The next morning, a tray of fruit and nuts sat on my nightstand untouched. Dinner the night before had sucked, with everyone staring at me and whispering. And then I’d had to apologize to Adrana for ripping her dress. I groaned and shoved my head under my pillow.
I couldn’t breathe, so I lifted a corner to get a little air—not only for my lungs but for my head, too. I felt bad for the people here, but did I care enough to get involved in a war that had nothing to do with me? And those stones of power…I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Couldn’t stop thinking what it would feel like to have power. Couldn’t stop thinking about finding them and using them to go home.
A knock at the door interrupted my thoughts. I peeked from my pillow when Adrana poked her head into the room.
Adrana said, “I shall show you our city, would you like?”
“Sure. Is it far?”
Adrana chuckled. “Non.”
“And ‘non’ means…”
“Please my forgiveness. This means ‘no.’”
“Tuggin says ‘net’.”
“Ah, that is true, is it not? All tribes speak their own tongue, but we all use the shared tongue. To understand? As do you.”
Adrana took me along the balcony above the room where Tuggin and I had first come in. She pointed down. “That is the Great Room.”
Instead of heading for the stairs leading up from the Great Room, we turned right. While we walked, Adrana pointed to wall hangings of rivers, lakes, oceans, and waterfalls.
“These hangings represent Lak ‘Neynu, yes?”
“Lak ‘Neynu means Region of Water. Given Hall is a border city between two laks, yes? Neynu and Nurr.”
“What region is Nurr?”
“Air. Lak ‘Nurr is your home, yes? Sabina rests in the mountains of Lak ‘Nurr.”
My step faltered at the mention of my home. I hadn’t considered where I might have lived if I’d stayed on Eyidora. “I was born in Sabina?”
“Yes, as was Tuggin.”
“Seriously? We come from the same town?”
“Yes.” Adrana pushed open a thick, wooden door. “There are four laks to represent the Eyids. There is also Heika, meaning land, and Toom, meaning fire, yes?”
Adrana led me down tunnels where we passed rooms with people arguing, women making baskets, and even classrooms. It seemed half the people wore tacky purple robes.
We trudged up a staircase that twisted high into the rock. At the top, I followed Adrana through a narrow passage toward the muffled sound of a crowd. As we neared the end of the hall, it grew wider and the noise got louder. We spilled out onto a balcony, and I gasped. The room below was so big it made the Great Room look dinky.
“Here is the market,” Adrana said.
“This is awesome. Who’d ever know that a whole city was inside this mountain?”
“It is a great stronghold, is it not? I fear that even this sanctuary will not withhold the coming storm.”
I frowned while I checked out the shoppers. Stony faces peered out from stalls of baskets, pottery, clothes, and food. The food baskets were half empty: dried fish, breads, nuts, and wrinkled fruit and vegetables. I watched two old ladies argue over a skinny fish. The fish lady, a leather-faced woman with sunken cheeks, picked at her teeth.
“No one seems very happy,” I said.
“There is drought. Finding food is difficult.”
“It was pouring rain yesterday, and there was a ton of food at dinner.”
“That is so, but we need many moon cycles of rain to fill our water cisterns. The lakes and rivers, they do not rise, yes?” She dipped her head toward me. “Our pantries do not willingly give of their fare.”
I studied the people with their tattered clothes, slumped shoulders, and who looked as skinny as that fish. I murmured, “The Fire Eyid’s descendant really is killing this globe.”
Adrana gasped. “What have the Eyids told you?”
Whoopsy. My conversations with the Eyids were going to be my secret for now. I sucked my lips between my teeth.
Adrana shook her head. “The great ones always know when to stay silent, yes? I understand why you are paired with Tuggin.”
I halted, unable to stop a snort exploding from the back of my throat. “I’m not paired with Tuggin.” I felt a funny twist in my stomach, and part of me—a sick part—wished it was true. I squashed that part down because it was just a random, temporarily insane thought. “He forced me to come here, there was no pairing involved. Why would you even think that?”
“Tuggin is not a typical Eyidoran as well.”
I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help asking, “What’s so special about him?”
