Part 2: Chapter 9
I slept well. I slept better than I ever had.
I awoke that night to see Aralisa back from class earlier than I expected, but it was only because she had to Guard the next day. We spent the rest of the early morning hours together, mostly for her to get some sleep before she went on Guard duty.
When she left our bedroom, she was awake and happy. I planned to stay in her dorm for the remainder of the day, and possibly move some of my clothes back into the closet, but Mir opened the link between us.
I hear that she’s on Guard today.
I didn’t answer back.
Want to come and see if she’s improving? It’ll be like old times.
I felt a faint snicker on the edge of her tone.
We’re not planning to attack until later in the day, so you have time to decide if you want to come or not.
I didn’t want to show up at the Shrine in my animal form. Although, from the previous day on the river, she hadn’t shown any fear towards me. I knew that she wanted to know what I was when I shifted, but I still wasn’t sure of myself.
Mir’s thoughts were gone again. And she didn’t respond to my calls for her opinion so I opened the link between the circle. Hasten picked it up immediately.
You need me for something? he asked.
Yeah, Mir mentioned that you guys are attacking the Shrine that Aralisa’s at. Is that true? I asked him to clarify. I didn’t want to show up at her Shrine and find no one there. Plus, I didn’t know what would or might happen because of it.
We are attacking the Moon Shrine this morning. But it’ll come after nine or ten. You want to join?
About that, remember the other day at the river? When Aralisa showed up when I was reestablishing the links?
Oh. You’re worried that she’ll be afraid or attack you.
He got it. Something like that. She’s not what she used to be. She’s different.
I could feel him laughing at me. There were others listening in to the conversation, but I didn’t care so much. I needed opinions.
Caiden, that day on the river, she wasn’t afraid of you. We all saw it in your mind.
I was shocked. They had seen it all? You did?
It’s okay. She didn’t look the least bit scared from your perspective.
In fact, she seemed to be in awe of your presence, not fearful from what I saw, Darson sent his opinion into me right behind Hasten’s.
It was true; she was in awe of me. She wanted to know what I was, who I was.
I shook my head again. No, I am afraid that if I attack the Shrine with you guys, that I’ll… hurt her, unintentionally.
A giggle interceded on the link. Nola’s voice reached out to me. Caiden, you’re in love with her. You’re not going to hurt her. No buts. That day on the river, you wanted her to know it was you. You didn’t attack her then.
But I could have….
Caiden! I said no buts. You couldn’t have. You love her. In the Shaper community, when you’re bonded with someone you don’t attack the ones you love, especially your bond mate. It would be the ultimate humiliation, the ultimate betrayal. That’s why a bond is so strong. It’s one of the strongest and unbreakable things in this world. It’s true that you two are still betrothed to each other, but she doesn’t know that. However, in your mind, you’ve already bonded with her. If she had her telepathic abilities, then you two would share an amazing link with one another. Even without that link, you could never attack or harm her. One day you will understand.
I thought about what she said. Bonds were strong. I knew enough about that from being the son of the Chieftain of my tribe. If one broke off a betrothal, each party was humiliated. If one broke a bond, both tribes were humiliated, including the children, if any were present from the bond between the Shapers. Was it truly possible that I had bonded with Aralisa, without her knowledge?
Yes, you did. She chose you after all. Branella’s voice was radiating into my head. The moment you decided you loved her, you bonded and became Marked in the process. It’s why your links broke contact so quickly. If you had just been Marked, you and Mir wouldn’t have lost your family link. As it is, your life is directly tied to Aralisa. By being bonded with her, you can’t attack her or harm her in any physical way. It’s safe to go attack the Shrine. However, Hasten and Panter will need to be present in case you end up defending her from some of the other Shaper students who will be there, which can happen if she comes under attack.
Mirabella? she questioned my sister through the link. I was amazed to hear Mir answer across the circle link. I didn’t know that she was a part of it. Seeing as how she hadn’t been Marked yet.
Oh alright, I’ll go and protect my brother, she responded.
Mir? I asked her, puzzled. Have you been Marked?
Oh that? Yeah. I’ve been Marked for a long time. Get with the program.
I wanted to ask her several questions, but I refrained because Branella was speaking again.
This might be a good chance for you to show her who you are, Caiden. I’m sure she already knows, but if she doesn’t she will need to. You’re in control of yourself.
We’re going to meet in the forest before we attack. See you there at nine. Hasten closed off the link.
Everyone was gone then.
