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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

*Violence, adult content, PTSD, anxiety, depression*

Stoke - 2. A New Nightmare

Empty. I could feel energy rushing through my veins, but it stopped short when I tried to coax it to my fingertips. I let out a gasp and shook my head. We would address whatever this was later. I’d managed to saw part way through the arrow’s shaft before my power faded. I gripped it and forced down a cry as I snapped it in half, jerking it inside my shoulder. Throwing the pieces to the ground, I held my arm tight to my body. Our attackers hadn’t stood a change. The Magik user with blond hair was crawling away from an unnervingly calm Talon on her back. He raised his hand but stopped when I yelled, “No! Wait!”

His head snapped in my direction, and he looked from my face to my shoulder. I stumbled at first then my legs chose to cooperate. Hands reached out to me-my friends. I flinched away. There was so much blood here and on them. I avoided Talon also. Fear and guilt shuddered over the connection, but I ignored it.

“What was on those arrows?” I gripped her robe’s collar, jerking her to her feet with one hand. There was a twinge in my shoulder still, but I shook it off. She wasn’t much shorter than I was. Caramel brown eyes were filled with fear and hatred. She spit in my face, and I heard a growl behind me. I pushed her off balance and wiped my arm across my face. Her lower back took the brunt of the fall and she scowled up at me.

“Talk. You took my Magik. How?” My voice dipped lower, and I returned her scowl with a glare.

“What?” Talon’s voice was livid, but he’d have to wait.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” She snapped. Her hand was moving slowly but I caught the movement. She chucked a knife at my chest. I managed to dodge it rather easily. To my own surprise. I let out a long-suffering sigh and crouched in front of her.

“You have two choices,” I held up my fingers and pointed to them as I spoke, “One: cooperate with me. We can have a civil discussion. Or two: have a horrendous afternoon with one of them.” I glanced over my shoulder. Talon was staring daggers through the poor woman. He held his favorite butterfly knife, digging blood from underneath his nails. Over my other shoulder, Eon had a grip on a seething Wren’s upper arm. Eon’s expression was stormy and the smaller man’s mouth split into a bloody, crazed grin as her eyes fell on him.

“Fuck you! You entitled, exiled little bitch! You’re as good as dead!” She was panting with a mixture of fear and anger, and I frowned at her. I stood, dusting off my knees and wincing as I felt another sharp pain. My vision blurred a little as I straightened, and I frowned. Odd. She spat again and reared back. I raised an eyebrow. Talon’s thin knife landed between her legs. A silent warning that stilled her actions and widened her eyes.

“It’s a play on wolfsbane. I give it a couple hours without a healer until you drop dead. Traitor!” Footsteps circled me and Amaris retrieved Talon’s knife. Without warning she lunged forward and jammed it up into the blond’s head. She made an awful sputtery choking sound. Her mouth fell open and I stepped back as I saw the blade buried in the roof of her mouth, erupting from her bottom jaw. There was a faint tingling in my limbs, and I was suddenly so hot. When had that happened? I lifted my hand and realized it was shaking. I was burning up. My shoulder wound was pulsing, heat spreading from the small hole. I had never heard of something like this. An arrow slicked with a substance that could not only take my power, but my life. In only a few hours?






I picked up on it before Kalian did. I had noticed after he’d started talking to the woman. He was pale and his eyes looked dull somehow. When he’d held up his fingers, there were tremors running though his hands. I had slowly started moving closer. Kalian wasn’t weak. As he repeatedly reminded me. He’d get angry if he thought I was babying him. So, I kept my hands to myself until he swayed.  When his legs gave out, I was there. I hoisted him into my arms and glanced to Amaris who was ripping the knife from the dead woman’s head.

“You think she was bluffing?” Amaris asked as she stood.

“No way of knowing, but given his current state, I’d say that her words held at least some truth.” Tyren mumbled, his eyes scanning over Kalian appraisingly.

“How far are we from the safehouse? Could you manage another jump Talon?” I looked to Hanja. I almost heard the gears turning in that head of his. He was running through our options in his head. Hanja was working through the probable outcomes as well.

“We’re only hours away. The snow may tack on a bit of time, however.” Wren offered, popping his ring finger into his mouth to suck off the blood. I shuddered at the unpleasant image and looked down at Kalian. His body was warm, too warm. I could feel the heat through the thick fur-lined coat and the cold weather tunic underneath. His eyes were barely open, mere slits. His lips were parted as his breath came out in soft pants. The hair that fell into his eyes was already sweaty too on top of everything else.

