Hi guys! Sorry it took so long for me to come up with another chapter! I am kind of rushed to get Dreamstalker done for a friend for her birthday, so expect more parts! In case you don’t remember, a Maélskein is a demon of evil, mentioned in the prologue. It is what Dreamstalker and Chaos *ahem* is classified as. Happy reading!
Katahdin (it’s a real place for those who don’t know): Ka-TAH-dun
News of Teresa’s true identity as Melaniya Lunangelia spread through the camp like wildfire. Whispers and stares followed Melaniya as she went to her camp duties, the mess hall, to her tent, and basically everywhere. People would double back to follow her and catch a glimpse of her niaru shield rune, which she always wore in plain sight. It finally grew to the point where either Aleiysa, Alladonna, Neriah, Clara, or myself would accompany her to hold the crowd at bay. Between Aleiysa’s ability to control people’s emotions, Alladonna’s and Neriah’s skills with their demons, Clara’s glare, and my mind control abilities/deluxe golden-eyed back off stare, we were quite the entourage.
Training for the battle to come between us and the American government grew a whole lot harder with each passing week. Lately, Katherine had been trying to work with me on mastering my chaos abilities, which was still a head scratcher. The only reason I’d have chaos abilities would be if I had a chaos demon, but I already had Dreamstalker, and having two demons at once was literally unheard of, because human minds weren’t equipped for taking on two powerful beings. One was the maximum limit.
Four weeks after Melaniya came unmasked, I was called into a meeting with Katherine. She, Amelia, Dmitri, Aleiysa, Alladonna, Sólene, Neriah, some boy I didn’t recognize but knew by face, and Melaniya were all grouped around a table in the research facility with Terrus and Jeffrius in the background. She looked up as I entered. “Ah, good. You made it. We were just about to get started. So,” she said, getting back on topic, “I brought you all here because Amelia and I have decided we are going to head out here in two days. We are going to attack.”
Murmurs of excitement and shock went through those assembled. I let that sink in for a moment, then read the mental energy radiating off everyone. There seemed to be a general consensus of excitement and nervousness. “So, where are we attacking?” I asked.
Katherine pulled up a map of some familiar territory. “We are attacking a detention facility north of Katahdin. It happens to be the biggest. You heard of it? It’s called Mountain Shadow.”
At the mention of it, both Melaniya and I stiffened, along with the unnamed boy. “Are you sure that’s what it’s called?” Melaniya squeaked.
“Yes.” Katherine frowned. “It seems like you’ve heard of it. Were you three taken there?”
There was a simultaneous nod.
“I didn’t realize. So, what can you say about it?”
We exchanged glances. “Well… It’s big,” the boy said. “Very big. There are maybe 900 kids at the least, plus staff, which is no small number. And there are several groups of kids to watch out for, not to mention the adults, all of whom have very powerful demons.”
I nodded. “About sums it up.”
Katherine ran a hand through her hair. “This complicates things. I’d stay mentally connected to anyone we can. I know we only have eight mind readers, Jeffrius included, so maybe Aleiysa takes the command who doesn’t have the mind reader. Are you fine with that?”
Aleiysa nodded. “I can always question them and judge by their emotions if it was correct or not.”
The boy frowned. “Why was I summoned, Katherine? There are ten people here, nine of whom are going to be commanders. I know for a fact I’m not.”
“I know you fight on your own, Meldon,” Katherine said calmly. “You are the only one who excels at doing that, and who absolutely needs to. I summoned you here so you can be filled in on the basics before you go and do your merry thing.”
Meldon, stiff-jawed, nodded curtly. “As you wish.”
She folded her maps and neatly stacked them. “We leave in two days. Any questions?”
Heads shook no.
“Then let’s hop to it. I’ll give you all who are commanders a list of who is in your group.” She stood up, signalling the rest of us to do the same. “I’d get ready to head out. We’ll be going to Mountain Shadow at dawn on Tuesday.”
The camp was in a flurry, the announcement that they were leaving in two days making everyone jittery and nervous, which in turn made me jittery and nervous. I tended to spend my days with Melaniya and Sólene, both of whom were calmer than the rest of the camp, Solene in her detached, aloof sort of way and Melaniya in her world stay out way. The three of us spent our hours with the other commanders, planning our battles and how we would spend our time when we were not fighting. We also met with our troops whom we would be commanding as well as the officers of the fifty person units within each contingent. Of all ten officers, two of them stood out as being very skilled. Vera, a spritely young woman of about ninteen, hosted a very intelligent counselor demon. Although she had no powers of her own, she knew all of her unit members’ powers almost as well as the wielders and had thought up several traps and fighting techniques which could be deemed as legendary, such as a sound bomb when all channelled into one spot could create a sonic wave that eventually turned, thanks to one of the boys in the unit, a time slowing device as well as a disabling device. The other resourceful officer was a quiet boy named Devon, who hosted a music demon. He and his tight-knit unit were some of the most powerful and creative fighters we had. Like Vera, he was very bright and creative with what he had to use.
