Disaster is an understatement. As I become aware of my surroundings and stare at Ryan moaning on the bed, my mind swirls with all the things that went wrong today. I can’t seem to still my racing heart as Ryan wreaths in pain. I don’t imagine the bright white walls help much.
Cliff stands on the opposite side of the bed, across from Kat and I, speaking with a nurse while we watch on helplessly like a bunch of dumb sheep.
I ball my hand into a fist at my side, trying to release my frustration, but it doesn’t help. I look to Kat, white as a sheet, staring straight ahead at the blank wall. I can only imagine how she must feel. I’d heard from Ryan that she had been teaching her to make flame and what not. They’d become close. Kaitlyn had actually managed to make friends here without realizing it and now, her friend lay dying, saving her from that stupid magical dart. Why did Logan have to play so dirty?
Maybe if I said something, this awkward silence would end… “Hey, Kat, I… I don’t know what will happen, but you can’t blame yourself, ‘kay?” I try to assure her. She doesn’t respond, she doesn’t even blink. I think I feel worse.
“Too late,” Rhoan says from her shoulder. Yup, I feel worse.
“Kat…” I place my hand on her shoulder, hoping to reassure her.
The new girl, whose name we don’t even know yet, since we’ve all been too preoccupied to ask, the one who had the heart to shoot Logan and end everything between him and Kat, stands on my other side, arms crossed over her chest. She’s a bit taller than me and wears a flat expression on her perfectly composed face. I can’t help but wonder who she is, but now certainly doesn’t seem like the right time to ask. She did what none of us had been able to. I respect her, but she scares me at the same time.
I look back to Ryan, neck arched back on the pillow, grinding her teeth. Her hair is slick with sweat, face contorted in unimaginable pain. It hurts me to just watch.
“Is there nothing you can do for the pain? Anything?” I ask the nurse, interrupting her and Cliff.
The nurse’s lip trembles slightly and she shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I’ve never seen anything like this!” she whimpers.
I catch the new girl rolling her eyes as she steps up to the bed. “It’s a poison. You need to drain it. But it’s too late,” she says with finality, indicating the spread of the black mark down Ryans arm and across her chest beneath her black shirt. “Once it reaches her heart, it’s all over.”
I hate to admit she’s right, so I won’t. “What if I-“
Just then, the door bursts open and Selene jogs in, out of breath. “I came as soon as I…” she freezes, eyes falling on the new girl and raises a quizzical eyebrow. “Heard…” she finishes.
“Oh Selene,” I wilt, feeling tears brim on my lashes. “We don’t know what to do! The nurse says she can’t help!” I whimper. Maybe Selene can do something.
Selene walks up to Ryan, holds her hand over the dart and frowns. “She’s right. We can’t help her now,” her words echo in my head like a gong. How did she hear what the new girl said? I won’t accept defeat, though. I can’t.
“There’s got to be something!” I shout, grasping Selene’s sleeve in my hand. “Anything!” I beg.
“The only thing you can do it put her out of her misery,” the new girl whispers. What could she mean? Isn’t she the one who saved us from Logan? I feel like my brain is just firing useless accusations and questions now. I want it to stop.
Selene places her hand over Ryan’s eyes, concentrating for a moment. The room falls silent again. After a few agonizingly long seconds, Ryan’s face relaxes and she sighs. I watch closely, waiting for her to take another breath. Nothing.
“That’s the most I can do,” Selene says softly.
She steps back from Ryan and I move in, looking at her with uncertainty. “What? What… did you do? No! There has to be something we could do!” I find myself shouting but I don’t have control anymore. “There has to-” my voice cuts out as Cliff steps between us and drags me away from the bed.
The new girl steps away as Cliff pulls me aside. “Caroline, please. There was nothing we could do. That poison, it was too much, even for us to manage. We had no time. It was Ryan’s choice. Please, honour her bravery,” he tries to reassure me, but my emotions are a wild mess. Where’s Kaede? I need him now.
The nurse steps in and checks Ryan for vital signs then bows her head and pulls a sheet from the bottom of the bed, placing it over Ryans now peaceful face.
