Warlands of Song

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Chapter Ten: Glen

“Who are these people?”

He and Robert stood at either side of the couch when the voice sounded behind them. He turned, and immediately shifted into a defensive position.

A Siren stood in the doorway to the den, groceries in hand. She didn’t relax even as Aaron went to her and tried to convince her they were harmless. When Saige stood, his eyes were drawn to her instead. She looked entranced by the woman, and went up to her without fear. The woman backed away, no fear in her eyes but an intensity that promised she would defend herself if necessary.

“They’re friendly,” Saige said. “Well, they won’t hurt you, at least. They’re with me.”

The woman looked Saige up and down, setting the bags on the ground, then looked at Aaron with a frown.

“Who is this child?”

Aaron gestured to Saige. “Who does she look like, Xen?”

“Someone impossible.”

“Exactly. See?” He looked at Saige. “I’m not crazy. She sees it too.”

She kept a calm, patient expression. “I can see that. But you still haven’t told me how you know me.”

If he knew her, and wasn’t crazy.

It was almost as though she’d spoken the words. They were infused into her voice.

The woman glanced at he and Robert again before leaning in toward Saige. He had to strain to hear her. “You came here willingly... right?”

“Yes. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to at least hear him out.” She held out a hand. “I’m Saige.”

The woman visibly flinched at the name, but held out her hand to shake.

“Xenia.”

Xenia spoke to Aaron, eyes on him. “Why are they here?”

“I’d rather not be, trust me,” Robert said.

“They were with her. She’s in trouble, and they need me to take them to Tulca.”

“How did they find you?”

Aaron shrugged. “Who cares? I’m glad they did. Otherwise—”

“That’s not her, Aaron.”

“She looks exactly like she would’ve looked, grown up. And she happens to have the same name? That’s more than coincidence. That’s a match.”

Xenia shook her head, eyeing Saige again. “I can’t explain it. I can’t. But this can’t happen. The statistics are piled so high against what you’re suggesting that—”

Aaron went to the tiny woman, kneeling to look her in the eye. He held a hand out toward Saige.

“Everything adds up. Why are you so skeptical?”

Xenia’s jaw clenched. “Because nothing adds up. Why would she be here on earth? Why wouldn’t they kill her?” She tipped his chin up. “And you’re drunk.”

He waved her off and stood again. “That’s not new. I’m going to get the pictures. It’s all the proof we need. Get her something to eat.“2

The woman looked at them again, and Aaron called her.

“You won’t let them hurt you. Don’t worry about them. Saige won’t let them hurt you either.”

“She doesn’t know you or me.”

“Get her some food. Please.”

“I’m really not hungry. I’m—”

“Please,” Glen said, stepping forward. “She needs to eat something. It’s been over twelve hours.”

“Glen, will you stop acting like—”

She shut up at his hard look. He spoke to Xenia again.

“Please. For all I know, Saige is Siren too, and we haven’t hurt her. We won’t hurt you either, provided you don’t mess with us.”

She nodded once, and then to Saige for the girl to follow her. He stayed with Robert, watching them go.

“I don’t like this. I don’t know what to think.”

“They both are either great actors, or they really know her. Maybe Saige was right to hear them out.”

“We still don’t even have an answer on what she is.”

“That can wait,” Robert said. “I actually believe him.”

This was news to him. “You what?”

“He believes what he’s saying. And so does his girlfriend. Let’s just see what pictures he brings down.”

He scoffed, but sat on the couch to wait. Robert joined him a few seconds later, holding his stomach.

“I’m hungry too.”

“Tell her. Hope she doesn’t turn your brain to mush.”

They were seated for a few minutes before Xenia exited the kitchen, two plates in her hands. They watched in amazement as she placed them on the coffee table before them, lying the silverware beside each. When she straightened, she took a couple steps back. He could’ve sworn she had an amused glint in her eyes.

“I don’t turn brains to mush without proper provocation,” she said, smirking. “Let me know when you’d like more.”

“Thank you,” he said.

Her head tilted. “We’re not evil, Prince Mykel. That’s just what your government would have you believe. It’s easier than the truth,” she said finally, before she gave a slight bow and left the room.

“She just read my mind,” he whispered to Robert, who had dug in without hesitation.

“You know she can hear you, right?”

He sighed. So could Saige. He hated being around Sirens. Instead of continuing to talk, he ate, and almost moaned in satisfaction.

The sound of heavy footsteps flew down the hallway, toward them. In his haste, Aaron stumbled, and photo chips littered the floor. Before he could react, Saige was rushing to the man’s aid, helping put the chips back in the box. She activated one at some point and dropped it like a piece of hot coal. Her eyes widened as she stared down at the chips with alarm.

