Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chapter Three

The First Point

As soon as Eena’s toes curled under, chilled by the ice beneath her feet, she created an all-encompassing force field to shield herself from the arctic weather.  It would enable her to stay warm for a while.  Even her bare feet felt comfortable despite the uninhabitable conditions.  It was hard to say how long her own energy could maintain the protective blanket with no direct sunlight or perceptible heat available to absorb.  Although, potential energy existed in the blustery air that she could possibly use to her advantage.
The young queen didn’t move for some time, contemplating what to do.  Nothing but white surrounded her in the form of ice and snow and sizeable glaciers.  Scanning the horizon, she noticed a violet glimmer that peeked through now and then between blinding flurries.  This lavender light appeared to dance in the sky along glacial peaks.  She blinked and squinted, uncertain of the illusion.  Searching for the easiest source of energy to tap into, she sensed a magnetic field in the area that was especially strong.  Perhaps it was energy she could absorb.  Anything to keep her own strength up and the force-field blanket warm.  Who knew how long Anesidora planned to hold her in exile?
Absorbed by thoughts of her own survival, she was startled when a large figure darkened the sky at her back, creating a widespread shadow.  It extended in front of her in the elongated form of a dragon.  Eena gasped, but then covered her heart when she realized the beast was no threat.
“Naga—it’s you.”
She smiled weakly, looking up into his mismatched eyes.  It was discouraging to know he served Anesidora, willing or not.
The beast gave a single, deep nod.
“Why are you here?  Not to protect me from Ascultone.  He should be content now that his precious dragon’s heart is back with the immortals.”
Naga agreed with another nod.
“Did Anesidora send you?” Eena asked, wary as to what orders he may have been directed to carry out.
Naga shook his head.  It circled once around before his nostrils flared in a resentful manner.
“She didn’t?  I don’t imagine you’re here to protect me from her….are you?”  Eena’s eyes grew big at a flicker of hope.  She sighed disappointedly when the dragon ruefully drooped his neck.
“I didn’t think so.” 
With the wind pushing at her back, Eena stepped into a leisurely walk.  There was no reason to remain standing in the middle of nowhere.  Traveling with the wind seemed the easiest way to go.  Naga tucked in his taut wings and kept at her side while the young queen glanced up at him, curious as to why he had followed her to this icy wasteland.  She had mixed emotions about his presence.
“Tell me why you’re here,” she finally said, unable to curb her curiosity any longer.
The beast took two giant steps forward and turned, putting himself directly in her path.  His head reared as he primed himself for a fiery exhale.  Eena didn’t flinch.  She understood his intent and prepared to receive his gift of heat.  Flames shot from the old dragon’s throat—an extended blaze that blew directly past her.  She drew in the additional energy through her force field and built a reserve to keep her illusory blanket warm even longer.
“Thank you, Naga.”  His head tilted in response to her kind smile.  It appeared he had come to help—as much as Anesidora would allow anyway. 
 “Amora doesn’t need your assistance,” sang a casual voice that originated from her other side.  “She is fully capable of keeping herself warm enough without you breathing your foul breath all over her.”
Turning toward the fluid tone, Eena was met by eyes of mesmerizing blue.  Her lashes blinked three times to Edgar’s perfect stare.  It was hard to glance away and even harder to think.  When he finally blinked, the trance was broken; she quickly dropped her gaze. 
“I appreciate Naga’s help,” she said, speaking down at her feet.  “It makes it easier for me.”
“I can make it easy for you, Amora.”  She felt Edgar’s fingers slip around her own. 
Shocked by his boldness, she shook his hand loose. 
“Oh come now,” he whined.  “Let me help you.  I want very much to help you.”
Naga growled lowly off to her other side.  When Eena looked up at the dragon’s stony stare, she felt her hand snatched up again.
“Drop your force field,” Edgar told her.  He smiled sweetly when she dared to meet his gaze again—his face so friendly and inviting and gorgeous. 
“, I don’t like the cold.” 
“I promise you will stay warm enough.”  His words were as compelling as his stare. 
She dropped her protective field as instructed.  A split-second of chill was overpowered by a wave of warmth even greater than what the force field had offered.  A deep heat penetrated every cell in her body down to the core.
“See?” Edgar gloated.  “It takes far less energy to monitor your own body temperature.  And it feels much nicer too.  Wouldn’t you agree?”
