Warlands of Song

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Chapter Forty-Five: Saige

She drifted back to consciousness with the nagging feeling that something was wrong. She wasn’t in a safe place. Her back crackled when she shifted, and she groaned. Her hands scrubbed across her eyes, but something crusty ended up in them and she had to keep them shut. She continued scrubbing at them as she picked herself up off he ground. Wiping one fingertip across her eyelid, she attempted to summon up a bead of Matter to “rinse” her eye, and instead ended up crumpling to the ground with a shriek.

Now thoroughly awake, she gasped and scrambled back up. The crust in her eyes didn’t matter. She pried her eyes open and forced herself to look at the sight before her. The moment her eyes hit the scene, she felt the sparse contents of her stomach come back up. She turned and vomited onto the floor beside her. Byron’s body lie less than a foot away from her, a spear of Matter sticking out of his chest and dried blood trailing down his face from every hole.

What had she done?

The previous day—no, had a day even passed? When was it? Wasn’t she with—Fey!

“Fey! Oh my gosh, no.”

She wiped her mouth and hurried to the bed beside the one she’d been in. Fey still lay in the fetal position, dried blood pooled in her ear. Saige rolled the woman over and straightened her body before lifting her over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carrying her out into the hallway. She shut the door to the room behind her, locking in the body and the smell and the regrets.

“Fey. Fey, wake up.”

The woman was breathing, but barely, her chest rising and falling once or twice a minute.

No, no no she couldn’t have killed her. She’d just been trying to get the both of them out. She started to apply Matter to the woman’s ears with both hands, until she remembered that she only had one working hand. So she had to do the best she could with the one. Fey didn’t respond to anything, still unconscious without any sign of awareness whatsoever.

Saige looked up and down the hallway. All she wanted to do was call for help. But no one would come. And if they did come, it wouldn’t be to assist, but to finish them off. She’d have to get herself and Fey both to safety. Somehow.

“Okay, come on Saige, you can do this. You trained for this.”

This wasn’t true. She’d trained for evacuation, sure. But with one hand, carrying an unconscious Namai woman while she herself was very much injured? No, she hadn’t been trained for that at all. But still she pushed herself and lifted the woman to her shoulder again. She was suddenly grateful for all the times Carter had her carry him through the gym and over obstacles. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to do it.

She carried Fey through the tunnel-like hallways of the base. She was sick of the place. It felt like the walls were beginning to close in on her. The hallways were smaller. She could’ve sworn they were.

The ground rumbled at one point, and she stopped to listen. Far away, somewhere on the other side of the base, something had exploded. The alarms didn’t click on, however. There was no more noise. Something was happening.

“Yeah, we need to hurry up,” she panted, picking up speed. “It’d be nice if you could contribute something to the situation.”

And now she was talking to herself. Wasn’t that just great?

Countless tunnels went by in a blur, until she passed one with something that caught her eye. She debated turning around, paused in the hallway just past it. Everything in her sane mind screamed no, to keep going, but something in her soul told her to stop.

Turn around, it said. Go back.

She set Fey down, gently. She propped the woman against the wall and jogged back to the entrance of the previous hallway. A sole man lay in the hallway, unconscious.

Just another casualty. But she was the only one on the run and she didn’t knock him out.

She glanced back at Fey, still leaned against the wall, before shaking her head and approaching the man. Upon nearing, her hands went to her mouth in horror.

Silver veins ran up his neck and face. They criss-crossed like an electric circuit board. And he wasn’t breathing. His face was pale and his hair was a shocking shade of white. Or silver. Maybe both.

She knelt beside him against her better judgment, resting a hand on his chest. It didn’t move. But his body was unnaturally warm in death. Why was she still there? He had nothing to offer her. He was dead and gone. But his attire was confusing too. He only wore a doctor’s coat. No pants or shoes. And he was bruised everywhere. There were pinpricks in his legs and chest, when she opened the coat, that suggested that he’d been hooked up to medical equipment.

“Who were you,” she asked the empty hallway.

More importantly, why can’t I leave you here and rescue myself?