“What was that?”

“They’re photo chips,” Aaron said. “Here on earth they still use paper, or screens. On Tulca and Euphora we’ve moved on. These little chips have pictures inside them. Here, look.”

Glen stood when the man took a chip in his hand and reached for Saige.

“Don’t touch her.”

“She’s within reach anyway. If I wanted to grab her and run, I could’ve done it already. Leave me alone.”

He wanted to snap at the man for his tone, but reeled in his ego. For Saige, he would release the reigns he usually kept firm hold of. He ignored the way Robert raised his brows at him. His friend knew how much control he was using at that moment to keep from attacking.

Aaron took Saige’s hand and maneuvered her fingers into place on the photo chip, and it opened as planned. The look on Saige’s face needed to be in its own photo. He couldn’t help but smile at her amazement. She waved a hand through the picture, turning the chip in all directions to look at it as close as she could.

“Take a look at them. They’re yours.”

“Mine?”

Aaron nodded. Glen neared, as did Robert, and even Xenia emerged from the kitchen, standing just by the kitchen door to observe. Saige looked uncertain, but before Glen could offer a suggestion, Aaron relieved her of the task and began enlarging the photos one by one so that everyone could see, projecting them onto the wall like a large screen.

In each picture, a little girl was the star. She couldn’t have been older than four or five. Her skin was so dark it was almost black, and she had a head full of raven-black curls. Her eyes were big and silver. She almost looked human, if not for the silver markings beside her eyes, and her ears. They were wide and fanned, and mimicked maple leaves at the tips. At one point, a play button appeared on the enlarged screen, and Aaron started the video.

In the video, the little girl was no longer static, but living, laughing and running, as a younger versionAaron chased her around a living room. Younger Aaron laughed as well, alternating between chasing after her and hopping over furniture directly in her path. She would squeal and duck under his legs or dart around him, until he finally caught her and leapt onto the couch with her tiny frame tucked into his chest. There, he tickled her until she gasped for breath, before letting her go to do it all over again.

“Saige and Aaron! Boys! Dinner is ready,” a beautiful voice called from out of frame.

Whomever was behind the camera, a man, chuckled, but he didn’t move the camera.

“Alright you two. Go get washed up.”

“Okay Papa,” the little girl, baby Saige, said, and ran out of the room. The shot ended, going back to the first still frame.

All eyes went to Saige, who looked torn between a multitude of actions and reactions at that point. She took deep, even breaths. Far too even to be natural. She was trying not to freak out.

“I don’t... I can’t—” She pressed her lips together and frowned for a long time before starting over. “My ears don’t look like that, and I don’t have those tattoos by my eyes.”

“But you see what I was saying, at least—”

“I don’t look like that little girl.”

Aaron looked halfway between desperate and pitying. “Can I try something? Can I touch you for a second?”

Saige didn’t respond, and Aaron took that as an affirmation. He began to run his fingers along the shell of her left ear, and Glen soon caught onto what he was searching for, kneeling to do the same on her other ear. She remained still as a statue as they worked. He used his nails with increasing pressure until he began to scrape, firmly, at the top of her ear. She stiffened under his ministrations, but soon his work rewarded him and a tiny piece of her skin lifted. Except it wasn’t a tiny piece of skin at all. She gasped when he began peeling the material off in tiny strips, until her natural ear was completely uncovered.

He stared at it in equal parts awe, terror, and shock, and watched it unfurl from its folded state, lengthening and unrolling into quite a large formation.

“There we go,” Aaron said, holding up his own few pieces of silicone-like strips. “They were just covered up, see? And your markings... let’s see...”

Glen broke out of his stupor long enough to repeat the process on the other side of her temple, while Aaron worked on his own side. Sure enough, more silicone the color of her skin was peeled away, revealing subtle metallic silver markings on her temples.

“And now you look like the little girl I lost,” Aaron said.

Saige didn’t answer. Her fingers rose to touch her ears, gently as though she would break them. Every time she made contact with them, her fingers jerked away, and her whole body flinched. He prepared for panic or at least tears, but they didn’t come. Neither did any questioning or statements.

He and Aaron looked at each other at the same time, wearing mirroring expressions of concern. Aaron went back to sifting through the pile of photo chips, until he picked up a small, blue-velvet pouch and removed a chip from it, enlarging it on the wall. He pressed play without saying a word.

