War and Despair

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Chapter 24

Sixty-two dreamed of things that were as distant as the sky. There was a woman, she had a kind face, chestnut hair and eyes the color of grass. But her face wasn’t smiling, it was contorted with pain, sweat poured down her face.

She smiled, but there were tears in her eyes. She whispered something to soft for Sixty-two to hear. Her face went slack, and she disappeared.

Sixty-two was pulled into another dream. This time there was the sneering face of pretty, blue-eyed girl. The girl’s face turned into the face of her torturer. Sixty-two jerked awake.

She was lying in a soft bed in the Geomancer’s cottage. She raised her hand to the place where she’d been stabbed. She couldn’t even feel a scar.

She got up, pain stabbing into her feet. She closed her eyes for a moment and pressed onward. She made it to the door before she heaved up a pile of bloody vomit. She winced, unsure what to do about it.

Luckily the Geomancer chose that moment to come bursting into the room. She saw the pile of vomit and looked worriedly at Sixty-two.

“Hang on, I’ll clean this up, then we’ll talk.” The Geomancer said. Sixty-two nodded and went to the main room to wait.

“First of all, does that happen often?” The Geomancer asked after she’d cleaned off her floor.

Sixty-two nodded. “Almost every day at least once. The creature said that it was the magic trying to leave.”

The Geomancer looked at her thoughtfully. “Whatever the creature told you about me and my brother, it was probably a lie.”

“Actually, he didn’t bother to mention you.” Sixty-two assured her.

The Geomancer sighed with relief. “I don’t know what happened to the creature, or you, for that matter. I understand that he wants revenge, you probably want revenge too.”

“Freedom is good enough for me.” Sixty-two said.

“That’s understandable. But he’s gotten revenge at least three times over now. I don’t know what he wants now. I was hoping you might be able to help me here. Who stabbed you, and why?” the Geomancer said.

“The torturer. I don’t know who she was, or how I got there. I woke up and I wasn’t human anymore, I can’t remember anything from before, I don’t know if I ever was human.” Sixty-two said.

“So why did she stab you?” The Geomancer asked, brows furrowing.

“She would use her magic to restrain me, then she would cut me open and bury whatever plant she wanted in me, then seal me back up with magic. She was in the process of doing this when the creature killed her and rescued me.” Sixty-two explained.

“You were still aware while she was doing this?” The Geomancer asked, appalled. Sixty-two nodded. “I had a friend that was a witch. She was one of the first that he killed. She was always nice to me, it’s hard to picture her torturing an innocent man.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.” She whispered.

“Don’t be. She went through a door that never should have been opened.” The Geomancer said distractedly. “The roots are trying to tell me something.”

The two of them went outside. Sixty-two watched the Geomancer bury her toes in the soil. The Geomancer shut her eyes and whispered something.

“I asked them to try to track the creature.” The Geomancer said. “They found something. A field full of slaughtered people and dragons, their hearts ripped out, arranged to spell: Tell the Geomancer.”

“He certainly got your attention.” Sixty-two commented.

“We need to stop him.” The Geomancer said. “Those soldiers had nothing to do with this!”

Something leaped at the closed doors of Sixty-two’s memory. She strained to remember. Durazno. She had no idea who that was.

“Did you remember something?” The Geomancer asked.

“Just a name. Durazno.” Sixty-two said, shaking her head.

“Anything else?” The Geomancer asked tilting her head.

Find him. You must find him. It is crucial that you find him! The memory of the voice whispered through her thoughts.

“I needed to find him. That’s all I remember.” Sixty-two promised.

Seren appeared from behind the cottage, carrying an adorable baby girl with marigold colored hair. “Did I just hear you say the word Durazno?” He asked.

“Yes.” The Geomancer told him. “This is Marigold.” Sixty-two looked more closely and saw that the girl had two strips of golden-orange scales looping around her ears.

“She’s like me.” Sixty-two whispered to herself. “I don’t actually have a name, a least not as far as I can remember. My torturer called me Experiment Sixty-two.”

“We’ll work on that.” Seren said. “There used to be more dragons where I lived. They used to talk about a pair of demons in human skins called Durazno and Naranja that bathed in dragon blood and gorged themselves on their fresh livers.”

“That might prove to be a problem if we ever need to fetch him, since we’re both dragons.” The Geomancer mused.

“Wait, you are?” Sixty-two asked.

“Yes.” Seren said, smiling at her.

“Can I see? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dragon before.” Sixty-two asked.

The siblings looked at each other and smiled. They shut their eyes and their shapes blurred. When they opened their eyes, they were dragons.

The Geomancer was a large graceful dragon with scales the color of dark loam dappled with green on her wings. Seren was a black dragon with dark-brown under scales on his wings. The only thing that stayed the same was their large moss-green eyes.

“You’re like any other dragon?” Sixty-two questioned.

“No.” The Geomancer answered. “I gave up my ability to breathe fire when I became the Geomancer.”

“I can though.” Seren said smugly.

The two changed back into humans. “So, you really can’t remember anything?” Seren asked.

“Only the name Durazno, and that I need to find him.” Sixty-two said.

“We need to find you a name. I am not calling you Experiment Sixty-two.” Seren said thoughtfully.

“Just call me Sixty-two until we think of something else.” Sixty-two suggested. Seren nodded.

“Let’s take a walk in the woods.” The Geomancer said.

Seren looked at her like she was crazy. “Um, hello? Isn’t there a creature lurking out there trying to kill us?”

“The roots say that he’s far away. Not even in the forest. We’ll be fine.” The Geomancer promised.

The group hopped across the stream and walked into the woods. With every breeze that whispered through the trees, Sixty-two felt something pulling at her, calling her. The world changed before her eyes.

The trees blurred around her and shown with an otherworldly light. A silvery fog rose from the ground, giving the earth below her feet a mysterious cast. Suddenly she could see through the soil. She felt herself hurtling down through the earth, past networks of tree roots, through stones and animal burrows. For just a moment, she could feel everything happening below the soil. Then the moment was gone, and everything went back to the way it had been before.

The Geomancer gasped. “What is it?” Seren asked, suddenly completely alert.

“I felt something pull at the earth’s power!” She gasped. “That felt weird!”

“I think it might have been me.” Sixty-two said.

“Sorry, what?” The Geomancer asked. Sixty-two described what had just happened to her.

“I experienced something similar when I was about nine. When I told Yasin, the previous Geomancer, he made me his apprentice immediately.” The Geomancer said. “It is a bit early to start training an apprentice, but you never know when you’re going to die. Yasin died before my apprenticeship was over and I never learned everything he had to teach.”

“Are you offering me an apprenticeship?” Sixty-two asked.

“Yes.” The Geomancer said, smiling at her.

“Doesn’t it matter that I’m like… a plant person?” Sixty-two worried.

“No. In fact, it will probably help. You’re almost a part of the earth yourself.” The Geomancer said.

“Can I have a while to consider it?” Sixty-two asked.

“Of course.” The Geomancer smiled. “Right now, let’s just have fun while the creature isn’t here.”

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