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Aetherion Rising

By Adelia Chamberlain All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy

Part Four

From: Noëlle Moreaux

To: Genevieve Mason

Subject: Re: Stop lying to me.

Well, we are an inquisitive child aren't we? What makes you so sure that you're right and that I'm lying? You don't know anything about me, Genevieve. And what you think you know may not be right.

Mama

From: Genevieve Mason

To: Noëlle Moreaux

Subject: Re: Re: Stop lying to me.

Mama,

Does the name Philippine Prideux ring a bell? Because I have a copy of her diary from the years you all were exchange students at the British and Irish Elemental Institute, and there's some very interesting things in there about you.

Gen

From: Noëlle Moreaux

To: Genevieve Mason

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Stop lying to me.

Genevieve,

I suggest you find another place to spend the upcoming holidays, because as of now, you are not welcome back at home. And do not consider your father's house to be an option either.

Noëlle

Genevieve sighed heavily and shut her laptop, tossing it carefully to the end of her bed.

“Everything okay?” Sloane asked from the other side of the room. “You look really pale.”

“Just having a huge fight with my mother,” Genevieve answered. “There's a lot of lying going on and I don't know how this is ever going to be resolved if she never wants to speak to me about the truth.”

“This is stuff about your dad, right?” Sloane asked, setting her coursework to the side and walking over to Genevieve's bed. “I overheard you and Madelaine talking about it one night.”

“He's not my father,” Genevieve said, tears welling up in her eyes. “I don't even understand why I'm so upset about that because I barely know him. He's got a completely separate life from ours, and it's been that way since I was four-years-old. But I've just always known him to be my dad, and now to find out that he's not...”

Genevieve trailed off and started to cry, and Sloane sat down and wrapped her up in her arms. “Oh Gen, I have absolutely no idea what that might feel like, but I imagine it's absolutely horrible.”

“I don't even know who my father is,” Genevieve cried into Sloane's shoulder. “I mean, I have an idea of who it might be, but I have no evidence to support it. Mama won't tell me anything. Now she says I'm not welcome at home for Christmas. I don't know what I'm going to do.”

“Shh,” Sloane hushed her. “I know that you're really hurting, but you need to calm down and take a deep breath okay? You've got a great group of friends, Gen. No one is going to leave you alone for Christmas, okay? And if nothing else works out, you can always come to my house. I'm sure my parents wouldn't mind another person there.”

Genevieve pulled back and looked at Sloane through watery eyes. “Really?”

“Sure! I mean, Slade might be a little prick about the whole thing, but his opinion is really irrelevant. And then, when the holidays are over, you get to come back and actually start learning how to command your element. There's lots to look forward to even though right now sucks majorly okay?”

Genevieve reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Thanks Sloane. That was surprisingly helpful.”

Sloane just laughed. “Well, I am good for some things other than gossip. Speaking of gossip, you want some to take your mind off things?”

“Sure,” Genevieve murmured, running her hands through her hair. “What's new today?”

“Well, Madelaine and your friend Juan were totally flirting with one another at Geronimo's Pizzeria last night. Looked like they were on a date. Evanthia and I couldn't keep our eyes off of them. They've got some serious chemistry. Ryan Martinez was totally hitting on Amelia Johnson at the bowling alley, but she was blowing him off big time. And then when we were coming back to campus, we found Marilène Rousseau and Oliver Findlay totally making out on the front steps.”

“Okay,” Genevieve said, trying to process all that. “Madelaine and Juan doesn't surprise me, I have no idea who Ryan Martinez and Amelia Johnson are, but Marilène and Oliver? Seriously?”

“Seriously. And they were into it, too. Didn't even break apart when we came walking past them talking really loudly.”

“I've totally got to go talk to Marilène about that,” Genevieve said, looking at her watch. “She should be coming out of the water room in a few minutes.”

“Go grill her and report back. I want to know what's going on, 'cause that's juicy gossip right there.”

Genevieve just rolled her eyes as she reached for her laptop and slid it underneath the bed. “I don't think Marilène is going to kiss and tell.”

“Which is why you have to pry,” Sloane said, standing up and walking back towards her bed. “I'll be here waiting.”

Genevieve laughed as she stood up. “You'll be waiting for a long time, because even if she does kiss and tell, that doesn't mean I'm telling you.”

“Oh come on!” Sloane exclaimed. “You wouldn't even know about them if it wasn't for me!”

“See you later, Sloane,” Genevieve said, walking out of the room and out into the hallway. She made her way down the three flights of stairs that would get her to the main floor of the building, then walked out of the residence hall and across the courtyard to where a small, one story building was located.

She walked into the building and looked around at the four elevators that were available, then positioned herself by the one that was labelled water and waited for students to start coming up from the underground facilities. She didn't have to wait long until silver-haired students started streaming out of the elevator next to her, but it wasn't until the third batch of them that Marilène came bounding out of the metal structure.

“Genevieve!” Marilène exclaimed, coming over to wrap her in a big hug. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you,” Genevieve said, hugging her back. “I need to talk to you.”

“Well, good thing I'm done with my classes and have no homework today then isn't it?” Marilène said, grabbing Genevieve by the hand and pulling her out of the building. “So, where do you want to go?”

“Could we just go for a walk somewhere?” Genevieve asked. “I just need to get a lot off my chest.”

Marilène stopped, turned around, and got a good look at Genevieve. “You've been crying.”

“Kind of,” Genevieve murmured, ducking her head down. “My mother has, um, she's...I'm not allowed to come home over the holidays because I'm questioning her about everything.”

“Well, come home with me,” Marilène said cheerfully. “Mama and Papa would love to meet you, especially since you're Noëlle's daughter, and maybe we can do some sneaking around in their office while they're off doing something else, 'cause trust me, they won't be around a lot.”

“Yeah?” Genevieve asked. “I can really do that?”

“Of course! I'll run it by Mama tonight just in case, but you are totally welcome to spend Christmas and the rest of the holidays with us.”

Genevieve breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Marilène. I really appreciate this.”

“Not a problem.” Marilène started walking again. “So, where do you want to walk?”

“Somewhere far away from the school. And then you can tell me more about what Sloane was telling me about a little earlier.”

“Oh, and what was that?”

“She said that you and Oliver were making out on the front steps of the school last night.” Marilène ducked her head down, but not before Genevieve caught the blush that was crossing her face. “It's true, isn't it? You and Oliver?!”

“He wrote me a poem,” Marilène mumbled, grabbing on to Genevieve's hand and pulling her along faster. “Come on, let's get off campus and then I'll tell you everything.”

II.