The camera wobbled. Either whomever held it had shaky hands, or they were moving around a lot. A man and a woman sat side by side, smiling fondly at whoever was behind the lens.

“This is my mama and papa,” a younger Saige’s melodic, childish voice narrated from behind the camera. “Say what your names are now,” she whispered.

The couple were trying hard to contain their laughter. They managed, barely.

“My name is Emmeline,” the woman said, eyes shining.

“My name is Rohan,” the man said.

A tiny finger pointed at each of them. “Mama is a princess, and papa is a teacher. And I’m their baby!”

At this point, her parents laughed, and Glen’s ears rang with the sound of the woman’s laughter. It sounded like what he imagined heaven would sound like. Birds, bells, and joy.

“Mama is a Siren, and papa is Namai. But even though mama is smaller, she’s older than he is. Right mama?”

The woman made a funny face. “That’s right, muffin. Just a little bit.”

Glen met Robert’s eyes for a split second to share his alarm, mirrored in his roommate’s face.

“So papa’s the baby!”

More laughter, then the camera cut away to the doorway. Through the open space, they could see the living room the first video Aaron had played was set in. This time, it was full of boys. They ranged in age from children to young adults. Maybe ten in all.

“These are my brothers,” young Saige narrated. “I wish I had a sister, but it’s okay. I like being the only girl. And mama and papa won’t have more kids. Papa says no. Right papa?”

The camera lowered away from the couples’ faces, but the man’s answer was clear.

“Right, Deini. You’re so special we want to stop with you.”

The camera flipped back up. Glen looked from the image of the man, to Saige, and back again. Then to the woman, Saige, and back. The man had brown skin, but not nearly as dark as Saige’s. The woman had skin even paler than Glen’s. How Saige’s skin tone had resulted from such a mix was a mystery.

Something pinged in the background, and Saige’s mother glanced back. But instead of getting up right away, she smiled at her daughter behind the camera.

“The cookies are done. Want to help me frost them?”

The frame shook. Glen could almost see young Saige’s enthusiastic nodding.

“Anything else you want to say before you turn that off,” her dad asked.

“No. Wait!”

The camera turned until it was facing young Saige, her face filling the screen. She grinned, then her face went serious and her eyes glowed a little bit. When she spoke next, her lips moved in time with the words, but the voice was certainly not hers. It was a man’s voice.

“This has been CUSP news. I’m Tony Mcguiver, and we’ll see you next time—”

She was cut off, with a squeal that was again her own voice, when her parents both grabbed her up in a hug. The camera then spun wildly and the video ended.

Glen didn’t even look at Saige, he was so wrapped up in his own thoughts. He couldn’t follow them, there were so many. Questions and answers and more questions. More questions than answers. When he accepted that he wouldn’t be able to sort through all of the questions, he looked to Saige. His alarm meter skyrocketed.

She wasn’t in tears. She wasn’t angry. She wasn’t happy. She looked the same way she had when he’d seen her move in back on the mountain.

Dead.

“Saige.”

She glanced at him, still touching her ears. He looked directly into her eyes. All he saw were walls. The emotional kind, meant to keep all emotion locked tightly away. They were almost as visible as the literal walls of the house they were in. He had many words he wanted to say to her, but he decided to wait. Telling her now would only make matters worse.

“I don’t understand,” she said at last. Her eyes, strangely enough, remained on him. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Then she said the one thing no one expected.

“I made a mistake to come here.”

The breaking of Aaron’s heart was almost audible. Glen rushed to contain the situation before it escalated. The emotions of all were too potent for this conversation at the moment.

“It’s late,” he said. “Why don’t we all get some rest, think about this, and come together again in the morning?”

“No, I want to leave. We can find another teleporter, can’t we?”

He turned to Saige, who still wore a blank expression.

“Yes, but it will take some time. I for one would like to sleep before thinking about this any more.”

“Fine. Let’s go.”

“Actually...” He looked between Aaron and Xenia. “Is there a bedroom we could use?”

Aaron still looked broken, but Xenia hesitated before nodding. We turned the basement into a bedroom. You can use it.

Glen helped Saige to her feet, and she didn’t protest anymore. He knelt to slip the photo chips back into the box, and took notice of Xenia’s movements.

She touched Aaron’s arm and murmured something to him. When he didn’t respond, she sighed and leaned in closer whispering something in his ear. Something in his eyes shifted and darkened, and he moved, standing and starting toward the hallway.

She caught Glen’s eye and again read his mind. “I’m just assisting him. It’s a powerful influence, not an order. He’s drunk, and hurt, and he needs some sleep too.”

