Warlands of Song

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Chapter Twelve: Glen

“The energy needs to come from your core. Here, stand like this. Hold your abdomen tight. No, like this, feel where I’m pressing down? Right here. Good. Now really feel it. Let it flow from your head to your toe. Breathe and let it travel with that air. It’s as thin or thick as you need it to be.”

He lifted his hand from her abdomen bit by bit, monitoring her breathing. Her eyes were shut, and she was following his instructions, but her body was tense as a bow.

“Relax. All this tension is not going to help you. You need to be pliable and open for your power to flow properly.”

“Can you stop touching me?”

He removed his hands completely, and she sighed, opening her eyes. Her pupils contracted because of the sunlight, and he moved so his shadow would offer her shade.

“I don’t think I can do this right now,” she said.

“Yes you can. Try again. Eyes closed, breathe deep and steady, and relaxed. Relax, Saige.”

Her next try lasted all of two seconds before her eyes popped open, and she frowned. “Look, I’ve done this before, okay? I used to practice using my powers. They work best when I’m angry, not relaxed.”

He nodded. “That’s usually what people rely on when they’re untrained. Anger. Really, anger just makes it harder to use your power. You’re forcing them out, not letting them flow naturally. It only stresses your body out further than the situation dictates.”

“But—”

“This is going to be difficult. You’re not used to doing anything hard, you’ve been living with humans for so long. But now you need to catch up. It’ll take some time. But when you master it, I’ll be confident in you if we get separated at any point.”

“So you’re not confident in me now?”

He lifted his brows at her. “Have you done anything to make me confident in your abilities yet? I’ve had to rescue you twice.”

Her gaze fell onto the ground, and she lifted a hand to her mouth, biting at the flesh of her fingertips. The look of embarrassment on her face almost made him take it back, but he resisted. Coddling her would do no good. She needed to know how he felt about her current ability and what he expected of her before she would make any effort to do better.

“Now, let’s try again.”

She sighed, but complied. He walked around her as she did so, checking her posture. She was still tense.

“Saige—”

“Tell me about your family,” she said.

He stopped walking, standing behind her. “This isn’t the time for that—”

“I can’t relax or concentrate when it’s quiet. Talk to me. Tell me about your family? Your daughter. What’s her name?”

He sighed, glancing toward the house. “Elizabeth.”

“How old is she?”

“Ninety-three.”

He listened to her next exhale, pleased to hear it was stable instead of shaky.

“I’m guessing that’s not very old at all here, is it?”

“Not at all. She’s be the equivalent of a thirteen year old on earth.”

“Does she look like you?”

She was slowly but surely relaxing. He took a seat beside her at the picnic table Aaron owned, trying to relax himself as well.

“I don’t think so. She looks a just like her mother.”

“What’s your wife’s name?”

“My ex-wife’s name is Gabriella.”

Saige was quiet for a moment. Then, “I’m sorry. Okay, something else... What about the rest of your family? Are you the oldest?”

He took a deep breath. “Tell me about your family.”

“I don’t know anything about them. I barely remember their faces.”

“Did you have a family on earth? I assume you lived there for most of your life, since you don’t remember your own family. You couldn’t have been on your own all that time.”

She swallowed, the slightest bit of tension reappearing in the set of her shoulders.

“Actually,” he backtracked as fast as he could, “I changed my mind. Tell me what it was like living on earth for that long.”

The back door to the house and Robert emerged. Glen waved him away, but his partner held a finger to his lips and mouthed that he wasn’t even there.

Saige relaxed at the change of subject. “Normal, I guess. I moved a lot.”

Glen watched Robert take a seat on the steps. His friend stared right back, brows raised. He stopped questioning Saige, instead going over to her and observing her stance again. She was completely relaxed, and her breathing was even.

“Can you feel your power?”

“No.”

He resisted the urge to sigh. No matter her age, she’d never received training. She didn’t even know what he power was, let alone how to properly feel and channel it. But she wasn’t even trying.

“Okay, what do you hear? Let’s start with that.”

“What do I hear?”

“Yes.”

She didn’t respond for a while, but finally she shook her head. “Nothing but Robert breathing behind us.”

He looked back to see his friend looking alarmed and disturbed. He hadn’t made a single sound.

“How do you know it’s Robert?”

“I know his breathing. And his footsteps.”

“He didn’t make any sound when he walked.”

“Yes he did. You can’t hear it. I can.”

He shrugged to his partner and carried on with his task. “Okay. Then listen inward. Can you do that?”

