Mist settled over the forest floor and December rain trickled against the last dry autumn leaves. Winter had not yet overtaken this part of Northern Virginia, and the first true snow of winter had yet to fall. But even so in the twisted sparkle of the blue moon shining full and bright over the endless trees, frost spread over the frozen leaves like a breeze, bringing its own winter with it. It was eerie yet bright at midnight and the tainted blue of the moon against the frost was a powerful warning, warding the whole area from strangers.
Thunder cracked far in the distance, a flash of light to the west and if one were to travel deeper into the mist, the storm would get stronger. The rain changed to intricate snowflakes, coating everything, the pine needles underfoot were crisp and crackled. Not a single creature dared to go near here, but if one dared to venture inside it would be only a few steps towards the cold that they would find, there was something supernatural about this place.
The trees got darker and thick pines clouded the way but stepping through their billowing branches revealed a light which could barely be concealed by the evergreens. A tower of barren trees stood in a circle containing in their branches and incredible fortress of ice two stories in the air. The tree trunks were woven with intricate knots of Celtic designs in their bark made of ice, and there was a spiral staircase traveling up to a hatch door, thick and heavy, made of opaque white ice. The staircase was blue and shimmered as the thunder clapped again and it disintegrated the frost blowing away to the surrounding area.
The door slammed shut heavily, but once inside the hexagonal roof of the fortress drew the eyes first, layering everything in patterns and murals. These stories recalled memories, a tale of wonder and beauty, but love and loss. Dark colors tainted every other panel of ice on the roof, and while the lighter panels were beautiful displaying friends in grace and wholeness, the darker panels, depicted heartbreak, death, and a young boy. The northernmost panel depicted both colors light and dark, deep love and bitter hate, and this showed a sleeping boy with long hair strewn about the upside-down surface where he slept.
The room was cold like death and the six panels on the walls were divided in two to double the work space there the child inside could draw on them. A boy sat there, facing the wall on the far side and with his fingernail he was drawing out a creature on the ice, detailing the fine fur of a hare which tangled with a snake in the image. This boy sat comfortably on a pile of snow on the floor distracting his time with drawing but despite his placid appearance, there was something dark that had grown in the boy’s heart.
His pure silver hair had grown out some, coarse and brittle, and his eyes were dark and sunken blue. He was tame now, but the anger pent up in him was capable of endless destruction. His only love, the only thing of importance to him, was this place, his ice. In the December air, he didn’t even have to maintain the ice, because the frigid season maintained it for him. He had made a home of this place creating a bed of snow with a single thin blanket as a sheet for it, and near to the foot of his bed, laid a pile of dirty, unwashed clothes that were all he had.
At the head of the room on the far east side of it, right of the hatch door, he had built one tall, grand throne for himself. It was a gorgeous, carved chair, tall and majestic which was attached to the floor to symbolize his unwillingness to move from this solitary castle. It was a symbol he had seen before, when that throne was grown from a tree and symbolized a never-ending reign. The boy followed in those footsteps and his throne was the same to him as the Prince of Ice.
Standing up in a flash, the boy sensed a presence near to him, skittish and jumpy and he whirled around to face the staircase. No one appeared or made a sound for several minutes, but with a wave of his hand, the boy sent off the serpent and the hare, creating them as living ice to run about the fortress room and join the other creatures. Slowly, the boy glided towards his throne on a pair of ice skates, and he took his place guarded even from his own creatures as he watched wolves, bobcats, dragons, boars, and other monsters he created roam the room, brawling with each other but bowing to him when he sent them a foul glance.
He closed his eyes stretching his power across the area so that the icy ward spread further and further, scaring away anyone who might stumble across it. He made the evergreens crowd closer and thicker, concealing the fortress he had created. Letting his thoughts run rampant through the Realm of Shadows, Iszeldier took pride in all he had created. He desired to stay here as long as he could, before it was time to move on his plans for the Shadows, and it wasn’t long now, with how his powers were growing stronger by the day, it was almost time.
December 12, 2155
“Come on dude, get out!” The dragon boy, Cælan Fanír banged with an open hand on the bathroom door as he stood in the hall furiously tapping his foot, “I need to get a shower!”
