Dickson remains silent, long after I finish sharing all of my bad memories about the fire, and the last two years. Once I started talking I couldn’t stop, it was as if a floodgate had opened, it all came out, all the good and bad. There was more bad than good, and there were even some things that my Darklings were not aware of, but I shared it all with Dickson. He listened, with his eyes burning darker as I divulged more of my memories to him. I tried to stop from time to time, sensing his discomfort...his anger, but he urged me to continue. Then he let me cry until I ran out of tears.
He holds me close and draws small circles on my back as I lie in his arms, on the bed. Remembering now, what Jonsey told me, I do feel that pull. A strange tether that joins us, surrounds us, and wraps us up in warmth and comfort. Dickson stills my chaos, but my storm is still raging because I have to find a way to stop John.
“I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that,” he whispers. “I knew that he—I didn’t know that he was capable of that.” Dickson’s voice catches; I hear pain in it, but anger too.
“I should have known. I felt something off about him, but ignored it…” My family died because of me. And the same will happen to the people in the Shadowlands; I have to do something.
“It wasn’t your fault, Kat. I know that’s what you’re thinking and you shouldn’t blame yourself,” his says firmly with conviction, as if he is trying to shake those thoughts out of me. It doesn’t work. “Ganix killed your family, you didn’t.” His voice starts to turn into a low growl as he continues, “He used you, controlled you, and…hurt you. He’s a sick, twisted—”
I shake my head as I place my hand on Dickson’s lips. “But he just wanted my gifts. He killed my family to get to me,” I say softly, feeling broken again. Damaged.
“Ganix would do anything to get what he wants. He doesn’t care who he hurts or destroys in the process. It’s not your fault, Kat,” Dickson offers and his voice has softened, but still has an edge.
He cups my face as he makes me meet his eyes. “None of it is your fault. Ganix started placing wards on you the night of the fire, maybe even before that,” his words come out hard, and his face darkens. “That bite when he kissed you, the pricks on your neck, and the words he spoke, that’s blood magic. And the flowers he gave you would have been Forget-me-not, to cloud your memory of that night…All he’s done is use you Kat, and take control of you. It was not your fault. Remember what I told you before, that you shouldn’t carry every burden.” He pauses and his voice becomes tense as he says, “I promise that I will never let him take you again, I will protect you against him.” The flame is burning in his eyes again. It makes me shiver. He looks away and fixes his gaze on a point on the wall.
A deep sigh escapes me; I don’t want to be protected against John, I want to stop him. With the flood of memories and emotions came the knowledge of the true use for the Cielo. Shortly after John had put me into the machine, he told me that the Shadowlands was a magical world made of nightmares and fantasies, that lives and breathes. He felt that the lower land sets were not worthy of the magic that came from the land. And his dream was to take away their magic so that those who were worthy could have access to more power. John only wanted me, so he could steal some of my Sight of Light gift with his machine, and then he could convert the Cielo and teach it to see the light of a person. The brighter the light, the more magic, abilities, and gifts they have.
Once John was able to convert the machine to see the light, he could harvest the light with the Cielo and its barrier cells. He made the Cielo into a weapon that is slowly taking away from the people that live under it. Each time a lower land citizen passes through the barrier cells a little bit of their light is taken and along with it, their magic and possibly their life.
The Cielo mostly targets stronger individuals. John wanted to focus on the brighter citizens, but that doesn’t mean that the other citizens are safe, or anyone is safe. And with an even more sickening twist, John has a factory that converts the magic into liquid form, and then sells it to the Uplanders in nice little blue bottles. The harvesting has to be stopped. It has been going on for a little over a year and it has to be doing damage to the people. I’m not the one that needs to be protected. And I don’t need anyone else being in danger because of me either.
“Dickson…I don’t want you or your friends risking your lives to protect me. I am free of John now, I can take care of myself and I have my Darklings. I don’t want you making those promises—”
He places his hand on my lips. “I know, but you’re my Seer and I am your Guardian, it’s my duty.”