“Welcome to Geneva, New York!” Marilène exclaimed three weeks later as they stepped out of the car that had brought them from the airport. “And welcome to Rousseau Family Wineries, the American branch, which is my father's pride and joy.”

Genevieve looked around while the driver opened the trunk of the car and got their suitcases out. “It's gorgeous.”

“Yeah, I know,” Marilène said, smiling at the driver as he carried their suitcases to the front porch. “Thank you, Charles. That will be all.”

“You're welcome, Miss Rousseau. If you need anything else, just let me know.”

Marilène wrapped her arm around Genevieve's shoulders and they started walking towards the house as Charles got back into his car and drove away. “We are going to have a great Christmas.”

“I don't know about that,” Genevieve said, her voice sad. “I wish I was with my family.”

“Aw, Gen, I know you do, but I'm still going to try to make this Christmas fun for you,” Marilène said as they reached the front door. She reached for the knob and twisted it, surprised when the door opened. “Oh, maybe Mama and Papa are home right now. Although they said they wouldn't be.”

Genevieve picked up her suitcase after Marilène picked up hers, and then followed her into the house. The house was huge, laid out in a very open style, and the moment Marilène saw the red-haired men standing in the foyer, she dropped her suitcase to the ground. Genevieve was originally just startled, but when Marilène started looking around confused, a part of a conversation that she'd had with Marilène back at the school drifted to her head.

Mama is an air-bearer and Papa is an earth-bearer. That's what makes Papa so valuable to the family business. He can control the soil.”

“Mama?” Marilène called out. “Papa?”

One of the men turned to look behind him and when he saw the two girls, he smiled. “Hello Marilène. Hello Genevieve. I've been expecting you,” he said in a heavy Irish accent.

And it was then that Genevieve recognized him, and she couldn't help the words that escaped her lips. “You're Callan Murphy.”

“Very good, Genevieve. Now tell me, are you afraid?”

“No,” Genevieve said softly, reaching out and squeezing Marilène's hand. “What do you want?”

“Yeah,” Marilène said, finding her voice, though it was very shaky. “What the hell do you want?”

“Well, I wanted to meet my two newest members in person, of course,” Callan said, slowly walking towards them. “Because you are going to follow in your mothers' footsteps, aren't you girls?”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Marilène said. “My mother would never associate herself with someone like you.”

“Oh Marilène, you really are so innocent, aren't you? Antoinette told me that you would be surprised by this, but I didn't believe her. I didn't think that your parents would be able to keep their views from their own daughter.”

Marilène squeezed Genevieve's hand tightly. “My parents don’t believe in the Elemental Freedom Movement.”

“Oh yes, yes, they do,” Callan said, coming to a stop in front of them. “How else do you think I got into your house? How else do you think I knew you were going to be here? How else do you think I knew better than to call you Marie-Hélène?”

Marilène turned to look at Genevieve with tears in her eyes, and Genevieve tugged her closer, wrapping a comforting arm around her waist. “It's okay, Marilène. It's okay.”

“Of course it is okay! I wouldn't dare mess around with either of you two! Your mothers would kill me. Yours especially, Genevieve.”

“I doubt my mother would care right now,” Genevieve said, looking Callan in the eyes. “She doesn't even want me at home.”

“That's only because you're asking too many questions,” Callan said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You shouldn't question things so much, Genevieve. You should just follow along with the plan.”

Genevieve swallowed hard as the realization that her mother had been talking to Callan Murphy about her set in. “Well, I'm not the best at following along with other people's plans.”

“I know you aren't!” Callan exclaimed. “But you have to understand, Genevieve, my dear, it is imperative that you follow along with my plan. You don't want to make me angry.”

“No,” Genevieve said, her voice defiant.

Callan's hand moved from Genevieve's shoulder to caress her hair. “You are so much like your mother. Do you know that? She wasn't afraid when she first met me either. You are the perfect balance of your mother and your father.”

“You know my father?” Genevieve asked.

“You could say that,” Callan said, taking his hand off of her and stepping backwards. “Alright girls, let's come into the kitchen and talk some more. You’re about to get your first orders, and I know you will be brilliant at them. And you two will be the catalyst to the rising of Aetherion and the crushing of the sapiens.”

Callan started walking towards the kitchen and Genevieve slowly pulled Marilène along with her.

“What are we doing?” Marilène whispered, her voice still trembling. “We should be running.”

“Finding out what the hell is going on,” Genevieve whispered back. “Now come on and listen to him.”

Callan picked up two books and turned to hand them to the girls. “Now be very careful with these. Can't have just anyone finding them.”

Genevieve and Marilène reached out and took the books, and the first thing Genevieve noticed was the title. Commanding Aether. “Isn't this a myth?”

“No!” Callan yelled, then stopped himself and took a deep breath. “Alright, we might not have gotten it to work yet, but my top advisers have been reading up on it and they think it's just because we weren't taught to do it at the right time. However, you two, still being in school and all, are the perfect age group to learn it. So that's what you're going to do, okay? Learn how to command aether. And then, you're going to slowly recruit your classmates, and then you're going to teach them how to command aether, until I have an army that can control aether. And then, Aetherion will rise.”

Genevieve and Marilène gave each other a quick look before both nodding, both of them knowing the best thing to do was agree and try to get away from Murphy as quickly as possible.

“Alright,” Marilène said. “We'll try.”

“We'll try,” Genevieve echoed.

Callan just smiled at them. “See, I knew you'd come around to my way of thinking. I'll be around to check up on you two at some point in the future, and you better have progress made for me. Gentlemen, I think that will be all.”

The men in the foyer quickly surrounded Callan again, one of them saying something into one of his sleeves. Before the girls knew what was going on, a helicopter was landing outside the house, and Callan and his men were out the front door and climbing inside.

Once the helicopter had taken off, Marilène dropped her book to the floor and started shaking. “Oh my God, how did you stay so freaking calm in front of him?”

“Because,” Genevieve said softly, bending down to pick up Marilène's book. “Like he said, it must be a family trait. Now come on, we need to figure out what to do, 'cause we can't stay here.”

Marilène stared at where Genevieve was holding out the book to her. “You're right,” she said, taking the book back. “We can't stay here. But I've got a good idea of where we can go. Just let me grab some things from upstairs first, and then I'll get Charles back here to take us to the airport.”

III.

Genevieve woke up to the sound of a young girl shrieking and running down the stairs, and for a moment she was confused about where she was. But then Raven and Marilène started talking across the room, and she remembered that she was at the Blackwood house in Xendaine, and it was Christmas morning.

Blinking the sleep from her eyes, she sat up from where she was huddled on the floor with blankets. “What time is it?”

“A quarter to six,” Raven said, sitting up and stretching in her bed. “Sorry about that. Piper gets so excited on Christmas morning. We can never get her to stay in bed.”

