I almost can’t believe what’s happening. It’s all so sudden. Caroline lies pale and motionless in my arms as I carry her up to her room, just as Selene asked me to. As I leave the greenhouse I hear Kaede jog up behind me. I can only imagine what’s going through his mind at all this. I wonder if he knew, or if this was just as sudden for him as it is for me.
Caroline’s shirt is stained black from the void infection mucus she vomited and her breathing is shallow. Ever since the lava was locked away I’ve become normalized to the temperature of things around me, but now, she feels icy cold to the touch. This can’t be good.
Kaede jogs beside me to keep up. He keeps glancing at Caroline as we walk but doesn’t say a thing, his lips pressed tightly together. He even ignores his bangs hanging in his face which is a usual twitch of his I’ve come to expect. I’m not really sure what to say. Usually, he’s so light and funny but now… Well, it’s understandable that we’re both very serious at the moment. I maneuver the halls to avoid as many people as much as possible until we reach the dorms.
I know her room is the one across from mine, but I wait for Kaede to open the door before stepping in. Once inside, I make a beeline for the room and set her down on the bed. Kaede follows me in, but then, he just stands there, seemingly unsure of what to do with himself. He stands at the edge of the bed, staring sadly at Caroline’s unconscious form.
“Umm, I’m sure the others will be up soon. Did you want to… change her?” I ask awkwardly, pointedly looking at her black-stained shirt. Kaede jumps at my suggestion.
“Change her? Oh… maybe,” He blinks, looking between Caroline and I. “Umm, she would want privacy,” He says softly.
“Right. Sorry, I’ll be just outside.” I leave the room, giving him privacy to get her into a clean shirt, at least before Selene and Gwen arrive. The wait is agony, even knowing there’s not much we can do until Gwen has a better reading of her. Selene tells me she’s never even seen an infection like this. It seems to be the case that the scars that were once on Kaitlyn are what’s causing Caroline sickness. .. but how? I don’t even know. No one seems to know, yet. This is completely new territory, and it’s terrifying.
I walk back to the door of the bedroom to see him pulling the sheets up over her chest. His hands shake slightly as he works with the sheet. I pity him. I owe Caroline my help, considering she stopped me from nearly killing myself with the water.
I lean up against the doorway and watch. “I’m sure they’ll think of something.” I try to sound helpful. He doesn’t look up but continues to stare at her. “We have to be patient and see what Gwen can do.”
Still, he remains silent. This is going to be a long night.
Gwen goes dashing from the room as soon as we hear a crash from down the hall. I jump from my position in a chair at the foot of Caroline’s bed. Kaede barely looks up as he broods from on top of the sheets, lying next to her.
Over the past three days, Caroline’s remained unconscious and has only become weaker. Her cheeks are now sunken from not eating and her face is pale. Thin black lines have formed on her skin all over her body, according to Gwen. She looks like fragile porcelain, cracked with age. Kaede looks no better, refusing to eat despite Gwen’s threats. His already thin body frame is thinner from worry and the lack of food.
Soon, Gwen comes running back in for her herb bag. She’s moved many potted plants into Caroline’s room for the past few days just to cut down on running back and forth between the greenhouse and the dorms. I lean forward and watch her as she grabs some things, wondering if I should ask her what fell, but it’s almost as of she reads my mind like Selene does.
“Andrei and Kaitlyn are back. It’s not good. You children need to start taking more care,” She huffs and she runs back out of the room. I stand up and walk to the hallway, looking out the door as Nik dashes by and joins Gwen in Kaitlyn’s room.
I’m filled with a certain dread at Gwen’s announcement. They’re… back? She’s back? I can’t help but feel a pang of worry in my gut. It’s been quiet in my head since they left and Selene locked lava away. Will he stay away even with her around, or will he come back? I dread the idea, but I have to try to be strong, if not for my own sake, but for everyone else’s. I don’t want to hurt them.
I slip back into the room and see that Kaede has finally shifted from his position. He sits up staring at the door with wide owl-like eyes. “Andrei’s back? With Kaitlyn?” He croaks, using his voice for the first time this day.
“It seems so. Gwen says it’s not good,” I reply, returning to my seat at the end of the bed. I’d rather hide in here than go check anyway.
Kaede barely acknowledges that I’ve responded, except for the dark expression that grows on his face as he stares at the door.
