- Maria Catalina Higuera
Water dripped from my hair as I stepped out of the shower and I grabbed a towel and began drying myself feeling like a new person after finally getting to take a shower with soap and shampoo. To wipe all of the past few days from my skin, the mud, the dirt, and the blood.
After our visit with Dc. Grace Lionel had brought me here, a dormitory that was in an entirely different area of the Den that required him to scan his palm to gain access passt the large reinforced steel doors that lead to a large communal room that had a sitting area like a living room along with a table top and pool tables and a dining area.
Against one wall of the room there were four normal doors that were all closed, the only thing I noticed about them was a small metal plaque above each door, engraved with symbols I had never seen but looked oddly familiar.
“This is your room”, Lionel had said, opening the last of the four doors in the row, or the first, depending on how you looked at it.
Like the entire Den, the room was carved out of the rock and in the shape of a giant igloo, the walls curving upwards, but unlike all the other rooms I had seen so far this one look a lot more like a normal bedroom despite the weird shape, it had rug, and a bed readily made with a dark blue comforter.
Instead of several torches illuminating it there was a single gas lamp that glowed with blue fire on top of the night stand.
“The bathroom's there”, Lionel said motioning to a dark wood door, “And we haven't had much of a chance to get you clothes yet but there should be some in the closet”, he added, pointing to a sliding door on the other side of the room.
“Get washed and dress”, he said, going back outside and closing the door behind him, “We will be doing a lot of talking after”.
That talk better meant finally getting some answers, I now thought, looking at myself in the mirror, an explanation of who I was, who were the people that attacked me, and, most importantly, how I could rescue my father.
I passed my finger through my still damp hair, combing it back, before opening the bathroom door and going back to my room.
Just like Lionel had said there wasn't much to choose from in terms of clothes, there were two black sweatpants, three t-shirts all the same mustard yellow color and neatly folded socks and underwear. Considering I had been going around in half frozen and dirty clothes for the past few days it wasn’t that bad, despite me hating the color of the t-shirts.
As I got dressed I noticed another thing I hadn’t paid too much attention to when I first got here, but the strange black rock walls were exceptionally good at blocking sound, despite me having my hearing at its fullest I still could barely hear what was going on in the next room.
“That's weird”, I muttered, putting on the white tennis shoes that were the only option in the closet.
There were so many strange things around me, this place, the fact my father had spent many years in it put had never told me about it or the people that lived in it.
My head swam with questions, and I knew there was only one way I would be getting any answers.
Slowly I got up and walked towards the door.
“After the Desolation destroyed our car...those people came at us, shot us with harpoons”, I explained to the people sitting opposite of me on the table.
When I had come out of the bedroom Lionel was no longer alone, a woman in suit and wearing a mask just like his sat besides him on the six seater table, behind them stood three younger people, maybe even teenages, but it was hard to tell since they also wore mask but ones that only covered their and unlike the unlike the older people they wore no suit jackets.
“Sit down Asher”, Lionel had gestures, to the chair opposite the both of them, “It's time you tell us exactly what happened on your way here”.
I had been disappointed, I had hoped that they would be doing the talking first, but I figured that the fastest I got done with it, the fastest they would explain everything on their side and so I had began telling the how our journey had been, beginning from the vision I had gotten at school and that let me know my father was injured.
“Those people have a name”, the woman interrupted me, speaking for the first time, as I narrated how my dad and I had gotten separated.
“I cant believe your father never bothered explaining this to you”, she said, shaking her head, “Quite irresponsible from his part”.
I opened my mouth, ready to jump in to defend my father but Lionel beat me to it, “We are not here to discuss parenting techniques Amabel”, he said to the woman, “Let's just fill him in where he is lacking and let him fishin”.
She scoof, but didn’t argue further, “Do as you please”.
“Those people”, Lionel said, ignoring her tone, “The ones who attack you ,as you might have guessed, aren't quite human, their species call themselves The Celestials”.
I frowned, “There wasn’t anything too celestial about them...more like hellish”.
Lionel chuckled, “Believe it or not, under all the armor they wear they do look the part, all of them have white hair and ice blue eyes and are stronger, more resistant and smarter than any humans”.
“Alright, so good for them”, I said sarcastically, “But why do they hunt us?”, I asked, repeating the question I had asked my father days ago.
Lionel tense noticeably at my question but before he could say anything the woman interjected, “That is for the Council to explain, no please continue boy, we don't have time to chit chat”.
I made a point of glaring at her but she only crossed her arms defiantly and Lionel didn't jump in to explain anything more eather so I had little choice but to continue, narrating how I got away, my search for a way to get to Greenland, my meeting with Logan, how he got me to the cruise ship, how I had gotten aboard and eventually how I jumped overboard and swam to land, search for the gym and the rest they knew.
“You got awfully lucky”, the woman said, “You could have been caught so many times, not to mention the mess with both you and your father ending up being searched for by the humans”, she shook her head, “We are still trying to clean that up...all of this could have been avoided if only Dion had brought you here earlier, of at least explain something to you but of course not he had to be the same hard headed disobedient fool as al-”.
“Stop talking like that about my dad!”, I shouted at her, by hand practically pulverizing the edge of the table I had been griping as I jumped to my feet.
Lighting quick her hand went to the inside of her jacket and in a flash she had a white knife pointed at me, “Watch your mouth with me boy”, she snarled.
Behind her the younger masked people also looked tense ready to run at a moment's notice, “All right let's all calm down”, Lionel said, “Amabel, put the knife away, the boy has had a tough few days, cut him some slack”.
Her head snapped around to look at him, “But-”.
“Amabel”, he said in a firmer tone and she ,begrudgingly, put the knife away.
“Asher”, he warned and I sat back down, but made a point to glare at the woman.
Lione pushed his chair back, “Well we are done here, we will be reporting back to the council, expect to get summoned soon Asher”.