She nodded without losing sight of his beautiful eyes.  They were like sapphires glittering against a world of white.  Or a clear blue lake in a meadow of snow.  Deep, translucent blue.  Deep enough to drown in. 
A growl from Naga helped her shake off the spell.  She tried to free her fingers from Edgar’s grasp, but he held on tight.
“Let me help you, Amora.  Let me keep you warm so you can save your energy for more important things.” 
“I can do it myself,” she insisted. 
When he didn’t release her, she tried again.  “Thank you for showing me how, but I can monitor my own temperature now, really.”
“Why waste your energy when I’m more than willing to share mine?” 
She didn’t care for the way he stroked her fingers in his hold, but his argument made sense.  Why not take advantage of his offer?  Besides, it was probably better to keep his hands occupied.  He had proven that fact back in the cave.
“Okay,” she conceded, “for now.”
Edgar seemed delighted with his small victory and began swinging their clasped hands back and forth between them as they started walking.
“Where are we going?” he asked cheerfully.
“I’m going home.”
The immortal laughed aloud as if the notion were outrageous.  “You can’t be serious…..all the way back to Harrowbeth?  You do realize there’s a sizeable body of water between here and there.  Were you planning to swim?”
Eena pulled a face, letting him know she wasn’t amused.  “You could save me the trouble and send me directly home right now.”
“And have my sisters strangle me?”
“They can’t strangle you; they have no physical hands.”
“You’d be surprised, Amora.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be fatal.  You’re immortal.”
“It would still be terribly unpleasant.”
“Ugh, what a coward,” she muttered, but the immortal heard her loud and clear.  His mouth gaped, offended, and the casual swing of their handclasp halted.
“That was incredibly rude!” 
Eena flickered a glance at him, catching the childish pout of his lips.
“But true,” she insisted.  She could feel Naga’s head nod affirmatively beside her.  The beast’s strong concurrence made her snicker.  “Honestly, Edgar, I would think you of all people would want your sisters to stay locked up in that cave.  If you’re afraid of them as they are now, it will only get worse if they’re made whole again.”
“I’m not afraid of them,” he insisted, stubbornly puckering his pouty lip.
“You do everything they say,” Eena argued.
“No, no, no, that’s not true.”  He pointed a rigid finger at his criticizer.  “I have limits.”
Naga groaned deep in his belly, and Eena struggled not to laugh.
“Tell me then, what are your limits?”
“I refuse to do anything that would get me in trouble with the governing body.”
“But you seduced a mortal woman.  Wasn’t that a serious offense?”
He shrugged, avoiding a real answer.  “Some things are impossible to resist.”
A soft caress felt hot on Eena’s cheek, and she jerked away from it before casting the scoundrel a glare of warning.  “Why don’t you stick to your own kind?” she grumbled.
“What do you mean ‘my own kind’?”
“Immortal women.”
“Ahhhh,” he sighed with understanding.  “Because I find the mortal female to be more interesting.  And far more passionate.  They’re fragile, fascinating creatures.”
Eena’s expression seemed to question his sense, so he attempted to explain himself.
“Mortals are delicate and yet intense.  It’s invigorating to be with a mortal female because you girls know how to live!  With emotion and vivacity and sweet, daring impetuousness!”
“Impetuousness,” Eena groaned, rolling her eyes.
“Oh yes,” Edgar breathed dreamily.  “It’s a glorious thing!  With the certainty of mortality hanging over your heads, there’s no time to waste mulling over potential consequences.  You just jump in with all your heart, regardless of how temporary it is.”
“Yes.  Your existence….so short and temporary.  I find it fascinating.”
“You’re fascinated by the fact that I’m temporary?”
He cocked his head in confusion.  “What’s wrong with that?”
“I’m here long enough to entertain you, but gone soon enough not to become a bother?  Is that it?”
“I can see why you don’t pursue immortal women.  You’re afraid of real commitment.  Temporary isn’t just fascinating, it’s convenient!”
“That’s not what I said.”  Edgar’s grip on her hand tightened as he went to defend himself against her accusation.  “I am perfectly capable of a real commitment, Amora.”
“A long-term commitment?”
“How about an eternal one?”
She could see, even feel his hesitation, but he still insisted, “If the conditions were right….yes.”