“I can’t take all of you. Kalian, me, and maybe one more. I’m still shot from carrying everyone over the border.” I grimaced at the confession. They needed to know. Pushing my limits with my mode of travel would only put us all in danger. It still made me internally rage. The ordeal with Lex had made me more sensitive to my own weaknesses and limitations. I hated it. Most of my adult life until now, I had felt invincible. With my Magik and training, nothing could bring me down. Now, though, reality had set in. My strength had limits and my very ability to function correctly seemed dependent on the man in my arms.

“Hanja is the obvious choice.” Tyren said softly.

“I don’t like the idea of separating.” Eon sighed.

“Your brother dying more appealing?” I bit out, feeling my claws lengthen and having to shift so they didn’t scratch Kal. His mind was wide open, pouring an endless stream of nonsense and jumbled half sentences across the connection. The fever seemed to have robbed him of actual thought.

“He’s right. We won’t be far behind.” Wren said, setting a hand on Eon’s bicep. Eon leveled me with a dirty look that I bared my teeth at. I was damned if anyone was going to prevent me from keeping Kalian safe. Brother or not. Hanja stepped forward with some snotty remark that I didn’t care about, and Eon continued to glare. I raised my chin, lip curling in a snarl. Until the body in my arms let out a whimper. Kalian was panting in earnest now; mouth open wide as he gulped in the air. His cheeks were bright red, and I mumbled a curse.

I grabbed the healer’s arm and wrapped us in power. I pictured the safe house. I’d only been there once. I hoped the image in my head was good enough. My Magik spread and then constricted around us. Hanja gasped and another soft whimper left Kal. My eyes slipped closed as the world around us fell away and finally went dark. Shoulders shrugging as I adjusted Kal, I relaxed into the energy that was intertwined with my soul. There was a hard pull, the ground under our feet flying by faster and faster. I urged my Magik on, pushing with everything I had. We were now moving so quickly that I almost got lost in the feeling. The ground under our feet became solid and I let out a sigh. I was worn out, but using my gifts always made me feel a tiny bit giddy. Basking in the after affect, I frowned when Hanja stumbled forward clumsily. His normally fair complexion was even paler than normal.

“That was nothing like walking over the border.” He grumbled.

“Get sick later. We’re on a time crunch.” The safe house was nothing fancy. It was actually impressive that it managed to jam four bedrooms into the tiny structure. It was a simple cottage surrounded by tall evergreens. The Humiad forest stretched between Dimian and Dleth, but Dleth boasted an almost ridiculous amount of forest land. I climbed the brick steps two at a time and kicked the door in. We were upstairs when I heard Hanja finally cross the threshold.

“Move your ass!” I ignored the snarky response as I kicked open a bedroom door. The healer was climbing the stairs now. I carefully peeled off Kalian’s winter coat. It clung to his sweaty tunic, and I frowned. I managed to maneuver him to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. I pushed back my spike of panic when his head lolled back limply. The wound on his shoulder was more visible now and I cringed as a sticky green substance soaked into his tunic with the blood.

“The tunic is going to have to go too.” Hanja was finally in the room, pulling his black glove off with his teeth. I tried awkwardly pulling his tunic up with one arm and decided it’d be easier to lay him down. I supported his head until he was flat. I grabbed at my breast pocket, swearing when I remembered throwing my knife at the stupid mage woman. I slid my hands under my coat, sliding a hunting knife out from where it’d been strapped to my back. 

“How many knives do you carry on a daily basis?” Hanja scoffed.

“Enough.” I answered as I lifted the tunic away from Kalian, cutting up the middle, making sure to avoid perfect skin. I threw the knife to the side, barely registering Hanja’s shouted scolding.  Working my fingers around his injury, I peeled the fabric away that clung to the blood. One arm at a time, one more repositioning, and his torso was bare.

The hole from the arrow was a clean through and through that hadn’t hit anything vital, luckily. Sure, it’d probably hurt like a bitch, but that isn’t what worried me.  No, the bloody edges caked in greenish black goo is what made my heart stutter.