“Wait!”, I called desperately as the woman got up behind him, “Aren’t you going to tell me what I am? why do I have abilities...and these markings”.
Lionel sighed, “Sorry boy, that is not our place, you will have to wait for the Council to call you”.
The Council this the Council that, who was even the Council? I kept hearing about them but nobody had bothered to tell me who they were.
Lione must have seen my frustrated expression because he quickly added, “Patience Asher, they will call you as soon as they are ready for you”.
I watched them in silent anger as they walked away, leaving me sitting alone on the table, “What about you?”, I called, hoping to at least salvage something from the situation, “What are you? why do you wear masks?”.
Lione, who had been only a few feet away from the door turned to look back at, “That at least I can partially answer, we are called Handlers, like the Celestial we are different from normal humans, and our job has always been to serve and care for your species... you might hate me now...all of us Asher but always remember through the darkest times your kind has faced we have always been there, never forget that ''. He said, before the door opened, and he, along with the small group left, leaving me in the large empty room, with some answers but even more questions.
I lost track of time as the hours passed and nobody entered again, not even LIonel.
I tried to keep myself entertained, looking around the room to keep myself distracted and mostly to stop myself from throwing furniture around in frustration.
It turns out that the tabletop soccer and pool table were little fun if you had no one to play with, same with the stack of board and card games I found neatly stacked on a shelf.
There was a bookshelf on the sitting area that was mostly full of informative books that might as well have been school textbooks, and a few classic novels, the most recent of which was Bran Stoker's Dracula.
I had already read all of the novels there, but ended up grabbing a worn down copy of Hamlet, trying to pretend I was back home, and watching teather practice.
It wasn’t until I had sat down on one of the many comfy couches and began reading the familiar lines that I realized just how much I had missed my friends. I hadn’t had the time to dwell on it too much as I had been on the run, my mind only focused on getting here in one piece but now that I was safe…
I thought of all of them, of Jake and Dan, who I would probably never see again, what would they think of me now? Especially Dan, after I had left her in our house, she must have woken up so scared and confused, did she believe the allegation against me? Did they all think I was a criminal, that my friendship had been fake?
What about Sara? my heart ached even more as I thought of her, her beautiful face, of the rare few times she smiled, even of the times she had shouted at me, which were a lot. Maybe sometime more could have happened between the both of us given time, if we could have gotten to truly know each other but now I would never know if she had liked me like that…
I shook my head, there was no use in thinking of all of this, that was in the past, and now my world had changed, and that relative normality I had enjoyed for a week was forever gone.
At some point somebody had brought me food, but refused to answer any of my questions,making a quick exit, the doors closing behind them leaving me trapped again.
I was halfway through reading The Odyssey when the doors opened again, this time revealing a familiar face.
“Hello Asher”, Dc. Grace said, walking in, a metal suitcase in one hand, Lionel came in behind her and finally another man wearing a white lab coat and also carrying a case who I didn’t recognize.
“Um...hi”, I said, putting the book down.
“I hope you didn’t get bored all alone here”, she said, with a smile, setting the case down on the center table.
“No…”, I lied, “There was a lot to read”.
She opened the case, revealing a black metal collar, “Really? that's good”.
Lionel took a seat on the couch opposite me, crossing his leg as he observed the two doctors, it was clear he was only here to supervise.
“Um what's that?”. I asked as Dc. Grace carefully brought out the collar, giving me a good look of it. It was all made of black metal, and had a small box attack at its center.
“This is a V.R.T”, she explained, opening the collar with a click “Short for vital remote tracker, it connects to your soul energy and vitals and allows us to monitor you twenty four seven to make sure we can assist you in case you find yourself in danger and also gives us valuable information on your progress in managing your ability”.
“Whait”, I said, shuffling back, covering my neck with my hands, “I have to wear that all the time?”.
She gave me an apologetic smile, “I'm afraid so, don't worry despite its appearance it's quite comfortable, you will get used to it”.
I really wasn't sure I wanted to wear a tracker around my neck no matter how good they said it was, the entire thing just sounded suspicious to me.
“You are wearing it whether you like it or not”, Lionel told me from where he was sitting, “Don't make it harder on yourself”.
“It's alright Asher”, Dc. Grace assured me, “I created it myself just for you, it's to keep you safe”.
Between her words and Lionel treats I finally relented not seeing much of a choice, the fact it had been made by Dc. grace giving me some reassurance as I brought my hands down and allowed her to get close.
The collar snapped close around my neck with a click, a small blue light shining from its metal box as I felt a slight tingling go down my spine but the sensation quickly disappeared.
Just like how Dc. Grace had said, it wasn't uncomfortable, the inside was patted with some sort of soft material and it adjusted perfectly to my neck, not allowing it to move around, but still, it would take some getting used to.
“It's online and working”, Lionel announced, looking down at his phone, “Good job Dc. Grace”.
She gave him a small nood, closing the case, “Just doing my job”.
“You're up Dc. Hart”, Lionel said, making me remember about the other doctor, “Hurry now, the others will be here soon and it's better if he is out by then”.
The other man wiped the sweat from his face nervously with a hanquership, “Ofcourse, ofcourse”, he said, opening his own case that contained a silver wire circle, a small glass bottle with a pink bubbly liquid and a black tablet.
He grabbed the wire with care and walked towards me, looking so nervous I was sure he would run out screaming if I so much as moved one inch towards him.
“What that?”, I asked, making him jump.
“Just...its...something we use to monitor your brain waves” , He explained, swallowing nervously.
“You will only have to wear it for a few hours”, Dc. Grace assured me, “And probably just this once”.
I looked at the wire circle that I now realized was the same diameter as my head and shrugged “Okay...”, I said, I already had a collar around my neck, it wasn’t like wearing a headband for a while would bother me too much.