She touched his eyelids and peeled them back to reveal startling amber eyes. He stared blankly at the ceiling above their heads, but there was something about him. Something she was missing. Or something she was finding?

On a whim, she pried his lips apart and jerked back in shock.

He had two tongues. Just like her. Her eyes roamed his frame once again. The silver veins in his face, the shocking color of his hair. The only things he was missing was...

Her train of thought derailed when she looked down at his hands. He held a small black disk. Blacker than black, and when she tapped on it, it was solid. Negative Matter.

“You were Xinaan too,” she whispered.

Her head whipped back at the sound of rustling, and she stood to run back to where she left Fey. The woman was moving! She ran up to her and grabbed her in a hug.

“You’re okay.”

Fey didn’t respond, instead groaning and touching her ears. Saige pulled back to look her over.

“What hurts besides your ears?”

The woman didn’t answer, not responding at all to Saige’s inquiry.

“Fey?”

She snapped in Fey’s face, and only then did the woman look up, frowning in pain and question.

“Your ears hurt?”

Fey continued to frown, and when Saige repeated the question her eyes dropped down to her lips.

“I can’t hear anything,” she said. “I don’t know what you’re saying.”

Saige’s heart stopped beating for a second. What had she done?

But there was nothing to be done, and as a second explosion shook the base, she pulled Fey after her, half carrying her new friend to the man she’d found in the previous hallway.

Fey wailed and dropped down beside the body.

“Glen,” the woman yelled. “Oh my god, Glen!”

Saige frowned, looking at the body again. Did Fey have brain damage in addition to hearing loss? This man looked nothing like Glen.

But when she tried to kneel and correct the woman, Fey grabbed her arm and wouldn’t let go. Her eyes were wide.

“Glen changed. Whatever happened between you two on the beach changed him! This is what he turned into. I don’t understand why, but I didn’t have time to ask him while I helped you. You have to bring him back!”

She made no sense.

Maybe I should’ve left her. Let her die in peace in her sleep instead of suffering like this.

Fey grabbed her shoulders next.

“Don’t look at me like that! I’m not crazy. This is Glen. You have to bring him b-back... please bring him back...”

Saige’s heart caved at the sight of the woman breaking down. Whether or not what she was saying was true--and Saige leaned against that--Fey wouldn’t be leaving without the man. Whomever he was. But he was clearly dead and had been like this for quite some time.

She placed a hand on Fey’s arm and nodded, hoping to transfer feelings of goodwill to the distraught female. But Fey just continued to sob and cry over the man’s body. Though she didn’t know what had killed him, but she knew that it was something in his blood. Maybe...

“I don’t have time for maybe,” she muttered.

She formed a blade of Matter in her palm and made a precise cut on the man’s chest, right above his heart. Then she cut a bit deeper and hovered a shaking finger above the incision, letting Matter drip down into his body. Silver blood identical to her own oozed from the wound, but it mixed with the Matter she dropper in. Hopefully this would work.

Then she began CPR. She had to fight to tune out Fey’s hysterics as she breathed into his body and pumped at his heart. Another explosion shook the building, and she shook her head.

Was she wasting her time? He’d been dead too long, but Fey...

She continued. Her efforts sped considerably, but her mind kept telling her to leave them both. Every time she moved to stop though, something pulled her back. As a last-ditch effort, and took the deepest breath she possibly could and pressed her lips to his, blowing it all into his lungs. Then she took both hands—despite only one working the way it should have—and pounded them into the area above his heart. Once, twice, and a third time.

Nothing happened.

She sat back and sniffed, feeling her own tears slip down her face. Fey’s sorrow ebbed into her own being and she felt lost and hopeless. Where was Glen? Was he with the other Commanders, helping to put out the fires? Was he helping the less experienced soldiers, and completely erasing any memory of her from mind? Maybe he was taking on the enemy, and winning. Because he always won. He was amazing that way.

“You’re not giving up on him,” Fey cried.

She threw her hands to her sides, still crying.