“Alright, out of the way.” A red glow lit Hanja’s hands and he muttered softly to himself as usual. I sat back, feeling a bit useless. Hanja rolled his hands in a wave motion, “Towel or some kind of fabric.” I scrambled into action. There was nothing nearby, so I gave up and ripped the sheet into rough squares as green began to bubble up from Kal’s shoulder. It smelled rancid. I wiped it away diligently. Gods knew what he’d dealt with was worse. We never talked about when he finally found me last year. Roughly a week on my back, unconscious and bleeding. Yeah…the boy was a saint. There was so much of the strange poison, and I ripped more fabric, struggling to keep up. How? Surely the arrow couldn’t have been coated this much?”

“Whatever it is, it got into his bloodstream and must’ve reacted with something to spread more, faster.” Hanja sighed as if reading my thoughts. He sighed again as the edges of the small wound knit together, “I got most of it.”

“Most of it?” I tried and failed to keep the anger from my voice.

“He’ll be fine. It’s no longer enough to kill him. I think. He’ll have to ride out this fever by himself. Wash your hands.” I stared at the green, red, and black smeared regs. That seemed anticlimactic. All we had to do now was weather a simple fever? Easy.


It was not easy. His sweating hadn’t slowed, and I couldn’t get him to cool down. At hour four, the vomiting had started. I truly didn’t know how he had anything left in his stomach. The first round, he’d sat straight up and projectile vomited over my chest. I now sat in pants, alternating between holding a bowl under his mouth and dabbing at his forehead. His head hung over the edge of the bed and he finally stopped heaving.

“What do you need?” Eon was suddenly there, gripping the top of the doorframe, face tired and scared.

I avoided mentioning his panting and exhaustion. They must have really moved to get here this fast, “We’ll need a bath run. I need actual rags or wash cloths if we have some. New bedding and a bowl of fresh water as well. Also, a pitcher and cup for him to drink from. He’s going to be dehydrated.”

“Are you going to bathe him?” Amaris, from behind Eon.

“Eventually. Eon can heat it when we need it. Right now, we need to clean up and get him cool and comfortable.” They both entered the room and I lifted Kalian while Amaris stripped the bed. Wren appeared with a stack of fluffy white washcloths. I hadn’t even known he’d been listening. Eon disappeared with the soiled clothing, rags, and bowl Kalian had been retching into. Amaris remade the bed and I laid Kal down. Our group moved efficiently as a team, barely speaking to each other as we did whatever needed to be done. A pitcher of water sat on the bedside table with a small wooden cup, the sheets were fresh, and the room didn’t smell like a medical tent anymore thanks to Amaris opening the window a crack. Eon stripped off Kalian’s sweaty pants too roughly, jostling him. I shoved him out of the way when Kalian made a soft noise. Or tried to. It was like pushing a brick wall.

“Calm down Verloren. He was my brother first. This isn’t his only time having a fever. He’s not going to shatter if we move him.”

“Talon take a break. Tyren was going to attempt to get something together for dinner. We don’t have much meat remaining. Go hunt. You did good but get out.” Amaris jabbed a nail into my chest. Behind her, Eon was soaking a washcloth.

“No, I’m- “

“Coming hunting with me.” Wren hooked an arm through mine and dragged me bodily from the room. I struggled, but he only pulled harder, making my shoulder ache and pop.

“You should have clothes here. Get dressed.” He pushed me toward the staircase, the look on his face leaving no room for argument. With one glance to the room that held the person most important to me, I went. An unassuming closet on the first floor hid a floor panel with the Verseckt insignia. I felt around until I found a ring. The panel opened to a staircase that led down into shadows. As I descended, I tried to shake off the last few hours. He’d be okay. Hanja said he would. An inkling of distrust for the man flared and I stomped it down. While his personality left much to be desired, Hanja had saved us all time and time again. Shame swung through my mind. The irrational part of my brain clung to it. He shouldn’t have been alone. Yes, he was strong, and he’d created an opening for us, but I should never have left his side. I should have been there. That arrow should never have gotten close to hitting him. This was my fault. I thought I had been watching him so closely after Mallex, but I didn’t even do that right. I was supposed to protect him, and he’d done more protecting than I had. I kept falling short. What if he had died? What if he didn’t make it through this fever?

“You are thinking so loud I can hear it up here.” Wren drawled and I slammed my hand into whatever was nearest. There were rows of wooden shelving down here. One crumpled to the ground after my assault. Footsteps came down the steps slowly. The old wood creaked under boots. I hadn’t bothered with the lights, but neither of us needed them. I felt Wren. The cellar spanned about 30 feet and Wren’s presence filled every inch of the space.

