The Guild – Chapter 123 – Heath

    I wait for the door to shut before I lean against it, letting out an exasperated sigh. My blood thrums in my ears from the built-up nervousness as we walked back to the dorms. My hands shake, and not from holding the egg. I stand like this for a while, trying to sort my thoughts. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this…

    I still don’t understand why I did that – why I kissed her. Was it because I like her? Or because I feel sorry for her? Or was it because of some other reason? I can’t seem to decide. All I know is that I shouldn’t have. She’s already dating Andrei, and she’s having a baby. I shouldn’t come between that. I have no business intruding on their relationship.

    I replay the conversation in my head and stumble on my response like a teenager. You tempt me… I grit my teeth in conflict with my emotions. Why is this so hard?

    It’s true, she does tempt me. She tempts me to stay with every word she says, with every action… every smile. For more than one reason, she tempts me, but I shouldn’t…

    I ask myself again… Why did I kiss her?

    Because she tempts me…

    That’s not a good enough answer. That’s not my answer. I don’t have anything better. I release the breath I didn’t realise I was holding and cross the dark room, heading for the bed. I set the egg down on and undress before crawling into the sheets next to it. Maybe sleep will help me find some answers.

~*~

    Monica is a slender girl, with wavy dark brown hair that fell to the small of her back. She wears a slim fitting red dress with a crop-cut jean jacket over top to dress it down. For seventeen, she looks mature for her age.

    Heath watches her from across the dimly lit room filled with the sweaty bodies of his high school peers, swaying and jumping in time to the loud music over the speakers. The room is hot and the floor is riddled with plastic cups, bits of streamers and crumbs from food. The disco light flashes, adding to the atmosphere, but Heath only has eyes for Monica.

    Heath had been too shy to ask Monica to the dance. She often spent her time with her girlfriends outside the library and he couldn’t find the right time, when she was alone, to ask. He didn’t have the courage to ask while she was with her friends. They’d likely just tease him like everyone else did.

    Heath was tall and lanky, curly black hair grown past his ears and dark blue, almost black eyes with an orange ring around the iris. He often set people on edge, not to mention all the rumors of him being a pyromaniac, quick to temper, among other things. Despite changing families and schools multiple times since the age of 9, the rumours followed him. There was no escape.

    Heath had honestly tried to make friends, but every time someone got close they got hurt, somehow. No one was brave enough to approach him anymore. Heath has given up on making friends in high school… but still, he has eyes for Monica.  

    She’s smart and beautiful and her laugh… it made Heath smile. It was very attractive. Behind his back, he clutches the stem of a single carnation; red, like her dress. He waits for the opportunity to give it to her tonight, while everyone’s dancing and not looking at him.

    Heath watches as she walks over to the snack table, refilling her cup with the soda. A bored looking teacher sits behind the table, there to make sure some rowdy teen doesn’t spike the bowl. He looks around, a jolt of excitement runs through his body as he realises her friends stayed behind. They like the song that’s playing and want to dance. Monica, she likes different music, Heath knows. She plays the French horn in the school band, very well.

    Heath pushes off the wall, making his way across the gym toward the snack table, and Monica. When he gets there, her back is turned and she doesn’t see him approach. She turns as he stops beside her.

    “Eeek! Oh my God, Heath. You scared me half to death. Don’t sneak up on me like that,” she says, clutching her free hand to her chest.

    “Sorry,” Heath mumbles. “I… didn’t mean to scare you,” he says, hands shaking. He doesn’t seem to notice how hot he feels. Monica does however, she takes a tentative step back.

    “Heath, you’re really hot,” she says.

    Heaths eyes bulge and his jaw works soundlessly. Did she just say he was hot? Monica? The girl of his dreams? he swallows nervously. “Umm, really?” he asks.

    “Yes, I can feel it from here,” she says over the loud pop tune.

    “Ohh…” Heath realises what she’s referring to. He hunches slightly at the mention of his temperature. “Sorry.  I can’t control that,” he says bashfully.

    “Are you sure you don’t have a fever?” she asks him with worry.

    “Yeah, I’m fine.”

     She eyes him doubtfully. “How are you not sweating right now?”

    “I just… don’t feel it I guess,” he mummers. She shrugs when he doesn’t explain further.

    “Are you enjoying the dance?” she asks, turning to face the gym stage and taking a sip from her cup.

    “I guess…” Heath mutters, hands shaking behind his back. He grips the carnation tightly.