“It's alright,” Marilène said, looking over at Genevieve. “Right, Gen?”

“As one who has a younger sister who can't make it past seven on Christmas morning, I completely understand,” Genevieve said. “So does your family get dressed to open presents, or do you all stay in your pajamas and robes?”

“Pajamas and robes,” Raven said, looking towards the door when there was a soft knock on it. “We're awake! We'll be down in a few minutes!”

“Okay,” came a female voice through the door. “Make sure that Marilène and Genevieve know that they are welcome. There are presents waiting for them downstairs as well.”

“I will, Mom,” Raven said, throwing back the sheets of her bed and standing up. “Come on. Piper can only last for so long before she starts opening presents without us.”

The three of them got up and got their robes put on fairly quickly, and soon they were making their way downstairs into what Genevieve could only describe as a winter paradise. Marilène had taken time on the flight to Xendaine to explain to her the traditional decorations in an elemental household, but she still hadn't been expecting real icicles hanging everywhere, or a real tree that was growing out of the room's floor, or the constant scent of peppermint mixed with evergreen that was only in that one room. This morning, the tree was decked out with ornaments as well as the icicles, and there were tons of presents filling most of the floor space.

And in the middle of it all, jumping up and down and clawing at Sparrow's t-shirt, was eleven-year-old Sandpiper Blackwood, who reminded Genevieve so much of Ariane at that age that it made her heart ache.

“When can we open the presents?!” Piper exclaimed, bouncing up and down in front of Sparrow. “I want to open my presents!”

Sparrow looked over at the door and smiled when he saw Raven, Marilène, and Genevieve make their way into the room, followed by his parents. “Stockings first, Piper. Then you can open your presents.”

“Well when can I open my stocking?”

“Right now, Piper, my dear,” came the deep Irish voice of Talon Blackwood, who was making his way through the piles of presents towards the fireplace to take down the stockings. “Everybody sit down and I'll start handing out things.”

Genevieve ended up on the smaller sofa, and Sparrow quickly sat down next to her. “Merry Christmas, Gen.”

“Look! Look!” Piper exclaimed, pointing above their heads. “Mistletoe! You have to kiss!”

Genevieve and Sparrow each looked up and saw the mistletoe, and Sparrow sent a quick glare in the direction of Raven and Marilène, who were both trying not to burst out laughing. Genevieve could feel the rest of the Blackwood family's eyes on them, and she had a feeling that she couldn’t talk her way out of this one. So after a couple of deep breaths and a few glances at Sparrow’s widened eyes, she gently reached up and turned Sparrow's face back to hers before leaning in and kissing him softly.

“Merry Christmas, Sparrow.”

Sparrow stammered out a quick “Merry Christmas,” and blushed bright red, and that's when his mother clapped and asked Talon to please pass out the stockings now. Genevieve was surprised to have a fully stuffed one handed to her, and as soon as everyone was distracted pulling tiny, wrapped gifts out of their stockings, she leaned over to Sparrow.

“I didn't mean to embarrass you,” she whispered.

“You didn't,” Sparrow whispered back. “That's just not how I saw our first kiss going.”

“Well, maybe later we can have a real first kiss, just the way you imagined it.” Sparrow's jaw dropped as he stared at her, and all Genevieve could do was laugh quietly. “What? Don't tell me you didn't know I was interested.”

“I thought maybe, but I...”

“We've done the flirting thing all of first semester. I say second semester we try out the dating thing.”

“Oi! You two! Quit whispering over there and get to opening those presents,” Raven declared, laughing.

Genevieve smiled and started to unwrap the first gift she'd pulled out of her stocking, and Sparrow did the same. It wasn't long before everyone had worked their way through the contents of all of the stockings, and Piper started pleading to be able to open her presents again.

“Please, please, please, please, please, please!” Piper exclaimed, jumping up and down in the middle of the room again.

“I've got to have some more coffee first, kid,” Talon said. “But as soon as I come back, I'll start handing out presents.”

“I could go for some coffee too,” Sparrow said, setting his refilled stocking to the side and following his father into the kitchen.

“Thank you for the gifts, Mrs. Blackwood. I wasn't expecting anything,” Genevieve said. “I appreciate them.”

“Oh, call me Birdie. Mrs. Blackwood is Talon's mum,” she said, looking over at Piper, who was staring at them curiously. “And all I did was let Santa Claus know that you would be here for Christmas. He, of course, brought the presents.”

When Piper looked away, satisfied with the answer, Birdie winked in Genevieve's direction, causing her to smile. “Well, thank you for doing that then. And for letting Marilène and I stay here without much explanation.”

“Oh honey, the moment I heard the two of you had a run in with Callan Murphy, that was all I needed to know. Talon has told me so many stories about him. I can't imagine how terrified you were to be in the same room as him.”

“Genevieve was actually pretty calm about the whole thing,” Marilène said, bringing their attention over to the corner where she and Raven had wedged themselves in between a wall and bunch of presents. “I think that we got away from him much easier because of that.”

“I don't think he wanted to hurt us,” Genevieve said quietly. “Scare us, maybe, but I don't think he would have hurt us.”

“Well, whatever the deal was with him, it was good you two got away so quick,” Birdie said as Talon and Sparrow came back in the room. “Now, let's forget all about that for now and start opening some presents, hm?”

They spent the next couple of hours opening presents, pausing whenever Piper got really excited about something so she could show it off to everyone else. Genevieve was surprised to receive so many presents, including clothes that were exactly the right size and way more stylish than anything she owned, new journals to write in, and a beautiful flame shaped pendant that she fell in love with on sight. It made her feel extraordinarily in debt to the Blackwoods, and Marilène apparently shared the same opinion, but when they tried to approach Birdie about it after everyone had left the room to play with new gifts or try on new clothes, Birdie would hear nothing of it.

“Genevieve, Marilène, it was my pleasure to be able to give you the Christmas you deserved instead of the one you were greeted with. You owe us nothing. Besides, if you're good friends with Raven and Sparrow, then you pretty much are considered family around here. And I want you two to remember that. You ever need anything, anything at all, we're here to help.”

“Are you sure, Birdie?” Marilène asked. “Because I can totally repay you for what you got us.”

“I am positive, sweetie,” Birdie said, excusing herself when she heard Piper yell from another room. “Please tell me she hasn't broken something already.”

Marilène turned and looked at Genevieve, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Raven's always told me her parents are amazing, but wow.”

“Tell me about it,” Genevieve said, sighing heavily. “We've got to talk to Sparrow and Raven. You know that they're dying to know the specifics.”

“I'll take Raven, you take Sparrow,” Marilène said, squeezing Genevieve's shoulders. “And then maybe you two can get back to kissing under the mistletoe.”

