With hands outstretched, her fingers pulled through the veils of her memories. Somehow everything was now making sense as if every moment of her life placed purposefully in anticipation of this exact moment to recall the very thing she needed.
Her eyes fluttered open as she awoke from the deep recesses of her mind. She looked down at her bandages and saw a pool of red begin to spread itself across the linen. There was no pain, just the feeling of being pulled again into inescapable darkness.
“Is she going to be alright?”
The voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t place it. It was strange in tone. Something was wrong.
“I don’t know, but we can’t stay here forever. We will have to move again soon.”
Tension permeated through the air like a dull sweat despite the cold air. The clouds stilled with bated breath, holding fast to the snow that they otherwise so easily let fall earlier. A crowd slowly started to form as two figures facing each other.
The smaller of the two figures was unmoved and his attention was captured completely by the book that lay carefully balanced upon the palm of his hand. The small shadow of a boy stood strangely affixed to his book despite the shouts his opponent was so brazenly flailing at him.
As more people gathered, the more out of place the small boy seemed to appear. Gleaming skin strangely peaked out from under the boy’s hooded cloak. The large hood fell in such a way that covered his face if not by cloth then by shade.
No words, regardless of the malice, seemed to be able to stir injury upon the boy. He stood resolutely, if not rooted.
“I’m ordering you to put down your book and fight me like a man,” the larger of the two shouted, “or whatever a man looks like for the thing that you are.”
The smaller shadow said nothing. He stood silently but a whisper of a smile seemingly traced his lips and then disappeared altogether.
The larger boy drew his sword and closed the gap between the two of them. He struck at the cloaked boy wildly and savagely. Without once ever looking up from his book, the small shadow evaded every attack.
Every move was sidestepped or dodged, which only seemed to further stoke the larger boy’s anger. Each thrust was always a moment too late or ever so slightly off target.
“Put that book down and fight me, Will!”
With one fell swoop, the boy knocked the book out of Will’s hand. The blow was not without a loss to the one who dealt it because in the same swoop Will managed to take the sword from the boy’s hand while knocking him flat to the ground.
Laughter was quickly stifled at the sight of the boy on the ground as his eyes met the sounds emanating from the crowd. The laughter spurned his anger all the more; he quickly jumped to his feet and began pushing and punching Will.
“Enough, Kayden,” a booming voice spoke. The crowd dispersed at the sight of the voice. “You couldn’t win even if you tried, and Will is bound to you as you are to him.”
“You’re such a bore, Eoghan. Besides, that one seems rather prideful,” Makon said pointing toward Will. “Don’t you think so Slone?”
The cloaked creature turned his head toward Will and seemed to be regarding the small boy with disdain. It strode forward, placing his hand upon his sword. Will’s eyes gleamed beneath the hood with spite and disregard.
As Slone moved to unsheathe his sword, Will’s lips began to move. Slone’s eyes widened slightly in speculation as he regarded Will once again.
“I don’t know how you managed to cross, but you are not meant to be here,” Slone said to Will angrily in their native tongue.
“You aren’t going to let the boy make a fool of you, are you?” Makon chided Slone.
“Enough of this. You all can’t be this bored,” Eoghan said spitefully. “I am not going to be late because of your nonsense.”
Will looked up gratefully at Eoghan, but he never so much as glanced back at the being. The Dryás were duty-bound to protect the crown.
For centuries these creatures lived secretly behind a veil that shielded both worlds from each other. It was unknown how the passage was found, but once it was found the rulers of both lands bound themselves to secrecy to keep the peace between the worlds.
“Stop dallying,” Eoghan said, snapping Slone and Will to attention.
They bowed and they walked alongside their charges as the group entered the confines of the castle. Dinner proceeded as usual and the Dryás stood behind their charges with their backs against the wall in silence as their charges all ate with each other.
Slone’s gaze hung heavy on Will, but Will refused to draw further attention onto himself and withdrew into the maze of his thoughts. The strangeness of this new world was something that he had prepared himself for, but he did not expect his change in station to be so cumbersome.
Will drew his mind toward the future and attempted to predict every moment as it came to pass. Every laugh, chide, chew and flick of the wrist as the family ate together was already mapped out in Will’s mind.
Their dinners were usually boisterous on the part of Makon. He had a way of stirring Eoghan and his father out of their silence. Kayden always was attentive and trying to find a place in the conversation, and little Nessa always had her part in making noise.
It was a scene that Will committed to memory. Each laugh, silly comment, or spurious argument was remembered. In all the boisterous dysfunction, Will was able to see the bonds of love.
As they all withdrew to the residence, Will could still feel Kayden’s anger. Kayden muttered something under his breath, something that sounded like, “why can’t you just be normal”? He slammed the door to his quarters, leaving Will standing curiously.
Raising his hand to the door, Will pressed words into the wood. He withdrew his hand and hastened down the stairs and out into the night.