Good Sunday Morning, babies! Yes, I'm back with sample Sunday...I've been away the last couple of Sundays (and a lot of days in between) but life should be settling down to a more scheduled chaos! LOL
Sooooo, where we left off with Haley. It's getting harder for Haley to ignore some feelings for Tuggin as they set off for home. They witness a battle between the Fire and Water gods, and after discovering human collateral damage, Haley seriously begins to wonder if she really is the one with the power to stop the war...and if she could actually do something about it.
Let's roll on to the next chapter!
I was vaguely aware. I heard murmuring, and my hands and feet were cold, but I wasn’t really awake. I rubbed my eyes and tried to bring the blurred edges of the cafeteria into focus.
Elana sat next to me at a table. Ian stood in front of us, looking at Elana as though he’d just asked her a question. Where was Tuggin? And Eyidora?
“For crying out loud,” I blurted. How could I have fallen asleep right there in the cafeteria? And I’d been having a weird dream. I hoped I didn’t talk in my sleep.
“Excuse me?” Elana asked.
“I said, for crying out loud,” I said at the same time that Ian said, “I asked you about Haley.”
He smiled, very slowly. I didn’t care that he didn’t seem to notice me sitting there, or that he’d just talked right over me…his smile was beautiful enough to forgive such trivial offenses. I smiled, too.
Then it hit me: Ian knew my name. The excitement filling my chest just about pushed my heart through my ribs. Maybe I’d fallen and knocked myself out and he was worried about me. Couldn’t he see that I was okay, grinning at him like a dweeb?
“Leave Haley alone.” Elana jumped up and turned away.
Ian grabbed her shoulder and whirled her to face him. “Don’t you think we’d make a good couple?”
“No.” Elana jerked free from his grip.
I frowned. What was Elana doing? Was she mad that Ian had finally noticed me? Was Elana jealous because he’d dumped her?
“Elana!” I snapped, trying to get her to shut up before she screwed my chance with Ian. I didn’t think I’d get more than one.
They ignored me.
“What’s the matter, Elana?” Ian asked.
I waved my arm. “Hello! Are you guys listening to me?”
Ian continued. “Are you afraid I’m going to spill your little secret?”
“If my secret is blown, then so is yours,” Elana said.
“Come on you guys.” I leaped to my feet. “Why are you ignoring me?”
“Doesn’t matter. See, Haley’s in love with me.” Ian laughed softly. “She’ll take me just the way I am, don’t you think?”
My mouth dropped open and my face erupted with heat, like a volcano blowing its top. Had I been that obvious about him?
“But you,” Ian continued, “you, she trusts completely and she will never forgive you.”
“Shut up.” Elana’s lips were pressed into a thin line.
I blinked. “What’s your problem, Elana?”
Elana wouldn’t look at me. She glared at Ian.
“Oh, no, you little witch,” Ian said. “You’re going to listen to me.”
“Hey! Don’t call her that.” I wanted to scream, grab them by the necks, make them look at me.
“What’s she going to think of her…friend…when she finds out you’ve lied to her? Spied on her?” Ian leaned close to Elana. “Pretended to be her friend?”
“Stop it.” I felt cold. Sick. “Tell him it’s not true.”
“You obviously don’t care about her the way I do.” Ian wore a smug smile.
“Liar. You do not care about her.”
“Says who? You?”
“Haley will believe me,” Elana whispered, though her face had gone white, and she slowly sank into her seat.
I’d never seen anyone pass out before, but it looked like Elana was about to keel over. A small snake of fear wiggled in my chest. It coiled around my heart and gave a gentle squeeze, enough to cause me a jolt of pain.
“I’ll bet that, as we speak, that brother of yours is spinning a web of lies so thick she’ll never see through the darkness shadowing her mind. What does she see when she looks at his eyes? Hmm?”
“He is not like that,” she whispered. “He would not hurt her.”
Ian laughed. The crowded lunchroom faded. Elana didn’t have any brothers. Except Tuggin. That had been a dream, hadn’t it? The shadowy room spun. That meant Tuggin was real…Eyidora was real. And Elana and Ian were talking about me right there in my high school cafeteria and Ian was worried that Tuggin was going to hurt me, and all of this meant that they hadn’t forgotten about me, like Tuggin had said. No. No!
“This is some kind of sick joke, right?” I said.
Ian went on. “He holds secrets in his eyes, secrets that even you don’t know about. You were raised together, but how well do you really know your brother?”
Elana made a strangled sound. Forget fainting, Elana looked like she was about to puke.
