Where foundlings hide, p.15
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.15

           KL Mitchelson
 

  Chapter Fifteen

  The water is freezing cold, a million tiny shards of ice piercing me all over my body.

  It feels like it’s inside of my head, coursing through my veins, pounding in my ears, pulling me down.

  A pressure starts to build behind my eyes and quickly develops into a blinding pain. The water starts to churn, tossing us around inside the fountain, turning faster and faster, and a bolt of lightning ripples through the darkness around me. My lungs burn as I exhale a stream of bubbles that dance in the sudden shock of light.

  It’s like we’re in the centre of a typhoon and Caleb holds on to me as we turn, the force drawing us down into nothingness. It pitches us around and I start to feel disorientated.

  When I’m no longer sure which way is up or down, the spinning stops, and we drift lazily around the chasm.

  Something grabs me around the middle and pulls me away from Caleb towards a shaft of light. My feet find the bottom of the fountain and I step sluggishly against the weight of the water, my whole body shaking. The floor slopes upwards and when my head breaks the surface, I gasp greedily for air. A bright light forces me to squint as I find the ledge and heave myself over it, falling to the ground on the other side with a slap. I lift my face to the heat emanating from the light above. Where am I?

  “Is she OK?”

  I squint towards the sound of the unfamiliar voice, but my vision is blurred, everything in front of me pitching from the motion of the water. I can just make out a figure standing in the middle of a bright, spacious room.

  “She’s alive, if that’s what you mean,” Caleb crouches in front of me and takes my face in his hands. “I can’t tell what impact the portal had yet. She should’ve had a compression suit; we both should have.”

  “There wasn’t time. She’s wearing the necklace, it protected her.” The voice is female, gravelly and slightly accented.

  For a moment, no one speaks, and I hear the tinkle of the fountain behind us.

  “The team is on its way.”

  “Parker?” Caleb says.

  “She’s briefing the team. I thought a familiar face might help until my sister gets here.”

  Parker?

  “I thought we had longer. I thought we would’ve had time to explain things before we extracted her,” Caleb says. “It wasn’t easy.”

  “I thought we had time too, but the Dryad’s saw them coming and we had to get her out. She’s the only one who can help us.”

  Hurried footsteps approach. “Is she OK?” I try to focus on the owner of the familiar voice, on the group of figures wearing white and blue swarming towards me, but my vision is still blurred. Her face swims before me, dark hair piled up on her head. “D-” I feel a sharp pinch in my arm, then everything goes black.

  Light filters in through an open window, a delicate breeze tickling my face. The pillow beneath my head is soft and the crisp sheet draped across my body smells of lavender. When I move I feel a tug on the back of my hand. I remember Caleb and the fountain, the force of the water pulling me down. A groan escapes my lips.

  “It’s OK, Casey.”

  My eyelids flutter open at the sound of her voice and I scan the face leaning over me. Big brown eyes, a pen slipped in the knot on top of her head. “Dr Parker?” I try to push myself up from the bed, but something tugs at my temples. “Where am I?” My head is fuzzy, but my vision is now much sharper.

  She smiles. “Here, it’s just Parker.”

  “You’re not a doctor?”

  She gently pulls a sticky pad from each of my temples; they look like small, medical electrodes. “I am a doctor,” she laughs. “But Parker is my first name, not my surname.”

  I carefully shuffle into a sitting position. I am in a small, clinical room with white walls and the cannula in my hand is attached to a bag of clear fluid by the bed. A machine whirs nearby, the screen showing lines of waves and spikes. Panic starts to creep over me.

  “I can take that out too,” Parker says, gesturing at the cannula needle. “It’s just something to help with the motion sickness.”

  I instinctively retract my hand.

  “I’m not going to hurt you, Casey. I’m here to help you.” She gently slides the needle out of my hand, and then dabs at the tiny wound with a small, sterile wipe.

  “Was it a dream?” I ask.

  “Which part?” Parker smirks.

  “All of it? Any of it?”

  She shakes her head.

  “Then what happened? I was at school and…” I try to grasp at the images flitting through my mind, the earthquake, the creature in the bathroom, Caleb telling me to jump into the fountain. “Where is Caleb?”