The two days leading up to the battle flew by in a flurry of action and meetings. There were many scuffles as well, brought up because of high energy levels. They were over trivial matters, such as what unit was more powerful and who would disable the first person in battle. (We had a strict no killing/hurting-if-possible order and we were all happy to comply. We were here to free the kids, not hurt them.) A couple of the scuffles broke out into full on fights that were usually between whole contingents. At one time, Katherine herself had to come out and calm things down. It was the first time I’d ever seen her use her powers to such a degree. She stepped out of the command tent, eyes flashing, and slashed both her hands downward. Twin bolts of bright blue electricity exploded from the sky and struck so close to her that her sleeves began to smolder. Her voice echoed through the camp with the force of a thunderclap.
Everyone stood stock still, stunned. I ran a hand through my hair to get rid of the static and watched Katherine. She swept her gaze over the crowd. “Enough,” she hissed in a low voice. I am ashamed. Ashamed! Here I am, planning our attack, and you are all brawling! I have told you to keep your heads before a battle! I have told you that this isn’t a game. You all probably know that. This is the fight for the children who are contained against their will in the tyrannical arms of a restraining government! We actually mean to help, but you all are making bets on who will be the first to disable whom!” She shook her head, bitter disappointment in her eyes and emotional aura. “I hope you will rethink everything and understand the true cause of why you are here. That’s all.”
It was silent as everyone filed out of the place of the former brawl. I was knocked nearly senseless at the wave of emotion surging off the crowd. Anger, regret, humiliation, fear, embarrassment, and above all, shame. Everyone was thinking back on their training and were beginning to realize just how large scale this really was, even though they had been told on numerous occasions. I grasped a tent pole to keep myself from falling down under the tide of thought, but I eventually did end up sliding down onto the trampled snow, gripping my head. Battle was going to be a pleasant experience tomorrow.
A surprisingly warm hand fell to my shoulder. I looked up to see Dmitri frowning down at me, concern radiating off him. “You okay?”
I waved a hand in a so-so gesture. “Still trying to adjust.”
He nodded in understanding. “Ah. How bad is it?”
I grinned despite myself. “You’re a mind reader. You tell me.”
A grin too split his face. “How’s this? An agonizing wave of pure pain as all the thoughts in the world rattle about inside your head so you are nearly senseless and can barely remember your own name.”
“Nailed it,” I said with a smile. Finally, my mind got all the thoughts under control. “I’m good.”
“Good. Want to go get some food?”
“Sure, I guess.”
He pulled me to my feet with seemingly little effort and we set off to the nearest food tent. The sizzling of oil and the crackle of flames greeted us as we entered, and a girl hosting a minor earth and fire demon leapt to her feet. “How may I help you?” she asked in a businesslike voice.
“What’s on the menu for dinner?” Dmitri asked.
“Well… we have a vegetable pasta with the works, chicken salad, french onion soup, chicken noodle soup, and a mediterranean flatbread. All options can come gluten free or vegetarian. If you are vegan, I can see how creative I can get. So what would you like? Oh, we also have some fruit juices as well as hot cocoa, tea, water, and coffee.”
I thought for a moment. “How about some mango-orange juice with a vegetable pasta? If you can do the juice. If not, then I’ll go with mango.”
The girl nodded. “You?” she asked Dmitri.
“Mediterranean flatbread with some mint tea, please.”
She wrote the two orders down. “Go sit down. It will be done shortly.”
We made our way to the logs set around a big table then settled down on one, watching as the girl sent a fireball to the coals and began to use her earth magic to collect the different foods required for the dishes. We sat in silence for a spell, just enjoying the warmth of the fire and the smells of our impending meal. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dmitri broke the silence.
“Um… Odd question, but what’s it like hosting Dreamstalker?”
“I started. “Sorry, what?”
He looked bashful. “Sorry. I really was just interested. My demon, Anima, isn’t as strong as Dreamstalker range wise. She is really good at focusing on one thing, but not the overall whole. Seeing you now after the brawl made me think.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” I assured. “I was just surprised. I thought you understood, seeing as you are a mind reader. Let’s see… I’ve just had a strong range all my life. I really haven’t had much time to think about it. Simply put, Dreamstalker is powerful. He enhanced my powers to a point where I’d only dreamed… hehe, no pun intended. He also gave me confidence. A lot of it. In the beginning, I thought we’d never get along because I thought I would never be accepted. But we get along now. I guess this past month or so has taught me something. I’m not sure what. But to answer your question, it’s hard to put into words. I guess I could say not what you’d expect.”