Ian rested his hands on the table and leaned toward Elana, his face inches from hers. “Your brother’s been trained by the best there is, trained in the art.” He leaned even closer, so close it looked like he was about to brush her cheek with his lips. “And Tuggin, as you well know, is quite the master.”
Elana leaped up, knocking her chair over, and then turned so fast her hair flung away from her shoulder. A hoop earring with colored beads flashed from her ear before she ran down the hallway.
“Elana!” I shouted.
The pounding of Elana’s heels echoed when she ran.
“Elana!” I called again. “Come back and talk to me. Elana!”
I bolted upright, gasping and shivering in a frosty field. I threw my head back only to see twinkling stars winking at the moons. No Ian…no Elana…no school.
“What is wrong?”
I turned to find Tuggin standing over me. I rubbed my hands over my face. “Nothing.”
“You do not speak truth. You called my sister-mate’s name.”
“You mean Elana?”
I pulled my knees up to my chest. “Oh, wait. That’s right. You told me your family was dead.”
Tuggin had the decency to bow his head. “Please to forgive.”
“Whatever. I just had a nightmare, that’s all.”
Tuggin squatted beside me. “What meaning is nightmare?”
“Bad dream. It seemed so real.”
“You dream of Elana?”
“Another was in this dream as well?”
I couldn’t shake the feeling that it hadn’t been a dream. Impossible. Earth had to be, what, a gajillion miles away, for all I knew.
“Disclose who was in this dream,” Tuggin demanded.
I flinched. “A guy from my school on Earth. They were arguing.”
“What did they argue of?”
My thoughts tumbled like a combination lock. Suddenly, the pins all hit and the connection opened. Elana’s earring. Enja had one and, of course, so did Tuggin. My mouth dried up like the parched land. Elana was a Menta. Had she only pretended to be my friend? Was she part of the plot to “neutralize” me?
“Haley?” Tuggin prodded. “What did they argue of?”
I faced him. “Me.”
His brow creased. “This is curious. Why do the Eyids send a message of my sister-mate and an Earth-kin boy?”
I swallowed loudly. I’d been duped into forgetting about my plan to escape. Duped by Tuggin’s good looks. Duped by Tuggin’s pretend niceness.
Duped by my own stupidity.
“I don’t know.”
Tuggin stood. “Or will not reveal to me?”
“I…I don’t want to talk about it right now.” I used a fingernail to remove some dirt beneath my thumbnail.
Tuggin blinked and the soft lines in his face hardened. “Very well.” He strode back to his blanket and lay down with his back to me.
I balled my hands into fists. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Tuggin didn’t want to be with me; Enja had forced him be with me. Maybe the truth had been hiding behind a pair of baby blues, like Ian had said. Eventually, Tuggin would hurt me, just as Enja ordered him to. I’d been fooling myself; I didn’t mean a damn thing to Tuggin.
Why wasn’t he killing me? Or maybe, if I was a Seer, he was taking me to the Eny, planning on torturing me so I’d tell them what was in my dreams. Maybe I wasn’t going to Sabina at all.
I bit the knuckles on my fist so I wouldn’t scream. I wished this whole nightmare would end. But should I be afraid of the sleeping nightmares—or the waking ones?
A rose hue glistened on the frost as the sun climbed over the horizon. While Tuggin slept I thought about what I knew about Mentas, the whole emotion-reading and mind-control thing. And Ian had given me a clue, something about the eyes.
Tuggin shifted in his sleep. I gave the sleipnir water and grain while my mind raced. Mutant talking birds and mutant eight-legged horses were one thing…but mutant people with mind powers? I dropped the grain bucket.
If I was a Seer, was I mutant, too?
I took a deep breath so I could push that thought down and focus on my dream. What did I see when I looked at Tuggin’s eyes? Nothing. They were pretty, of course, but lifeless. Tuggin had been trained in something he was really good at. Had Ian been talking about lunta, or the other power that Nala wouldn’t talk about?
“Morning greetings,” Tuggin said.
I’d been stroking Sorrel’s neck, deep in thought, and started at the sound of his voice.
“Morning.” I took a plum from him and sat.
“You are…competent,” he said in a stiff voice, watching the sleipnir.
He didn’t look at me when he spoke, and he seemed pissed about the night before. I could only imagine the Herculean effort it was for him to pretend to be nice. He must have a big plan to get me to trust him, which was funny considering my big plan to trick him into trusting me.
“Yeah, it’s amazing what can be accomplished when you’re not tied up,” I said.
Tuggin darted a glance at me and I cleared my throat. “So, I was wondering, how do Mentas do that lunta stuff?”
Tuggin studied his plum’s purple skin for a moment. Smoothing it with his finger, he said, “Through the eyes.” He glanced at me. “Earth-kin say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. It is very astute, that Earth-kin should understand this.”
