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14.) DreamWalker

It went unspoken but clearly understood, that I was not to pry about Beckett and dark magick. Millions of questions buzzed in my mind as Alatar sucked his teeth and healed my wound, but I didn’t ask a single one.

“I wish you would have talked to me before entering the simulation, I could have better prepared you-”, I tried to not take low confidence offensively. After all, until fighting off those vamps I hadn’t been sure of myself either. Plus, I hadn’t spoken to Alatar since he sent me to my room. After what had happened, I suppose it was understandable that he didn’t like me using my power.

“She kicked ass! You should have seen her,” my cheeks blushed at the compliment, Ember’s excitement and confidence in me growing the glow of joy in my chest.

“Be that as it may, you could have been more severely injured. You’re lucky it was just a minor flesh wound.” Minor flesh wound? I’d hate to see his qualifications for a severe wound because that hurt like hell.

“Apologies, Alatar,” Beckett mumbled from his place across the room, he’d kept his distance since my comment about his magick. I fear I’ve ruined any progress we had made.

“Can I get you anything, Astra?” Ember asks, her tone slightly tight. “Tea? Water? A snack?” I made a show of pondering for a moment, rubbing my chin dramatically.

“Hmm, let me think-”

“Help us”, a voice hissed in my ear. My blood ran cold, goosebumps covering my arms and neck.

“What?” I look at the three people in the room, the one cat that slept, none of them appeared to have spoken. “What did you guys say?” They looked at me with furrowed brows, Ember putting a hand on my shoulder.

“Astra!” The whispers I heard grew more urgent, I feel as though I’m back in my dream. My chest tightened, I gripped Ember’s arm and looked into her warm eyes as my own began to water.

“I-I can hear voices, they’re in my head. I think I’m losing it, they’re asking for my help and...and I don’t know how to make them stop!” The hissing of the whispers became almost a loud yell as they echoed in my mind. They grew so loud I couldn’t even hear the words that came out of Ember’s mouth; I could only watch her lips move.

“Help us! Please! Astra!”

“I don’t know how to help you!” I screamed, planting my hands firmly over my ears in an attempt to make the now yelling voices quiet. I felt like my brain was going to explode, I squeezed my eyes shut, letting out a cry.

I’m shaking, my eyes opened to see Beckett’s icy eyes wide with fear. His lips were moving but I couldn’t hear anything, only screaming whispers begging for my help.

“Help me,” I mimic the voices, wanting relief. His fingers go to my forehead, and then everything is black.

I’m back in the hallway, with the silver cubes that line the walls. They whisper at me faintly, asking for me to save them. I don’t know where I am, but I know I don’t want to be here. I walked down the halls, my bare feet cool in the water that flows lightly throughout the hall.

“Astra, don’t forget about me!” I heard her, clear over the other rushed whispers.

“Aunt Amelia?” I asked, my voice catching in my throat. Could it be her? Or is grief driving me mad.

“Help me, Astra! I’m stuck, we’re all stuck, free us!” Her voice weakened and dulled back to the tone of the rest of the voices.

“How do I help you? Where are you?” I called out to her, picking my pace up to a jog in an attempt to reach her fading voice. But she was gone, again.

“Astra, you need to wake up.” Beckett.

I whirled around and saw him wading the hall to me, his face scrunched in fear.

“Beckett! My aunt was here, these people, they need our help!” He shook his head, reaching for me, but I pulled back. “If she’s trapped I need to help her.”

“I don’t know what this is, this could be a trap. We need to wake up, ok? You’ve been asleep too long.” No, I shook my head. I’d only just gotten here. Or, maybe I hadn’t? How long had I been searching?

“But these people, they need my help.” My voice cracked, I could hear their pleading and it made my chest ache.

“We will, I promise.” He said earnestly, planting both hands on my shoulders and squeezing them. It’s strange, in this state I don’t feel the electricity.

“Beckett-” I started, but he gave me a long soft look before shoving me backwards and I fell into the water.

I gasped as I jolted awake, clutching my chest as I struggled to catch my breath. Ember was at my side, I’m laying on the floor in a pile of salt and other various herbs.

“Astra!” Ember breathed, wrapping her arms around me tightly. “Don’t scare me like that!” She scolded, still squeezing me.

Beckett jolted awake beside me, struggling to breathe for a moment as I had. Nova, human Nova, rubbed his back soothingly as he coughed. A spark of jealousy, then it was gone.

“What’s going on?” My voice was hoarse, my throat begs for water.

“Beckett, he tried to use his magick to make the voices go away but then you just passed out! We couldn’t wake you up, not even Alatar. So since Beckett is a DreamWalker we sent him into your mind to get you,” Ember’s voice was rushed; her words slipping into one another as she rushed to catch me up to speed.

I looked at Beckett, who sipped the water Alatar had handed him. The warlocks grim face sends a chill deep in my spine.

“Alatar, these voices, are they trapped spirits?” My aunt’s voice begging for help is now a memory, one that I know will haunt me forever.

“It could be…”, he trailed off, which only told me he’s hiding something. They all avoided my eyes.

“Ember?” I prodded, she will not lie to me I know that much.

“Can you have a snack? Some water?” That is all she said, ignoring my question completely. I pulled on her arm, her eyes were sad as they finally met mine.

“Ember, what’s going on? What aren’t you guys telling me?” She bit her lip nervously and looked at Alatar, willing him to speak for her. Neither of them does so.

“It could be one of two things-” Beckett started, standing slowly and gaining back his composure. Nova leaves a lingering hand on the small of his back, she looks up him with deep love and concern.

