Warlands of Song

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Chapter Five: Saige

“How does your side feel?”

She didn’t answer Glen as she sat up, hand at her waist. She stood, pushing his helping hands away, and moved to the mirror. Then she lifted her shirt. On her skin sat a giant scar. The edges looked fried, though the skin was still soft and pliable. But at least the blood was gone. The thought sparked another, and she frowned, looking at the rest of her. Her previous clothing had been replaced by a big shirt. She dropped the hem of it, realizing how much she was revealing. But if he’d changed her, he’d already seen, so what difference did it make?

“Your other clothes were covered in blood, so I had to get you something new. I didn’t think you’d mind, based on what happened the other night.”

Her eyes snapped to his in the mirror. He watched right back, no smile on his face. Fear almost gripped her, until a quick glance at his hands indicated he held no weapon. He wasn’t threatening her. But... He’d killed that other man without moving. He didn’t need a weapon. She hadn’t seen what he’d used. All she’d been able to see was the body when it hit the floor.

“I’m not going to hurt you. I just wanted you to know that I remember. I know. Or, I think I know.”

How could he remember? She’d never met anyone who could resist her voice, until the man with the earplugs had broken into her home. Did Glen have earplugs too? She eyes his ears as though she could stare through the flesh there.

“I don’t have plugs,” he said.

When she took a step back, observing her surroundings, he held his hands up where she could see them. “I don’t have plugs, and I don’t have ill intentions. I just wanted to help.”

The only door was behind him. There was no window to escape out of. He moved, hands still raised, out of the way, leaving a clear path to the door.

“Are you a mind-reader,” she asked.

“I’m not. I’ve learned how to observe people and figure out what they’re thinking. And it’s a natural response for anyone who’s just been attacked—at least twice, from what I’ve gathered—to be jumpy and suspicious. Especially a Siren, in the presence of Namai.”

She didn’t correct his false guess. It was safer if he thought she was Siren.

“But you’re safe here. We won’t let anyone hurt you.”

Who were “they” to begin with? And why was she here? Why had they taken her home with them instead of dropping her at the hospital? What the heck was going on?

“Saige?”

“I never told you my name.”

“No. One of the soldiers outside your home told me. I suspected that wasn’t your real name. You stumbled when you said it.”

Not in a noticeable way. He must’ve been watching for a slip up.

“Who are you working for?”

He blinked. “Honestly, no one at the moment. Technically I still work for the military. Our—well. The military of my people. But I’m on leave.”

“Why?”

“I was injured. I needed to think about my choices a bit.”

“So you came to earth?”

“Why not? Nothing to remind me of home.”

She didn’t know how to feel. Her mind screamed at her to run. He wasn’t blocking her path. It wouldn’t be hard. But her heart told her she was okay, if only for the moment. But her realization was followed by a lack of knowing what to do next.

“Can I go home?”

He dipped his head. “If you wish. We’ve cleared your home, so you don’t have anything to figure out. I’m not going to force you stay here. But,” he continued, “if you’re against being alone, then you’re welcome to stay. That’s normal. You almost died.”

“I’m fine.”

“I know. That’s why I gave you the choice.”

Still, she hovered, torn between her options. He gestured to the door with his chin.

“Are you hungry? I’ll heat you a bowl of soup.”

He took her silence as an answer and walked away, leaving her to follow. She did, with nothing else to do. He led her down a short hallway that opened into the space between the kitchen and den. There was a man at the computer at the desk by the window. He didn’t turn when they walked in, continuing to type on whatever he was working on. She on the other hand, slowed. Glen glanced back at her, then to his roommate.

“Robert, say hello. Don’t be ridiculous, you know you were raised better than that.”

The man, Robert, turned in his chair to look at her. “Hello, Saige.”

“Hello.”

He turned right back around, and Glen shook his head. “Come on.”

She sat at the table and watched as he took a giant pot from the fridge, and fixed her a generous portion. She blew on it, while he watched her.

“Are you in any pain?”

“I’m fine.”

“Right. Fine.”

The soup tasted heavenly. She must have made a face alluding to it, because Glen smiled. “You like it?”

“I’m hungry.”

He frowned. “All the food I left you?”

She didn’t look up at him. There was no way she would admit the truth. No way. But something changed on his face while he looked at her. He chuckled.

“Did you eat it all?”

She wouldn’t admit that she had. Her control had already slipped, and if the way she drained her bowl of soup was any indication, she wouldn’t be retrieving it anytime soon. Glen refilled her bowl without asking if she wanted more and settled across from her again.

“You’re very skinny for someone who eats so much.”

“I don’t eat a lot.”

“Anorexic?”

Her glare made his smile grow. Why had she stayed? She should have left as soon as she woke and ran.