I flew out of the bed and grabbed my shirt where I left it on the seat by the window. I pulled it on and poked my head out of the door that led to the hallway of the Night class dorm. No one was around so I ran down the hall, leaving the door to shut itself. I passed no one important as I made my way to my old room. On the Day side of the dorm, I came across several students, including Kelsy and her pack of girls.
They giggled ferociously at me as I passed. I was down the hall and about to head up the stairs to Mir’s dorm when I heard my name being called. I froze, partially annoyed, and turned around. Being the son of a well-known Chieftain was bothersome at times. I was expected to acknowledge others around me, especially if they shared the same ranking in society. Normally, I would’ve nodded at someone and just continued on down the hallway. However, Kelsy was one of the exceptions. I was forced to communicate with her, as she stood in the same standing as Mir and me.
Kelsy was flouncing herself in the way that Aralisa and Mir used to do when they were the Queens of the hallway. Something about the way I saw it used now sickened me. She got really close to my body; I had to take a step back to put distance between myself and her.
“I missed you last night.” She whispered the words while batting her eyes at me. Her fanfare looked eagerly on from the other end of the hallway. “Where were you?”
“I need to go.” I wanted to leave this conversation. I wished I could tell her about Aralisa and myself, but everyone was thinking we were no longer together from the current circumstances. Naturally, they all figured that I had ended the relationship. Only a few trusted knew that the betrothal still stood. And even a fewer number among those knew that I was with Aralisa earlier.
She took a step nearer to me.
Mir! I called out on the link. Thank goodness she answered it.
What? She sounded annoyed.
I’ll be up in your room soon. We need to talk.
I felt her sigh through the line. Fine.
She must’ve been busy.
By the way, why does Kelsy think we’re together?
Oh, that. She’s been talking to everyone about how you bedded her last night. I knew it was a lie from the get go. You were with Aralisa last night and all day yesterday. Is she bothering you?
Yeah. She’s asking why I wasn’t with her.
Tell her the truth.
And give away Aralisa? Everyone knows she’s lost her memory.
But everyone knows that you like her a lot. According to my sources, she hasn’t chosen anyone, because she’s not seeing anyone. The Day class would be talking about it if she picked someone from the Night side. Use your brain.
She was right. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
Kelsy was staring at me while I conversed with Mir. “Why won’t you talk to me in the link? We could have our own, you know. A special link. If we bonded, it would be very sensual.” She took another step nearer to me. Her hand reached up towards my face, but I caught it before she could touch my face. Just the thought of her touch made my skin crawl.
I stared into her face. She was grinning at me, thinking that this was all just a spot of fun. But I was done with her trying to play me like Aralisa used to. I realized now that Aralisa’s attitude rubbed off onto the younger generation. They thought this was the way to win my heart or any guy’s. We were not prize trophies.
What they didn’t know was that the reason I stayed with Aralisa in the beginning was because of our betrothal. No one but Mir and I knew that, aside from Aralisa and Branella. Our betrothal to each other was a secret. The reason why we stayed together, even if I wasn’t happy, was to hide the betrothal. None of the real students knew about it. Now I was ready to strengthen the bond between us, using the advice from what Mir told me in our link.
I pushed her back a few steps with her hand. The grin was wiped off her face. “Ow,” she complained. “I didn’t know we were playing dirty. You could’ve given me a warning.” I let her hand go and stared back into her face. I wasn’t playing. I wasn’t joking.
“Leave me alone, Kelsy. We are not together.” I said this loud enough for her gaggle to hear me.
She was shocked by my outburst. “Caiden, don’t be like that. I know you want me.” She again tried to come nearer to my body.
I took a step back, maintaining the distance between us. “No, Kelsy, I don’t want you. I never have.”
Her smile disappeared. She looked angry at me, but I didn’t care. “It’s Aralisa you want. Well, too bad for you because she doesn’t remember you. She thinks she’s a Night student, and you are forbidden to her. You might as well take this as a chance to get out of that crappy relationship you two had. Besides, my father is the Chieftain of the Water tribe to the south. We’ll make a fine couple and allies one day. You wouldn’t waste a proper betrothal to me over someone who can’t even remember who you are?”
This time I took a step closer to her, to show her I was serious and meant business. “Aralisa and I are betrothed. We have been since birth. And until she chooses someone other than me, even if it be a Night student, I will have no one else.”
Kelsy was offended. Her mouth dropped in disbelief. “Like I’m going to believe that. Everyone knows she bedded you because you were attractive and the brother to her best friend. You’ll be lucky if she ever remembers who you are. I hear at the rate she’s going she’ll be bedding that guy friend of hers from the Night class.” Her high-pitched giggle pushed me to my limit. I was sick of hearing her attack Aralisa like this.
