War and Despair

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Chapter 34

A sharp pain in her chest pulled the Geomancer out of the deep fog of sleep. Something was deeply wrong. She quickly roused Seren and the other two dragons. Nessa ran from the house fully dressed, with her hand on her sword hilt. More pain stabbed at the Geomancer’s heart, she turned her head away and vomited on the ground.

“Mistress! Hurry! The heart tree…” The roots whirred urgently.

“I’m coming.” She promised. “Take us to the heart tree, quickly!”

The roots yanked them under the earth and moved the Geomancer faster than they ever had before. In only a few seconds, they had been deposited in the clearing.

The heart tree had been reduced to a flaming mess of felled wood. Hemlock lay crumpled on the ground, a bloody hole ripped into her chest. All that was left of Oak was a charred set of bones lying on top of the burning tree. The creature had his hand buried in Aspen’s chest, blood stained the bark-like skin around his mouth. He withdrew his hand with a squelching noise.

Aspen’s bloody heart rested in his hand. The Geomancer stared at the heart with morbid fascination, it was dripping red-violet blood, vines and leaves wove through the bloody muscle. The creature took a bite out of it. Blood ran down his chin and soaked into the rocky flesh of his neck. Maple screamed in anguish and hurled herself at him.

She raked at his face with her long fingers, but it did nothing. He hurled her to the ground, where she landed with a sickening crunch. The Geomancer tried to call upon the earth’s power, but it’s power had been weakened so much that she only managed to throw up a spray of dirt into his face.

Tears welled in Maple’s eyes as he stuck his hand in her chest. He ripped her heart out while it still beat. She stared at in horror for a moment, then the life fled her body.

“Why?” the Geomancer whispered.

“They murdered her.” The creature replied, wiping his bloody hand on his robe.

“The heart tree did nothing to you. They were only trying to protect it when they killed Callen.” The Geomancer cried.

“You try to justify her murder?” he snarled. “She was your apprentice!” He ripped open his robe to reveal a pulsing sliver of wood above his heart. “The heart tree willingly gave a piece of itself to the witches to create me. It was as much of a monster as I am!”

The Geomancer stared at the piece of wood with shock. This changed things so much, this was why she hadn’t suspected anything. The heart tree had kept her from not trusting the witches completely. She felt sick again.

Ember breathed a stream of fire at him. He walked through the fire, smiling in a twisted, angry way. Seren changed into a dragon, and the three other dragons all breathed fire at him. It had no effect.

“You can’t kill me.” He said. “I’m stronger than you, especially now that I’ve destroyed the tree. I’m coming for you and your brother as soon as I hunger next.” He strode out of the broken, burning, bloodied clearing.

The Geomancer slumped backward into Umber. The young dragon supported her gently from behind. Callen’s dragon.

The Geomancer felt a hole where her magic had been. She was normal now, maybe even stuck in human form. She dug her bare toes into the soil and listened for the roots. Nothing. It was all gone now.

“We won’t be able to go home.” She said tiredly. “I won’t be able to see through the cloaking spell I placed over my house. We’re stuck here, I can’t even feel the roots anymore.”

Nessa winced. “So, what do we do?” She asked.

Don’t look to me for leadership! The Geomancer thought. Its my fault that this is all happening. I’m the one that couldn’t even tell that I was being compelled by the heart tree!

“I don’t know.” She whispered. Seren scooped her up gently in his talons and set her down on his back. They paused only to toss the bodies of the two dryads into the fire, and they left the gruesome scene.

The Geomancer struggled to keep her eyes open as Seren walked. The disappearance of her power had left her weak and tired, completely unable to protect herself. She struggled to hold onto Seren’s spines. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she lost consciousness.

When she woke up, she felt as if she had an ember in her chest, burning slowly and giving power to her body. She stretched her hand out, and a shoot of grass shot out of the earth to brush her fingers. She smiled, her power was back. But how?

She surveyed her surroundings. She was lying in a patch of sun, next to a small patch of flowers. The flowers were shaped like a child. Callen, she thought with a twist of grief.

“Are you okay? You’ve been asleep for two days.” Seren asked, his voice full of concern.