The Doctor, seeing I probably wouldn't bite his head off, rushed in and quickly put it around my head. The wire felt slightly cold against my forehead as the Doctor tipped a few things into the table that was probably connected to the device.
“It's online”, he told Lionel, grabbing the bottle of pink liquid, “He is ready”.
“Good, good”, Lioel said, getting to his feet, “Let's do this quickly, time is running out”.
“Asher”, he said, turning to address me this time, pointing to the pink liquid bothe, “Drink that”.
“Hu?”I asked, looking at the bubbly liquid, it was almost neon pink and didn’t look unappealing at all, I just wasn’t in the habit of drinking random stuff.
“It tastes nice”, the Doctor said, extending it towards me.
I wanted to tell them I wasn’t about to drink what looks like pink foruecent soda but even without seeing his face I could tell Lionel was losing patience with me and I really didn’t want to find out what would've happened if he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Screw it”, I muttered, taking the bottle from the Doctor's hand and dawning it into gulps in case it tasted bad.
To my surprise, I found that the doctor hadn’t lied, it was like drinking liquid cotton candy, sweat and bubbly and I almost regretted having drank it so fast as I set the bottle down on the nearby table.
“All right you have one minut and thirty second starting from now before you pass out”, Lionel said, looking down at his wristwatch, “I suggest you are in bed by that time”.
“What?”. I shouted , jumping to my feet, “You have to be kidding me”.
“His not”, Dc. Grace said gently , “You should do as he said”.
“You tricked me”, I said accusingly at both him and the doctor who had hidden behind Lionel the moment I had jumped up.
He only looked down at his watch, “No I did not, I never said, you aren’t going to be forcefully knocked out if you drink that did I? now you have less than a minute, better hurry up”.
I directed a few curse words under my breath at him but did as he said, not sure if it was a trick or I was actually going to pass out, if that was going to happen I rather be in my bed.
As I turned the door handle to my room I began to feel the effects, my vision became blurry, my eyes felt like they were weighted down by lead, and I could hardly think, dragging my feet as I walked.
I barely had the presence of mind to take off my shoes and get under the covers before I succumbed to the darkness.
With a sigh I took off the white cape, placing it beside the growing pile of swords, knives and other stuff I hadn’t had the time to put away.
That reunion had been exhausting, it had dragged on for hours and little was decided, the Turquoise, Emerald and Onyx clans were still attacking us fierzly from the south and the east, the golden clan had broken their allegiance with us and had gone into hiding, declaring neutrality in a war they had already participated in for years, in general nobody was sure of what our next move should be.
Rubbing my temples I looked down at the map that was stretched on the table in the center of the room, fighting the Onyxes' and the Turquises the Ruby clan was situated in the hellfire fields, using the terrain to their advantage, in the south the Silver clan was holding back the Emeralds, so far none had come out on top despite the terrain being much better fighting grown for the Emeralds.
The group defending our current position was my own people, the Opal clan, we had always been few in numbers and we had lost many thanks to the war and it was it looked like we would soon be out there again, helping to fight, especially me, that's what I had been born for after all.
I moved away from the map, I had long since perfectly memorized it and could stress about it on the move. I needed to go back outside, check up on the scouts, make sure everything was alright…
As I moved through the room my reflection on a nearby mirror made me stop cold, suddenly losing my train of thought complealty and making me realize something was very wrong…
I wasn’t in my own body, what the mirror showed was the face and body of a young, tall woman with incredibly pale skin and hair so white it glowed cascading past her waist in soft curls.
I wore a simple white dress with an armored bodice of the same color that allowed me to see the markings that ran from my neck and down my arms. Opong looking at my bare feet I noticed they also had markings, meaning that just like my real body, she was covered in them.
Was I a pervert for being in a woman's body and looking at it so fixedly? I wondered, I certainly hope not, this was hardly intentional.
Unlike the last time this had happened to me I was a lot more serene as I looked at myself, in the body I was currently in, very pale purple slitted eyes staring back at me, the skin around them adorn with small white scales.
Why did this keep on happening to me? I thought annoyed but surprisingly calm as I tried to remember what the woman had told me the last time I had been in this situation. Think of something that linked me to my time? yea that was probably it and hopefully not the part where she had kissed me, that would be awkward.
“Good job out there”, A male voice called behind me, breaking my concentration and I turned around to face him.
He basically looked like a male version of me, but his hair was shorter and he had it tied back in a ponytail, and unlike me he wore white pants that were stanguer mix between armor and normal clothes, his bare chest only partially covered by a caped draped across his shoulders allowing me to see marking that ran from his neck and around both his arms.
I frowned, not sure how to answer, a part of my mind that felt like it wasn't quite mine recognized him but couldn't transmit the information to me.
“Your parents would be proud”, he said softly, his purple eyes taking on a faraway look as he sat on a nearby chair.
“Um...yeah that's good”, I improvise, hoping he would go away and I could go back to trying to get back to my real body.
He turned to look at me sharply, now it was his turn to frown, “Is that you Adia?”. he asked, getting up and walking towards me, making me realize that I was almost a foot taller than him.
“What do you mean?, of course it's me”, I said, trying to sound innocent and hiding my sudden fear at being found.
He squinted his eyes at me, studying my face, “Then who am I Adia, what is my name?”
Now I paniket even more, “Uh.... I don't remember?”. I said, hoping we weren’t supposed to be too acquainted.
“You don't remember your uncle's name?”. He asked, crossing his arms, “Drop the act, I know you aren’t Adia, what is your name?”.
For a second we both faced each other in silence before I sighed in defeat, “Im...Asher”.
“Asher…”, he repeated, as if committing the name to memory, “I think I've heard of you before probably from other jumps...tell me Asher did you come here for advice? perhaps to warn us about something? or…”, he seemed to almost smile, “Was this accidental?”.
“Yeah about that…”, I scratched my head awkwardly, “I sort of don't know how I ended up here”.
