Hi everyone! Today I'm featuring the third chapter of THE DRYAD OF CALLAIRE. If you missed the first two you can find them here:
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THE SHOCK OF SORRY
I drag my attention from the Numen and the spell of violence collapses. The beast loses its grip on me and Yasmin comes flooding back. I remember who I am, what I’m willing to do and what I’m not. My eyes flicker between Rowan’s shell-shocked expression and the body at my feet, and I know I’ve crossed that precious line that separates me from true monstrosity. And I chose to cross it—I gave the beast permission.
Blood runs from the corners of my mouth, each drop painfully loud to my Crea-enhanced ears as it hits the floor. My heart begins to race, and I can’t wrap my head around the dead thing at my feet, the blood staining my mouth and hands. My gums ache as my teeth return to normal. A sob breaks free of my throat and I cover my mouth to keep the rest trapped—but all that does is make the scent of blood stronger. The stranger’s blood. The stranger I killed.
Did that Numen even take Fray?
I close my eyes tight and sink to the floor, chest shaking, head loud and full of denial. How could this happen? How could I do this?
“Yasmin?” Rowan repeats tentatively. I hear him step closer, over the body, and crouch in front of me. “Are you hurt? Who—holy shit,” he hisses. “Is that a Numen?”
I can’t answer.
“Yasmin?” Rowan’s hand falls on my shoulder. “Are you freaking out? Can you look at me?”
He’s brought the scent of Almery Wood inside with him, and that hint of familiarity helps me peel open my eyes. But my focus drifts past Rowan and I see the dead Numen again. My panic escalates.
“Okay,” Rowan exhales. “Shit. Okay. Just try to calm down, and I’ll deal with that.” He jerks his chin at the body. “That okay with you?”
I force my head to move up and down, a jerky agreement. Now that the adrenaline is wearing off, I’m becoming aware of my leg throbbing under the gauze wrapped around it. I must have aggravated the injury I got during the last Change. My shoulder and back don’t feel great, either.
Massaging my aches and pains, I listen as Rowan drags the Numen into the living room. He bangs into a piece of wrecked furniture and drops the dead thing, swearing the whole time. The next thing I know, he’s pressing a wet towel into my hands. I look up to find him frowning at me. The carpet has been scrubbed in an attempt to clean it, though the blood has only spread further and a dark streak now leads away from the hall where he dragged the body.
“Come on.” He puts an arm around my shoulders to help me up. “I’ll take you to the Academy and you can tell us what happened.”
I use the dripping towel to clean my face and hands, feeling sick as the cream flannel turns pink with blood. “Not yet.”
Rowan’s expression tightens but he doesn’t argue. He takes the sodden towel from me, tilts my face up with a gentle hand, and wipes the remaining blood from my chin. “Did that thing hurt you?”
“No. I’m … I’m okay.”
“That’s bullshit and we both know it.” He kicks aside a fallen key rack and throws the towel into the kitchen sink. “But who am I to question your denial?”
My face grows warm as I stave off tears, following Rowan into the kitchen. “Are you going to tell them?” I whisper. “The Red? About … what I did?”
“Do you want me to?”
“Don’t. Please.” Feeling like my head is resting on the executioner’s block, I watch Rowan debate with himself. His brows are bunched together, his eyes black and anxious. “Fine,” he agrees eventually. “If you don’t want them knowing, that’s your choice. For the record, I don’t think you did anything wrong. I’d have killed that guy too, if I could, if he’d taken my girlfriend.” He purses his lips, glancing around the bright kitchen. “About Fearne … I’ll have to tell her about this. I can’t keep secrets from her. I don’t want to.”
As he speaks the walls close around me, the shiny cabinets tilting towards me. I burst out of the room, through the doorway, and onto the field between Fray’s house and Almery. I drag in breath after breath of cold air until my head has stopped spinning and the fist gripping my chest has unclenched.
“Look,” Rowan says, “if it’s that big a deal, I can keep this from Fearne.” He trudges across the grass to stand in front of me, hands shoved in his jean pockets. “I’ll hate keeping a secret from her but I don’t want you having a panic attack every time you see her.”