He had to continue banging on the door for a minute longer before it was opened suddenly and Cælan nearly whacked Jet in the face, “Good luck with that!” he mocked, his mouth full of toothpaste and his shoulder length light brown hair tied up in a red knot to keep it dry and out of his face, “We’re out of hot water,” he let Cælan into the little tile-floor room but held his ground to finish brushing his teeth, “maybe you should try getting up earlier.”
Cælan growled at him, hastily getting out his shower chair from under the sink and unfolding it before placing it in the bathtub. “You redneck freak!” he snapped under his breath, “I’m surprised you have any teeth left at all.”
Smugly, Jet laughed at him for trying to insult him, “Hey, this is my territory now, you’re in redneck-land, better get used to it!” he rinsed his mouth in the sink and grabbed a flannel shirt he had stuffed through the towel ring as he left. Cælan was absolutely sick of listening to his West Virginian accent day and night, Jet was driving him perfectly insane, and it felt like a shower in the morning was the one time he got alone time.
After locking the door, and taking off his prosthetic leg, Cælan undressed, hopped carefully into shower, sat down, and turned on the water. However, he was drenched by freezing water and he nearly screamed as it made his dragon traits explode with fury. His face turned black with gem-like scales and his wings fanned out and grew to six feet in length each, to protect him from the cold water. Hastily, he turned off the water and bitterly, he groaned so loudly that it could be heard from the hall.
Passive aggressively, he got dressed without bathing, brushed his teeth and savored the warmth of the hair dryer as he tamed the dragon inside him, which hated the cold. Cælan growled to himself before he left the bathroom; he really hated this place. The moment he left the bathroom he was ambushed by Mikaela who cackled at him, “Wow! That was the fastest shower I think you’ve ever taken!”
Cælan tried to ignore her, still shivering as he made his way downstairs. The Viridian was a terrible mess and it was possibly the oldest house Cælan had ever stood in. The three-story house with a loft had been built in 1831 and was almost three hundred twenty-five years old, sure it had been renovated, and modernized a little, but the electricity barely worked, there was only two gallons of hot water at any given time, and there were actually rooms that were off limits because they were unsafe.
Worst of all, Cælan had to share a room with Jet, Khalo, and Kirow something he hadn’t thought would be so bad at first, but he was so wrong. Jet was obnoxious, Khalo snored like nobody’s business, and both of them had conversations in their sleep. Cælan found himself calling his brother every day to rant about some of the bizarre conversations the two unconscious individuals had at the unholy hours of the night. Kirow luckily, slept like a rock, soundless and unmoving through the night.
The one thing Cælan was okay with was that the hunting up in the mountains of Luray was really good. Most of them slept on the third floor, and on the second floor was the library, the only two bathrooms, a television room which was supposed to be off limits but no one listened since the television got hooked up, and there were two more bedrooms, reserved the Overseers and Ira. On the first floor, there was the sun room where Cælan enjoyed staying because it was very warm in there still, but the girls loved hanging out in that room to read or paint their nails. There was also the lounge with the piano and the violins, but that room was off limits solely because William and Irwin didn’t want their precious instruments from damage. There was the studio room, which Mark used now to teach the younger Shadows math, history, and how to read. Every weekday, Mark taught everyone for two hours, assigning reading and making sure everyone was occupied and not killing each other. There was no room for sparring anywhere, unless Mark had agreed to let some of the older Shadows train, but then it was serious, not just a playful fight.
They had an infirmary but thankfully that room was mostly left unused and ready for anything. The kitchen in the Viridian was tiny, and the catacomb path to get to it, made it impossible to avoid other people if Cælan wanted a snack. There were three ways to the kitchen, one through the studio where Mark would be there to catch him, one through the dining room which was in plain sight of the hall from the studio, where Mark could also see him, and one through the dining room and breakfast room where somehow Mark always managed to be!