Now he genuinely smiled, “Ah...I see, you must just be a hatchling...normally it is courtesy to sit down and talk to visitors, even impromptus ones like you but I'm afraid we are at a...rather delicate position, and we need Aida, I hope you don't mind”.
“No at all”, I said, shaking my head.
He sighed, relieved, “Thank you very much...do you know how to go back?”.
“I think so…”, I ventured, “Focus on something that connects me to my time”.
He nodded, “That is correct”.
I swallow, closing my eyes, feeling awkward but still trying to make an attempt to ignore him and everything around me and instead thinking of my friends, of Sara, of my father and just how much I loved him, how I wanted to have him by my side again more than anything in the world.
It was slow progress but eventually my vision began to turn white, this time I felt as if my soul left that body and another one, the one that belonged going back inside.
Like last time I found myself on the white nothingness facing the tall woman whose body I had possessed.
“Sorry about that”, I apologized, not sure of what else to do as we faced each other.
She gave me a small smile, “It's alright, it happened to me a few times”, she said, extending her hand and softly pushing me back, and again I found myself falling, the world turning dark around me, at least this time I was prepared for the sensation and wasn’t nearly as scare.
I expected to wake up but instead I found myself slowing down and eventually coming to float in the darkness a small dot of yellow light floating around me.
Not this again...I thought, even as the small speck began to get bigger, shine brighter, “Asher”, it whispered.
“Im here”, I called.
Swoly it took the same vaguely human shape as before, but this time it's forms flickered more and it seemed to be in pain, wincing.
“Are you going to explain what last time was about?”I jumped in to ask, hoping he would’n just disappear without telling me anything.
“No time”, he said, sounding out of breath, his voice strained as if he was carrying a great load, “It's too late for that”.
For a second his form completely vanishes and them reapered and I could swear he screamed in pain, “I can...hardly get to you but...but...remember...don’t...don’t listen to anything they say...they are liars”, again his form disappeared and this time I clearly heard as he screamed, “They did this...to me...and they will...do the same to you if you aren’t...careful”.
“Whait? who is they? The celestian?”, I asked, practically begging him to explain something.
He groaned, “No...not the celestial...they...arg...I can't say it...they will know I talk with you...but they are there...among you...they will manipulate you..use you and-”, he screamed again a raw choked sound like he was being tortured and his form flickered more and more and began shrinking.
“Don't believe everything you hear”, was the last thing he shouted before he completely disappeared and I was once again left in complete darkness.
“Hey I think he's waking up!”, a young female voice called out excitedly, sounding far away, barely discernible.
“Isn’t it obvious? his heart beat just changed”, Another, gruff male voice muttered.
“Did it? I wasn’t paying attention”, the same female voice answered, sunding clearer as I became more and more conscious.
The male voice scoffed, “See that's your problem Petra, you don't pay attention to anything”.
“¡Hey!”, she called out, “That is not true!”.
“Now, now guis”, a third voice interjected, sounding like it belonged to a teen boy, “Leave the fighting for the arena”.
I shook my head finally managing to open my eyes and take in the scene before me.
The first thing I noticed was that there was a girl in my room, staring very fixedly at me with big emerald eyes and a huge grin on her face.
I made a sound that probably would be more appropriately coming from a cat being strangled as I sat up in bed. Looking from her to the other two boys in my room, uncertain as to who they were or why they had chosen to stare at me in my sleep.
I was about to not so politely ask them what the hell they were doing there but the words caught in my throat as I looked at them more closely, making me completely lose my train of thought.
The girl was more on the short side, with dark brown skin and big puffy hair tied back on top of her head. She was pretty, with big eyes and small chin, but that was hardly the first thing that caught my eye.
She had markings running from her neck and down both her arms to the back of her hands. A black collar identical to mine around her slender neck.
Surprised, my eyes moved on to the boy beside her. There was a collar around his neck as well and his greyish tan skin also had markings around his neck and down one of his arms. I barely paid attention to his face but it was easy enough to tell he was of asian descendance, probably from the southeast asia area.
“Sorry man, I tried to keep her out”, he apologized sheepishly, his eyes ,so dark that I couldn't see the pupil, silently pleading with me not to get mad. “I was just here to make sure she didn’t poke you in your sleep or something…”.
“I wouldn't do that”, she said, crossing her arms defiantly.
“Actually you very much are capable of it”, the gruff voice I had heard answered, belonging to the other boy.
I didn’t remember having a chair in my room and yet there he was, sitting casually on a comfy looking one that he probably dragged in from the living room, flipping through a chemistry book like he belonged there.
He seemed to feel my eyes on him and got up, snapping the book close, “I was here to keep an eye on you”, he said glaring at me with aqua blue eyes that jumped out from his tan skin, “Newbies tend to be… unstable”.
Just like the other two he was wearing a collar and had markings, his running down his left arm and to the back of his hand.
“Who are you guys?”, I asked in wonder, so surprised at meeting somebody like me for the first time I forgot all about being angry at all of them for being in my room.
“Im Petra”, the girl said, “And they already told me your name, you are Asher”.
“Uh...yeah...that's my name”, I said, not sure of what else to say.
“It's so good to meet you”, she continued happily, looking short of jumping around, “Are you fifteen yet?”.
For a second it was like I had forgotten my own age and I had to concentrate to actually remember, “Yes...”, I said softly, putting my feet on the floor, her question bringing up a flood of bittersweet memories. My birthday had only been a few days ago, and everything had been normal. I had been with my father then...so much had changed so fast.
“Aw,...seriously? you were my last hope of not being the youngest in the group”, she said,pouting “It's really not fair, everybody is older than me!”.
So she was fourteen, I assume, and if she was the youngest it meant the two boys were fifteen like me or sixteen at most.
“It's only by a few months, get over it”, the blue eyed boy muttered turning to look at me, “I suppose since you are going to be living with us I have to introduce myself”, he said, sounding like he found that rather inconvenient, “I’m Calder”.