    “Hmm, it’d be nice if they played different music too, though. I prefer indie,” she says with a small smile.

    “Yeah, me too,” Heath says.

    “I didn’t know you liked indie music. What’s your favourite band?” she asks him, turning to face him with sparkling eyes. Heath gulps nervously.

    “Uhh… I don’t really have a favourite. I like a bunch,” Heath tries to dismiss.

    “Yeah, me too,” Monica agrees with a sweet smile. “So, why’d you come? To the dance, I mean.”

    “Uhh, just to get out of class,” Heath replies.

    “Yeah, me too. Not that I don’t like class, but all my friends came,” she gestures to her girlfriends dancing amongst the crowd.

    “Umm…” Heath tries to work up the courage to give her the flower.

    “What is it?” Monica asks, tilting her head at an angle to see him without turning. Her smile makes Heath’s heart jump and he shivers as his blood pounds beneath his skin.

    “I… I have something I want to give you,” he finally says.

    Monica’s face lights up and she turns her body to face him. “Ohh?’

    Heath feels like he might blush as he brings his hand out from behind his back to pass her the carnation… which is burnt black and crumbles in his hand.

    Monica steps back, a look of disgust on her face. “What the hell is wrong with you? I… I’m not even going to ask,” she sneers, turning away.

    “Wait, no! It was a mistake!” Heath tries to recover the situation but to no avail. Monica spins around and points a long, delicate finger right in his face.

    “You’re a freak, Heath. Don’t talk to me again!” she walks away into the crowd, to meet her girlfriends. Heath’s jaw trembles as he sees them look in his direction. He’d rather be anywhere else than here… with all the stupid people who like to dance to loud, ugly music.

    Heath brushes his sooty hands on his black jeans and turns for the door. The teacher stops him and asks where’s he going, and Heath just replies, “the washroom.”

~*~

    I bolt up out of bed, sweating like crazy. I smell the scent of burning sheets and with an irritated grunt, slip out of bed. The sheets sizzle as I stand and I realise I’m not alone in the bed. The dragon egg lays nestled in the smoking sheets like a nest of its own. I reach out to it, pulling it against my body. I forgot I had this.

    I eye the egg silently for a moment longer before I crack open the window to air out the room and look for the clothes from yesterday. I really need to get some more if I’m going to stay much longer. I find some extra sheets in the closet, and I decide to make a little hammock for the egg to strap it to my front so I can walk around and still use my hands.

    I come to a stop, my thoughts in a rut. They replay the conversation over and over from last night. I still haven’t found an answer to my question; Why did I kiss her? She brought back that memory of Monica. I thought I’d repressed that long ago, guess it still wants to haunt me. I suppose Kat reminds me of her in some way. Reminds me of a time when I actually cared what people thought of me. I wish I didn’t care… that’s what’s making this difficult.

    I look down at the egg and rub its thick shell with my hand. It pulls me out of my thoughts and I start moving again. I should get out there. It’s almost time for training.

    I shake off the gloomy feeling in my head and exit my room to see her already outside waiting. Today, she’s wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a similar loose sweater that hangs off of one shoulder, revealing the black strap of a tank top underneath. It’s… pretty.

    She looks up and her face seems to light up, to my relief. “Sleep well?” I avert my eyes from hers, finding myself entranced. Besides… she’s too young for me.

    The door behind her slides open and Andrei slips out, a striped green long sleeve and untidy hair. He stifles a yawn as he shuts the door behind him.

    “Morning,” he yawns again, eyeing the egg wrapped around my waist in the extra sheet.

    “Good morning,” I say politely.

    “Sleep well?” he asks me. Is it weird that they both asked me that?

    I shrug my shoulders. “I guess as good as any night,” I reply. I turn to Kaitlyn. “Morning, boss.”

    She leans over, placing her hand on the egg cheerfully. “Cute idea. I wish I’d thought of that. Now you look the part too!”

    “Look what part?” I ask her, a little annoyed. Maybe I’d rather not know.

    “Like a mother hen!” she snickers, quickly skipping out of reach.

    I suck my teeth with a glare. “That’s what you’d like to think,” I hear a stifled laugh from Andrei and shot him a glare too. “It’s’ just so I have a free hand for my coffee,” I say plainly.

    “Sure,” Kaitlyn sings, stopping at a door halfway down the hall. She knocks a few times and waits. I glance back at Andrei, then move down the hall towards the door, wondering who else is joining us today. Andrei follows a step behind.

