A Watchful Eye
Atticus and I were back in our hotel room and I watched as he paced back and forth, rambling incoherently under his breath. I knew he was excited about finding Emersyn all these years later, but I also knew he was stressing about what to do next.
It wasn’t as if we could just walk up to her and tell her everything. I mean, we could, but she’d run screaming for the hills and never return to us. Even though I hated to admit it, Atticus was right; we need to play this one cool.
Emersyn needs to come to her own realization of who she is and seek us out when she’s ready. However, we don’t have much time either. Once the clock struck midnight during this particular moon phase, the light would claim her, setting things into motion. But before the next full moon arrives, she needs to find out who she is or forever be lost to us.
“Atticus, stop pacing. You’re making me anxious.” I sat in the small chair in the corner of the room, still watching my brother pace around.
He stopped and glared over at me. “I’m making you anxious?! I’m anxious! We found her tonight, Tristan, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it!”
Sighing, I replied, “Atticus, we both know that she’ll remember soon enough and come find you.”
Atticus whipped around and glared at me. “You don’t know that. This is the first time she’s come back with no memory of me or who she is. We don’t know how any of this works. If she doesn’t remember, then I lose her forever. Once the full moon arrives after it claims her, I could lose her forever, Tristan. And that doesn’t seem to affect you.”
I jumped out of my chair, standing right in his face as the anger boiled inside of me. “Of course, this affects me! I don’t want to lose her as much as you don’t. But, I do know that pacing around a cheap hotel room isn’t going to fix this. We need to set up a plan of attack.” I stepped away from him then, feeling much better after my little outburst. “Have you seen or spoken to Briar lately?”
Shaking his head, Atticus whispered, “No.” He squared his shoulders and looked over at me. “I haven’t seen or spoken to Briar since…” His eyes looked haunted and I knew what he was going to say. He hasn’t seen or spoken to Briar since Emersyn last died in 1927.
“Well, let’s find her and ask what the hell is going to happen next. She would know, Atticus.” But one look from him and I knew he didn’t want to find Briar. I knew a part of him died with Emersyn this last time and he blamed himself for not looking after her better. He blames himself for how she took her life, but I knew there was an entirely different reason. One I wasn’t about to give him because I knew it would only put a strain between him and I; and right now, we need to stick together.
“Why don’t you get some rest and I’ll pull out my journal. There might be something in there about this. I’ve written down and kept everything from the beginning.” I walked up to my brother, putting my hand on his shoulder for support. “We won’t lose her this time, Atticus.”
He nodded, staring into my eyes before he walked over to the bed and did as I had suggested. Once he wasn’t pacing anymore, I went back to my chair and pulled out my journal. It was worn from heavy use over the years and I had held it together with rope, tape, and glue. Eventually I knew it wouldn’t be salvageable but until then, I’d keep it just the way it was. I can’t say it looks too bad after several hundred years of use, but it had definitely seen better days.
I had been searching for a solid two hours when I noticed my eyes start to burn. There wasn’t a shroud of information in my journal about reincarnation without the soul’s memory. It’s never happened before now, but I did know from Briar’s words at Emersyn’s funeral in August of 1927 that she wouldn’t remember when she came back. We knew that when one of us takes our own life, we start over from scratch. Our souls are still the same but our memory is washed clean.
After placing my journal on the table, I stood and stretched my legs, needing some reprieve from all this research. Atticus was fast asleep in one of the queen beds and I didn’t want to wake him knowing it was rare that he got any real sleep, so I left the room and went for a walk.
It was a bit chilly for a Louisiana autumn night, but it was welcoming. There wasn’t a soul roaming around outside and I heard complete silence in my head. I was hoping for a quiet moment without other people’s thoughts bombarding my every waking moment. This was the reason why I loved staying up all night and slept during the day: no voices.
The sounds of crickets and katydids boomed all around me; I’ve never been able to escape them in the south. Over time, they’ve grown on me and became a soothing call in the night. But for the longest time, I hated them. Atticus always wanted to live in the south, following Emersyn’s life, but I just couldn’t do it. Not only was it crazy hot here almost all year long, but the night singing insects also used to drive me crazy.
My gaze turned to the night sky, seeking out the moon, but the sky was pitch black. There wasn’t a single star to be found and I couldn’t help but feel an uneasiness in my chest. Generally, when the sky was this black and there was no cloud coverage in the forecast, it only meant one thing: An ancient soul with pure darkness was near.