“Um...nice to meet you?”, I said, not sure of how to get rid of his piercing gaze as he studied me with an expression that showed he wasn’t particularly impressed.
“Again really sorry for waking you up like this”, the dark-eyed boy jumped in, “Im Draven”, he said, extending his hand towards me “No hard feelings?”.
I shook it, trying to convey with my expression that I really was no longer mad about it, “Yeah...sure don't worry about it”.
Looking at them was still almost surreal, for the first time I was faced with people just like me. I wanted to ask them a ton of questions that flew through my mind at light speed, there was so much I wanted to know, but before I could open my mouth to even make a sound Calder spoke again.
“So...electricity?”, he said, more as a fact than as a question.
I frowned at him, “What about electricity?”, I asked.
“Oh”, Petra began, “He meant to say that you are a grey d-”, before she could finish the sentence she caught herself, closing her mouth so fast I was sure she cracked her teeth, “Ups...sorry...the council hasn’t spoken to you yet right?”she asked timidly as Calder glared so hard at her I was sure she would expontanely combust.
“Ignore that”, he said, before I could ask what she had been about to say, “My point is, you have grey eyes, so your soul energy manifests in electricity”.
I stared at him for a few seconds, perplexed, “Um…no?”, I said, unsertatly, “I'm a healer”.
It was like I had told them somebody close to them had died, all three, even Petra, going perfectly still as they eyed me with faces in different states of shock.
“Not you are not”, Calder finally said in a cold tone that was probably even more intimidating than if he had actually shouted at me “Healers have golden eyes, you have grey eyes, that is how it works”.
I wanted to shout at him that I had no idea how anything worked, “Look”, I said, shrugging nervously, “I honestly don't know how it is supposed to be, but I have used healing several times before, never electricity”.
Their expression made it clear they didn’t believe me, both Draven and Petra refusing to catch my eye.
“Fine then”, Calder said, “If you are a healer, fix this”.
It happened so fast.I barely had the time to register what happened as his marking flashed aqua blue and his right arms exploded, or at least that is what appeared to happen as blood splattered everywhere.
“What the hell?”.I shouted, jumping to my feet and away from him, suddenly scared of whatever he had just done.
“I told you, if you are a healer, prove it”, he said, compelaty unfazed as he extended his ruined arm toward me, not a trace of pain on his face.
The other two stood behind him, their expression not showing surprise at what he had done.
His arm was full of deep cuts that looked like his blood had been propelled by sheer pressure out of his veins, tearing skin, muscle tissue and bone in its disastrous path, if I hadn’t seen my father turn d a pulp recently I would have said that was the most gruesome injury I had ever seen..
“Was this really necessary?”, I said in a barely controlled tone, now getting angry at the fact nobody told me anything yet except me to know what was normal and what wasn’t.
He ignored the question, “Well?”, he said almost mokidly, all of them staring at me like they fully knew I was going to fail.
“This is ridiculous”. I muttered, but still grabbed his ruined wrist, a little harder than necessary, internally cringing at the feeling of warm blood in my hand which brought back less than pleasant memories..
It took me a few seconds to reach out for the energy, time during which I could see more and more of a triumphant expression creeping into Calders face, which just made me madder, the energy rising in response to the anguer.
My makings began to glow with yellow light, the energy passing from me and into his arm, spreading like shiny veins under his skin, healing everything in its way even restoring the blood he had lost.
I let go as soon as it was done, not feeling like giving him an extra burst of energy.
The triumphant expression had completely melted from his face, replaced by a look of utter surprise and horror, looking at me like I had grown a pair of wings.
“What in the bloody hell”, he whispered, moving his arm like he couldn't quite believe it. Behind him both Draven and Petra were frozen like statues, looking from me to his restored arm in shock.
I felt like I have done something wrong, absolutely and horribly wrong. They were staring at me like I had killed their dog in front of them. Their wide eyes were enough to dissipate my anger.
“Um…”, I began awkwardly, trying to break the uncomfortable silence that had settled in, “So...how did you do that?”, I asked Calder, signaling to his arm and the blood around us.
He only shook his head still muttering under his breath not even acknowledging my question as he extended his arm, his marking flashing blue, and suddenly all the blood that splatter across the floor, the walls, and even stained my bed all flew back to him, disappearing like a worm crawling through the earth, except here it was red threat and the earth was his skin.
“I need time to think”.He said, sounding dazed as he turned around and left the room without sparing me a second glance.
“Oh-oh!...look at the time”, Petra said, despite there not being a watch anywhere around us, “Breakfast it soon gotta go”.
Her voice was oddly high pitched as she spoke, making a run for the door, leaving me with only Draven.
He shook his head, still refusing to make eye contact, “I'm sorry”, he whispered, walking away and out of the door before I had a chance to even ask what I had done wrong.
By the time Lionel walked through the steel double doors I was ready to begin punching walls out of sheer frustration.
It had been several hours since I had met Petra, Calder and Draven and after they had all walked away and left me alone in my room. I had refused to come out till they had all left and I could have the entire place all to myself again.
Over and over I replayed the entire interaction in my head and I still couldn't figure out what had spooked them so much...what I had done wrong, and the weird dreams I had had weren't exactly helping my mood.
Again I had received some sort of crypting warning from that weird light entity and again he hadn’t actually told me who I should be watching out for, which was about as helpful as if he had told me nothing.
LIke yesterday somebody had brought me food and again refused to answer any of my questions. I had tried to read but couldn't concentrate on the words and instead took to pacing around, feeling more and more like a cage animal.
In that state Lionel found me. “Asher”, he said, as he caught sight of me sounding mildly surprised. “How long have you been up?”.
I grunted, “Hours”.
