“Sel. Em.” I want to scream out to them as they disappear, but all the strength has left me and instead I just whisper to them brokenly as they disappear from in front of my eyes. I place my head back on my knees and continue to soak through the flimsy dress I am wearing. I stare at the darkness behind my ey→Wes as I continue to loose all hope that anyone I trust can help me. My head whips back as a small groan comes from across the room.
“Malachi!” I scarcely breathe as I look over at him, hoping I’m not just imagining things. When I hear him groan and see him roll over I’m immediately by his side. “Oh my god, Mal!” I say the name I heard two boys talking to my friends about, feeling it slip out as if it were meant to come out. I throw my head on his chest and soak his shirt through, barely noticing the snot and tears that are now on his shirt and my face.
“I thought you were – you were – never, ever, do that again, okay?” I laugh as I see his shocked face and place my head back on his chest, snuggling into his warmth. “Mal.” I whisper, relishing the sound of his name on my lips. “Will you say something?”
I look up into his eyes and am startled by the look of wonder on his face. “You called me Mal.” His smile stretches from ear to ear and I give a wet laugh and hug him close again. “Lay, you’re amazing.” I blink in surprise, liking how he says ‘Lay’ and how comfortable we already are with each other.
“Me?!” I ask in wonder. “Why am I amazing?”
“Look around you; where are we?” I look around and see we’re still in the cave, and I can still see the two men as I could before.
“But…but…I didn’t do anything.”
“No, you didn’t.” He chuckles lightly. “But it was your power that did. I just directed it.”
“Mhmm.” He pulls me back to his chest and kisses the top of my head. I let him for a moment before I pull away and fold my arms over my chest. I wince as I glance at his disgusting shirt.
“Um…sorry about…that…” I gesture to his shirt front and he waves me away, tossing it over his head. I gasp and close my eyes at the view as my hands automatically come up to cover my face, both wanting to stare forever and feeling a hot blush rise up to my face. He chuckles low in his chest and I peek through my fingers, dropping my hands and my jaw in shock as I see a completely new, clean shirt covering his torso. So many questions swirl in my brain; how did he make that shirt? Why can’t the men walking around see us? How is ‘Layla’ connected to this whole thing? I take a mental deep breath and turn to face him.
“Okay, explain. Now. This is the most unusual, exciting, wonderful,” I emphasise that just for him, “day of my life, but I need to know what’s happening.”
He sighs and sits up fully, moving to the wall to rest his back on it and hauling in for a long talk.
God. Freaking. Damn. GET OUT OF MY HEAD!
I sigh a little as I try to push the gorgeous, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl out of my thoughts. Even seeing her crying with her friend I can’t help but notice her beauty, her aura of kindness and comfort.
“Damn, Du. You got it bad.” Faegan sits next to me and speaks so only I can hear as we eye the two girls across the room from us. I make a noise of agreement in my throat and he chuckles a little, bashing his shoulder playfully into mine as his eyes remain plastered on Selena.
“As do you, Fae.” My murmur is so low I’m not sure he heard it, but if the chuckle he gives is any indication, then he did. The two girls turn their heads to look at us and I freeze up, my head turning harshly to avoid meeting her gaze.
“Yep, you’re stuffed.” Faegan chuckles as he gets up and starts looking around the cave, sending tiny tendrils of magic to try and find a trace, a hole, anything. I close my eyes and groan, slamming my head lightly back against the wall as I try and get this beautiful girl out of my mind.
“Let me get this straight,” I say, pacing the cave as I have been doing for the last half hour or so. I’ve even walked through Dudon or Faegan, or at least that’s what Malachi calls them, a few times. “You’re saying that I’m not human.”
“In essence, yes.” Malachi’s eyes are closed and he’s leaning his head back against the wall. I think he might be feeling faint again but right now I’m too desperate for answers to let the thought settle. “But not in the way you think.”
“Oh, how do you know what I think?” I glare at him and then realise my mistake. “Never mind, don’t answer that.” I continue to pace, back and forth, back and forth, not even noticing the two men out of the corner of my eye.
“Will you let me explain, please?” Malachi closes his eyes and leans his head back against the wall. I can tell he’s still feeling weak and so I give in. I nod once and he smiles faintly before closing his eyes again. “I have never had to explain this to anyone before, so I really don’t know where to begin. This situation is so unprecedented, and no one really knows what to do.
“Everyone has a certain amount of power in them. Animals have a very minimal amount, but their intuition makes up for it. They feel strongly towards things, they can sense things, and that is what their power does. You know they say that at the site of earthquakes and other disasters the birds always flee first and stuff? That’s the manifestation of their magic. However power amongst humans is different, due to the range of people and personalities. As with everything, some humans have more than others. This power sometimes manifests itself as psychic powers such as telekinesis, empathy, future sight, and more. Although, nowadays powers develop in much less dramatic forms, such as instinct and déjà vu.”
“Why?” I can’t help but interrupt him as curiosity overcomes me. I sit down next to him and he sighs as his hand touches mine and we are both filler with the electricity of our bond.
“I’m not exactly sure, but the amount of power has something to do with the circumstances surrounding the birth and the exact moment it took place. During the period of time that you and your friends were born, there were three consecutive nights of extreme power, making the youngest of you three have the most power.”
“But we were all born on the same day, so how does that work?” I say, confused as to why he was in amazement of my power when it should just be average.
“Not exactly. See, our time flows differently from yours. There is really no comparison and no way to explain it; some things just are. In human terms, you three were born on the same day, correct?”
“Uh, yeah. I just said that.” Stupid! Why didn’t you think of time being different?
“Well, in our time, Emily was born first, on the 18th day of Esulay at the brightest time of the night, Selena was born on the 19th day of Esulay at the same time and you were born – “
“On the 20th of Esulay and the brightest hour of the night, right?” I finish for him.
“Wow, a fast learner.” He grins but I don’t reply, too wrapped up in this world I’m apparently part of.
“So…days in this ‘other realm’ or whatever are shorter than earth days?” I tilt my head to the side and look at him as he fidgets with the hem of his shirt.
“Not exactly. Magic can be…almost sentient. Sometimes time moves slower, sometimes time moves faster. Sometimes when you enter the other realm you can be gone seconds or you can be gone weeks; it depends.”
“So, why are we in this world right now?”
“What do you mean?” It was his turn to tilt his head and look at me in confusion.
“Well, you said that time works differently in the other realm. If that’s so, then why are you here?”
Understanding dawns on his face and he shakes his head lightly. “I didn’t mean it in the literal sense, but in the spiritual sense. We live in this time and this physical world, but the power has its own agenda, as I said before.”
“I see.” I so didn’t see. But maybe everything would just become clearer if I kept asking more questions. “So, why is this power so important? Are people going to be looking for me now, or something? I guess the question is – who am I?”
“Ah, the question of questions. I was wondering when you’d get to that.” He grins widely and I grin in return, feeling comfortable now that I have some answers. “That’s the thing – we don’t know. We know you have an insurmountable amount of power, but we’re not sure what role you play. We know you will decide the fate of all races, but we’re not sure how, exactly. We think –“
“What is this thing between us?” I asked, cutting him off.
Mal looks stunned at my interruption, but then he grimaces as realization dawns over him.
“What? Mal, look at me.”
He looks at me reluctantly and I place a hand on his cheek.
“Nothing you say can make me dislike you. Nothing. Understand?”
He sighs and I grin inwardly at my victory. “What happened between us, our connection, is what occurs between a pair of partners.”
“Partners? Like spouses?” The idea shocks me and I lean back uncertainly.
“No. Partners as in two people who work together necessarily. One is less powerful and the connection is made so that they can serve the more powerful person. It essentially connects them so they can know each other’s limitations and can ask things of each other easily. It’s very rare, but a very powerful being can have more than one partner, or no partner at all, depending on their preference.” I think about this for a minute before replying
“So, I have to be at your beck and call, basically,” I state morbidly. I glance up as he guffaws, glaring at him as my temper flares at his amusement.
“Ah, how you amuse me,” he smiles cheekily as he starts to explain. “No matter how many times I say it, I have a feeling that you wont get it, but you are the most powerful being in this situation.” My brown crinkles in confusion and he seems to physically brace himself for my denial, however my thoughts are elsewhere.
“So, then what about relationships? Does attraction have anything to do with it or is it like arranged marriages. Do you even have marriages?” My thoughts swell in the torrential confusion and uncomfortableness that swirls in my brain. How can I be part of a world I know nothing of?
“The relationships formed are by choice and attraction. Arranged marriages are a human thing, because a major principal of our life is that love can bring out the most power. There are no prejudices about connections because the power is not heretic, but circumstantial. Marrying a certain someone will not change the fate of the child’s magic; therefore there is no reason for the matches to be unhappy. But there is a certain, um how do I put this, psyche surrounding those who are of a higher level of power. They, um, generally only want to be in a relationship with someone of an equal power level.”
“So, what about gender prejudices? Is it, like, guys as girls, or do guys propose or do the women have to be objective or something?” My mind is on a single track; finding out what my limits are, what I can and can’t do. Just staring at the man before me, my heart swells and I know I will never want anyone else as much as I want him. He frowns in confusion as he starts to answer.
“There are no prejudices, as far as I am aware. The affections must be natural for the joining, or wedding, to take place. And as far as for who initiates the relationship, as you said…” He stares at me, as if merely looking at me will allow him to rip off the layers of skin hiding my thoughts from him. I want to tear my eyes away, but can’t do anything but stare back at him with the same intensity.
. “Either way is accepted. Whether the man or the woman instigates the relationship is unimportant, only the fact that the attraction is mutual.”
“So, what if the thing between the two is more than attraction?” I don’t wait for him to reply before I continue. “Like, it’s not just ‘ooh, I like you’ and ‘I like you too.’ But it’s more like ‘ I don’t think I could ever live without you again.’” My voice shakes but he lets me continue. “What if you don’t think you could cope without someone else? You’ve barely met them, yet after a first glance in their eyes, you rely on them more than you have ever done before. What if you, and the word seems inadequate, but…love –“
“WHO THE HELL DID YOU MEET?” His yell interrupts me, his face taunt with hurt. I sit there in shocked silence, staring at him silently. Does he really think I’m talking about anyone else but him? Does he not feel what I do? He looks down at his shoes in embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. It’s none of my business. And, in answer to your question, then you’ve most likely found your partner, your love, your soul mate, your one and only.” He barely chokes out the next sentence, and it echoes in the silence as if it was yelled through a megaphone. “Something that only occurs once every hundred lifetimes.” He continues to stare at the floor, a single tear moving from his eye down his face.
“So, Faegan. What do we do now?”
The question shocks me, as I am still staring at Selena’s form, all rolled up in a ball against the wall of the cave.
“Uh…what?” I move my gaze to Emily’s form and notice her defensive stance. Be careful. Be calm. Be supportive. Layla’s words roll through my head, and I start to understand the effect being the eldest has had on Emily. She is the image of tranquility and sincerity on the outside, especially to her kin, but to anyone else, especially one who threatens her sisters, the devil is released. She sighs in irritation.
“Sorry, I thought you would know what’s going on here since you seem to be the sanest of the lot.” She glances over her shoulder at Dudon. “But, I guess that’s me.” She sighs and starts pacing. I glance back at Selena once more before dragging my eyes away.
“Well, we can get out of these caves, but since we have no knowledge of the location of Mal and Melayna –“
“What?” Emily’s stern voice surprises me and I look up. Selena has risen and is standing next to Emily, leaning on her for support.
“Malachi, my counterpart.”
“Wait – you know Malachi?” Selena chokes out, her surprise overcoming her distress. I blink a couple times in shock.
“Yes, of course. You know Malachi?”