Meal times were chaotic in the dining room, which was supposed to be an elegant space, with a chandelier that currently had a dirty sock on it, and fine china that had to be moved, wrapped in paper, and boxed up in the library which blocked Irwin’s access to some of the books and surely irritated him as well. The table was protected by a plastic tablecloth just to save the old wood from spills that happened every day. The chairs were once covered in green velvet but after just a month the velvet had been stripped off and torn, but it had not been replaced.
Cælan had to go search for a mug and ultimately he had to wash what seemed to be the smallest mug in the whole house just to get his morning tea, but he had to settle for the blandest black tea since all the nice English breakfast was gone. Cælan collapsed into a wooden chair at the breakfast table, devouring his normal breakfast of one slice of toast and a measuring cup of sunflower seeds. He didn’t use a measuring cup because it was just normal anymore, he did it because there were never any other containers or bowls that were left in the house.
Mark had to hunt secondhand shops for dishes and clothes for everyone, using every bit of money he could get his hands on to make repairs around the house. He knew taking the Shadows here was going to be a challenge, and while Mark was currently otherwise unemployed his funds were drying up fast. Cælan could see things going south around here, but at least they had a roof over their heads, and as much as Cælan griped about this place he was thankful to still have a place to live. Even still, he hated being an hour and a half away from his family.
Cælan stretched out his wings and groaned again loudly, his shoulders were tight and even after a month now had passed his wings were fairly damaged from when he broke them. He wasn’t comfortable flying and because of the cold he rarely transformed anymore. His dragon-self hated the cold that much. Now, Cælan focused more on making friends in the area, and concealing that he was a Shadow. All he wanted humans to see of him, was that he was an amputee, goth kid who was stuck with the freak show up on Viridian Street.
In the midst of mush oatmeal and soggy bland cereal being wasted about on the table for breakfast, the hoard of Shadows froze where they were when Irwin staggered into the room with a blanket around his shoulders. Hurriedly, someone cleared a chair and a space on the cluttered table so that the Overseer’s brother could rest his feet, “No… you don’t have to…” he tried to insist but nonetheless he took the seat and grimly started rubbing his temples.
Irwin looked terrible, all the Shadows knew it, they could see it as they watched him slowly get sicker. His eyes were dark, he had lost a lot of weight, and his legs were refusing to heal even after four months since they had been broken. Irwin didn’t leave his room this early in the morning very often and this drew Mark’s attention immediately, “Hey, everything okay?”
The silence at the table got stronger, and Mark sighed knowing he looked ridiculous with his knotted mass of braids tied up in a massive pile behind his neck as a poor attempt at keeping it out of his face and off his shoulders. Mark only had to look at his brother for one moment before he rushed to get some tea for his brother.
“Ira, are there any clean cups!?” Mark called before entering the kitchen.
The Emperor’s voice had grown hoarse and deeper as if his human body was aging quickly, but that wasn’t the only change in Ira. With a change of heart, Ira felt guilty and made himself useful, keeping up with whatever chores he could do that required little to no skill. Ira, did his best to get on the Shadows’ good side and for the most part, all but the Halos mostly ignored him. “Dishwasher should be clean,” Ira stated clearly and Cælan glanced over from the breakfast table to see Ira was in fact, standing in the kitchen unloading dishes.
Cælan smirked a little to see this. Ira, the Emperor of the Novas, the host of the Field, and the once powerful ruler of Lucis de Cælum was engrossed by his chores and the fact that a cycle for doing dishes affected everyone’s ability to get tea in the morning. Before Mark could even ask, Ira rushed to measure out two teaspoons of loose leaf tea into an infuser and place it in a mug with hot water from the electric kettle which he handed to Mark with a slightly proud smile on his lips.
“Thanks…” Mark offered him as he took it and brought it over to Irwin who was busy coughing. At the table, Jeromy Stuart was quick to grab a napkin for Irwin which Mark passed to him and everyone watched as Irwin covered his mouth with it. Mark stepped closer and rubbed Irwin’s shoulder, comforting him as he gasped to catch his breath, “rough day already?” Mark sighed.