  Parker presses two fingers to the inside of my wrist and consults her watch. The base of my skull tingles, but all I feel from her is tranquillity. “He’s changing.”

  “And my friends? There was an earthquake back at school,” I try to shift my legs out of bed, but Parker rests a hand on my shoulder. “Your friends are fine; you need to rest a moment. There is nothing you can do from here.” She hands me a glass of cold water and I gulp it down greedily.

  I look out of the small, narrow window to my left, but there is nothing to see except the yellow and orange leaves of the trees outside. “Where am I?”

  Parker takes the empty glass from me. “Displacia.”

  “Dis-placia?”

  She pushes her glasses further up her nose. “There’s a lot you don’t know, Casey.”

  “Yeah, I’m starting to realise that.”

  “I’m sure you have many questions, and I will try to answer some of them for you, but your mind is not going to allow you to accept what I tell you, so in the interest of saving time, I need you to remember the promise we made to each other. Do you remember what that was?”

  I fold my arms across my chest, fixing her with a hard, accusatory stare. “We promised not to lie to each other.”

  Parker gives a small smile. “I know what you’re thinking, you think I broke my promise because I kept all of this from you, but holding back the truth is not the same as lying.”

  I raise my eyebrows at her. “It’s exactly the same.”

  “We’ll agree to disagree,” she says, “After all, I think you may have kept some truths from me too.”

  I flush a little under her gaze, but I stare resolutely back.

  Parker smiles kindly. “How about we start fresh?”

  I nod in agreement, because I want to know more, but her betrayal still simmers under the surface, gathering in my chest, warm and uncomfortable.

  She perches on the end of the bed. “Displacia is another world, a different planet. It’s also my home.” She hands me a blue bundle made from soft cotton.

  I look around, confused, because this small, white room could be part of any medical facility back home. “I’m on a different planet?”

  Parker nods. “Displacia is not even in the same universe as yours. You couldn’t get here in spaceship that’s for sure.”

  I squeeze my eyes shut. “So you’re talking about a different planet, in a completely different universe?”

  I open one eye as Parker nods sagely.

  I think back to one of my physics lessons with Dr Campbell when he discussed the theory of an infinite number of universes, he delivered a whole lecture on it. I’m pretty sure none it involved travelling between worlds through a fountain. “It’s not possible.”

  Parker offers me her hand. “Here.”

  I take her hand in mine and feel a ripple of honesty. “You know what I can do?”

  She smiles. “Yes. It’s the reason I was assigned to you.”

  “Assigned to me? Why?”

  She purses her lips. “I’m not the right person to explain that to you, Casey.”

  I press my hands to the sides of my face. “How do I even begin to understand all of this?”

  “I promise it will make sense to you soon,” Parker says. “Maybe not straight away, but I’ll tr
y to help,” she says. “Now, you need to get dressed. They’re waiting for you.”

  “Who? Who’s waiting for me?”

  Parker shifts off the bed and starts towards the door. “You’ll see.” She turns the handle and steps out into a dark hallway.

  Underneath the sheet, I have been stripped to my underwear. I look around for my dress, but it’s gone. I unravel the bundle in my hands and find that it’s some sort of tunic, soft and light. I hastily pull it on over my head, and it falls to my knees when I step on to the tiled floor.

  There’s also a pair of beaded slippers at the foot of the bed and I slip my feet into them. They’re a perfect fit, like they were made for me.

  Parker waits outside in a narrow corridor. She smiles and then takes off at a march along a carpet of deep blue, beckoning me to follow her.

  The walls are also blue, and lined with sconces that cast soft, glowing circles of light, illuminating the intricate, gold-leaf print of the wallpaper. “I was expecting something more…other worldly.” I say, taking in the décor.

  Parker laughs. “Our physical world is not that different to yours.”

  “Then how do I know this isn’t some kind of a joke, or a hallucination?”

  Parker turns and shakes her head. “You’ve just travelled through a portal; you know this is real.”

  “I don’t know for certain,” I say, touching my fingers to the blue wall. “This could be anywhere on Earth; this could be a corridor at Malvern.”