Genevieve slapped her hand away and glared at her. “Shut up.”

“I'm sorry, but that was too funny earlier. Poor Sparrow didn't know what hit him when you kissed him.”

“Yeah, well, he better get used to it,” Genevieve said, allowing a slight laugh to escape her lips. “He was pretty adorable when he blushed like that.”

“Sparrow and Gen, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g,” Marilène sing-songed, yelping when Genevieve shoved at her shoulder.

“Stop it, or I'll start doing the same thing about you and Oliver.”

Marilène rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

IV.

Sparrow had suggested a walk through Xendaine so Genevieve could see how beautiful the city looked all decorated up for Christmas, and Genevieve had happily jumped at the chance to get out of the Blackwood house. It wasn't that she didn't like the Blackwoods; it was more that the happy family dynamic that they shared made her long for her own family. She wondered what her siblings were doing on this Christmas Day, and if her mother had told her father why it was she hadn't come home for the holidays like she'd promised him. So they walked throughout the city, Sparrow pointing out various important buildings, and Genevieve filling him in on what happened at Marilène's house.

“You're lost in your head again,” Sparrow said, drawing Genevieve back into the present. “And just when we are getting to the best part of the tour.”

Genevieve blinked and looked over at Sparrow. “Sorry.”

“It's okay,” Sparrow said, pulling her closer. “I just wanted you to see the cathedral.”

Genevieve looked up at the cathedral, which was decorated beautifully with icicles hanging from the various sculptures and turrets. “It's gorgeous,” she said softly, the words of Philippine Prideux's diary flowing through her head.

Guillaume and I were gazing upon the cathedral, which was resplendent in its Christmas decorations, when we saw Noëlle come walking out of the door with Callan Murphy right beside her.

“You're getting lost in your head again,” Sparrow said, pulling her even closer. “What are you thinking about?”

Genevieve took a shaky breath. “When my mother was in school here, she used to come here with Callan Murphy. Or at least she did once. It's in that diary of Philippine Prideux's.”

“I can see that. The cathedral used to be the underground headquarters of the EFM before Callan took control of the organization.” Sparrow looked up as snow started to fall around them. “Are you cold?”

“A little.” Genevieve looked over at him, and then Sparrow was pulling her into his arms.

“Let's get you warmed up then.”

Genevieve took a deep breath and let herself feel the heat radiating off of Sparrow's body, and for once, she wasn't able to distract herself with anything. Her pulse quickened, her breathing became more shallow, and she didn't know if she should push Sparrow away or pull him closer.

“I'm glad you ended up here,” Sparrow said, his voice thick with something Genevieve couldn't quite figure out. “I've really missed you, Gen.”

“I've really missed you too,” Genevieve said tentatively.

She looked up then, and suddenly she just couldn't do this anymore, being this close to him. She closed the distance and pressed their lips together, sighing when Sparrow responded and deepened it, happy and warm. On the rare occasion when she had let herself imagine how this would be, she'd thought it would be slow, that they would take their time and kiss slowly. She grinned into the kiss when she felt one of his hands move up to tangle in her fiery hair, nipping at her lip and sliding his tongue into her mouth when she gasped.

Someone started laughing right next to them, and they sprang apart like two children caught with their hands in the cookie jar to find Callan Murphy and a group of bodyguards staring at them.

“Well done, Genevieve. He's a looker.”

Genevieve swallowed hard and took Sparrow's hand in hers. “Callan.”

“You know,” Callan said, walking closer to them and slinging an arm around each of their shoulders, “I thought you were supposed to be spending Christmas with Antoinette and Laurent in New York. Yet here I find you in Xendaine with Marilène nowhere to be found.”

“She's here,” Genevieve said defensively, then took a deep breath to calm herself, giving her time to remember her lies from the last time they met. “We're recruiting, just like you said.”

“Ah,” Callan said, sounding pleased. “So you have recruited this fine young man then?”

Genevieve shot Sparrow a look that she hoped clearly said to go along with it and then nodded. “I was in the process of recruiting him when you interrupted us.”

Callan crossed his arms over his chest and gave Genevieve a skeptical look. “Prove it.”

“She was just telling me about the cathedral,” Sparrow said quickly. “About how it used to be headquarters.”

“Ah, yes,” Callan said, letting his arms fall to his sides. “When I first introduced myself to your mother, Genevieve, I took her down into headquarters in the cathedral. She loved it. So you want to see? We can still go down there. No one will notice on a day like this.”

Sparrow squeezed Genevieve's hand very tightly, and Genevieve shook her head. “I'm sure it's very impressive, Callan, but we were just going to go back to where we are staying and study the aether book.”

Callan smiled. “Brilliant. That's definitely more important. You go do that. And remember, I'll be checking up on you.”

Genevieve forced a smile on her face. “Don't worry, Callan. I'll remember.”

“Good to meet you, young man. And you treat my dear Genevieve right.”

“I will,” Sparrow stuttered.

With one last smile, Callan was swallowed up by his group of bodyguards and they headed off in the opposite direction..

Sparrow pulled Genevieve close as soon as he was out of sight and buried his head in her neck. “How can you be so calm around him?” he mumbled into her shoulder. “I felt my blood run cold just standing in front of him.”

Genevieve held him tight. “I don't know. I just am.”

Sparrow let out a pathetic laugh. “Is it horrible that I feel like I want to kill him just for interrupting our first kiss?”

“No,” Genevieve said softly. “I wanted to kill him for doing that too.”

Sparrow pulled back and threaded his hands into Genevieve's hair. “I really, really like you, Genevieve.”

“Then it's a good thing that I really, really like you too, isn't it?”

Sparrow leaned forward and kissed her again, soft and quick. “Let's take the long way home, hm? I think I need some time to process meeting Callan Murphy before I have to tell Mom and Dad about it.”

“Sounds good to me,” Genevieve said, smiling when Sparrow dropped his hands down and linked one with hers. “This has been a pretty good day, Sparrow.”

“Yeah?” Sparrow asked, starting to walk. “Even with the crazy Sandpiper waking you up at quarter to God knows what time so she could unwrap some presents?”

“It wasn’t so bad,” Genevieve said, leaning closer to him as they walked. “But yes, even with that.”

“Glad to hear it,” Sparrow said, smiling over at her. “Let's get home, shall we? I'm actually starting to think the sooner we get back, the better. Dad's going to freak when he finds out that Murphy's here.”

V.

Genevieve was the first of her roommates to arrive back at the dorm after the holidays, and after about half an hour of catching up on the internet, she pulled the aether book out of her bag and set it in front of her. She still didn’t believe that such a thing was possible, but that didn’t stop her curiosity.