“Hours…”, he repeated, turning to look behind him and to the doctor I had seen yesterday who stood with one foot outside and one inside as if ready to make a run for it at any moment.
He cringed as Lionel gaze turned towards him, “I'm sure I gave him the right dosage I swear I…”.
“I don't care what you think doctor, fact is, you messed up”, Lionel said simply in a cold tone, ignoring the man's excuses as he walked towards me.
“Sleep well Asher?”, he asked me, taking a seat on one of the couches.
“You guys knock me out for like ten hour, what do you think?”, I snapped, standing a few feet away from him.
He chuckled, “That is true...consider it a favor, but anyway had any dreams?”.
His words caught me off guard, and my expression must have shown my sudden doubt at sharing what I had seen.
“What were they about?”, he asked, apparently taking my silence as a yes, “Anything like the one you had on the boat?”.
I scratched my head, becoming frustrated with his question. All I wanted was answers, not being interrogated and doubted by everybody.
“As a matter of fact I did”, I said, sitting down opposite him as the doctor slowly approached me from behind, “This time I was in a woman's body”.
“Hm really?”He asked casually, “How did she look?, how was your environment?”.
I shook my head, crossing my arms over my chest defiantly, “I'm not telling you anything until I receive a full explanation on everything”.
The silence after my words seemed to stretch on forever as I held my breath, awaiting his reaction, not being able to tell what sort of face he was wearing making it even more agonizing.
“You know sometimes I feel like I'm dealing with your father all over again”, he said, to my relief, sounding amused, “He was the most annoying charge I ever had and he went and decided to copy paste himself”.
He got up, “Fine, it's a deal, the council will see you within the next hour, so get ready, after that you will tell me your dream in detail, is that good enough for you?”.
I feel like fainting in relief, “Yeah...that works”.
He nodded, “Good, now how about you let the Doc take that thing off your head?”.
For a second I had completely forgotten about the doctor who shuffled around me nervously, and about the silver band I still wore around my head.
I gave the doctor a look like, go ahead, I promise no to kill you.
He shuffled over and delicately took it off, the cold sensation of the metal I had gotten used to no longer there and I wondered what sort of thing they tried to find with it, what they were looking for and again I remember the warning I had received.
I had promised to tell Linoel about my other dream but there was no way I was telling him about the strange entity or his cryptic warning, until I could figure out what it all meant, I could trust no one.
“Do I seriously have to go in a dress like this?”, I asked Lionel, walking after him down a long hallway that was progressively becoming more and more grand, the ceiling higher, the walls less roughly carved and more smood, the more we walked the less it felt like a cave and more like a palace.
He didn’t even bother to trund to look at me, “Yes, the council is big on tradition”.
I wasn’t sure what tradition exactly this was. I had taken a shower and put on clean clothes in preparation for my meeting, not sure what else to do, but Lionel had stopped me from leaving in the t-shirt in sweatpants, the only clothes I had.
“Use this”, he had said, handing me a black cardboard box.
Inside there was only one article of clothing, no shirt, no shoes, just the most bizarre pants I had ever seen. The cloth was thick and durable, a light mustard yellow that I had begun to hate with passion. The weird thing was that there was golden armor in some parts, around the knees and the ankles and serving as a belt.
Observing it more closely I realized it was very similar to what I had seen the stranguer men in my dreams wearing, except they used a cape... I was left bare chested, and Lionel had insisted I didn’t wear any shoes...all in all I felt ridiculous and was very glad we didn’t meet anybody in the halls as we walked because I probably would have died of shame then and there.
“When talking to the council try to be respectful”, Lionel instructed, “Demanding they answer stuff is not going to work out with them”.
I rolled my eyes at him, like it worked on him, or anybody at all.
“Yeah, yeah, watever”.
We walked in silence for a while after that, Lionel not giving me any further instructions of what I should do, so I just assumed there was at least no weird ritual or protocols involved.
At the end of the seemingly endless tunnel we came upon a pair of huge black steel doors, these ones intricately carved with symbols and creatures I didn’t quite understand.
“Are you ready?”, Lionel asked, as the doors swung open on their own.
I nodded, swallowing down the nervousness I felt. This was the moment I had so long been waiting for, finally I would begin to get the answers I so desperately wanted.
“Greetings Asher Hexun”. A powerful female voice boomed as soon as I stepped inside the ridiculously large room and for a second I forgot to move, looking around in muted fascination.
The black rock walls that formed a dome above our head had been smoted to perfection, reflecting every bit of light in the room, a huge black metal chandelier illuminated the place with blue flames.
The room had curved walls, resembling a greeck theater, rows of chairs and desks arranged in a semi circular manner on raised platforms, meaning I was standing in the lowest level.
Eyes stared at me from every direction, there were seven people or around the same age who were seated at the highest point with the most adorned chairs resembling thrones. Below them around ten Handles sat on much simpler desks, all of them looking to be in their sixties.
The lowest row was occupied by younger Handlers, probably in their mid forties like Lionel.
“We have waited a long time to see you”, the same female voice that had greethe me said, and I turned to look at her, seated in the middle of the room, on the highest place.
She was old, probably seventy something years old, but you couldn't tell by her posture or the way she carried herself. She sat with her back perfectly straight, her white hair arranged in a simple yet elegant style, her lips painted red, giving her an air of class and power.
“Um...thanks?”, I said, not sure of what else to answer to that, cringing at the way my voice echoed off the walls.
“Now I know you must have a lot of questions”, she said, regarding me like I was a small child, “We have read your reports, the result of your test, we believe you are a very special Asher...and I promise we will answer all of you doups… so tell me, what do you want to know first?”.
This was the moment, finally somebody had offered me to actually answer something, not a half explanation,not a modifier version, she promised the whole truth. I was so overwhelmed it took me a few seconds to get my thoughts together and actually figure out what I wanted to ask first.
“What I am?”, I finally said, “Why do I have abilities?...what do my markings mean?”.
