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The steele wolf, p.22
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       The Steele Wolf, p.22

           Chanda Hahn
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  Everything I remembered made me miss him more and tears poured down my face though they dried almost instantly because of the wind. I had almost given up when I felt a pull on my spirit so light I almost ignored it. When it came again, I snapped my attention in the direction of the pull and sought with my sight. We were flying under Skyfell and shadows covered the ground and made it hard to see. Then I felt it again and it was above me. Looking up all I saw was darkness on the underside of the city.

  “Joss, fly higher,” I yelled into his ear and pointed up. With a quick command from Joss, Cecili started to climb higher and I vision-searched again until I saw movement, barely discernible against the outcropping of the city.

  It looked like one of the farmers that harvested the plants that grew on the underside of the city, but then I realized this person had no harness attached.

  “Joss, there!” I screamed and pointed and he flew. It was another thirty seconds before we reached a point where we could see with the human eye what I saw by vision-searching. Flying closer, we saw that a man was gripping various rock outcroppings and was slowly, very slowly trying to climb up the side of the city.

  “It’s Kael, he’s alive!” I cried in relief. Somehow Kael was, by sheer strength alone, holding his body weight and scaling the city. But he was exhausted; he had probably been out here all night holding onto the rocks to survive. If he slipped or let go, it was certain death. Only a SwordBrother would have the stamina or the stubbornness to attempt what Kael was doing.

  “Hold on, Kael,” Joss yelled, and flew Cecili up and under him.

  Kael looked at us in shock and he tried to smile but I could see that the effort was costing him. He was scraped up, bloody, bruised and tired.

  “Joss, can Cecili hold all three of us?”

  “Not for long, she can’t! But we can’t leave him there. He could fall if I go for help.” But Joss did what he could and flew up practically underneath Kael. Cecili bobbed up and down and I reached up to touch Kael’s back.

  “Kael, we are right under you. Give me your hand.” I tried to steady him so that he could release the ledge and grab onto us but Kael’s hands were frozen, his muscles were so strained that he had problems moving. He looked stiff and mechanical releasing the wall and giving me his arm.

  “Come on, Kael, I’ve got you,” I said in the calmest voice I could as he turned and viewed the distance between him and the giant bird. No matter how close we flew he was still going to have to jump. There was no way to fly closer without injuring her. Kael looked at me and I felt as if I were drowning in his eyes. There was so much emotion deep inside them and I felt as if I could read his mind. But then the rock Kael was holding onto came loose from the cliff and I could see his eyes widen in surprise as he lost his grip.

  “Jump, Kael. Jump!” Joss yelled. And Kael did, despite his sore and stiff muscles, Kael jumped towards the dorabill and landed on his stomach behind me across the bird’s back. There was a struggle as Kael reached for something to hold on to but found nothing and then he started to slide down the side of the dorabill.

  I screamed his name and lunged for Kael, grabbing his arm as. His hands grabbed onto mine. The jerk of his weight pulled me down and I started to slide off the dorabill. “Kael!” I grunted as the tears I was crying earlier fell down my chin to land on his face. “Hold on! Don’t let go.”

  Joss tried to reach behind him to grab onto Kael but he couldn’t do it and fly Cecili. “Just get us down,” I screamed and Cecili started to descend. But it knocked us around and I was getting pulled further and further sideways. I couldn’t hold him. We were both going to fall. I was going to lose Kael and he knew it. I saw the realization in his eyes.

  “Thalia,” Kael called my name softly. “Let me go.”

  “No!” I snarled back at him, the way he snarled at me plenty of times before. “I don’t want to lose you.”

  “You have to or we’re both going to fall.”

  “I’m not letting go.” But just then, Cecili hit an updraft and we jerked and I screamed as I fell farther. Joss grabbed my belt to hold me as much as he could into my seat.

  “Thalia. If you care for me at all, you will let me go.”

  “That doesn’t make any sense.”

  “I couldn’t live with myself if I were the cause of your death,” Kael argued and before I could reply, he wrenched his hands from my grasp and let go.

