Authors: Jess Bowen
Phoebe sighed. Apparently he wasn’t going to let her leave until she did as he said. She tried to concentrate but only heard a loud babble of voices. She thought harder, trying to focus only on her own thoughts and to will the others to be silenced. Slowly, she homed in on one voice at a time, silencing it, and little by little the deafening roar of voices became quieter.
She wasn’t sure how long it took, but finally she was only able to hear herself. Her head felt like it had shrunk back to its normal size.
A voice came from far away. “Now, I want you to concentrate on just me, and see if you can hear what I am thinking.”
It took her a moment to realize that it was Cassius speaking. She focused her attention solely on him, and she felt like some part of her was leaving her body behind as she sought out his mind. Then she heard his voice again, ringing clearly through her mind.
The tiger’s name is Maya. The tiger’s name is Maya. The tiger’s name is Maya.
“Maya, I know that name,” Phoebe said. She opened her eyes and searched her memory for why the name was already familiar to her.
The tiger in the corner stirred for the first time, lifting her head to look at Phoebe. Just like Cassius, she did not seem to need to blink. Cassius had stopped circling Phoebe and now surveyed her through his square spectacles.
“You have an incredibly rare and powerful talent. There have been very few in history who have had such a gift.” Cassius looked at her with an odd expression that she couldn’t quite place.
“What does that mean? I thought we were brought here to be Masters of some sort,” she asked, confused.
“In our world, every person is born to an Element. Some may also have one or more talents. Each person is given the opportunity to train with the elves to develop their Elements and talents, if they have them. As Masters of the Elements, you were born with at least one talent, but there may be others. Only time or desperate need will reveal them.”
“What is my talent?”
“You are a Truth Seeker,” Cassius said, not at all looking like he expected Phoebe to know what that was or how exceptional it was supposed to be. “Mouths can spit out lies, but a mind never lies. Only a Truth Seeker can find the truth no matter how hard others may hide behind words and appearances.”
“So, I can read minds?” she asked, thinking of psychics.
“You can read thoughts, emotions, and memories. You have access to others’ greatest fears, and that in itself is a powerful weapon. You will need to learn to use it to your advantage. I have come across this talent only once before, but I believe I can help you, if you are willing to allow me to.”
Cassius stood expectantly, clearly waiting to hear if she would accept his help or not. She nodded her head slowly, still thinking it over.
“You will have lessons once a week with me.” He paused as he considered his next statement. “I advise you not to shout about your talent. You should tell Ethan, but no one else unless you have complete trust in them. I also advise you to keep your mind clear and focused on your own thoughts. Truth Seeking can be a powerful weapon when needed, but you should not invade others’ minds for your own pleasure.”
Cassius turned from Phoebe and went back to sit on the dais. “Dorian will now take you to your room.”
Dismissed, she turned and exited the room. For the first time since she’d arrived, the only thoughts in her head were her own. If nothing else, she experienced a small relief from that.
Dorian stood outside holding her bag. His demeanor hadn’t changed much. Now that she understood her talent, she was sure that if she wanted to, she could figure out what he was thinking, but she was trying to keep voices out at the moment, not open the doorway to let them all flood back in.
“This way to your room,” Dorian said, wasting no time. “You will be sharing with two others who will be training with you.”
Phoebe nodded and followed him through the maze of stairwells and passageways that led to the room she would be staying in.
As distracted as she was by a hundred other things, she couldn’t help but watch the man in front of her. He was so familiar, and yet not at the same time. The scent trailing behind him was so unique that she couldn’t connect it to anything in particular, but it triggered something in her memory. Something pleasant. However, there was nothing pleasant about this man. His expression was so hard and cold, it looked like a stone carving. She wanted to reach out and smooth the harsh lines; that look didn’t belong on this face.
He stopped abruptly as they arrived at the room and opened the door.
