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Fighting for infinity, p.19
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.19

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  The man finished his prayer, closed the leader’s eyelids, laid him gently on the ground, then stood. He held open his hands in front of him. “I do not know the answer you are seeking. No one here does.”

  Dedrick waved to his murdering minion. “Take him outside and wait for me.”

  He snatched up the survivor and dragged him along the cement pathway. The man tripped over his robes as he thrashed, trying to fight free of the Nefarioun’s grip.

  They left the temple, and Dedrick assessed the two dead bodies. He squatted beside the woman and placed her hands over her chest. Then he did the same to the older man. “I’m sorry it had to be this way,” Dedrick said quietly. “Forgive me.”

  “What?” I gaped at him. “Forgive you? You will never be forgiven for any of this!”

  Dedrick stood, crossed himself, then pulled out a gold cross from under his shirt and kissed it. He walked through the double doors where a woman waited, another Nefarioun. Dedrick grumbled something to her, and she strolled toward me. With a flick of her fingers, fire shot out from her hands and ignited the robes of the two deceased people. I turned away, horrified.

  Dedrick was really going to burn down everything. I had to get help. I desperately searched for my energy cords. Light swirled all around me. I couldn’t travel fast enough.

  When I reached my body, I practically leapt from my bed, gasping for breath. “Help!” I screamed.

  Krista burst through the doorway with wide eyes. “What’s wrong?”

  “Where’s Nathan? I ran toward the door, yelling, “Nathan!”

  He materialized in the hall. We collided into each other. “What is it?”

  My words rushed out of me. “It’s Dedrick. He’s killing people. He’s going to burn down everything. We have to stop him!”

  “Where?”

  “I—I—” I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know where those holy people were. “Oh god, I don’t know.”

  “Details.” Carson grabbed both of my shoulders and turned me to face him. “What can you tell us about the place where you saw him?”

  I spoke as fast as I could. “It was a church or temple. There were three people dressed in gold and brown robes. Dedrick demanded they give him the Earthstone. He stabbed them and said he’d burn down the whole village, or community. I can’t remember his exact words. He has a woman who shoots fire from her hands.”

  “What else did you see?” Nathan asked. “Mountains, ocean, landmarks?”

  “I never went outside.”

  “We don’t have enough to know where he is,” Carson said.

  “I’ll go back.” I ran for the bed. I had to figure it out. We had to stop him. I pictured Dedrick’s menacing eyes, searched for the cords of light to connect me to him. My heart raced too fast. I struggled to breathe.

  “Try to lie still,” Krista said above me. “You’re freaking out. You need to relax in order for it to work.”

  I tried to stop trembling, but I was panicking. Why didn’t I go outside? Why didn’t I look for an address or something definitive so I’d know where they were? I messed up big time. “I have to go back. We have to help them.”

  “We will, we will.” Nathan lay beside me, sliding one arm under my neck. “But Krista’s right, you have to calm down and focus.”

  His touch helped. I took deep breaths and closed my eyes. Every passing second felt painful. I was taking too long.

  Finally, I felt a cord and rode it as fast as I could.

  Dedrick stood in front of me, talking to the man who had done the stabbing. We were outside, surrounded by trees. I turned, scanning the rolling green landscape, trying to find any indicator of where we were.

  Black smoke billowed in the distance. I rushed toward it, determined to save anyone. I didn’t know how, but I had to try.

  Flames poured from the windows of a cluster of stone houses. I heard screaming—terrified, earth-shaking, life-ending screams. The smell of burning flesh gagged me, but I kept racing forward.

  A little girl, no more than four years old, leaned out of a second-story window, waving her teddy bear as she cried and choked on the smoke rising around her. I flew toward her, my arms outstretched. I was so close.

  She looked up at me with swollen, watering, puppy dog eyes, but she saw me.

  She saw me.

