By Ellie Margot
There was a power inside of Riette that clicked into place like a second heartbeat. She had taken power from Trinity, too much power, and now it acted like it was pulling her apart from the inside.
They had traveled back down to the port, and they stood there, considering the decisions that still needed to be made and the things they were once again leaving behind.
Riette glanced behind her at the hillside they had traveled down when they had abandoned their home. She looked up toward the place where she had abandoned her mother for the second time. She made herself turn around and face the others.
By the time they had gotten down there and had fought off the vines, it was early in the day. There was a mist that settled over the port that stood before them. It was a moisture carried from the unnatural ocean whose waves crashed before them. The seas were angry, but they couldn’t stop her from thinking about her mission.
Vitan needed her. She wouldn’t fail it again.
Riette glanced at the others. The strangeness of the port in front of them was reflected in the expressions on Trinity’s face.
“It’s something, isn’t it?” asked Cassian.
Trinity turned toward him. “The sea. We didn’t get to see it before. Not like this. Taking it all in now without the bustle of everything muting my vision of it, it’s staggering.”
“It’s a clusterfuck,” said Mekhi. He lifted a bag of random items they had taken with them before they left the home that seemed to have left them.
“Mekhi,” said Corin.
“What? The last time we stood here considering the sea, we ended up in it and up to our asses in blue, crazy-as-shit monkeys. I’m not a huge fan.”
Riette touched her bag, and Barry growled from the inside. He knew when he was being talked about, and Riette wondered for a moment whether he would bust out and thwack Mekhi on the head for talking about his kind.
“They weren’t that bad,” said Riette, smoothing out what she hoped was Barry’s head through the material.
“There were blue guts and sharp as fuck teeth all over the deck,” said Mekhi. “I’m surprised I didn’t get rabies.”
“Who’s to say you don’t have it?” asked Guy. “Though being able to tell the monkey issues from the ones you were born with might be troubling.”
Trinity elbowed him in the ribs, eliciting a grunt from Guy.
“It’s all in good fun,” he assured her.
“Until you are forced to eat your own teeth,” said Trinity after considering the size advantage that Mekhi would have over Guy.
“I appreciate you looking after me, doll face,” said Guy.
“Doll face?” Trinity asked. She turned toward Mekhi. “I stand corrected. Have at him.” She started to walk toward the first street entrance.
Riette snorted and walked behind her, and Cassian did too. Corin, Guy, and Mekhi followed from the back, but she could hear Guy make a grunting noise at what she could only assume was Mekhi tripping him up.
Riette caught up to Trinity and fell in line beside her.
“It’s a lot to take in,” said Riette. She didn’t glance at Trinity. It didn’t feel right to.
Riette didn’t know much about her, but since they had shared a power, there was something between them. An invisible tether that let their powers speak together, even when Riette knew that shouldn’t be possible.
“I’m sure you weren’t as starry eyed when you first saw it,” said Trinity.
“Please. They had to drag me from place to place because I couldn’t stop staring. There’s nothing like this at home.”
“My home either,” said Trinity. “The water. It’s like it’s alive, and it speaks to me in a way that I can’t really put into words. I dreamed about the sea as a little girl, but being here is something altogether different.”
They stopped and looked at the water that pushed against the ships at the docks. The water slapped against the hulls as if it aimed to climb inside.
There was a hum in Riette’s chest, something she hadn’t felt since she was at sea. It was what she had felt when she looked at the man who wasn’t a man at all. The Siren.
Riette turned quickly and moved ahead. Trinity and Cassian followed behind. Guy moved quicker until he stood next to the front group so he could talk to Trinity.
“Now, there are some rules to follow at the port,” he said. “I’d listen to me, since I’m kind of a big deal here.”
“A big deal?” asked Trinity. “You?”
“You try to wound me, woman, but you’ll see. I’m well known here.”
“So you know her?” asked Riette.
“Her who?” asked Guy.
Riette tilted her head to bring his attention to the woman in front of them, who seemed to consider the group and then do a double-take.
Riette turned toward Cassian. They shared a look.
The woman was roughly their age, maybe a little older, and she had long brown hair run through with blonde streaks and a colorful scarf pulling it back. She wore a long flowing skirt that grabbed the dirt beneath her feet and kicked it up around her as she moved with purpose toward them.
“A friend of yours?” Cassian asked Guy.
“Fuck me,” Guy whispered, dragging a hand down his face.
He didn’t turn to run, but his expression was drawn like he had thought about it.
“Guy Alexander, you thoughtless prick,” she hissed as soon as she was close enough to be heard.
“Not a family member,” said Mekhi.
“Not a fan at all, it seems,” said Corin, leaning into Mekhi.
“Morgana,” said Guy. “You look—”
“Choke on your tongue before I remove it,” said Morgana.
“Like I could kill you and no one would find fault with me?” She stepped closer to Guy, who moved closer to where Trinity and Cassian were standing. Riette was at their other side.
