Bel was tired of living under damn shields. Finding an underground cave to live in alone for the rest of his life sounded like heaven. Fortunately, his family was too preoccupied with their own issues to be in his face all the time. He should be worried about how quiet Blae, Aliceanna and Mauve became. He should be. The beautiful silence told him not to care. Divine wasn’t doing any better. He didn’t know Lifeblood beings could get sick. At least Divine was strong enough to walk around without help. Kaige was still a little green.
Bel sat on the back steps of Kaige’s cabin in Anon. He felt, through his shield, where his family was.
A convy passed the cabin. That was the second one. Convy’s never passed Anon. The town was too far into the forest and too close to the Aldric Abyss. He couldn’t see who was in the convy. With those vehicles, they could only come front Denont, taking the road around the Orlon Mountain Range. From the sound of it, the convy was larger than Bel’s War Machine. The rattling gave him a headache. They altered the machine to take a beating.
People in Denont Territory were the best prepared for what Darkness’ masters planned for Jael. Not a comforting thought.
They were on their way to taking over this territory, Nevin and probably all of Jael. The convy drove on without stopping. Bel didn’t smell anything usual about the humans.
Kaige’s cabin in Anon wasn’t nearly as large as they needed it to be. Seven people living in a two-room cabin was unpleasant enough. Seven highly volatile people who didn’t know when to stop being blunt was a nightmare.
His only solitude was the back porch. He put a shield around the area. Anyone in the cabin could get through it. When it was up, they knew to leave him alone. Most of them even paid attention to his desire for solitude.
His sister, however, did not.
“What do you want, Nee?”
She walked out the back door and down the stairs. She stood in front of him.
“Blae is not doing well and you need to talk to him.”
Damn, Xurice was supposed to have taken care of Blae.
“Why me?” He knew why.
“I can barely help myself. I’m the last person he’d open up to. Aliceanna has the emotional maturity of a toddler. Divine…he would be the best one to talk to him but he—”
“So, I’m the last resort? Why now, after everything that’s going on? Why is it important now?”
Her eyes flared red. Her power didn’t. She finally inherited some of Divine’s self-control.
“I was giving Blae space. He’s not the type to open up to anyone, without being forced. He usually solves his problems on his own. Whatever happened to him in Shepherd’s Hook unhinged him. You know he needs help.”
Bel was not dumb enough to respond to that.
“Why haven’t you?” she continued.
The reason sounded pathetic in his head, saying it aloud would be cringe worthy. Unfortunately, several nights of meditation gave Nee more patience. She’d wait days for him to answer her.
“I prepared myself to be the main source of income, but never older brother. I don’t want that role.”
The red in her eyes exploded. “Stop being a baby and just do it. If Aliceanna was in the same position, what would you do?”
“You clearly don’t know me well. I’d do nothing because Divine would take care of it.”
Bel tightened his lips. He spoke without thinking. Nee stared at him like he was rotting corpse.
“Talk to your little brother.” She walked back in the house.
What would he say to Blae?
Because of Blae’s connection with Nee, he felt everything she did. He didn’t have anyone’s core to retreat to, no one to dump his feelings onto. He could take refuge inside Nee’s core. Blae didn’t want more Nee. Divine was too busying trying not to worry about…everyone to be any real use to anyone.
To make things worse, Blae, through Nee, knew about this conversation. He wasn’t going to make this easy.
Blae usually showed up around dinner time- not too far from now. Bel simply needed to wait.
Anon was a collection of cabins humans owned, but rarely stayed in. Blae now stayed in an empty cabin well outside of the community area. Bel knew the family that lived there most of the year. They didn’t take good care of this place and wanted no help with it. That was why people came to Anon. They didn’t want to be part of a family community, but they also didn’t want to be so remote they’d be on their own if attacked.
The small family cabins were spaced far enough apart to give each resident their privacy. They were raised off the ground since it rained most of the years in Northwest Jael. The nearby stream flooded often. This place was dreary. Jael already didn’t get much sun. Damn it was cold. It didn’t feel like spring. They wouldn’t be here long. Anon needed supplies. One shield over the community was damaged. The others were weaker than they should be.
Kaige needed to fix his shields.
Bel waited on the back steps. Blae still didn’t shown up. Everyone was home, heading to bed. Blae didn’t show up for dinner. Strange but not unusual. An entire day of silence, an entire day of doing nothing but waiting for Blae. Bliss.
It wasn’t total bliss.
Bel heard too many convys drive by. They reeked of humans, Miners, gun power and something else. It smelled sweet. He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t like it. Fortunately, the convys were taking the main road. So far, no one showed any interest in this area.
Maybe his family could take Shade or Niah’s boat and live overseas.
No. According to Bleak, Jael was the safest land in the world. They didn’t need to go someplace were Darkness was stronger.
At times like this, he was envious of Bleak. She didn’t have to deal with life anymore.