Irwin reached up and took Mark’s hand, embracing it and he nodded slowly, “I didn’t sleep last night… it’s just getting so hard to breathe.” Mark and Irwin were sharing a room in the front of the house on the second floor. They stored most of the dangerous weapons in this room as it used to be their weapons room, and the rest of the weapons went to their rightful owners. All except Phantasia, which they locked in a safe with other extremely dangerous Shadow infused relics, to keep out of Jeromy’s hands.
Slowly, Mark came around and hugged Irwin tightly around his shoulders, “Just hang in there Irwin, you’re gonna get through this,” he promised emptily. Ira watched this from the dining room entryway to the kitchen and frowned with a tender look in his eyes. The only reason Irwin was alive now was because Ira had forcefully synchronized Mark and Irwin’s hearts again. Though it had been against their will and was only a temporary solution, Mark had not protested and in fact he was relieved to feel his twin’s heart like this again. He could keep a closer eye on Irwin without actually hovering over him.
“Alright…” Mark breathed, “since everyone’s here,” he started this without bothering a roll call and looked around, sending a wave out through the Realm to check the house for stragglers. “Here’s the schedule, we’re starting school in a half an hour, at which point breakfast is over! Jason, I’m gonna need you and William to go to the hardware store for me today and we’re going to work on the floor in the living room.”
“Can we work on the hot water problem?” Cælan interrupted putting in his two cents too quickly, “the floor is sturdy it’s not going to collapse on anyone.”
Mark glared at Cælan for interrupting, reminding Cælan with just a look how Cælan had lost his leg. Indeed, it had happened when the ceiling of his old house collapsed on him, crushing his left foot. It was emotional blackmail, but Mark didn’t seem to care, so Cælan kept to himself. Mark sighed again looking over to Ira and gesturing him into the room to join them. Ira was skittish, he didn’t take care of himself very well and his long fiery red hair was tied up in a loose ponytail, but he felt he needed to put his best face forward for the Shadows.
Clearing his throat, Mark stood up straight at the head of the table, “I know it hasn’t been easy, and this place needs a lot of work, but we are all Shadows, designed to band together and together… we can accomplish anything.” They had heard this speech before but Mark still somehow believed it, “Now if we all just do our part and contribute, even if the Viridian isn’t perfect, even if it isn’t the ASH…” he laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder again which his brother embraced sorrowfully. Like the others he had heard this over and over and the rest of the Shadows could see Irwin clinging to Mark’s words. “But we can make it work!” Mark promised very surely.
It didn’t take much to know that Mark was buying time, his primary goal wasn’t to fix up the Viridian and make a new home for the Shadows. All Mark cared about was his sickly brother, so his true goal, was finding Iszeldier. As the ageless Overseer, Mark and Irwin normally couldn’t even get a cold, but Irwin’s aging had been restarted the moment Iszeldier used his second Shadow, Inhibitor on him. Without the Overseer’s protection, Irwin was dilapidating fast, and he was no longer immune to various ailments. For a time, Irwin had been near immortal, but now anything could easily kill him.
Cælan grew bitter to have his thoughts with Iszeldier, the last he saw of his friend, Iszeldier had run off into the fog and no one chased after him. Cælan had to admit to himself he blamed Iszeldier for the reason they were stuck here, and while it was true, Iszeldier had been in a very fragile place emotionally. Blaming him out right would only hurt him more. Even so, it had been a month, and Cælan’s greatest concern was somehow avoiding his roommates.
Mark dismissed everyone and with breakfast mostly done, Mark and Ira cleared the plates and bowls but not the whole table which was strewn with school books and unfinished homework. Irwin stayed however, drawing the blanket closer around his shoulders and shivering as he watched Mark and Ira clean up, but mostly Ira. “Did Jules come back last night?” Irwin wondered very quietly.
Mark sighed again, passing the bowl he was holding to Ira who took it out of the room, “Don’t worry about him…” Mark cautioned softly, “he’ll be back with news soon enough.” Irwin was as eager as Mark to find Iszeldier, and Jules had been out for three days, attempting to sneak around what was left of Culpeper to look for Iszeldier. There was a lot of heat in the area, with the MARKOH destroyed, smaller groups were banding against the Shadows. None of these groups had actually gotten organized enough to go out and search for the Shadows. Mark felt confident where they were, despite the fact that the Viridian was in shambles and that it needed a lot of work, no one knew about this place.