Directly in front of Phoebe was a sitting room with a small fireplace. Inside, there were two couches and four chairs, along with a beautiful coffee table in the middle of the room. Off the right was a bedroom with three full-sized beds, each with four wooden posts elaborately carved with flowers and ivy. The bedclothes were made of tightly stitched cotton and colored with rich reds, blues, greens, and every other color imaginable. A door led off the bedroom into what she assumed was a bathroom. Everything in this place was so detailed and beautiful.
All the wood was carved into intricate patterns. Every fabric had rich colors. Even the fireplace was not lacking in detail. Each stone around the hearth had pictures of animals carved into it. They looked incredibly realistic. The ceiling was also carved into a pattern of ivy and colored to match. Phoebe wondered how the ivory stone could be colored to look green. Or was it carved jade?
“Ethan’s room is across the hall. Gnomes and dwarves will come up soon to bring you food and clothing. I expect your roommates will be back by sundown so you can get acquainted. I suggest you rest for the celebration tomorrow. The day after that you will be taken to receive your companion.” Dorian then bowed himself out and left Phoebe alone in the room.
She took the bed nearest to the sitting room, the only one with no decorations on the wall above the headboard, and put her bags down on it. She then headed to check out the bathroom where she was sure she’d be awed by the beauty. She was not disappointed. The sink was chiseled out of ivory stone with carvings of water creatures and waves decorating every inch.
The shower was equally ornate. The curtain hanging around it was a rich blue. A large wardrobe, stunningly patterned, of course, stood against the back wall. It put the walk-in closet back at her house to shame. The toilet was also carved and beautiful. She wondered where all the water came from—there were taps and a shower nozzle, but no other plumbing to be seen. She supposed the time would come when she would figure it out. Making her way back to her bed, she sat down with a heavy sigh. The mattress was incredibly comfortable. Although, she had expected nothing less; this place was almost too perfect.
She wanted to go talk with Ethan, but the noise in her head was coming back, so she lay back to once again clear her mind. It wouldn’t do any good to go talk to him if she couldn’t follow the conversation.
Closing her eyes as a single tear leaked out, Phoebe was lonely and scared.
5. Lack of Information
The ivy pattern that was crafted into the ceiling of Ethan’s room was so intricate it looked like it could have been real. He knew that with his previous eyes, this would have been nothing more than a nice picture. But with these eyes, he could see every line, every curve. If there had been a breeze in the room, he was almost positive the leaves above him would flutter. It helped to focus on this pattern, to turn his attention away from the millions of questions in the back of his mind that he had no answer for. He sighed in frustration. Lying back on this comfortable bed was not helping his resolve to stay angry about the information he’d been given, or more appropriately, the information he
Was it really so difficult to give the whole story at once? Or was information going to be dispersed a little at a time until everything made sense? Right now, nothing was even close to making sense. Ethan was still trying to decide whether he was dreaming or not. It would probably be the longest dream in history, but he could handle that.
He had received a very short explanation from his parents, but that was before he believed any of this, and he didn’t remember much of what they had said. He hadn’t really received any more of an explanation from Dorian or Cassius, either, and Phoebe seemed just as clueless as he was. Of course, that might have changed by now, seeing as how she was able to stay behind and possibly ask more questions.
There were a few facts that Ethan seemed to have straight, even if nothing else made sense. One was that he was a Master of an Element, Earth. Whatever that meant. It seemed to be a big deal. However, since no one had bothered to explain its importance, he wasn’t really sure. They had said that no one had been a Master of an Element before, aside from the four others, of course. But Ethan still didn’t know what that meant. He had no idea what being a Master of an Element entailed. It sounded like power of some kind. That was slightly thrilling. If he had to be thrown into an alternate reality, it would only be fitting for him to have some sort of supernatural abilities. And from what he had seen of Phoebe’s power, it was going to be exciting.