“Are you quite done throwing a fit?” Finally, the real Wren. Cold and calculating with a little crazy thrown in for good measure. Not the sugar-coated version he played for our companions. His voice was quiet and made my skin raise in bumps. There was an echo to his voice and after his feet touched the dirt floor, I lost him. He was down here with me. I knew that much. But his voice carried so I couldn’t pin it down and his footsteps made no sound. That was the most unsettling aspect of him. When Wren didn’t want you to know where he was, you didn’t. Especially in the dark.

A hiss slithered over my skin, “I am disappointed in you. I should not have to remind you who you are. Who we are. Losing your mind because someone’s injured? That’s beneath you Talon. I taught you better than that. Now to make it worse, you’re throwing a fit in the dark like you used to when you were a teenager. I thought I cut that childishness out of you years ago.”

“Hypocrite. You lose your shit when one of us is threatened.” I knew it was coming as soon as the words left my lips. Claws gripped my neck and yanked me down to his level.

“I still remain rational. I traveled with Mallex’s merry band of degenerates for days so as not to threaten the rest of our group. You lost all sense, grabbed the healer, and made decisions for the whole group.”

“There was no time.” The claws lightly pierced my skin before Wren hit me with his other hand hard enough that I staggered back.

“Remember who I am. At the end of this you will also have to remember who you are. I like Sunbeam, I like all of them, but you’re a fool if you think we’ll make it out of this unscathed. This was a taste Talon. We’re in foreign territory planning a coup for all intents and purposes. Now’s not the time to get distracted and forget everything you’ve been trained to do.” The blow had snapped me out of my spiraling self-deprecation. While I rarely agreed with Wren’s methods, he did get results.

“Is everything okay? I heard some noise.” Tyren called down to us.

“Talon’s just getting ready!” Wren called cheerily from beside me.

“You need to make peace with the fact that Kalian or all of us could die violently. Make peace and resolve to continue towards the goal.” I heard steps creak and sighed into the silence around me. I wasn’t one to lose my head like I had earlier. I was smarter than that damn it. Wren was right. Would I be able to maintain my sanity and reason if something bad happened? I would have to keep moving. It was who I was. I’d been conditioned to be this way. To stare into death’s gaping maw and smirk. Not collapse and throw caution to the wind. I found my way to my designated shelf and yanked a shirt over my head. Whether or not hunting had been an excuse to get me out of the room, it still needed to be done.

Wren was waiting at the front door when I finally returned to the main floor. He looked at me expectantly and then waved to someone over my shoulder.

“Good luck!” Tyren called and I turned. His smile was bright until his eyes landed on my face and neck. Surely, I had bruises and pinpricks of blood now showing. He was too kind, too naïve. The all were, even Amaris. We’d been sucked into this family dynamic, and it had given us a false sense of security. I didn’t answer Tyren, following Wren out without another word. The door was broken from my earlier actions, and I struggled to wedge it closed.

“See? Actions have consequences, boy.” Wren sing songed as we made our way through the snow and into the trees.


The cold air sunk into my bones. I didn’t know where Wren was. It didn’t matter. I was crouched low, pants soaked from the snow. My eyes were trained on a buck as it slowly crossed in front of me. I was hidden by bushes and brush. I controlled my breathing and even my smallest movements. It was directly across from me now. Its head jerked up when I flicked my wrist, but it was too late. Shadows snapped forward and pierced the poor thing’s heart. He died before he hit the ground. I hoped he hadn’t felt much pain or fear. That was the only thing I hated about this. My eyes scanned the woods as I stalked towards the buck. It had gone eerily quiet. That was never a good sign. I heard something drop behind me and stiffened for a moment before Wren spoke.

“The woods are waiting.” His voice brushed over my skin, and I realized we were both barely breathing.

“What are they waiting for?” I whispered, hearing a tree nearby groan. Still, the other trees around us remained silent.

“Nothing. Let’s head back.” I frowned and Wren helped me hoist the deer up. He pushed me forward and tried to hide the fact that he looked over his shoulder every few minutes. I had no idea what was going on but the woods going quiet, and Wren’s reaction made my nerves fray. Wren had never lied to me like that before. He may skirt around the truth when it benefited him, but he rarely flat out lied. If there was a threat, he’d always been rational and passed on information to better prepare whoever he was with. Pulling the wool over my eyes was not his style in the least. What was going on? Was there something in the woods that even our group should fear? I forced myself to shake it off as we came upon the cabin. I’d have to field dress the deer and take care to preserve it well enough that it wouldn’t go bad.

