Back in Corallone after the seven hour journey I collapse on my bed without unpacking anything, partly exhausted, mostly missing Ray. Her wonderful skin, her soft hair that I can fiddle with, her soft lips and those eyes that shine like stars whatever the time.
A gentle tap on my mind has me letting Shade in.
Hi. He says.
Hi, how was the journey?
I'm glad? I think. Do you want to come up to my room, I can open my balcony for you.
Yes please. That would be most wonderful.
I climb of my bed and head to the balcony doors pulling back the curtains and unlocking the doors. A minute later a jet black eagle flies into my room, making me jump out of my skin. It glows slightly before shifting back into a giant wolf and consequently knocking over my suitcase and pushing my table four inches to the right. I raise one eyebrow before asking Can you change into a human?
Shade doesn't reply, instead glowing light again surrounds him and paws change into hands and feet and fur turns into skin. Within seconds a black haired, red eyed, tanned skin topless boy stands before me.
"Hi. I'm Shade." He says, his voice deeper than expected, but rich, which takes me more by surprise than the deepness.
"Hi, I'm Lillia."
He smiles, fangs still visible, but his teeth pearly white.
"So, how does this work?" He asks.
"Um. I'm not sure. I guess I should probably tell everyone about you and the stuff about me so they don't think I just invited some random stranger into the castle."
"Good idea." He says positively.
He goes to walk out the door but I stop him saying "You're not wearing a shirt, and you have..."
"Muscles?" He offers.
"Yeah... do you want a shirt?"
"I'm alright without one. Shall we go?"
"Okay." I reply defeated.
He opens the door and holds it open for me, I thank him before leading us to the main hall where I know at least Lola and Leon will be.
The guards open the doors in perfect synchronization as always and I see Lola, Leon, Dalia and Miles stood talking on the balcony. Lola is facing the doors and is the first person to see Shade. She gasps saying "What on earth? Lillia who is this?"
At this point they all turn to face me and I turn and attempt to walk away but Shade grabs my arm and says to me "If you don't do it now, you never will."
Hating the fact that he's right I turn again slowly to face them, by now they've all come from the balcony to stand a few metres away from me.
"Lillia who is this?" Repeats Leon.
Your eyes miss. They won't believe you with brown eyes.
I know Shade. I know.
I take Shade's hand and I instantly feel his magic flowing through me, I accept it knowing I need my eyes to tell them the truth. As I open my eyes they adjust to my magic flowing once again, zooming in and out of focus, blinking I focus on Lola who is looking expectantly at me for an explanation.
This time Miles speaks "Lillia, what's wrong with your eyes?"
Taking a deep breath I start to explain.
"Nothing. There's nothing wrong with my eyes Miles. This is their natural colour. Blood red."
"Lillia, your starting to freak me out a little bit." Says Leon with a wary voice.
"I know, I know so I'll explain. I'm an Anoka. And I know you got told they went extinct but only the tribes went extinct, the Anoka animals didn't. People just didn't recognise what they were anymore because no one was taught about them. But when I was born Mum saw I had blood red eyes and jet black hair. Completely contrary to her blue eyes and blonde hair. She knew instantly that I was an Anoka having read about them in the library. So she gave me medication to change my eye colour and she could pass my black hair as coming from my dad who no one knew. As I grew up she told me about the Anokan people. How they were an old race of people who had powers and Altro's who are like partners in life or mates but without the romance. How I was one of the few people with these gifts but that people would ridicule me for being one of them so she told me not to tell anyone. Shade here is an Anoka animal."
"But he's a human. A fine one might I add." Dalia says.
I laugh slightly before saying "Yes. Anoka animals also have powers and Shade's here is shifting."
Shade turns into the wolf he was before and everyone in front of me screams except Leon who just seems shocked. Shade changes back into human form and then Leon goes "Lillia what powers do you have?"
Taking a deep breath I say "I have two that I know of. I could have more..."
Shade, can you go down to the kitchen and get me one of the knives please.
"...you can develop more as you grow. I currently have the ability to create force fields that are impenetrable by anything. And..."
Shade walks up behind me and hands me the knife, "Thank you Shade."
I take the knife and gritting my teeth, slice me forearm.
"Lillia what on earth? You get the first aid kit immediately." Lola shouts at one of the maids passing by.
"Don't. There's no need." I say.
Lola looks back to me and I gesture to my arm which is healed with no scar, "My other power is healing. I can heal myself and others except if they have a terminal illness or are already dead. Trust me I tried both."
