“My tribe should almost be here.”
Namrina-mah stares out into the trees. We stand there for a moment, watching as my people scavenger around the village for things to fight with. The worry in her face is unmistakable as she bites her cheek. “They’re bringing more weapons.”
Lily-flor appears out of the corner of my eye and I step away from Namrina-mah. “Alert me when they arrive.”
Her face lifts to the sky as she nods, bouncing once on the balls of her feet. She’s worried they won’t make it here in one piece. It taints her muddy irises.
Lily-flor’s eyes are wide with fear and filled with tears. She shrinks away from me, her back against the cool wood of the house she sits before. The ache in my heart grows as I realize even she recalled all of those terrible things. It was traumatizing and incredibly eye opening, even for me. I could only imagine what it did to her.
“Lily-flor,” I whisper, reaching out to touch her shoulder. She jerks away, swatting at my hand. Her body shakes as tears begin to fall. “Lily-flor,” my eyes swell with water.
I wrap her in my arms as she tries to push away. “I’m so sorry.”
The tear falls onto my cheek as she squeals for me to let go. She doesn’t struggle to get away from me for long, though. She doesn’t have to. I let her go. She runs into a house, slamming the door shut behind her.
I slump against the house. Putting a hand to my face, I realize I’m glowing. Lily-flor is afraid of me, may even hate me for whatever it is she saw and how she took it. I suddenly wish I’d told her all I knew, but I couldn’t, and someday she’ll understand that.
My stomach twists and churns inside of me as I close my eyes, resting my elbows atop my raised knees so my hands can cover the grief strung across my face. I tell myself to stay strong, stay hard like I had when the wolves attacked, like I had when I heard Nan-ah’s name in the listed dead.
But I can’t be strong when the little girl I helped raised hates me.
I sniffle as footsteps approach, and I remove my eyes from my hands, trying to suppress my glowing as the people passing by stare in awe and wonder. I can’t help but notice the fear in their eyes. The illumination coming from my skin disappears and I glance up, a familiar face coming closer.
Tamir sits down beside me, his body warm next to mine. Suddenly I feel cold. How much has the temperature dropped?
“Hey,” he says, a sad smile flashing across his lips. “It’s all going to be okay.”
I shake my head, struggling to keep from glowing. Another tear falls and I reach up to wipe it away, along with the other few that had slipped out before, and smash them onto my dry leather clothing. The blue light fades out, just as I command it to.
“Nothing will be okay,” I find myself whispering. Doubts flood my mind about fighting against the Unwea Clan. “There are so many of them… We’re going to lose, no matter how many people we have fighting against them.”
Tamir wraps his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer. I hold back the sobs wanting to lurch from my mouth. I have to stay strong.
“You never know.” Tamir’s voice is quiet as he stares out into the distance. “You’d be amazed at how easily tables can turn.”
And I am. How much different would everything be if I never touched the water? Would we even have a chance at survival if I hadn’t? How much of this would play out if I never “saved” Dametria?
“There’s no way we could ever…” I stop myself short of completing my thought, recalling something. “Hey, Tamir?” His eyes are full of questions at my sudden change of heart as I sit up and look into them. “This might a lot to ask, but I know that Damian can control large amounts of water and the skies changed when he and Dametria… Can you control the weather?”
Namrina-mah gestures to her tribe spilling out of the trees, her eyes darting over each and every one of them, as if she’s looking for someone or something specific.
“Good,” I grunt as I stand up, holding out a hand to help Tamir up. “That water is rising quickly and the sun’s almost gone. Let’s get all the little ones that can’t fight into a house. There’s someone in my tribe that can take care of them—”
“No, I’ve got that taken care of. You get your tribe ready and we’ll keep a lookout. We’ll set the excess weapons in the center of your village.” She nods once, her eyes stopping on something, someone. “Good luck.”
Namrina-mah takes off after that, running at full speed. I watch as she crashes into a boy twice her height, wrapping her arms around his waist as they fall to the grass. He laughs and kisses her on the head. Namrina-mah’s face is tight with apprehension.
A pang of sadness whips through me and I look over at Tamir. He’s walking to the middle of my village, wringing his hands with the same kind of energy as her; everyone’s afraid of the inevitable.
He loves you.
I hear Jackie’s voice echo in my head the moment I caught her following me to find Damian and Dametria.
Maybe he does, I find myself thinking. He came up here to find me, to protect me… He has no powers up here. Self-preservation will be harder than he’s used to, making it easier for the clan to kill him. The thought of him dying sends my heart into a whole new kind of pain and I have to look away from his body as it begins to glow. My gaze drifts up to the eclipse, the sounds of rushing waves getting closer to our location. Why me?