She flipped open the book to a random page and read for a few pages before reaching over to her bedside table and grabbing a pencil. She set the pencil down on the bed and then looked back at the book, reading again.

“So basically,” she murmured to herself, “if I put my hand over the pencil, and concentrate on nothing but it, I should be able to make the pencil do anything I want.”

She stared at the pencil for a moment before deciding that this whole thing was ridiculous, slamming the book shut and sliding it underneath her bed. She leaned back against her pillows and closed her eyes, letting an image of the pencil floating through the air come to her mind.

She laughed when the thought of never having to get up for anything again went through her mind, then opened her eyes and looked down at the pencil. She stared at it for what felt like hours, then reached her hand out so it was hovering over it.

“It’s not going to work,” she said, but she let her concentration focus on the pencil nonetheless.

Nothing happened. Just like she thought. She shook her head and started to pull her hand away when suddenly the pencil lifted about an inch off of the bed. Her eyes widened and she quickly pulled her hand back, only for the pencil to rise even higher off the bed.

Freaked out, she grabbed the pencil and threw it across the room. She let what had just happened sink in slowly, and then she got really, really worried.

There was no other explanation for what had just happened than the fact that she had been commanding aether. And that meant that Callan Murphy was right.

She hadn’t been so terrified in a long, long time.

VI.

From: Genevieve Mason

To: Noëlle Moreaux

Subject: Callan Murphy

He's my father, isn't he?


From: Noëlle Moreaux

To: Genevieve Mason

Subject: Re: Callan Murphy

If I say yes, will that make you happy?


From: Genevieve Mason

To: Noëlle Moreaux

Subject: Re: Re: Callan Murphy

I just want the truth, Mama. Is that too much to ask for?


From: Noëlle Moreaux

To: Genevieve Mason

Subject: Your father

Genevieve,

No, I suppose it is not too much to ask for, especially now that you have met Mr. Murphy. But it is not something that I care to explain over an email. I will be in Nevaline by the end of the day. I will send you an email with my arrival time later. Please be at the transport station waiting for me, as I do not know my way around.

Noëlle

“My mother is coming to Nevaline,” Genevieve said to Madelaine as they made their way to the small one story building that housed the elevator down to the Fire Room. “I don't know what should terrify me more, that or what we're about to do in this room.”

“Your mother,” Madelaine said with a smile, holding open the door to the building for Genevieve. “Especially if she's coming here to tell you that a mass-murderer is your dad.”

Genevieve hushed her. “Please don't say that in front of other people. Everyone's still looking at me like I've grown horns since the picture of the Murphy kids was printed.”

“Fine,” Madelaine said, “but you know what I mean. I think I would have started crying if Callan Murphy was right in front of me.”

“And you can keep that quiet as well. I don't want people thinking I've joined the EFM.”

Madelaine pressed the button for the elevator labeled fire. “Alright. I don't know how we're supposed to discuss things without bringing this stuff up, but alright.”

“I've been studying the book he gave me.”

“And it's a bunch of ridiculousness, isn't it?”

“I made my pencil float yesterday.”

Madelaine's eyes opened wide as the elevator arrived. “You what? How is that even possible?”

They stepped into the elevator and Genevieve hit the down button. “Well, aether is supposed to be everything in the universe that isn't one of the other classical elements isn't it? So, a wooden pencil would be part of that.”

“A wooden pencil would be part of what?”

They both looked up to see Benjamin squeeze in through the closing elevator doors.

“Ben! She made a pencil float yesterday!”

Genevieve sighed. “The book's interesting. I wanted to see if it would work or not. Apparently it does, which is all the more reason why we have to stop Callan Murphy from building his aetherion army.”

Benjamin's jaw dropped. “You're telling me that you're actually learning to command aether?”

“Yes,” Genevieve said, grabbing on to one of the railings when the elevator jerked and started to descend.

“Wow. Marilène was bitching to me earlier about how it's all a myth and she can't get it to work.”

Genevieve nodded. “Yeah, she was complaining to me about it too. I kind of didn't want to tell her that I got it to work.”

Benjamin smiled. “You know, that could be quite useful to use against Murphy if we all learned it.”

“Oh my God, Ben, that's a brilliant idea! We should all learn how to command aether, and then the next time he's planning an attack, we'll make it so he has to fight us instead,” Madelaine said, looking over at Genevieve. “What do you think?”

“I think you're both insane,” Genevieve shook her head. “We can't fight Callan Murphy and the EFM. No way in hell can we do that.”

Benjamin crossed his arms over his chest. “I think you need to talk to Professor Miller again. I think you need to show him that aether book and I think you need to show him what you've taught yourself to do. And as for the rest of us in the meantime, I think we all need to be learning how to command aether, and we need to start looking for the lost city of Aetherion.”

“You're right, talking to Professor Miller is probably a good idea.” Genevieve sighed. “I've been thinking about Aetherion while I've been studying in the aether book. I think it's an underground city. I think that's why everyone who believes in it keeps saying Aetherion will rise. I think they literally want to raise it out of the ground.”

Madelaine took a deep breath. “Oh my God. What if you're right, and what if Aetherion is underneath like a major sapien city? Murphy could literally wipe millions of sapiens off the map with that one thing.”

“Exactly,” Genevieve said, sighing as the elevator lurched to a halt. “Alright, no more talk about this. I'm worried enough about what I'm about to do.”

Benjamin reached out and pulled Genevieve into a hug. “Don't worry about this, Gen. It's much easier to make your first spark than you think. It's learning to control it that is more difficult.”

“What are you doing here anyway, Ben?” Madelaine asked. “This is just supposed to be first-years.”

“I'm a student supervisor for Sibaya this semester. So I'm here to help out with your class.”

Genevieve pulled back and smiled at him. “Good. I'll feel better doing this with you here.”

The doors to the elevator opened and they walked into the Fire Room. The large room was made entirely from stone, with six walls surrounding them, littered with scorch marks and indents. There were several stations set up around the room, and Benjamin told the girls to choose one each before making his way over to where Professor Luciana Sibaya was standing. Genevieve didn't particularly like Professor Sibaya very much, but Benjamin had told her that she was better in the Fire Room than she was in the classroom.

Professor Sibaya was dressed in her normal clothes, which surprised Genevieve. She had been expecting fire-proof suits or something like that for everyone. She knew that she had read in the Sparkology text earlier in the first semester that fire-bearing elementalists couldn't be burnt once their abilities emerged, but she hadn't exactly believed it.

“Good afternoon, girls,” Professor Sibaya greeted them. “We'll just wait for the rest of the class and then we'll begin.”