Eena shook her head, unconvinced, but said nothing more.  What did it matter anyway?
They walked on for a distance in silence.  Soon enough, Edgar had their hands swinging between them again.
“Amora, shall we play a game?”
“Come on, it will be fun.  It’s not like we’ve anything else to do.”
“No, thank you.”
“I’ll let you pick the game,” Edgar pressed.  “We could play tag.  I know how much you like tag.” 
Eena glanced up at his pleading eyes.  She wasn’t surprised he knew so much about her, but it was disturbing to think he had been secretly watching for an unknown amount of time.  Perhaps in this case ignorance was best.  After additional pestering, she finally agreed to a game.
“Okay, okay” she said, noting his sudden delight.  “How about we play a game of my choice?”
Edgar eagerly agreed.
“It’s called….. Send Me Home.”
Their hands ceased swinging again.  It was hard not to burst out laughing at the way his face fell, but Eena managed to stifle all but a tiny snicker.
“That’s not funny.  You know I can’t send you home.”
“If you weren’t afraid of your sisters you could.”  She sensed Naga nod in agreement beside her.
Edgar yanked on her arm, pulling her to a stop.  He spoke curtly.
“I help my sisters because they’re family.  I am perfectly capable of standing up to Anesidora and Ishtura if ever I needed or wanted to.”
“Of course,” Eena agreed with a sarcastic roll in her voice.
“They’re your family too, Amora.  You seriously ought to consider cooperating with them.  You would be far better off if you did.”
Her shoulders squared in response to his words.  Boldly she declared, “I will never cooperate with your awful sisters.  I am not your family and, unlike you, I’m not afraid of them.”
“Yes you are—on both accounts.”
“Because I have your stupid gene?”
“Yes, and because...”
Naga roared aloud before anything more could be said.  Smoked spewed from his nostrils as his head dropped low, neck bowing to meet Edgar face-to-face.  The dragon’s swiftness startled Eena.  Edgar, however, didn’t so much as flinch.
“Oh shut up, you old fossil, I haven’t said anything that Anesidora didn’t already tell her!”
“Edgarmetheus!” Eena snapped, objecting to his rudeness.
“Do not call me by that name,” he growled.
“But it’s your name….isn’t it?”
His blue eyes narrowed, darkening and intensifying.  One look seized her. 
“Amora,” he breathed, moving in closer.  His free hand went to brush against her cheek, lingering on a soft stroke.  “Oh, Amora.” 
“Don’t do that,” she said, just remembering to breath.  It was impossible to turn away from his smoldering stare. 
“Don’t do what?”
For a moment she was hopeless to recall.  “Um…don’t….don’t…”
“Yes, Amora?”
“Don’t….don’t call me that.”
“My name is.….it’s Eena.”
Edgar pressed his hand against her cheek.  “I like Amora better.  It suits you.”
As soon as he blinked, it severed his hold on her.  She turned her eyes away and evaded his touch.  “Well, I think Edgarmetheus suits you perfectly,” she declared.  The immortal tensed from head to toe at the sound of his full name.
He left without a warning—his large blue eyes there and then gone.  Eena felt the next arctic breeze chill her to the bone.  She sucked in an unexpected breath of cold air before reaching out to touch Naga.  The old dragon allowed her to steal the heat energy she sought. 
“And good riddens,” she said, kinking her neck to look up at her giant friend.  “At least now I know how to get rid of him.”
“I’m not gone,” her watchdog announced.  He was immediately standing beside her again, but only for a second.  “I thought you’d like to know that your friend…..what was his name?  Oh, yes—Ian.  I don’t think he’s going to last much longer in these conditions.”  With that announcement, Edgar vanished.
“No!”  Eena turned into the wind, scanning the whiteness in a panic for a glimpse of color.  
Naga spread his wings and let the air pull him up off the ground.  He struggled to fly into the wintry gusts, back to where Eena had originally entered the frozen tundra.
Unsure of his intent, she called out to the dragon.  “Naga!  No, no, wait, Naga, don’t hurt him!”
She ran as quickly as her legs would move, backtracking.  It was hard to believe they had strolled so far, and it felt even farther fighting the impeding gusts back.  Naga seemed less encumbered by the wind and soon looked like a small bird vanishing into the storm.
“Naga!” she screamed again.  “Don’t hurt him!  Please!”