“What else am I supposed to do, Fey? He’s dead. I don’t know who he is, but he’s dead. And I’m not a miracle worker. I can’t bring him back.”

For the first time, Fey read her lips accurately. The woman reached, and Saige let her take her hand.

“Yes you are. And you know who he is. Deep down, you can feel it. This is Glen.”

She shook her head.

“No, I don’t know. I have no idea who he is! Glen wouldn’t have been here, for one thing—”

“He came back for you, idiot. He must have.”

“Why would he have left to begin with? And why would they kill him?”

“I don’t know what you’re saying, but I do know this: Glen risked his life for you, and the lives of everyone around him. But you’re going to let him die like this? Just leaving him here in the hallway like a stranger?”

A sob escaped Saige’s mouth, and she clamped a hand over her mouth to stem the sound. Her hand touched the man’s chest, and her head lowered to his. She started her CPR anew, this time through sobbing and desperation.

“I don’t know if you’re Glen or not,” she said while she pumped at his chest, in between breaths, “but if you are I refuse to let you die like this. You’re like me. I’ve never met anyone like me, and they killed you...”

But no matter how much she huffed and puffed, and pounded, he wouldn’t wake up. His heart never began to beat. She wasn’t aware of how desperate she’d become until Fey, at last, grabbed her into a hug and refused to let go.

This was all her fault. People were dying all because of her. She had to make it right.

“It’s not working,” Fey said. “It’s just not.”

“I deserve to die along with everyone else,” she sobbed, but of course Fey couldn’t hear her.

Something came over her all at once. Many emotions rolled into one. Fear, anger, rage, and... peace. Resolve.

She pulled from Fey’s hug and spoke slowly so the woman could read her lips.

“I’m going to meet you in the forest behind the courtyard. Can you wait for me there?”

Fey frowned. “Saige—”

“I just want to say goodbye to him. Please, can I just have a second?”

Another rumble, bigger than all the rest, came over the base and the walls shook. Fey nodded, but gripped the back of her neck tightly.

“You’re going to hurry up. Don’t make me come back in here for you.”

“I won’t. Go.”

Fey stood and ran, obeying like a good soldier.

Saige had never been good with orders.

She knelt beside the body and took its hand. She didn’t know how she’d be able to tell even if was Glen. She looked him over closer than ever before and as a last resort, brushed the doctor’s coat open all the way. They she spotted it. A scar on his left side. A scar in the exact place she’d stabbed him. How she’d almost killed him. Her eyes overflowed and she choked back a new fit of sobs.

“Oh my gosh... I am so sorry,” she sobbed. “I am so sorry...”

She’d failed him, when he’d never failed her. Not once. He was the reason she was alive, but she was the reason why everyone he’d loved died. And why he was now dead. When her crying spell was over, she took his other hand and looked at the black disk of Matter in it.

What had he been planning to do with it? Kill whoever had ultimately ended his life, or kill himself? Did it matter? He’s been in enough trouble to warrant using his power, but he’d never gotten to use it.

“No more running,” she said. “If you don’t get to fight back, neither do I.”

She rested his hands down on his chest, but kept the disk of Negative Matter. After observing it for a long moment, she turned her arm so her bad hand was facing up and placed the disk in it. Then she formed an identical disk in her good hand. She took a last look at Glen’s body, then brought both hands—and both disks—together. They flew toward one another as they had many months prior, but this time she didn’t panic. Even as they began to glow and rise, defying gravity, she didn’t panic. The peace inside her simply rose to staggering heights, and she felt herself smile. Finally, after centuries of running, she would get to rest. On her own terms.

The combined disks, now glowing bright white, began to flicker and expand. She watched the orb separate, splitting in half, before each half flew apart to opposite sides of the hallway, still growing. Only then did she frown, but it was too late. The humming emanating from them rose in pitch and frequency until it was a steady hum. The orbs grew brighter and brighter, and whiter and whiter, until she had to shut her eyes.

Soon the light shone right through her eyes. Accompanied by a great heat that felt all at once wonderful and overwhelming. But she was at peace. So she let the heat envelope her and carry her far, far away...

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