“Thank you,” I gasp. The top of Rowan’s blue T-shirt is speckled with rain; I stare at the darker blots in the cotton to avoid his concerned frown. I can’t interpret the expression or understand why he’s directing it at me. Rowan can’t stand me. He made that perfectly clear at the Matronalia party when he blamed a failed ceremony on me, called me unnatural, and told everyone I kicked Juno out of a dream to turn the Red against me. “What are you doing here, Rowan?” I ask. “Did you follow me?”
“Yeah.” His voice becomes uncertain. “I wanted to apologise for the shit I said about you. And for the shit I said … to you.”
“You wanted to apologise?” That’s absurd enough that I make eye contact before my nerves can convince me otherwise. “To me?”
“Yeah.” He scratches the scruff on his jaw. “Look, I know I’ve been a complete dick to you and you’ve got no reason to forgive me for any of that shit, but I want you to know I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said any of it, and I know it was fucked up, but I was … I was freaked out. The Majick had never reacted like that before. I could feel it going wrong and I …” He shudders. “I shouldn’t have taken that out on you but you were an easy target. Truth is you scare the crap out of me, Yasmin. And I’m sorry for that.”
He watches me, waiting for something. A response? A laugh? I don’t react. Of course he’d be scared of me. I’m scared of me. I fold my arms around my damp coat like I can protect myself from his fear.
“Don’t look like that. I didn’t mean it that way. It’s my problem, not yours.” I sense him gearing up for something he’s reluctant to do, or say. “Did you know my parents are Numina? My adoptive parents, I mean—the ones who raised me.”
I shake my head stiffly, Rowan’s taut reluctance affecting me too.
“The first I heard about you was through them. I heard them talking one night about Venus’s daughter who had two kinds of Majick. That was years ago, though. What made me resent you was—” He inhales a sharp breath. “A month ago, my mums told me there was a huge fuckin’ fight going on in the Legend Mirror about us, and that you were all everyone was talking about.”
I look at the grass beneath my feet, still missing the point. “Me?”
“Venus had been bragging about you, saying you were powerful and gonna help her project or some shit. Anyway, a group of Numina heard my mums talking about it and got really pissed.” His voice morphs into something darker. “They lynched my mums and kicked them through an illegal gateway between worlds. And I had all that anger at you and Venus—and you came back to the Red three days later.”
“And it’s my fault they were hurt,” I finish. “That’s why you hate me.”
He rolls his eyes to the grey sky. “I don’t fuckin’—shit, sorry—I didn’t realise I was swearing so much.” He laughs. “Bad habit or coping mechanism—take your pick of excuses.”
I just stare at him.
Rowan scuffs the grass with his Converse. “What I’m saying is, I know what happened to my mums wasn’t your fault. I get that now and I don’t hate you. And I wanted to say sorry for treating you like sh—crap. I was taking my anger out on you and that was supremely messed up. You still make me nervous as hell, but I’m making an effort to be a better guy. When I almost died in that fight—when I literally died—I swore I’d stop being an asshole when I woke up. And I realised I’d never treated Ran or the Hannam sisters as bad as I treated you, even though they’re Crea with Majick too.” His mouth twists into a wry smile. “And now I feel extra shitty for you because you’ve lost your Earth, and I was pretty much condemning you for having it.”
“I get it. You don’t hate me anymore because I’ve lost half my Majick. I’m not as dangerous to you now.” I shrug. “Makes sense.”
“No. Fuck. That’s not what I meant.” He cards his fingers through his hair. “I’m going to stop making this worse and just apologise. So, Yasmin, I’m sorry.”
I’m not sure I believe him, not entirely, but I say, “I forgive you.” And then I make myself brave and add, “Do you think you can keep Fearne from telling everyone what I did here?”
The tension leaves Rowan. “I can. She won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
“Thank you.” I feel less inclined to break apart now so I manage to speak without wavering. “I don’t want my brother to know, or Mavers.”
“Agreed on Mavers.” Rowan begins walking, looking over his shoulder to see if I’ll follow him into the trees. There are no clues in Fray’s home, nothing that will lead me to her, so with a last look at the house, I step over the gravel Ward. “You reckon he’ll ever get over it?” he asks. “Amity selling us out.”
“I don’t know.” I pull my coat closer around me, raindrops sliding down the inside of my wrist. I convince myself I’m just walking one of Almery’s trails with a sort-of-friend. I’m not walking away from the scene of a crime. “I hope so. I don’t know what we’ll do without him.”