  “But it’s not.” Parker says in a singsong voice.

  “OK,” I say, folding my arms across my chest. “If this is another planet, then why do you speak English, my language?”

  “Who says it’s your language?” Parker says with a smile. She starts off up the corridor again.

  “And why can’t you tell me why you were assigned to me?” I say, hurrying to catch up with her.

  Parker sighs. “I didn’t say I couldn’t, I just said that I wasn’t the right person.”

  I chew the inside of my lip anxiously, nervous about who, or what, waits for me at the end of the corridor.

  She glances sideways at me. “Fine, if it’ll help you to stop worrying. I was assigned to you to find out how you came to acquire your power.”

  “My power?”

  “Your ability to feel other people’s emotions.”

  I’d never thought of it like that. Knowing what other people are feeling doesn’t make me feel powerful, it makes me feel weak, overwhelmed. “So, what did you find out?”

  She thrusts her hands in the pockets of her lab coat and shrugs. “Not much. I wanted to do some blood work, but your Aunt wouldn’t allow it.”

  “Ivy?”

  “Yes.”

  My stomach sinks. “Does Ivy know about this place?”

  “Yes. Displacia is her home too. Ivy is Displacian, just like me.”

  That warm, uncomfortable feeling in my chest starts to burn like acid. “Ivy is from another world?”

  “Yes.”

  The fact that Parker, and Caleb, who I’ve known for a matter of weeks, kept this from me is bad enough, but Ivy… “Is she here?”

  “She’s on her way.”

  “And I take it Caleb is Displacian too?”

  “Yes,” she says. “He stayed with you while you were asleep, until I chased him away. He cares about you a lot.”

  I feel the blood rush to my cheeks. “He made me jump into the fountain and we ended up here. How is that possible?”

  “It’s very complicated.” She sniffs.

  “Then give me the simple version.”

  She stops walking and peers up and down the corridor. “The fountain at Malvern is connected with the fountain that you climbed out of earlier. Both are made with molten iron from the earth’s core and the water inside is charged with both positive and negative ions. They create an electrical current in the water that induces the magnetic field between the two fountains, carrying you from one to the other.”

  I gape at Parker, open-mouthed. “That’s the simple version?”

  She rolls her eyes, but smiles. “I told you, it’s a portal.”

  “Then why don’t people on Earth know about this? Dr Campbell would freak if he knew portals exist.”

  “They are a closely guarded secret, portals are dangerous.” Parker says. “They are filled with dark matter, like a void between our worlds, that’s where your amulet comes in,” Parker points at the necklace still resting on my chest. “It’s made from a rare gem found only in Displacia, it protected you.”

  I lift the gem from my chest to examine it closely. “I found this in my room at Malvern.”

  She nods. “I put it there.”

  I raise an eyebrow at her. “I was really worried about this, about who had been in my room. You could have said something.”

  “Sorry, but it was necessary,” she says. “You wouldn’t have survived the portal without the necklace and I couldn’t say anything. I was under orders.”

  We turn a corner and Parker stops abruptly outside of a set of tall, wooden doors. A sign above reads ‘library’.

  “After you.” Parker holds the door open for me, but I pause as my eyes are invaded by a brilliant light. I urge myself to step over the line between the soft carpet of the hall and the hard, wooden floor inside the library, but it takes a gentle nudge from Parker for me to step over the threshold.

  When my eyes adjust, I find that the library is a cavernous, vast space lined with shelf upon shelf of leather-bound books, and it has a ceiling that is higher than the roof of Evergreen. The wall directly opposite is glass from floor to ceiling, flooding the room with natural light, and I find myself staring at the orange sky outside, blazing like a sunset. I am so enthralled by it that I am almost oblivious to the crowd seated around the mahogany table in the centre of the room.

  “You’re awake.”

  At the sound of the gravelly voice, I tear my eyes away from the window.

  Sitting at the head of the table is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her black hair frames a creamy complexion and she regards me with big, sapphire eyes. She pushes her chair out and steps smoothly around the table towards me.

  She is tall, her body swathed in a pale-blue dress that clings to her slim frame. She looks like a modern day Cleopatra, elegant and regal. She holds out her hand. “Welcome to Displacia, I am Roma, leader of the Vedmak Household.”