“Go inside. I’ll do it.” Wren ordered. His eyes were on me, but the rigid set of his shoulders and the way his head was fractionally tilted towards the tree line let me know I didn’t have his full attention.

“I’ll stay with you then.” I laid the deer down and turned my body in the direction we’d just come.

“I told you to go inside. Do I have to hit you again? Remind you to follow orders?” Wren snapped, eyes wide. I narrowed my eyes and stumbled as he began shoving me to the door. He kept shoving until I was forced to climb the steps.

“Fine. Fine! I’m going. Yell if you need anything.” I was hesitant. Something was very wrong. Wren was doing a Gods’ awful job hiding that. Leaving him alone seemed like the opposite of what I should do. The look on his face, however, left no room for any kind of argument. His face was cold, lip turned up in a sneer. He was daring me to disobey him like when he’d first begun training me. There was a different gleam in his eyes though. This was not the same. Wren was…scared. I stepped down closer to him and a snarl ripped out of him that was devoid of humanity. My stomach sank as his eyes shifted red.

“I told you to get inside!” He raised a clawed hand threateningly, and I took that as my cue to listen this time. I rushed inside and secured the door as well as I could. The others stared at me in confusion. I didn’t answer their questioning looks. I slumped back against the door, wincing as it creaked with effort. I’d done a fantastic job of making it impossible for the wood to do its intended job. I grit my teeth and listened, letting my head fall back. There were the expected sounds. Wren was indeed dressing the deer, but beyond that nothing. There was no sound other than his work. The animal noises had vanished along with every other natural noise that occurred in nature. It was as if we were in a box, cut off from the outside world. Perhaps, if there was a creature or person out there that scared even Wren, we were. We should have never come to Dleth.





I was walking. That’s how it always seemed to start. Normally, though, it was in a place I’d already been. I’d never seen these trees before. I’d never walked this barely there path that cut through brush and led me deep into what seemed like endless forest. Was I back in the Humiad? Could I have simply forgotten a path we’d taken? I frowned. By now, in every other dream, I’d been hit by the endless waves of blood. The dreams always followed a natural progression but this one wasn’t adhering to any of the precedents. My feet kept moving of their own accord. I couldn’t stop, but it was okay. I didn’t want to. I had no idea why. I knew I needed to continue. I needed to follow this little trail into the expansive black in front of me. It ate up the light around it. Part of me thought I should be scared. I wasn’t. My hands slipped over leaves as I passed more trees, that black creeping closer. Dark, shadows. I equated them with Talon now. Why would I ever fear Talon? I shook my head, a smile pulling at my lips at the thought. There was rustling, and I tilted my head to the side. There was movement up ahead, but I was still unable to make anything out. Everything besides the noise I was moving toward was silent. Were there no birds here? I paused as I reached the edge of the dark. It looked strange. As if someone had spilled ink on a picture. The edges were abrupt and strange looking. A small sliver of fear slid over me, a chill running up and down my spine. My brain was trying to tell me something. It was trying to get me to notice something I was missing about this dream.

“Do you summon the sun?” The question was asked in many voices at once. Unease filled my body as it rattled inside me. Inside. It was in my head. Whatever this was. I wasn’t able to find any words. My feet took me farther into the dark and I was starting to dissolve in real fear. I’m not sure how I knew, but I was getting closer to whatever had spoken to me.

Well? Will you answer the question?” Fear gripped my heart and I wanted to spin on my heel and sprint as far as I could from this place. This dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was so dark. This was nothing like Talon’s dark. This was…oppressive.

Child, I grow weary. I came so far to find you. I will be disappointed if you are not who was described to me on the winds.”

“The winds?” I said aloud, wincing as the voices raked through my mind again. I felt violated. Dirty.

So, you are able to speak. I. Ask. Again. Do you summon the sun? Is that your gift?”

“Hey, slow down,” I was terrified, but my voice somehow remained steady, “A trade. You ask and then I will.” This was another dream. What’s the worst that could happen?

“Then you will answer. Do you create light?”

“Yes. What are you?” I was spinning around in the dark. It was impossible to pinpoint where the movements in the dark were coming from. There was either multiple origins or one that moved incredibly fast.

“What kind of light? How much? How strong is the light?”

“Hang on. You’re not playing this game right. It is your turn to answer.” The voices in my head had become far too eager for my tastes, hungry almost. Something darted past me on the right and I jerked away.