Her mind was caught up in a frenzy of panic and worry.  She knew Anesidora controlled Naga’s actions.  One fateful command and he would have no choice but to obey.  Eena couldn’t prevent the frightening what-ifs from playing out in her mind.  What if Naga were forced to hurt Ian?  What if he burned him alive?  What if her best friend was already frozen, left for too long in these subzero temperatures?  What if she was too late to save him? 
No!  Naga!  Naga!” she screamed, growing more and more certain that Anesidora was behind his hurried flight.
She tried to hasten her sprint, to get to her best friend as fast as mortally possible, but the winds thrashed against her body so strongly it felt as if she were pushing through a lake of molasses.  Her concern for Ian overwhelmed her to the point that she ceased bothering to warm herself.  The adrenaline racing through her veins shocked her system into a false sense of warmth.  Her bare feet ignored the sting as they pounded against frozen ground. 
“Ian!” she cried, praying it wasn’t too late.
With an arm held protectively over her eyes, she squinted into the storm.  Naga’s figure hovered distantly above the ground. 
She continued to run after him.
Maybe her suspicions were wrong.  Maybe the beast meant no harm.  Maybe.
She tried to focus again, peering through the white, snowy flurries.  The old dragon had landed on the ground and curled both wings forward as if forming a shield.  He must have found her protector.  That had to be the case.  She ran faster, pounding over sheets of ice, forcing her way into the wind.  She never stopped running, even when a bright, orange blaze reflected in her eyes.  Naga’s fiery breath raged between his wings, pointed at the ground. 
Her lungs screamed out at the unconceivable.  “Noooo!  No, not Ian!  No, Naga, NO!”
Her heart sank with the heaviest of emotions—regret, loss, helplessness.  She nearly stumbled over her feet in a hurry to reach her best friend.  Yearning to close the gap, she found herself standing right beside the old dragon, somehow traveling yards in a blink.  The only explanation was that Edgar had pushed her along.
She glared harsh accusations at the traitorous beast, but Naga’s focus remained fixed on the body within his shielding wings.  Prepared for a ghastly sight, Eena held her breath and pushed a wing aside.  Her heart was instantly pricked by guilt.
“Ian,” she breathed, exhaling a mountain of relief.  “You’re alive!”
Naga had done no harm to the young man but had protected and warmed him with a surrounding wall of flames.  Eena felt awful for having doubted her dragon.
Her protector was on his knees, his chin held high as he stared up at the colossal monster that had saved him.  Their eyes were locked intently on one another.
“Ian?” Eena gasped again, almost weeping his name.  Her body shivered—a reaction not only to the cold but to the immense joy of finding her best friend alive and well. 
He turned to her this time.  “Eena, you’re okay!” 
She pushed aside the flames and ran into his embrace where they clung to one another, aware of how tragedy had nearly had its way.  As their fears receded, Eena sensed the tremendous worry her protector suffered for her.  The necklace transferred his physical pain—his toes, fingers, nose, face, ears, even his back were all bitterly frozen.  The young queen closed her eyes and concentrated, allowing the necklace to heal every damaged cell within his body.  His injuries soon mended. 
“Thank you,” Ian whispered.  “I’m so glad you found me.”
“I can’t believe they sent you here.”  Eena shook her head against his cheek.  “Why?”
“Because Derian and I went looking for you.”
“Oh crud, no.” 
“I had to tell him, Eena.”  Ian peeled away and took her face in his hands.  “It’s because of Derian that I found you.” 
“Then it’s because of him you nearly froze to death.”
“No, no,” Ian disagreed, “that was my own fault.  I made Ishtura angry.”
“She wouldn’t tell me where you were, and I refused to leave without you.” 
Eena’s face tangled up in horror.  “So she sent you here where I was?  How cruel!” 
“It may have had something to do with me calling her an ugly, hideous witch too.” 
“Whoa, what?”
Ian’s mouth pulled to one side as he admitted, “Yeah, that probably wasn’t my best move.”
“You think?”  Eena made a face of utter disbelief right before she burst out laughing.  Ian joined in until Naga’s hazy snort grabbed their attention.
Taking her protector by the hand, Eena approached the old dragon.  As long as she kept hold of Ian, she could warm him along with herself.