    The door opens about half a second later, revealing another girl, probably about the same age as Kaitlyn. She has pale blonde hair, tied back in a ponytail, and stormy grey eyes. Her gaze shifts to me, and I get a shiver. Something in those eyes, it feels like she’s looking right through me.

    She turns her attention back to Kaitlyn, as she was about to speak, cutting her off. “Not a chance. I’m not getting involved in this,” the girl states bluntly in a British accent as she starts to close the door. She pauses though, pointing her finger past me, at Andrei. “We’ll talk later.”

    With that, the door shuts in our faces. I turn to Kaitlyn. “Pleasant girl. Who’s she?” I ask.

    “That’d be Selene.” Andrei answers. “She can sort of rub you the wrong way. If you don’t know where she’s coming from,” Andrei explains.

    “And what’s that supposed to mean?” I ask, more confused.

    Kaitlyn scratches her cheek, looking a little perplexed. “She… she takes some getting used to. It’s a little difficult to be around people when you can hear their thoughts, apparently.”

    “She can hear… thoughts?” I groan inwardly. Shit… “Oh, well then, let’s leave her be,” I press, making for the end of the hall. I want to be as far from her as possible, for obvious reasons. This place, it’s full of mages with strange powers… could I ever really find myself fitting in here? I’m not so sure… with a mind reader around.

    Kaitlyn follows beside me. “Yeah, but she usually doesn’t care what anyone is thinking. Sometimes I wonder if she has a moral compass anymore. Then again, I wonder if anyone that old has morals. It seems like, after about a hundred years, you just forget right and wrong,” she muses, seeming to be talking to herself.

    “If you ask me, seemed like someone’s thoughts back there were troubling her,” I say, hoping that she thinks I’m talking about Andrei since she pointed at him. “A hundred years, you say? She looked like she was twenty.” I point out.

    “It’s a part of being a Guardian. It seems that once we reach maturity we age very slowly,” Kaitlyn nods.

    “Oh, I see. How long does a Guardian live for then?” I ask her, feeling a dread in my heart. I thought we’d live shorter lifespans considering the use of magic. I never once considered the aspect of living longer than everyone else, not to mention remaining younger. I feel a gloom creep into my thoughts at the idea of an extended lifespan, being haunted by my youth for hundreds of years. Considering how things have gone for me over the last 27 years alone, I don’t see it being a very bright future.

    “No idea,” she shrugs. “You could ask Markus. He’s pretty old.”

    We walk in silence for a bit, I glance over and see Andrei take her hand as it swings at her side, lacing his fingers with hers. I look away, pretending not to notice, or care. It’s not like he knows I kissed her… right?

    “So, what do you have planned for today?” I ask her, hoping to fill the silence as we walk.

    “I thought I could put you up against one of the others, I need to teach them too… but apparently, that’s not happening,” Kaitlyn sighs. “So I guess we’ll just work on some basics again.”

    “Alright,” I sigh, slightly relieved I won’t have to meet more new people. It’s a little cumbersome, there just seems to be so many. And I hate being the center of attention.

    We walk through the castle, me, just following aimlessly until Andrei hooks Kaitlyn’s arm and pulls her to a stop.

    “Why are you going that way? We need food first?” he smirks. I look up realising then that if we kept going, we’d be heading for the training rooms. It’s a little familiar.

    She stumbles beside him, confused. “Oh, right,” she mumbles, letting Andrei lead her back along another hall I assume leads to the caf. This direction also looks vaguely familiar.

    When we arrive, Andrei and Kaitlyn head to the kitchen together and I take a seat, not wanting to intrude. I stew in my own thoughts, rubbing the egg to try and keep me distracted until they come out with plates of omelets and coffee. Kaitlyn hands me a coffee and I take it gladly. I eat in silence, listening to them chat idly about food habits and what not.

    When breakfast is done, we go back the way we’d come, this time, heading for the training rooms. Like the first day, it’s just the three of us. Kaitlyn turns around and holds out her hands.

    “I should take that,” she smiles. I look down at the egg, tied to my stomach.

    “Right,” I say, reluctantly untying the sheets and passing it over to her. She removes her sweater, dropping it by the door. Underneath, she just has the tank top. I chew my tongue a little nervously, noticing how form fitting the tank is. She’s got an athletes body, no doubt. It’s hard to even picture her pregnant. I bite the inside of my cheek as I show her how to tie it so she still has use of her hands, then, stand there feeling awkwardly light, waiting for her instructions.