This probably wasn’t the best time to be so close to Denont. Bel didn’t know or care how the Walled cities functioned. Denont seemed to be the most ambitious. They were the only territory that accepted the existence of otherworldly beings. They somehow attracted Miners who spent most of their lives in hiding. These Lifeblood beings were now taking Denonts and their weapons through the Walls.
Bel didn’t know whether Denont would be a problem. He needed to know. He couldn’t take his family into that territory just to investigate.
Humans were too clever for their own good.
What did he have to do now? He visited Isla, Shepherd’s Hook and now Anon. Vayle and Niah made sure Sovereign wouldn’t need supplies for months. His villages were all self-sustaining. They only needed him to maintain shields and manage trade. Most humans had Lifeblood infused objects that let them travel across Jael without being poison by the Darkness. Those objects didn’t work on intelligent wild animals who saw humans as food.
Blae walked towards the house with his shoulders low and his eyes to the ground.
Blae sighed. “You’re in my way.”
Blae’s blue eyes always glowed with his twisted schemes. Now, those eyes didn’t care about anything. Blae’s skin was too pale—like he avoided what little sun they got.
Bel didn’t move. Blae didn’t need to use the back door to get into the cabin.
“I’m not suddenly going to open up you.” Blae folded his arms.
Bel leaned back on the steps.
“I’ll talk, then,” Bel said. “When we were in Silhouette, you know I was the only one without a connection. My play siblings, Divine and Aliceanna, had one and my blood sibling, had one. Even Kaige was connected with his parents. I was trapped on my own island listening to the great party from the surrounding land.”
Blae made a hacking noise. Bel ignored him.
“So,” Bel continued, “You know we can smell a person’s emotions. I monitored Divine and Aliceanna’s emotions and trained my body to mirror them, to imitate a connection.”
Bel would not be embarrassed. That resolve meant nothing put against Blae’s breathless laughter.
Why did Blae’s laugh sound foreign? The last time Bel heard such a joyous sound coming from Blae was before Nee’s accident, maybe even before Divine’s accident.
Blae sat up, breathing heavy and whipping his eyes.
“It wasn’t that funny,” Bel grumbled.
“Oh yes it was.”
Blae sighed out his last laugh.
“That’s nothing.” Blae said. “When I was in Silhouette, I spent a couple of years trying to convince people I wasn’t related to Nee. I went as far as calling her horrible names and treating her the same way Divine did. Remember, I moved out and lived with Chrys for a while. The only reason I returned to Midnight Prysn was because Kaige dragged me back.”
Kaige dragged him back? Kaige was strong. Nothing was a match for Blae’s stubbornness. He was worse than Nee.
“Impossible, I know,” Blae tipped his head to the side. “Now that I think about it, we must’ve been working on less than half our strength. Kaige shouldn’t be able to physically force me to do anything. No matter how I fought him, he kept dragging me.” Blae sat on the ground. “Damn the Darkness, it’s unfair being connected to someone like Nee. My emotional meter is closer to Divine’s, Nee’s get these damn spikes several times a day and it eats my puny self-control. I become pissed for no reason. I hate our connection.”
Bel nodded. When he got over his own emotions, he gave some serious thought about the connections. He was glad he didn’t have those kinds of bonds with anyone.
“Somehow Divine’s connected with Nee and he actually likes her,” Blae continued. “Too bad I can’t talk to him.”
Bel didn’t enjoy that stinging in his chest. Why was it always Divine?
“Their connection is different. They don’t die if their bonds are cut.” Bel couldn’t keep the ire out of his voice.
Blae stretched legs in front of him.
“Shepherd’s Hook made me remember things.” Blae turned his head to the sky. “I feel it, whenever I hurt Nee. It’s like being stabbed by a hot blade. That,” Blae waved his hand, “place made me feel it all at once. I don’t understand why Nee likes me. She must hate me but she’s hiding her emotions so I can’t sense it through the connection. But, that’s not something Nee would do. She doesn’t know how to do it. Maybe she can and she hid it well. I want get my hands around the Brielle that disguised themselves as my guardians. I want to make them scream. While I’m at it I’ll kill the Prysns for…existing. Maybe I’ll break your legs for pretending I wasn’t your brother for years.”
Would he keep going? Seemed like he wanted to keep going? No wonder Nee couldn’t figure out what was going on in his mind. Bel just listened to it and he barely u nderstood.
Was Divine’s mind that chaotic?
Bel replayed what Blae said.
“Nee isn’t you. She can be devious but she doesn’t play with family.”
Blae jumped to his feet.
“I know that. Why doesn’t she hate me?”
Bel shrugged. “Because she’s Nee.”
Blae glared at him. He looked like a puppy trying to be vicious. Bel folded his lips so he wouldn’t laugh.
“Why don’t you talk to her?” Bel continued.
“Do you know how pathetic I sound?” Blae paced.
Where was Divine? Bel didn’t know what he was supposed to do. By some miracle, he got Blae to open up to him. Now what?
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