“You know what, if you don’t believe me, go ask the Headmistress. Ask Mir. Ask Hasten. They’re all from the same tribe. They know that it’s true. And you’re wrong about Aralisa. She’s changed. She’s better now than she was before. It’s true what you said about her when we first met. She wanted me because I was attractive. But we’re betrothed, so get over it. I’m not going to break our promise to each other for anyone, not even you.”
She wanted to protest more, but I didn’t want to continue this conversation. “Good day, Kelsy.” I turned and headed up the stairs. I caught a glimpse of fury written all over her face as I ran up the flights.
I got into Mir’s dorm without any more trouble. She was waiting for me on one of the couches, filing her nails. Darson sat near the windows as he was reading a book.
“Why couldn’t you have come later? We’re not supposed to meet until nine.”
“I know you were busy, but we need to talk.”
She didn’t look up at me. “What about?”
“Since when were you Marked? And how come I didn’t know?” I bellowed at her.
She glanced up at me. “Oh, I’ve been Marked for a long time.”
“You said that earlier. But when? And where are they? I’ve never seen them.”
She smiled. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Darson chuckled to himself. He obviously was paying attention to our conversation and not the book. I glanced back at Mir.
They’re on my chest. I’m sure you don’t want to see.
No, I didn’t. I sighed and stared down at her.
“So do we need to move your stuff back into Aralisa’s room?”
“There’s not much left to move. Just clothes,” I answered back, knowing that I could do it myself.
“You’ll need a lookout though.” She was back to filing.
“We could do it before we head out, but not now. Dinner’s about to start for the Night class.”
She smiled. “Alright.” She glanced up at me. “Can I ask you to leave so Darson and I can have alone time?”
Darson spoke up before I could. “Mirabella, I think that we should wait. You two need to talk about your being Marked.”
She sighed and stopped filing her nails. She glanced up at me. “Fine,” she rushed out.
An uncomfortable silence settled in. I didn’t know what to say now. She didn’t respond to the situation, but wanted to. Finally, Darson got up from where he sat and left the room. He went out the door carrying his book in hand. But Mir still didn’t say anything.
“Do you not want to talk about it?” I asked her.
She didn’t respond.
“Are you embarrassed?”
“Then what’s the deal? We used to always share whatever we were feeling, even across the link if we didn’t want to speak aloud.”
She sighed. “This is about Aralisa. And what you said to me earlier this week.”
I blinked. “What does that have to do with you being Marked?”
“Everything.” She sighed. “I was Marked about two years ago.”
What? I didn’t know how to respond. I collapsed with the news into a chair opposite her.
“I didn’t want to leave the school and go fight. I wanted to stay here, and protect you, if I needed to. You’re my little brother after all. But Aralisa and I were good friends. We even shared a dorm. I was Marked the day I chose to be her friend forever.” She smiled at me. It was a weird smile. It wasn’t a happy smile, but a sad one.
“Branella approached me about joining the circle, so I did. She said she made it to protect Aralisa. I believed her, I still do. But even as her friend, I knew that one day she would be very unhappy. Mostly because she used all the guys in the Day class and didn’t have anyone to be with. So last year, after you grew up some, I introduced you two. She personally liked you because of your attractiveness. And I knew about your betrothal to her. Who knew that you two would have a long-lasting relationship with each other? I figured she would just burn right through you like the other guys.”
She shot me a look. “But you stuck with her, and I knew you were unhappy. Everyone knew. Well, the ones across the circle. Branella told me that she was getting too arrogant. Too spoiled. So one day, I presented her with the idea of being a part of the Night class. You gave me the idea and it stuck.”
I remembered that day. Mir looked like she wanted to cry. Through our link I felt her emotions. She was two seconds away from bursting into tears.
“Who knew I would lose my best friend?” she cried. “Why did she have to use that stupid orb!” She took a deep breath and calmed herself down. “I know she wasn’t the nicest person; hell, she was mean. But we were good friends. We have been like sisters for the past two years. And now she doesn’t even remember me! She still has you. You have her, but I don’t!
“And just when I thought that you and I were going to have to work together to get to know her you go and make the decision to bond with her! And now you’re Marked. That day you decided that, I thought you had died. Our link was severed. It’s not the same anymore. I can’t feel exactly what you’re feeling anymore, I have to actively listen in. And every time that I do, you’re with her, and all she remembers is nothing. She’s not the same. She’s changed. I don’t know her anymore and you do.”