Some time passes before Gwen returns again. “Well, I’ve only just managed to save her and the baby from dying. If only I could do that same for Caroline,” She shakes her head.
“What happened?” I look up anxiously, worried about them despite being the reason they jumped away as they did. No, there is a distinction, as Selene points out. I have to remember that. Lava was the reason… I feel a sudden need to go and apologize.
An hour or two goes by, I’m not really sure how long it is because I find myself dozing off. When I do wake, Kaede appears to have left, which I find somewhat alarming considering he hasn’t left Caroline’s side this entire time. I find Gwen in the living room working with some plants. She seems to be singing to a few in her native tongue.
“Where’d Kaede go?” I ask.
She stops singing and hums. “Well, it would seem he’s gone to see Kaitlyn and Andrei,” She says with her thick accent.
“Oh, I see.” I hope it goes well. “How are they?”
“Oh, Andrei is up at last. Passed out shortly after he arrived. He’s gone and overused his magic again. And Kaitlyn and the baby are both relaxing, which is what they need. If they relax they should be fine,” She hums, turning back to her plants.
I nod. That makes a lot of sense. I wonder where Selene is. I find myself missing her. I crave her flowery scent and her soft touch. Even her mind-reading. I think I might finally have grown accustomed to her knowing how I think before I’ve had a chance to say anything. In its own weird way, it’s helping me become more myself; honest to me.
It’s not long before the door slams open, making both Gwen and I jump a foot in the air. Kaede storms in, a twisted look of anger and pain on his face. He sinks onto the couch next to Gwen’s potted plants and starts sobbing uncontrollably.
I move to him, crouching at his knees and placing a hand on his, “Hey, Kaede. Speak to me. What happened?”
It takes him a few moments to compose himself, somewhat. “Caroline’s going to die all because of Kat,” He coughs.
“That’s not true. How do you come to that conclusion?” I ask him. Kaitlyn wasn’t even here when it happened.
“Because she’s not strong enough to fix it! No one is! I can’t help her ’cause I’m normal. I’m just human! And all of you have magic and still no one’s strong enough to fix her! I’m going to lose her, Heath. I can’t lose her! I don’t know what I’d do without her… There’s no movie out there that’s ever prepared me for this… I don’t know what to do!” He starts sobbing again.
I’m at a loss for words.
I stand from my crouch and go back into the bedroom. I walk up to the bed and gaze down at Caroline’s weakening form. The black lines stand out boldly against her pale skin. I touch her hand, it feels like ice. At a time like this, I wish I could warm her up at least. A practical use of my magic. My normal-looking hands remind me I’m as human as Kaede is, at the moment. There’s not that much different between us.
Gwen says they needed rest, Andrei and Kat. So I decide to wait longer before I attempt to apologize. I hope that doesn’t make things worse…
Another few hours go by and I stand to stretch from sitting and watching Caroline. I peek into the living room to see Gwen is gone and Kaede as well. Maybe Gwen convinced him to get food? I don’t know. I’m sure Caroline will be okay for a moment if I step out. I decide to go check on Kat and Andrei.
I slip into the hallway and turn, facing the end of the hall. The door is open a jar, so I peek in. I think I see Nik sitting on the bed. I hear muffled voices. I decide to knock to at least warn them I’m there. The talking stops.
“Come in,” I hear Kaitlyn’s voice call. I push the door open the rest of the way and enter slowly. I don’t go much further than the door, expecting her to feel fear at seeing me. I feel a little sheepish and stupid for coming. Both Nik and Kat’s eyes are on me. Andrei doesn’t seem to be here, thankfully.
“Hello,” I say quietly. For a moment, I wonder if they heard me at all.
Kat looks ready to jump, as I expected. She glances at Nik from her position on the bed, propped up on a pile of pillows with little Scoria in her lap. Seeing the little black dragon again makes me smile. I’ve missed her. I was wondering where she’d gone. Nik turns slightly to return her look.
Kat then looks back at me, trying to look calm as she speaks to me. “You look… well.”
I feel like chuckling, all things considered. I decide to show her my hands first. Maybe then she won’t be so afraid. “Only because Selene locked him away. I don’t have any magic,” I reveal.
She stares at them with a blank expression. “So… Can you still hear it?”
“No, I can’t,” I reply. So far, my thoughts seem pretty quiet. I wonder if maybe Selene’s barrier is stronger than we both thought.