With this realization, I spun around and ran back to the hotel room, needing to wake Atticus up right away.
I kicked the side of his bed when I entered, not wanting to waste any time.
“Atticus! Wake the hell up! We’ve got a problem.”
With those words he sat straight up in bed, no longer looking at all tired.
“What’s wrong? Is Emersyn okay?”
“She won’t be for long if we don’t figure out who else knows about her.” I grabbed my journal and started whipping through the pages, trying to find one page in particular that I knew for a fact was in here.
“Tristan, what is it?” Atticus came up next to me, gazing down at my journal as well.
“There aren’t any stars in the sky. It’s pitch black.” When I looked up at Atticus, a dark shadow loomed over his face. He knew exactly what I was referring to.
“Who is it?” Atticus asked through clenched teeth.
I shrugged, honestly not knowing the answer to his question. “If I knew, would I be standing here right now?” I continued flipping through the pages until I found it. When I did, I pointed at the page, hoping Atticus would read it. It was a page about ancient ones and a pitch-black night sky. We had seen it before, hence why it was in my journal. When this ancient one is near one of us, it only meant one thing: death.
“Shit,” Atticus cursed out and I nodded.
“Yeah, this could be bad if they get to her first.” I slammed the journal shut, making the table beneath it rock on its cheap legs as I turned to him. “We can’t leave her.”
A guilty look came over Atticus’ face then. “One of us can’t.” He turned to his bed then, pulling his talisman from inside his shirt as he began to rub his fingers over it. “While I slept, I got a message from one of the townspeople back in the mountains. There’s been a death.”
My heart sank, knowing exactly what had to be done. “Let me go,” I offered.
He shook his head, shoving his talisman back where it came from. “No, brother. I have to do this one. My gifts are stronger than yours and I can get to the bottom of it quicker. I trust you. Stay here and keep an eye on Emersyn. I’ll be back before the second full moon.”
“I don’t like this, Atticus. I can’t shake this feeling that the dark entity is pulling you away from her, making the cave beings become destructive.” The uneasiness was back in my chest again and my breathing had quickened.
“I know, but I have to go, Tristan. This is what we do.” He grabbed his luggage and headed for the door. “Keep me updated about Emersyn every step of the way.” And then he was gone, leaving me alone in the quiet confines of the hotel room.
After Atticus left, I did some more research in my journal and sought out Briar through my mind’s eye. She was currently standing in a small shop that was filled with stones of varying sizes and colors while dried herbs hung from the ceilings. Near the back of the store, I could see a wall of potions but I couldn’t read any of the stickers on them. However, knowing Briar, she’d no doubt have several kinds of love potions or potions to make a person’s financial situation better. I recognized the architecture almost immediately and knew she was residing in New Orleans and most likely the French Quarter, in particular; there was no way I couldn’t recognize the area with all that wrought ironwork clinging to the outside of her shop. I have a feeling we’re going to need her sooner rather than later and knew I needed to know her whereabouts. Until then, I need to keep an eye on Emersyn.
I had called a taxi to bring me to the nearest car rental company before I sought Emersyn’s location out in my mind and now I was sitting outside of Emersyn’s home in my rental car. The place was quiet and dark, no doubt they were all still sleeping, but I wasn’t about to take any chances here. I didn’t know who the dark entity was or what their plans were, but I knew that if I didn’t keep a close eye, protecting her and her home, then they’d attack.
Closing my eyes, I pictured a white bubble forming in my head getting stronger and bigger with each breath I took. When I opened my eyes, I pictured the white bubble being placed over her home, anchoring itself in the ground. I waved my hand in a sweeping motion over the invisible bubble and began my protection chant.
“Keep the dark out. Only light may pass. Keep the dark out. Only light may pass.”
Afterward, I got comfortable in the driver’s seat and closed my eyes, knowing that if anything came near the bubble it would wake me in an instant. I needed some rest if I were going to follow her around the next day.
The first rays of sunlight woke me as I peeled my eyes open and stared over at her house. It was still quiet and I knew the bubble had done its job while I slept. The uneasiness in my chest hadn’t returned since last night and I knew that was a good sign.
Several hours of staking the place out left me hungry and irritable, so I drove down the street to the gas station to grab some food before returning to my stakeout spot along the curb. But when I returned, there were several cars parked around her home while people filed inside.
“Damn it,” I cursed, pulling into the only available spot on the side of her street. I couldn’t see much through the trees and scolded myself for leaving. One look at the people heading towards the house told me that they were all here to celebrate her birthday. They had gifts in their arms and some even had balloons.
Balloons? Really? She’s eighteen, people, not eight.
I munched on my gas station burrito, still keeping an eye on the place when I finally saw movement.
Emersyn and her friend Brad were making a run for it. Thank God, this was getting to be really boring.
I put the car in drive and followed behind them, trying to keep a safe distance back so they didn’t spot me. They drove for several miles, leaving the city of Baton Rouge until they pulled off onto several back country roads.
“Where are you two off to?” I asked no one, still following behind them. And that’s when I saw their destination.
Several cars were parked in the grassy field, pointing towards a hill with a grove of trees at the top. The open field sat among a small forest and I wasn’t so sure about this place. I couldn’t protect her here if the dark entity chose to strike. There were far too many witnesses, for one, and two, I couldn’t do magic around these kids without freaking them out. Besides, I keep my talisman locked up tight and out of sight, and without it, my gifts were mediocre at best.
“Tristan, what’s going on?” The sound of Atticus’ voice in my head made me jump.
“Jesus, Atticus! Warn me before you go jumping into my head. I’ll let you know when something happens. Right now, I’m following her to what looks like a teenage party in the woods.” I pushed Atticus out of my head as I got out of my car and headed for the gathering.
“Hi, you don’t look like you’re from around here,” a brunette girl around Emersyn’s age stepped up to me, blocking my way to Emersyn, as she ran her hand down my chest.
I grinned down at her, trying to be friendly. “I’m not. I came to see the birthday girl.”
With the mention of Emersyn, her smile faded. “Oh, seems to be the theme tonight.” She looked into my eyes, clearly trying to be seductive as she batted her eyes once more. “Can I get you a drink, handsome?”
“I’d love one.” I winked down at her, trying to get her the hell away from me. My eyes scanned the area and I found Emersyn standing over by the keg, grabbing a red cup from a young kid. She might not be alone, but at least that Brad kid wasn’t near.
I headed in her direction, not wanting to go up to her empty-handed so I took a drink from a kid’s hand I passed, getting a protest in return, and finally made my way up to her.
“Well, this is a surprise,” I greeted her as she turned to look at me. She looked a bit surprised seeing me here, a look of trepidation flashing through her eyes.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, putting the cup up to her mouth.
“The same thing you’re doing here: drinking.” I held my cup up, giving her a wicked grin before I took my own drink. I couldn’t exactly tell her why I was actually here, though. She’d freak out more than she already clearly was. Did I make her this uncomfortable? “Happy birthday, by the way.”
She stared at me without saying a word for a long moment before a small smile tugged at her lips. “Thanks, but it isn’t my birthday until tomorrow.”
“Oh?” Well, shit, my dates are completely off then. The moon phase for tonight was the exact one that hovered above us on the night we were re-born. It’s just funny that it landed on her eighteenth birthday in this life. She’s probably going to blame the strange happenings on this particular event as if it’s some cliche book, gaining her powers when she becomes an adult. “So… you’re not eighteen yet, huh?”
She nervously looked around and I squeezed my eyes shut. Way to be creepy, Tristan, I scolded myself.
“Where’s your brother?”
Well, at least she was asking about Atticus; that’s a start.
“He really wanted to be here but he had other things to take care of tonight. Perhaps you’ll see him later.” I cocked an eyebrow at her as I watched her intently. She was nearing the midnight hour and I wondered if she was feeling anything yet. I remember her saying in other lives that she could feel a buzzing sensation in her entire body as the time led up to midnight during this particular moon phase. “Do you feel different?” I finally asked, needing to know.
“What?” She looked confused and I didn’t blame her. I’m such an idiot! “I don’t understand what you mean,” she continued.
I shook my head, needing to change the subject or walk away before I blew it. “Nevermind. Have a nice night, Emmy.” I walked away from her then and tried to hide among the other party guests, blending in just enough so I could still watch her without being noticed.
“There you are!”
I jumped at the high pitched female voice coming from behind me as I turned and found the pretty brunette from moments ago standing there with two drinks in her hands.
“Where did you go?” She held out a drink to me, watching me intently.
I’ll admit, I loved me some attention from a beautiful woman, but right now I was working. She needs to go away.