I couldn’t believe this. Mir was jealous of me because of the relationship I had with Aralisa. She fell to pieces after this. I heard the door open and saw Darson stride across the room and hand her a tissue. I glanced up at Darson.
Don’t speak about it in front of her. He sent me the statement across the link leaving it out of Mir’s head.
I grimaced as I knew that his essence had been tied to the room. “What do you want me to say?” I asked her openly.
She didn’t respond. She wiped her eyes and her nose. She stood up and threw away the tissue. “I need to change for the attack.” Darson stayed behind with me in the sitting room as she disappeared into her bedroom.
“I had to leave. She needed to get it out.” He stood across from where I sat.
“I had no idea. She kept all this from me, for so long.”
He nodded. “She’ll be okay.”
A part of me knew that as long as Aralisa and her weren’t talking, she wouldn’t be okay. That needed to be fixed soon. “Branella thinks that she’s going to have to get her memory back, or be told it at some point. Hopefully then, she can fix their relationship. I can help with that.”
Darson nodded. “Let’s hope she gets it back soon. Mir’s really distressed about it. Did you know she’s not the Queen of the hallway anymore?”
“Who is?” In the back of my mind, I knew the answer to this. Darson’s reply confirmed it.
“Kelsy. She’s almost the protégé of Aralisa. Except she never knew her.”
“Yeah, I’ve run into her already. I had to announce the betrothal to her because she actually tried to make it look like we were bedding each other.”
Darson chuckled. “She didn’t take it well, did she?”
I shook my head.
“If Aralisa ever gets her memory back, you should tell her. She’ll give Kelsy a beating.”
“Did you know that Kelsy’s father is the Chieftain of the southern Water tribe?” I stood up as the clock was nearing nine. I still needed to grab my clothes.
“Hunh.” He shook his head. “No I did not, although I knew she was important.”
“Yeah.” I turned around and walked into my room. I got some of the clothes out of the closet and piled them into a box.
Mir appeared back into the sitting room looking refreshed from her crying. She crossed swiftly to open the door. Darson and I followed her out and down the stairs. None of us said anything. We reached the main hallway and ran into Branella.
Give me that box. I’ll take it up. There are several Night students awake right now. They are playing pool in the meeting room; you’ll be seen if you go that direction.
I handed her the box. She smiled before she turned around. Have fun on the field.
We turned and went in the other direction towards the forest. Upon arrival, most of the Shapers were congregated for the attack. Kelsy and her band of girls were present as well. I knew the moment I saw them they were going to transform with the pack. They hardly wore any clothes, but then again we all shed ours when we transformed.
Suddenly, I felt claustrophobic, as I didn’t want any of them to see me naked. I was sure that they wanted me to see them naked and vice versa, but I didn’t want that to happen. I turned and left the area, as it was too late to head back to the locker rooms. Mir was beside me instantly.
Where are you going? I thought you wanted to come along.
I was glad she was feeling semi-normal again. There was still a faint tint of jealousy in her tone.
I don’t want to be near Kelsy right now. It’d give her an excuse to try to paw me again.
Mir raised an eyebrow.
No wonder you tried to hang onto your title. She’s worse than Aralisa. Even she didn’t go after guys who were bonded or betrothed.
No one knew you two were.
I sighed. This was true. Well, until earlier. I was sure the rest of them knew now.
Hasten spoke up into my thoughts. I thought you were going to be present.
I need to stay away from Kelsy right now. She tried to maul me, literally.
Oh yeah, I saw that. He paused. I was watching you. You did well. So, are you coming with us?
Okay, then you and Mir are going to lead the pack. Half of the students will be shifting into a pack of lions. Panter and Nola will lead the herd to the southern end of the Shrine. You two will attack from the south as well. Just make sure the younglings don’t get separated.
I’m going to the north. Asper and his hunters will come from the air. Prie will take your clothes. She should be near you and Mir.
We turned to see Prie emerge from our left. She skidded to a halt and smiled in greeting. I sighed and turned around to give Mir some privacy. Shortly after, she was purring from behind me. Her brown eyes blinked at me from her white panther form. She pounced off into the forest at a run.
See you at the river.
I sighed and rolled my eyes towards her figure as she disappeared into the underbrush. Prie smiled at me and turned around. “I won’t look. I know about Kelsy’s interference as well.”
I undressed and handed her my clothes. Her eyes were shut as she took them. I shifted into my black panther form and purred a thank you. She smiled at me as she bounded off towards the school. I ran to catch up to Mir.