The rest of the students filed into the room over the course of the next five minutes, and Genevieve shot Madelaine a concerned look.

“I don't know if I can do this,” Genevieve hissed.

“Of course you can,” Madelaine said back, reaching over to squeeze her arm gently. “You were born to do this, Genevieve. Remember that.”

“You sound like my mother.”

“Alright everyone, attention please!” Professor Sibaya called out from the front of the room. “Welcome to the Fire Room. Get acquainted with it, because this is going to be a place you come to a lot during the rest of your time at Wentworth. Now, we're going to start off simple today, and that means having you create your first spark. For some of you, this will come very naturally, and you will be done quickly. For others, you may be here for awhile. The first thing you need to know is that the more you believe in your ability to command fire, the more you will be able to control the fire in front of you.

“Now, what I want you to do is focus on the small wooden block in the middle of the table in front of you. Hold your dominant hand over it the way that we've learned in the classroom, concentrate, and try to set it on fire. As soon as you've lit your first spark, I'll come over and put it out, and then you are dismissed.”

Genevieve took a deep breath and positioned her hand over the small wooden block in the middle of the table. She held it palm down, curled her fingers into a claw shape, and began to concentrate. To her surprise, the wooden block lit almost immediately, and the fire danced along its edges for a moment before leaping up into the claw of her hand. Her eyes widened and she called out to Benjamin for help, drawing everyone else's attention to her.

Both Benjamin and Professor Sibaya rushed over to her station and stared at the fire in her hand for a moment.

“Unbelievable, Gen. It took me three months to be able to handle the fire,” Benjamin said, his voice filled with awe.

“Well, Miss Mason, you certainly are further advanced that I was expecting, though I didn't think that today's assignment would cause you much problem,” Professor Sibaya said. “Now, concentrate on putting the fire out, and close your hand around it.”

Genevieve switched her focus to what Professor Sibaya said and slowly closed her hand around the flame, which quickly went out without a fight. “Oh my God, I did it!”

“Well done, Genevieve,” Professor Sibaya said, looking around the room to see everyone else smiling. “You may go now.”

“Thank you,” Genevieve said, giving Benjamin a quick high-five once Professor Sibaya had turned her back and stopping at Madelaine's station to give her a quick hug before walking over to the elevator and pressing the up button.

She climbed inside the empty elevator and pressed the up button again, waiting until the doors had closed to let out a huge sigh.

She really was a fire-bearing elementalist, and for the first time since her mother had explained that to her as a small child, she felt at peace with it.

VII.

Genevieve was waiting at the transport station at eight o'clock that evening when, much to her surprise, Alexander came walking thru the tunnel that led off of the plane instead of her mother. He walked over and stood in front of her, and Genevieve stared at him with a confused look on her face.

“What are you doing here, Dad?” she asked, quickly shaking her head. “Or shall I call you Alexander now?”

“Alexander is fine,” he replied, reaching out and patting her on the shoulder. “And I'm here to explain some things to you. Your mother called and said she was coming here, and I told her I thought it was better if I came instead.”

Genevieve let out an angry huff. “I thought I was going to start getting some answers.”

“You are, Gen,” Alexander said, smiling at her. “Now I have a room booked at the Gracious Inn. Do you know where that is?”

“Yeah, it's a couple of blocks away from the school.”

“Good. Can you take me?” Alexander asked, and Genevieve couldn't find it in her to tell him no.

They got Alexander's suitcase from the baggage claim and then made their way out of the transport station. Alexander hailed a taxi and Genevieve told the driver where to take them. After the ride across town, they arrived at the Gracious Inn, and Alexander got his suitcase out of the trunk while Genevieve paid the driver, thinking that she never would get back the money from Alexander.

He checked into the hotel and then they were off to room four-thirty-eight, which had two beds and a couple of chairs along with a television sitting on top of a dresser. Alexander set his suitcase down on one bed and then sat himself down on the other, while Genevieve took a seat in one of the chairs.

“I'll pay you back for the taxi in the morning.”

Genevieve just shook her head. “No you won't.”

“I will,” Alexander said, running a hand through over his balding head. “Look, Genevieve, I know that you'd rather that your mother was here now, but I think it's time that you learn a few things about me.”

“What makes you think I care about things about you?” Genevieve asked, unable to keep the anger from her voice. “You’ve lied to me my entire life.”

“I know I have,” Alexander said, shifting around so he was lying on the bed, his head propped up on the pillow. “And I'm sorry for that. But you need to understand that it was for your own safety, and your mother's.”

“Everyone keeps telling me what I need to understand. I think what I need is to learn the facts and make up my own mind!” Genevieve snapped.

“Fair enough. You want some facts, I'll tell you some facts.” Alexander sighed heavily. “You're not my daughter. I know who your father is but your mother told me not to tell you. Noëlle has been a silent member of the Elemental Freedom Movement since she was twenty. Callan Murphy considers her to be one of his most trusted and loyal associates. But she's not.”

Genevieve felt her stomach clench as Alexander spoke. “Mama is a member of the Elemental Freedom Movement?”

“Yes.”

“But I thought she was part of the Society for Sapien-Elemental Interactions?”

“She is.”

“That makes no sense.”

Alexander looked over at Genevieve seriously. “It is imperative that what I tell you from this point on remains a secret, Genevieve. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Genevieve said after a moment. “I understand.”

Alexander sighed again. “Your mother works on behalf of the Society of Sapien-Elemental Interactions. She is also a contact for the Elemental Freedom Movement. Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?”

Genevieve let her mind process that information for a moment. “She's a double agent?”

“Yes,” Alexander said. “And Murphy has no clue. She passes him information on the Society from time to time so that he thinks she's really an agent on his side. But she's not.”

“I don't understand.”

Alexander sat up and walked over to where Genevieve was sitting, taking the other chair. “Have you ever heard the story of how your mother and I met?”

“You met at a club in Miami when you both happened to be vacationing there.”

“Sort of,” Alexander said, smiling gently at her. “Noëlle was there as part of an EFM mission, and I was there as part of the Society trying to stop it from happening. When we met in that club, we had no idea that we were on opposite sides of a growing war, or that the next day we'd come face to face in a situation where we didn't know if we would survive. We were just two people who were drawn to one another. And once we found out our differences, not even that could keep us away from each other.”

“Wait a minute,” Genevieve said, holding up her hands. “You're a member of the Society? You? You who fears elementalism so badly that you avoid me?”

“I don't fear elementalism. I fear fire-bearing elementalism, and that is the result of a mission gone badly wrong, where I received those burns on my body and we lost half our crew. I knew from the moment the doctor came into that hospital room and told us that you were an elementalist that you were a fire-bearer, and that I would fear you.” Alexander paused for a moment to clear his throat. “I've always had my reasons and tried to hide it, Genevieve, but I just couldn't tell you them.”

