They’ve found us again. Kyla pushes me into a thicket full of thorns. I open my mouth to complain, but I hear the stomp of horse hooves on the gravel path we were on seconds ago. I’m lucky they don’t have dogs this time. I hate Air Weaving their four-legged bodies hard into the ground. The whimpers strike a chord in my heart that never seems to be there when slamming the soldiers into the very same ground.
Kyla’s palm is pressed on the top of my head and I feel her pulse racing through the fingertips she digs into my forehead. My heartbeat thumps an identical pattern. This is the second time in as many weeks that we’ve been tracked down. And we haven’t made following our trail easy. Every quarter mile or so, I call up a storm to blow dirt and leaves over our footprints. We cross rivers and streams on a regular basis and never stay in one place long enough to be remembered. In some villages, only I go into the market squares. Twins are easy to remember. One lone girl with a dirty face? Not so much.
I reach into Kyla’s pocket and take out the flint shards. If I strike them just right, Kyla can Weave the sparks into a weapon. Between her fire and my wind, we’ll be safe for another week. The only problem is that the soldiers will know for sure that they’ve been following a Fire Weaver. So far, we’ve kept that a secret. Only rumors persist about twin girls who wove fire into a storm that killed an entire village and took them down with it as well. Power too great for either of them to control. Rumors won’t keep us safe.
Kyla’s eyes have gone dark and focused. Her forehead wrinkles in concentration. She’s straining her ears to pick up the number of boots on the path, past that to hear how many horses there are. We had a horse once. He was an ancient gelding in need of a brush and several years of good meals. We had little to offer, but he allowed us to ride him sometimes in exchange for the apples we stole from villages.
She holds up seven fingers and then makes a symbol for horse. Then she holds up five fives in quick succession and the symbol for humans. Perfect. Even if she’s able to make out ¾ of the actual number of men and beasts, we’re outnumbered big time. The roll of power starts at the base of my skull. The air around us charges like in a lightning storm, and that gives me an idea.
It starts as tiny raindrops hitting the leaves high above us. I release more power into the air around me and bind myself to the clouds and water that hangs there, looking for the payoff. The potential for electricity.
Kyla grabs my hand, steadying me. She whispers, “Bring down the fire.”
Before I have a chance to do just that, a man’s booming voice cuts across the crackling air. “Elodie and Kyla LeFauve. We’re here to take you to a safe house.”
I can’t breathe. I can’t even look at Kyla. How do they know who we are? Our names died in a fire hundreds of miles and almost a decade ago. We’ve never spoken of what happened to anyone. Not even each other. Something is wrong. So very very wrong. And I can’t move a muscle. Not to swallow or blink or Air Weave to blow the words back into his mouth.
I realize that I can’t feel that energy snapping and crackling around me. It’s almost as if someone’s placed a glass over a candle slowly snuffing out the oxygen. I raise my hands out in front of me, desperate to feel the energy popping out of my fingertips. Only then do I turn my attention to Kyla. She’s dropped to her knees, striking the pieces of flint in her hand against each other in quick succession. The sparks are small but enough for her to start something bigger. The problem is: nothing’s happening. She can’t Fire Weave and I can’t Air Weave.
A cloaked figure steps into the clearing near our hiding spot. The thorns make it hard to see, but they’re carrying something in their hands. A chain or rope with a beautiful bronze thurible hiccupping thick smoke into the air. The cloak moves closer as does the smell of cardamom and saffron. Kyla springs to her feet and grabs the back of my coat, pulling me behind her. From experience, I know it’s better to go along with whatever she wants me to do than argue. Over her shoulder I can see the person remove the cloak’s hood. It’s a woman. Older, maybe mid-forties. When she turns her head over her shoulder to gesture to the men to lower their weapons — they had their weapons trained on us?! — her dark hair is pulled back in a tight bun at the nape of her neck. Not a strand is loose in the breeze that ripples between us just out of my control.
“Mademoiselle Kyla,” she says and nods at my sister. Then she looks straight at me. “Mademoiselle Elodie.” Another nod.
The formality of it is so disconcerting that I find myself smiling and nodding back. I’m two seconds from a curtsey when Kyla stands up straight with her feet planted shoulder-width apart, arms tight at her sides. The pieces of flint are being held in her white-knuckled grip.
“My name’s Hannah. This is my sister Gracie.”
The woman laughs, covering her mouth briefly with a red-gloved hand. The thurible continues to belch cloying smoke into the air. I pull at the power inside me, but it remains dormant. Something about that damn incense is blocking me from flipping this woman off her feet and letting us escape.
“We both know that’s not true, Kyla LeFauve,” she says without breaking eye contact. She pauses before picking a piece of lint from the cloak against her arm. “Forgive me, ladies, my name is Professor Rolm. I extend an invitation to Côte de la Brume Castle. It’s a couple hours ride from here. We wish to return before nightfall, if you please.”
She gestures again to the soldiers around us. A few of them reveal themselves and one even offers a horse and set of reins in our direction. This isn’t the first time I’ve wished that Kyla and I could talk in each other’s heads. We used to pretend we could when we were younger as parlor tricks to win pieces of gold or silver from townsfolk. Kyla doesn’t turn to me and ask for my opinion. She holds her ground, hands still fisted around her flint. Before she or I can say anything, the woman, Professor Rolm shrugs her shoulders.
“Very well then,” she says, arching an eyebrow. “I didn’t want to do this, but it seems we have come to an impasse.”
Something heavy hits me in the back of my head. My body falls heavily towards the ground, stopping to drag painfully against the thorns before everything goes black.
… to be continued.
For more amazing art by Catherine Langwagen, please visit her Deviant Art page (cassiopeiaart.deviantart.com). Stay tuned for our next prompt in the July series on Monday! Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.
Artwork © Copyright, Catherine Langwagen 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission.