I hate the heat. I never realized it when I was younger, or when I lived in the Glynden forests, because the sun barely reached us seeing as the trees were as tall as the castle, and the greenery thick.
But as I sit by the river, with the sun beating against my back, I feel... weak.
“It’s dangerous for you to be here alone.” I look up when I see Caius walking towards me. I feel any irritation I had immediately dissipate. Caius has become my source of comfort and familiarity as the week has gone by, and Cassian has finished his business with Rykun. Or Xavien. Whichever.
But today is the last day, and everyone is once again bustling around trying to prepare for our departure. I place my fingers in the river enjoying the cool water. I give a soft smile.
“Gran used to tell me all about the ancient kings. How they were unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. I never believed her. I always rolled my eyes at her stories and hopes for the future.” I look up at the sky, feeling tears roll down my cheeks.
“What I wouldn’t give to have her tell me one more story.” I say. Caius is silent for a moment, but then I hear the sound of him placing his sword on the ground as he makes his way over to me, taking a seat next to me.
“You never really had time to mourn her did you.” He says. I keep my eyes trained on the river, shaking my head.
“No... Even after her death, everything was thrown on me so fast, I had no time to relax and feel true sadness. All I could think to do was adjust and survive. But now I see this world that I know nothing about, with everyone keeping me in the dark, and I know that survival is my number one priority...” I say. I feel a hand on my back, and tense, but relax. Caius is rubbing comforting circles on my back.
“Anytime you want to cry, you may do so. You are safe here.” He says. “I will always protect you, Neytiri.” I hear the determination in his voice and look at him. He has a serious expression on his face. I smile.
“You’re so kind, Caius.” I say. His whole expression drops as shock shows on his face. He blinks in confusion and looks at the water with a sad smile. He then clears his throat and stands, moving away from me.
He looks over his shoulder.
“The king asked me to come get you. It’s too dangerous for you to be out in the sun like this.” He says. I look back to the water, letting out a deep sigh. I haven’t heard or seen Cassian since that night. And quite frankly I’m glad. I don’t know what to make of what I saw, but it scares me.
I stand up walking next to Caius and make my way back to the castle.
Cassian’s voice comes out of the dark silence. We left the castle and are now on our way to another kingdom. A kingdom which according to Caius is a week’s journey. Cassian once again put a blindfold on me and put me in a carriage with him, which makes me uneasy.
I keep my hands in my lap but can’t stop fiddling with them. My nerves are getting the best of me.
“Why do you need to travel to another kingdom.” I ask.
“There is a total of four kingdoms, one that is occupied by me, one that is occupied by Xavien, and the last two which are occupied by my two allies. Now is just a matter of seeing who is loyal and who is not.” He says.
“Why did you take over the kingdom.” I ask. He’s silent, and I think for a moment he isn’t going to answer me. But he does.
“This land, belonged to my ancestors. All of it. But, when man came into contact with forces out of their control, they forced us to retaliate. And when they didn’t want our help, instead of them leaving the land of my forefathers, they took it. Using power with which they had little understanding.” He says. He sounds bitter.
“I’m only taking back what is mine.” He says softly.
“Cassian... do you have any family?” I ask. He laughs softly.
We stop at a small meadow to rest the horses and the men. The sun is setting over the land, and the men are setting up the camp for the night. I step away from them, to the edge of the river, taking a seat. I stare into the water, watching it wash over the rocks.
Something about it just calls to me. Makes me feel at peace.
“What is it with you and rivers?” I look up when I see Caius walking towards me with a smile on his face. I shrug.
“I don’t know. Something about the water just calms me.” I say. He shakes his head.
“You really are an ikniri.” He says. I raise a brow at him.
“What does that mean?” I say. He takes a seat next to me, reaching into the river. The water is interrupted in its stream and begins crawling up his hand only to fall and flow around.
“The Ikniri could manipulate water. Their whole village was in the mountains, surrounded by snow.” He looks at me tapping on my arm.
“That’s why it’s dangerous for you to be in the sun too long.” He says. He smiles as if remembering something.
“Legend has it that your veins carry water in them.” He laughs. “Now that I think about it, there are so many legends behind the ikniri.”
I watch as he gets excited telling me about my people. I look back to where the camp is set up, making sure that no one is watching us.
“How do you know so much about my people?” I ask. He shrugs.
“Everyone knows about your people. It was impossible not to. The Ikniri would occupy villages, and within weeks that village would go from starving to thriving. It was amazing.” He says.
“Then... why did the king want us dead? Why did he kill all of them?” I ask. Caius’ smile drops.
“I... can’t tell you that.” He says. I look back to the water, letting out a disappointed sigh.
“Why not.” I ask. “I think I have a right to know.” I say.
“It’s not my place, Neytiri. I’m sorry. Cassian has forbidden it.” He says. I look back to the camp and see the red tents that are now standing.
“Why do you follow him.” I ask. My mind thinks back to the moment I saw him. The way that I felt.
“Because he is my king. It is my duty.” He says. Hm. I draw my knees to my chest.
“Why is it that you speak for the king. He hardly ever tells me these things himself.” I say. Caius shrugs.
“Because the king is... having his fill right now...”
“Caius!” I jump as a new voice comes in. I look up to see the guard that helped me the first day that I arrived in chains. He has a stern look on his face, to which Caius immediately shuts his mouth. I look back and forth between them and the other guards behind the man have their heads down with tense expressions on their faces.
“The king wishes to see you.” He says. Caius stands, and walks away from me without looking back. But the man grabs him by the arm, looking into his eyes.
“You had better watch yourself.” He growls. Caius yanks his arm from his grasp and continues walking away. The guard begins walking towards me. He has light brown hair, and a cleanly shaven beard. And his eyes are also a bright amber. He offers me a soft smile.
“My name is Ulric. I will be shifting places with Caius if you would like to stay here.” He says. I raise a brow.
“Why?” I ask. He looks over to where Caius is walking away, and a frown appears on his face.
“He seems to be letting his conscience get in the way of his duties.” He says. I look back at the water. It seems like each day, each conversation holds a new secret, and I hate it. They answer my questions vaguely and without explanation.
“Is it because of what he said?” I ask. I recall Ulric snapping at him when he said something about Cassian getting his fill. Of what I have no idea. Ulric shakes his head.
“No.” Is all he says.
I’m walking through the camp again. The red tents surround me. None of the guards look my way. They are used to me. I make my way to the large tent, moving the flap aside. I smile when I see who’s there.
Cassian is sitting at his desk, writing something down. His face looks smooth to the touch, and I can see the symbol on his face that disappears into his clothing. It matches the one on my face. The one that he gave me the day we met.
He looks up when he hears me. His dark gaze meeting mine. He smiles at me, setting down the pen and standing to come around the desk. I feel my heart rate speeding up. It does that every time he comes near me. but I’ve learned to hone my fears. He won’t hurt me.
“You’ve managed to wander into my camp once again.” He says. I can’t help the smile that appears on my face. But I try and dampen my excitement. He leans against the desk, crossing his arms in front of him and raising a brow at me.
“You look like you have something to tell me.” He says. I nod my head. He laughs, the sound making my heart melt.
“Look what I learned!” I say. I hold my hand out and concentrate until I can feel the cool air circulating my palm. I can feel the water in the air, no matter how thin it is, and pull them adding the frost coming from my fingertips, until there is a miniature snow flurry in my palm. I look up at Cassian, expecting him to be excited, but his features are hard.
“Where did you learn that.” He says as he walks around me, closing the tent so that others can’t see. I immediately stop what I am doing and put my hands behind my back.
“I asked you a question, Neytiri.” He sounds mad. I shake my head not wanting to answer.
“Neytiri!” He shouts.
“I... I learned it myself.” I say softly. I’ve never seen him so upset, and I don’t know why. The usual calm demeanor he has is gone. He’s the general that all the men in this camp know and fear. He comes forward, kneeling in front of me, placing each of his hands on my shoulders and looking me in the eyes.
“You must never do that here, Neytiri. Not in my camp. Do you understand?” He says.
“But why?” I ask. He’s about to answer me, but immediately decides against it. He lets out a deep sigh.
“Do it again for me.” He says. I hesitate, but slowly hold my hand out, doing the trick again. He holds his hand out, placing it over the snow, and I scream when his skin makes contact with it. I immediately stop, looking at it. It hurt him. His hand is bloodied.
I place my hand over my mouth. Tears flowing down my face.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” I sob. He smiles at me, shaking his head. He reaches out pushing my hair behind my ear.
“It’s ok.” He repeats over and over again. I bury my face in his chest, sobbing.
I jolt awake, looking around. It’s still night and the camp are quiet. I dreamed of him. Cassian.
I knew him when I was still young. I hold my hands out, looking at them in shock as I recall my dream. I had hurt him. Somehow, I had hurt him. I think back to when I he was pulling me along in Xaviens castle, when he was upset with me. Something had surged through my body, something that had hurt him then.
I stand up, walking towards the opening of my tent and looking around. Ulric is standing guard in front of my tent. He looks at me.
“Are you alright?” He asks. I nod my head wiping away the sweat.
“Yes... I just need to go for a walk.” I say. I hear him walking with me and turn to him.
“Alone. Please.” I say. He doesn’t miss a beat.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let that happen.” He says. I roll my eyes and begin walking anyway. I look up at the moon. The sky is clear, and the stars are bright. I keep walking until I’m in the woods, and I see a waterfall. I walk to the edge of the water, placing my foot in and smiling when the water is chilled. I begin messing with the ties on the dress I’m wearing.
“Um...” I hear Ulric behind me. I turn to him.
“I’m sure you can guard me from a reasonable distance.” I say pulling the dress off my shoulders. He immediately turns away from me and makes his way to a tree keeping his back to me. I chuckle to myself turning back to the water and pulling off my clothes. I step into the water, letting the cool water soothe me and wash away the heat and sweat from my dreams.
I keep staring up at the night sky trying to make sense of my thoughts. Somehow, I know Cassian. But I don’t remember him. And somehow, I can harm him. But I have no idea why. But it must have something to do with me being an Ikniri. And it must also have to do with why my people were all slaughtered.
I close my eyes, just feeling. The water is amazing against my skin. Every time I would take a bath, they would make the water so scalding I could barely stand it. But I like it like this. Cold. I think back to the way I was feeling in my dream when I was trying to show Cassian my trick. I try and focus like I did then, and I can feel something inside of me. Something cool.
I open my eyes and let out a scream looking around me. The water around me is frozen solid.
"Have you forgotten where your allegiance lies?" I ask. I've never had to question Caius when it comes to his duties, but I seem to be doing so now.
"I didn't see the harm in telling her a little about her history." He says. I turn around, glaring at him.
"If you say the wrong thing, and trigger her memories, it could be very bad. You know this." I snap.
"How could you be so reckless." I hiss at him. He stays silent.
"Don't you think it's more dangerous this game that you're playing with her? If this goes the wrong way for you, the consequences could be worse." He says pointing to my still healing hand. I let out a deep sigh looking at him. His gaze is watching me.
"I have ensured that won't happen." I say. I stand up, walking towards him.
"How? If she awakens before you finish your plans, she will be unstoppable." He says. I shake my head.
"You've forgotten she is still just a child. She is nothing like her race should be. She has had no training, and what she does release is by accident because she is unaware of what she is and has no idea she possesses any power." I say. Caius shakes his head.
"Cassian, if she finds out the truth about what happened to her people from the wrong person, she will-"
"Your job is to protect her." I interrupt. I can feel my anger ripping through my body burning my flesh.
"Might I remind you that if the situation calls for it, I will not hesitate to end her life. I do not care that she is the last Ikniri. I will eradicate that race from the face of the Earth if it gets in the way of my plans. Do you understand, Caius." I growl. His eyes widen slightly. And I immediately take note that he is hesitant.
"Yes, I understand."
I look behind him just as Ulric bursts through the tent. His eyes are wide. I feel my heart race as I anticipate his next words.
"It's Neytiri... She's awakened her power." He says. I whip my gaze to Caius as my blood boils, and look back to Ulric.
"Show me where she is." I say.