Genevieve really didn't want to think about how much she'd been lied to anymore, and how easily they really could have told the truth, so she just moved on. “So how long have you been a member of the Society?”

“I joined my freshman year in university,” Alexander said. “And I've worked my way up the ranks ever since. I now work full time for the Society.”

“I thought you were an insurance salesman.”

“That's my cover story,” Alexander said simply. “And it's one that's come in very handy throughout the years.”

“So let me just be sure I have this straight,” Genevieve said. “You're a member of the Society. Mama's a member of the EFM, but also a member of the Society. The EFM thinks she's spying on the Society for them, but she's really spying on the EFM for the Society. And all of this is something that you all could never tell me or Dash or Aria.”

“Correct.”

“I'm sorry, Alexander,” Genevieve said bitterly, “but that's bullshit.”

Alexander sighed. “We had to protect you, Genevieve. You're very special.”

“Why am I special? Why am I any more special than anyone else?”

Alexander took a deep breath. “Your mother told me that by now you should understand this sentence, so I'll just say it the only way I know how. Your father is an aetherion.”

And just like that, Genevieve's theory that Callan Murphy was her father fell completely apart. “What?”

“According to your mother, once someone has mastered the ability to command aether, it becomes part of their genetic DNA and passes down to their offspring. So because your father is an aetherion, you are too.”

“I'm an aetherion,” Genevieve said slowly, thinking about the way that she made her pencil float the day before and how Marilène hadn't been able to get it to work yet. “Oh my God.”

“Do you understand now why we had to protect you? The Murphy family has been looking for aetherions for decades. That's part of the reason why your father is in hiding.”

Genevieve felt like the room had started to spin. “Does Callan know?”

“No, your mother has never said a thing to him about your aetherion status. But he does know about your father's.”

“And you think he hasn't worked out mine from that?”

Alexander shook his head. “All of our best intelligence, and remember, your mother isn't our only spy in the EFM, tells us that Murphy has no idea about how the command of aether merges with your genetic DNA. So no, we don't think he knows that you would be able to easily command it if you taught yourself.”

“But non-aetherions can still teach themselves how to do it?”

“Yes, but it will just take them longer.”

Genevieve took a deep breath and then glanced at her watch. “I have to get back to campus before curfew. You'll still be here tomorrow?”

“I have a flight out early in the morning,” Alexander said, standing up when Genevieve did the same. “This is likely the last time we'll ever see each other, Genevieve.”

Genevieve stared at the man she'd always thought of as her father and shook her head. “No, I have a feeling it won't be.”

Alexander smiled and pulled Genevieve into a hug. “Be careful, Genevieve. And remember, no one can know what I just told you.”

VIII.

Genevieve reached underneath her mattress to grab the aether book, more interested in studying it than ever after her talk with Alexander, but the book wasn't there. She crouched down beside the bed and lifted up the mattress, wondering if maybe she had just shoved it too far into the middle, but it was gone.

“Looking for this?”

She dropped the mattress and looked up to see Evanthia standing on the other side of the room, holding up the book she was looking for. “Evanthia, why have you got my book?”

“I walked in here the other day and saw you floating a pencil in front of you. I was curious, since I'm supposed to be learning how but can't. So while you were gone, I snooped around until I found this,” Evanthia said, waving the book in the air. “This is a completely different book than the one that I have, and apparently it's much more effective. So I want to know where you got it.”

Genevieve stood up and swallowed hard, suddenly feeling as though the air was different around her. “I got it from a friend.”

“A friend?” Evanthia laughed. “The inside of this book says it is personal property of Callan Murphy. So when have you been meeting with Callan Murphy, hm?”

Genevieve coughed as she realized she was having trouble breathing. “Not by choice,” she coughed out. “What are you doing to the air?”

“Oh, what? You can't breathe?” Evanthia laughed. “Poor, poor little fire-bearer. Can't even handle a little thinning out of the air. Not enough oxygen for you to breathe, is there? And you have absolutely no way to counter me.”

Genevieve thought that now would be a great time to be able to encase Evanthia in a tunnel of fire, and suddenly, that's exactly what happened. Genevieve gasped as oxygenated air filled her lungs while Evanthia screamed.

“What the hell is going on in here?!” came Georgie's voice as she walked into the room, and she gasped when she saw the tunnel of fire. “Genevieve! Put that out this instance!”

Genevieve concentrated on the fire disappearing and it did, revealing a terrified Evanthia. “I have no idea how I did that, but she was choking the air and I couldn't breathe.”

“You tried to burn me alive!” Evanthia screeched, turning to look at Georgie. “And look, she's been hiding this!”

Evanthia thrust the book into Georgie's hands and Georgie stared at it for a moment before shaking her head. “Both of you, Professor Miller's office, now.”

They walked along behind Georgie as she left the room and led them to Professor Miller's office. She opened the door and ushered them inside, quickly explaining to Professor Miller what she had walked in on before excusing herself. Professor Miller stared at the two girls for a moment before asking them to explain their sides of what had happened. He shook his head at various points, his eyes widening when he first heard about the fire that Genevieve had been able to create, and when they were both done explaining, sat there looking at them again.

“Evanthia,” he started after a few moments. “Genevieve mentioned that you had been trying to teach yourself how to command aether from another book. Where is that book?”

“In my room, sir.”

“Go get it and bring it back to me,” Professor Miller said. “And in a timely manner.”

“Yes, sir.” Evanthia smirked at Genevieve as she stood up and walked out of the room, and Genevieve barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes.

“Genevieve,” Professor Miller said, drawing her attention up from where her hands were clasped together to him. “If I'm not mistaken, this book belongs to Callan Murphy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“When did you acquire it?”

“During the Christmas holidays, sir.”

“Was it given to you by Murphy himself?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Was there anyone else there with you when this happened?”

“Marilène Rousseau, sir. She was also given the same book.”

“Has she had the same success with it as you have?”

“No, sir.”

Professor Miller sighed. “When did you learn you were an aetherion?”

Genevieve was surprised by the question, but didn't let that on. “Last night, sir.”

“Who told you?”

“Alexander Mason, the man I've always thought was my father.”

“I see,” Professor Miller said, sighing again. “And I take it your mother is still not being forthcoming with you?”

“Of course not, sir. She apparently has a lot to hide.”

“She's in a very precarious position, Genevieve,” Professor Miller said, and that's when Genevieve realized that he was aware of her mother's double agent status.

“You know, don't you?”

“Know what?” Professor Miller said, giving her a small smile. “Genevieve, I suggest that you speak with your mother soon. She has reached a point where she cannot keep these things from you any longer.”