“Well, not personally, but…” Selena trails off, staring at the wall contemplatively. Both Emily and I are staring at her, confusion swirling in my brain as to how she knows Malachi, and I’m sure Dudon would be as well if he wasn’t too engaged with admiring Emily. “All right, guys! Stop looking at me like that! Or I’ll take the gooey-eyed one and make a run for it.” She gestures to Dudon who blushes furiously. I look towards the ground abashedly.
“Sorry,” I state forlornly. “If I promise to listen, will you continue?” I grin and her face lights up in return.
“Okay. Well, I don’t know how much you know so I’ll start from the caves. So Lay and I went into the caves to scare Em,” she grins apologetically at Emily, who motions for her to continue, “and then I tripped. Lay put her hands on my face and a bright light exploded. She fainted and I went to get Em, so we could help her, but we got lost in the caves. That’s when you directed me to my friends, and I assume that man –“ she points at Dudon.
“Dudon,” I fill in.
“Right, Dudon – well I assume he led Em to Lay and me, correct?” Emily nods in agreement and Selena grins as she realizes she’s formed a correct conclusion. “So, I was led by you, Fae, and Em was led by Dudon and when I met Lay I could tell that someone had led her to us and I asked who and she said ‘Malachi.’” Selena looks a bit nervous so I don’t say anything else, just wait for her to finish. Obviously Emily isn’t as patient.
“Sel. Tell us everything.” Emily’s voice is stern, but instead of flinching like you might have imagined, Selena just stands straighter.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“I mean, no. It’s not my information to tell, because it’s about Lay. When she wants everyone to know, everyone will know. I have no doubt about that.”
“Okay, just answer me this question.” I interrupt, not wanting to start an argument. “Will the information that you don’t want to tell us delay us from finding Melayna?” As Selena thinks about that I ignore the glare I’m getting from Emily about the fact that I’m not forcing Selena to reveal her information. When Selena confirms that her information won’t hinder our efforts I immediately begin planning.
“Du!” I call, hoping that he will be able to ignore Emily if I give him a task; this is really his area of expertise. He comes to my side and his eyes look clear. “Em, I will need you to stay out of Du’s line of vision, if that’s alright?” She looks confused but agrees. Dudon mouths ‘thank you’ to me and I smile in return.
“Okay, did you catch any of that?” I question. I don’t mean to embarrass him, but I need to know. When he looks down at the ground, I know he hasn’t. “Okay, good. Just to confirm – Mal ran after Melayna and put up a wall. Once we broke it down they disappeared and their trail ends here. Sel and Em came here looking for Melayna and they found her, but they couldn’t see Mal. Sel was aware of Mal because Melayna mentioned him to her, but she doesn’t know more than his name.”
“Yep,” Dudon looks at me gratefully. “Well, I think the fact that Emily and Selena couldn’t see Mal doesn’t mean that he isn’t with Melayna. We know how much p-“ Dudon cut’s off, not sure how to explain power to the girls. “We know what she holds, so my guess is that she was looking for Selena and Emily. That is the only way they would have come to this specific cave, especially since there are so many others. Mal had to be with her to have focused the energy to make a wall of energy for them to…disappear behind. So that’s where I think they are.” Dudon finishes, his voice growing stronger as his brain works.
“Thanks, Du.” I clap him on the back before going through the information. “I think you’re right, and our first step must be getting to Mal. From there, he can tell us where he is and what we need to do with the g- I mean, with our missions.” I correct myself.
“Have you tried to connect with him?” Dudon asks.
“Yes, I did. When Sel and Em could see Melayna and were taking to her,” I confirm.
“Wait.” Selena’s voice cuts through my thought process. “Lay was crying and kept mentioning an unconscious boy and some flash of light and some men who couldn’t hear her – was she referring to you? She said she had been here for a little while…”
Dudon looks at me and I remember what he told me about how he thought he heard a girl talking to him about ‘a boy.’ Our eyes light with recognition and we immediately take separate sides of the cave, looking for the tell-tale signs of a magical being. It won’t mean we can reverse the magic, especially if she is as powerful as we’ve been told, but at least we will know where they are.