Guy stood his ground as Morgana approached, though Riette saw his throat move to swallow.
Guy went to open his mouth, but Morgana slapped him across his cheek and spoke another language in a small fury of words before she spit at his feet and walked off.
The group, minus Guy, watched her leave as fast as she’d found them.
“You are popular,” said Trinity.
Guy touched his face, rubbing the red spot that was quickly forming there. “I can’t please everyone.”
“And why does she hate you?” asked Riette.
“I may have tried to please someone else while I was pleasing her, if you get my drift.”
“And you think I’m diseased?” asked Mekhi.
“Can we not talk about this?” asked Trinity.
“We do need a plan,” said Mekhi.
“Right, we don’t want to get Trinity any more upset than she needs to be,” said Guy. He put his arm around Trinity. “It was before I met you, darling.”
She shrugged out of his hold. “Honestly, let’s move on.”
“Right, I’m sorry you had to see that, is all,” said Guy.
Trinity looked at the sky and turned toward Riette.
“What’s the plan?” asked Mekhi. “I doubt Alluette is going to take us leaving like that lightly.”
Riette’s stomach clenched at the sound of her mother’s name. She didn’t look back up the hillside leading up the cliff. She couldn’t without allowing a deluge of feelings to cloud her mind and her vision.
“She’s not coming down here,” said Guy, cutting through her thoughts.
“You can’t know that,” said Cassian
“She’s never come down here, not since before my time, and she wouldn’t be greeted well if she did.”
“You’re saying she won’t come after us?” asked Riette. “Not even me?”
“Not in person. I’d bet my hat on it.”
“Notice he’s not wearing a hat,” said Mekhi in an exaggerated stage whisper.
“You know what I mean.”
“Sometimes, frighteningly, yes, I do,” said Mekhi.
“Let’s get somewhere to make a plan,” said Cassian.
“Before Guy gets jumped again,” said Corin.
“My pretty face can’t take it,” said Guy.
“We should go to Baron’s,” said Guy. “It’ll give us the space we need to talk, and we can move on from there.”
“The inn?” asked Riette. “Isn’t that on the other side of the Broken Sea?”
Guy looked at her. “Yeah, but he owns more than one inn. He’s got one on this side of the sea, and if he’s there, Baron will give us a place to talk.”
Riette moved forward. “Baron is a good guy.” She thought back to the things that had happened since the last time she was in one of his establishments.
Back then, she didn’t have the crazy eyes caused by Trinity’s power surging through her veins and rattling her bones. She didn’t feel so far away from her mother. She hadn’t fought with Cassian, though she was now on the other side of that chasm.
Riette was a different person now, with all the scars that ran through her like ripples in a pond.
They walked in relative silence. Getting there didn’t take long, but the day had already grown long, with the sun bearing down on them like Riette’s conscience.
She saw the inn, which looked identical to the one she’d stayed in before, and it felt a little like being at home in the warmness she sensed just beneath her ribs.
“Is it safe?” asked Trinity. She looked up the road and back down the other side.
“That’s relative,” said Guy. “Now would I walk down that way?” He gestured toward the right. “At night, by myself, maybe a little drunk? No, I wouldn’t if I still wanted both of my kidneys.”
He saw Trinity’s face.
“Hold on,” he said. “Now, would I go to sleep like a fucking baby upstairs knowing a cyclops has my back at the front desk? Hells yeah.”
“That’s not very reassuring,” said Trinity.
“What is?” asked Cassian, almost under his breath.
Riette caught his eye, and her brow lifted.
He smirked back at her.
“Cassian,” said Trinity, grabbing his arm.
“We’re good. He’s a good guy.” He touched her arm, and she leaned her head against his shoulder.
Riette took the steps one by one and walked up to the door, pressing her weight against it as she turned the knob. The inside of the inn brought the smells of cinnamon rushing into her nose. It was dark inside, candlelit, despite the windows that were all but shuttered.
Baron stood behind the small desk as if he had been waiting for this moment.
“You’ve returned to one of my establishments,” he said, smiling. “My food brought you here, yeah?”
Riette laughed. “You know it,” she said with what was hopefully her most convincing smile. Her last dining experience at one of Baron’s inns hadn’t been ideal, but she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Baron came from around the desk that barely hid the bulk of his size.
Riette turned to see if the others had followed her. She saw Trinity’s eyes enlarge at seeing the bulk of Baron coming toward them. As Elves, they were all tall and willowy, but Baron made them look like children.
When he got closer, he paused in front of Riette. The smile left his face. He continued until he reached her side, and his hands went around her like they were supposed to, but that was where the familiarity ended.
He touched her, shaking, and his body went stiff.
Baron released her, and he stood up to his full height. Creases appeared on the sides of his eyes as he considered her before shaking his head. He didn’t look at her again.
“What?” asked Riette. “Baron, you’re scaring me.”
Baron focused his attention on Guy and the others as Cassian moved to stand in front of Riette.
“She can’t stay here,” he said, his voice breaking on the edges of his words, but there was a resolution in his voice all the same.