“We’ll figure it out.” Rowan glances at me quickly, then away. “Thanks for giving me a chance. I swear I’m not that big an asshole once you get to know me.”
“You don’t have to thank me.”
“Alright then.” He kicks a stone from the path. “I should probably tell you something though.” I look at him askance. “When I moved that guy—the Numen? I left him in the front room and went upstairs to find a sheet or something to wrap him in.”
I breathe slowly. I will not hyperventilate again.
“When I went back …” I feel Rowan’s panic and guess what happened before he says the words. “He was gone. Full on disappeared. I should’ve told you earlier but I wasn’t sure if you’d freak.” He eyes me warily. “You’re not going to freak out again are you?”
“Probably.” I laugh and the sound is wretched. “No,” I decide after a moment. “I’m not going to freak out. So the Numen disappeared?”
“Yeah. Weirded me the fuck out. Do you think he’ll come back?” He scans the woods around us and inches closer to me, the dangerous Crea that already tore out the throat of a Numen. This more than anything he’s said convinces me Rowan really is past his revulsion of me.
“Yes,” I answer. “I think they’ll definitely come back.”
“Oh, good,” Rowan laughs. “That’s reassuring.” When I don’t say anything, he takes my elbow to halt my steps. “I should have said this earlier—we’ll find Fray, Yasmin. If these Numina are still around Callaire, there’ll be a way to find her.”
I bite the inside of my cheek.
“Aw man, don’t cry.” Rowan shocks the apology from the tip of my tongue by wrapping me in a hug. He’s as warm as a furnace and so tall my head only comes to his jaw despite the fact I’m only an inch below six foot. “We’ll get her back,” he repeats. “We’ll figure it out.”
“You said that about Mavers,” I mumble.
“It’s my go-to phrase.” He steps back, holds my shoulders. “You know you’re brave as hell, right? If Fearne went missing I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed let alone come back to her house to look for her.” His mouth twitches into a sad smile. “She won’t be missing forever. We’ll find her and we’ll save her. Don’t know how but—”
“We’ll figure it out?” I laugh, wiping my tears away.
“Exactly. You’re starting to get it.” He releases me, lets his arms swing at his sides. “Ready to go back?”
I look at myself—my knees are dusty, my coat wet and hanging open over my blood-stained shirt.
“Do I look like I just killed someone?”
He considers me for a long moment before helping me fasten the toggles of my coat. “All good. And about that, it wasn’t really a someone. It was more of a monster. And I’m guessing that was the guy who took Fray, so it was actually a girlfriend-kidnapping-monster. You shouldn’t feel bad about killing him. One—I’d have done the same and so would anyone else, and two—dead guys don’t usually get up and walk away from having their throat ripped open.”
I know he’s right but it doesn’t make me feel any more human.
Rowan’s expression is sympathetic. When he offers me a hand, I take it and close my eyes. The world vibrates around us as Rowan’s Gateway Majick takes hold. It feels like I’m made of nothing, weightless and formless, before reality surges back and spits me out the other end. I open my eyes on the Academy. Tall birch trees curve around the path up to the gothic red mansion, a sight that has quickly come to mean home again.
“Before we go in,” Rowan starts and I look over at him, dropping his hand. “We should probably figure out a cover story. They need to know a Numen is in Callaire. I’d say knowing they can’t be killed by slitting their throats ranks high in things everyone should know, as well.”
“Okay,” I agree.
“I’ll say I killed him, grabbed a knife from Fray’s kitchen or something. I’ll make sure they don’t find out about you.” He gives me a strange look. “This is probably none of my business, but are you alright? You were pretty Crea back there. I mean full on, out of control Crea.”
Rowan rolls his eyes. “You’re giving me sarcasm, now?” He squints at the narrow windows on the Academy’s second floor and says more seriously, “I don’t know shit about Changing but you have people that do. You should talk to them. You’re not on your own here. Obviously I don’t get the Crea thing but Vic does, and Ran and Cornelia.”
My mood softens. People keep telling me that—I’m not alone. It was frustrating at first but now the irritation has worn off, I feel warm and wanted. That feeling makes me honest when I answer. “I’m not completely okay. I won’t be until I find Fray. But I’m not usually so beastly. Or I try not to be.” I confess, “I just saw that stranger and I got so angry.”