  I take her hand in mine and feel a ripple of curiosity. “I’m…I’m Casey.”

  “Yes, we know,” Roma gives a small laugh and sweeps a hand towards the table. “This is my research team; they have studied you for some time.”

  I find Caleb amongst the gathering of men and women, and he grins sheepishly.

  “You know Caleb of course, and Parker. And these are my bodyguards,” she nods towards two tall men and a woman with dark braided hair. They are all dressed in sharp suits of navy blue with high collars. “Esther, Cain and Hamish.” Each of them nods in answer to their name. “They’ll help keep you safe while you’re here.” Roma beckons for me to sit. “You’re probably wondering why we’ve brought you here. Why we’ve been studying you.”

  The group all stare at me as I take a seat, some of them have notebooks, their pens poised like they’re waiting for me to say something.

  “You’re very special, Casey.”

  I wrap my arms around myself self-consciously. “I don’t understand.”

  “I know and I’ll try to help you,” Roma says kindly. “But very few people on Earth know that Displacia exists, and you have to promise not to tell anyone back home.” She stares at me, her full lips set into a firm line.

  “I promise.”

  “Good.” Roma smiles as her eyes drift to the window. “It all starts with your world, Casey. Have you ever wondered how Earth survived these last few hundred years, with the development of technology and weapons that could destroy your planet ten times over?”

  I shake my hea
d, a little perplexed. “I’ve never given it much thought.”

  “Of course you haven’t, why would you?” Roma says. “Your planet has teetered on the brink of devastation for some time. It’s over-populated, wars rage, natural disasters happen all of the time, and yet the human race prevails, almost as if someone was looking out for it, protecting it.”

  My eyes find Caleb, because that’s what he’s been doing since we met – looking out for me, protecting me. “Are you talking about guardian angels?”

  Roma laughs, as do the others around the table. “We’re not angels, Casey, we are beings, just like you.”

  “Then… what is this place?”

  “Displacia is our world, it’s much like Earth, a planet connected to yours by a passage through space and time. We have protected your world from all kinds of threats, sometimes sacrificing our own lives in the process.”

  I cast my eyes over Parker, Caleb and Roma. Roma’s skin is bathed in the golden light filtering in through the large window, making her look ethereal, a supernatural being. And then there’s Caleb, impossibly beautiful, appearing as if by magic whenever I need him.

  “We found Earth two hundred years ago,” Roma continues. “A group of Displacian’s known as the Morgana’s discovered the first portal in a cave here on our planet. They were swept into the cave while swimming and emerged on a freezing cold island in the middle of Antarctica. They explored Earth for some time and returned to Displacia with reports of a world tormented by war, plague and famine. We sent troops there to investigate the Morgana’s claims, and for a while, we did nothing more than observe to make sure that this new world did not pose a threat to Displacia. We saw men claiming lands as their own and we knew that we couldn’t make ourselves known to the people of Earth,” Roma folds her arms and stares out of the window, as though considering her next words. “But we also saw potential, we realised that we could utilise the Earth’s resources, and in return, we could help ease the suffering of its inhabitants.”

  “If Earth was so terrible, what could you have possibly needed from it?” I say peevishly.

  “Power,” Roma says. “Energy. You see, Displacia doesn’t have a sun,” Roma waves a hand towards the window. “The sky that you see out there is artificial. Before Earth, Displacian’s lived in eternal darkness. When we found your planet, we were dazzled by this big, burning disc of fire in the sky, so we studied it, and then we looked for a way to harness it. It took us a while, but we eventually found a way.”

  I look outside at the amber sky. “So that sunlight is from Earth?”

  Roma nods. “We learnt lots of things from the portal, it advanced our technologies. We learned how to create more portals, including tiny little wormholes that we still use today to extract solar energy from Earth. We created an artificial sky, so that Displacian’s could walk in the sunlight.”

  I stare out at the strange sky. There is no hint of blueness like the sky back home, just solid, golden yellow.

  “We realise that Earth is…fragile,” Roma says quietly. “So in return for extracting energy, we try to sustain it, we help humans to survive.”