    “I’m not going to participate,” she states, looking pointedly at Andrei. “But, I’ll show you what to do and you can hit each other. Fair?”

    Andrei laughs. “Ok, fair,” he stretches his arms, warming up. I guess I should do the same? He looks more experienced than I feel, so I try to copy his actions. While I stretch I catch myself glancing over to the racks more often than necessary. The egg looks unnaturally large against her tiny frame. I hope it’s not too heavy.

    She stands in front of the rack, pulling out a long stick. Glancing back at us, she tosses the staff and reaches for another one. Andrei catches it with ease, looking like he’s done this before. Kaitlyn pulls out a second one before crossing the mats.

    She walks out into the center of the room, twirling the staff in her hand as she walks like it’s nothing. It loops around her in a blur, and I worry for a moment that it’s going to hit her. It stops abruptly, held across her back, the top pointed to the floor.

    “The Bo staff is one of the most basic weapons. Pretty much any pipe, or long stick can be used as one if you have to. Knowing how to use it can save your skin if you’re stuck without a weapon,” she explains, staring straight at me with a serious look.

    “Alright,” I nod, listening carefully.

    “Generally you want to strike with both hands because it’s more powerful,” she raises the staff, holding it with both hands as she swings it downward in the air in front of her. “You can use it to jab, poking through a poor defense,” she thrusts the end out. I flinch, imagining getting hit with that. “It’s a pinpoint of pressure, so hit them in the gut, or in the foot, and it’ll hurt like hell,” she smirks proudly, resting on the staff like it’s a walking stick.

    I eye the stick, curiously. “So, even though it’s got no edges, it can still hurt…” I muse aloud, thumbing my chin.

    I look up to see Andrei grinning. “Yea, and Kat’s got it down packed. She’s like a flying lemur when she uses the Bo Staff.”

    I raise my eyebrows. Just from what I’ve seen, I don’t doubt it. “So today you want me using a weapon?” I clarify, glad I don’t have to fight her with one of those. I’d probably just drop it.

    “Yes,” she replies. “You can’t always rely on magic. There are ways to block magic, like if you’re too injured, or…” she clenches her jaw for a moment, “Dark magic, like Void for example. If you’re not careful, it can keep you from being able to take elemental form.”

    I crease my brow as both of their expressions grow dark. I look between them, a little confused. “What’s Void magic? How’s it different from ours?” I ask.

    “It hurts more, for one,” Kaitlyn pouts. “And it’s something you’ll need to be prepared for if you decide to leave here.”

    My lip twitches at the mention of leaving. “Right,” I reach a hand out for the staff, eyeing the hard smooth surface. I wrap fingers around it next to hers as she releases her grip on the staff. When she pulls her hand away I notice a splay of faint purple lines, forming a web-like pattern on the back of her right hand. Before she can pull it away I ask. “What’s that from?”

    She tenses, looking down at her hand before quickly pulling it behind her. “Void magic,” she answers briskly as she steps back, avoiding my gaze.

    My eyes linger as she hides her arm. Void magic? How is it different, I wonder. It looks… painful. More so than a weapon wound.

    I hold the stick tightly in my hands, holding it up in front of me. It feels awkward in my grasp and I fail to imagine how I could swing it about like she did. Kaitlyn reaches out with her left, her fingers gently push my hands further apart on the staff until she seems satisfied. I note that there is no trace of purple lines on her left hand, and she consciously keeps her right out of view.

    She steps around, waving for Andrei to come closer as she circles around me, adjusting my posture as she had last time. He seems to shake out of his silent demeanor and take up the stance with relaxed familiarity.

    “You want to stand on an angle, not facing the opponent directly. This makes you a smaller target, and you can use your back foot to propel yourself forward,” she instructs, pulling my shoulders back and nudging my feet apart, one behind the other. I feel like I might fall over. She then moves across and starts to circle Andrei. She stands beside him, placing her hands over his on the staff. I catch another glimpse of the strange purple pattern as she adjusts his hands.

    Before walking away from him, her hand slides up along his arm, and she leans in. “Be nice. Remember, no scaring him off.”

    Andrei raises an eyebrow with a smirk. “You doubt me?”

    She scoffs, slipping away and walking back. “You did cheat to beat me.”

