolfe’s thoughts offered no clues. “What don’t I remember?”

“One day long ago I was walking the corridors of the castle with my friend Auggie. My mother worked for the Queen as a cook and I lived with her in the castle. Guards grabbed Auggie and me and took us to the Queen’s chamber. Our wrists were…”

“Tied with rope.” I finished his sentence. The moment came back. It was the day I fought my father and the boys were mere pawns. “Yes, I remember! You were the boy that got the bloody nose. Even then you looked familiar to me. Maybe you had been in one of my visions.” I was so happy to have finally made the connection.

“So you never knew that was me?” he asked. I shook my head. “I guess you wouldn’t. I was only thirteen. Auggie actually fought against me and kept apologizing for hitting me in the face. Mostly I remember you taking control of my actions. It was remarkable and although I had seen you many times before, I never knew you had such powers. It felt as though an angel had taken a hold of me, protected me, and I thought you were the bravest person in The Land.”

I smiled at Wolfe then looked down. “I was a different person back then. I wasn’t brave and didn’t care about anyone but myself.”

“Pardon my boldness, my lady,” Wolfe raised my chin with the gentle touch of his hand. “But you’re wrong. What you did, fighting your father like that, and twice even. It took real courage. I’ve always admired you and believed you to be more beautiful than any woman I’ve known.” He smiled and I blushed. No wonder Wolfe had such strong feelings for me, and for so long.

“Thank you, Wolfe. Now please, tell me what happened to you.”

“It was one of the men, a man who doesn’t know you. He said something that made me so angry I hit him in the face. He’s twice my size, but I didn’t care.”

“What did he say?” A part of me wanted to know while another did not.

“First, he talked to the other men around him and said that you had given up. That you wander around the island with no plan to get us home. And then he started saying foul things.”

Wolfe hesitated, but I asked him to continue.

“He called you a witch! He said you’re a crazy old witch who sees ghosts in her head. He doesn’t know you, not like I do. I wanted to kill him!” I could see Wolfe’s anger rise to the surface.

“It will be all right.” I said, lightly brushing my hand across his troubled face. “We’re all a bit agitated and tired of this place. Thanks for defending my honor.”

Wolfe grabbed my hand and his eyes gleamed. “I would do anything for you, my Queen.” He took my hand and rubbed it softly against the side of his face then kissed my palm.

“Hi!” Riley walked up to us. Wolfe lowered my hand and I pulled it away quickly.

“Hi,” I said. Wolfe stood and I followed.

“What’s going on?” All three of us stood together awkwardly.

“Wolfe was hurt, so I healed him.” I said and Wolfe quickly cut in.

“I better go back to the ship. King, my Queen.” He bowed and left us without delay.

“What’s that all about?” Riley looked to me for answers although I did not know where to start. I sat down again and my husband sat beside me.

“I just found out something.” I started. Riley looked at me, waiting for more of an explanation. “Wolfe was one of the boys my father used his powers on. He was an innocent boy who got caught up in a fight between my father and me. That’s why he likes me so much.”

“What do you mean?” Riley asked, curious.

“Wolfe has feelings for me.” I looked at my husband, who did not fully understand human emotions or relationships. “He seems to be in love with me. At least his thoughts express this although he has never spoken of it.”

“You mean he can love you the same way I love you?” Riley asked. I nodded.

“How long have you known this?”

“Since our journey to At the time I believed his feelings were just a crush. He attacked another man only moments ago who spoke harshly about me. I didn’t know he had such strong feelings.”

“Do you love him?”

Riley’s thoughts became confusing. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“I saw you touch his face and he was holding your hand. Do you love him the way you say you love me?” My beloved husband was doing what many people do in a relationship, doubt the love of their mates.

“No,” I said firmly. “You’re jealous.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you feel threatened by another male, at least in this instance. You’re jealous that Wolfe has the same feelings for me that you do. But, believe me when I tell you that I love only you.” I smiled at Riley, but he was angry. He had never been jealous of anyone before, so perhaps this was something he needed to figure out.

“I don’t know if I believe you.” His statement shocked me, especially after everything we had been through. “Why did you touch him like that and why did you keep this from me?”