“I’m good,” I held up the stolen drink in my hand, pulling my gaze from hers to find Emersyn. She was standing near the fire with Brad, getting ready to sit down.
“Where are you from, cutie?” She asked, making a smile tug at my lips.
So, she wanted to flirt, did she? I guess a little fun while Emersyn was safely seated near the fire wouldn’t hurt.
“I’m from far, far away from here, cutie,” I teased back while I reached out and tucked a bit of her hair behind her ear. “You’re over eighteen, right?” Nowadays, that was an important fact to know. Even though I physically looked like I was in my early twenties, I was actually one-hundred and seventy-five-years-old. Even so, I knew I could get in trouble if I fooled around with a minor.
She batted her eyes at me, loving the attention I was finally giving her. “I’m nineteen, actually.”
A grin spread across my face. “Perfect.” I wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her away from the party scene and into the woods just a bit. It had been a while since I delved into my appetite. Atticus was normally around, putting a squash on them. Well, he isn’t here now.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” I stated, letting her know my intentions and she was ready and willing, tilting her head up so her lips were at my disposal.
I lowered my mouth and captured her lips with mine, deepening the kiss when I grabbed the back of her neck and tilted her face up further.
I broke the kiss when Atticus’ voice so rudely interrupted me.
“What? I can’t have a little fun?” I retorted back at my brother. He was really getting on my nerves.
“Not when you’re supposed to be watching Emersyn. Where is she?”
Rolling my eyes, I turned to look at Emersyn sitting by the fire with Brad, but when I saw that she wasn’t there anymore, I cursed under my breath.
“I’ll find her,” I growled back to Atticus before pushing him back out of my head. When I went in search of Emersyn, the brunette grabbed my arm, pulling me back.
“Wait! Where are you going?!”
“Sorry, babe,” I tucked her hair behind her ear again, “I’ve got something I need to do. I’ll find you later.” I winked at her, making her grin before I was walking away.
Where the hell did Emersyn go?
My searching eyes told me she wasn’t among the party-goers anymore and now not only was Atticus pissed at me, but I was pissed at myself. I really need to cool it around the pretty ladies.
After walking around in aimless circles, not finding Emersyn, I stopped to reevaluate my next move. She couldn’t have gone far and Brad was still here so I knew she hadn’t left. But, where in the world would she have gone?!
My eyes began searching again and that’s when I saw a beaten path lead into the woods and my gut told me she was down it. So, I took off into the woods, hoping she hadn’t gotten too far and I wasn’t too late. We still didn’t know who or what we were messing with, so I had no idea if the thing or person would be here lurking in the shadows until she was alone. The thought made me nauseous.
I had walked several paces into the forest with no sign of Emersyn and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened.
“Emersyn?” I quietly called out, not wanting to attract something or someone other than her. But there was no reply. A cold chill ran up my spine and I stopped walking, spinning in circles to see if there was another path somewhere. There wasn’t.
“What’s going on, Tristan?! I can feel your anxiety all the way over here!” Atticus’ voice filled my head and I squeezed my eyes shut, not knowing how to tell him that I lost her.
Then I heard snapping tree branches, making me whip my eyes open. And that’s when I saw her. She was leaned up against the base of an oak tree, looking very sleepy and her hair was a mess.
I quickly moved to her, but not before I watched the tree branches move about like little arms, stretching back into their normal positions. The moonlight was brighter than normal as I looked up and saw storm clouds approaching, blanketing us in the darkness again.
“Emersyn!” I ran up to her, kneeling in front of her. “Hey, wake up!” I shook her shoulders only to find that she was out like a light. My eyes did a quick scan of her to make sure she was alright and that’s when I saw it: A leaf burned into her skin.
A smile tugged at my lips as I mentally reached out to Atticus. “I found her. She’s fine, Atticus, but there’s one little thing…” I stared down at her, knowing everything was about to change in her little world. “The moon has claimed her. The leaf is burned into her skin.”
“What?! It claimed her that quickly? We don’t have much time then, Tristan. Can you get her somewhere safe?”
I put my arms beneath her legs and lower back, lifting her from the cool ground beneath her. There should be a path back to the vehicles without having to go back towards the partygoers.
“I’ll get it completely taken care of, Atticus.” I also thought about which incantation I was going to use on her when I put her to bed back at her place. There’s not a doubt in my mind that she’d be terrified about what happened here tonight and that’s the last thing we need her to be right now. If she’s terrified, she won’t look for answers and we’ll lose her again.