    His jaw drops, an amusing look on his face. “I didn’t-” he cuts the word of short. Kaitlyn knows how to play him… I drop my gaze to Andrei’s hands on the stick, not wanting to witness anymore. It only makes me feel more guilty.

    “Well,” Kaitlyn shifts her tone. “Heath, go on. Try to hit him.”

    “Oh…” I start. “Ok.” I feel my shoulders tense, staring at his hands. I don’t feel very confident I’ll be able to hit him… somehow this feels very different from yesterday when it was just us… I set my jaw and jump forward, pointing the staff out, aiming for his gut.

    Andrei steps back, twisting the staff to block and then pushing his right hand out, the staff whirring for my shoulder in a blur. I barely have time to react as I feel my shoulder raise, tucking my ear close, anticipating the strike. I hear a faint thud and spin my face around to see Kaitlyn, arm raised, Andrei’s staff grasped firmly in her hand just inches from my shoulder.

    “I didn’t say you could hit back yet,” he coos, her eyes locked with his.

    “What? What kind of sparring match is this if I can’t hit?” he whines. I wonder how young he is, I know Kaitlyn is 23. She said so last night.

    “It’s not a spar, it’s a lesson,” Kaitlyn scolds. “He’s got to learn. You don’t teach by beating up your student.”

    “That’s how I learned… mostly,” he pouts.

    She glares at him. “If you don’t want to do it my way, I’ll do it myself.”

    He shoots her a look that reminds me of my old teachers when someone was about to do something they shouldn’t, and I cough a laugh. “Fine. I’ll do it your way,” he grumbles.

    “Good,” she smiles, letting go of his staff. Andrei returns to a ready stance. Her eyes shift to look at me from the side. “Honestly, he didn’t even try to block. Hardly a fair competition. Block or dodge, Andrei,” she walks back a couple feet and nods to me. “Try again.”

    I lift the staff again, feeling stiff. I try to focus, taking a deep breath as I lunge forward, trying the same attack. Andrei steps back as if he knew what was coming. I try again, pushing my right hand out with the staff and he blocks it effortlessly with his. My movements feel robotic as I try, again and again, missing each time.

    “Stop,” Kaitlyn calls. I pause, and Andrei looks up curiously.

    “What did I do this time?” he complains.

    “It was probably me…” I grumble.

    She snickers, eyebrow raised. “Oh? Tell me, what do you think I’m going to say?”

    “I don’t know… I just have a feeling,” I shrug. Everything I did felt very unnatural.

    She laughs, and I look up at the pretty sound. “Alright. One, you’re too tense, and you won’t get anywhere like that. You need to relax your muscles, until the moment you need them. You don’t need to hold back, Andrei can handle himself. Don’t worry so much.”

    “I’ll try,” I mutter, rolling my shoulders back. I inhale and try to relax. “Let’s try again.” I take the stance as Andrei settles in and we start again. I start the same way, Andrei anticipating my action. I’m not very creative when it comes to hitting people, but this time I try to hit harder. She’s right. It’s not her, I don’t have to hold back.

    I feel a sense of calm come over me and I feel a rumbling in my chest, the quake of the volcano within me. I feel inside, a resting potential, ready to blow at any moment. My strikes become harder, faster and Andrei begins to move a little faster in order to block my strikes.

    My lack of self-confidence drops away and everything else in the room goes dark. It’s just Andrei, myself, and the staff. The whack of the sticks echoe in the darkness. I get faster and faster, noticing a drop of sweat on Andrei’s brow as he begins to struggle to block my hits.

    My hands feel hot on the stick, my grip like iron. The molten energy within me begins to bubble with excitement as I get closer and closer to landing a strike. The heat coursing through my veins and into my hands. Smoke begins to rise from them and Andrei’s eyes flutter between my eyes and my hands. I don’t let that distract me though. I want to hit him.

    The desire is so strong that I lash out with the staff, lifting it a little higher, aiming for his shoulder. It’s a movement I haven’t made yet, and it catches him off guard. His staff’s in the wrong place and he can’t block my hit, and strangely enough, it seems he can’t step back.

    The room comes back into view and I realise he’s against the wall. My staff makes a solid thunk against his shoulder. He cringes and I let out a heavy sigh, my breath heaves in my chest as the staff snaps into three, charred wood weak from burning to coal in my grasp.

