Orchidna's Journal entry about meeting Gene Evernight.
The journey to Delphinad was not an easy one. It was the first time either Kyprosa or I had traveled that far by ourselves, and we were quickly confronted by the limits of our experience.
One night, after setting a large bonfire to stave off the snow, Kyprosa left me alone with the horses while she went to get water from a nearby creek. I noticed that the animals were unusually skittish, and I sensed fear in their simple minds as they stared wide-eyed out into the darkness. Then, I heard a low snarling behind me and turned to see the answer.
They lunged at the panicked horses, who reared back and broke their tethers in their terror. I screamed in frustration as Kyprosa's beloved mare raced into the night, knowing we'd never find it in the snow. All around me, the wolves were closing in on their slower, weaker prey. But I felt a power surge within me, unleashed by my anger. I whirled on the nearest wolf with fire in my blood.
"How dare you!" I yelled.
The beast froze and I stepped boldly forward, forcing my will onto its mind. Making it cower beneath the weight of me. By my second step, it had collapsed to the ground as if struck, whining like an injured puppy.
We rode the wolves the rest of the way down the mountains. Kyprosa was leery at first, but I explained that breaking their will had been easy once the pack leader had submitted. For some reason, this didn't make her feel any better. Eventually she relented though, as we couldn't very well walk all the way to Delphinad. And in a way, she argued, it was the wolves making up for scaring off our horses.
I wanted to ride them all the way to the gates of the city itself, but Kyprosa said that wasn't a good idea. So we dismounted once we reached the plains and carefully unstrapped our bags from their reluctant porters.
The wolves stayed crouched, shaking in fear, even after we'd unloaded the last of our things. Kyprosa gave me a stern look and I rolled my eyes, but guiltily released the bindings on the creatures. They immediately fled back into the forest, yipping as if their fur had been lit on fire.
I didn't want to mention it to Kyprosa, but there had been another reason I was reluctant to release the wolves.
Using my power to control them...had felt good. Satisfying in a way that I couldn't quite explain.
The voices in my head had exulted in my strength. They had cried out in triumph when I had dominated the pack leader's mind. They had whispered of a grand destiny that awaited me if I would embrace my powers fully.
And a newly-awakened part of me very much wanted what they offered.
I stumbled after releasing the wolves, and the voices wailed in disappointment. I had failed them somehow. Stepped off the path laid out for me, I was filled with a sudden, cold despair.
Kyprosa noticed me falter and reached out to grab my hand, and instantly the voices were silenced. With a simple gesture of comfort, she had shut them out. I looked up at her with wonder and loved her more in that moment than I could say.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"I think so," I said shakily and clutched her hand tighter. I wished I could hold onto her forever.
I had never thought to be grateful for Kyprosa's limited ability to read minds. But as I struggled with my own feelings on the voices' connection to my powers, I was glad my sister couldn't pick up the depths of my confusion.
That night, though, her weakness almost cost us dearly.
We arrived at a shabby tavern on the outskirts of the plains, and were met by an old woman who offered to feed us and give us a place to sleep. We tried to bicker over the price, but she insisted that the roads were dangerous at night and that we should at least stay until the morning. In the end, Kyprosa relented.
I sensed that the woman wasn't being truthful, but I was still distracted by my experiences with the wolves. I assumed the innkeeper was merely exaggerating the danger to get us to spend the night, so I decided to rest with my head in Kyprosa's lap until food arrived. I trusted her to keep me safe, as she always had.
Some time later, I woke with a start to find that we'd both been tightly bound with ropes. The old lady's kindly smile was gone and she now giggled over us, turning Kyprosa's face back and forth with her bony fingers. I peered into her mind and saw the trap we'd fallen into.
The woman was a slaver. Soon, her partners would arrive to take us away, where we would be used until we grew too old or died. She had betrayed us. Betrayed our trust. And her claws were clutching at my sister's face, like a greedy merchant examining her stock.
My stomach lurched in disgust, then burned hot with anger. Again, I heard the voices shout in triumph as I summoned up my power. Again, I spoke with their voice.
"Stop!" I barked at the woman. She froze in silence, her evil giggling cut off mid-breath. Her eyes rolled wildly as she tried to regain control of her unwilling limbs.
"Untie us!" I commanded. The woman did so swiftly, cutting our bounds with a knife from the table. I stood as soon as I was able, shaking with fury at her treachery. I knew what she had done to other women--other girls--who had fallen for her tricks. I had seen it all.
"Now kill yourself," I hissed.
My sister gasped as the old woman cut her own throat, and I felt Kyprosa's mind go curiously blank. Shock, I decided. Without speaking, she grabbed my hand and started to lead me quickly out of the inn. But before we'd even made it halfway across the room, two armed men stepped through the door.
They drew their swords as soon as they saw the old woman's corpse slumped across the table. Kyprosa froze, but I was ready for them.