“Thank you, Naga.  I should have trusted you.  But I was worried that Anesidora might have given you an order to…”  She couldn’t bear to finish the thought.  “I’m sorry for doubting you.”
Naga released a puff of smoke and lowered his head.  He forgave her.  Eena stroked his nose and smiled at her dragon.  Her dragon.  At least his heart was anyway.  The old beast vanished from beneath her tender touch.
“So that’s the dragon that shows up in your dreams when I’m not around?” Ian asked.
“Yes, he’s one of them.  Ascultone and Herensuge are the other two, only they’re not so nice.  If they breathe fire at you, you seriously better duck.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”  Ian made an anxious face as he admitted, “It was a little disconcerting this time.  I thought I was a real goner there for a moment.”
Eena shook her head.  “No.  Naga’s a good guy……well, sort of.”
“What do you mean by ‘sort of’?”
“He’s obligated to do what Anesidora commands, but he doesn’t want to.  It’s complicated.”
“So Naga’s a good dragon, but you can’t always trust him.”
“Yes, I guess that’s right.”
“Ahh, poor dragon.”
Eena smiled.  She appreciated how Ian showed sympathy for Naga’s plight, even without fully understanding the circumstances.  That was one thing she admired about him; he was naturally compassionate.  A good, kind person all the way around.  A true friend.
“So….this is where they sent you for a time out?”  Ian released a long, discourageable sigh.  He looked out at the violet lights gleaming every so often on the horizon.  “I think I’d rather be grounded.”
“Are you sure about that?” Eena asked.  “Confined to Wanyaka Cave with those two ghostly women for who knows how long?”
“You’re right,” Ian said, reconsidering.  “Maybe I would rather freeze to death.” 
Eena laughed at his quick change of heart.  “You mean you don’t want to be coddled and adored for all eternity by two ageless females?”
When Ian twisted up his face in disgust, Eena laughed even harder.  Ian’s green eyes softened and he tenderly squeezed the hand that kept him warm. 
“I’m so relieved you’re okay.  You have no idea how worried I was.”
“You should worry a little more for yourself, Ian.  Angelle would have killed me had I lost you.”
“Yes, and Derian would have killed me had I not found you.”  After a quick glance at their surroundings he added, “He may still have my head if I don’t find a way to get you out of here and back home.”
“Always the protector, even when there’s nothing you can do.” 
Ian winced at her words.  “There’s always something I can do, Eena.  You don’t give me enough credit.”
“Then what should we do now?”
“Well, let’s see.  First, I need to size up the situation.”  He cast a look around in every direction, squinting into the vast whiteness.  He then announced with decisiveness, “It’s cold.”
Eena slanted her eyebrows.  “I gathered that, genius.”
“Shush.  Don’t interrupt me, I’m working here.”
She giggled, only to be met with a good-humored scowl.  When Ian spoke up again, it was in all seriousness. 
“I think we should consider safety first and find you some shelter.”
She pointed to herself.  “Shelter for me?” 
“Yes, you.”
“But I’m capable of keeping us both warm,” she reminded him.
“Not forever.”
“I don’t plan on being here forever.  I’m in time out, remember?  I’m sure Anesidora will call me back soon enough.”
Then the possibility hit her.  What if Anesidora called only her back?  What if Ian were left behind—alone in the deadly cold?
“Alright, alright,” she quickly agreed.  “We should find shelter.”  The necklace glimmered as Eena closed her eyes.  Ian noted the concentration in her face.
“What are you doing?”
Before answering his question, the young queen finished her task.  “I don’t sense any people.”  Her eyes reopened.  “I thought if there was a village nearby we could head for it.  But there’s no one.”
Ian sighed disappointedly.  “I’m not surprised.  Who in their right minds would come here on purpose?”  He pointed into the wind.  “Let’s head for that glacier.”
“Against the wind?”  She wasn’t thrilled with the idea of fighting the strong gusts, even warmed by her powers.  It seemed easier to have the air pushing at their backs.
“There’s a better chance of finding shelter over there,” Ian explained.  He looked down at her frowning face.  “Just walk behind me and I’ll shield you.”
Eena was touched by his chivalrous offer and followed as he pulled her along, head down into the wind.  They had barely begun their trek when she stopped.
“Wait, Ian.  Let me try something.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Can you stand the cold for a minute?”
“Sure, sure,” he nodded.