All the spit in my mouth evaporated. Had Tuggin been brainwashing me?
“Un-like your own,” he said.
“They do not remain of one color. You see through different colored eyes.”
I locked gazes with him. Tuggin broke the connection, taking a bite of his plum. Beads of sweat crawled down my back. If those earrings were the Menta’s symbol, maybe a group of Mentas was a coven that forced people to do stuff against their will.
I fought the urge to look at him, afraid he’d put me under a spell or whatever it was lunta did to someone. “You never told me what they protect or enforce.”
“Most enforce the laws of the laks. Others protect the Council.”
I rubbed a spot on my plum, and then asked, “Like your leaders?”
“Indeed. Each lak selects four Council members.” Tuggin glanced at me, as if he were going to say more, but then looked away.
I nibbled my fruit. “What do they need protection from?”
I jerked my head up. “People try to kill the Council members?”
One side of Tuggin’s mouth lifted in a fake smile that didn’t even come close to reaching his eyes. “It is war, tenya. Eyidora is weak. There are some who would stop at nothing to control this globe’s destiny.”
“Do you think an Eyid descendant wants to control the globe’s destiny?”
Tuggin blinked. “You know of the Eyid-emos?”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “There is a tale of the Eyid-emos, if you desire to hear it.”
It was my turn to blink. “Sure.”
“Centuries ago an Eyid-emos, Tomas, desired control over the Eyids. Tomas stole the Stones of Power from the Web of Harmony, and the Eyids went to war.”
“So where are those stones now?” I asked, casually biting my plum though my stomach felt like I’d swallowed the pit.
“It is not known. The other Eyid-emos also lusted for power, and there were many betrayals amongst the Eyid houses. Tomas hid the stones before his death. It is said that Tomas’s descendants guarded the location of the stones, awaiting the birth of the next Eyid-emos, though that knowledge has been lost over the centuries.”
Tuggin seemed to know an awful lot about the story. I thought about how electric the air felt when I was near him. Did everyone feel that way around Tuggin? Could Tuggin be the descendant of the Fire Eyid? That would be a hell of a secret.
Tuggin…two-timing player. The realization snaked from my head to my chest, twisting and biting and filling me with its numbing poison. Was Tuggin playing the Eny, pretending to go along with their plans, while using me to find my stone and keep it for himself?
“Sounds bad,” I whispered.
“There are some who believe the Eyid houses are corrupt. There are some who believe Eyidora fares better without the Eyid-emos in power.”
“Do you believe that?”
Tuggin didn’t answer.
I ignored the tingling in my fingers. “What’s this have to do with Mentas and the Council?”
“Eyidora fell into chaos. Council members were killed. They beseeched the Mentas to protect them and maintain order.”
“What’s your job?”
I hadn’t meant to whisper, but my throat had tightened. I wondered if it would piss him off that I asked about his job as a Menta, but he didn’t seem to notice. Or he didn’t care. Maybe I was already a goner no matter what. My swallow stuck in my dry throat, and I coughed.
Tuggin had finished his plum; he turned the pit in his fingers. “It is difficult to explain.”
“You don’t know what your job is?”
“I am aware of my duty,” he snapped.
Forget what Nomer had said. Forget the bee in his bonnet. Tuggin had a bee up his ass.
“Please to forgive,” Tuggin tossed the pit. “It is difficult to…”
“Why, if you told me, you’d have to kill me?”
Tuggin glared at me, his face a shade paler than white. My gaze swerved to his knife, and I wished I hadn’t brought up the whole killing subject.
“Why would you speak such a thing?” he snapped.
“It was a joke.”
“Death is not to laugh at.” He ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “The sun rises.”
Silently, we broke camp. I spent the rest of the day considering how Tuggin was playing me; as far as I knew, I’d been telling him things that I wasn’t even aware of saying, maybe I’d already told him I had a stone. I had to escape before I was totally brainwashed.
We were going north, so I couldn’t go that way. To the east was that Rally place or whatever Tuggin had called it. Crossing the desert to some smoke-filled town gave me the creeps, and I told myself that it had nothing to do with Tuggin’s warning to stay away. Behind me was that mountain Nala had told me to go to, but I didn’t like the idea of chancing a run-in with Enja while I passed Given Hall.
I turned my gaze to the south, a whole lot of nothingness—deserted and lonely. The Region of Fire. Only an idiot would go out there alone. I didn’t want to go out there alone, but I couldn’t follow Tuggin any longer.
I sighed, considering the dead land shimmying in the heat. When the moons rose, I’d jet.