“What’s the job?” My words are blunt but not unkind.
Chrome sighs with obvious frustration making his brows furrow. “Another reason for my presence here at Craforian must remain a secret, otherwise we put everyone at risk.” He waits for our nods, even Elaine’s before continuing on. “We not only recruit warriors or mercenaries from talnarin towns for training, we also offer aid to humans.”
My arms fall to my sides and I take a step forward. Elaine’s hand is covering her mouth in shock while Abel just looks intrigued. I can’t decide what spectrum I fall under at this moment, confused or fascinated with the daring move our Uncle just played.
The question slips out before I can stop it. “Did our parents know?”
“They did, it’s the true reason this compound was built. No one but myself, and now you three, know we are in contact with humans because, as you are well aware, it’s forbidden.” Abel opens his mouth but Chrome puts up a hand. “Just a moment if you will Abel, I wish to disclose it all before questions are asked as you might find most of them answered by the time I finish.”
I lean back against the wall and inhale sharply, trying to control the whirlwind of emotions swirling through my head. While I don’t have an issue with humans personally, I know sickening details about our entangled past during the war. It wasn’t a pretty sight on either side, both of our races preforming horrible acts in the name of peace. Since then, we’ve kept to our own people and avoided any mingling between the two races for fear of sparking another long and arduous war.
“I have been on the lookout for humans with … special capabilities that isolate or endanger them to their own people. My primary focus has been on the human villages but I received word that a nearby talnarin village has spotted a human woman wandering the woods for some time now.” My lips turn down at the thought. Who knows what kind of trouble we’ll have if the talnarins decide to approach the human female. “The job I mentioned is an extraction mission. I need to bring that woman here and away from the village she is lingering by, for everyone’s sake.”
Stunned silence greets Chrome’s final words. I open my mouth but snap it closed a second later when the words don’t come out. I don’t even know what words they are.
“Think about it before you decide, I know it’s a lot to take in.”
He’s got that right.
“In the meantime, let’s head to the arena where you can meet the team as I promised. We can come back here afterwards to continue our decision once you’ve all had time to digest what you’ve heard.”
Without another word we follow after Chrome, Abel hangs back to comfort Elaine through her silent tears. We cross the thick grass and the stone sand pit where it’s clear the Elites are wrapping up for the day. They all stand around each other, trading pointers and discussing how their training went, both individually and as a team. And as one, they turn to regard my brother and I with varied states of guarded curiosity.
A yellowed eyed talnarin steps forward with a shit eating grin. “Ah new recruits for us to break in eh?”
Chrome laughs lightly as my frown deepens, though I can’t help but admire the male for willingly taking the brunt of my glare. “Not exactly. These are my nephews, Abel and Malik.” He gestures to the rest of them, starting with the Elestal manipulator that spoke. “This is Zeke, Orion, Drako, and Mikhail. They are the best of the warriors we have here, though we are actively recruiting more.”
I survey the Elites before me with a critical eye and I know Abel will be doing the same. Zeke has black hair and a wicked smirk, while Orion has brown hair, purple eyes, and a stoic expression. Drako has striking blonde hair and vivid green eyes, denoting him as a Flokil manipulator. The last, Mikhail is also blonde, though it’s closer to white that makes his fiery red eyes almost glow. It’s a well-rounded group with Elestal, Mindula, Flokil, and Firvo.
But their affinities mean nothing if they don’t have the skill set to use their powers properly. Not to mention their physical training for when they will inevitably need to kick ass without using their affinities.
Abel, always the polite one, says, “It’s nice to meet you.”
Luckily, we are saved from further uncomfortable unpleasantries as a loud crack seems to shake the walls of Craforian. Instantly, we are all alert, bodies vibrating with our respective powers. The Elites jump in front of the rest of us, stances low in a defensive position. Without exchanging any words, Zeke splits off from the rest of his team to dart forward to where the sound originated from.
I grit my teeth and put one step forward before Abel jerks me back. Without thought, I turn to him, leveling my glare into his glowing golden eyes that remind me so much of our mom’s. The fierce glower he sends back my way is enough to calm my furious thoughts. I turn back around, my body still thrumming with the need to attack the unseen enemy beyond the walls.
Zeke has reached the large gate, ready to open it as zaps of electricity dance along his skin. With a harsh pull, the door swings wide to reveal a wrinkled woman, hunched and weary.
“I heard you were looking for me, my dears. Figured I’d make it easier and just come to you instead.” Lips spread, showcases yellowed teeth.
She wobbles forward, her full weight pressed to the cane to help her walk. Zeke stands in her way, unsure of what to do with a seemingly innocent old woman. Her eyes are a dull brown, immediately pinned her as human.
“No need for the bolts son, I’m saving you all a trip.” She says again as Chrome meets her half way with a soft smile on his face. He peers into the human’s eyes and offers up his arm in a gentlemanly fashion.
“You knew we were coming to your aid?” Uncle asks in a polite tone, not at all troubled by her words.
I, on the other hand, am very concerned about how this old human knew we were searching for her. It’s not as if it’s any sort of common knowledge, since as my Uncle stated, relations with humans is forbidden. Even a simple chat is considered a horrid offense and yet here we are, watching one of their people stumble through our walls into a talnarin camp. Walls that are currently being closed once more, with the human on our side.
I shake my head at the absurdity of it all.
“That’s what I said dear boy.” She pats Chrome’s cheek absentmindedly. “Now, it’s a pleasure to meet the King and his brethren, but it’s been a long journey and I would very much like to rest.”
All sound seems to stop at her admission.
“Don’t fret over what I have seen and things I know but shouldn’t. If it’s anything important, my visions will speak for me, you can be sure of that.” The old woman laughs softly, sharing a joke the rest of us missed. “Oh. Looks like one’s coming now.”
Her head snaps to the sky, face slack and eyes glassy. The abrupt change from the giggly old human to … this, is unnerving to say the least. I half wonder if she’s broken and if this is how all humans act. But before I can analyze those thoughts further, her voice cuts through the air like a whip.
“This village will grow and so will your Kingdom. The journey ahead is a long one filled with heartache and pain.” The old woman inhales sharply, eyes glazed and unseeing. “Those responsible for the tragedy of your past will meet a terrible end. But to succeed in your endeavor, you’ll need a fierce queen at your side. Rest assured that darkness will come and pave way to the light.”
She’s insane, that’s the only explanation for it as her glassy eyes clear and she giggles like nothing happened. I watch warily as Chrome leads her away. With a glance, I see those that remain are as stupefied as me, mouths open and eyes wide.
And what did she say about a queen?
Impossible. The old woman has clearly lost her mind. I have no time for a wife, let alone a queen with a spoiled attitude and a sense of entitlement that she will no doubt possess.
I’ve got rogues to hunt, not girls in dresses, scared of some dirt.
The story will continue in Fractured Past!
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