Namrina-mah and I peer over a bush into the Revli Tribe. The sun is slowly climbing higher in the sky, sleep weighing on me as the shadows around us lighten and become less threatening. I haven’t slept all night.
“What are we doing here?” Namrina-mah asks, peeking over her shoulder to make sure her tribe is in place. We’ve taken several precautions in case parts of the Unwea Clan have hidden out in Revli’s village. There’s no way we could take them head-on ourselves, but I dare not tell Namrina-mah that, especially when we’re finally on the same page.
“We need to get the Revli Tribe on our side as well. The Unwea Clan has put a spell over them and they will listen to everything the King says.” It’s an overstatement. I haven’t seen them necessarily do everything Damian said, but they didn’t second-guess him when he lied about my reason for being there. That leads me to believe he has complete control over them.
“I say we blow through and kill anyone that tries to attack us,” Namrina-mah suggests.
I look at her, cocking my head sideways. “I don’t believe that’s a good idea.”
She huffs, opening her mouth, about to protest.
“I don’t see him,” I blurt quietly before she can put her two-cents in. “Let’s go.”
She groans, but motions for her tribe to stay. It seems as if she’s the only Tribe Leader in her tribe, although I know better, due to the formation of the houses I’d seen when the two boys had taken me up to their village. Could she just be the Head Tribe Leader and all the others appear when she needs them? I have the urge to ask, but I decide against it. I have to deal with the matters at hand first.
We stalk forward, unseen at first as we attempt to blend in. But, of course, we don’t have blue on our faces.
A man notices us, furrowing his brow. He doesn’t understand why we’re here, the question obvious by the way he walks up to us. My heart skips a beat. What if he recognizes me from when Damian brought me here?
“What tribe are you from?” He asks gently.
Namrina-mah and I glance at each other quickly. I breathe a sigh of relief, remembering that I had been magically altered in other’s visions. The magic had worn off or something once I went to retrieve the bow and arrows from Nan-ah’s old house, the one I’d been sleeping in since the snake incident. More like Damian and Dametria incident.
“Initi,” we chime. If they knew she was from Wurn there would be more questions than ever. Initi is more… peaceful than Wurn could ever be.
He nods deeply, his eyes lingering on Namrina-mah’s braids. “What brings you to Revli?”
“We were trying to find shelter,” Namrina-mah finishes. “We were… banished by our Tribe Leaders. He said we weren’t… fit to be in Initi.”
“I’m sorry,” the man says softly, his tone apologetic. “The Revli Tribe welcomes you with loving arms.”
Smiling, he takes our hands in his and starts to make his way to the front of the village towards a large inclined rock. My heart begins to hammer in my chest. What is he doing?
“Where are you taking us?” I croak, unable to keep the worry from my voice.
“We have to convert you to become one with us.”
Something about that sentence makes me uneasy.
“Uh, that’s okay. I think we can do it later.” I pull at my hand, trying to break from his grip, but he holds on too tight.
“No, we’ve got to do it now before our Tribe Leader returns. He likes us to add to our population as often as we can. He’d be pleased to know we’ve added two more today in his absence.”
“Two more?” I echo, still trying to pull away. Namrina-mah shrugs. “What do you mean two more?”
“People get stuck in our traps and we have to convert them immediately. Otherwise they’d run away and we wouldn’t have the number we have. We’re larger than Initi and Wurn put together now, but it stays a secret from them.”
Namrina-mah plants her feet at this news, jerking the man’s shoulder. “How many people do you have?”
The man halts and says with wide-eyes, “Three hundred.”
The air seems to have been pushed from my lungs. Three hundred? Where did all of those people come from?
“From where?” Wurn snaps. I can see the rage building up behind her eyes.
“It’s the babies we receive. We’ve gotten several since right before the wave almost swallowed the island. It’s a miracle!” His smile broadens as he drags us the rest of the way to the rock, and we stand upon it like trophies. He announces something as Namrina-mah and I exchange a worried glance. What does being converted consist of?
There’s a tugging at my hand and, as I look down, Quata-sai begins to pull me from the stage and motions for Namrina-mah to follow.
“Quata-sai, what are you doing?”
“I know them,” she responds to the man urgently. “I’ll bring them right back.”
When we’re out of the earshot of the crowd that had begun to gather, she turns to me. “You need to hide.”
“Why?” My eyes sweep the area around me, paranoia slipping into my bloodstream.
The words send chills up my spine and I immediately understand who she’s talking about. I’m not sure how exactly I feel about Damian. It seems like everything between us has been a lie, if there really was anything between us.
