The mage stared at the parchment in front of him, trying to decipher the words, while trying to find a way around them, to twist them. With the newfound information that the Russell girl isn’t entirely human, the prophecy was going to be much more difficult to complete, and the mage was anything but thrilled about the fact.
He’d spent years searching for the right human to fulfill the next step of the prophecy, and the thought the little Russell girl was the perfect fit, but learning she was fae halted his plans. He knew prophecies weren’t clear, and they were easy to mess up or confuse, but he was absolutely sure that he had figured it out. The orb had told him so.
But now, sitting at his teakwood desk, glaring at the parchment filled with both completed and uncompleted tasks of the prophecy, he grew irritated and anxious at the same time. He had begun to worry the orb was wrong, that the prophecy had led him astray, and the thought of either of those made him fume.
He clenched his fist around the edge of the desk and looked over at the orb, still swirling with crimson and silver specks, as if mocking him of the uncompleted phase, and he ground his teeth together looking back at the torn piece of paper. He stared at the line, and he was sure he was unmistaken, that the orb was unmistaken of his next victim, but there was a gnawing feeling at the bottom of his stomach.
He looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. Something’s coming.
Emerson wasn’t stupid; she knew a lie when she heard one, and she wasn’t dumb enough to shut down the claim of a prophecy regardless of how ridiculous it was. However, looking into Jordan’s eyes, she couldn’t tell whether he was lying or not, and that irritated her more than hearing that Nicholas was cast out due to some mage’s hocus pocus.
“You’re telling me,” she said slowly, trying to understand the excuse she had been given. “You practically tortured your son at the shot of having another kid because some mage, who you didn’t even know was a real mage or not, said he needed him for a prophecy? Did you ever think that he needed Nicholas for something evil? That maybe the prophecy wasn’t a good thing?”
Jordan laughed. “Oh believe me, I’ve thought about that every night for the past 28 years. What if the mage caused harm to my only son? What if he was a villain who was going to turn him over to his side? What if the prophecy caused millions of people to die? I thought about it every day, especially after Vivian died.” he paused, pursing his lips. “I knew he wasn’t going to hurt him though. I don’t know how, but deep down, I just had a gut feeling that he needed Nicholas, and he needed him alive. Never thought he’d made him spend 16 years alone as a wolf, though.”
Nicholas stared at his father, not fully processing the words he had heard from him. A prophecy? Prophecies were merely a myth. No one has ever actually completed or activated a prophecy, not even in the earliest of Unnatural times. It had been unheard of. Sure, people joked about them every now and then, but there were no records of real prophecies.
And he was supposed to believe he was needed for one?
“Did he tell you what the prophecy was?”
Jordan shook his head. “He only told me, the lonely boy will meet his match.”
“Do you know what that could mean?” Nicholas asked Emerson.
“I’m not sure,” she answered. “Prophecies are tricky. While no one has enacted one, people have tried, and failed. Prophecies are very specific. The lines might be vague, or tell you exactly what needs to happen, but you have to do it at the exact time or it won’t work. If you miss the time slot, the prophecy is ruined. It also isn’t possible if you don’t find the people it’s talking about. Apparently, the lonely boy is you. And the mage made sure you were lonely, so that’s half of that. But as far as meeting your match...”
“What?” both men asked.
“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “It could mean a number of things, hypothetically speaking. It could mean that you meet your match romantically, or you meet your match...by dying. Or it could mean something entirely different. It all depends on what the prophecy intended. And odds are, it’ll happen.”
“What does that mean?” questioned Jordan.
“I’m not an expert on prophecies, but it was something my mom was really passionate about before she died. She had told me that sometimes, some of the things in a prophecy will happen absolutely no matter what. However, some of the things won’t happen unless someone gives it a push. The mage is that push.”
“Your mom studied prophecies?”
“Yep,” she deadpanned, popping the ‘p’.
“So, what,” Nicholas said. “I’m supposed to meet my match, right? What if it’s already happened?”
Emerson grew uneasy and shifted on her feet. She looked to Nicholas and lowered her voice so his father couldn’t overhear. “The Unnatural can feel a shift when part of a prophecy is triggered.”
His eyes widened. “Even you?”
She nodded. “I don’t know how to explain it, but yeah, no matter how little Unnatural blood you have, you can feel it. I don’t know how I never noticed it. If he’s been doing this prophecy for awhile, I’m guessing that there have been quite a few shifts I never paid attention to.”
She turned her attention back to Jordan, who was eyeing her suspiciously. “What are you guys whispering about?”
She rolled her eyes. “Nothing to concern yourself with. All you need to know is that Nicholas hasn’t met his match, whatever that means. No thanks to you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“You sold out your son.”
“To have another kid!” Jordan defended. “We thought I was sterile, we didn’t know we could have kids. When the mage said that he would bless me with another child, I jumped at the chance to have not one, but two kids!”