There was no worn path from here to the vehicles, but I made one anyway, holding Emersyn tightly to me as I walked through the brush and down the side of this massive hill. The vehicles finally came into view and I picked up speed, hoping that no one was coming down to head home themselves.
Once we reached my rental car, I slid her into the back seat before I jumped in myself, trying to get us out of here quickly.
“Tristan,” Atticus growled in my head, “What’s going on?”
“I’m bringing her home now. Don’t worry, Brother, I told you I got this!” Irritation filled me as I pushed Atticus out of my head once more. He was always lacking trust in me and it was getting on my last nerve. Did he not believe I could do this? If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have left me behind to watch after her, so then what’s his damn problem?
I cut the headlights before pulling into Emersyn’s driveway so I wouldn’t be detected by her family. I had no idea which bedroom was hers inside, but it couldn’t be that difficult to find. Hell, what am I thinking? I know how to find it.
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths as I ‘pushed’ my soul from my body. Once I was out, I hovered over the grass towards the front door where I disappeared right through it. I went up the large staircase in the front hallway and scanned down the hallway in both directions at the top. Most of the doors were closed except for one. Floating over to that open door, I found that it was, in fact, Emersyn’s room.
I focused on opening my physical eyes all while a suction feeling began tugging on my spiritual self. And before I knew it, I was back in my body, taking several deep breaths to ground myself.
Emersyn groaned out and began moving in the back seat. I better get her upstairs before she wakes up!
I slid her from the back seat, lifting her in my arms again, but when I looked down at her I couldn’t help but stare. She was the most beautiful woman in the world.
And she was Atticus’! I internally scolded myself as I headed towards the front door. It’s locked.
“Shit,” I cursed out, trying to remember that incantation Atticus taught me on how to unlock doors. “Open sesame,” I whispered jokingly but it was still locked when I attempted to open it again.
I juggled Emersyn’s sleeping body in my arms, reaching out to the handle with my other hand when I heard it click and I was able to open it right up. Well, maybe ‘open sesame’ actually does work!
“You’re welcome,” Atticus’ voice startled me again. “You really need to start remembering the things I teach you, Tristan. And if I ever see you look at Emersyn like that again, I will personally castrate you.”
I bit my bottom lip to prevent myself from bursting out with laughter.
“And you need to stay out of my head, Brother!” I climbed the stairs two at a time, bringing Emersyn to her room as I laid her lightly into bed, covering her gently. “Now, do you mind? I have an incantation to say.”
“You actually remember one?” The sarcasm was dripping from Atticus’ voice, only annoying me more, so I pushed him from my mind again.
I stared down at a sleeping Emersyn, remembering all the good times we’ve had over the last several centuries and how much I missed her. I just hope she can remember everything and come back to us.
Placing my hand on her forehead, I began to say the incantation I remembered. “Et cessabit. Fortis esse. Find nobis,” I whispered out, repeating in English for good measure. “Be calm. Be strong. Find us.”
After removing my hand, I leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on her forehead.
“Sweet dreams, Emersyn. We’ll be waiting for you.” I stood from her bed and walked over to her dresser, pulling an envelope from inside my jacket, setting it on top so she’d see it when she woke. But upon looking back at her, I see the corner of an envelope sticking out from beneath her pillow. What in the hell is that? Walking over to it, I slowly slide it out, careful not to wake her, when I see Atticus’ familiar handwriting on the front. I’m sure this was personal but I needed to know what it said; so I read it.
“Atticus, when the hell did you have time to put this letter beneath Emersyn’s pillow?” I knew it was a long shot to reach out to him at this hour, but I needed answers, damn it.
A moment of silence greeted me before I could almost feel Atticus enter my head. “That letter wasn’t for you to read, brother. And if you must know, I hypnotized Brad into sneaking it into the pile of birthday cards for her. I couldn’t risk being seen at her place. Now put it back and let me get some sleep.” Atticus ended the connection between us faster than I could reply but I did as he instructed, shaking my head at his cleverness. He was always good at hypnotizing people and sometimes I wished he’d just tell me his secrets.
After sliding Atticus’ card back beneath Emersyn’s pillow, I made my way back downstairs, but not before looking back in the general direction of her bedroom one more time. “Please remember,” I whispered into the darkness of the house before I shut the front door behind me.