She nods slowly, “Good. That might work then… In the past, I met your predecessor. He had some advice for you.”
“You did?!” I take an excited step forward but stop myself almost immediately. The host before me… I wonder how they must have suffered. “What did he say?” I ask curiously.
“He said, fear only makes it worse,” She says bluntly. “He had complete control. No black hands. His people seemed to worship the volcano. They were amazing with the lava magic, ‘cause they weren’t afraid of it.”
“Afraid? But… That’s easier said than done. I’ve had such a disadvantage already. Selene has been trying to give me experiences, things that I can say I’ve done without his influence. I admit, I’m still scared of what will happen when the barrier is gone,” I say a little shyly.
“I know it sounds ridiculous… But he’s right. You have more control when you let go of the fear,” She hums thoughtfully, with a faraway look in her eyes.
“I do?” I can’t really say, I don’t think I’ve ever had control because I don’t think I’ve ever not feared it. How can I not fear something that is bent on destruction and pain? I haven’t asked Selene about this yet but… Maybe Kat can teach me too. I scratch my head, feeling an itch.
“We all do,” She answers ominously.
I wonder how she learned this. Anyway, I should get to the point and then let her rest. “I… I came to apologize for what happened before you and Andrei jumped. I know it wasn’t me, but I still feel somewhat responsible. If I had had more control, as you say, I maybe could have prevented from… hurting you., I say, glancing at Nik. He’s been silent this whole time.
“I know,” She gives me a weak smile. “I don’t blame you… But you should avoid Andrei for a while.”
“I should? Why?” I had wanted to apologize to him too. “I was thinking… I should come clean about everything before it comes back. Maybe then, we could be friends again… I hope.”
She sighs, “He already knows.” I feel my blood drain from my face.
Nik turns to her, “You really told him?” His brows raise. “Oh boy…”
She shrugs, looking away. “He asked. You know I’m a bad liar.”
I know I wanted to apologize now… but I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I hear a click from behind and I spin as the door opens. Andrei stands there, frozen stiff as his eyes settle on me. I gulp nervously. “Hey,” I wave weakly, hoping the normal-looking hand catches his eyes.
I feel a sharp impact against my nose before I realise what’s happened, stumbling back and clutching my face. I feel blood on my hands and I see stars. Did he just… punch me? I look at him, a feeling of bewilderment as he shakes his hand out, a smug smile on his face.
“That’s for touching my girl behind my back,” He growls. “Be glad it’s not a sword through your heart.”
“Andrei!” Kat gasps as she sits up like a bolt. She grunts, curling inward as her hands rest on her stomach. Scoria squawks at him and Nik chuckles. I hold my face with my hand as blood drips through my fingers.
“I guesh I desherved that,” I try to speak, my nose hurts like hell though. Did he break it? Damn. “I’m shorry,” I add for safe measure.
“I don’t care if it was you or the lava, despite what Kat or anyone else thinks. If you want magic, you had better learn to control it. Rein that bastard in, got that?” He warns me. I nod slowly. I get the picture loud and clear.
“Andrei, stop it,” Kat calls from the bed. I think she meant to sound threatening, but it comes across exasperated. Andrei eyes me closely, holding a finger in my face as he walks around me and back to the bed. He gently presses her shoulder, forcing her to lay back against the pillows.
She pouts as she looks up at him, “I told you, no killing.”
“I didn’t kill him. I just broke his nose. That’s the least he deserves,” He smiles smugly. Somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better.
She rolls her eyes. “You’re incorrigible. How are we supposed to help him control it like that?” She turns to me, holding out her hand. “I’ll fix it. I’m sorry about that.”
I look between the two of them, unsure if it’s really safe to get any closer. Besides, I’m still dripping blood. I would hate to stain the bed… I hesitate, leaning against the dresser for support.
“But I can’t promise that,” He frowns.
She narrows her eyes, “Are you gonna make me get up and go over there?”
“No, you’re not allowed to get up. Let Nik heal him,” Andrei shrugs. I wish they’d stop arguing over this. I’ll just go back to Caroline’s room and wait for Gwen.
Nik scoffs, “I didn’t agree to that.” I roll my eyes, looking to the door. I should just leave now.
“You guys are being children,” Kat growls. That’s a little unlike her… “Get over here, I don’t want to wait all day.” I reluctantly approach, feeling Andrei’s heated glare on me. I try to cup the blood so it doesn’t drip on the sheets.