I feel hiccups rise in my throat as I watch Selene move over to stand next to Kat. This is all too much. This can’t really be happening.
There’s an awkward silence in the room as the nurse walks away. Suddenly, Kat turns and storms out, slamming the door behind her. The windows shake with the force and threaten to break. I watch in silence, tears pouring down my cheeks, arm extended as if I was about to stop her from leaving, but what could I have said?
The new girl bows her head and then slowly walks towards the door, shoes clacking on the floor. The silence is deafening.
I feel Cliff grip my shoulder as Selene’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “It would be best to leave Kaitlyn alone for the time being,” she states solemnly.
I nod, half-hearted. We all need time to grieve in our own way. It’s enough to remind me that Andrei and Kaede aren’t back yet, and that will just bring everything back to the surface in a raw way.
Cliff releases me and takes his leave. I look to Selene, sadly, lips turned down into an ugly frown. “And you?” I ask. I feel my lip tremble. I’m barely maintaining control.
Selene gives me a half-hearted smile. “I will stay with you if you would like.”
I nod, looking down at my hands, shaking. I’ve never seen someone die before. I’ve never even had a friend or family member pass away. This sadness is horribly new to me. It hurts in all sorts of ways like someone’s ripped a piece of you away and left you with an empty hole.
I look back to the bed and feel a wave of emotion hit me like a tsunami. “I can’t stay,” I whisper. “I’m sorry,” With that, I dash out the door, leaving Selene alone with Ryan. I need to be away. I need space. I need to be alone.
Mmm, not alone.
“Not now,” I state, running through the empty halls of the Guild, trying to think but not really thinking.
It’s strange, I want to be alone, but then I don’t, because I find my thoughts reeling and I can’t calm down. Ryan is gone. She was the first friend, other than Kat, that I ever made here. She was only 19. How could she be dead? Why did Logan invent such a horrible thing? How could anyone be so cruel? I don’t understand.
Before I realize where I am, I find myself standing in the library, the torches already lit. I see Kaede’s laptop on the table, where he left it, and Andrei’s notes and a stack of books. I glance at the back wall where the door to the basement and the founder stands open a jar.
I shouldn’t be here. Kat needs time. I grab the notes and the top book and run out of the library. I need to figure out where they went. Why they went. Why we were left alone, and why did Ryan die.
I feel nothing except the contours of the tub. There’s music playing from my iPod on the counter and my water vibrates with the frequencies it produces. The vibrations are soothing. So is not being in a human form.
I made it to my room hours ago and somehow was able to recreate the full water form I’d managed to take in the dream. Once I did that, I let myself melt in the tub like a bowl of tears. It was better than crying. At least, this way, I didn’t have to feel the ache in my chest when my thoughts turned to Ryan.
I distract myself, trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Andrei and Kaede. I really wish they were here.
On a chair, outside the tub, I have the book and Andrei’s notes propped up and open. Occasionally I pull a blob-like version of myself onto the edge of the tub and glance at the words. Andrei’s notes are difficult to read, messy and slanting. He makes notes of passages and pages he’s been reading.
At the moment, I am scanning a portion of his notes that list places, but there is no mention of why these places are significant. I read through the list; Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia.
I hover over Romania, thinking about where I last heard that country’s name. Then it dawns on me. While we were trailing Kat at the event after Ryan called Cliff and me in to help her bring her back. Cliff mentioned Andrei asking for a door to Romania. Could it be? Are they in Romania?
And then, there’s another thing. If Cliff said no, the only way he could get there is by jumping time… so when in time is he in Romania?
After the countries, I see a list of page numbers from the text I happened to grab. I sigh, returning myself to a human form so I can flip the pages. I regret it immediately because my eyes threaten to flood and my breath hitches in my chest. I try to swallow it down and flip through the text to the indicated page numbers. The first three numbers don’t tell me anything, but as soon as I see the fourth I know what it is he’s looking for because there’s a big black circle around the name of a plant.
