The Guild – Chapter 21 – Kaitlyn

His footsteps faded a long time ago, but I haven’t moved. Where did I go wrong? Why didn’t I just tell him? Why did I try to hide it? I’m so stupid. Of course, he would think I went chasing after Logan. I’m sure a lot of people did. My lip trembles, and my eyes sting.

He was so upset, he even yelled at me. What was it he said about almost getting raped in the past? I could hardly comprehend what he said. When he raised his voice, all I could think about was the horrible things that would follow, when Logan would get mad like that. I wrap my arms around my chest, squeezing until its hard to breathe. I don’t want to remember those things. I don’t ever want that to happen again. How could he think I want that?

I don’t know why I didn’t wait for him to come back. Professor Ambrosse warned me that impulsiveness is a common trait among fire mages. I guess she would know. She already gave me a lecture on leaving, and how I put a Guild student at risk. She scolded both me and Cliff for being irresponsible, but it wasn’t his idea. I didn’t tell him where we were going, and he didn’t ask. It seemed like a harmless idea at the time.

Now Andrei is hurt and angry. I want to make it right, but I don’t know how. I’m afraid I’ll make it worse, and he’ll get even angrier. I’m afraid to go back to my room. He said he wanted to be alone. I don’t blame him. I guess I shouldn’t stay here either if he’s going to continue his research tomorrow. I think I should get some air. I pick up the phone and Rhoan. As I look at the card, a hatred for the stupid piece of paper rises in my throat, and it sparks. Bits of gold glint in the middle of the rectangular pile of ash, and the embers cool. I leave it there. Someone will clean it up tomorrow.

The sun is just starting to crest the horizon, but the air still bites my face. I leave the main gates of the Guild and begin to climb to the plateau on the other end of the island. It’s at least an hours walk, but the sunrise is welcome company. Halfway up the winding path, carved precariously close to the cliff’s edge, I start to notice shadows passing overhead. The vague shape of large birds. Already, I feel at home.

I reach the top, a little out of breath. The plateau is breathtaking; the size of a stadium, with patches of bare earth and large nests scattered around. Mothers of all shapes and sizes tend to their broods, as the young play together. Dragons are incredibly inclusive creatures, which is one of the reasons I adore them. The other is that they seem to favor fire magic. I guess it makes sense because they’re one of the few of the magical inhabitants of the island that are immune to it. Not to mention they breathe fire.

I weave my way through the nests, ducking under drakelings, stepping over little ones that haven’t learned to fly yet. Some of them fly up to me and land on my back. Their claws pinch my skin and tear my sweater, but it’s okay. They’re too cute, I can’t get mad. It doesn’t take long before I’ve got an entourage of cute little scaly beasts.

As I round a cluster of nests, I see the three largest, true dragons up ahead. They nest together at the edge of the cliff, growling and snapping at each other. I can’t help but smile and shake my head. Some things never change. On the left sits Rose, scales shimmering a dull silver. On the right, Mildred, a tarnished brassy colour. In the center is Agatha, gold with patches of fading platinum.

“Good morning!” I wave as I approach. They’re each almost the size of a house, and I feel like an ant.

“Oh, if it isn’t the darling fire mage! My, we haven’t seen you in months!” Agatha lowers her head to ground level. I could stand in her mouth, and still, have room to move, but I’m not afraid. “Where have you been, my dear?” She really just makes some grunting and groaning noises, but I understand them as words.

Where do I even begin? “I left the island for a while. I explored the outside world, and I even found a couple new mages and brought them back.”

Mildred pipes up, “What about that sniveling little twerp that you used to hang around with. What was his name? Larry? No, that’s not it. Morgan?”

“It was Logan, you senile old hag.” Rose scoffs. Mildred snorts smoke over Agatha, into Rose’s face.

I cough, “He, uh… He left. I don’t think he’s coming back.”

“Good riddance. I tell ya if I ever got my claws on that little brat… Well, he’s a little skinny for my tastes, but I’m sure he’d make a nice toothpick.” Rose guffaws.

Mildred scoffs, “Too skinny? Hah! You’re just getting old. I remember a time when you would jump on any man with a pretty face.”

“How would I know if he has a pretty face? The coward never had the balls to come up here!” Rose roars.

“That’s because you two kept threatening to eat him.” Agatha rolls her massive eyes, “Though, honestly I don’t blame them. Just look at you.” She nuzzles her nose into me, and I almost fall over. “All those horrible things he did to you. I hope the human world tears him apart.”

I lean against her snout, my eyes sting again. “Yea… Me too.”

“If I were you,” Rose huffs, “I’d hunt that boy down, run him through, and then find me a nice boy to settle down with.”

“How is she supposed to find a nice boy when you’ve slept with all of them?” Mildred jabs.

“Ladies!” Agatha snaps, lifting her massive head to roar back at them, “Not in front of the young one!”

“Actually…” I bite my lip. “I sort of… did…”

All three of the dragon’s heads turn to me in sync. It’s a little creepy.

I pick at my nails and rock back on my heels. “One of the mages I brought back. His name is Andrei. He’s really sweet and just… the total opposite of Logan and I like him a lot.”

“But? I feel like there’s a but.” Mildred urges, lowering her head down.

“He’s a time mage… He accidentally jumped to the past, so in the meantime I went to look for information on where Logan is, because he stole this really important old book, but then Andrei came back and found out and now he’s mad at me because he thinks I want to be with Logan but I don’t and I don’t know how to make him understand that I don’t want anyone else and now it’s all a mess…” I gasp to catch my breath. I didn’t know I could talk so fast.

“Oh, to be young and in love!” Rose sings.

“Love? Oh, no, that’s not, we just met like a week ago. It’s not…” I stutter. The dragons look at each other and make a noise that I can only guess is laughter.

Rose lowers herself now, with a toothy grin that would send most people screaming for their lives. “Dearie, love doesn’t wait for you to look for it. Love finds you. I remember a time, oh, about three hundred years ago. I met this fantastic man. More than a man – he was a true Guardian, not like those little mages that call themselves guardians.”

“Oh, here we go again! Rose and her Guardian lover!” Mildred yells dramatically. “Like we haven’t heard it a thousand times.”

“Oh, hush. You’re just jealous because he liked me more than you!” Rose sneers. Smoke rises out of her nostrils. “Anyway, he was unlike any man I’d met before, so sweet and gentle. You know, we even had a child together. I stayed in human form to carry it to term. A beautiful baby girl.” She swoons.

“You left out the part where a union between human and dragon is strictly forbidden.” Agatha scolds.

“Oh, but that just makes it all the more romantic! He was such a stickler for rules, but our passion couldn’t be contained!”

Mildred gags, “You’re going to scar the poor girl for life!”

I frown, “What happened to the baby?”

Rose sighs, “We hid her with his human family. The Guild council never found out, and she lived a normal life.” She lays her head on the ground in front of me, “I visited when I could, but she never knew the truth. It was better that way; the dragon blood was dormant in her, and her children.”

I tip my head, fascinated, “And the man?”

“Oh, he’s still around, somewhere. Last I heard, he was put into some magical sleep by his evil twin. If you ask me, he was just trying to give her the slip.” Mildred teases.

“Mildred…” Agatha warns.

“Oh, you!!” Rose snaps her head up with a growl, “The love Markus and I shared was real! He would never abandon me like that! He’ll come back to me one day, you’ll see!”

I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach. “M-Markus?” I gasp. “As in… Markus Halsey? The Founder?!”

The three dragons freeze.

“Oh, now look what you’ve done! What part of forbidden don’t you understand?” Agatha scolds Rose. The silver dragon hangs her head. Mildred snickers.

“You… and… and he… and then… I need to sit down.” I stumble back, forgetting that there aren’t any chairs out here. I fall on my back, knocking any breath I had left out. The sky starts to fill with black patches until everything goes dark…

    ***

    When I open my eyes again, the sun is almost directly overhead. My head is throbbing. Where am I? I try to sit up, but there’s something heavy on my chest. When I look down, I find a little green drake curled up like a cat, watching me with brilliant yellow eyes. Four more lay on the ground at my sides, and one between my feet. I blink a few times. Did I fall asleep?

“Look! She’s waking up!” Mildred’s huge head blocks out the sun, “How are you feeling, dear?”

I rub my head, “What happened?”

“Oh, sweetheart, you fainted.” Rose appears beside her sister. “We thought it best not to disturb you.”

Mildred sniffs, “Of course, if Rose could keep her big mouth shut, you wouldn’t have fainted in the first place.”

“Mildred!” Agatha hisses.

“What? She’s already on the ground! It’s not like she can fall over again!”

The conversation comes flooding back. I cup my hands over my face and groan loudly. The young dragons around me jump up and scuttle away.  I grunt as the green one leaps off my stomach, claws leaving grooves in my skin. Every time I come up here…

I sit up, looking at the silver head. “Did you know?”

“Know what, dearie?” She blinks innocently.

I stand up, yank the necklace off and throw it at her, “Did you know about this?!” It bounces off her snout and rolls in the dirt.

The three dragon heads move back, and the pendant floats up into the air. “Oh, my…”

Agatha’s gold head shakes slowly. “So, it is as we suspected.”

“It was only a matter of time, you know.” Rose chimes.

“Tell me!” I shout. “I want to hear you say it.”

The three hesitate, and Agatha sighs, “It is not a coincidence that you understand our speech, in our native form.”

I feel faint again, but I manage to shake it off. I clench my fists and grit my teeth, “I knew it… I really am a monster.”

“Monster!” Rose bellows. “My dear, you are my kin! Are you implying that we are monsters?”

I flinch, “N-no… But you said it was forbidden. There must be a reason.”

Rose tips her head, her green eyes glowing, “That is because humans do not understand power. Look at what happened to the Guardians. In an age when humanity was constantly fighting, having a guardian on your side could turn the tide… but when the fighting ceases. When there are no enemies to defeat, a powerful ally becomes a hidden threat. Humans fear what they cannot understand; what they cannot control. It was that fear that led to the creation of this place. A safe haven, far from the human fear.”

I close my eyes, trying to comprehend what she’s saying. “So… combining a Guardian and a dragon was forbidden… because it would scare people?”

“Essentially, yes.” Agatha nods.

“We feared they would be persecuted – hunted, even. As our own kind became, many centuries ago.” Rose holds her massive claws out, and the tiny necklace floats down in front of me. “And sadly, my dear, that burden falls upon you.”

I take the pendant in both hands. It suddenly feels so much heavier. My knees give out, and I drop with my legs splayed out on either side. I stare at the red crystal. Little drops splash off its decorative silver bail, spilling down my cheeks.I wish it had never come to me. I just want to be normal.  I hate this stupid necklace. I hate Markus. I hate magic.

“Come now, child. You are a gift upon this world. The humans should bow at your feet.” Mildred states, as though it were obvious. I look up at her with disbelief.

“Which is it? Am I forbidden, or am I a gift?”

“Technically, your ancestor, my daughter, was forbidden.” Rose clarifies, “That is not your fault. You are blessed.”

I shake my head. “I don’t feel blessed…”

“Well, that won’t do.” Agatha nudges me with her massive snout. “Let’s talk about something a little lighter, hm? Earlier, you mentioned a sweet boy that you like?”

I wipe my face on my sleeve. I guess it’s lucky that I haven’t bothered wearing the heavy eyeliner lately because I’m sure I’d be a total mess by now. “Um… I don’t know if it matters now. I’m pretty sure he hates me.”

“What! Nonsense!” Rose howls, “No man could resist a child of mine!”

“Rose…. Please, just shut up.” Agatha grumbles. I giggle. It’s rare to hear Agatha swear, and the other two look absolutely scandalized. “Ah, that’s what I want to hear. You have a wonderful laugh. Come now, tell us about him.”

I blush. “Thanks…” I start to tell them about everything that happened over the last week. I climb onto the edge of Agatha’s nest and find a comfortable place to sit. I’m surrounded by young dragons as I speak. The little green one from earlier wiggles its way around my back and nudges my hand until I pet it. The matriarchs laugh.

As I recount the conversation from this morning, my heart sinks again. What am I going to do? I wonder if he’s asleep, or if he stayed awake and angry.

“My, that is quite a terrible misunderstanding.” Agatha muses.

“How dare he get so angry! What a rude boy!” Rose huffs.

“Now, now. I’m sure he had his reasons.” Agatha soothes, “My dear, I think perhaps giving him space is best for now. Once he’s calmed down, apologize, and be honest with your feelings. If you tell the truth, he will see it, and he will not be able to stay angry.”

“Yes. Honesty is the best policy, I always say.” Mildred nods.

“No you don’t. You’re lying right now!” Rose growls.

“I am not!”

Agatha and I both sigh heavily. It’s almost comical, as the two of them start to bicker back and forth. I scratch the little green dragon’s head and look up at the clear blue sky. Several teenage dragons are chasing one another around above us. The sun has crept down to the west, inching closer to the horizon. My stomach growls. When was the last time I ate? I don’t even remember.

“My, it seems like you should be heading home, dear.” Agatha chuckles, “Wouldn’t want you starving out here!”

I sigh, “I don’t want to go back. Can’t I stay here forever?”

A sudden commotion catches our attention on the other end of the plateau. Drakelings screech and scurry away, but it’s too far for me to see.

“Oh, my… What have we here?” Mildred questions, “I haven’t seen this human before.”

Rose tips her head, “He’s rather cute.”

“NO.” Mildred and Agatha snap simultaneously.

“What? I’m just saying. Yeesh.” Rose doesn’t sound the least bit recalcitrant.

I laugh, then pause. “He?”

Agatha chuckles, “It would seem he’s being led straight this way, by little Typhon. Would it be too much to assume this is your new beau?”

I think my face turns ten shades of red. I look down at myself, covered in dirt, my clothes torn and bloody. Again. “He can’t see me like this!”

Agatha lowers her head to look at me closer. “Hm… I agree, but I can’t do much about the clothes. Hold still.” She opens her mouth a bit, breathing on me. I half expect fire, and half expect it to stink like rotten meat. Instead, it’s cool and smells like crisp winter air. All the cuts and scrapes close over seamlessly. I guess that’s better than nothing.

I climb down, against the protests of the little green dragon. He stumbles off the nest and follows at my heels. I stand in front of their nests and watch. Typhon whizzes around the corner, and barrels right into me. I tumble feet overhead, getting a face-full of dirt as I scream in surprise. The elder dragons laugh, a deep, menacing sound. I sit up and brush my hair back out of my face, wiping the dust out of my mouth.

I see a small figure stumble around the nest up ahead, eyes as wide as can be, looking all around. They fall on me and he stops. He looks uneasy and insecure. There are huge dark circles under his eyes, that I can see even from here. He glances up at the three massive dragons behind me and he visibly gulps.

“Well, come on, boy. We’re not going to eat you… Yet.” Mildred cooes. Agatha glares at her. I cover my mouth to hold back a laugh.

He frowns, confused. He gasps, “Kaitlyn! Look out!”

A claw scoops me up and puts me on my feet, before nudging me forward. “Go on now, dearie. Make your grandma proud!”

I squeak, blushing again as I spin on her, “Don’t say that! That’s so… weird…”

“Say what? I haven’t said anything?” Andrei frowns. I clap my hands over my mouth. Great, now I feel like a crazy person.

“Um… Sorry. I was talking to…” I point to the silver dragon.

“Why can’t I hear them?” He asks, genuinely curious.

I hug my arms around my chest as I glance back up at the dragons. “I used to think it was something all fire mages could do. Apparently, though, it’s just me.”

“What?!” He looks like he’s about to fall over.

I sigh, “You have no idea…”

“You’re right… I don’t. Would you like to tell me?” He hesitates.

“What are you waiting for? Just kiss already!” Rose urges. I glare up at her. Is she serious?

“It’s… kind of a lot to comprehend.” I scratch my head. “I’d like to tell you… If you still want to know.”

“Well, my sleep schedules gone to shit, so…. I’m ready to hear you out.” Andrei complains.

“Tell him to watch his tone with my kin.” Rose snorts smoke.

“I’m not saying that. That’s rude.” I mutter. Andrei raises an eyebrow. “Um… Maybe you should sit down… I sort of fainted earlier when I found out.” He looks at the ground and slowly sits with his legs crossed.

I take a deep breath. Admitting it makes it real, and I don’t know if I believe it, but… Here goes. “Yesterday, when I went down into the crypt, Rhoan told me that this, the necklace,” I pull it out of my pocket, “Means that I’m descended directly from the Guild founder… And this,” I gesture to the dragons. “This… means that the child of Markus that I descend from is the one he had with Rose.”

He stares at me for a long time, one eye twitching slightly. I fidget, waiting for him to speak. “Come again?”

“I have dragon blood.” I rock back on my heels. “And a stupid key that opens a stupid book that may or may not awaken the Guardian that’s asleep under the Guild, a.k.a., my forefather, who’s the only one who can explain what the hell is happening to me.”

“Ooooooookayyy….. That’s a lot” He runs a hand through his hair.

“Yea.” I take a deep breath, “Would you believe I came up here to ask them how to apologize to you?” I bite my lip. Somehow, that’s harder to admit that the dragon thing. Feelings are weird.

“To me? I came here to apologize to you…” He mumbles. The three dragons ‘ooo’ like a TV audience. I try to ignore them.

I tip my head, “Why?”

“Well…” He looks down, “I guess… I yelled again, and I assumed you still had feelings for that loser… and I guess I accused you of not caring, but I didn’t say that out loud…”

“What does he mean, ‘I guess’? Are you even trying?” Mildred leans her head down, eyes narrowed. “Do you want me to eat him?” Andrei scrambles back on his hands, panic in his face until he bumps into another nest.

“No! Stop it!” I run in between, trying to push her snout back. Though my feet just slide in the dirt.

“Did I do something to upset them?” He gasps, “This was a mistake. I… I don’t think I can do this. Caroline was wrong. I’m not confident….”

I let go and spin around. He looks so distraught. “Wait, don’t leave,” I beg, as I drop onto my knees. “I’m sorry, they’re not mad, I promise. They just… They’re worried.”

“Worried about what?” He frowns.

I struggle how to answer. Agatha’s advice about honesty comes back, and I chew the inside of my cheek, “That you’ll be like him. I told them you’re nothing like he was – you’re the complete opposite. You’re sweet and funny, and kind and…” I catch myself getting carried away. “I’m sorry… that I didn’t wait for you to come back. I should have waited.” I feel my eyes sting again, “I’m such an idiot.”

“You’re wrong.  It’s alright that you didn’t wait. I should have let you tell me. I shouldn’t have forced you to.” He hangs his head. “I don’t think I’m any of those things right now… I’m ashamed of how I behaved when I came back from the jump.”

I crawl over into the space between his legs, and pause, to see if he’s okay with it. I hesitantly brush his long hair aside, letting my fingers rest on his cheek. “You are all of those things, and more. You’re more than I could hope for and much more than I deserve.”

A tear escapes, leaving a trail down his cheek before it rests on my finger. “How… How can you say that after what I said?”

I smile. “You came all the way out here, into a colony of dragons, just to find me. Everything else aside, I think that’s pretty brave.”

“Well, don’t give me too much credit. Caroline had to talk me off the floor.” He admits grimly.

“But you came.” I insist. “That’s what matters. You didn’t have to, but you did.”

“Kiss him!” Rose and Mildred both whine from behind me. “Go on, Kaitlyn! We didn’t wait all these years for you to find a decent boy to let you waste it!”

I roll my eyes and shake my head. “Honestly, you’re better off not hearing them.”

“What are they saying?” He asks, glancing up hesitantly.

I hesitate, remembering what he mentioned about his last jump. “That I should kiss you… but I know you mentioned something about a traumatic experience in your jump, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” I lean back slightly, hoping I’m not too close.

“Yea, but, I don’t. I know it’s you, so…” He moves forward, catching the side of my face in his hand as he eagerly presses his lips against mine. It takes my breath away, but I don’t hesitate to push him back into the edge of the nest. Relief washes over me and I don’t ever want to stop.

“That’s my girl! Look at her go!” Rose cheers, her roar echoing across the mountaintop.

Andrei freezes and looks like he’s about to have a heart attack. I rest my forehead against his, laughing bitterly. “I think we should get out of here before Rose gets a little too excited.”

“Whatever you say.” He chuckles. I take his hands and pull him up.

“Are you okay?” I’m afraid to let go. He looks like a slight breeze will knock him back down. “Have you slept at all? Or eaten?”

“Not really. I tried, but… I had too many emotions to sort out.” He mumbles.

I drop my gaze. That’s my fault. “I’m sorry. Come on,” I tug his hand to start walking.

“Kaitlyn,” Agatha calls. I stop and look up at her. “You both look absolutely exhausted. Why don’t I have one of my sons bring you home?”

“What?” I gulp, “Is that… safe?”

She laughs, “Of course. No flying, at least not today. Wouldn’t want one of you fainting and falling off.” I scrunch my face at the image. She calls out a name I couldn’t hope to pronounce, and a blue adolescent lands on the ground in front of us.

“What’s happening? What’s this?” Andrei asks, alarmed.

I shrug, “A ride?”

“Oh no. No no no no no. Flying?!” He panics.

I squeeze his hand, keeping him from bolting. “No, not flying. Just walking. Agatha is really worried that you’re going to fall over any second.”

He points to the dragon, “And we won’t fall off that?!”

I frown, “We can walk if you think you’ll be okay…”

He looks down the steep path and across the island. “Um…. Okay, I-I trust you on this.”

I’m not sure that’s the best idea, but I just smile. The sooner we get back, the better. I climb up at the base of the dragon’s neck, just above the wing joints. I make sure to leave room for Andrei to climb up behind me. Once we’re relatively settled, the dragon stands up. Andrei wraps both arms around my waist, squeezing as tightly as he can. I squeak in surprise and try to breathe with the added pressure.

“Sorry,” He mumbles in my ear, loosening his grip slightly.

I lean into him, “I don’t mind.” I’d be a lot more freaked out if I was riding a dragon on my own, that’s for sure.

In case you’re wondering, riding a dragon is nothing like riding a horse. It’s more like an elephant, but with wings. My fingers ache from gripping the spines on its neck. As we start to go downhill, my arms shake from the tension. Rhoan then decides to make himself into a makeshift seat belt. He slides down my shoulder and turns into a long rubber band. He snakes around the two of us and hooks himself around the dragon’s belly.

“Why didn’t you think of that sooner?” I whine.

“Kat… “ Andrei moans, “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Yea, I don’t really blame him. “Do you think you can hold on a little longer?”

“I’ll try.” He hiccups.

Well, if he’s gonna be sick anyway… I pat the dragon on its neck, “Go. We need to go fast.”

The dragon grunts, and leaps off the edge of the cliff. I close my eyes and hold my breath. Andrei screams, and I flinch. The wings shoot out and then we’re gliding. At least it’s a lot smoother. I peak an eye open. He’s staying close to the ground, but we’re moving a whole lot faster now. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a bruise after this from Andrei squishing my stomach.

The landing is a little clumsy, but we manage to stay put thanks to Rhoan. Over an hour’s walk traveled in minutes. Andrei slides to the ground and stumbles away. I jump down and try to steady him. He’s as white as a sheet.

“Are you okay? Please don’t faint!” I beg. Maybe that was a stupid idea.

“I will be. I just need a minute.” He assures me.

“Okay…” I look back at the dragon. He’s watching us curiously. “Thank you. We’ll manage from here.” It snorts and takes off again. The sun starts to dip below the sea, as we stand outside the gates. I hold onto Andrei, but I’m not sure which of us is keeping the other up. It’s been a long day.

Once some of the colour comes back to Andrei’s face, I lead the way to the cafeteria.

“Maybe you should order something small, in case you do get sick?” I suggest.

“I’ll make some grilled cheese.” He decides.

“Andrei, are you serious? You’re gonna hurt yourself!” I pout. “We can just order it, and we can take it back to the dorms. Okay?”

“I won’t hurt myself. I’m fine. Besides, it’ll make you smile.” He smirks, then yawns.

I hover around him in the kitchen, but he manages to make the sandwiches without maiming himself. “Told you so.” He grins as he slides the plate toward me.

I shake my head, “I’ll just feel a lot better when you don’t look like you’re about to keel over.”

“You’ll feel better?” He yawns.

“Yes.” I stick my tongue out.

“Imagine how I’ll feel.”

I laugh, “I guess not everyone can handle a bit of insomnia. I’ll have to remember that in the future.”

“Coupled with the time changes, and time jumps that flip you to the other side of the world. In the past…” He counts out on his fingers. “Two… Three days, I’ve had maybe eight hours sleep.”

I nibble on the grilled cheese, leaning on the counter. “I could live on that. I do, normally.”

He looks down at me with wide eyes, “It’s unhealthy. It hurts. How?”

I shrug, “It’s that or the nightmares. I’d rather stay awake.”

“How have those been lately?” He takes a bite.