"Well. This is news." Says Leon breaking the silence that had fallen over them all.
"Does this have any other side affects?" Asks Leon.
"I live longer, my senses are enhanced. I have faster reaction times. I can have anger issues. I always carry my dagger on me."
"Dagger?" Says Miles in an unnerved voice.
I pull the dagger from my holder on the inside of my leg and show them the silver dagger encrusted with rubies. "It's blessed with killing anything and anyone it cuts. The last present my elder gave me."
"Elder?" Says Lola.
"I wasn't with my mum for my whole life, when I got to the age of five my powers started to show, I would get cut on some glass and heal within minutes, people began to get suspicious and if someone wanted to hug me that I didn't like I would create a forcefield and I broke someone's nose once. So my mum sent me to the last tribe alive. The elder there trained me to control them and gave me this dagger on her deathbed. I went back once and the entire place had been burned down, the tribe slaughtered. Their bodies left there to rot. I burned the bodies and took the ring I wear. It was my mothers. Not Hannah's, the elders. We called her mother."
"So now you know the truth. Shade here is going to be my Altro so he will follow me around and take orders from me, protect me from danger and care for me until I die at which point he will also die. If I get hurt he knows and we can talk telepathically. That's all you need to know."
I turn on my heels and walk out of the hall and back to my chambers leaving them to process it.
"Well that went well." Shade says in a manner of fact way.
"Ha!" I say, a short, sharp sound, "They are going to be avoiding me for at least a week. I know they will."
"Well you'll have me." He says proudly, "Shall we perform the ritual tonight?"
"I suppose it is a full moon, ironically." I say loving the perfect timing to make it feel more dramatic.
So now we stand on my balcony under the full moon, backs facing each other ready for the ceremony.
"One pace." Shade says and we take one step away from each other, backs still facing.
"Two paces." I say taking another step.
"Three paces." We day in unison, taking a final step.
We turn, eyes closed and walk the three paces back until our hands meet in front of us.
I hear the draw of Shade's dagger and then he says "Shade." Then he slices my palm.
I take my dagger and say my name before slicing his palm. Joining our bleeding hands we say together "We promise to protect each other for eternity."
Opening our eyes I heal my hand and Shade's before saying "Want to test it out?"
In response he takes his knife and lightly cuts his finger. I grit my teeth in pain as blood slowly drips from the same finger Shade cut on his own hand. Healing myself I watch Shade's finger heal too, forgetting that we share powers after the ritual as well.
"Thank you for becoming my Altro miss."
"Please call me Lil or Lillia and I'm very glad to be yours."
We head back inside to my rooms and I direct Shade to the spare bedroom I have for some reason that wasn't useful until now. Shade looks around for five minutes before coming back into the living room.
I collapse backwards onto the sofa exclaiming "Ugh. I miss Soraya."
"Soraya, mi..Lil?" Shade says correcting himself at the last minute.
"This girl that I like who I've kind of kissed a few times and she likes me back we're not really sure what we are right now but she's in another kingdom and it feels like a whole world away and we don't have anyway of communicating. And it sucks."
Shade joins me on the sofa allowing me to lean on his shoulder. Suddenly he sits up straight and his eyes light up "I could be a messenger bird. You could write letters and I could deliver them and then I could get a friend of mine to deliver them back."
"Shade I can't make you do that. It's too much."
"No. My job as your friend and Altro is to make you happy. If this will make you happy then I'm more than willing." He says firmly.
"Are you really sure?" I ask cautiously.
"Yes." He re-iterates with a smile on his face.
"Fine. Yes. Thank you, thank you." I say suddenly excited.
I immediately get a paper and pen from my desk and start writing. I tell her about how much I've missed her and that I'll explain everything when I next see her in person but that for now I have a bird that is going to deliver these letters to you and one that will bring yours back to me. I roll it up and tie it neatly before handing it to Shade who is currently in the form of a jet black hawk with red eyes. Which to be honest is slightly creepy but I'm too excited to care. As Shade sets off to Bamberall I pace around my room trying to keep myself distracted from how long it takes. I attempt to read one of my books, I attempt to do some paperwork, I try to do some excercise, I try and write a poem, I try and organise my wardrobe, I tidy all of my rooms, I hoover them all, I swept them all, I change both mine and Shade's beds, I even order some clothes for Shade to wear but none of it works. All I can think about the entire time is that when Shade arrives home, he will have delivered my letter and Ray will be reading it and writing one back. A few hours later I've resorted to sitting on my balcony waiting for Shade.