Adrana stopped at a fruit stall. She picked some wrinkled apples, and then turned to me while the vendor put them in a bag. “Tuggin has a sister-mate.”
I searched through the apples, trying to find one that wasn’t so wrinkled. Adrana took her bag from the vendor and handed him some dull, yellow coins.
I’d forgotten about the paying part. I set the apple back down. “What are those?”
Adrana handed me a coin. “Eyidoran currency. These yellow coins are heken.”
The coin had a funny marking on it—four little circles in a weird comma-shaped formation. “How much is it worth?” I handed it back.
Adrana held up a blue coin. “Five nenu equal one heken. Five heken equal one toma,” holding up an amber coin, “and five toman equal one nura, yes?” She waved a silver coin and dropped it back in her pouch.
I said, “I see,” and then bounced back to the subject of Tuggin. “What’s a sister-mate?”
Adrana continued to stroll through the market. “Tuggin and his sister were born together, do you understand?”
“Yes. Tuggin’s sister-mate is called Elana. It is very rare, is it not?”
“I knew someone named Elana on Earth. Elana Sorba. Isn’t that weird?”
“Elana is Tuggin Sorba’s sister-mate.”
I grabbed Adrana’s arm. “No way. She can’t be Tuggin’s sister.”
Tuggin told me his family was dead. As in not living dead. As in not breathing dead. As in I’m-going-to-kill-him-for-lying dead. “We can’t be talking about the same girl.”
“Tuggin’s sister-mate on Earth. Elana Sorba.”
“What’s she doing there? Does she know she’s Eyidoran?”
“I do not know much. Tuggin does not impart information freely, yes?”
“Tell me about it.”
Adrana giggled. “I only know these things from listening to Tuggin and my o’ma speaking, yes? Through a door.”
I checked out a basket, brushing my fingers over the rough surface. “It doesn’t matter, because Tuggin hates me.”
“Hmm,” Adrana said.
That sick part of me wanted to hear Adrana say that Tuggin liked me. “We’re not together.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. What was wrong with me? Tuggin was an ass, I didn’t care whether he liked me or not. I’d wasted enough time following Snarky Boy around. I had to escape so I could get my butt home and find Mom. Adrana was small; I could probably take her out and make a run for it. No, I’d tried running before and failed. I had to be sneaky, check out the place and plan an escape.
“I think I’ll go to my room for a while,” I said. “I’ll see you later, okay?”
“You need me to show you the way, do you not?”
Was she supposed to spy on me? “That’s okay. I think I can find it.”
Adrana gave a wave then disappeared into the crowd. I headed up the stairs. At the top, I couldn’t remember if we’d come from the left or right. Most people seemed to be going left, so I picked out a safe-looking person to follow, a woman in a purple robe carrying books.
I followed her until we were the only ones in the hall. She disappeared through a door, and I peeked inside. A library.
I breathed in the smell of dust, books, and leather. This wasn’t like the library at home. The ceiling was at least two stories high, with shelves crammed with books. Intersecting aisles of more books blocked my view of the room. Long, skinny ladders climbed to the highest shelves.
I wandered between the rows, gazing at the titles, but they were written in a language I couldn’t read. I pulled one off a shelf. It had a red leather cover with gold lettering. I ran my fingers over the markings on the top, the same markings that were on the coins: four circles in a comma formation.
“You have permission papers, yes?” croaked someone behind me.
I whirled to face a man with a raisin-shriveled face. He was mostly bald, but that didn’t seem to stop the gray hair in his nose and ears from growing, and it didn’t hide the black bead earring he had in each ear. His arms seemed to be lost inside his purple robe.
I shifted from one foot to the other. “I need to ask before coming in?”
“Yes. This is the Records Room. Permission is required.”
I bit my lip. “Sorry. I’ll go.”
“Wait.” He studied me while he rubbed his chin then grinned. “You are the strange one, yes? The visitor.”
I stiffened. Then I crossed my arms. He glanced at the book in my hand.
“Honest, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be in here, and I wasn’t trying to steal it.”
The tension in my shoulders melted.
He took the book from me and stroked the cover. “You know the Tamoorian tongue?”