  I try desperately to absorb what Roma is telling me. “Why? I mean, if Earth is so terrible, why would you help?”

  Roma smiles pityingly. “Aside from the suffering, which we can’t ignore, our worlds are connected like a ship to an anchor, if your world dies, it might take ours with it.”

  “But we’re not surviving, people die every day, and things are getting worse.” I think of the earthquakes; of the images I have seen on the news lately.

  “We do our best. We have different abilities that we utilise when there is a disaster on Earth, but unfortunately, we can’t save everyone. Displacia is much smaller than Earth, our numbers much fewer.”

  “You said you have abilities?”

  “Displacia is mainly made up of six races of people,” Roma says. “Five of them belong to what we call Households. The Morgana’s, the Dryad’s, the Halers, the Smiths and us, the Vedmak’s. We all possess special gifts; the Vedmak’s for example, can perform telekinesis, telepathy and mind control. The Smiths are strong and fast, so they’re good in battle. The Halers have the ability to heal, and the Dryad’s are impervious to fire. We have spoken a little about the Morgana’s, they can control water.”

  My mind reels, controlling water, telekinesis, I must be dreaming.

  I count the Households in my head. “What about the sixth race?”

  “They call themselves Wanderers, because they refuse to be part of a Household. They have the power of teleportation.”

  My eyes almost pop out of my head.

  “There are other…creatures here too.” Roma’s mouth twists in distaste when she says the word ‘creatures’. “One of those creatures is the Khuulsu, the demon that attacked you at school, it feeds on blood.”

  My stomach twists. “Blood?”

  “Attacks on humans are very rare,” Roma continues. “The Khuulsu mostly feed on animals. We’re trying to get to the bottom of why they targeted you.”

  Just then the door creaks open. I follow the gazes of everyone in the room and my breath catches in my throat when I see Ivy standing there.

  She edges towards me cautiously and I don’t know whether to cry or scream at her, but I find myself scrambling out of my chair and falling into her arms. She strokes my hair as tears threaten to spill over my cheeks.

  “Sister,” Roma says. “I was just telling Casey about our world.”

  I glance between Roma and Ivy. “Sister?”

  “Yes, Roma is my sister,” Ivy guides me back to my seat and slips into the chair beside me. “I’m so sorry I kept all of this from you, Casey.”

  “I’m still not sure what all of this is.”

  “Maybe it would be best if you explain things from here, Ivy.” Roma says.

  Ivy pats my hand, sending a jolt of trepidation through me. “Well, you’ll know by now that Displacia is my home. You’ll also know that our worlds are connected, but our story, mine and yours, starts with a man who wanted to conquer both our worlds. This man raised an army of Displacian’s, using mind-control to turn them against their own kind. His name was Ezra; he was my brother.”

  I glance at Roma. Her eyes are fixed on her sister, her jaw tight.

  “For his soldiers, Ezra chose a special race of Displacian’s, a race that possesses the powers of all of our Households. We call them Foundlings. They were very powerful and under my brother’s influence, they were terrifying. Ezra intended to conquer Displacia and bring it under his control before taking Earth for himself, we had no choice but to retaliate. Ezra was eventually captured, but not before almost a third of Displacians were dead,” Ivy stops and closes her eyes, her brow furrowing. “My brother was executed. His followers disappeared, but they resurfaced a couple of years later, calling themselves the Shadows and threatening to continue Ezra’s work.”

  I look at the Displacian’s gathered around the table, all of them wearing stony expressions, their eyes downcast.

  “Almost all of the Foundlings were killed during the war,” Ivy continues. “All except thirteen Foundling children. We were worried that they would be targeted by the Shadows, so we decided to hide them. We gave them new identities, new homes, a chance of survival. We hid them on Earth.”

  “I still don’t understand-”

  Ivy squeezes her eyes shut. “Ezra was my brother, Casey.”

  “I know, but-” My stomach pitches, bile rises in my throat. “No.”

  Ivy’s eyes find mine and they are filled with sadness. “Casey-”

  “He was my father?”

  She slowly shakes her head. “No, he wasn’t your father, Casey. He was Lana’s father.”

 

 

 
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