Irwin sipped his tea groggily, taking a few moments to seep into it and relax watching as Mark put the school books into messy stacks organized by child. “I did not think homeschooling them would be this hard,” he remarked softly. Irwin had suggested it since he had been homeschooled within the ASH, until he was fourteen, Irwin learned basics like math, history, and reading, then he took up Latin and science of his own accord when he could decide for himself what he wanted to learn. To this day, Irwin was grateful for the teaching method and thought it would be good for the Shadows.
Of the twenty-six people in the Viridian, thirteen of them did not know how to read, three of which were older than fifteen. However, those who did have a grasp on it already had chosen electives to add on to their studies. Even though it was overwhelming for Mark, it was working. Mark picked up a work sheet and frowned at it a little, just as Irwin tried to smile and laugh it off, “I’m hearing good things from our parent-teacher board,” he joked lightly, “Whose is that?”
Mark sighed a little and passed the work sheet to Irwin, “it’s Josh’s,” he whispered disheartened.
Irwin picked it up to see it was a math test sheet designed to get students to answer short equations very quickly. Not only were most of the questions unfinished for the written time allotted to the test, but almost all of the ones that were filled out were so obviously incorrect it saddened Irwin. Mark himself wasn’t that great at math, and he had dropped out of high school, but he had forced himself through it to get his degrees in medicine.
“Mark…” Irwin whispered, seeing Mark was taking this a little too hard, “It’s just not his thing, you know Josh, stuff like this doesn’t matter to him, that doesn’t make him less bright.”
Mark took the paper and had to fight the urge in him to burn it up, “I know it’s not that…” he assured, “It’s just in lessons he’s applying himself just as much as the others but on paper he’s still not reading as well as them.”
Pressing his lips together, Irwin didn’t argue he saw that Joshua was grieving, “After Iszeldier left him, he took it pretty hard,” Irwin looked down at the papers on the table and grinned a little, “he also speaks Novan, have you considered that it might have something to do with the fact that English is his second language?” Slowly, Irwin moved to shakily get up, taking his tea with him, “My boys had a little trouble because of that, we just had to equate meaning with their Novan equivalent.”
Laughing a little, though sorrowfully, Mark agreed, “I wish you were doing this with me,” he burst in a bright voice, holding back the emotion where he could.
Irwin’s eyes grew tender, “I still can, just say the word, I’ll sit down with him.” Mark wouldn’t dare ask this of Irwin, too afraid of using any of Irwin’s energy because he knew Irwin was not recovering, and every day he got sicker. He saw Mark’s silent denial and he smiled, moving slowly to leave the room, and go back to bed.
Mark grimaced, watching Irwin limp away very slowly but Mark shook away the feeling and turned his attention to Ira, “What about you, Ira, need any help with anything?”
The water was running in the kitchen, and Mark entered to see Ira was cleaning the bowls and placing them in the little dishwasher. Mark’s eyes grew tender looking at him, “You’ve changed a lot…”
Ira tried to ignore him, never appreciating it when Mark rubbed it in, “I’m doing this to make up for my mistakes, but it’s also in my best interest to help you find and stop Iszeldier to protect myself, the Shadows, and the Field.”
Mark started towards the studio, still able to see Ira in the kitchen, “So you’ve given up on that big plan of freedom?” he mocked some.
With his eyes turned down towards the dishes, Ira shook his head, “What world is perfect, without struggle, life and struggle cannot be separated from each other, so in this I am free.” Ira enjoyed speaking to Mark like this, adopting the tone of voice as in his days as the Emperor of Lucis de Cælum.
Laughing, Mark cleaned off the white board in the studio, “You like struggles then? How masochistic of you,” he called to the kitchen so that Ira could hear him over the water.
Inevitably, Ira finished the work and turned off the water before strolling over to the studio calmly, “I believe the world needs them to function, without struggles, life has no meaning. I want this life, I fought for it, and now that I have what I want, I need to do the right thing with it.”