Riley’s voice got louder and I sank lower into my stone bench. Could this truly be my loving husband? I was close to sobbing, although too shocked to show it.

“Wolfe was angry and hurt, so I healed him. I didn’t touch him for any other reason.” I tried to stay calm.

“I’m angry right now and you haven’t touched my face!” Riley shouted and stood. He walked away while shaking his head.

“Wait! Riley, come back!” I yelled, but he was already far away kicking the sand in his path.

Could this entire island be cursed? It seemed that everyone was angry and we would kill each other before starving to death. The conflict with Riley gave me a chill, not to mention my predicament with getting the alliance off the cursed island. My head hurt and the ground began to tremble. I placed my hands on the stone bench until the tremor subsided. Suddenly rocks from the mountain began to slide down in mini-avalanches.

I ran to the shoreline. Once the dust cleared and the ground stilled, I turned when a wave broke along the shore behind me. I looked over the ocean and saw a shimmering, reddish-orange sun resting on the horizon. The scene was identical to my vision. My future had something to do with this place, but I would have to wait until the next day to figure it out.

As the last rays of light disappeared I headed for our ruined ship. I walked slowly, contemplating sleeping on the dunes. My feelings were really hurt and I did not want to talk with anyone, especially Riley. I did not fancy getting sand in my dress though, so I climbed the ladder and stepped on deck. Numerous eyes glanced my way. People were eager to ask me questions, but I ignored everyone while heading to my cabin. No one said anything as I walked by. Sir Edward, shipmates, the Captain, and even Riley stared at me in silence as the cool, blue sky darkened.

Once inside my cabin I buried my face in a pillow and cried. I cried until falling asleep. My sleep would not last long and I woke some time during night. I gave up on the idea that I would fall back to sleep and decided to roam the top deck. The brisk air blew across my face as I stood on the bow overlooking numerous wrecked ships resting on the shore. In the night it appeared as though a pod of whales had beached themselves and it reminded me of my impossible situation.

“Can’t sleep?” Sir Edward walked up from behind.

I looked back at him, then out at the scenery again. “I slept a little, but not long.”

He stood next to me, silently watching our stranded alliance. “Your husband told me everything. He’s probably looking for you right now. I read his thoughts. They are as jumbled as his actions. I sometimes find it hard to believe he was once one of them, one of the ghosts. But, at times like these I think I can understand the troubles you’re both facing. I was married for a brief time, too. About five years, until I drove Lillie away.”

“Lillie, she was your wife?”

“Yes, poor thing. Having been married to me probably took years off her life. She left me and settled with another man in .”

“That seems sad,” I said, gazing over at him. “Why would she leave you?”

“I was a tyrant, of course.” He smirked. “Look at me. I’m stubborn, angry most of the time, and very demanding. I drove her away with my anger and constant accusations about her thoughts of other men. She had no privacy around my mind reading. I was a real jackass!” Edward shocked me and I laughed for the first time in days.

“Were you really that bad?”

“I thought so, but Sara didn’t seem to think I was that bad.”

“Your daughter, her name was Sara?” He nodded. He had never mentioned her name before.

“She really surprised me when I found out she refused to leave with my wife. She was just four years old. Lillie thought I tricked her into staying with me, but I didn’t. I could never be angry with Sara, she was my world.”

We stood together on the deck for a long time watching lights streak across the night sky. Our feelings were mutual. Edward missed his daughter and I missed my brother, Christian, who was my guide in my first journey. Both Sir Edward and I felt the need to speak with our loved ones for encouragement and support.

“I think someone wants to speak with you,” Edward said, pointing at Riley who was watching us.

I nodded to Edward who turned to leave and he patted Riley on the back when he walked up to me.

“Hello,” said Riley and I looked down.

“Hello,” I responded. I was afraid that if I looked at him I would cry. There was an uncomfortable pause before Riley spoke again

“I’m confused, Crystal. Why did I act that way to you? It’s as though I did something terribly wrong, but when I yelled at you, it felt good. I wanted to hurt you, and I don’t know why. I’m really sorry if I did. Later, I could not understand what I had done or even why I said the things I did. Please, believe me, I need your help. Why won’t you look at me?”