“You ever hear of adoption?”
Jordan’s eyes narrowed, but Emerson felt he wasn’t as nearly as intimidating as he was trying to be. “It’s different when it’s your own kid.”
“No. Whether it’s adoption, through marriage, or by blood, your child is your child. And you shouldn’t have fucking sold him out like that! Clearly the mage hadn’t blessed you with Nicholas, so what would’ve been the difference if you only had one kid? Plus, your wife died having that kid. Was it really such a blessing?”
Nicholas gaped at his friend as his father grew quiet. Did Emerson really say that about his sister? About Avery? Did she really think that his father shouldn’t have agreed to have been blessed with a second child?
Emerson turned to him. “No, what I’m saying is he shouldn’t speak so highly of his gift, or his blessing. The real price he paid was the death of his wife.”
Jordan choked back on a sob. She was right. He paid the price with the death of Vivian, and he hadn’t even acknowledged it once in the past 23 years. He was just happy to have two healthy children his wife gave him before she died.
“Um, look,” Emerson grew uneasy as she picked up on Jordan’s emotions. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I just wanted you to understand the impact that comes with magic. All magic comes with a price. Period. And the person who makes a deal with the devil, well, they always pay it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have done it, because I know you love your daughter. I’m saying that you need to realize that this mage isn’t fucking around. Honestly, I think that Nicholas’s part in the prophecy is one of the ones that are meant to happen. I think it’s going to happen even if we try to stop it, not that we know what that is anyway. We need to find out where the hell the mage lives and find that damn prophecy before he can complete it.”
Jordan glanced up at her. “How do you know we can’t stop it?”
“I can...I can just feel it, I guess.”
Nicholas gave her a knowing look, and shot his father a look that said to leave it at that, but his father didn’t drop it.
“How can you feel it?”
“I don’t know?”
“Are you working with the mage?” he demanded.
“No! Jesus, no. He’s starting to harass me, actually, so I think I’m next after Nicholas.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s none of your concern,” she quipped.
Jordan squinted and studied at the young woman in front of him. Since the first moment he laid eyes on her, he knew something was off with her, but he couldn’t place it. He examined her, looking at her too-perfect skin and her pointy, delicate facial features, when it suddenly clicked. “Y-y-you-you’re an Unnatural?”
Emerson cursed under her breath and motioned for Nicholas to keep his mouth shut. The last thing she needed was an argument between all three of them. “Half, actually. How’d you figure it out?”
Jordan’s eyes had widened so much she thought they would pop out of his sockets, and his pupils had shrunk so much they had almost completely disappeared. Fuck, she thought. He’s going into shock.
“Aren’t you dating a fae?” Nicholas asked him, and Emerson turned to shush him.
“Wh-what? No! Tha-that’s j-j-just a pu-publicity thing so pe-people leave me al-alone. You’re traveling w-wi-with an Un-Unnautral?”
Nicholas scoffed. He couldn’t believe his father was using someone as a human shield. Literally. “Yes, actually, she’s helped me a lot these past couple weeks. Fae aren’t as bad as they seem.”
Emerson cursed loudly. “Dude!”
She glances back over to Jordan, who was trembling at the sight of Emerson now. Plenty of people had come to terms with the Unnatural, but the sightings in Selal were so rare that people died happily without ever meeting one. And she was betting Jordan was hoping to be one of those people. Mages are one thing, they look and act just like humans and just do a little bit of a bippity boppity boo, but fae really freaked people out. Some people were immune to the allure they had on them, and they just ended up going into shock like Jordan was.
It wasn’t the first human Emerson and sent into shock.
“Jordan, breathe,” she said softly. “I’m not going to hurt you. We aren’t like that.”
“Y-ye-yeah right! You were go-going to shoot me wit-with an arrow n-no-not even t-ten minutes ago!”
She sighed and rubbed her temples. “I apologize for that. I wasn’t really going to. I was just trying to get you to talk. Fae are gently creatures. And I was raised as human. That’s why I look like this. It isn’t to trick you.”
“She’s not joking, dad,” Nicholas spoke up. “Her grandma is human. She said she owned the bakery before she moved to the mountain.”
His eyes widened, completely calm now. “Isabella? Isabella Russell?”
Emerson smiled softly. “That’s my Granny. You can call her if you want.”
“You’re-You’re Gwen’s kid?”
Emerson froze. She hadn’t heard her mother’s name in a long time. It had been years, the last time was when her and her mom visited her Granny right before she died.
“You know my mom?” she asked slowly.
Jordan smiled sadly. “She was my best friend.”
Emerson’s face fell. She didn’t know why she didn’t recognize him sooner, all the times she met him as a child, the times she saw him with Avery as well. Maybe she was just too young to recognize him, or maybe she just never payed attention. She stared at his face and breathed out a large breath.