I have to crouch down for her to reach my face. Her fingertips barely touch the bridge of my nose. I flinch slightly, her hand is hot, almost burning. The warmth transfers into my face slowly, replacing the pain with its heat. The blood dries and starts to flake before she lets her arm drop back to the bed.
“There. Was that so horrible?” She asks, gaze locked over my head.
I stare at her in shock, feeling a slight itchy feeling in my scalp again. “No, it wasn’t,” I admit. I’ve missed the heat, a little.
“I was asking him,” She rolls her eyes with a smirk. “Scoria is happy to see you too.”
I look to the bunched-up blankets on her lap to see the little dragon’s head tilted, her glowing orange eyes fixed on me. I can’t help but smile as I reach a red-stained hand toward her. “How’ve you been, hmm?” I ask, running my finger along her spine. She’s gotten a little bigger since last I saw her.
“Bored,” Kaitlyn snickers. “She didn’t like the past. Too many people, she couldn’t play.”
“Aww, that’s unfortunate. Maybe I could keep her company? If she’d like, that is,” I suggest. I wouldn’t want to take her away from a better caretaker though.
Kat looks at the dragon, and Scoria’s neck cranes to look back at her. “I don’t think I’ll be much fun for the next while… I think it’d be nice if you can take her out to play for a while, stretch her wings.”
I feel the smile on my face. I’m elated that I’ll get to spend some time with her. Kat tilts her head as though listening. “She… I think she wants to go outside and hunt for mice…”
“She can fly? Already?!” I say with surprise.
“Not all that well, just short distances,” Kat smiles at her, rubbing her finger on Scoria’s cheek. “She can’t wait to be as big as Blue and fly all over the island. She thinks she’s bigger than she is.”
I laugh, excited to see what she can do. “I can’t wait to see her in action,” I say as I scratch my head again.
“You’d better get going,” Kat picks up the little dragon, holding her out to me. “She’s excited now.” As she speaks the dragon squirms in her grasp, chirping loudly.
I hold out my hands for Scoria to scurry into and back up off the bed. I feel nervous under Andrei’s murderous glare so I think it’s best if I go. “I’ll go check in on Caroline before I head outside, make sure someone’s there to watch her.” I turn to them as I head for the door, a half-smile on my face. “It’s good to see you two again. At least it’s one less friend to worry about… too much,” I say.
Andrei gets a faraway look in his eye. He already knows. I wonder if he spoke to Kaede yet.
“Yea,” Kat nods. “We’re alright. I hope Caroline recovers soon too.”
Nik pats Kat’s leg over the sheet, “Speaking of, I’d better go check in on her too. I’ll stop by later, kid.” Kat rolls her eyes as he gets up to follow me out.
I heave a heavy sigh as we leave their room. “She’s not doing well. The marks, they’re getting worse,” I whisper to Nik.
“I know. We’re running out of time for an antidote,” He sighs, running a hand through his hair. “I really didn’t want to resort to plan B, but we may have no choice.”
“Plan B?” I ask, slowing to a stop. “What’s that?” I’m not sure if I even want to know.
Nik’s dark eyes shift to meet my own, his expression sympathetic. “If she didn’t tell you, she probably doesn’t want you to worry about it. It’s not great, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to save Caroline.”
“Great, well, now I’m worried,” I try to sound sarcastic to lighten the mood. I haven’t seen her in a while, Selene. I wonder where she’s been hiding. I want to see her. “This void magic, there’s got to be something that can counter it. How come there’s no research on it?” I ask, continuing to Caroline’s door.
“No idea,” Nik shrugs. “From what I understand, if Life can’t counter it, there’s only one thing left that’s close, and that’d be spirit.” We stop at the door, my mood on the fence between troubled and excited, thanks to the little dragon in my hands.
“Well, I better take Scoria out. I could use a break from sitting, to be honest.” I’ve been cooped up in her room for just over three days, hardly taking a break. Kaede’s mood worries me so I thought he could use the… responsive company. Scoria twists her head to look at me with her slitted eyes. I smile back. “Hmm, time for some mouse hunting?” I ask her.
“See if you can find Selene while you’re out there. Tell her it’s almost time,” Nik waves as he heads into the room.
Time for what? Plan B? I frown but nod. “See you later then.”
By Kayla West