“You are different. I am…many. We are one. I am…us.”

“That doesn’t answer my question. What are you? Who are you?” I was scared. The black around me was cold, empty. It lacked all the warmth and familiarity that I was used to with Talon.

“I do not have a name if that is what you are after, child. What I am is beyond your understanding. Now. What kind of light do you make? How much can you make? How strong is the light?” The many voices tripped over themselves partway through sentences then sprung back together at random places, creating an unholy harmony.

“I can create heat and actual light. I don’t know what my limits are. I haven’t explored them. The light is strong enough to cleave something in two or gentle enough to warm someone’s cold hands. Now, you asked three questions. I have earned three as well.” A cry rose around me, the many voices wailing in protest. The noise made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It was behind me. I whirled and saw black. Of course. I couldn’t see anything. Hadn’t been able to in quite a while. I wrapped my arms around myself and turned in a circle, trying to pin down whatever was here in the dark with me. I wanted Talon. I felt like a child. I frowned, “What do you want from me?”

A harsh assortment of laughter. Some shrill and sharp and others so low I felt it in my chest. A rustle to my left. My head snapped in that direction, and I thought I almost caught whatever this was. The voices grew louder, near screaming. I covered my ears, gasping at the volume. It only grew louder and louder until I was on my knees. Breath tickled my neck. Long, bony fingers sunk into my shoulders from behind. Letting out a gasp, I cried out. My head fell back, and light poured from every part of me. It roared from my mouth, burst from my eyes, trickled out my ears, and exploded from my fingertips.

I was screaming. Hands were trying to catch my face as I whipped it back and forth. I heard a voice. A normal, singular voice. I caught flashes of light. Not my own. I was in a small room. The room was lit by regular lights. Grey eyes were staring into mine as hands at last managed to hold my head still. I was panting, my chest heaving as I tried to come down from the dream. Fingers stroked my cheek and my breathing evened out. Talon was sitting beside me. His eyes were wide, and I watched his lips move as he spoke to me. Oh, he was speaking to me.

“Kalian? Baby? Can you hear me? You’re safe. I’ve got you.” As I calmed slowly, he scooted closer, pulling me awkwardly into his arms. My chest hurt from my breaths sawing in and out of my lungs. He shifted us so we were laying down. I was tucked into his chest, and I clung to him. I could hear voices softly from outside the room. Eon and Tyren. I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against Talon’s chest. This was getting ridiculous. Now I was having full conversations with an unknown imaginary creature in my nightmares? Stupid.

“Are you okay?” Talon’s voice was soft, careful almost as he peered down at me.

“Ugh, I had a new dream. A different one. It was so strange. It didn’t make any sense.” I hid my face in the crook of his neck, pressing closer as his hand combed through my hair.

“You must feel better? Never mind that you’ve had a fever since yesterday afternoon. I didn’t even realize it had broken. I fell asleep in the damn chair. My back is killing me.” Talon groaned and tipped my chin up gently. His eyes scanned over my face, searching for something.

“What?” I tried to pull away. His scrutiny was making heat pool in my stomach, and I had a sneaking suspicion that now was not the time. Or the place.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel fine. A little sweaty and my dream sucked, but fine. I’m fine Talon.” He turned my face this way and that before pressing the back of his hand to my forehead, “Talon. I promise. I’m okay.”

“I don’t know that you’re a reliable source. You’ve hidden it before from me when you were decidedly not fine.” He released me and narrowed his eyes. Everything came back to me suddenly. The road we’d been on. The attack. The arrow. Feeling strange and then my power. My power! I scooted away from Talon, holding him away from me as I turned my palm up, lifting it in the air. I drew in a shaky breath and tentatively reached out. To my relief, power swirled around me, and I grabbed at it. A ball of light blinked into existence hovering above my palm. My body filled with warmth, and I felt foolish as tears threated to fall.

“Thank the gods. I was so terrified I’d lost it permanently.” I let the light go reluctantly and noticed Talon had been incredibly quiet, “What?”

“We were all worried too. A substance-a poison-that can not only kill but take the victim’s Magik away. It’s pretty much a Magik user’s worst fear.” He was laying on his back now on the tiny bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“Well, I’m okay. Would I recommend the experience? No. But Talon, I’m okay. I’m right here.” He grimaced, turning his head to look at me. He was worried. I could tell that much from his facial expressions. Talon didn’t try to hide those as much from me these days. It was pointless. We were both so aware of every tiny detail that made our partner who they were. We didn’t need the connection to pick up on changes in emotion or attitude. His mental walls were formidable and enforced, keeping me out. There was a sliver there that slid through still. Shame. What on this planet would Talon ever have to be ashamed about?