  Chapter 28

  “Kael, no!” I screamed and it was just like before when he fell. “JOSS! HELP HIM!”

  Joss reached out his hand and I saw him glow with power. All of a sudden the speck of black that was Kael’s falling figure disappeared through the mists. Cecili screamed and flew sideways as Joss, drained and sick from using so much power, collapsed forwards, startling the dorabill. Joss was unconscious.

  Grabbing Joss and holding him in his seat I leaned forward around him and tried to grab Cecili’s neck. She was panicking, with the floppy dead weight on her back and the inconsistent directions I was giving her. I didn’t know how to guide her.

  “Whoa, girl. Steady, girl,” I called as if I were talking to a horse. When that didn’t work I tried to force a mind connection that I had done with Faraway and the wolf. It worked and I was instantly dizzy as everything came into focus. I tried to show her mind what I wanted. Cecili’s flying steadied and we were still descending at a very fast rate. She let out a screech right before we landed and she stumbled but recovered.

  Joss and I fell from her back into a heap on the ground. I rolled Joss over to check on him. He was breathing, and his color was healthy. Other than being physically exhausted, he was fine.

  Jumping up, I scanned the surrounding area to see the dark clothing of Kael farther up the riverbank. Running towards him I fell to my knees and touched his face and his chest to see if he was still breathing. He was. Joss had saved him.

  “Kael, are you all right?” Kael’s dark hair was wet from the mists and his knuckles and hands were bleeding. His shirt and vest were ripped and numerous knives were missing from his belt. Kael had yet to open his eyes. Slowly Kael’s stormy eyes opened and it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.

  “Am I dead?” he asked, looking at me in confusion. “Are we dead?” He dropped his head back down into the grass and groaned. “We are. Stubborn girl. Why didn’t you let go of me? Why did you have to die too?” Kael turned away from me and looked as if he were in pain.

  “Kael, you’re not dead. We’re not dead. Joss saved you.”

  “Yeah, right. Why would that young puppy want to save me?” He groaned as he tried to move again. But I placed my hand over his mouth to stop him from talking.

  “Just take pleasure in the fact that you’re alive. It doesn’t matter in the least how.” I smiled at him.

  Kael studied me and I could see fire burning in his eyes. Before I could ask him if he was all right, he grabbed my hand covering his mouth. He reached up with the other to grasp my neck and did something completely unexpected. He pulled me towards him and kissed me. It wasn’t a peck on the lips either, but a real full-fledged, spine-tingling kiss. I was shocked. At first I resisted until I felt the need and the desperation he was pouring into the kiss and then I gave in.

  My heart fluttered and pounded loudly, my blood rushed and I felt an almost electric current rush through the kiss. It was intoxicating. Here, Kael was telling me how he felt and not hiding it behind puzzles and stoic faces.

  When I finally came to my senses I pulled away from the kiss. Kael’s eyes were filled with passion.

  A cough alerted me to the presence of an audience and I scooted back to see an angry Joss, blonde hair blowing, standing over us with the rest of the search team.

  My cheeks burned red in embarrassment and Joss just glared at Kael, who slowly, painfully stood up and glared right back in challenge.

  “I save your life and this is the thanks I get,” Joss growled and pushed Kael in the chest hard.

  Kael just grinned. “No
, this is the thanks she gets for saving me. I didn’t know that you were feeling left out,” Kael goaded Joss, looking for a fight.

  “You know that we are intended. How could you do this?” Joss stepped forward towards me and Kael gripped my elbow, pulling me behind him possessively.

  “No, I know that you were pretending. Remember? I never heard you actually ask for her, just demanded, more like it.” Kael stepped forward towards Joss threateningly.

  “Stop it, both of you,” I yelled. Joss and Kael both looked at me and I saw the hurt in Joss’ eyes and the possessiveness in Kael’s, which confused me. “This is not the time or the place.”