  She reached forward, stretching farther out the window, her teddy bear clutched in her tiny hand. My fingers grazed hers at the same time a deafening crack made her brown eyes fly open wide. The floor buckled beneath her. Her dark curls flew up around her face as the raging flames swallowed her from my view.

  “No!” I screamed, diving into the fire, but the flames burned so big and bright that I couldn’t see anything. Her screaming faded in volume but not intensity.

  Everything blended into a burst of orange light.

  My soul cried for her. I rubbed my eyes, trying to find the girl again, but I found myself back in my body. I couldn’t breathe. It felt as if the smoke had really charred my lungs.

  “What did you see?” Nathan asked.

  I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to rush back to her. I hadn’t seen any addresses, no clear way to determine where the village was. Tears stung the corners of my eyelids. Whoever those people were, whomever’s daughter that little girl was, they were being burned to death. My voice cracked. “We have to save them.”

  “Where?” Carson pleaded. “Did you figure out where you were?”

  I shook my head.

  “It’s all right,” Nathan said gently, pulling me against him.

  “Their homes are on fire.” I cried into his chest as he stroked my hair. “People are inside. A little girl.” Her teary, terrified brown eyes would haunt me until my dying day.

  “There’s nothing we can do,” Krista said, petting my leg. “It’s too late.”

  I sobbed and clutched Nathan tighter. The echoes of innocent people screaming still rang in my ears. I was sure I would hear them forever. “I hate him. I hate Dedrick so much.”

  “I know,” Nathan whispered. “We all do.”

  ROCKY ROADS

  Maryah

  Helen brewed a special tea to calm me. No matter how powerful Helen’s tea was, it wouldn’t ever erase what I had witnessed.

  I continued sipping my tea, trying to come up with a plan to stop Dedrick and his Nefariouns from killing more people. The roundtable meeting would begin soon, and I had no ideas or suggestions. I felt so useless.

  Carson slid into the seat beside me. “I have something for you.”

  “For me?”

  “Here.” He handed me a silky cloth. I opened it and found a beautiful white rock in the shape of a teardrop. “What is this?”

  “It’s Howlite. It’s supposed to help with remembering past lives.”

  “Where did it come from?”

  “Nova Scotia.”

  “How did you get it?”

  Carson sighed. “Sparky, you ask a lot of questions.”

  “You’re a Scion who is multi-gifted. You should easily be able to answer simple questions.”

  “Nathan and I went there. It’s not a big deal.”

  Krista was grinning so big behind him I thought her lips would get stuck.

  “When did you go there?” I asked.

  “Earlier today.”

  “Why did you go there?”

  Carson rolled his eyes. “To get the stupid Howlite. Seriously, enough with the questions.”

  He stood and turned to walk away, but I followed him. “You and Nathan went to Nova Scotia specifically to get me Howlite?”

  “Yes, but stop acting like it’s a big deal.”

  “I never said it was a big deal.” I quickened my pace to keep up with him. “But you’ve said it twice so maybe it’s a big deal to you.”

  “I was just trying to help.”

  “That was amazingly sweet of you.”

  He halted to a stop in the hallway and faced me. “I was not being sweet. I’m just trying to help you rem
ember your past so we can straighten out this mess and Nathan can stop being so miserable.”

  “Deny it all you want,” I said. “You made a special trip across the world to find a beautiful stone for me. That is sweet.”

  “Good grief, stop acting like such a noob.” He held out his hand. “Give it back. I changed my mind.”

  I clutched the rock to my chest. “No way. It’s mine.”

  “Then shut up about it.” He stormed into his room and slammed the door.

  “Can you believe it?” I asked Krista as she walked up behind me.

  “Of course I can. He’s super thoughtful, and he worries about you constantly.”

  My eyes bugged. “He does?”

  “You know I’d never date a guy who didn’t like you.”

  “You do realize how drastically different our conversations about dating have changed in the last few months, right?”

  Krista shrugged. “I’m just glad you’re finally catching up. The supernatural life is much more interesting than regular life.”