“Where should we go?” My hands begin to shake.
“There he is—come,” she whispers fiercely, pulling us behind an unstable-looking house. She stands with her body slumped up against the wall around the corner, trying to look casual. We freeze, our bodies growing stiff as we anxiously wait for her to say something. And then she lets out a small gasp.
“He knows you’re here.” Her voice is loud enough for us to understand. “He sees me. Guys, he sees me. And he’s headed over here. He looks angry. My—his eyes are turning green and his skin is—run, Cressa-la, run!” Her voice never reaches a yell, but she does scream. We hit the ground running at the same time. Her one way, us the other.
“We have to go back!” I shout to Namrina-mah, looking over my shoulder.
“We can’t! She’ll be fine.”
I stare back at where a flash of animal appears between the houses for a second as Namrina-mah tugs me along by my wrist. My heart cries out, and I need to listen. I can’t leave her. Not when he’s after her.
I stop, Namrina-mah calling out after me. My legs pump hard as I sprint back to the houses, Quata-sai’s screams echoing off the trees. Is no one helping her? Or did Damian cast another spell over them?
I hear his growl and his voice, his words unrecognizable over the wind and my panting. I’m coming, Quata-sai. Just hang on for a few more—
Her screams cease. My legs stop. All is quiet. My stomach drops. Is she… dead? He didn’t kill her—he couldn’t have. The Damian I know, he wouldn’t…
But everything else has been a lie, so why would I believe that he wouldn’t kill a little girl?
Because I want to see the good in him.
I drop to my knees. Dust surrounds me. The animal he had transformed into passes by the crack between the houses. Wolf. Blood smeared on its snout. He did. He killed her.
Our eyes connect. He smiles. Snarls. My heart fills with anger. He killed her. Damian killed Quata-sai. She’s dead.
He stalks toward me, his head low to the ground. My legs find themselves and I stand on them. Something shines in his eyes. Not the green magic he has, but something like guilt.
Or am I just hoping he feels terrible for what he has done?
I plant my feet. Resist Namrina-mah’s pulling. Block out her words. My eyes are focused on Damian’s wolf form as it stops half way to me and sits on its haunches. I blink away the tears.
“What did she ever do to you?” I growl.
“Cressa-la,” Namrina-mah tugs at my arm. “Let’s go.”
At first, I don’t notice all of the animals lining up on the other side of the village. They begin to move closer, stopping in a thick line just behind him. A large, wet snake slithers up beside Damian. It’s Dametria, I realize, as she transforms back into her normal self, smirking at me.
“I suggest you run.” A chorus of animal noises rises from the throats of the beasts before us. Her eyes flash green. “Now.”
The animals charge at me, only this time, I have legs.
I turn to run, wiping away the tears daring to fall onto my cheeks as the trees welcome me with open arms. My bare, partially scaled feet slap against the ground hard as I ignore the pain from sticks and stones. The animals close in, Damian and Dametria staying behind at the village’s edge, watching. That boy…
Anger flares up inside of me. I seem to glide across the ground now, dragging Namrina-mah behind me. The animals fall away, stopping suddenly. We keep running, my new companion shouting something I don’t catch over the growing wind. I peek behind me once more.
“Cressa-la, watch out!”
I crash into something and fall to the ground, landing on top of it. Groaning, I push myself up with my arms—the green eyes below me locking onto mine.
“Tamir.” My mouth moves as his name slips from my lips. He smiles up at me, his irises gleaming.
“I found you,” he smiles.
We seem to be frozen in place as we look at each other. He moves a strand of hair from my face and I forget all about the animals I’d mysteriously lost.
“You were looking for me?”
Sadness taints his eyes. “I… wanted to say I’m sorry for letting you leave. And Jackie told me what had happened after you saved her life… I wanted to somehow… save you.”
My heart softens a little as he searches my eyes.
Someone clears their throat.
I twist around. Namrina-mah stands with her arms crossed and her eyebrows up in impatience. Everything comes flooding back to me and the moment between Tamir and I is broken. I push myself off of him and we stand up.
“Damian—” I choke his name out, anger taking back over. “He…”
“I know,” Tamir says forcefully.
“Why me?” I gasp. “Why are they after me?”
Tamir looks in my eyes again, pausing. “Give me your hand.”
Trust me. The simple words that carry so much. Trust is a big thing for me. Damian broke my trust. The Tribe Leaders have been lying to me my entire life… Can I trust Tamir?
I place my hands in his after a slight hesitation, a faint smile playing on his lips.
