Royal wandered to the pool, taking off her shirt and pants on the way. The small lake inside a cavern had fascinated her. Before she had learned science, Royal had believed magic created this. A part of her still did.
She dangled her feet into the warm water. She let the feeling ease all worries. Royal closed her eyes.
“Imagine your mind as a maze with many doors,” Kaige had said. “Behind each door is an attic of a house. Your goal is to reach the basement.”
She appeared at the mouth of the maze. She was inside her mind. The first time she did this, it took a while to materialize her body as it actually appeared instead of how she wanted it to look. Even now, her breasts and hips were on the large side.
Her Lifeblood didn’t reach for her. She called. It didn’t answer. Royal held on to her patience. She never had to find It. Her power never disobeyed her. It forgot the sound of her voice. If It knew the Sciell was calling, It wouldn’t ignore her. The Sciell? Was that what she was called? Where had she heard that name?
The air was toxic. The poison, it seemed, was supposed to affect their minds and it did. Maybe not the way their captors wanted. It created a thick raging wind. She had trouble seeing. This was her mind after all. She willed the wind to part. It did so, reluctantly.
Living as a human had removed some of the filth from her mind’s walls and floor. In Silhouette, another lifetime ago, the maze had been nothing but grime and fetid air. Now, white from the walls peeked through the stains. She could inhale without gagging. Rotting vines no longer cluttered the halls. They now existed in corners. They crawled across the ceiling. Her connections became physical strings. They ran above her.
Royal concentrated on where her power lived. At the bottom of a well, or at the basement of a house. That wasn’t right. Her Lifeblood was everywhere. Another mind, her core, lived at the bottom of that well. She didn’t remember whose mind it was. She walked on. Door and after door appeared. Her power wasn’t behind them, only memories. Kaige had said traveling the mind was never as simple as reaching out a hand and turning a knob, especially if she wasn’t ready for what was behind that door. Forcing a door open would only result badly.
The strings, her connections, disappeared behind a door. Her core lived here. Royal turned the knob. Nothing happened. She growled. This was her mind. She was in control. She pulled. It resisted. The door opened, slightly. She was ready to get to know her power again. The door opened all the way.
Wind rushed at her. Not wind, the Lifeblood controlled by the second mind. It lashed out at her with only one purpose. Pushing out the intruder. The Lifeblood attacked her mind. Cuts opened across her body. This wasn’t her real body. She didn’t feel physical pain. Her own power was attacking her mind. She no longer knew how to form words to command it to stop.
She sensed Divine behind her physical body. His shadow covered hers. He wrapped his arms around her neck, latching his mouth onto her skin. Royal controlled her desire to peel off his skin. Their minds melded. She relaxed. She was no longer Royal. He was no longer Divine. They were a different being who they hadn’t bothered to name. This wasn’t just her mind anymore.
The raging wind stopped attacking. Her powers and emotions became her own. At the connection with her other half, Royal’s core saw her for what she was. It felt horrible for attacking her. Not bad enough to apologize. Royal wanted to demand It beg for forgiveness. Divine held her back. They worked to repair the damage to their mind, what damage they could repair.
Finally, they were done. The Lifeblood filled the hallways.
It felt like home. This was where they truly belonged. The two minds knew each other intimately. At least, that hadn’t changed.
Royal and Divine never understood the connection they had. She, at one time, sat with Kaige and even Bel when they were on neutral territory to discuss it. They never understood why the connections existed. At this point, it no longer mattered.
The wind howled. It no longer had the power to hurt.
“Stop,” they commanded.
The wind died. A great trench separated them from the room. They leapt it, landing in an empty attic. The other mind, in the depths of their power, reached through the floor, tasting them. It wasn’t enough. They needed to go lower. The room didn’t have a door other than the one they just entered through. They wanted to break through the floor. That would cause this other mind to withdraw. What were they supposed to do now?
They left. In the hallway, they reached for the strings running along the ceiling. They recognized the feel behind each connection, except one. They commanded that singular string to reach for them. It felt familiar. They wanted to ride the string to the person it was attached to. The connection was brittle. It couldn’t handle the task of transporting them to the other side.
Divine pulled away— mind and body. Royal opened her eyes to the cave.
“You’re connected to my brother,” Divine said.
“How long have we known each other?” Royal asked instead.
He shrugged. “That impatience of yours is starting to get old.” He cracked his neck, “After every time we melded, I became more volatile than usual. I’d mouth off at people who looked at me wrong.”
Royal snorted. “You were always volatile.”
“Yes, but I always had more self-control than you. It felt like I was infected with your impatience.”
Royal liked melding with Divine’s mind. For a while, depending on how long the minds were one, she was delightfully nice. She didn’t lash out when someone annoyed her. She merely looked at them and they’d wet themselves. Amazing how powerful a look could be, far more powerful than screaming. People could ignore her voice. They couldn’t ignored the feelings a withering glare could uproot. Oh how ashen their faces would get.
“You always got the better end of the deal,” Divine said dryly.
“I understand how we draw power from human Darkness.” Royal chewed on her lip. “I can’t understand how we can pull power from physical Darkness. It’s not alive. It’s just a time of day.”
Divine pushed a small book over her shoulder. She took it and fingered the butterfly symbol on the front. Royal wanted desperately to read. This book was important to him. What if she ruined it?
She grabbed Divine’s hand. Her skin crawled. She pushed back her revulsion. Royal turned his palm up.
Damn the Darkness.
Divine tensed. He snatched away his hand. He had mutilated his hand in a futile attempt to remove the butterfly mark. She finally found a nerve she could pluck. This one hit too close to home.
“It’s not meant for us to understand. The Lifeblood gathers power for us. It understands.” He stepped back. His voice was harsher than usual. “Now stand and face me Josephine-Cora.”
No matter how many years past, how many years apart, he had yet to learn he couldn’t talk to her like that. She stood only because she wanted the opportunity to choke him and his commanding voice.
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