    I stare at the staff, surprised to see it broken. I didn’t realise I was actually using my heat. “My… bad,” I whisper. When I look up from the broken pieces, it’s not Andrei I see, but her burning amber eyes. She stands in the small space between us, the egg gone. There’s barely enough room for her there, as she holds her hands up against my chest. My heart pounds nervously.

    “Not so easy to keep that contained, is it?” she asks, though it’s not really a question.

    “No,” I whisper softly. “I… didn’t even notice.”

    She studies me for a moment.“We’ll need to work on that first then,” she glances back, barely moving her head. “Andrei, you alright?”

    He stands there, one end of the staff resting on the ground, his free hand rubbing his shoulder. “Yeah, I’m fine. That was amazing,” he smiles, impressed.

    “Glad you think so,” she grumbles. “Go pick up the egg for me, would you?”

    He looks surprised, then shrugs, walking away and retrieving the egg. I watch him, pointedly aware of Kaitlyn’s hands still resting on my chest. I turn back to her, waiting.

    She watches me, barely blinking as she slowly steps back with her hands up, palms out. “Think you can cool yourself down, or should I get some new clothes?”

    I stare at her hands, mesmerized by the shape of her scarred palm. When I manage to peel my eyes away and look up I become locked in her amber gaze. “Cooling off is a lot harder than you make it sound. I’ve never been able to cool off without the help of an ice cold bath unless I burnt the heat away,” I admit. I smell the strong scent now of smoldering material against my skin. I guess my focus was a little too strong.

    Kaitlyn frowns, glancing behind me. “Andrei, it’s about to get dangerously hot in here. You need to go… and maybe bring more clothing for Heath.”

    He looks up, concerned. “Clothing? Don’t go having a Nelly party without me now. Should I go find Car?” he asks, walking towards the door.

    “Why? To make steam?” she responds sarcastically. “No, it just needs to run its course. Remember how I told you about the fire? Once he’s used enough energy, it’ll cool down. It won’t be safe for you in here though.”

    He nods and leaves, taking the egg with him. I turn back to Kaitlyn, stepping back. “I’m sorry,” I say sincerely.

    She shrugs. “It’s not your fault. These things happen,” she glances between my face and her hands, still hovering in the air between us. She quickly clenches her hands into fists and shoves them in her pockets. “We might as well try some control practice while we wait.”

    “Why are you so nervous about Void magic?” I ask, hoping to distract myself from the heat. I peel off the smoking shirt, waiting for a reply.

    She blinks, surprised. “I… T-that’s not relevant.”

    “You don’t hide your other scars, but this one, you seem shy about. Why?” I press. I’m not normally so rude to ask questions, but she’s got me very curious.

    She rocks back on her heels, running a hand through her hair. “The Guardian of Void, she’s… Andrei’s ex,” she mumbles under her breath. “These scars came from her most recent attempt to kill me, and the baby, okay?”

    “Scars?” I question. “I only see one.” So that’s why Andrei had that look. Seems like magic really does draw people together, some sort of law of attraction, maybe.

    “Yea, well,” she looks down at herself. “Not all of us are so comfortable walking around shirtless.”

    “Oh… sorry,” I feel myself blush faintly. Truth be told, my job permitted it. I’m tempted to ask more but I feel like I may be intruding, so I turn away, removing my shoes, lest I melt them. It’s definitely getting warmer, not that I can tell.

    “It’s alright,” she takes a deep breath. “You probably won’t have to deal with her out there anyway. She seems… pretty determined to finish me off before she goes after anyone else. Hopefully, you’ll be safe for a while,” she smiles, trying to sound positive.

    “That’s a little disconcerting, all the same. I assume this has to do with your war?” I crouch on my heels, draping my arms over my knees. This all seems very complicated, to me.

    “No, actually,” she scratches her head. “That’s just… jealousy, I think. I mean, yea, she’s working with Mortecai, but apparently she went against orders when she came after me. She wants Andrei back, I assume.”

    “Oh?” I look up. That’s curious. “How would you know about that? Going against orders and all. Do you have someone on the inside?”

    “No,” she crosses her arms. “Not exactly.”

    My fingers start to glow, against my control, the blackness spreading up my arms. Shit… I squeeze my eyes shut in a concentrated effort to hold back but it’s pointless. This heat is raw. My hair sticks to the sides of my face, dripping with sweat I can’t feel.

    “Are you okay?” she asks, her voice strained with concern. “Think about something that makes you feel good, calm. Like… a happy place?”