  I examined the Howlite. “He made it into a necklace.”

  “He’s crafty.”

  “I still can’t believe he did this. I’ll treasure it forever.”

  “Good.” She shouldered me. “He’ll pretend it annoys the crap out of him, but in reality he’ll be touched. Especially if it works.”

  I draped the cord over my head, admiring the stone resting against my chest. “You mean when it works.”

  ∞

  When Dylan and Amber arrived with Mikey, I knew the meeting wasn’t just about me seeing Dedrick kill the possible keepers of the Earthstone. Dylan and Amber hadn’t attended the last couple of impromptu meetings. Louise said they’d be updated, but their attendance wasn’t necessary. All hands on deck meant we were meeting about something of utmost importance.

  Amber set Mikey’s carrier on the table beside Carson, his proper place in the alignment. Dakota carried a stool in from the kitchen and squeezed in to the right of Mikey, left of Edgar, completing the circle. All members—official and unofficial—were in attendance.

  I gulped down the rest of my tea.

  “What’s going on?” I asked Nathan as he sat beside me.

  He rested his arm on the back of my chair. “Nothing you can’t handle.”

  “Let’s begin, shall we?” Louise’s bracelets jingled as she rested her hands on the table. “We already know that Dedrick is trying to acquire all the stones. When used together, the stones feed off each other and connect all energy on this planet. They could potentially control or destroy creation.”

  Control or destroy creation? I glanced around, assessing reactions. I didn’t want to be the one to ask stupid questions, but what exactly did that mean?

  “An Aetherstone,” Louise continued. “Or a starstone connects the other four. A starstone would enable the other four to be used together.”

  “But the starstones aren’t located on Earth, right?” I asked, confirming what Nathan and I had discussed.

  “Right. And based on what you told us from your travels to Meru, we know there were many of them, but—” Louise shifted in her seat.

  “Ahh, there it is,” Carson said, “the big but that can’t be ignored.”

  Nathan gripped my shoulder in a supportive way. “I’ll tell her.”

  My head snapped left, wondering what exactly Nathan was about to tell me and why he waited until the meeting to spring it on me.

  “There are many starstones, but whether there’s one or one billion,” he whispered, “we think you may have brought one back.”

  I leaned toward him. “Me? I brought back a starstone? From Meru?”

  “That’s our best educated guess.”

  “Maryah,” Edgar said my name gingerly. “I found it buried deep within the Akashic Records. Last life, you performed a ritual that vibrated you to such a high energy level that you were no longer a blip on our earthly radar. The Akashic Records couldn’t record you for the short time you were at Meru. Then you reappeared with a much stronger signal than before. At first and second glance, I couldn’t find anything unusual. Your energy had strengthened but with good reason. However, I searched again, more closely, and I glimpsed a patch on the screen, as if you tried to hide your thoughts and actions from being recorded.” He grinned at me. “I must say, the fact that you accomplished such a feat is impressive. It’s also somewhat disturbing that you manipulated our universal record-keeping system, but impressive nonetheless.”

  “Why would I hide anything?”

  “Perhaps you knew Dedrick had a reader like me. Josephine was being mind-controlled by him. She could have read the records and traced your actions.”

  “But I don’t understand how a patch on the screen would mean I had a starstone.”

  “I tried removing the patch,” Edgar said. “To help you understand, it’s like trying to watch a scrambled television station. I could make out parts of what I was seeing, but without the whole picture, my interpretation becomes muddied.”

  “I figured it out,” Nathan said. “Based on what Edgar told me he saw in the records combined with things you did and said during the weeks before we were killed, I’m almost certain you had a starstone and were protecting it.”

  I shook my head. “That’s too vague. What did I do and say?”

  “It’s all the stuff that didn’t make sense until now,” Nathan explained. “You insisted all our members live near each other, that we had to live in Sedona due to the powerful elemental energy here. Building the weapon room and bunker under the house, you were preparing for a war. Us versus them. You knew Dedrick would come for it. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me you had it, but I think you were concealing the starstone and equipping us to protect it at any cost.”