“No, Beck.” Alatar snapped, his eyes narrow. I scurried to my own feet, the room tilted but I ignored the nagging lightheaded feeling and crossed the space to him.

“Tell me, please,” I beg, reaching out and touching his arm. Nova gave me a warning glare as I did so, but I barely even looked at her. The electricity exploded, shocking my hand but I didn’t let go.

His eyes stared into my own, making a slight heat rise up into my cheeks. Now is not the time, but I can’t help but wonder if he feels this warmth; this electricity, the way I do. I spare the moment to wonder if he feels this strange comfortability that I feel when I’m around him.

“On one hand, it could be a trap that Parallax set up to trick you and kill you before he closes the portals.” I breathed out slowly, the hard truth of that settling in. The idea that my aunt did safely make it to the Dream Realm after her death, and this was just an attempt at killing me.

“Or?” I pushed, ignoring Alatar’s warning glare.

“Or,” he sighed, “Parallax is moving faster than we originally thought and he’s already started closing the portals.” My aunt suffering, along with possibly my uncle and all those other souls made my breath catch.

Could it be true? That he’s already starting? Or is it a trap? I couldn’t tell which one felt less terrifying. A rock and a hard place, if you will.

“Please, Astra. Don’t stress yourself, come have some tea.” I whirled around to Ember who’s eyes watered as if after all these years of training the idea of war scares her to her core. It probably does.

“How am I supposed to have tea time when we are faced with this?” I cried out, unable to contain my frustrations.

“It is most likely a trap, Astra. We will further investigate-” Alatar explained, in his unusually calm tone.

“But what if it’s not a trap? And those people are suffering as we sit here and hope it’s not a trap?” They stayed silent. Nobody here wanted anyone to suffer, it’s just a coin toss.

“Tea, Astra,” Ember said, this time pushing the cup towards me. I huffed at her and took it, plopping onto the couch and sipping. The warm spices made my chest feel less tight and my head less full. I could breathe.

“You and Beckett need some rest, a DreamWalking experience is tiring.” Now that Alatar said it, I felt the exhaustion creeping up my neck, making my eyes tired.

“What’s DreamWalking?” I couldn’t help but ask, Ember looked at me with a glare that would put mother’s to shame. “Give me a damn snack already, then.” She handed me a bowl of granola, one she had prepared before I’d even woken, and I made a point of shoveling a huge bite in my mouth.

Nova chuckled at my somewhat childish actions from her place beside Beckett, still so close to him.

“What’s DreamWalking?” I asked again, this time with a mouth full of food. Drinking tea and eating food subsided her worry, her face grew softer so she sat next to me and pulled a yellow throw pillow to her chest.

“DreamWalking, it’s something only certain people are gifted with. You are. As is Nova, and Beck, I’m not and neither is Alatar. It’s when people can enter trances, dreams, and see things that are going on in other places, walking. It’s self-explanatory.” I eat more granola, mulling over what she told me. This came as less of a shock after everything else, just another weird thing that I’ve been able to do my whole life and didn’t know.

“Ok, but why am I seeing this hallway of trapped souls? I’m not trying to find it so why is it showing up?” Embers brown furrowed, like she’s trying to find a way to say something.

“Well, that’s what worries Alatar. You see, Parallax is also a DreamWalker. He’s known for giving people nightmares. That’s why we thought it could be a trap.” I choked on my food, struggling to get it down.

“So he could be in my head, is what you’re saying?” My throat felt suddenly very tight, while anxiety came back into my chest. Ember pushed the tea back to me and I sipped, welcoming the calming feeling. Whatever brew this is, I like it.

“He could be, yes.” Alatar chimed in, his calm tone edged with a hardness I’m not used to. My blood is ice. Even my mind is not safe if that is the case.

“Or, the lost souls are reaching out to you; our warrior.” Ember chimed in, in a tone that sounded more cheerful than her face portrays.

“Yeah, but that would only mean that the war is starting and that even in death my aunt is suffering,” I responded after swallowing a mouthful of food, her face crumbled and she squeezed the pillow once more.

“Well one of us has to be an optimist.” She grumbled, making me feel a little guilty. I mean what does she expect? A rock and a hard place. Nonetheless, I nudged her and forced a tight-lipped smile.

“And I am eternally in your debt, thank you for taking that position so I don’t have to.” I joked with her, bringing a little joy back into her eyes.

“Well either way we will handle this further in the morning. As for now, I think we all could use some rest.” As much as I’d love to argue, the tea made me tired and the idea of my bed makes my body crave sleep.

My day felt like it has been years long, entering the simulation and killing vamps feels like a lifetime ago.

None of us argued, we all quietly made our way to the hall all of our rooms are in.

“Are you gonna be ok tonight Astra?” Ember asked tiredly, I nodded. “Sweet dreams then,” she yawned before going into her room.

“Are you sure you’re ok?” Beckett asked in nothing more than a whisper, I almost didn’t hear him. Nova had finally left his side and it was just us in the rather small hallway. I looked up at him, his cold eyes were soft as they searched for any deeper emotions I may be hiding.

“Yeah, I’m good.” I lied, looking away to hide the deceit in my eyes.

“Liar.” He scolded, opening my bedroom door. I go into it confused and he followed, hovering in my doorway.

“I’m not lying-” another lie I didn’t have to tell.

“Shut up, it’s sad to see you attempt a poker face.” He paused, checking for Ember’s, or Nova’s,presence. “I’m not ok either, ok? I have a plan. Just…just don’t fall asleep ok?” I nod shocked, numb. Does he have a plan? For what? “Clean up, then come to my room.”

Then like that he disappears and my door closes with a light clock, and I’m left alone with my buzzing thoughts.

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