I did not want to tell him that I was disappointed in his actions, but I was. The one person I loved had turned on me, like a loving pet you feed every day one day bites your hand. You feel hurt and saddened, although the animal acted instinctively. Our feelings take just as long to mend as our bodies.

Riley kept bending down, trying to get me to look at him. I spun around, looking out over the ships. “I can’t, Riley,” I said. His thoughts told me he needed my guidance with his emotions and I sensed his intense stare, but all the hurt I held inside began pouring out of me. Thus far I had contained my sobs – I wanted someone to guide me, help me. I did not know what to do as the Bringer of Balance, or as a wife. I wished that Sir Edward was still on deck with me. I walked away from Riley, even though he took my hand before I went too far.

“Why do you still cry and why won’t you look at me?” he insisted.

I finally turned to him although I could not look him in the eyes directly. “Because it’s hard enough having most of the people on this island not trust me.” Tears streamed down my face, my speech shaky. “But to have my own husband tell me he doesn’t believe I truly love him? It’s like the person I knew, loved, and relied on most has left me.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand why I said those things.”

“I do. It’s our emotions. Fear and anger are the worst and they make people say and do things they’ll later regret. These are the feelings that protectors don’t like, and humans are often consumed by them.”

“I think I know what you mean. It was as though I wanted to hurt you because I was so angry. And it felt good to yell at you and say those things simply because I could. You must believe me, Crystal. I thought about what I said, and it wasn’t me.” Riley moved closer and brushed my hair back. “I do believe you love me and I don’t know why I acted like that. , please. Please, look at me! I can’t stand this.”

I attempted to look in his regretful, saddened eyes. It was difficult and my tears did not stop.

“Don’t leave me again. I won’t survive without you.” I said.

Riley had tears in his eyes and hugged me. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I’ll never leave like that again.”

I sensed that various people had wandered the deck and heard our conversation. For the longest time we just embraced and held hands. We desperately needed each other’s comfort since our situation on the island had been tearing us apart. Eventually we went downstairs to my bunk and although it was a tight fit, we rested peacefully the rest of the night.

“Morning,” Riley said. He got up and dressed. We slept late into the next day and heard people walking around on deck. I was surprised I did not wake sooner.

“Good morning,” I replied.

“How about we stay together today? I’ll go above and see what I can find for food. You can get dressed.” Riley kissed me and left.

I hoped he would always be with me. The evil being that shouted to me just the day before seemed to have vanished, although it reminded me of how humans must seem to protectors, kind and loving one minute and brutal the next. There was no order to our actions. Humans are unpredictable and I often saw this in myself. Riley returned to our little cabin with two plates filled with eggs and bread.

“What’s this?” I was surprised by our delightful breakfast.

“It was Edward. He told me someone from the clan had saved some eggs for him. He wanted us to have a decent breakfast together, especially since…” Riley set the plates on the table before continuing. “Since we haven’t been together enough. Edward’s worried you’re too thin and he keeps asking if you’re eating enough.”

I joined Riley at our tiny table with barely enough room for our plates. “Too thin?” I asked.

“Yes,” Riley looked carefully at me. “Too thin. I don’t think anyone else cares for you more than Sir Edward, besides me that is.” Eggs dropped from his spoon. Riley’s comment almost made me cry.

“Thank you,” I said, practically choking on my words. “I’m glad you’re here with me.”

After eating we left the ship, and like every day after being stranded we searched the island for clues, anything to help us leave this tomb. But this day I returned to the stone bench where I recognized my vision. This was the place I saw again and again in my recurring dreams and daydreams. What’s supposed to happen here?

I sat down and explained the vision to Riley. We could not make sense of it, so I asked him to enlist the help of Sir Edward and Wolfe. I did not want to mention Wolfe’s name after what had happened, yet Riley seemed to understand.

An hour passed and I waited. I sat and stared at the water the entire time until Riley returned with Edward, Wolfe, and even Devin. I explained my visions again although Riley had already informed our small party what I had been doing the past week.