“Ah, Eyidora’s Histories and Legends. Interesting choice. You know of the Legend of Truhaan, yes?”
“Old Piel will help, yes? This book speaks of the legendary savior who will bring harmony back to Eyidora.” He flipped through the pages then read out loud:
“Gathering strangers of two globes born,
come together with the truhaan dawn.
Who sees through the dark with many eyes,
To amass Eyids’ force, on truhaan’s rise?”
Piel studied me. I studied him. He raised his eyebrows.
“Wait,” I said, and I instinctively touched my necklace through my shirt. “You don’t think…that I…”
Piel shrugged. “What does old Piel know?”
“Apparently not much, if you think I’m the stuff legends are made of.”
Piel laughed and put the book back on the shelf before shuffling off. “Take care you do not lose what is precious to you, Haley,” he called over his shoulder before vanishing around a corner.
The people on this world were insane. Shaking my head, I made tracks out of the library. I rambled up and down halls, looking for something familiar.
Gathering a massive sigh, I leaned against the wall. Muffled voices echoed from the other end of the hall. Then someone spit out my name like a piece gum that had lost its taste. I crept down the hall and stopped outside a slightly open door. Enja’s voice came from inside.
“The Legend of Truhaan tells us of the one.”
“What would the Eny have me do?” Tuggin asked.
I felt a tickle in my nose. I pushed my tongue against the roof of my mouth.
“You know of our plans, yes? Legend speaks of Quadralune. Quadralune befalls us in two more phases. We must neutralize her.”
Tuggin’s voice drifted back and forth, as if he were pacing. “Who do you mean?”
The tickle grew stronger. I pinched my nose closed and held my breath.
“You are not focused,” Enja snapped.
Silence, and then, “Tenya?”
Hey. I was tenya. He’d better stop calling me that or I’d smack him.
“Yes, Tuggin. She is a Seer.”
Tuggin muttered, “Jahme!” Then let loose a string of words I couldn’t understand, though by his tone it sounded like a lot of swearing.
Enja scolded him like a little kid. “Lanu! Think this through.”
“She is weak. She is Earth-kin.”
I clenched my jaw. What an ass.
“She is Eyidoran.”
Tuggin said, “The Eny should focus on her missing brother. Perhaps he is already dead, which would bode well for the Eny.”
I clapped my hand over my mouth, leaning my cheek against the cold wall. Freaking shit! I had a brother? A brother?! Enja started talking again. I pushed the thought out of the way so I could focus on what they were saying, vowing to kick Tuggin’s lying ass.
“Non, we must focus on her. Your task is well laid. If she is the one, she must be neutralized. You have your assignment. Do not fail.”
“Haley is not the one. The Eny should not waste effort on her.”
There was a drawn out silence, and I wondered what was going on in there.
Enja said, “Do you have emotions for this girl?”
Tuggin laughed, but the sound was dead. “I have no emotion. I have been trained well.”
“Drop your shield.”
I’d never seen Tuggin carry a shield. Were they about to fight?
“The girl is a distraction. It is imperative you meet with the Mavens, today, yes?” said Enja after a very long silence.
“As you wish.” Tuggin sounded as if he were speaking through clenched teeth.
“Very good. You will do as ordered, yes?”
“As always.” Then he murmured so low I had to strain to hear, “Haley is alone, and there is none to mourn her when she does not survive.”
I had to stifle the gag bursting from my throat. I tiptoed down the hall then bolted. I skidded around a corner, falling and scraping my knee. I ignored the pain and jumped down the steps two at a time. When I reached the Great Room I collapsed on the stairs.
I sucked in large amounts of air through my teeth, willing myself not to puke. Yeah, Tuggin could be a tool, and he’d kidnapped me and lied to me and tied me up, but he’d also saved my life…twice. Had he just been ordered to kill me? Why?I was jetting this place. Now. I was halfway down the stairs when I stumbled to a halt. The doors to the Great Room were guarded by two guys that were totally jacked, their muscles desperately trying to pop the seams in their purple vests, which were sharply bright against black leggings. The guards’ clothes may have brought on a chuckle; their sharp swords didn’t.