“What’s going on?” I looked up at him, my tone dipping into accusatory.

“I believe we were focused on you. Don’t change the subject.” He raised an eyebrow.

“We’ve established I’m fine. Nightmares aren’t new for me. What are you ashamed of?” I frowned and saw him fight with himself. Opening up to me was still a struggle for him. It always had been, and I found myself still lacking a large chunk of what made Talon, Talon. He’d tell me enough to get me off his back, to assuage my worrying.




“What’s wrong?”

“I told you. Nothing.”



“Tell me.”

“I’m fine.”


“Fine!” He shouted and I blinked at the volume, “I should’ve been there. I should have been with you. I put you in danger. We all did. We left you alone. I left you alone. I’m supposed to protect you and I failed. I keep failing with you.” He gritted his teeth and looked away from me, his teeth snapping shut as if to cut off another rush of words. His eyes closed and the pain that radiated across the connection hurt me.

“What are you talking about? I’m not defenseless. I’m the one who created the opening remember? I don’t need you to be my personal knight Talon.” I frowned and let my fingers ghost down the inside of his wrist. I was trying to gently coax his hand into holding mine instead of clenching in a tight fist.

“I know you’re not defenseless, but you’re mine. It’s my job to take care of you. To protect you.” His voice was soft, still upset.

“Coming from the man who won’t allow me to take care of him. We’re supposed to be equals, right? You’re making it pretty one sided. I want to take care of you too. You can’t treat me like thin ice that could break any second. I’m stronger than that. I should have proven that to you by now.” He looked down at me and didn’t answer. Talon rested his face in my neck, and I ran fingers through his hair. He clutched me to him, fingers stroking my lower back. I was tired and I wondered if Talon had rested when I’d been sick. I know if the roles had been reversed, I would be sick with worry. I braided his short hair absentmindedly as his breathing slowed. His face relaxed, furrowed brow finally smoothing out. I finished the braid and lightly traced his cheekbone. He swallowed and shifted closer in his sleep.

Letting myself curl up against him, I thought back to my dream. What had this one meant? What had any of them meant really? I was at a loss. Talon insisted they were a form of coping mechanism for my brain, but how was it helping me cope? Terrifying images and making me experience Mallex even after he’d left the world of the living wasn’t my idea of self-soothing. I pulled the blanket up and shivered as I remembered the chorus of voices talking at once. Asking questions, almost desperate to hear more about my Magik. It hadn’t even shown me it’s true form. I had felt it circling me, darting around in the pitch black.

Perhaps this was something I should run by Tyren? Sometimes he had insight on things that I would never have guessed. I shrugged to myself. There would be plenty of time tomorrow. Right now, my energy was waning at a startlingly fast pace. I was so tired. Talon’s warmth wrapped around me didn’t help of course and I felt myself drifting off. I had a fleeting wish before I slipped away. I hoped I would manage to sleep without dreaming this time.

I fully intended to post updates last week. Then I went on vacation and tried to kill myself with a sunscreen-induced allergic reaction.

I'll try to get three chapters out this week to make up for it.

Also, I do have some side stories with the other couples that I could post to keep you all entertained until I get my sh*t together. If you're interested that is😘

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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Oh my. Those that dapple in the dark majiks, to manipulate the balance of majiks themselves, may have opened Pandora’s box itself. The light exists in balance of the dark, but the ebbs and flows may get our own little Prince Sunshine to shoot off some solar flares without even trying.

It seems the ancient powers are at play and the knowledge Wren holds close may be about to reveal itself; now the question of is it totally scary or just predictably unforgiving?

Kalian definitely needs a breakthrough moment of understanding of his gifts and it seems the knowledge of the dead languages and spell casting may yet be seeded at the will of great powers when manifested; be them good or bad, the dreams are possibly hidden secrets Kalian seeks without knowing.

@demiurge, you keep delivering suspense at ever increasing levels;  oils this be from your own insights from the allergic reactions? 😝 I hope that is all managed and you can look back and laugh at another memorable vacation! 

Yes, sides are delicious when complimentary to the entree; please, serve them liberally if you’ve got them!

Edited by Philippe
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