Releasing him, she reached up toward the stormy sky.  Her eyelids fell closed as a brilliant flash of light emanated from beneath her chin.  Both arms made small circles in the air as if by her actions she meant to direct the flurries to follow a new course.
Ian felt the sudden shift in the wind.  He stepped away when strong southern currents turned back, creating a vortex around Eena’s small figure, making her the center calm in a developing whirlwind.  He uttered her name warily, concerned she might get hurt, but kept his distance. 
As an arctic twister developed, the young Sha became less visible—blocked from view by heavy snowfall trapped within the spiral. 
Ian called out anxiously again.  “Eena?”
To his great relief the tornado died—dispelled almost as quickly as it had been stirred up.  The forces behind the wind appeared drawn into the center, absorbed by the woman who had summoned them.  Ian watched in amazement as his queen lowered her hands, palms pressed together.  When her snow-covered lashes lifted, Ian’s jaw dropped open.  Eena laughed at his reaction.
“Are you….okay?” he asked, looking hesitant to come close to her.
“Of course,” she said.  “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because you’re, um……you’re glowing.” 
“Oh.”  Her gaze fell fast to the ground.  The same thing had happened once before in Derian’s company when she had absorbed an overabundance of energy.  Eena was certain it was disturbing for Ian to see her aglow, especially her eyes.
“I’m okay, really,” she assured her protector, purposefully avoiding eye contact.  “I just absorbed a lot of energy, that’s all.  The necklace turns the excess into light—probably the easiest way to store it.”
“You look like a night light, alright,” Ian agreed.  “Are you….hot?”
She recalled Derian saying she was warm to the touch the last time.
“Come and see.”  She offered her hand, flickering a glance up as he approached.  Her focus remained mostly on the snow-covered ground.
When he drew near, she looked into his face a few times.  She wanted to read his reaction, but without unnerving him with her glowing eyes.  It surprised her when he actually pushed her chin up. 
“Your eyes—they’re extraordinary.”
She broke into a grateful smile. 
When his other hand slipped securely into hers, she warmed his body, purposefully sending a strong wave of energy through his system.
“That’s really warm,” he said, overcome by the rush of heat.
The glow in her eyes diminished, and the radiance of her skin subsided to a soft shimmer.
“Is that better?” she asked.
“It was fine with me if you glowed, provided it didn’t do you any harm.”
She gave his hand an appreciative squeeze, and the two took off toward the distant glacier.  The winds had settled down to a mild breeze.
“This is much nicer,” Ian admitted.  “That was amazing how you calmed the storm.  Could you warm the air too if you wanted?”
“Yes, but it would take a tremendous amount of energy.  Besides, things might start melting.”
“Oh.  That could cause a problem.”  He brought their clasped hands up to eye level.  “You keep me warm enough anyway.”
Eena turned back to look at the spot they were leaving behind.  She was thinking about how both Ian and Derian had gone looking for her after she had vanished from Lacsar Forest.
“Was he very mad?” she asked.
“Mad?” Ian repeated.  It took a second for him to understand she was talking about the captain.  The grimace on his face effectively answered her question.  She frowned in response.
“He’s just worried about you.”
Her frown set in even deeper.  “You don’t think those sisters got to him too, do you?”
“It’s possible.  He was right outside the cave the last time I saw him.  If he’s smart, he ran home the second I disappeared.”
“But if he didn’t, he may show up here like you did.”  She took Ian by her other hand and began walking backwards beside him.  “I’d better keep an eye out, just in case.”
“I would be shocked if he showed up here.”
“He’s too diplomatic to anger those ghosts.  It’s more likely he would try to strike a deal with them.”
They both snickered at the same time, knowing it was true.
“What kind of a deal could they possibly agree on?”
Ian shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Maybe something like ‘if Ishtura returns Harrowbeth’s queen, the ghosts can devour her protector.’”
Eena groaned and slugged him in the shoulder.  “That’s horrible; Derian would never suggest anything like that.”  She thought for a moment and then voiced her own idea.  “I know, I know.  He would say ‘bring Eena back and then her protector will give you a big, long, grateful kiss!’”
Ian wrinkled his nose.
“Ishtura thinks you’re handsome,” she explained.  “She told me so.”
“Maybe you should have been nicer to her.  She might have kept you for a pet.”
