Kayla took the bottle and pressed it against the side of her head. The man looked to her, and I watched them both.
“What is Gwenevarnia?” asked Kayla, sounding, as she herself would put it ‘tired of this shit’. “Is it some gang territory?”
Lage leaned across the table, palms pressing into it so hard his hands turned deathly white. “This is not about gangs. This is beyond them. This is about worlds.”
Kayla just shook her head. Lage turned to me. “Do you know what I am talking about?”
I held my silence. He shook his head and turned to Kayla. “Do you know that there are other worlds within the tree of life?”
Kayla’s eyebrows raised. My heart skipped a beat.
“I come from Gwenevarnia,” he repeated. “That is another world. This one is named Argv-”
“Another world?” interrupted Kayla. “Are you mad?”
“I am not!”
“Of course he’s mad. Whey else is he dressed like that?” I asked, daring him to reveal more. Show us what he could do by disbelief.
He looked from Kayla to me and then back. “I swear-”
“Prove it,” snapped Kayla.
“Why else do you think all this is happening?” he demanded, leaning across the table again. Kayla recoiled with a crinkled nose.
“Her father got messed up in gangs. That’s all!” She waved a hand at the man. “You’re messing with us.”
“Out!” Kayla lifted the vodka bottle as a weapon.
The man scowled, brow creasing. I rose to my feet. “Wait.”
Both adults stared at me. I sat back down now that I had their attention. “How do we make them stop?”
The man hesitated, still in his seat. “I do not know. They usually get whatever they want and,” he paused, looking to Kayla. “That means they usually don’t stop. I’m sorry.”
Kayla cursed under her breath. I looked to the man. “Prove yourself.”
“What?” he asked, eyebrows raising at my command. I glared him down with all my inner power.
“Prove Gwenevarnia exists. Prove that you are not mad. Prove it!”
He leaned towards me. “The card you ate – it has special powers. You will not be well until we have another one crafted. If we can.”
“That proves nothing,” I said staunchly.
He closed his eyes with a sigh. Then, when he opened them – had they always been brown? I startled. Kayla frowned, eyes narrowing.
No one heard the man arriving from the living room until the gunshot blew through Kayla. Blood spattered across Lage and I gasped, terror and ice seizing me. It was like needles in my skin, shooting through me.
One of the goons was in the entryways to the kitchen, gun in hand. Lage was seizing me by the wrist and dragging me to his side. Kayla was laying across the table, gasping as she clutched at her bleeding chest.
I realized that I loved Kayla very much. She had tried her best for me.
Our eyes met. Then she looked to the man. “Take her and go,” she hissed. The man nodded. She seized the bottle of vodka. Spinning, she lunged and threw herself at the goon. He yelled, the gun firing. A large hand covered my eyes, turning my head and crushing me into the green cloak. There was a smash of glass thudding and shattering – and then nothing.
The hands slowly lifted from my eyes. Around me, pine trees stretched. There was the tinkling sound of a stream. A cool breeze wafted over us. There was snow on the earth, just a thin sprinkling of it.
“Kayla,” I said, trembling but not from the cold. Kayla.
“She may yet live,” the man said from behind me. His hands squeezed my shoulders protectively. “But now you are safe. That is the important part.”
I stared ahead, unmoving. Or no – I shook. The cold began to nip at my fingers. A section of the cloak was wrapped around me. “Here,” he said, pressing me against himself. With a fumble, he drew the cloak off himself and began to wrap it around me.
In a fit I threw him off, flailing at the thick fabric. “I don’t want it!” I screamed, spinning to yell it at him.
He seemed shocked, maybe hurt. Then he softened. “Alright,” he said, drawing it back around himself. “But we have some walking ahead of us.”
“I don’t want to!” I hissed. “Take me back!” Once more, anger began crackling over me, rising like heat in my veins. I felt the power, the adrenaline, surging. I was going to destroy something. The hacking with the knife? That would be pithy little once I had my hands on the one who had shot Kayla!
He lifted two hands to placate me. “No. She wanted you here. You are safe.”
I shuddered, a sob tearing through me. I doubled over, feeling sick. The world swam. When it stopped, heavy hands were holding my shoulders.
I looked up. He smiled unsteadily at me. “My name is Lage,” he said gently.
Something clicked in my head. I squinted at him. “I ate your card.” But not ‘his’ in that it belonged to him, ‘his’ in that …
“Yes,” he said, eyes shifting blue once more.
I looked around. Behind him stood a tall stone, a standing stone of sorts. There were inscriptions on it, and I recognized it as the image on the card I had eaten. I stared at it. He turned, placing a hand on the stone while watching me. “This is my menhir,” he said. “Our version of the cards.”
“The cards?” I felt all this information, the implications, swirling within me.
He seemed to pity me. “Let’s walk,” he said. “My home is not so far.”