  “Concealing it where?”

  His focus dropped to my hand. “Your ring.”

  My fingers wrapped around my thumb ring. I pressed my fist in my lap and stared down. Peeling back my fingers, I rubbed the small glass dome with my other hand. “My peacock ring?”

  “That’s the thing. It didn’t always have that feather jewel inside of it. And you weren’t wearing it when we were attacked at the beach. You had given the ring to Sheila. You told me she had a friend who made jewelry and you were having a peacock feather embedded inside.”

  Sheila told me we used to share secrets. That Krista used to get upset because I confided in her so much.

  Nathan held my hand. “Your ring is the one possession that has stayed with you every lifetime. What if you found a way to put the stone inside of the ring and disguise it as that feather?”

  I stared at him, then at my ring, then back at him. Was it possible?

  “Sheila kept the ring with her for many years,” Louise said. “She refused to give it to us until recently when you returned to Sedona. It has always been your wedding ring, so we assumed it was her way of holding onto you, believing that you and Nathan would be together again. Now we think she might have known the ring contained the starstone.”

  “No, she would have told us.” Krista’s on-edge voice startled me. “She wouldn’t have taken such important information to the grave with her.”

  “Maybe it’s true,” I murmured, spinning the ring around my thumb. “There is something magical about it. The peacock feather inside, I’ve seen it move or glisten a few times. It’s been a trigger object to me astral traveling or remembering things.”

  All eyes were on me. Even the tiny eye of the peacock feather, suspended in its glass globe, seemed to be watching me. “What do I do? How do I keep it safe?”

  Louise hugged herself, rubbing her own arms as if she felt the same chill that had just given me goose bumps. “We were hoping you’d instinctively have an answer to that question.”

  “It’s a big part of why I gave you that Howlite,” Carson said. “You have to remember why you took a starstone from Meru and how to give it back—before Dedrick steals it and uses it to connect the other stones
.”

  “What would happen?” I licked my lips, dreading the answer to my question. “If he did connect the stones?”

  “It’s not pretty.” Carson tugged his hoodie strings.

  “Again, we can only speculate,” Edgar said.

  “Tell her, Car,” Dakota insisted.

  “Edgar fills me in on what he discovers while he’s trancing out doing his thing. I’ve been making mental notes, trying to figure out what all the bits add up to. My conclusion—” Carson rapped the table with his knuckles. “It’s sort of out there. Like, part of my brain insists I’m right, but the other part thinks I’ve read too many comic books, and I’m jumping to irrational conclusions.”

  “Spit it out, Carson,” Harmony said.

  He cleared his throat. “It would mean Dedrick could do what he threatened. He could control the energy portals to this world. Shut them down if he chose to.”

  “How is that even possible?” Faith asked.

  Carson tucked his hair behind his ears. “Given what I’ve learned about the stones, I think Dedrick could use them to disconnect the power that connects Earth’s ley lines.”

  “Ley lines?” I asked.

  “Think of them as veins that run through our planet,” Carson explained. “If they were shut off, it would be like a body with no blood running through it. You can imagine the results.”

  “Good god.” I gasped. Nathan wrapped his arm around me again.

  “We can stop him,” Dakota said. “The good guys always save the world. It’s like a universal law that evil never wins.”

  Dylan sighed. “This isn’t a comic book, Dakota. This is real life. And real evil.”

  Dakota crossed his arms over his chest. “And we’re real life superheroes, so what’s the problem?”

  Everyone exchanged glances, communicating dozens of silent worrisome thoughts.

  I stared at my ring resting in my lap. I don’t know where my confidence came from. It was almost like having an out-of-body experience when I heard myself say, “Dakota is right. Dedrick can’t win, so let’s figure out how stop him. Permanently.”

 
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