Her stiffness, yet gentleness of speech, spoke volumes. She was worried he would turn on her for using her voice. Was that how all Siren felt around Namai? Well... if Namai felt the way he did around her... than why not?

“I understand,” he said. “Goodnight.”

“The door to the basement is right here. Just call if you need anything, even from down there. I’ll bring you what you need.”

“Thank you, again.”

She bowed again, and trailed after Aaron.

Glen wished at that moment that he had Siren powers too, because Saige had slipped into a type of shock and wouldn’t walk on her own either. He slipped a hand around her forearm.

“Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

She moved when he pulled on her arm, but it was as though she was sleepwalking. He told Aaron to open the basement door and turn on the lights, then lifted Saige into his arms and carried her down the steps and to the bed. He left her to stare at the ceiling in peace. It made him uncomfortable to look at her as she was, so he didn’t. He moved across the room and sat on the floor against the wall. Robert joined him moments later with a long, loud sigh.

“What in the world have we gotten ourselves into, Mykel?”

He shook his head, dazed himself.

“If she’s what I think she is, and if the video was true, and the pictures... If she’s one of them. This isn’t a simple case against the falsely accused. We’ve just thrown ourselves in the middle of a war.”

“I know we’ve been through wars before,” Robert continued, “but I’m actually freaking out a little bit right now. If she’s what we think she is, she could literally destroy—”

“I’d rather not think about that while we’re in the same room with her. I’d rather not think about it at all.”

Silence, then, “Maybe we should turn her in. You know what the government tells us. If we’re alerted about the whereabouts of these beings, we need to contact them ASAP. She’ll be safe with them. From others and herself.”

“That’s bull and we both know it. They paint themselves as the golden mediators between and for both races, but do you really think they’d do anything but kill her?”

“But maybe—”

“There’s no maybe about it! They’d kill her.”

“No, I was going to say that... maybe that’s for the best.”

Glen turned to his friend in shock. “What?”

Robert shrugged. “Think about it. She could bring this house down—heck, she could bring this entire section of earth down. Crush us where we sit. And who knows what else. She could have us eating out of the palm of her hand and we’d never know any better. And do you think there’s a way for her to come out in society and ever be accepted as normal? Sometimes death is better than living, for some people.

“Even if the government didn’t kill her, you think they’d just let her live freely in a homemade zoo? No, they would experiment on her and torture her and who knows what else. There’s a reason why we know nothing about them. Either the government has them all locked up and are experimenting on them, or there truly have only been a few in existence and they’ve all been killed.”

Glen’s chest hurt for a reason he couldn’t explain. He rubbed at the area below his heart, grimacing.

“I just can’t even consider handing her over. For testing, torture, or execution. She’s a sweet girl, Robert. No matter what she is, she isn’t like the others we’ve read about. I need to hear her side of things and get some answers—”

“Or lies.”

“—to some of the questions I have. Then I’ll make my choice.”

“You want to save everyone. That’s great. But save the world instead of this girl. Seriously.”

“Who knows, maybe saving her will mean saving the world. Ever think of that?”

Robert gave him an unimpressed glare from the corner of his eye before announcing that he wouldn’t feel safe sleeping in the same room with a potential mass murderer and leaving to sleep on the couch upstairs. Glen stayed where he was and waited for Saige to either emerge from her stupor or fall asleep.

Maybe he would have turned her in. But the man he’s killed in her defense kept popping back into his head. Whoever the assassin had been, he didn’t work for the government. He worked for another source. If Saige was truly what he thought she was, then it made so much more sense.

He’d thrown himself and everyone he knew into the middle of a war. What costs were both sides willing to suffer? How far would the battle escalate, and for how long? Who was fighting whom, and to what end?

He watched as Saige stirred for the first time, only rolling over and closing her eyes. He waited and observed in absolute stillness and silence until her breathing evened out, and he was certain she’d fallen asleep. Then he stood, and walked over to her. Her newly uncovered ears and markings branded her a member of a rare, secret society that was only spoken about in myth and legend. The secret society had only been written about in a negative, powerful light. It was said to be feared, admired, and avoided at all costs. But the legends were old, the myths out of date and no-doubt biased. His previous thought came back to mind.

Who was fighting whom, and to what end?

He sat on the edge of the bed carefully, to not disturb her, and reached out to rest his hand on her head. He smoothed his thumb over her ears, and then her temples. She sighed in her sleep, a shaky breath as though she’d just been revived from unconsciousness. Then she shifted, her face pressing further into his hand.

Maybe... just maybe... Saige was the end.

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