“Maybe your overly-diplomatic captain was nice to her and he is her pet right now!” 
Eena thought about it for a second.  “If that’s the case she won’t keep him for long.  He barks too much.”
Ian busted out in a guffaw at the taunting truth.  “Actually, I’m not so sure he would be all that diplomatic with those women.  Most likely he would order them to bring you back.”
“And when they refused he’d say something like…”  Eena paused, preparing to do her best imitation of the captain’s deep voice.  “‘Now listen here, ghosts, this is my planet and when I give an order I expect it to be obeyed!’” 
They shared a good laugh at another mocking truth.
Ian shook his head in amazement.  “I swear you sound exactly like him!” 
Just then, off in the distance, a flash of light grabbed Ian’s attention.  He strained to watch for it again.
“Hey, Eena, did you see that?”
She swiveled around to face forward.  “See what?”
Ian squinted harder, trying to improve his vision while staring at the glacier ahead.  A bright sparkle caught his eye.
“There!  Did you see that?” 
“I didn’t see anything.  What am I looking for?”
“A light…..a reflection….or something like that.  I know I saw it.  There’s something over there.”
Ian’s strides lengthened.  Eena kept right with him.  Soon they were jogging toward the glacier, both squinting straight ahead, trying to spot the source of sporadic reflections of light.  After a few minutes of hastened progress, they reached an area bordered by a high wall of frozen ice.  Mounds of snow sat in smooth, rolling hills formed by winds that dropped their loads at the foot of the glacier.  They began to search for anything unusual. 
“Maybe it was just the reflection off the snow,” Eena suggested.
“No, no.  I know I saw something.  It’s gotta be here somewhere.”
Ian was so focused on his search that his grip on Eena’s hand slipped for a second.  One cold inhale had him reaching for her again.  He pulled her along as he continued probing the area.
“There!” he announced at a quick glint of silver.  “Come on!”
They rushed over to a low mound.  This time Ian purposefully relinquished his source of heat as his knees hit the ground.  His hands delved into the snow.  It wasn’t difficult to dig out the curious object. 
“What is it?” he asked, handing over his discovery.
Eena took it in her arms to examine—a long, thick, black, metal limb that came to a sharp point.  She gasped when it hit her what exactly he had unburied.  It was the first of the seven star points to Pallador’s platform.  The item had drawn them straight to it! 
“Put it back…”
The words faded as quickly as the white scenery dimmed.  She was again blinded by blackness.  Her nose wrinkled at the unpleasant scent of mildew.  Anesidora’s silky voice echoed in the dark before Eena’s vision could adequately adjust. 
“Well done, little girl.”
Someone took the heavy object out of her hands.
“Edgar?” she whispered.  What other physical being was willing to help these intolerable women?  A few blinks and her eyes focused in the dimness once again.  Brother and sister stood together.
“Do you still think you can deny me, Amora?” the ghostly sibling questioned.  “Can’t you see you have no choice?”
“It wasn’t me who found it,” Eena quickly retorted.  “Ian did.”  She glanced all around.  “Where is he?  Where is Ian?  What have you done with him?”
The apparition threw back her neck and cackled eerily.  The awful sound died off as Eena cried out, “No, wait!  I need him!”
There was another abrupt change of environment.
Eena fell backwards, dazed by the adjustments her eyes were making too frequently now.  Luckily, her fall was stopped short by a pair of big, strong hands.
“Eena?  Eena, you’re back!” 
She kinked her neck to look up into her captain’s startled face.
“Where is Ian?” she cried as Derian pulled her to her feet.  All she could think about was whether or not her best friend was freezing to death on an abandoned arctic island.  With panic in her voice she asked again, “Derian, where’s Ian?”
His brow creased uncertainly as he shook his head.  Eena didn’t wait for him to speak. 
Realizing where she was—in her own room at Lacsar Castle—she ran for the door and sprinted across the hallway to her protector’s chambers.  When she swung open his door, her whole body slumped with relief.  Ian stood facing her, looking both stunned and confused.  Eena rushed into his arms, hugging him once again for dear life. 
“What just happened?” her protector uttered, naturally providing the comfort he knew she sought.
“Uh-hem!”  All eyes turned to face a stern-faced captain.  “That’s exactly what I’d like to know.”

Copyright 2013 Richelle E. Goodrich

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