“You wanted him to pay. I know what that’s like.”
I give him a questioning look but before I can ask what he means, he looks past me and his eyes light up.
“Where the hell have you been?” Fearne screeches. I watch her storm towards us, dark hair flicking through the air like Medusa’s snakes. I imagine their fangs sinking into my neck.
Rowan grins. “Fighting Numina. Saving damsels. Just everyday stuff.”
“Numina?” Alarm cracks Fearne’s anger and she runs the rest of the distance. She grabs Rowan’s arm as her eyes roam over him. “You fought a Numen? Was it Discordia? How are you not dead?” Her voice breaks on the last word. I have a flashback of her curled over his body in the chaos of battle.
“Yes. No. And I stabbed him in the neck. He sorta died, sorta didn’t. I’ll explain inside.” He steers her down the path, motioning me along with a gesture.
“No,” Fearne spits, stopping dead. “You’ll explain here.”
Fearne looks like she wants to hit someone. Rowan takes her face in his hands. “I’m fine, Fe. I promise you I’m alright.”
“Was it her fault?” Fearne’s glare turns on me. “What did you do?”
“She did nothing.” Rowan redirects his girlfriend’s wrath back to himself. “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Fearne points at me, says, “You put my boyfriend in danger again and I’ll kill you. I mean it.” She raises a cloud of dust as she pivots on her heel and heads back to the Academy, her footsteps a battle song.
Rowan faces me. “She doesn’t actually mean it. She’s just worried about me. She gets pissy when she’s worried.”
“That’s pissy?” I trap a laugh in my throat. “I thought that was murderous.”
“Don’t worry about Fearne.” He bumps my shoulder. “She might mean you harm but she’d never actually do it.”
I’m about to say I don’t believe him when Guy comes sprinting towards us. He skids to a stop just shy of crashing into me.
“I’m alright,” I say before he can ask.
Guy and Rowan have a silent conversation of raised eyebrows, frowns, and back slapping; I think Rowan tells Guy he’s unhurt but I don’t exactly understand the exchange.
“Where did they find you?” Guy asks me. “The Numen?”
“In Fray’s house,” I reply quietly.
“Was she there? Was she with them? Was it Discordia?”
I look at my scuffed shoes. “Can we talk inside?”
Without waiting for an answer, I start for the front steps. From the corner of my eye I see Rowan shake his head at Guy, telling him what I can’t. Fray wasn’t there. Hopeless, I reach out for her, following the ribbon of our connection until I get to the frayed edge. I knew I wouldn’t find her but that doesn’t stop me trying and breaking my heart.
Rowan shouts after me, “Shit, Yasmin, I forgot what I came to tell you.”
I wait for him to catch up. “Didn’t you want to apologise for being a ‘complete dick’?”
He laughs through his nose. “Yeah, I did. But I also wanted to tell you about my mums’ cottage.”
“It’s creepy. It’s in the middle of a forest. It’s a cabin in the woods situation.”
“No, I mean my mums have a creepy cottage far from here. I know it’s a long shot but it’s drenched
in Majick signatures; it could have drawn Discordia there. I thought we could start there.”
“Start what?” I swallow the lump in my throat.
“Looking for Fray.”
He means to actually, physically, look for her. It’s written on his honest face that he believes Fray can be found. I look at Rowan for a long, long second and then I burst into tears.
The Dryad of Callaire, by Saruuh Kelsey
The Legend Mirror, book 2
Release date: 18/08/15
The Legend Mirror series returns with more mythology, more danger, and more Majick as Yasmin Wikke sets out on a quest to find her missing girlfriend.
Reeling from the fight with Discordia, Yasmin and the Red search for answers. Who is Discordia? Why were they stealing Majick? And where have they taken Fray and Priscilla Hannam, a Legendary swept away in the midst of battle? To get them back, Yasmin will have to ally with both Gods and strangers, and go to extreme lengths.
Fray and Priscilla have been stolen, taken to an impossible place that is slowly changing them. Their captors are monsters with venom in their teeth and bloody hands, and they want to use the girls to win a war. But armed with a terrifying and empowering new ability, Fray will die before she becomes their pawn.
About the Author:
Saruuh Kelsey is the author of several novels for young adults, including the free Lux Guardians series and The Legend Mirror series. Find her at http://saruuhkelsey.co.uk/
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