  When I couldn’t think of anything else to say, I turned my back and walked away. I didn’t want to have this conversation in front of an audience. The rest of the search party had landed and drew the attention of the villagers of Skydown. People were popping up all around us to stare and gawk.

  I knew that was coming, Faraway spoke, his soft laughter tickled my senses as he sent a picture of Kael and I kissing back at me.

  Oh, no you didn’t. I mentally argued back.

  It’s inevitable.

  It’s inexcusable.

  It’s entertaining?

  It’s what? I choked.

  Faraway snorted. This isn’t over between them and will make for a very entertaining trip back to Haven.

  Wait, how do you know we are going to Haven?

  Where else are you going to take the girl?

  I had almost, forgotten that Faraway listens in on the thoughts of other Denai if they don’t properly shield. I have a very nosey horse.

  You’re right. Since Talbot got away that is our best bet in getting answers about where Tenya is. Adept Lorna can read her mind for lies and they will know what to do with her.

  Suddenly I felt old, tired and sore since I had fallen quite awkwardly from the dorabill to the ground. But we were still a few miles away from the cliffs and the path up to the skycage lift. And for once, I really didn’t feel like walking. But I also didn’t feel like flying on the dorabill again.

  Slowing my pace, I tried to listen in on the heated argument between Kael and Joss.

  “So you fell and let him get away?” Joss snorted.

  “I did not fall. I followed him and saw him harnessing himself into a skite and then jump off the northern launch point. I grabbed a skite that was outside someone’s home and attempted to go after him.”

  “I figured as much when we spoke with Bartus and he said he was missing a broken skite. I thought you must have stolen it,” Joss spoke, putting emphasis on the word stolen.

  “Borrowed,” Kael interrupted. “But now I owe that family a new one because I crashed it into the side of the cliff. I could tell something was wrong with it as soon as I jumped but I saw Raven disappearing into the mists and I had to go after him. It wasn’t until I tried to steer that I realized my mistake.”

  “Ha! The SwordBrother just admitted to making a mistake. Write this down, no one will ever believe me,” Joss chuckled and jokingly punched one of the men next him. Kael just held his tongue.

  A curious listener, one that turned out to be the other man that was the skycage operator asked. “You’re a SwordBrother? How did you survive and not fall to your death?” He was obviously in awe of the SwordBrother, despite Joss’ ribbing.

  Kael glanced at the man only briefly before he searched for me in the crowd and caught my backward glance. “I was nearing my limit and needed to turn back instead of go forwards. So I tried to maneuver the skite back towards Skyfell.”

  “But that was suicide. You should have tried to ride the wind out and attempt to land then you would have—” A different listener from the gathering crowd had spoken up and immediately quit speaking when he saw Kael’s dark look.

  “It was falling like a rock; the wings were damaged so I tried to aim it towards Skyfell. Luckily the skite crashed into a crop of tanglewood vines and I was able to grab on before it fell to the ground.”

  “Ahoy, those tanglewoods be the strongest vines in the world, they can only be harvested from underneath our city. You were lucky lad, very lucky.” A larger man that was chewing on what looked to be a piece of straw spoke up; from his dress he was definitely a farmer from Skydown.

  “Well, they saved my life and I was able to anchor myself quite comfortably with them and wait out the night. But with morning I had yet to see anyone, so I had to get to a higher spot where someone could see me. So I started climbing.”

  By now I had stopped walking completely and watched the crowd of people from Skydown and Skyfell gather around Kael in awe and barrel him with questions.

  Kael looked uncomfortable with all of the attention he was getting. The crowds of people that surrounded him and pressed in to touch his arms, his clothes, making him nervous and I could see him sweat. All of it was harmless, but to a trained bodyguard and assassin who was used to looking for hidden knives and attack at every turn this was his worst nightmare. Something he couldn’t defend against, innocent and curious bystanders. I could only imagine that right now he wished that they were a mob of angry attackers. He knew how to ward off those.

  Joss looked angry. He was the one who had saved Kael and yet Kael was getting all of the attention.

