Lage handed the bag of souls to me. I pulled it open and investigated. There were three tiny spheres. One white and silver, one grey, and one black. Well.
I drew the black one out. It was feeble, tainted, ad worthless to me. Mere filler so they could say that they were giving Lage three. I dropped it, crushign it under my heel.
With a squeal and sigh, the soul was free. Their thanks and relief poured into me, and I nodded graciously. You’re welcome.
Then, I looked to the other two in my palm. The gray one was next. I tossed it up and caught it in my mouth. It tasted sweet, fruity, and had a tang of spice to it.
I spat it out, satisfied. A good soul, but not worth my time. Be gone.
The soul scurried away, whispering thanks and all that.
Finally, I held up the silver-white one. Who are you?
I tossed the ball to the ground, ordering it silently to show itself.
As it struck the ground, a silhouette appeared above it. A hologram almost, one could say, or a ghost of a shape. It was the shape of a man, dark like onyx and bearing a striking resemblance to Rebella. Yet where she seemed merciless he seemed softer, wiser. He had long locks that were drawn back and let to fall down around his cloaked shoulders. He was dressed royally but not frivolously.
He bowed slightly to me, proper as could be. “Greetings,” he said clearly, a difficult thing for a spirit to do.
“Serve me,” I ordered. I could sense his power. Noble lineage, good fighting skills, yes, I wanted his service. He would build me a proper army, be a good general.
He hesitated. “What goal are you reaching for? What purpose?”
“I will destroy those who upset the bonds between the worlds. I have come to end the game,” I said.
He inclined his head. Lowering his gaze, he seemed to think.
“Join me,” I ordered again.
His eyes rose to mine, somber. “What you seek is no easy path. I will join you – if you pledge to keep my line safe. Especially Rebella.”
My lip curled in disdain. “Fine,” I snapped a little too swiftly.
We bowed, and the pact was sealed. As I straightened from the bow, he vanished in a flicker. I picked up the sphere from the ground and placed it back in the pouch. I tied it to my belt, and decided my time was done.
Like a cold deluge, all my heat and power drained away. I felt the biting snap of cold on my toes. I felt the sharp winter on my face, my hands. I was suddenly a thirteen year old girl, cold and in a strange land.
Shaking, I looked around as if seeing the grounds for the first time. Lage stepped forward. “It’s you again,” he said gently, crouching down before me. He took my shoulders. I gaped, looking at the bodies around. They hadn’t even had the chance to fire their guns. Or had some supernatural force held them back?
“I did that?” I asked, my voice trembling.
“No,” he said, blue eyes clear and honest. “It wasn’t you.”
“Who?” I looked down at myself. I felt so small compared to that power, that confidence, that I had been filled with just a moment before.
He sighed. “I’m not sure. But you must go somewhere safe.”
“Get her out of me!” I ordered. I knew for sure it was a woman, intuitively. How, I was not sure. But she was a ‘she’.
Lage straightened, hands still on my shoulders. “You can stay with me -”
“You work with them!” I yelled, wrenching free.
“I do not,” he said sternly. Looking around, he sighed, as if looking for some escape. “I merely do my job,” he muttered.
A shaky breath came through me. I felt like a scarecrow, just rattling with the wind. “I want to know,” I said. “I want to know- everything.” Who could I trust? What was going on? “I want to know!” I raised my voice, almost yelling.
Lage looked down at me. “You’re so young.”
Fury boiled in me – but this wasn’t the same that brought power. This was plain anger, unfuelled by that ‘other’ sense.
Then, as if the thought summoned it, I felt it wave up through me. I felt taller, haughty, and ready to take on Lage in all his own power. I didn’t care if he was the main player-
“Main player?” I asked, suddenly brought out of the trance by the jarring knowledge. “What – what does that mean?”
Lage’s eyes narrowed. I felt a sense of humor in the back of my mind, like part of me was laughing at him. I wanted to tip myhead back and cackle. Yes! Be afraid, Lage!
Lage took a step back. “Leave me,” he said sharply. “Take her with you. I can’t save you from her.”
“Fine,” I heard myself say coldly. Struggling, I tried to push aside that coldness, that haughtiness. “Lage-” I said, forcing myself to become myself again.
He shook his head and stepped back. “I can’t help you.”
“But!” I felt myself failing. I needed him – I needed someone!
Lage turned around and walked away. I stood there alone, listening to the sound of his boots crunching in the snow.
“Come back to me,” said a voice from within. Rebella. “I can tell you, everything.”
Fury boiled up within me. I yanked the dagger up from the snow where I had dropped it. I shoved it clumsily into my belt – giving myself a tiny cut on the thumb for my carelessness. Then, turning, I stomped back the way I had came.
I walked for five minutes, following the snowmobile trails, before I realized I could take one of those and save myself the hours of walking. Turning around, I trekked back to the snowmobiles and took their keys from the dead bodies. Gulping down bile and ignoring the fresh smell that was staining the air, I clambered onto the smallest snowmobile.
I drove considerably slower on the way back than we had come. I didn’t want to end up crashed against a tree, and I doubted my parasitic spirit’s bravado would save me if I did have a smashing accident.
By the time I arrived at the city’s outer gates, the sky was turning a deep shade of greyish black. At the gates, proud and pleased, was Rebella on a horse at the head of a handful of guards.
“There you are,” she said as soon as I let the engine choke to an end a bit away from the horses. I stepped off the thing, scowling at her. She smiled like she was so pleased. Like I was her special gift. “Come,” she nodded to the left. “I have a horse for you.”
Still scowling, I marched to where a guard was waiting with a soft brown horse. They helped me up and I found myself sitting directly beside Rebella. She was still smiling at me. With a satisfied nod, she wheeled her horse around and entered the city.
Clumsily, the horse doing more the following than I the guiding, we made our way after her. The guards cocooned around me, following Rebella. These guards were not jesting or joking about me any longer. There was a wary look to their eyes and silence to their lips. I wondered what had changed – and realized that I would probably find out soon. Very soon.