Warlands of Song

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Chapter Forty-Six: Saige

A gentle murmuring flowed through her ears. Voices of men and women, young and old, talking about so many topics she couldn’t keep up. But she didn’t want to keep up. She just wanted to relax and revel in the sound of their mingling voices. Cool air brushed her body. She was outside. Her back rested on something firm, but soft, and fingers stroked her scalp through her hair. She shifted, sighing.

At her sigh, the fingers changed their rhythm and began to scratch lightly at her head. Then the fingers trailed down her face, stopping to cup her jaw. She pressed her face into the palm. It was hot and welcoming, and the thumb stroked her skin when she expressed appreciation.

There was something more to the touch. An extra gentleness she hadn’t experienced. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she sure wasn’t going to turn it down. It wasn’t until she caught herself pressing her lips into the roughened palm that she snapped out of her daze.

She opened her eyes slowly, expecting to see the sun, but instead was greeted by stars and a giant blue moon. She focused her eyes closer and spotted the individual seated beside her. The one touching her. She was sitting up and moving away faster than her mind could register what her body was doing. Her eyes looked around frantically, but there was nothing around them but forest. The crowd she’d been listening to was no longer there. They’d never existed to begin with.

“Who are you and where are we?”

The man clasped his hands around his drawn-up knees in the grass.

“Who do you think I am?”

His question wasn’t sharp or sarcastic, but genuine. His amber eyes assessed her, waiting for her answer. She looked him over.

The last time she’d seen him, his skin had been mottled with silver veins, his body cold and stiff. But now he was alive and well. Bruised, but alive.

“I think... you’re a dream. Someone I made up to replace the person I wanted to see most.”

And just like that, her good mood shattered. She scrubbed at the tear that rolled down her cheek.

“Is this heaven?”

The man smiled, though his eyes were sad.

“I don’t think that—if heaven existed—it would be in the state that this world is in.”

She stared at him, and he continued.

“You aren’t dead. And, strangely enough, neither am I. Though I vividly remember my death.”

“I tried to save you,” she blurted without thinking. “I did. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t work a miracle.”

Now the man moved, switching positions to kneel in the grass. He held out a hand. She didn’t move, but he nodded his head, reaching further. Finally, she took his hand, and he gently pulled her forward until she also rested on her knees, less than a foot away from him. He lifted her hand in his until her palm rested on his cheek.

“It’s okay. You can touch me. I’m not going to disappear.”

Her other hand began to lift to his face, but she stopped herself. He, however, completed the movement for her. But when he lifted her hand, he also took the time to unravel the bandages wrapped around it. His eyes flickered in the darkness before pain replaced the light. He lifted her ruined hand to his lips, kissing the stiff, hideous skin.

“I will never be able to atone for this,” he said, before placing the hand on his face with the other one.

“There’s nothing to atone for. It was my own choice.”

She shook her head. What was she doing? He wasn’t real. Why was she talking to him as though he was?

“I’m real. Touch me, you’ll see.”

“I just want to wake up now—”

“Shh... It’s okay.”

The way he spoke was all too familiar, as was his tenderness with her. But everything else was off. His scent, his appearance, his voice... It was all wrong. She ran the fingers of her good hand through his silver-white hair, and he sighed, the sound carried away with the wind. She looked him over, but nothing else was familiar. But when her eyes reached his torso, something floated back into her mind.

She glanced up at him before lifting the hem of his shirt to feel beneath. She shut her eyes, feeling along his side, until her fingers touched the imperfect ridges of flesh. Eyes still shut, she shook her head. But at his urging, she opened them and took a look. Lifting his shirt higher, she let her eyes follow her fingers in tracing the scar, stark upon his pale skin. But it didn’t take long for tears to blur her vision.

“Who am I,” he asked again.

She couldn’t bear to remove her hands from the scar. She feared he would disappear if she stopped touching him.

“You’re the man I owe my life. My sanity...”

“Who am I?”

“My—”

His fingers grasped her chin and tilted her face up so she could meet his eyes.

“Say my name.”

“I can’t—”

“Who am I?”

“Glen. ”

Why his name sent her into such an emotional state, she didn’t know. But he held her while she cried into his chest, arms like iron bars around her. And when he said her name, she heard the crack in his voice as well.

*_*_*_*_*

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“Neither do I.”

“You were dead. For a long, long time before I found you. Maybe hours.”

Glen nodded. His chin brushed the top of her head.

“I’m no help. I wasn’t alive to witness your miracle.”

“But I need to know what happened. How did we get out of there if you were dead and I was... who knows. What really happened to us, Glen?”

He was silent for a moment.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I would rather show you.”

“Okay.”

