Warlands of Song

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PART II: Chapter Eleven: Saige

Saige grabbed Glen’s wrist when he reached behind his ear with a pair of pliers.

“What are you doing with those?”

“Relax, it’s okay—”

“No it isn’t. What are you doing with those?”

He lowered his hand, wearing an ever-patient expression.

“I’m removing my Teilu stone. It’s hackable. Aaron is bringing Robert and me untraceable ones.”

“How do you remove it?”

He held up the pliers. Her grip tightened on his wrist.

“But that’s barbaric. Won’t it hurt?”

“I’ll survive.”

“But—”

“Saige, stop. How did you even know what I was doing? Where did you come from? I thought you were outside.”

She had no answer for that. She’d wandered back in without a good reason.

“We can’t afford to be traced right now. This needs to be done. I’ll be fine. And you don’t have to watch. Just go back outside and it’ll be over in a few minutes.”

“I’m not leaving. If something goes wrong, you need someone here. Are these things made to be removed?”

“Yes. Usually under anesthetic, but yes.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Sit there and be quiet. I don’t need any help. It’ll take less than a minute.”

She had no choice but to watch, cringing, as he lifted the pliers behind his right ear. The process wasn’t visible to her, but his expression certainly was. He shut his eyes and took a few deep breaths before he tensed. His hand pulled away from his head, and he grimaced, making a low sound in the back of his throat. Clasped in the pliers he held was a tiny black dot, connected to a tangle of wires that were emerging from his head like worms.

She was going to be sick.

He continued to pull at the wires, and the pained expression never left his face. She wanted to grab the pliers from his hands and stop him, but the wires would remain there, hanging like a lifeline. She couldn’t stop it. All that was left was to watch.

He pulled for what felt like forever, until finally the rope of wires ended, jerking from his head. He dropped the pliers and the wires fell into a heap on the ground and slumped back in his chair. There was a slight tremble in his arms when he reached up to brush some ginger hair from his eyes, streaking it with black. Blood also trickled down his neck.

Ignoring his protests, she stood over him and tilted his head, using her sleeve to wipe excess blood from the area. It was a small hole, but one that wasn’t keen to stop bleeding any time soon, being so close to his heart. She hesitated for the briefest of moments before rubbing her thumb and index finger together, gathering a drop of iridescent gel to smooth onto the wound. He jerked as if shocked and sat straight up.

“What was that?” He touched the spot behind his ear, and looked at his fingers. His eyes flew back to her.

“I’m helping.”

“But what was that?”

“It won’t hurt you—”

“I’m not going to ask you again,” he said. Only wariness sat in his gaze.

She busied herself with cleaning up the blood left behind with her sleeve, silent. He truly didn’t ask again, tense as she worked, but after a few moments, he slumped again, as in defeat.

“I really don’t understand you.”

Finished, she backed away, rolling her stained sleeve up her arm. “You’re lucky you aren’t dead.”

“There was no risk of dying. Just blood loss.”

“Where were those wires coming from? There were so many of them.”

She knelt on the floor and pinched the tiny stone attached to the end of the wires between her first two fingers, lifting it as she stood. The wires uncoiled as she lifted them, until they dangled before her, dripping black onto the floor.

“They’re as long as I am! Where were they inside your body?”

He stared at her from under hooded eyelids. “I’ll answer you when you answer me.”

She huffed, then held out the dripping wires. “Do I throw these away?”

“No.”

He smoothed his hands together and a pitch black bowl of what looked like tar formed in his palm. “Put them in here.”

Cautious though she was to move any closer to him, she obeyed, lifting her arm as high as she could to swing the wires into the bowl. When they were settled at the bottom, Glen tossed the bowl into the air and shut his fist. The bowl condensed on itself, a loud pop sounding from inside. What was once a bowl fell back to Glen’s palm a tiny speck of black. Then it melted into his skin and vanished.

Her eyes remained on his empty palm until he closed it.

She didn’t look back up at him, but left to grab towels. She returned to clean up the mess, but he sat up and blocked her with a hand. She wrung the towel in her hands, eyes on the black blood on the floor.

She waited for him to speak, but he didn’t. He opened his hand, revealing another black dot that expanded into a bubble. She tracked the movement with her eyes. Her gut reaction was to run, but something kept her in place. She looked up at him.

He tilted his head.

If she wasn’t holding the towel, her hands would have been dripping sweat. As it was, she was shaking harder than she’d like to admit. Regardless, she lifted her shaky palm upward. When he turned his attention to it, she closed her hand and opened it again. A small, pearl-sized bubble of iridescent gel shimmered on the surface.