“What?” asked Riette. “Baron, you can’t be serious.”
“That’s not Riette. Not the girl who I met before.”
Riette turned toward Guy, moving past Cassian. “What the fuck is he talking about?”
Guy shook his head. “Baron, you’re freaking her out, all of us.”
“Something happened to her. You let something change her. What she became can’t be harbored here.”
“What are you saying is wrong with me?” asked Riette.
Cassian touched her arm to pull her back, and that was when she realized she had moved toward the desk.
The power thrummed inside of her to a steady beat no one could hear but her, but she wasn’t out of control. It wasn’t a blind fury making a marionette of her movements. It was something else.
She stepped back, not looking at anyone in particular, but running through the thoughts in her head. She knew the power she had gotten from Trinity had imprinted on her. Her eyes told that story, even while she wanted to keep it to herself.
Sure, she thought people might look at her differently or avoid looking at her at all. But she hadn’t expected a reaction like that. A rejection.
Guy took her place at the counter while Riette stood next to the window and looked out at the street. She didn’t watch what was happening behind her, but she couldn’t train her ears to turn away from it.
“Baron, we wanted a room,” said Guy. “She was excited about coming here, eating here.”
“I don’t want to do this, but I can’t have that magic in here. It’s isn’t right.”
“What’s not right about it?”
“It’s not of her own. She’s upsetting the balance. She has to leave, and if that takes you all with her, so be it.” Baron took a breath. “I’m sorry.”
“Let’s go,” said Cassian. “He’s not going to change his mind.”
Baron shook his head. “I wish that I could.”
“Wishes are worth fuck all if you don’t back it up,” said Mekhi. Corin touched his arm again, but he continued. “I hate people hiding behind things. Own your shit. If you don’t want her here, you don’t want us here. It’s that simple.”
Mekhi took Corin’s hand and walked over to Riette, tugging her arm before going outside. “Fuck him, Ri. This place sucked anyway.”
Riette paused at the doorway and looked back at Baron, whose eye was cast downward. She walked out, and she felt different.
The sun was still shining. Things were still up in the air, but her place in the world had been moved slightly from where it had been thirty minutes before.
And she knew that was stupid. She didn’t know Baron like that. Not really.
It shouldn’t have that much bearing on her feelings about herself, about the choices she made, but she knew somewhere deep inside of her that things were different in her, and Baron had just confirmed it.
It didn’t sit right with her, and she doubted it ever would.
The group stood at the bottom of the stoop.
“Well, that was—” Guy started.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Riette. “We need another place.”
Corin touched her hand. “That was totally fucked, Riette. There’s nothing wrong with you. He was wrong for that.”
“I can’t fault him about how he feels, and I can’t change his mind, but we can decide what we want to do now.”
Riette looked at Cassian, whose brow was furrowed over words he wasn’t saying. She hoped he didn’t say anything, so she didn’t let him.
“Guy, where to?” she asked.
“I know a place,” he said, but even he sounded different.
“I’m fine,” said Riette. “What’s the place?”
“Okay, it’s not as nice as this place.”
“Oh, boy,” said Trinity at just above a whisper.
“Keepers?” asked Corin. “That place isn’t anywhere near nice.”
“You didn’t hate it last time,” said Guy.
Mekhi stepped forward, and Guy threw up his hands. “Woah, bro. I’m not saying it like that.”
“Watch how you say anything before you lose the ability,” Mekhi said to Guy.
Cassian and Trinity talked softly behind Riette as she followed Guy to the front door. Corin and Mekhi took up the rear.
“Is there anyone Guy hasn’t slept with?” Trinity asked Cassian at a micro-whisper.
Riette barely heard it, but she turned around, saying, “Oh, I’m a proud member of the ‘Hasn’t slept with Guy’ club.”
“Thank goodness,” Cassian mumbled, rolling his eyes.
“I knew you had some sense,” said Trinity, smirking.
“Are we going to move past this?” Guy asked Mekhi.
“Fuck, and get it over with if you ask me,” said Trinity. She looked at Corin. “No offense intended.”
Corin put her hand on her chin, considering. “No, it could help.”
Mekhi’s jaw dropped next to her.
“I’m kidding, obviously,” said Corin, throwing her hands up.
Guy looked him over, considering. “Well, that angel must have seen something in you, I guess.”
“What the fuck are you doing?” asked Mekhi as he watched Guy’s eyes look over him.
“Looking for what he saw in you.” Guy turned back toward Trinity. “Maybe I have a thing for redheads?”
Mekhi’s hair was a lot darker of a red, and Trinity’s was a strawberry-hinted blonde.
“The new place?” asked Riette.
“Yeah, it’s just a few blocks over,” said Guy, pulling his eyes away from Trinity.
Riette grabbed Guy by his arm and pushed him ahead of her. “Lead the way before someone fights you or you end up doing someone else.”
“Yes, oh angry leader,” said Guy, moving them ahead.