“All right, everyone in my tribe, grab a weapon if you don’t already have one! They’re almost here, and they will most likely be transformed into animals, and probably glowing.” I plant my feet as my people gather around me. I can feel their fear, their nerves crackling in the air. “We’ve got to stand strong, no matter what is thrown our way. They’re more skilled with magic than we are, and, sure, they have more members. But there is one thing I want you to remember: magic only works on the people that allow it to.”
The memory of Quata-sai stings.
The noises of the forest grow louder.
And the eclipse moves a little more.
“In other words, stay in the present. If their eyes flash, turn away. Try not to even look into their eyes. They will attempt to trick and manipulate you in any way possible.”
Our entire army, consisting of Wurn and Initi, turn to where the voice had come from, holding our weapons up. Out of the darkness steps Damian, his eyes focused on me. His mouth is relaxed and his hands are in his strange pockets, seeming almost comfortable standing in front of us.
He walks past the border of my village and I push forward. If he’s going to hurt anyone, it will be me. I won’t let anyone get caught in the crossfire.
“The eclipse is almost complete,” he says to me. “I suggest you surrender.”
I shake my head at him, scowling. “I know what you’re waiting for; I plan to use it to my advantage as well.”
“Really?” He smirks. His eyes flash green.
I resist the pull of emotion he attempts to stir up inside of me.
“So you’re still mad at me?”
“Still mad at you?” I hiss. “Damian, I—”
“Listen,” he cuts me off, taking my hands in his. “All I’m asking for is for you to love me like I love you.”
I tear my hands away from his. Anger rages inside of me, and, suddenly, I can’t wait for this war to start. “I will never love you.”
He frowns. “I’m sure you’ll change your mind.”
I open my mouth, about to respond with a snide remark, but he speaks before I can. His face turns up to the sky and his hands rise from his sides.
The world goes dark.
“Now, my One-Hundreds!”
Beams of light explode upward from the trees, illuminating the darkness. Thousands of people stand in the forest around us, I realize, their hands raised straight above their heads and illuminating everything. Damian’s green light is the last one to dart into the sky, the moon beginning to shine like the sun, bright white light making my eyes hurt.
The earth below my feet starts to glow in the same way, my feet growing hot. Nothing is making sense. What are they doing?
Everything happens in slow motion.
The Unwea Clan disappears beneath the ground, Damian’s malevolent smirk the last thing I see. The wind becomes unbearable, everyone starting to fall to its pressure. And then they are dragged across it and lifted up.
My body slams into a house just as the waters reach up over the cliff. The house holding me upright begins to tear apart. Screams are lost in the wind and the dark waters start to swallow us whole.
But it misses, as if there’s a dome around my village.
I twist my head around to see what’s happening as the water wraps around the dome, the wind spinning in a circle around us. It’s as if we’re in the eye of a hurricane.
Suddenly, my feet are planted to the rock below, my long, brunette hair twisting above me. Snapping my head around, I notice others in my tribe are stuck to the ground by their feet, unaffected by the brutal wind, aside from their angle to the ground. A boy from the Wurn Tribe is lifted up and out of the dome created by the water, his cries lost in the whirring wind.
I reach out behind me to grab the closest person, my hand catching his arm just as soon as he’s lifted into the air. My feet slide a bit, but they’re still cemented to the ground. Other members of my tribe understand what I’m doing and copy it, saving several lives of Wurn.
For a moment, I wonder why this is happening, why we were saved. And then I remember the promise Damian had made.
Jackie was harmed by one of Damian’s clanmembers.
The promise was broken and my end of the bargain was kept.
My tribe is completely safe.
The last of the houses are turned to splinters as the wind presses harder in our dome. The water moves past us, blood staining its blue-green color every now and then. I see the shimmer of something. A tail, most likely.
My lungs ache. The wind makes it hard to breathe.
With my other hand, I take hold of someone else, Namrina-mah. Her eyes are shut and she looks as if she’s having trouble breathing too. I fall to my knees, oxygen being sucked out of my lungs by the wind as my arms cry out to release the two I’m struggling to save. It just gets faster and faster. It’s like its goal is to rip us apart.
Then, quite abruptly, it dies down, the water closing the dome, the water making a barrier between the wind and us. The two people I had been holding onto drop to the ground, crying out as they collide with the flat stone. I let go of them.
Gasping for air, I take in my surroundings. Everything has disappeared; every house, every loose rock—