11. Foolish Wanderings
I was fooling around, practicing the one ability Rory had taught me the night we’d escaped. My ability to Mind-Speak had improved vastly – I barely needed to concentrate to touch another person’s mind and speak with them. The others had indulged me initially but I could feel their irritation building as I persisted. Sighing, I abandoned my attempts to speak with them using my mind and focussed on sending tendrils of my consciousness toward Rowan, wondering if I could brush his consciousness without his knowledge. My teeth clenched together as I hit a solid wall around his mind. I hadn’t realized anyone could block contact. I slithered across the barrier investigating how Rowan maintained it and paused when I found a crack in it. I probed the crack curiously and jumped back as images suddenly burned into the back of my eyelids.
There is a boy standing on top a hill looking down arrogantly. The boy is a good friend who has betrayed those who stand below. Black locks blow across his brown face, his dark brown eyes burning into those standing below him. “Rory is dead!” he cries, “The Liberation is no more!”
“No!” a woman’s voice screams weakly from behind him, hoarse with pain, “I am not beaten and you know it Jake!”
A younger version of the boy I know is Rowan charges through the crowd at the base of the hill and up it. “What have you done to her?!” he bellows.
“Nothing she didn’t deserve,” the boy responds roughly, “You should know Rowan; she isn’t the innocent leader she’s led you to believe. She hides her heritage from all of you. She has never been what she seems. All she’s ever told us are lies.”
“Shut up!” Rowan screams, rushing toward the boy atop the hill and tackling him, “You’ve betrayed her even after everything she’s done for you!”
Then Rory’s pale face appears over the top of the hill. Her face is terrified and grimaces in pain. She appears much younger than she does today. . . .
The image vanished as something smashed into me. “What are you doing!” Rowan roared. My eyes flew open as my weight sailed backwards into the wall. I gasped for air and struggled to get to me feet only to have Rowan grab the front of my shirt and pin me to the wall. His eyes were wild, bloodshot. An image of the last time he’d pinned me to a wall flashed through my mind – except he had been calm and composed that time. Anger frothed in the set of his jaw and his eyes showed how close he was to losing control.
I flattened myself against the wall to try to escape his glare. “I’m sorry,” I stammered, “I didn’t mean to. I was—”
“I know what you were doing!” he snarled and I choked as his elbow pressed against my windpipe. I could feel the anger bubbling beneath the surface and it scared me more than his normal resentful attacks. This anger was wilder, less controlled, and deadly. He didn’t want me to feel sorry for him; he couldn’t stand the idea of that.
“I’ll forget what I saw,” I gagged, fighting to get enough air to say it.
It was the worst possible thing I could have said. If I had thought he had lost control earlier, I was wrong. It seemed like he imploded and suddenly he was shouting and trying to strangle me as though by killing me he could make me pay for my trespassing. I struggled against him desperately with no luck – the edges of the room started to blur and darken. Then Rowan was gone. He was still shouting, struggling to get at me but David and Jesse restrained him. I slumped against the wall gulping air into my lungs.
“What are you doing?” Bridget yelled, “Get out of here!”
I gasped, staring up at her and realized I had burned all my bridges in one fell swoop. I staggered to my feet and left the room intending to grab my belongings and leave as quickly as possible. I raced up the stairs to the room Cathy had provided and grabbed my rucksack off the bed.
As I approached the front door however, Reynold stepped out of the shadows and prevented me from going any farther. “The others’ll convince ‘im not to make yeh go. They only wanted yeh to leave so they could calm him down,” he reassured me sensibly, “So there’s no point in leavin’ if all they’re gonna to do is come after yeh. I know my wife’ll definitely insist yeh come back. Yer her guest and yeh’ll be treated with the respect a guest deserves. Te her, guests come first, family next – and Rowan’s more like family. Besides she’ll be furious with me if I let yeh leave!”
I pressed my ear to the door of the sitting room and heard Cathy’s mellow soft voice raised in outrage. “… want to find Rory? Because sending Luke away isn’t going to help you!” she was saying, “Furthermore, Luke is a guest and I will not have my guests being treated like that. If you’re not going to be able to control your temper around him you’d better get out!” There was a mumbled interruption to her lecture. “Don’t you dare tell me you don’t have a problem with Luke!” she yelled, “I could tell you had issues with him the moment you walked through my door. So…” A chorus of outbursts from the others drowned out her voice. Everyone in the room shot criticisms at Rowan about how he had handled the situation. “Go after him Rowan!” or “Rowan – be sensible.” and “You’re the one—”
I pulled away from the door amused. Reynold glanced at my face. “What’d I tell yeh?” he repeated and paused, “Out o’ curiosity, why’d yeh do a stupid thing like that?”
“I don’t know,” I hesitated to tell him, “I was curious if I could touch someone’s thoughts without his knowledge…” My voice trailed off uncertainly as Reynold’s face whitened.