I fliker of a smile seemed to pass her otherwise stone cold face, “That is always the first question we get”, she said, “Very well, we might as well get that out of the way...”.
“Asher what you are is a very ancient creature believed to be existing, or as today's scientist will tell you, only a fragment of human imagination”, at her word a few people scoffed, muttering about the ignorance of humans but she silence the room again with a look before she continued..
“Beings so powerful they were called gods of destruction and until this day their image is regarded with fear”.
Well...that wasn’t exactly what I had wanted to hear, but she made no effort to reassure me as she went on.
“Entire mythologies were based on your kine, people believed you were gods and they weren’t half wrong, you see Asher, you aren’t like the Handlers or the Celestials who are simply another subspecies of human, you are completely different”.
By this point I was barely keeping myself from shuffling from foot to foot anxiously awaiting for her to cut back the rodeo and get to the point, I really did not appreciate the dramatic build off.
The entire room went dead quiet as she paused and the tension built up, “I'll tell you what you are Asher, you are a Dragon”.
For a few seconds the world seemed to stop as I stared at her, resisting the urge to laugh.
“What?”, I finally blurted out the most polite of the responses I could manage. Had I stumbled upon a crazy group of old people playing a massive game of dungeons and dragons or something?, how the hell did I even remotely look like a freaking giant fire breathing lizard?
My face must have been pretty funny because I could hear some of the younger handlers snickering behind their masks.
“I know what you are thinking”, she said, “That you look nothing like a dragon and we are all crazy”.
The only thing that kept me from nodding at her and saying “Yeah, pretty much, thank you for summarizing my thoughts!”, was Lionel's warning to be respectful.
“Always keep in mind Asher, thing aren’t always what they appear”, she explained, “When I mention Dragons you imagine giant reptile-like creatures, and you are partially correct, however, you are missing part of the information, the great beast that were the dragons, the ones that inspire so many tales didn’t always looked the same”, she said, “There is a simple explanation as to why you look human... dragons were shifters, they changed from human looking to the much larger reptilian like for you are familiar with”.
“I'm pretty sure I've never turned into a dragon”, I countered, still not even half convinced of what she was telling me, I still expected her to say, “Just kidding!”, at any moment, “You are actually a scientist experiment by the United States government for a new super soldier!”, but then again she hardly looked like the tipe to joke.
“It's because you are still a hatchling”, she said, “Eventually you will learn to shift and will be considered an adult”.
“Just look at your marking boy”, another elderly man, sitting to her right said, “They looked like the spikes and scales of a dragon don't they?”.
Well I had to admit they had me there.
“Okay... so say I believed you”, I venture, “You say we are believed to be extinct, does that have to do anything with the celestial?”.
She nodded, “The Dragons were some of the most powerful creatures to ever walk this earth, however they weren’t without enemies, I do believe you are familiar with the desolations?”.
I nodded, remembering all of my less than pleasant interaction with the beasts.
“Those creatures are parasites”, she said with disgust, “They feed off the soul energy of the dragons, rendering them powerless. For years there was a complicated relationship with them, despite their parasitic nature the Desolation mostly kept to themselves and the Dragons left them alone but then the Celestials came in”.
She shook her head, “The celestials were a proud race, they believed themselves to be above everybody and hated the dragons with passion because of their much superior strength. Their envy led them down a dark path, they began to capture the desolation and tamed them, breeding them like they were nothing more than livestock making them stronger, faster, more powerful with each generation until they had creatures that could bring their enemies to their knees...and with that the dragon hunts began”.
Hearing her tale I thought back to what my father had told me when we were driving here. We were hunted because our ancestors had abused their power and the celestials feared that we would become that again, something that went in direct contrast to what this woman was telling me.
“There was long a bloody war, and despite they power, the dragons lost, every single one was wiped from the face of the earth”, she said, her voice taking on a more sorrowful tone, “Or at least that what our enemies thought, but there was hope Asher, you see the dragon didn’t only had children among themselves, something they had them with humans too, and those halfling passed on that dna to their own children”.
She pause, looking down at her hand and for the first time I notice she had an almost indiscernible fragment of a marking there, “Those pieces of hiden DNA was what saved your species Asher, through time it began to resurface, first mere little insignificant patches of markings but slowly they became more and more prominent”.
Her words instantly made me think back at all the people I had seen outside and their small markings, the explanation seemed perfectly logical and I realized I was beginning to believe her, as insane as it all sounded.
“It was a long and arduous process, it took thousands of years”, she said, and now for the first time emotion sipped into her voice, “But it was worth it Asher, because with you, and your generation, the Dragons have finally been reborn”.
Again there was a puse, this one longer than any other and I swallow nervously as her eyes bored down on me, “You have a great responsibility boy”, she told me death serious, “Many people have died and suffer for you to be standing here as full Dragon, you have to make their sacrifice worth it, as the first dragons to be born in thousand of years it is your generations burden to reclaime what was stole from you so many years back...you mission, Asher, is to rebuild the Dragon kingdom”.
For a few second I stared at her, eyebrows raised at her little speech, sure it sounded poetic and what not but the only thing I really wanted was to get my dad back and then maybe go back to having a normal life, going to school, hanging out with my friends, getting a girlfriend, the normal teenage experience...not rebuilding some kidom I knew nothing about and whose name sounded like something out of and old video game.
She must have confused my expression for fear because she shook her head, “Don't worry Asher, you won't be alone in your quest, soon you will meet the rest of the dragon children, they will become your friend but more than anything your allies”.
I had a pretty strong hunch that the dragon children were the kids that had been snooping in my room this morning and they didn’t seem to like me so this “kingdom” wasn’t off to a great start.
Another member of the council spoke, a man who looked to me in his early seventies, and the younger of them said something, “You still have a lot to learn, but do not worry, we will teach you , train you, prepare you for your great mission ahead”.
