‘What happened to you, Ira? I need to know.’
He tucks her hand behind her ear, and she sits up, wiping her eyes and preparing herself for everything Ira has to say. He sighs, knowing that look on her face as well as I do.
He’s not escaping the question.
‘I don’t know what year it would have been, but they came for me shortly after Father passed. I managed to escape from their first few attempts, and I had just enough time to cast an enchantment that would hopefully save us all someday. I couldn’t be sure if it had worked, but they followed my power as I cast the enchantment and took me from the mountain top just after I finished. They’ve had me imprisoned ever since.’
‘All this time?’ Mags is horrified. ‘I thought you had died but they had you all this time.’
‘Yes. I had something they wanted, and they weren’t going to let me die until I gave it to them.’
‘What could they possibly have wanted so badly?’ Blaine stepped back to the end of the bed, apparently tired of remaining still and quiet.
‘Me,’ I say, stepping back to the bed. ‘The enchantment that Ira mentioned is the spell that created me. It was a spell to combine the strongest aspects of the elements as a gift to someone to one day use to bring peace. It worked, but not necessarily as Ira planned. It didn’t create a power to be found by someone strong enough to weild, it created an entire person imbued with the power he created.’
Derek’s face lights up with revelation.
‘That’s why there are no Elementals in your bloodline.’
‘Yes,’ Ira nods, glancing apologetically at me. ‘I’ll be the first to admit that this is not what I envision my enchantment to be, but I don’t regret my choice. I can apologise that I can’t predict what you will become or how much more hardship you will have to endure before we find peace.’
‘You at least know what Gwen is and can help her understand. That is more than any of us have been able to offer her,’ Anya says, stepping back into the conversation.
‘I’m sorry, is no one else stuck on Gwen being a literal magical being full of power that is supposed to bring peace? Because I’m still stuck there,’ Oliver squeaks.
‘Not really, Olly,’ Anya shrugs. ‘We all knew she was going to be something great, she had way too much power to be someone irrelevant to the world. It’s not so much of a stretch to me that she was enchanted into being.’
And she really does sound entirely unconcerned.
‘It doesn’t even worry you, Gwen?’
‘Not really. I’ve been through more than enough in the last few months to bother with a hypothetical destiny. For all we know you’re supposed to bring peace and I’m just meant to be the battering ram that helps you do it.’
Olly looks sceptical as all get out, but he seems to be more at ease with how little I care about being created by magic. There are worse things and there’s no point being worried by it. I already exist and I’m already here so I’m not going to bother obsessing about how I got here to begin with.
Although, the whole birds and the bees thing should really be reassessed if you can apparently just create people out of thin air. No woman would ever bother with childbirth again.
‘Come on,’ I say, shoving everyone out of the room ‘Mags and Ira clearly have some catching up to do and we’re getting in the way.’
‘We’ll talk later,’ Ira says, turning back to Mags and taking her hands.
I inform the other healers that Mags will be unavailable for a while and that they will need to cover for her before we leave the infirmary.
‘Well, that was unexpected,’ says Derek, who will undoubtedly be awarded Understatement of the Year.
‘How do you think they know each other?’ Oliver asks, holding the door open for the rest of us.
‘Not sure,’ says Anya. ‘Lovers maybe? Do you think they were married or something way back in the day?’
‘Not lovers. Their interaction was more familial than romantic,’ Blaine disagrees.
‘I’m inclined to agree with Blaine. I would guess siblings or childhood friends,’ I reply. ‘But we’ll find out soon enough. I’ll ask Ira when I see him later.’
We walk in silence until we reach what appears to be the main hallway for the refuge.
‘How did you meet Ira?’
I‘ve been waiting for someone to ask.
‘He was in the cell next to mine. He had to do a lot of work to find his way through the mentalism that Garret had used to trap my mind but it was an incredible relief when he did. He helped me as much as he could to break through and find my power again.’
‘Find your power,’ Blaine says. ‘How so?’
‘The mentalism Garret developed to trap minds could be used in a few ways. Andrew showed us one of those ways – trapping people into servitude by inflicting excruciating pain if they deviate from his orders. The one he used on me was more involved. It cut me off from my power completely. If I tried to use my power, even the simplest of things, then my mind and body would be electrocuted and immobilised for hours. It’s why it took me so long to escape – I had to figure out how to break his mentalism.’
Even Blaine looks horrified as I finish my explanation of one of Garret’s hidden talents.
‘That’s why you couldn’t contact us. We tried every day that you were away, but none of us were able to reach you.’ Derek looks into my eyes as he speaks, sincerity in every line of his face. I knew they wouldn’t forget about me, but it’s stil nice to know how hard they searched.
‘I’m not surprised. He blocked out everything but himself. Ira was the first person I spoke to outside of Garret and his henchmen and it almost killed Ira to break into my thoughts.’
By the time we reach the cafeteria, much to Blaine’s smug satisfaction, we’ve dissected Garret’s mind control as much as we can without speaking to the man himself. It’s not until we get in line that the awkwardness returns.
‘What’ll it be, G?’ Olly hands me the menu.
‘Nothing, I’m fine for food.’
I could have gotten away with it if Blane wasn’t such a tyrant.
‘She’ll take one of the fruit smoothies.’
‘I believe that I just said I didn’t want anything, Blaine.’
‘Not exactly, Red,’ he chuckles. ‘You said you didn’t want food.’
I don’t bother causing a scene, simply letting him order a pineapple and orange blended ice thing and heading over to an empty table.
I sit there, pointedly ignoring my smoothie, when someone lays a hand on my shoulder.
My mind goes blank and I spin, pinning them to the ground with my forearm across their throat.
‘Don’t touch her!’ Blaine’s voice calls out somewhere in the distance while I stare down at my attacker.
‘Uh, hi Gwen,’ she squeaks, red faced and pupils blown wide in fear.
They are familiar eyes and I jump back, my mind returning just enough for me to recognise that I wasn’t actually attacked.
‘Sorry,’ I pant, moving to the other side of the table to put some distance between us. ‘Sorry.’
‘No, no! It’s my fault. I should have known better than to come up and just grab someone. It was dumb.’ She’s blonde, bright blue eyes…has a bunch of friends standing behind her. It’s the friends who trigger my memory, well, one friend. That Jarrod guy attacked me not long after I arrived at the last refuge.
‘Just what I need,’ I growl and turn to leave the cafeteria, not caring about what they want in the slightest.
‘No, wait. Please!’
It’s the please that gets my attention. I wasn’t aware she knew the word. I turn back and wait, knowing full well that my expression is about as friendly as a grizzly with hemerroids.
‘I just wanted to say that I’m sorry and I’m grateful. What you did…’ Carrie looks away. If it were anyone else I’d say she looked ashamed. ‘Look, I was an arse hole. I was jealous and I was rude and I didn’t deserver it. I know you didn’t do it to save me, but if you hadn’t gone with Garret…’
A tear rolls down her cheek and Jarrod puts squeezes her shoulder.
‘We’d be dead,’ he finishes for her and the rest of the group nods. ‘We were pinned down in one of the back corridors and we weren’t going to make it out. We were cocky and thought we were much more powerful than we are.’
‘We were dead, Gwen,’ Carrie looks me straight in the eyes and I can see, and feel, her gratitude. ‘They just stopped. They had us beaten and they just…stopped. They turned around and left us there. By the time we’d healed enough to walk it was too late to do anything and you were gone.’
The others, who until moment I thought were no more than minions, put their right palm over their heart and gave a slight bow, freaking me out to a far greater extent than Garret ever did.
‘What the fuck?’