"Kill each other," I commanded.
As one, they turned and drove their swords into each other's hearts. I dragged Kyprosa past them as they collapsed on either side of us, their blood already pooling on the floor beneath them.
Kyprosa and I walked through the night in silence, blindly following the unlit country road. I could sense her mind slowly emerging from the numbing cloud of shock. Finally, after what seemed like hours, she spoke.
"Why?" she asked. Her voice was barely a whisper.
I frowned. "They were going to hurt you," I said simply. I felt, more than saw, her nod in the darkness.
"How...how did you do it? Was it like the wolves?"
I shrugged. "It's easy. I just make them do what I want them to."
Kyprosa squeezed my hand tightly as we walked. I could feel worry, love, and doubt....but no fear. She knew I'd never hurt her.
"Orchidna," she said. "I think you're right. I think those people were going to hurt us. But what you did...you have to promise me you won't do it again unless you have no other choice. It's not a good thing, killing people that way."
I squeezed her hand back, grateful that we'd moved past my indiscretion so easily. "I promise," I told her. And at the time, I meant it.
It took us nearly a week to reach the outskirts of Delphinad on foot. During that time, Kyprosa seemed to come into her own, haggling with innkeepers and tough-talking merchants as if she were the Fir Queen herself. By the time we reached the Delphinad Library, we were brimming with confidence. We had seen the worst of the road and survived it. Nothing could stop the two of us when we worked together.
Nothing, that is, except for the guards at the library entrance. Apparently, only documented students were granted entry.
Kyprosa and I had met multiple shady-looking characters on the road who had been willing to forge identities for us. Runaways are good business for the right type of scribe. So we went to the nearest questionable pub, thinking to find such a man in the city and take him up on his offer.
After many subtle questions, we were pointed to a quiet table at the back of the pub. There, we found a goateed man who claimed he could help us. If we would just follow him to his residence, he insisted, he would happily forge the documents we required.
Kyprosa looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I rolled my eyes.
The man sputtered angrily, but Kyprosa smoothly drew her belt knife as we stood to go. I could feel the man weighing his options, but he knew there were too many witnesses for him to act.
Suddenly, a group of drunks started a bar fight two tables over. Kyprosa and I tried to back away, but within seconds, the whole pub had descended into chaos. Stools and bottles smashed all around us as the drunken crowd enthusiastically joined in on its favorite blood sport.
I immediately felt my power surge within me, seeking a way out. But I fought it back. I had promised Kyprosa I wouldn't use it unless we had no other choice. Instead, I ducked beneath a nearby table and watched the melee unfold.
A young man, wild-haired and angry, and his silent Firran companion. They fought back-to-back, laying waste to the circle of drunken brawlers around them as easily as if they were fighting children. For every blow the young man received, he gave a dozen more. And as for the Firran, his foes might as well have tried to punch the wind. I was fascinated by their violence.
As I watched the pair fight, a strange feeling of dread came over me. The voices in my mind whispered in fear and anger, telling me to strike. To attack the man while he was distracted. To unleash my strength and ensure my destiny. I shook my head, trying to silence the voices so I could focus on the brawl.
"See the skein!" they cried. "His fate is destruction!"
I narrowed my eyes and realized I could see something. Like thin strands of light, drifting out from the young man. I followed them with my eyes, watching them twist through the melee until they reached...
Immediately I stood, summoning my power to me. Whatever this boy intended for my sister, he wasn't going to get the chance. I stepped forward, feeling the darkness uncurl within me. I poised myself to invade the young man's mind, gathered my strength and then--
I was struck from behind and fell forwards into darkness.
When I woke, I was lying on a filthy cot in a dark locked room. The back of my head hurt and even looking at the light struggling in through the tiny window made me wince. But I forced myself up, standing on my tiptoes to see out of the window and take in my surroundings.
Just as I feared, I wasn't in the pub anymore. I was on the second floor of an unknown house, somewhere in the sprawling slums that dotted the great city of Delphinad. And I had no clue how to find my sister.
As I stared down at the dirty street below, attempting to make some sort of plan, I heard a key rattle in the lock behind me. I spun around, crouched, and brought forth my power to strike down whoever entered.
But just before the door opened, I hesitated. I'd promised Kyprosa I wouldn't kill unless I had to. How would she feel when she learned I'd done it again the second we had become separated?
The door opened and the same goateed man from the pub walked in. At his side, a rough-looking thug smirked knowingly.
I let them take three steps into the room, then froze their bodies still as statues.
I stared at them for a time in silence, allowing them to feel the helplessness of their situation. Sweat began to soak through their clothes, and their limbs shook from their pathetic attempts to resist my will. It would have been so easy to kill them. Kyprosa would never have to know.
Eventually, I sighed.
"Alright, idiots," I said. "Take me downstairs and make me some breakfast. You two are about to have a very bad day."