“Form a ball of light.”
“What? But I’m—”
“Focus.” His eyes stay on mine, waiting for me to do as he says.
I sigh and close my eyes. I pull the orb to the front of my mind, focus on creating it, on its glow… its color. Blue. A light, sky blue is the color of my glowing, my tail, the color of the ball…
A light makes patterns on my eyelids. I open them, and gasp.
“But—but this isn’t possible! I’m not touching water…”
A perfect circle glows just inches from my hands. It flickers out as I lose my concentration. Did I just…?
I’m a One.
“But they’re all evil.”
Tamir chuckles. “Not all of them.”
“No,” he laughs. “No, not me. Her.”
He points to a girl clumsily darting out of the shadows, red scales reaching up past her knees. I recognize the dark hair, the dark eyes… It’s Jackie.
“How do you people move around on these things?” She mutters as she leans against a tree, slowly moving her legs to walk. “Hey, Tamir, do you have a spell that’ll help me, like, maneuver easier with these?”
He shakes his head and helps her move closer to us by taking her hand.
“Whoa—that’s too fast. Slow it down, black marlin.”
“They’re the fastest fish in the sea,” Tamir clarifies for me. “But she’s a One, like you. I didn’t know until I learned who you actually were.”
“What?” I ask, hearing branches snapping behind me.
“I mean, you were—”
“Nice to see you again, old friend.”
Spinning around, I see Damian standing alone between two trees, wiping his mouth with his hands. Jackie attempts to smoothly move in front of Tamir, ready to protect him. My heart pounds in my chest at the sight of Damian.
“Hello, Damian,” Tamir breathes.
Namrina-mah slips her weapons from her clothes and holds them out to her sides. Two short knives that gleam in the sunlight. I pull mine out as well.
Damian’s eyes shift to me. Soften. A flash of green ventures across his irises.
“Stop what?” His face cries innocence, but his eyes scream trickery.
“Trying to manipulate me!” I shout. “What is so important about me that you would kill Quata-sai—” My voice gives out.
“I want you, Cressa-la.” He walks closer. I shift my weight. “I want you more than anyone ever could or will. Be with me, and I can give you the world.”
“I don’t want it,” I spit.
His hand touches my shoulder. I flinch.
“You’re upset, I understand that.” His voice is quiet. Does he not understand what he had just done minutes before this? “But all of this… all I’ve done is for you.”
“And what have you done, Damian?” My hands grip the blades tighter. “Killed, destroyed, and taken for selfish pleasure? How can you justify that as—”
“I told you I loved you.”
“How can you justify that as love?”
“Cressa-la, I would have given—”
“Damian, leave her alone.”
Tamir steps forward, wedging himself in between us.
“Look who’s grown a backbone.”
“Tamir, you don’t have your—”
He cuts me off. “You don’t match. You have Amawa-na, she should be enough.”
“She isn’t my soul mate.”
“You know that’s all a myth. But your color matches her’s. You know what that means.” Tamir pushes me back as he steps in to protect me. The two boys stand at full height, about equal proportion-wise, aside from Damian’s bulkier muscles and Tamir’s’ leaner. But I still worry that if they do fight, Tamir won’t come out on top. His powers don’t work unless he touches water.
And we’re in the center of the island.
“Amawa-na is your match. You wouldn’t be pursuing Cress if you didn’t want something more than her love and affection… You want her power.”
Damian’s glare intensifies.
“What do you mean?” I ask, staring down the two boys. “What do you mean?”
“You’re the daughter of the King and Queen of the Murlan Clan.”
“What?” My entire body sways. Tamir had said they’re the biggest clan under the water.
“The Queen died when she had you and all of her powers transferred to you, making you stronger than any normal One-Hundred.” Tamir speaks slowly and accusingly, but his eyes never leave Damian’s, whose seem to darken as the minutes pass by. “On top of that, you just so happen to be a One.”
Damian’s eyes flick up to me and a smirk flashes on his lips. “He has a point.”
A small burst of light explodes from either of Damian’s hands as he pushes Tamir back. He flies into me and we crash to the ground, Jackie towering over us, knees wobbling. Namrina-mah stands as if she’s ready to fight, grimacing as Damian chuckles and Jackie makes her way down to help us up.
“This isn’t over,” he threatens. “It’s time for Unwea to rise and for me to begin my reign over the world. When the sun reaches its peak, the moon will cover it, and I will take over. And then you will all bow to me as a final goodbye to this world. I’ll see you at the time of the eclipse.”
He disappears into the trees.
I think I’m going to be sick.