“I guess. I just hear my heartbeat.”

“Relax again, and focus your hearing inward—”

She slumped, opening her eyes and placing her hands on her hips. Tension filled her tiny frame once again and anger soon followed.

“This isn’t helping. This won’t work. You can have confidence in me because when things get heavy, I’ll be able to protect myself. That’s all that needs to be said. I’m fine how I am. I’ve survived for centuries without your help—”

“On earth," he snapped, advancing on her. “This is an entirely different planet full of people who would sooner snap you in half than help you or take it easy on you. You are far out of your element, and you need to wake up. You’re not safe here. I shouldn’t have brought you here. But your odds are better here than on earth. For now. But it won’t matter if you don’t train now.”

Her jaw flexed, and her hands fell from her hips to hover between them, palms facing him. Iridescent liquid dripped from her hands, down her wrists. Before he could think to react, she was on the ground, flat on her back. Robert neared, hand outstretched toward her. Glen shoved his hand down.

“She wasn’t going to hurt me.”

“I don’t know what she was going to do.”

He moved to help her up. She glared at Robert, brushing herself off.

“I knew he was just here to be your guard dog.”

He blocked Robert from advancing with a hand on his chest. “Go back inside. You’re making this worse.”

“This little—”

“Now. I didn’t ask for your help. I can take care of myself.”

Robert’s nostrils flared, but he retreated. He pointed to Saige. “You need to show some gratitude. He’s stupid to train you. You should be taking advantage of it if you plan to kill us one day.”

“I don’t. So why should I train? You should be helping me get out of it instead of letting him push me.”

Glen shut his friend up with a single deadly glance. Once alone with Saige again, he continued to face away from her. He transitioned from a crossed-arm stance, to a looser one. What did he say to make her see the gravity of her situation? A foreign planet full of the very military who were under orders to execute her on sight. No training, no friends, no family. No hope. But she wanted to protest his attempts to give her a chance.

“Why not?” he asked finally. He turned his head, but not enough to see her. Just so she could see him. “What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid. If I was, I wouldn’t have agreed to come here.”

He nodded. “Then I’ll rephrase. Why are you afraid to train? To learn how to use your powers.”

“I’m not. This just isn’t working, and I don’t like wasting time.”

If she wanted to continue denying her problems, then it was no use continuing to try. “We’re done for the day,” he said, and left her alone in the backyard.

Xenia was waiting for him when he entered the house. She touched his arm, but retracted her hand just as quickly.

“Yes?”

He watched her glance at Robert, who glared at her as though he was about to pounce. Then she looked back to him.

“Can we talk? Alone?”

“No,” Robert said.

“Robert,” Glen snapped, “go upstairs. You’re making everyone in this house uncomfortable, including myself. Neither Saige, nor Xenia wants to harm me, and even if they did, I can protect myself. You need to learn how to stop being on the offensive and let things happen. If you live waiting for someone to hurt you, you’re going to end up hurting them first. Do you want to be guilty of attacking and harming when there’s no need?”

Robert didn’t answer, jaw clenched.

“Just, please, give everyone the benefit of the doubt. She’s fine. Go.”

When his friend was gone, he gestured for Xenia to follow him out the front door where Saige wouldn’t be able to overhear. Xenia wasted no time.

“What are your intentions toward Saige?”

He tilted his head. “What do you mean?”

“Are you really trying to help her, or will you be turning her in?”

“I’m helping her. But why are you asking?”

She seemed worried, continually looking at the front door. She spoke fast.

“I just wonder if you’re making the right choice, to help her. This can’t end well.”

Not another one. Aaron was enough of a paranoid skeptic. He didn’t need yet another person determined to convince him that he didn’t need to help Saige.

“Look, if that’s all you wanted to say, I’m going to stop you here. Everything is going to be fine. You’re free to leave at any moment. No one will even think to look for you. I don’t even understand why you’re here, honestly. What’s your connection to Aaron?”

“I’m his wife.”

His brows nearly touched his hairline. She was Aaron’s wife? The two acted like they could barely stand each other’s presence half of the time.

“I didn’t know that.”

“It’s an arrangement. Not for love.” She didn’t meet his eyes any more. “I see you don’t share my point of view, so I’ll leave you be.”

He blocked her from leaving. She looked up at him now, wary. He leveled a serious gaze on her.

“I’m fine with you disagreeing with my helping Saige, but if you do anything to her, I won’t hesitate in coming to her defense.”