“I feel fine, great actually.” The Geomancer said, not taking her eyes off Callen’s flowers.

“I’m sorry for making you wake up to that.” Seren apologized. “It was the only place that I could think of that the creature wouldn’t kill us at.”

“There’s a new focus for the earth magic. Now that the tree has been destroyed, it’s found a new center.” Silt said, changing the subject.

“Here.” Came a faint whisper. “I’m right here.”

Silt looked around, her eyes fell onto the patch of flowers. “Callen?”

“I’m here.” The voice whispered again. “The earth magic chose me as it’s focus this morning. I did my best to revive you. I thought that you might die if I didn’t act quickly.”

“Thank you.” She whispered, tears welling in her eyes. “I thought that you were dead, or that there wasn’t enough of you left to come back to.” She turned to Seren. “Callen’s the new focus, I’m speaking to her!

“It’s very strange, Silt. I can see things that I could never see before. It’s like I finally opened my eyes.” Callen told her.

“I’m so glad you’re alive!” The Geomancer said, laughing and crying at the same time.

“You still look the same though.” Callen promised her.

“Do you… remember Nessa?” Silt asked tentatively.

“Yes. I see her clearly now. I see her regrets, and her triumphs, her victories and her losses.” Callen said.

“What about your father?” The Geomancer pressed.

“He was never my father.” Callen said dismissively. “Not in his mind. I forgive him, but he will never forgive me for what he thinks I did. If it had been him in your place, I may not have been so quick to act.”

The Geomancer was both disturbed and touched by Callen’s honesty. “What about the creature?”

“He doesn’t know.” Callen said simply.

“He doesn’t know what?” the Geomancer asked. But Callen’s voice had disappeared. The Geomancer cursed inwardly. Why did Callen give her such a vague answer?

“I don’t know what he doesn’t know.” Callen said suddenly. “I need to go. Goodbye, Silt.”

“Goodbye, Callen.” Silt said. She turned back to Seren. “I can’t believe she’s alive, Seren! Really alive and can actually talk to me!”

“So, your powers are back?” He asked. She nodded happily. “Then we should get back. Give Nessa and the dragons a moment.”

“She’s speaking to me!” Umber exclaimed. His face fell, but then broke into a dragony smile. “Ember, she said to tell you that our mother is dead and has been dead for eighteen years. This next part is for everyone but Nessa. Eighteen years ago, a dragon called Leafwing had four eggs. The Dragonfriends could only take two, so she gave them the two that she new were healthy. The third had grown cold. She waited until the Dragonfriends were long gone and bathed the egg in fire. She knocked it in a brook to save her final dragonet, but the Dragonfriends were drawn to her location. The dragon called Leafwing that died eighteen years ago was our mother.”

The Geomancer examined the other two dragons. Umber shared the green under scales on the bottom of his wings that she did, and they all had the same moss colored eyes. Ember had the same shape as Seren, while Umber shared his shape with her.

Finally, Seren spoke. “We’re actually siblings?” Umber nodded solemnly. Seren laughed and wrapped his wings around Ember and Umber.

“I don’t know how I didn’t see it before! We all have the same eyes!” The Geomancer laughed, morphing into a dragon. She spread her large brown wings and accidentally whacked Ember in the process. Ember retaliated by thumping her with her long amber-orange tail. They ended up in a laughing pile, even Nessa, who was only watching was doubled over with laughter.

“I’m glad I learned that you were my siblings. I learned that I had two siblings a week or two ago, and I hadn’t had time to look for you. It turns out that I didn’t have to.” Silt sighed happily.

“We found each other, and I hope we don’t have to separate again.” Umber said.

“I hope so too.” Nessa added. “I know what its like to be separated, and I don’t want that for any of you.”

The Geomancer felt a surge of relief and gratitude towards Nessa. She’d been worried that Nessa would feel left out.

“I won’t let anyone separate us against our will.” Ember promised. “Especially not the creature.”

“We will protect both of you.” Umber said.

“I don’t think I have to worry about losing my power again. The creature would never hurt Callen, even if she has changed.” The Geomancer said. “I think he unknowingly gave us a better chance.”

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