Dmitri opened his mouth to say something else as the food was deposited onto the table. I gave the girl my dinner ticket as Dmitri did his. “Thank you.”
She nodded and sat back down on her seat.
I pulled my camping spork out of my pocket and twirled a bit of pasta onto it. “What’s your family like? Do you have any siblings?”
“One,” Dmitri said with a ghost of a smile. “A sister. Her name was Layla.”
“Was?” I queried, already feeling the pain.
He crunched through a bite of crust a bit louder than necessary. “Back when I was eight and she was seven, we were caught in the crossfire of a streetfight. She had some foresight abilities of her own, as well as energy conducting. She saw a bolt of electricity coming from two people to me, so she shoved me out of the way and caught
the energy. She was able to conduct it into fire, but it took too much of her own energy to do it. I tried to help her, but there was only so much I could do. She died ten minutes later.”
Although his voice was carefully neutral, his eyes gave away the pain he was feeling. He radiated anger, bitterness, grief, and sadness like an exploded nuclear reactor did radiation. I put a hand to my temple, pushing on it to tone down the headache as I brushed the hair out of my face. “I’m so sorry.”
He tried for a smile. “I guess we both asked very personal questions.”
“Me moreso than you.”
He shrugged. “Demons are personal.”
We finished the food, rinsed off the plates in the water provided, then put them on the counter. As we walked the snow covered paths, talk turned to the upcoming battle tomorrow. “Nervous?” I asked.
“I suppose,” he said. “This is the first big fight. And I’m commanding, so it should be interesting.”
“It all should be,” I agreed. “I don’t think Katherine should have chosen me to lead.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, I’m not too good, to begin with. I tend to be a bit blunt and irritated, as well as vague with what I want done. If anything, I think Vera would do better.”
“Then make her your second,” He suggested. “That way if you are disabled, then there is someone intelligent to take your place.”
“Good idea, thanks,” I said.
“No prob,” he said with a smile.
We arrived at his tent that he shared with the rest of the boys from the mind reading barracks. The sun was beginning to set. I stuffed my numb hands in my pockets and glanced at him. “Well, good night. See you tomorrow.”
“Night, Eískel. Good luck tomorrow.”
He ducked into the tent. I turned and headed to the tent further down the way that I shared with Lithal and Bracy. Bracy turned to me as I flopped onto my sleeping pad that lay beside hers. “Nervous?”
“Could say that. Where’s Lithal?”
“Who knows? She’s probably in meeting with Aleiysa. Her unit was one which was part of the brawl today. Same with Alladonna’s and Neriah’s.”
“Aren’t you in Alladonna’s?”
“Yes, but I was elsewhere at the time.”
I frowned at the unusual not of formality in her voice. “Are you okay?”
She took a deep breath. I could sense several emotions at odds with each other. Her eyes lifted to mine and the pain and anxiety she was feeling became apparent. “My sister is at the detention center. I’m terrified. She and I were taken there at the same time and at that time she became to get more angry. I guess it was her demon. She hosts a Maélskein.”
“Which one?” I asked curiously. The only Maéskein I knew of was in my head.
“Mortua. She takes life. Anyway my sister became mad that we both were taken. She wanted me to stay home and safe. But mind reader here.” She smiled bitterly. “It’s been three years! What if she doesn’t remember me? She was so bitter last time I saw her. At least she brightened when I got transported away.”
Her fear was deep, no doubt made deeper by the anxiety of the first battle. I reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder, sending the sincerity I felt in my words to her. “You are sisters. You are connected by a lot more than you know. Of course she’ll remember you.”
“I hope so.”
“My brother, Andronik, is at the detention center,” I continued. “He has a force field demon. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.”
“What was your relationship with him like?” she asked me.
“Well, we were close. Very close. He was kind of like my protector, because I was picked on a lot. I was- and still am- on the watchlist because of my mind reading, but then it was my potential chaos abilities.” I motioned to my eyes. “When I lost him. It was like my whole world would never be the same. I, in my anger against the government, decided to be as defiant as possible, then when I realized it was going nowhere, I strove to forget. When I saw him at the detention facility, it was reliving old memories. I guess I was so mad at the injustice of it all, I forgot all my good memories.”
I had been letting Bracy see my memories and she winced. “I’m sorry. Hopefully everything turns out for the best tomorrow.”
At that, the two of us traded small, sad smiles, then curled up in our sleeping bags, minds wandering to what would happen tomorrow.