She nodded. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

He let her go, and went back inside himself. Dinner popped into his mind, but something caught his eye from the backyard, through the sliding glass doors, and he went to look.

Saige sat on the bench of the picnic table, eyes shut and lips parted. He pressed his palm against the glass as he watched her. His lips curved on their own. Maybe there was hope for her after all. Her skin almost glowed in the lighting of his planet, the silver-white of the sky picking up the slight glistening on her skin. She looked so small in the yard, at the table. In reality, she wasn’t half as small as a Siren, but she was definitely smaller than the average Namai woman.

He frowned when she began to squeeze her eyes tighter shut. Her body jerked slightly as her breath hitched, before she sneezed. Glen blinked once, twice, and a third time before he yelled for Robert and ran outside.

Saige was nowhere to be seen. Where she’d been sitting at the table, there was a puddle of the iridescent liquid she had control over. He heard Robert run outside behind him. He held a hand out to stop the man before he stepped in the puddle.

“What happened? Where is she?”

Glen’s eyes remained on the puddle. “I don’t... She was meditating like I taught her after all. But then she sneezed, and disappeared. This is what’s left.”

“That’s not possible. She can’t just vanish.”

“Then where did she go?”

The liquid wasn’t just in the puddle in the grass. It dripped like honey off the bench and beads of it were on the table. If it were red, the backyard would have looked like someone had exploded there. His frowned deepened as he thought about the word exploded.

“Maybe...” He crouched beside the puddle, squinting at it. “Maybe she turned into—”

The puddle began to tremble, rippling as though the planet moved underneath it. Slowly, the beads of liquid on the table slid into one bead, falling onto the bench, then from the bench onto the ground, and toward the puddle. Robert knelt beside him, and together they watched the puddle take shape again.

It formed an outline of a body first, before air bubbles formed inside the chest area, the shape of lungs. Then another set of lungs, a smaller set, just in front of the first. They watched organs appear, looking like bubbles in the gel, and then the flesh began to inflate and take shape, still see-through. Saige’s facial features took shape, her eyelids closed. But her irises were first to fill in with color, a striking silver. Then her skin turned, darkening until it was its normal shade of dark, dark brown.

He removed his shirt and waited until she was finished taking shape to slide it over her head, as her clothes hadn’t reappeared with her. She lay still for a few moments before her chest rose with her first breath, and her eyes opened wide, eyes glowing so bright he had to look away. She coughed and inhaled a giant gulp of air as though coming up for air, and her eyes dimmed when she sat up, arms supporting her frame. Neither he nor Robert helped her.

For the first time since he’d met the strange, lonely girl, Glen experienced an emotion he hadn’t felt in decades.

Fear.

As her breathing leveled out, she struggled to her feet, and Robert was the first to offer her assistance. Glen remained where he was, crouched beside her. She thanked Robert, then looked down at him. Her eyes were still wide, and Robert seemed to be holding her up.

“Are you okay?” Robert asked.

She just reached a hand up to gather in his shirt. Glen rose, slowly not to startle her as she seemed jumpier than he’d ever seen her. Her gaze flicked all around, and every noise made her twitch, jerking in the opposite direction. When he met Robert’s gaze, he saw his alarm mirrored exactly.

“Are you hurt?” Glen asked her.

Her head jerked to the left. He couldn’t tell if she was shaking her head or not, but she didn’t seem inclined to answer him. Her focus was on the backyard around them. It almost looked like she couldn’t see. Her eyes, though wide, were unfocused.

“Saige?”

She didn’t respond. Cautious, he stepped closer and tapped her cheek. Her hand flew to her face, slapping the spot, and she shrieked. He grabbed her arm to stop her panic, but she only freaked out more. He switched tactics, framing her face with his hands.

“Hey, can you hear me?”

She continued to fight him, obviously unable to do so. Or unable to answer him. Nothing made sense. He reached for her hands and brought them to his face. She scratched him, once, before her fingers fanned across his face and she felt along his features. Her hands went to his hair, and she ran her fingers through the curls there. Recognition sparked in her eyes, and they flashed rapidly.

“Glen?” she asked. “I can’t see you. I can’t hear you. I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know what just happened—Help me, please. I don’t know what to do. I c-can’t.”

He touched her hands again, and she fell silent. There was no way to relay that everything would be okay, so the only thing he could do was lead her inside with Robert’s help. For the rest of the night he and Robert made sure one of them kept a hand in hers. He couldn’t imagine what it felt like to be deaf and blind. Hopefully it would wear off soon.

What would they do if it didn’t?

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