“Oh, Andrei. Could you not have picked a better time to go after this? Kat needs you. Don’t you care?” I know I’m being irrational as soon as I say it. I know he cares, it’s just, sometimes he’s bad at showing it.
Andrei’s always been a flirt. That hasn’t changed from before he came to the Guild before he met Kaitlyn. He’s still the same old Andrei: a mystery to all, The first one to act and the last one to clue in. He has a big heart though and he doesn’t like to see people in trouble. That’s what got him interested in Kat in the first place, I think.
But this time, he took Kaede too. It’s been Kaedes dream to jump, and I admit, now that I know he can take others with him, I’d love to try, maybe once. But Kaede knew things could happen at any time and Andrei doesn’t yet have complete control of his time magic, no matter how practiced he is.
Before I think about it, I already know in my heart I have to try talking to Kat, despite what Selene said. I get out of the bath, slipping into a knit sweater and yoga pants. I don’t know where she is but I have a few ideas where she might be. If she’s not in her room, I’ll check the library and if not there, then the dragons. They’d know.
I grab the textbook, just in case, and slip out of my room. Her door is open, as always, so I let myself in, calling out softly. “Kaitlyn? Are you there?”
I hear nothing. Entering her room I see it is empty. Drat. I decide to check the library.
The halls are empty as I rush down the familiar route to the library. I make a sharp turn down the passage with the open hall that looks out onto the grounds of the Guild and stops in surprise. At the other end is the new girl, walking alongside another Guild member. What strikes me as most odd is the strange purple aura I see around her. How did I not notice that before?
She notices me now, as I stand there staring at her, and waves. I guess I should say something.
“Hi, Caroline, wasn’t it?” she says with a smile.
“Uhh… yea, it’s Caroline,” my eyes slide to the floor as I try to process this. “So, you’re getting a tour?” I ask. The aura I see would mean she has magic, and by the looks of it, I’d say it’s strong, like Guardian strong. But I’m not sure. I’d need to ask Kaitlyn.
“Yea, I think I’m fortunate to have met you guys when I did, I mean, all things considered, it was a pretty awful start,” she says, her lips twitching in thought. “But I’ve been meaning to seek this place out, to train. So I thought I’d stay since I’m here now. Is… that alright with you?” she asks like I have a say in the matter.
“Oh, yeah. No, that’s great. I mean, I guess you were lucky.” Awkward… “So, uhh, I didn’t catch your name, you know, in all the commotion.”
“Oh, right. I’m so sorry about that,” she says, rubbing the back of her neck with her hand. “I’m Samantha.”
My mouth threatens to drop but I catch it. Samantha? Is this a coincidence or would this just happen to be the same Samantha we already know? I can’t bring it up now, I mean, that would just be awkward and all. Besides, Andrei isn’t here. I decide to just keep it to myself since I could be wrong, but I make a mental note to approach Andrei about it before he has a chance to run into her, once he gets back.
“Well, I should get back to the tour,” she thumbs at the waiting guide behind her, a tall man from one of Cliffs barriers classes. “I hope you and the others are feeling ok. I’ll catch up with you later, alright?” she says politely.
“Yeah, sure. Sounds good,” I say with a half-hearted smile. With that, I continue down the hall, in the opposite direction of Samantha.
When I finally reach the library, I hear a horrible noise coming from the back of the room. I dash down the aisle to find Selene standing in the doorway to the crypt.
“Selene! What’s happening? Is Kat here?” I ask, panic in my voice as she holds an arm out, stopping me from going in. “I need to ask her something,” I say, lifting the text in my hand.
“Not now,” she replies quietly, staring down the stairs. “It’s not safe.”
“Not safe?! What is she doing?” I ask, my voice rising as I hear another loud crack, like rocks being split.
“Grieving,” she frowns. “Violently.”
“And you’re just going to let her do that? It sounds like she’s destroying the place! That’s a school heritage site and also an important place for clues! We have to stop this!” I can’t believe how irresponsible she is being.
Selene looks me in the eye, dead serious and I feel my blood freeze. “I’m not the one who can tame her,” she turns back towards the crypt entrance with a flat expression. “And neither are you.”
By Kayla West