Mark crossed his arms playfully, toying with Ira’s humility as usual, “Interesting philosophy, though I have to admit, your willingness to help out around here has been a huge help!”
Ira scratched his head, catching a tangle in his fiery hair as he avoided this subject awkwardly, “My pleasure…” he whispered. This attitude was new for him. He wasn’t sure how to act when doing demeaning house work around the Viridian for Mark. So whenever his proposed humility came out weird, Mark made fun of him for it. Even so, Mark trusted Ira, and for now, that was good enough.
Mark missed painting in the studio, but he knew teaching the kids was more important than wasting his time painting all day. Still, Mark had not painted in years. The studio was organized to Mark’s almost obsessive standard as it used to be even though the paints were gone and this was how Mark managed to enjoy being in this room. Peeking out the back window, Mark tensed spotting someone up on the hill behind the house and upon second glance, he realized it was Josh.
Turning about, Mark hurried to the back door, “what’s wrong?” Ira demanded hastily, but didn’t get an answer. Mark ran out into the foyer and out towards the back door. The back patio was rotting and there were several places where the wood had fallen through, but Mark intended to tear it out and rebuild the deck as soon as spring came. Mark walked carefully across it, with light feet as he looked up the hill to see his son sitting up in the orchard.
“Josh!” Mark called but didn’t get a response or any hint of acknowledgement, “it’s about time to start school.” Josh sat in the autumn grass, cross-legged and closing his eyes with his face turned skyward. It was freezing but there was no snow yet and even now, Joshua wasn’t wearing much to keep him warm. Josh’s jaw-length, wild, dark-brown hair frayed about his face, his nose was pink from the cold, and all he wore for warmth was a light brown sweater, and plain blue jeans.
As Mark hurried up the hill, he quickly realized Josh’s mind was nowhere near him, and the ground upon which he sat was green and vibrant unlike the dry winter hibernation of everything else around him. In Josh’s mind, it was already spring, and the apple tree he was nearest to was trying to blossom with tiny buds of life. Josh’s fingers tangled with the life beneath him, weaving the grass like tiny fingers to hold his hand while his other arm hard rooted into the ground like a tree.
Josh’s right arm had been amputated below the elbow, but he had been able to regrow the hand he lost as living wood for some time. Now that he was stronger, he was able to keep it almost all the time too, so Mark was fairly sure he didn’t sleep with it, but then, more often than not, Josh slept outside. Josh, like many of them, couldn’t stand being cooped up in that house, but Josh had always been like that, preferring to be out in nature.
Near his right arm, which resembled more of a plant rising up from the grass an attempting to swallow him whole, Josh’s camera bag was laid out on the ground. Mark counted this as photography as Josh’s elective and let Josh devote himself to that, since that was the only thing he really cared about. Even before this generation, Josh had been a little slow in school, but when Ira turned him into a Nova and his memories were tampered with, he lost the ability to read English, and since Novan was useless outside of the field, Josh was at a disadvantage.
As Mark got closer to his son, he slowly made out that Josh had vines seeping up from the grass through his clothes, attracted to his body heat and they tangled around his collar bone and neck, only barely peeking out of the sweater. Josh also had dark green, enlarged veins traveling out from his eyes as he let the winter sunlight rejuvenate him more than human food and actual sleep ever could. A month ago, Mark hadn’t been sure, but now they all knew Josh could use photosynthesis like a plant and he could go days without human food as long as he didn’t exert himself too much.
“Josh…” Mark urged gently, trying not to startle him, but Josh was dug into the earth and the Realm, nothing could wake him unless he decided to listen. Heaving yet another sigh, Mark sat down on the grass next to Josh and looked out at what his face was directed at. From this height up the hill behind the Viridian in the orchard, they could see right over the roof at the growing light. Mark had missed it now, but he could imagine that Josh had stayed up here to watch the sunrise.