    “I don’t have a happy place,” I say a little roughly. “Nothing makes me feel good…”

    “Okay… Then look at me,” she suggests, “Keep talking.”

    I look up at her, gazing into her amber eyes. I feel the heat intensify and quickly look away. Why would she suggest that? “I can’t. It doesn’t work,” I grit, the black inching further up my arms, to my shoulders.

    She frowns, leaning back. “Wait… Am I… Making it worse?”

    “No!” I lie. “What gives you that idea?”

    “You just said that looking at me doesn’t work,” she retorts. “Don’t lie. I can wait outside if I’m not helping.”

    “That’s not what I meant,” I growl under my breath. “I just… from the years I’ve had to deal with this, I try to avoid people. Anyone around me could get hurt so having anyone around just makes me more… anxious. I need a bath. I need ice. That’s the only way I know how to not burn things down.” She doesn’t need to know I’m having trouble forgetting about our kiss. I gotta pull myself together.

    “Unfortunately, ice bats for the other team, and he’s a psychopath,” she mutters, jogging over to the door across the room. She pokes her head out. “Find Caroline, see if she can bring cold water… I don’t know how. That’s sort of her area of expertise, isn’t it?”

    I assume she’s talking to Andrei. When she comes back in, she has the egg wrapped in the blanket and puts it on the floor by the door. I watch as she runs her hands through her messy hair, looking around the room like the answer is written on the wall somewhere.

    “Okay, I know I’m not the best example of self-control,” she starts, heading toward me again, “But you can’t expect there to be a ready source of ice water anytime you lose control. You need to find some way, and now is as good a time as any to try. So try harder,” her voice rises, a sense of near panic in her expression.

    My eyes drift towards the egg as she talks. I wonder how it’s doing… would this heat be too much for it? Unlikely. My breathing deepens as I keep my eyes trained on it. “You don’t need to worry about me…” I tell her.

    “You’re literally an out of control volcano and I shouldn’t be worried?” she mocks. Her panicking isn’t going to help.

    I chuckle, imagining myself as a spewing mountain of lava. “It’s an occupational hazard. I’m used to it,” I feel a sudden longing, a yearning to hold the egg. I want the egg close to me. It shouldn’t be so far. It’s too far. I stand up shakily and stumble towards the door, bending down to gather up the egg, holding it close to me.

    “In case you forgot, there are a few thousand people on this island, and only one, maybe two of us can withstand this heat. So humor me,” she steps in front of me, glancing at the egg in my hands. “What are you doing?”

    “The egg… it needs to be kept warm,” I tell her. “I’m not too hot for it… am I?” I ask.

    “I’m pretty sure it would be warm enough down the hall,” she rolls her eyes. “Maybe best not to hold it though. Rose didn’t say if it could melt or not.”

    “Oh…” my face falls and I feel a gloom come over me. Down the hall’s a little far. I don’t want it to be that far away. I feel… more relaxed with it’s in my arms.

    She’s quiet for a moment, watching me. When she finally speaks, it’s almost melancholy. “Seems like there’s at least one thing that makes you feel better.”

    I look at her through my wet hair, wondering what she means. “And what’s that?”

    She waves her hands toward the egg in my arms. “Apparently you can care about something after all.”

    I look down at the egg and feel the calm grow. The blackness of my arms begins to recede and I feel my lip twitch curiously. I can’t remember the last time there was something I actually cared about that I couldn’t burn. I feel my throat get tight and a warm tear slides down my cheek. “yeah…” I croak.

    Kaitlyn surprises me by laughing. “You really are a mother hen,” she giggles, reaching up to catch the tear as it drips from my chin.

    “I am not,” I protest. The touch of her finger catches me off guard though and my heart pounds against my chest. I swallow nervously, squeezing the egg a little tighter. I don’t understand, but having it close, it does make me feel more at ease… Maybe I am becoming a mother hen. Shit…

    She takes a deep breath, and then her eyes go wide. “Oh, crap. If this is working, I should call Kaede to stop Caroline.”  

    “Who’s Kaede?” I turn to her, pinching my brows together.

    “Uh…” she pulls out her phone. “Her boyfriend… He’s not really magical, but he keeps her from freaking out most of the time. Like a water tamer,” she smirks at her own joke. Though, I don’t see how it’s funny.

    Just then, a knock comes at the door and I voice outside calls out. “Did someone call the fire department?”

By Kayla West

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One thought on “The Guild – Chapter 123 – Heath

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