“How can we help, my Queen?” Devin asked.

“Devin, you keep forgetting you have your own land to rule. You need not call me my Queen. is fine.”

“I’m sorry,” Devin said boldly. “But you will always be my Queen and I prefer to address you with the respect you deserve.”

I smiled. “All right, Devin. Queen it is. You can help by coming up with as many ideas as possible as to the meaning of my vision. I need all of you to think about this place, this time. Use your minds because mine happens to be void of ideas. This seems much harder to figure out than during my journey to rescue grandfather’s sword or to get on to .” Riley knew about my adventures into the east woods, but the others were confused by my comment. “It’s a long story,” I said to them when they gave me a curious stare. “Tell me if you have any ideas, no matter how odd they might be.”

For hours we sat, talked, looked, and walked around, yet, we could not figure out this puzzle. The men were more frustrated than I was. Nevertheless, I sat and used their thoughts to enhance my own. I sensed their impatience. They wanted to leave and then something from my past came to mind. Riley sat next to me while the others where huddled together, talking.

“Any ideas?” asked Riley, already sure of my answer. I did not respond right away.

“Yes. To move would be impatient. Sometimes the right move is to not move at all.” Riley glared at me.

“What?”

“Riley,” I asked. “Do you remember on my very first journey when I went to the island on the ferry? A frog, Freddy, was in charge of the ferry and he took me to the island. Were you there with me? Did you follow me onto the island?”

“I did and I remember you sitting in the woods when it was dark. I had chosen a smaller owl form so that I could see you. You ran back to shore and I watched you sleeping while the sword spoke to you.” I could not believe that I already had my true love following me while hoping to find someone. Riley was surprised when I kissed him. “What was that for?” he asked.

“For following me and never leaving. Do you know why I returned that morning to the island?” Riley shook his head. “Because I had been impatient. I should have let myself rest and let time take its course. Riley, I believe this has something to do with that moment. It feels the same, as if I must sit here and wait for something to happen. I cannot leave or I will miss a moment. I just need to figure out what that moment is.”

The sun was close to setting on the water as it had done the previous day, just before Riley got angry and the ground shook.

“Wolfe,” I called out. “Walk by the water, where the sun is setting. Tell me what your keen senses hear, smell, or feel. There is something we are not seeing.”

Wolfe walked around the lapping waves and stared at the sun. It was now orange and massive. We were close, but close to what?

“It’s hot,” he stated the obvious and continued. “It’s not like wet hot, though, but dry. I feel very dry, but I’m standing in water.”

“Don’t move.” I yelled. I got off the bench and walked to Wolfe as he stood in the water. The others followed close behind me.

I walked into the water until almost waist high. The sun descending was big and beautiful in front of me. Waves pushed me back. Suddenly, someone from behind grabbed my hand before I slipped through a portal. It was a gateway into another world, time, or place. I heard Riley telling me to come back, though his words were faint. Then Wolfe poked his head into the opening. We were both partially through the mysterious gateway that led into a desert. It was hot and rocky, like our journey to when we found Sir Edward. This place was different, though, and Riley’s head appeared behind me. It looked funny seeing only his head while the rest of him remained invisible.

“Where are we?” asked Wolfe.

“I’m not sure. Riley, does this look like any place on Noore Continent?”

“No! Now get back here, both of you!” Riley demanded. “If you go all the way through there’s a possibility you can’t come back.”

Wolfe and I stepped back from the opening and into the wavy waters surrounding the . The sun had almost set and Devin raised his hand to where the gateway had been. It was gone. This truly was a mystery.

“The portal must close when the sun sets and probably opens when the sun is right above the waters. Amazing!” said Devin, and we treaded back to the shoreline.

“This is it!” I shouted and began jumping in jubilation, knowing that I had finally found the passage that would lead us from our tomb.

Sir Edward grabbed me, lifting me onto his shoulders. Devin helped him and they carried me like a trophy toward the ships. Riley and Wolfe were walking behind us, their arms wrapped around each other. The two men were so close in physical age, yet so different, and each one was loyal and loving toward me in his own way. We were happy and ready for the next leg of our journey.

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