“No,” she said, as calm as possible despite the rage broiling inside. “I just don’t eat a lot.”

“Well it’s obvious. You’re too skinny.”

“Excuse me?”

He didn’t answer, eyes smiling. It was as though he enjoyed provoking her. She ate more soup in silence. The cabin he shared with his roommate was small, but nice. Not the typical bachelor pad, it was so neat it felt unlived in. She wondered which of the two men was OCD. Glen was neat and put together. She could barely see his roommate. All she made out of Robert was a head of brown hair, as he sat turned away from them.

“Where did you move here from?” Glen asked.

Before she could formulate a lie, Robert spun away from his desk and stood, stalking over to them. He turned a kitchen chair backwards and straddled it, leveling his eyes on both she and Glen.

“Is there a problem?” Glen asked.

Robert waved him off, shaking his head. “Problem? No. I just figured that since we’re going to be feeding it and conversing with it like it couldn’t kill us at any second, I might as well join in.”

Her spoon slipped from her fingers, hitting the ceramic bowl with a clink.

“Robert, I told you already—”

“No, I know, I know. It won’t hurt us, it’s good, it’s not to be feared. I get it. But your stupidity is not rubbing off on me. It’s not good, it’s evil. They all are. It is to be feared because as I mentioned earlier, it can kill us at any moment. And it will hurt us.” His eyes slid back to hers. “It’s just waiting for the opportune moment. After we’ve come to trust it, and have given it all the secrets it wants.”

As the silence stretched on, she debated the best move. She could slap him, like she wanted to. She could hurt him, a quick little bark of laughter, pitched with just enough painful frequency to make him reconsider his words. Or she could in fact kill him, as he was so convinced she would do eventually anyway.

“First of all, I am not an ‘it,’ I am a ‘she.’ Second of all, I moved here to get away from people like you, so what makes you think I would ever in my entire life choose to stay with you long enough to gain your trust and find out whatever secrets you could possibly be hiding—which I don’t believe would interest me at all? And finally, no, I do not wish to harm you. I only harm in self-defense, so it’s only if you plan on attacking me that I will do any damage to your sensitive being.”

She sat back, folding her arms across the top of the table. “You should be more upset with your roommate, who has all but forced his way into my life and disturbed my normal moving patterns and routines.”

“How did I disturb anything?” Glen said.

“It would take more energy than I have right now to explain it to you. But I didn’t ask for your help, and you should’ve minded your own business.”

“I do agree with that,” Robert said, eyes on Glen. “I told you that.”

Glen frowned. “But—”

“There’s nothing to argue—”

“There’s nothing you can possibly say—”

She and Robert both stopped and looked at each other. Then Robert continued.

“There’s nothing to argue about. You’re in the wrong.”

Glen, a bit red-faced at this point, looked straight to Saige. “If I hadn’t intervened, you’d be dead right now. Are you okay with that?”

She threw her hands out at her sides. “Yes! It was my time! I’ve been running my whole life, and I’m tired. I couldn’t use my voice on them, and they had me right where they wanted me. I was almost away from this miserable world, and you took that from me.”

Glen and Robert were silent after her outburst. Then Glen spoke again.

“That man, the one who was going to kill you, said that you’ve killed before. The first officer who was sent to kill you. Is that true?”

She nodded.

“You didn’t just let him kill you. So you must want to live.”

“That was instinctual. I wasn’t thinking.”

“Because instinctively you want to live. It’s only when you start thinking about your life and your situation—whatever it may be—that you want to die. Is that fair?”

“You don’t know me,” she said. “Don’t act like you understand.”

“I may not know you, but I know the emotions running through you right now. You almost died. Twice. Maybe more at previous times. You’re on the run, and right now you’re locked in a Cabin on a mountain with two men you don’t know, and who you believe want you dead. And one of them obviously doesn’t trust you. You’re scared.”

“Nothing scares me anymore. I just want to leave.”

“I gave you the option. The door isn’t hidden. You can go whenever you want.”

There was no answer to that. She looked toward the door in question, wishing she could walk through it and go back to her own cabin. She needn’t wish at all, but she did. Why didn’t she just leave? She sunk lower in her chair, decompressing, with a frown. What was holding her here with these men she didn’t like or trust?

“Well until you figure it out,” Glen said, “you’re free to stay. It shouldn’t be so bad. Three meals, snacks, company. One of us is good company.”

A glance at Robert revealed his slight scowl, but he didn’t argue anymore. Perhaps he felt as she did, that it was useless to fight back. She didn’t know why she would stay, why she wanted to, but she would until the knowledge was uncovered.

Anything to not have to go back to an empty house again. To stay one more day wouldn’t be the worst...

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