They stood, and began their walk. Glen insisted on holding on to her hand, and she didn’t admit how grateful she was. He hadn’t asked, after all. After a bit of traveling, Glen slowed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just thought I would give you a chance to take it in a little better.”

“What are you talking about?”

He gestured to the space in front of them with a hand. She squinted, but saw nothing.

“What are you pointing at? There’s nothing there.”

“That’s right.”

“Then what... Oh...”

He led her, slowly, to what at first glance looked to be some sort of clearing. Like someone had chopped down all the trees. But as they neared, her stomach dropped lower and lower. The forest ended abruptly. There was a tiny path that had once led to the base she’d found herself trapped in for months. But it ended without warning and dropped straight down into an enormous sinkhole.

Glen steadied her when she swayed.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he said.

“The fact that you have to say that means that it was. Oh my—”

Her emotions were stemmed when he moved in front of her and walked her backwards until her back touched a tree. His hands moved up to her face, blocking everything but himself from her sight.

“You have accomplished more in the last couple of years than I ever expected. Than anyone ever expected. You’ve grown into a force to be reckoned with. And that hole behind me only serves to prove it. Now everyone will know just how powerful you are.”

“Glen, I just started a war,” she whispered, her composure slipping. “I just started another war. I did what they recruited me to avoid! Oh my gosh...”

“No. No, look at me,” he said when she started to panic. “Look at me, Saige. You did not start this war. This war began thousands of years ago, before either of us or our parents were even born. It’s never ended. It might have gotten pushed under the rug, but tell me one time when pushing a problem under a blanket makes the problem go away?”

She shook her head, stuttering in an attempt to answer.

“You have uncovered the nasty mess that our ancestors left us to work out. And yes, that may seem bad now, but I have a feeling that you’re going to change things. You can change things, Saige. You will. And all I can do is tag along for the ride.”

“Glen, you’re Xinaan too! I don’t know how, but you are. Don’t put this all on me!”

He laughed. The bastard had the nerve to actually laugh at the situation. She started to rage at him, but he hushed her. She still continued to scold him.

“I killed people and you’re laughing? I destroyed an entire military base and started a war, but you think this is funny?”

He shook his head, sobering. “No. I don’t think that’s funny at all.”

“You’re right! It isn’t.”

He smiled again, but didn’t laugh this time. This time he simply watched her, his amber eyes sliding over her features like he’d never see her again. She dropped her eyes multiple times, but he didn’t make her nervous. Something was stirring in her stomach and she didn’t like it. She shifted, uncomfortable. It felt like she was nauseous or anxious. All because he was so close.

“Glen--”

“I love you,” he said. “And I know you don’t feel the same way, but I need you to know. Whenever I’ve been in trouble, or when I felt like the world was against me, all I had to do was think of you and everything would be okay. I died peacefully knowing that you were strong enough to take care of yourself. That you didn’t need me. My life was turned upside down because I’ve just found out after over one thousand years that I am not who I thought I was, but you make it bearable. I’m only standing here because you came into my life, and if you think for a second that I’m going to let something as trivial as war come between us, you’ve lost your mind.”

“Something as trivial as war? Are you joking?”

He removed his hands from her body.

“I don’t care that you think I’m crazy. But war has been my life for centuries. I’ve fought in them and won. This is no different. Except this war will be for everything and everyone I love. Including you. Because you will bring about the end of this conflict. And when that happens I hope we’ll have gone through enough that you’ll be able to say you love me too. Because I don’t know what I would do without you.”

She looked down at the grass.

“You were fine before you met me—”

“Yes. I was fine. But now? Now I’m alive.”

She shook her head, but remained quiet. He continued.

“Eavan told me to pass along a message.”

She looked up at this announcement.

“She told me to tell you that family will always find you.”

Eavan. A person from her past. The woman who gave her so much hope and companionship when she needed it most. She owed Eavan so much.

“Where is she? And Fey.”

Glen took her hand and they began to walk away from the destruction.

“They’re safe. For now, that’s all you need to know. But there’s someone who isn’t safe, and I have to go get her before someone else does.”

“Who?”

“My daughter.”

She stopped. She’d forgotten all about his family.

“Oh my gosh, your family—”

“My family will be fine. They’re Namai through and through. But my daughter... she isn’t. Not completely. And she has no idea.”

“Then we have to go get her.”

“We’ve just started a war, and everyone on the planet is looking for us, but when I tell you my daughter needs help you don’t hesitate to go looking for her.”

“She’s yours. And she doesn’t deserve to suffer. Neither of you do.”

His hand tightened around hers.

“Neither do you.”

“We’ll work on that later.”

His smile lit up the forest, moonlight reflecting off of his teeth.

“Yes, we will.”

They kept walking.

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