If nothing else, the sharpened senses were great: to be able to see everything, and that really did mean
; to hear even the smallest breath of wind or the pitter patter of tiny animals. His sense of smell was incredible too, and thankfully, he hadn’t come across anything appalling yet. That alone had proved to him that he wasn’t in reality anymore—well, at least that he wasn’t in his previous world anymore. Apparently he had lived here for a few years before being shipped off to Earth, but he didn’t remember any of it.
Man, this is turning into a bad science fiction dream. Or would this qualify as fantasy?
He wasn’t sure…he’d never been into that.
Another fact that was slowly permeating his brain was that there was evil here that he was supposed to help destroy. At least that’s what it sounded like. Ethan wasn’t sure what they expected him to do since they had failed to give him any more than basic information. Aside from his super senses, he didn’t feel any different. If he contained some great power, it was hiding well. At least Phoebe had seemed like she had been a little different. She had been complaining about some noise that no one else had heard. It had seemed important to Cassius, though. In addition, she had shown some kind of power when they’d been walking into the Annexus. Ethan would have to ask her about that.
He heard a soft knock at the door. Sighing heavily, he got up and opened it. There was Phoebe, looking timid. She reminded him of someone he knew, with her hair pulled up in a messy ponytail and her piercing blue eyes. She had a casual elegance about her that made her even more intriguing, but it was her eyes most of all that drew him to her. He had seen them before. He couldn’t remember where, but they were familiar all the same. Although, with the limited history he had been given, perhaps it was just a stray memory.
“Can I come in?” she asked meekly.
“Yes, of course,” he answered, standing aside to let her enter.
She was the only connection he had to anything that made sense.
She walked in, looked around the room, and made her way to the sitting room and sat down on a chair near the fireplace. There was no fire burning; there wasn’t a need as it was plenty warm enough without one. Ethan sat in the chair opposite her and realized that she was clearly waiting for him to speak. He wasn’t sure what she wanted to talk about, so he guessed.
“So, what did Cassius say?” He was hoping she had some more information that she could share with him.
“He said that I have a talent called Truth Seeking.”
“What is that?” Ethan asked, his interest piqued.
“That basically means that I can read minds, thoughts, emotions, memories, that kind of thing.”
Ethan’s guard went up immediately.
Is she reading my mind?
Then he wondered if he was being paranoid—even if she did read his mind, there wasn’t much to be found there at the moment.
“Are you…are you reading my mind…right now?” he asked, morbidly curious.
“No, I’m not using it right now. He said it’s best if I only use it when necessary. He also said that I should tell you about it but not anyone else.”
“Well, I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you mean.”
She nodded. Then she looked like she was considering something carefully. “I have used it, before, on you. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t even know what it was then.”
Ethan was confused. “What do you mean?”
She looked embarrassed. “Back at…home.” Ethan didn’t miss the hesitation at the word
. Where was that? “I used to be able to read your emotions really well, when you were on the beach. And then when we were traveling here, I could hear your thoughts. And I assure you, I am not crazy.” She smiled slightly at that.
It was his turn to be embarrassed, although he had no reason to. Usually people didn’t have to worry about their thoughts being broken into. But Phoebe had said she wasn’t using it on purpose then, so that was good.
Ethan smiled back at her. “Sorry, just considering every possibility.”
“Don’t worry. I thought I was going crazy when I started to hear you in my head. It was really weird.” She shifted in her seat and crossed her legs.
She stared off into space, gazing out the open window that was situated beside the fireplace. She was obviously thinking hard, trying to connect all the dots, just as he was.
“Do you think your dad and mine are really brothers?” she asked after a while.
Ethan was taken aback by the question. He hadn’t even thought about that. But when his father and Phoebe’s had greeted each other, they had called one another “brother.” Why else would you call someone that?
“Dunno. Unless that’s what they call each other here,” Ethan pondered.
“Well, if they are, that would make us cousins.”
He hadn’t even thought of that, either. If they were related, that might at least explain why she had seemed so familiar. Not only did it seem they were related, but they had probably known each other when they were smaller. It would make sense.