“What?” I asked bewilderedly.
“For most o us, our mind is our last sanctuary,” he said, “The last place the Magician’s conquer. The only time we do something like that is as a last resort.” I nodded and opened my mouth to ask him about the memory I had seen but he seemed to anticipate my question. “No, don’ tell me what yeh saw. That’s private – if I were yeh, I’d forget what I saw.” But I knew I wouldn’t be able to forget – not easily and looking into his eyes I knew he knew it too; he was just warning me to keep it to myself.
I started to pace up and down the hallway. “Do you have anything to eat?” I queried, suddenly ravenous, “I’m starving!”
Reynold smiled. “Shur do,” he replied, “Just follow me.”
An hour later Reynold, Jesse, David and I were sitting in the kitchen talking animatedly. We weren’t drunk – just a bit influenced by the ale we’d been drinking… Okay, we were drunk. An hour or two later my mind blanked.
I woke up groggily, my head throbbing from all the ale I’d had the night before. The events of it danced through my head hazily and I laboriously tried to remember what happened in order. I remembered the ale, Ray, Jesse, Dave and I talking about something and then Cathy and Rowan's interruption. I vaguely remembered Rowan apologizing for something but then my memory went blank.
“Someone’s finally awake,” a softly lilting voice observed with humour beside me.
“Wah’?” I mumbled dazedly, “Who’s ‘at?”
“Oh my,” the voice laughed, “Someone was drunk last night, weren’t they?”
I turned my head trying to see the person better. Seeing nothing, just blackness, freaked me out and I jerked into a sitting position abruptly before I realized I hadn’t opened my eyes. I slowly peeled them open and tried to focus on whoever was poised next to my bed. After a moment, my eyes focussed. Bridget was standing there wearing a long pale blue gown that looked beautiful and out of place on her. “Wow,” I remarked.
“Yeah?” she responded with mock indignation, “You sound surprised. I don’t always wear breeches you know. I do have to look civilized - especially in the city.”
“What happened?” I inquired blearily.
“Nothing,” she replied, “It’s time to get up.”
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Oh, say dawn…” she stated with a teasing smile.
“What?!” I almost shouted.
“Don’t ask me. Cathy’s orders – and it’s her house. If I were you, I’d hurry up and get dressed.” She turned and started to leave the room, then turned back as a forgotten instruction came back to her. “Oh, and there are clothes at the foot of your bed.”
I groaned and rolled over. Dawn!? I rolled over heavily and dragged myself to my feet. I felt horrible. My head drummed with a huge migraine. I hauled my clothes on and blundered to the door. As I stepped out of the door, I crashed into Bridget who was just about to knock on my door again.
“You look horrible,” she commented brightly.
“Thanks for the compliment,” I grumbled.
“I was wondering what was keeping you,” she laughed, “You know, I have the perfect remedy for a hangover.”
“What?” I asked warily.
“I’ll have to show you,” she replied, leading me down the stairs and outside to a barrel full of rainwater. “Now, stand there and look into the water. Your hangover will be gone in seconds!”
“Okay,” I responded sceptically, standing in front of the tub and looking to the bottom of it. Suddenly a hand shoved my head down into the icy cold water. I resurfaced a second later spluttering. Animated laughter rang through the courtyard.
“If you could only have seen your face,” Bridget howled, doubled over with laughter. “That never gets old!”
“What was that for?” I demanded, glaring at her. My hair fell into my face, sopping wet.
“Nothing,” she laughed, “Don’t look so annoyed! I got rid of your hangover didn’t I?”
I had to admit it; I was feeling better. My migraine had all but disappeared and I was thinking more clearly now. “Oh just so you know, Rowan wants to see you,” Bridget said, cutting through my thoughts.
“Yeah?” I said, “What about?”
“What exactly about last night?”
“I dunno. Perhaps because you got drunk…”
“I was doing something called relaxing!” I snapped, “The Races only know I’ve been stressed out enough the past few days!”
Bridget shrugged. “I wouldn’t call drinking yourself into a stupor relaxing, but to each her own I guess. Rowan’s still on the warpath. Why did he get so angry at you anyway?”
I sighed. He must still be angry about the intrusion in his mind the night before. I outlined what had happened in more detail but left out details of the memory. “Do you think that would be why he's ready to kill me for getting drunk?” I asked warily.
“Probably,” she agreed seriously, “He’s not allowed to bother you anymore, but Great Saern!” she punched the wall behind her angrily, “He could only have expected you to try to do something like that. You’d been flaunting your talent all evening. I would be mad if I was him too but it was his fault for not outlining the rules of Mind Craft… I would take Reynolds advice and forget that memory though.”
“But he’s still taking it out on me – even if he's found another reason to be angry.”