I pick at the cheese, “I just keep having the same dream. In that room, under the library. It’s like there’s something I’m missing, but I don’t know what it is.”

He starts looking through cupboards until he finds the ketchup. “What do you see when you’re in the dream?” He squirts some on his plate and dips the grilled cheese into it.

I think about it. “Sometimes, I see the old man, and he tries to take the key. Most of the time, I’m just there, alone. A few times I could hear a voice, like the first time, but I never find the source.” I mean, I suspect that it’s the spirit of Markus, but I don’t want to sound too crazy. I take the ketchup to try his method of grilled cheese.

“Why does the old man want the key?” He frowns.

I remind myself that he’s a little brain fried. “Probably to open the book.”

“And why does he want to open the book?”

I purse my lips. “That’s kind of the million dollar question, isn’t it?” I finish my sandwich and dust the crumbs off my hands.

“Why have this book if no one knows what’s in it except the founder, and the old guy? And why does the old guy know what’s in it? Don’t you find that a little odd?”

I take the plate and place it in the sink. Something that came up earlier rings in the back of my mind. “What if… The old guy is Markus’ brother?”

“Brother? How do we know if he had a brother?” He raises his brows.

“Mildred said something about him having a twin brother this morning. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but it could be him.”

“Mildred?” He seems to be more lost by the second.

“The one who threatened to e- er… The bronze one. Dragon, I mean.”

“Eat me?” He gulps, “Oh.. Well, are they a reliable source of information? No offense.”

I laugh, “Andrei, they’re the only ones on this island, maybe the world, who were actually alive when Markus was around. I don’t think it gets more reliable unless you can ask the founder himself.”

“Hm…” He taps his chin. “We could ask Markus himself. Otherwise, if no one but the dragons know, then we’re going to have to get that book. Which means finding…. Him, again… And using him as bait.”

“I know.” I sigh, “That’s why I was looking for him. That’s what I was trying to tell you.”

“At least tell me you didn’t go alone?”

“Of course not!” I shiver, “I don’t want to be alone with him… Ever again.” It makes me sick to even think about.

“I don’t want that either.” He scoffs, “So, who’d you take?”

“Cliff and Ryan,” I answer simply. “I was kind of hoping Cliff would scare Logan off. It sort of worked.”

“Good. I’m glad you’ve made friends… In case I’m not here to help.” He looks down at his empty plate sadly.

I cross the kitchen, sliding my hands around his waist and leaning my chest against him. “I’d much rather you were around. I feel… safer, with you.”

He flinches at first, but relaxes, “Me too, but I think I’m onto something in my own research too. In Japan, I met the shaman queen, and I discovered she was a wind user. She told me she would have a descendant with her abilities someday.”

I blink, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

“She also spoke to the wind, or so she claimed. That kind of power could be very useful, for whatever comes from finding the book. If only we could find her descendant and bring her here to train.”

I frown, “Maybe we should see if they’re already here first?”

“Wouldn’t we already know?”

“How? I don’t know most of the people that live here. They avoid me, remember?”

“Well, besides that, you had a lead on Logan’s location? That business card, right?” He hums.

I open my mouth and shut it again. Oops. “I’m sure Kaede copied the name down…” I mumble under my breath.

Andrei raises an eyebrow, “Why?”

I step back, hands folded behind my back, “I may have accidentally burnt it…”

“Accidentally.” Rhoan mocks.

“Why?! That was a big clue!”

I pout, “Because, you got so upset about it…”

“Oh, Kat… I didn’t mean… I’m sorry. Now, what are we going to do?”

The phone in my back pocket buzzes loudly. I yelp and quickly pull it out. The message on the screen reads; “FOUND THE BUSINESS INFO FOR LOSER FACE.”

I turn the phone to show Andrei, “It looks like we don’t have to worry about it.”

“Well then,” He grins, “After I get some sleep, we should make a plan, and maybe bring a few of our friends along too.”

“I think that’s a good idea.” I pause, “Did you… want to stay in your own room? Or…” I feel heat creeping onto my cheeks again.

“I wouldn’t mind the company myself tonight, as long as you don’t expect another lecture in love.” He beams.

I giggle, “If you don’t fall asleep as soon as you hit the pillow, I’ll be shocked.”

“So will I.” He yawns, and holds out his hand, “Shall we?”

 

By Krystyna Yates

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