I scowl at him, annoyed that he still sees me as someone that needs saving, and hurt that he views it as his duty. I shake away his hand. “You have no obligation to me…You speak of duty and claim me as yours so quickly, as if I have no say in the matter.” I push myself off of him, sitting up on the bed and pull away from his hold. “I am no ones, I will not be claimed, I do not want you to protect me in the name of duty due to your title as Guardian, and I can save myself if the need arises.”
When I finish my voice is angry and a bit louder than I intended. Dickson is watching me intently with a crooked smile on his lips, his eyes light up as he reaches out a hand to pull on a lock of my hair.
“I know I’ve said this before, but you’re really cute when you’re angry,” he comments with a wink, and then pinches my thigh.
“Dickson!” I glower at him and swat away his hands.
He grabs my hand with a chuckle. “I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.” He sits up and takes me into his arms as he says, “I am not claiming you, unless you want me too. I was just stating a fact. We are linked, whether you like it or not. Although I’d hope you would choose the former. And I know that you’re strong, and smart, and capable of taking care of yourself. There is no way you would have survived that time with Ganix if you weren’t,” he holds me tighter, “but it is my duty to protect you as a Guardian and it has nothing to do with your ability to save yourself.”
Dickson rests his chin on my head and paused for a moment before continuing, “I suppose it’s not all in the name of duty; there is something inside of me, a strong feeling, similar to our connection that urges me to look after you. To keep you close and safe.” He pulls away and looks into my eyes and smiles. “And I guess you can call me selfish, but I will keep my promise to protect you, whether you like it or not, because it’s the perfect excuse to stay by your side and in your life,” his smile deepens, “I want to be part of your life, Kat.” He closes his eyes and rests his forehead against mine. “I feel whole with you and if anything, you are saving me by allowing me to be part of your life.”
His words weigh on me because I feel the same. I want to keep him with me, but find myself still pushing. Being stubborn as usual. “Dickson…”
“Yes, Darlin'?” He pulls away to look at me.
“If…and I do mean if I agree to have you protect me, then you will have to understand that I have to—”
“I know, Kat…” he interrupts me and kisses my forehead before he sits back, “you said you had decided to leave Ganix once you discovered what he was doing. You want to stop the harvesting,” he lets out a sigh, “and you want to stop Ganix.”
I’m surprised that he can read me so easily and the look in his eyes tells me that he understands how seriously I feel about this crazy crusade. Dickson runs his thumb over my lips and smiles. “You don’t know what you’re going up against. You may have lived with him for two years, but I’ve known him for almost ten years. This won’t be easy.”
My brow creases slightly as I take in his words. “Dickson, I have to do something. If he is harvesting the light from the people in the Shadowlands, he will be slowly killing them…and the land. I will do whatever it takes to save the Shadowlands; getting rid of John’s hold over me was just the first step. I can’t let him get away with this…,” my voice falters.
Dickson smiles warmly at me. “You have a fire in you, Kat. It keeps you strong.” He lifts my chin so our faces are just inches apart. “I will be with you every step of the way if you need me to be. So, let me be there for you, Kat. Let me protect you. Let me help you.”
His gaze is level and intense, olive green eyes staring into mine. He’s the sandy haired boy from my visions, which seem like ages ago. Don’t be stubborn, Kat. My gaze drops. Dickson lifts my chin again, guiding me to meet his eyes.
The gesture makes me smile. We’re stronger together…I nod and say, “Okay, Dickson.”
He smiles as he continues to look into my eyes, and then tilts my head up a little more before kissing me.
Dickson sighs as he leans back against the headboard, slouching down slightly into the pillows as he rests his arm behind his head and places the other over his stomach, “Do you have a plan?”
“Not yet…”I frown. I haven’t gotten that far.
My Darklings and I had only planned up to escaping into the lower land sets. Being in the Nod, twice, and for almost two months was not part of the plan. Neither was meeting Dickson…or being told that he was my Guardian. Although looking at him now, seeing his handsome face as he smiles at me and the mischievous look in his eyes, I wonder if he will become too much of a distraction for me.
I shake my head slightly to clear it. “Dickson?”