Glen grimaced, moving from his chair to the floor before her. He took her opened hand in both of his, staring holes in the blob centered in her palm.

“So this is the other half of your DNA? The Namai side.”

She nodded.

“What is it?”

She shrugged.

“What does it do?”

“Check behind your ear.”

He touched the spot, and frowned. “It’s healed.”

“It does that.”

He turned her hand upside down, and ducked his head to look at the bubble. Then he held his hand next to hers, an identical dot of black in his own palm.

“See, our powers seem similar. But yours is positive. Mine destroys everything.”

She looked up. “What?”

“Yeah. If I put this on a wound it would eat right through it, not heal it.”

He stopped her when she tried to move back. His hand moved closer to hers.

“Glen, I don’t think—”

“It’s okay. I’m just checking something. It’s almost like they’re complete opposites—”

Both droplets flew toward one another without warning. They blended together in midair, turning white, and fell to the ground. Then it began to glow. She and Glen both moved away, eyeing it and each other.

“What did you do,” she asked.

“I didn’t do anything. I don’t know what’s happening.”

It should’ve been embarrassing that a tiny white dot was scaring her so much. But the way it was glowing looked lethal. It pulsed, like it had a heart. Glen didn’t look like he had a plan, so she stooped to cover it with a sheet of iridescent gel, forming an entire bubble around it. The pulsing quickened until it was a steady, even glow. Then there was a muffled pop from inside the bubble she’d formed, and it filled with white smoke. The smoke faded quickly, like it was being vacuumed out, and then the bubble was left, empty. She knelt and placed a hand on the bubble, and it absorbed back into her skin.

They didn’t speak. Glen observed her, multiple emotions in his eyes. She rubbed her hands together, shifting on her feet. He could’ve been thinking so many things. Maybe he was considering killing her then and there. Maybe he thought she was a monster. Maybe she was a monster. Both their peoples thought she was. She’d killed. She was a killer. Didn’t that, by definition, make her a monster?

The front door opened, bringing frigid air and snow flurries with it. Three figures, two large and one tiny, shuffled in.

Aaron dropped a bundle of bags on the table and moved immediately to her side.

“How are you doing?”

“I’m okay—”

“I brought you some things. Come look, I think you’ll like them.”

“In a minute. I’m feeling a little—”

“Sick? Are you okay? Do you need—”

She raised her voice. ”Aaron. I just need some space. Please.”

Guilt hit her hard as he backed off.

“But thank you. Really.”

He nodded. Something in a shiny case flew from his hand to Glen’s.

“Your Teilu stone. Untraceable. Expensive.” He leveled a glare at Glen, then glanced at her.

He hesitated, but held one out to her as well. “I didn’t know if you’d want one, but I got you one as well.”

She took his offering, turning it in her hands. There was no way she would ever go through the pain Glen had gone through moments before. She didn’t even know what the thing did.

“Why do you look so spooked,” Robert asked Glen.

Glen’s brows raised. “Me? No, I’m fine. Just thinking. Did you get the things I asked for?”

“Yeah.”

He began taking everything from the bags, and Glen went over to him. Saige remained in her spot on the floor, listening to the slight buzz of chatter throughout the room. There were only five of them, but the sound of others—even so few—was welcome. But she couldn’t get rid of the unease in the pit of her stomach.

A hand touched her shoulder, and she jumped. Xenia stood over her. She didn’t move as the woman tipped her chin up.

“Say something.”

“Like what?”

The woman nodded, releasing her chin. “You need to go lie down. You’re stressed. You need rest.”

She wasn’t tired, but she didn’t feel like arguing either. So she forced herself to her feet and dipped her head to the men.

“I’m going to lie down. Not feeling well...”

“Let me know if you need anything,” Aaron said immediately.

She nodded, avoiding his eyes, and retreated to the room he’d given her. But instead of heading for the bed, she moved to the window, opening the curtains. The moons, bright blue and pale grey, illuminated the snow-covered horizon. Her body revolted against the sight, and she shut her eyes.

“It’s okay,” she murmured to herself, “it’s just another planet. It’s not so bad here. I’ll get used to it.”

She closed the curtains again and moved to the bed. As she slipped into a relaxed state, she tried her best to envision the light blue skies and white clouds of what she considered her home planet. She might never see it again, but as long as she didn’t forget, all would be okay.

To think otherwise would guarantee her death altogether.

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