Josh was comforted to be in his childhood home, despite how the Viridian had aged, but it was a soft place to rest for the incredible wound that he was still healing from. Iszeldier had been his best friend, Iszeldier had brought him back, got him to fight through his scattered memories, and helped him find his true self. If Iszeldier could do that for him, Josh was certain he could bring Iszeldier back. Iszeldier had been more to Josh than just his best friend, before he had run away, Josh had thought Iszeldier was in love with him. Josh didn’t want anything of it, but that alone should have been grounds for Iszeldier to want to come back.
Mark wanted so many things from his son right now, he wanted Josh to learn, to grow in his powers and accept change, but Josh needed to grieve. He didn’t have to accept anything, or force himself to move on, he had to be in this moment, no matter how much it hurt. In this moment, he needed to let the pain wash over him, to wallow in it, and then, when the pain was done with him, when it had lost its sting, then he could move on. It had been a month though, and Mark couldn’t understand that he needed more time.
His father loved him but he was wrong, Josh was completely aware of his surroundings, more so than a normal human. The grass felt for him like a thousand tiny nerves, the trees oversaw the world for him, the vines under his sweater kept him warm, and the sun gave him energy. He didn’t need anything, he could be like a plant, resting in the ground with everything he physically needed right there. Josh didn’t even open his eyes as he spoke calmly, “I’ll be inside soon… just a few more minutes,” his voice was so soft and calm it made Mark want to lie down in the grass with him.
Slowly, his father stood up and left him, knowing Josh would not leave that place if he were being watched. It wasn’t until Josh could feel through the rotting wood of the deck that Mark had gone inside, that he opened his eyes and looked down at his arm where it was rooted into the ground. Slowly, he caused the plant to release his stump and he got up, shouldering his camera bag, and stepping away from it as he held his hand and stump outstretched, causing the sapling to grow under the blossoming apple tree.
As soon as he walked away the apple tree withered again to its dormant winter state, but under it was a young oak sapling which looked up at its parent like a baby. Josh was pleased with the work he put into it and was able to walk away from it contently. He joined his father in the studio room with the others and suffered through the lessons, taking no particular interest in any of those subjects. He kept his camera bag at his ankle and at eleven-forty-five while the others got lunch, Josh ran up to his room which he shared with William.
Josh got lucky in the roommate department, he liked to spend a lot of time in his room, going through photos, decorating the wall with them, and observing an herb garden he was trying to grow in the winter without his Shadow. Whereas, William used his room at a bed to crash in once every twelve hours on schedule. Somehow, William awoke at eight-AM every morning, and passed out at eight-PM every night like clockwork. In addition to helping Mark out with repairs around the Viridian, running to town for tools and supplies, he was also managing the Nova world, and failing at it. They didn’t bother each other, and during the day, Josh could have the room to himself, if he wasn’t able to spend all that time outside.
The room system in this house was crazy and almost every room was packed. Naturally, the girls got the biggest room in the house, but there was only four of them! Cælan’s room had four boys crammed into it, and right next door was Jason’s room with Ebony and Ohara, and the brat Jeromy. Josh could also see clear bosses of the room and it drove Josh mad. Cælan seemed like the boss of the front right room because he whined about his roommates all the time, they were nicknamed the hunters. Jason was the clear boss of the room next door in the right-middle room, and while Ohara and Ebony had put their past of bickering behind them, Jason and Jeromy were well known for being eccentric sadists, and that became their nickname.
The two African Shadows and Honi shared a room and despite being triple trouble, they weren’t that dreadful towards Mark and that was the thing that counted, so they were collectively called the littles. And Finally there were Irwin’s twins, Milo and Matthias, who were both overpowering and crazy and they shared their space with a padded cot that was big enough for all three of William’s tiny Novas to sleep in. despite having Novas speckled throughout the house, this was the room that was called the Novas’ room. Unlike the ASH, all the rooms were taken and filled, except one which was mostly empty and reserved for Julian Halo, on the off-chance that he showed up to sleep in it.
Jules had actually been to the Viridian three times that the Shadows knew of, for a day when they first arrived to help them get settled, and twice to bring news about what was going on in Culpeper, both instances were uneventful. Jules was absorbed in finding his son, and he would leave no stone unturned until Iszeldier finally showed himself. Josh missed his uncle, but only because Jules was the one who was getting the closest to finding Iszeldier.