He raises an eyebrow, and gives me a crooked smile. “Yes, Darlin’?”
“You will help me, won’t you? You’re not just saying that to—”
He grabs my hand and pulls me into him. “Of course I’ll help you,” he insists, and his voice is deep and husky again, but weary as well. “So will the boys, and I’m sure we can round up others as well. I’ve already heard stories of an odd illness, which is striking people down,” he says with a yawn, and then stretches his long body as he settles down further into the bed. “Their saying that the illness is weakening people or taking away their magic, leaving them mundane, and then their body slowly breaks down.”
This illness has to be due to the harvesting that John is doing. “What are we going to do?”
I turn my head and rest my chin on Dickson’s chest; waiting for a response, my head rising and falling with his breathing. He’s falling asleep; he barely has his eyes open, still looking at me. He smiles and kisses my nose. I feel sleep pull at me as well, we have been talking all night and the sun light is starting to peek through the windows. I turn around and rest my head comfortably on a pillow. Dickson rolls along with me resting his arm around my waist, and placing his other arm under my pillow. He falls asleep quickly, but I am haunted by my memories and images of what will happen if we don’t stop John. Sleep eventually comes, but well after the sun had risen.
Something pulls me out of sleep. Turning around slowly, I peek over Dickson; it looks to be early afternoon, by the amount of light coming into the room. I lie there, listening to Dickson’s deep breathing, watching his face as he dreams. He sleeps with small smile on his lips, making him look boyish. His hair is falling over his forehead, giving me the urge to brush it away, but I do not want to risk waking him up. I lay quietly, watching him and thinking about our talk last night. I told him everything I remembered which was what my life has been since I got my gifts and met John, but I learned nothing new about him.
I’ll need to remember to learn more about my Guardian.
Although I am content with watching Dickson sleep, I keep wondering about our unfinished conversation from last night. What should we do about John?
Now that I remember what he is up to, I cannot just opt for running away and hiding until I can find a way back to the human world. I have to help save this world, and I will need to firm plan to do it. My gift has allowed John to find a way to destroy the people in the Shadowlands, and I cannot live with that knowledge and not do anything about it.
I start to rake my mind over more information that I may be holding; something that I can use. John had been giving me this information in hopes of promoting more useful visions to occur, and then would ward it off along with gifts. So it was all there, hidden in a locked box that he could only access if needed. However, I have the key now.
“The barrier cells…,” it comes out as a low whisper as I remember their importance.
Dickson opens one eye, and then quickly closes it. “What about them?” he asks in a sleepy voice.
“If we can destroy them, then we can bring down the Cielo. It won’t just stop the harvest, but it will also put an end to the separation of the Uplands and lower land sets.”
“So what then,” he yawns as he stretches, “you want to create a full scale rebellion amongst the masses.” He laughs a little, and then pulls me in, nestling into my neck.
I know he’s joking, but it makes sense. If we can get the people to realize what is happening to them, they would finally rebel and stop the oppression and separation that makes no sense in this world. In any world.
The Cielo was originally put in not only to keep the lower land sets in place, but to blind them as well. Condition them to not question their separation and poor treatment. The Cielo releases something that limits the magic used by the lower land set citizens and keeps them complacent. We can bring down the Cielo by removing the barriers, and then take down the Shadowlords.
I slap him on the chest, waking him up fully. “That is a great idea!” I jump out of the bed and move over to the window, the light floods into the window and I see that it is a clear day. “We need to start planning. I know where most of the barrier cells are located, but we'll need to find out where the rest are. Byron can handle that; he’s always been able to get anyone to give him information. Wade can figure out the level of protection around them. And we'll need to start figuring out what conditions the people to—”
“You need to slow down, Darlin’.” Dickson is out of bed now, grabbing me by the shoulders and bringing me into a hug. “I know what you are thinking and we can’t rush into it. It will take a lot of planning and training.” He kisses the top of my head as he releases me and walks over to the door holding out a hand for me. “I can’t think straight on an empty stomach. Let’s go get some breakfast, and then we can start plotting your little take over.”