  “Come on.” Joss grabbed my arm and blew on his flute to call Cecili. The dorabill who had been scratching in a hillside looking for rabbits, much like a chicken would look for bugs, looked up and flew over to Joss. Grabbing my arm, he swung me up behind him and took off into the air with Cecili.

  “What about Kael?” I asked, worried that we had left him there in a mob of people. I wasn’t worried about Kael but about the bystanders who could get injured.

  “He’ll be fine. He’s a SwordBrother. He can handle himself.” That was the only thing Joss said the entire flight to his home.

  Chapter 29

  It was good to be riding Faraway again. I really missed him and being away from him felt like I was missing a part of myself. Talking to Faraway made me feel less crazy. He was able to pull me out of the spiral of negative feelings and doubts that I could send myself down sometimes. And the trip from Skyfell to Haven was everything that my horse had promised it would be and then some.

  We hadn’t stayed long in the Jesai home once Joss had brought us back. A day and a half later we were on the road to Haven. Kael had finally made it back as well but looked like a cat that had all of its fur rubbed the wrong way. He was definitely on edge and kept shooting daggers at Joss. A meeting was soon called. After an hour of discussion it was decided that the best thing to do was take Mona to the Adepts to have them interrogate her and then take an army to flush out the rest of the Septori and their leader.

  “I would feel much better if you took more people with you,” Gloria spoke up from her chair in the main room. Now that she was no longer under Mona’s influence, she had regained her strength and was sitting in the same overstuffed chair with pillows that Hemi had designated as his favorite.

  She kept apologizing to me every chance she could for the way she had treated me.

  “You have to understand, I wasn’t me. I wasn’t really saying those things. I think you are adorable and would be honored to have you in our family.” Since our last encounter I had done my very best to avoid her at all costs. Well, except for this family meeting.

  Nero was the one to counter Gloria’s worrying. “We’ve discussed this, darling.” He walked over to Gloria and gently put his hands on her shoulders. She raised her hand to grasp Nero’s.

  “It’s just, I’m so worried for them. I don’t want anything to happen to my boy.” She looked over at Joss and he rolled his eyes. “You don’t understand how hard it was for me to know what she was doing to me and not be able to stop it. There were times where I blacked out and had no memories. But other times, I didn’t and it was horrible.” Her eyes widened in fear. “What if she is able to do it again to you?”

  “I do understand. I know what it’s like
and so does Kael. I think we will be extra careful because of it.” In reality, I didn’t want to be anywhere near Mona, and this whole idea of transporting her made me sick to my stomach.

  Kael stepped forward and held up a pouch containing the seeds found in Mona’s room. “This is the seed that, when shaved and boiled, small doses, can be infused in drinks and teas to initiate mind control. Also, it can be concentrated and used to create paralysis. I will be the one administering this to Mona to keep her docile while we travel.”

  A few more weak arguments came forward from Gloria but they were quickly set aside as a knock came on the door and Darren entered.

  “We are ready,” He spoke to the room, giving Nero a nod and bowing to Gloria.

  It had been decided that Berry and Avina would stay and leave a week after we did in case any of the Septori were following us. Neither one of them was happy about it. After a few fits from Avina, Nero finally offered to teach her to fly a skite during her and Berry’s stay. That sealed the deal.

  Darren would come with us as far as Haven and then return home to his Melani. Fanny surprised us the most with her argument to come with us.

  “It is my invention that did this and I feel that I need to speak with the Queen and the Adepts to defend what I had done. I don’t want there to be any repercussions on my family. Also, I may be able to answer their questions better if I am there in person. And you will need another female to take care of your prisoner.”

  “We are going to be traveling fast; can you be ready to go in an hour?” Kael had looked over Fanny and I originally thought he was going to deny her request like Berry and Avina’s. But he must have seen her stubbornness and determination.

  “I’m ready to go now. I’m already packed. My bag is at the bottom of the stairs,” Fanny answered smartly, her copper hair bouncing as she motioned with her head down the stairs. “If you had told me no, I was going to follow you anyway.”

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