He stopped talking when the door opened and Evanthia walked back in, holding the book that she had been sent to retrieve. “Here you go, Professor Miller.”

“Thank you, Evanthia,” he said, taking the book from her. “Now, what to do about the two of you. You obviously can't be in the same room as one another any longer. Evanthia, you will be moved to a different room tonight.”

“But I'm the older student! Make her move!” Evanthia exclaimed.

“Evanthia, that's enough!” Professor Miller said, slamming his hand down on his desk. “This isn't up for discussion. You will be moved to a different room tonight, and then you will each perform two weeks of service in the school cafeteria beginning on Monday. And I will be keeping possession of these books. You may go.”

Evanthia stood up in a huff and stalked out of the room while Genevieve got up slowly. She was almost to the door when Professor Miller called out her name.

“Yes, sir?”

“I'm only taking your book so that the Society can study it. I suggest that you continue to use Miss Rousseau's book to educate yourself. You have the ability to command aether, and you should learn how to use it. Perhaps your father will be of some use.”

Genevieve smiled sadly. “I don't know who my father is, sir, just that he is also an aetherion.”

Professor Miller gave her a friendly smile in return. “Like I said earlier, talk to your mother. She needs to understand that she cannot keep this from you anymore.”

“Yes, sir. Anything else?”

“No, Genevieve. You may go.”

“Thank you, sir.”

IX.

From: Genevieve Mason

To: Noëlle Moreaux

Subject: Come talk to me.

Mama,

I've been ordered by Professor Miller to speak to you, so that means you have to come to Nevaline. Alexander answered some of my questions, but only you can answer the biggest one. Who is my father?

Genevieve

From: Noëlle Moreaux

To: Genevieve Mason

Subject: Re: Come talk to me.

Genevieve,

I will be there Sunday morning. And I will answer your questions.

Noëlle

On Sunday morning, they were sitting in silence in a room at the Gracious Inn when Noëlle said it.

“No, Callan is not your father.”

Genevieve swallowed hard. “Callan Murphy is not my father.”

“No.”

Genevieve shifted around so that she was facing her mother on the bed. “Tell me? I want to know the truth.”

“I met him when I was twenty,” Noëlle said simply. “I fell in love with him almost instantly. We had the same ideals, the same principles. He was unlike any man I'd ever met. Charming, funny, humble, but with enough confidence in his abilities to have been otherwise. But he was already promised to Saoirse, and I swore I would never be his piece on the side. When the exchange was over, we stayed in contact. He knew about Alexander. I knew about him marrying Saoirse. And then we were assigned to the same mission by his father, and we saw each other again, and it just hit me that I was wasting my life loving him, Genevieve.

“Callan has a younger brother. Eamon Murphy was five years younger than us, so he wasn't part of the circles I traveled in at school, but I got to know him through spending time with Callan and the Movement. The reason Eamon isn't well known to people is because Eamon switched sides. He left the night of Callan and Saoirse's wedding and went into hiding in Aceltaine. He started working with the Society, and he's been an invaluable resource for them ever since.

“Eamon and I worked closely together, using our knowledge of the Movement to help plan Society events and obstructions. And I slowly came to realize that Eamon was everything that I wished Callan could have been. We grew closer, far closer than we ever should have been. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew you were his child. Alexander knew it too, so I had to confess everything to him. He wanted to leave me then, and in hindsight, he probably should have. But he stayed to make it work, and agreed to raise you as his own.

“Then we discovered at your birth that you were an elementalist like me, and from the moment he heard fire-bearing, he was afraid of you. He stayed around for four more years before things were broken too much, and he left. He longs to be a better father to Dash and Aria, but he's purposely kept himself away from them because of you. I told him that was nonsense, that you wouldn't harm him, but you know his fear. He's been pleading with me to tell you children the truth ever since he left, but how could I? How could I look Dashiell in the eye and let him know that I let him down? How could I tell Ariane that she was the result of trying to save a failing relationship?

“I swore to him that I would tell you before you left to come to the school. But I started getting messages from Callan about what an important part you were going to play in the Movement, and how he was looking forward to finally meeting you, and I just thought it would be better if you didn't know any of this if you encountered him. Basically, it's all my fault, and there is no one to blame but me. I am a very weak woman when it comes to anything to do with the Murphy brothers, and you are my most beloved child because of that.

“I never wanted to hurt you, Genevieve. I only wanted to protect you from my own foolish mistakes.”

“Eamon Murphy is my father, not Callan.” Genevieve took a deep breath as she ran her hands through her hair. “I wish you would’ve told me.”

“I assumed as much. But like I said, I did it to protect you.”

“I mean all of it. I wish you would have told me all of it.” Genevieve looked up at her and shook her head lightly. “Does Eamon know about me?”

“Yes,” Noëlle said, her voice emotionless. “But I made him promise that he would never contact you, never meet you. He constantly asks me about you. He's very proud that you're a fire-bearer like him, and I know he'll be proud when he discovers that you can command aether as well. I believe that Professor Miller has been keeping him up to date on your progress, because often times he knows things that I don't know when I speak to him.”

“What's the deal with Professor Miller, anyway? Why does he know all of this and I don't?”

“Augustus Miller is the president of the Society. He has been for ages. He was the one who first accepted Eamon into the Society, and they have a very close relationship because of it. Eamon asked me if he could share the news that he would be a father with him, and I said yes. So yes, he knows more than you do.”

“How can you still be a member of the Elemental Freedom Movement? You spent years teaching me to oppose it, and yet you're a member of it!”

“Yes, I am,” Noëlle said, taking a deep breath. “And I've wanted out for a very, very long time. Once Callan took over, I asked him, for the sake of my children, to not involve me in missions anymore, and he hasn't. I'm just a contact. I am passed information and I pass it along to whoever needs to know it. I also take that information and use it to the good of the Society. But I can never ask Callan to release me completely. Ever. He's told me that I'm one of the only people he trusts completely.”

“That's terribly frightening.”

“I suppose it would be to you, because you don't know him, you just know of him. But I know him, Gen, I know him better than possibly anyone else in this world. He's only doing what he's doing because he thinks it is right and he won't listen to anyone who thinks otherwise.”

Genevieve sighed and stretched out on the bed, lying with her head hanging off the edge. “I don't know what to say, Mama. I don't know what to say, or what to think.”

“And I don't know what to tell you, Genevieve. I'm afraid that from here, you're going to have to figure it out on your own. I’ve told you all I can.”

And with that, Noëlle got up from the bed, pressed her hand against Genevieve’s shoulder as she passed, and walked out of the hotel room. Genevieve didn’t see her again for the rest of the day.

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