This was beginning to uncomfortably sound like the beginning of an epic fantasy role playing video game and I really was not interested in going through that in real life.
I wanted to shout at them to stop talking like that, like I was some epic hero, I was not, I was easily scare, couldn't even make my own order at Mcdonalds, I was selfish, didn’t stop to think twice when taking a life if it meant saving my own, and the one of those I love, I wasn’t some great hero with a kind heart who would befriend everybody and give them strength in times of need…
The only thing that kept me in that room was their promise to make me stronger, I needed that if I was to save my father...but I needed to make it clear to them that I wasn’t doing anything until they helped me find him.
“Look…”, I began, shaking my nervousness off, “I'll do whatever you say to help rebuild this kingdom...but only if you help me rescue my father”.
I could see it in their eyes, cold fury at me making demands, but I refused to back down, glaring at them just as hard.
Finally the woman who had done most of the speaking shook her head, “Very well...we will start searching for him...and bring him back as soon as we find him”.
Relief course through me at her words, the tension in my muscles finally beginning to dissipate. “As we were saying”, the woman spoke again, ignoring our little confrontation back there, “You will meet the other dragon children, now there is a lot you need to know, but I will leave that to your teachers, for now the most important thing you need to know is that there are different types of dragons”.
She made a signal with her hand and one of the elder handlers clicked something on his desk. In a semicircle around round holes on the floor appeared with a hissing sound each around a foot in diameter.
Everybody, thankfully ignored the surprised sound I made as I took a cautious step back and away from whatever that was.
“First we have the Ruby Clan”, she said, and from the shaft to my right a sphere the size of a basketball aperad, hovering over it almost a meter off the ground.
I was instantly reminded of the test Lionel had run on me in my dream, since this sphere looked a lot like those, just a giant version with the same flashing red light in its center.
“User of fire and heat”, she said, “The red dragon were the most numerous Clan and the ones that inspired the tales about fire breathing reptiles”.
From the next hole another spread appeared, this one with the trapped shadow within it, “The Onyx clan, the dragons of the night, they commanded shadow and poison, the black dragons natural nocturnal habits and the greish dull color of their skin is believed to have inspired the myths about vampires”.
By this point I knew what was coming next but I still observed in fascination as the sphere with vibrant green strang appeared.
“The Emerald Clan”, she continued, “The green dragons could shape the earth as they pleased and created and material so strong it was widely considered one of the, if not, the toughest material on earth”.
As she explained, I was beginning to realize that all of these names sounded familiar, the Onyx, Ruby and Emerald clan? hadn’t I heard their names in my dreams? I opened my mouth to ask her about it but she didn’t give me the chance.
The next orb appear, the one with water, “Next the Turquoise clan...out of all the dragons the blue ones were the most seclusive, choosing to live under the ocean and only come out when necessary, they could create and manipulate water and ice and they are responsible fo the tales of sea monsters”.
The spread with the pieces of bones appeared and I resisted the urge to shudder, something about it never sat right with me and looking at a bigger version wasn’t helping.
“The opal clan”. Even the woman sounded more solemn as she spoke, like she didn’t particularly like the topic “The white dragon were mostly avoided, even by other clans, mainly because of their power, they could control bones, even ones that were still inside a living being and would tear their victims apart in the most gruesome ways imaginable”.
This time I couldn't help myself back from shuddering, now I knew why I didn’t particularly like that sphere.
“In sharp contrast we have the golden clan”, she said as the penultimate sphere rose, flasign golden light at its center, “This is your clan Asher”, she said, “The yellow dragons were healers and very peaceful in nature, their lack of defend ability however also put them at a disadvantage and they had the fewer members out of all the clans”.
I felt a pang of dread as the last sphere appeared, remembering what had happened the last time with the electricity that was trapped inside it.
“The silver clan”, she said, “The grey dragons were the controllers of storms; they could create lightning and hurricane like winds and were by far the fastest out of all the dragons”.
I had been so focused on the spheres that and what she had been explaining I didn’t even notice that all the handlers but one had left their seat and were now standing in a circle around me, even Lionel who was now hard to identify among the group.
“What we must do next”, the woman said, “Isn’t particularly pleasant, but you must deal with it”.
I looked between her and the circle of handlers, feeling myself getting tense again, ready to fight or run, “What are you talking about?”, I asked uncertainty.
“We must test your parentage”, she said, “You are a child of an electric user yet manifested healing abilities...by testing your affinity to other soul elements we can more accurately predict what ability your own children will have”,
Hold on? my own children? Why did they even care about that? I was fifteen and with no intention of having children any time soon, but before I could tell her we could maybe save this for somwered way more down the line the the holes on the floor close and the spheres fell to the ground bouncing around loudly yet still all or them managuign to roll towards me an form a semicircle at my feet.
Like firecrackers they came to life, exploding in flashes of light and color, and I very quickly found why the woman had said this wasn’t going to be pleasant.
It felt like I was being torn apart, every sphere pulling the energy within me in a different direction, my skin of fire as my marking burned.
I grunted in pain, falling to my knees as my vision began to get blurry, sweat pouring down my face, “Stop...please!”, I shouted in a hoarse voice as the spheres only began to shine brighter and the sensation only got worse.
It may have been the reflection of the spheres on my skin but I swear that for a second I saw my marking flash different colors and I could hear disembodied voices whispering in my ear.
From far away I could hear somebody shouting.
“We have to contain him now!”.
Now that I thought about it there seem to be several people shouting but I could barely comprehend what they were saying to engrose in the incomprehensible whispers around me that seemed to be slowly luling me to sleep.
“Bind him there is no choice!”.
“Put him out! Lionel!”.
It was like somebody had disconnected a tv, the world blinking out of existence in front of me and into the darkness and for the first time the pain stopped and around me a new scenery developed, the grey wall metal room I was becoming uncomfortably familiar with.