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Book 1: The Republic
Previously on Gods of War
Fenn Miyakami lives alone in the Republic, and one night is cursed by an evil demon for no known reason. Losing his job he joins an illegal fighting ring with airbender Otto. When Otto betrays him financially and another demon attacks the city things take a turn for the better. Fenn is hired by Colette, the daughter of the Beyond chairman, Tariq, to become a Clandestine and his is introduced to a life of luxury. But questions about the demons must be answered.
Chapter Four: The Green
|"We both know how powerful information can be"|
|— Colette to the Beyond chairman Tariq|
Vast amounts of powerful sunlight poured in from the window. The smell of carpet mixed with paperback caught these rays, absorbing the warmth and heating the room to a comfortable temperature. Tariq's eyes were unwavering. Like a wolf he stared down at the little fawn that shivered in the dense snows of workplace hierarchy.
"I," the man began, his frown covering his chin like a parabolic red river. "I don't like this." Fenn's heart, beating fast, made wooden knocks in a hollow in his body as his nerves began to increase. He knew exactly what Tariq was talking about. It was inevitable that the man would find out - and finding out without confidentiality on Colette's part must have made it all the more betraying.
"I'm sorry," Fenn managed to mutter.
"It's unprofessional," interrupted Tariq. "And she is my daughter." He slammed a fist on his desk and the sound echoed formidably throughout the massive room.
"I know, sir," Fenn said as he shuddered, thinking that giving him a stiff bow would make for a sound apology.
"Don't speak!" the man interrupted again – this time a lot more sternly. "You're not my first choice when it comes to my daughter's suitors. But who am I to get in the way of love?" Fenn nodded as if he was being lectured some important scientific information. "Let me add this though. Colette may seem independent and strong-willed. But she is weak."
"Weak, sir?" Fenn coughed.
"Weak-spirited, rather. Or more so, emotionally inept. The death of her mother has taken a considerable toll on her wellbeing, even though it cannot be seen it is there. Like a ghost, I suppose, it haunts her. Do you understand what I'm getting at?"
"She is fragile," Fenn replied tenderly, remembering the night they shared together at her home. That night they sliced themselves opened to reveal guts and all. But no ghosts.
"She is fragile. And if something were to hurt her it would hurt her more so than it would any other person. Say you, me and all people in the world are pencils." Tariq held up a pencil – average colour, average looking. "And Colette is a wine glass. When I drop a pencil, nothing happens." The pencil in hand was dropped from the side of his desk and made a meek thud on the floor, still perfectly intact.
"But when the wine glass takes the same drop," Tariq continued, as he held the wine glass from the same point from the side of the desk. He smiled at Fenn before letting go. As the glass fell it rung a delicate, melodic note and then it smashed onto the ground, shattering into brilliant shards across the carpet.
"She will shatter, Fenn. I do not want to see you shatter her," Tariq said in monotone. "If you do, you will have a shattered girl on your shoulders and shattered shoulders on top of that." Fenn swallowed a hard lump of air in his throat and nodded.
"That is all," the man added before taking to his screen. Fenn stood awkwardly for a while, not knowing how to start his topic.
"Well, um, Tariq, sir," he started nervously. "I was hoping to talk to you about the Gree-"
"Fenn, please. I don't like you interfering. Okay?" Tariq hissed, interrupting again – it seemed he had no time for ends of sentences. "Stick to your job. Don't tell me how to do mine." Fenn retreated, his confidence sinking into his chest and receding down his spine to his pelvis to hide.
"Anything else?" Tariq asked, bearing a polite smile. Fenn shook his head.
"Then you may leave." Fenn turned and exited. And once he got into the elevator and the doors closed he sighed heavily. There was no convincing Tariq that the Green was the source of the demons. Fenn was sure it was. He had no proof but something in his gut, an inkling cemented there that shook his body each time the topic came up, told him, affirmed it to him, that more information would come from the Green. But there was no way he, himself, could persuade the man.
"It's not a bad idea."
"The Green. And it's true. The only way the Council will think of you as a useful asset to them is if you show them you can protect their people."
"How will going to the Green, wasting my time, protect people?"
"We both know how powerful information can be." Colette smiled at him. He was buying it, that she knew. But still some skepticism presented itself on the man's face.
"Besides you won't be wasting your time. I'll take the expedition. And only just for a month," she assured Tariq. "Fenn and the other Clandestines can come for protection. I'll take some scientists." Tariq shook his head.
"Why does Fenn have to go?" he moaned.
"Because he's my boyfriend," Colette replied flatly. She was fed up with his disapproval. It was unnecessary. Tariq, after much rolling of the eyes and annoyed deliberation, slammed his fingers onto the keyboard to send some administration notifications around.
"Fine. But one month only," he said, finally defeated. Colette smiled, satisfied that her persistence paid off.
"You have one month to find some information on these demons. I suppose it won't hurt." Colette jumped up, squealing with delight and leaned over the desk to kiss her father on the forehead.
"Thank you, Daddy. You won't regret this."
"I better not," he said, rolling his eyes again. He was weak when it came to her, and he hated the she knew that – and abused that. Colette walked away with an air of victory, wiping down the creases on her blouse. She turned around to face her father once more.
"Oh and one other thing," she started defiantly. "I'm not going to get hurt." She stared down Tariq momentarily before smiling and getting into the lift. The expedition was under way.
A strong sun bleared down. Behind them a giant metal wall held the Republic safe. It loomed for a while until it disappeared under the horizon. The team, led by Colette and Fenn, trudged through the dirty landscape. Forgotten or halted projects had left behind scaffolding and cement mixers, bricks and poles and tape. The whole scene was kind of ominous, like the builders were just plucked from the ground and out of existence. To some other realm perhaps. Hammers lay as if dropped and rusty nails showed only half of themselves in wooden beams, as if the job was unfinished. Gravel crunched beneath the Clandestines' boots and vans, of which contained tents and other equipment, were driving casually behind Colette and Fenn. The girl's brown eyes narrowed as she examined the unfamiliar land. It was not pretty. And not at all green. A circle, it seemed, of industrial ugliness – like that of an apocalyptic wasteland – surrounded the Republic. In the distance, however, a tiny thin line, a haze, of green and orange could be seen hovering like a dragonfly before a pond's surface.
As the expedition team continued the colours grew larger and more expansive and soon enough hills and flats of grass stretched forever and ever. Trees, mostly evergreen but some naked from the onset of autumn, grew in tall patches; dense forests and sporadic woods. Fenn had never seen so much grass in his life. The sweet scent of it tickled his nose and made his eyes water. Wet soil and something like an odor of wet fur could also be smelt, along with the wafting aromas of small wildflowers. Dotting the countryside were fallen leaves of orange, red and brown, forming a magnificent fire that blazed and sweltered with each chilly gust. Like an almost silence, the sound of the wind across the grass and the billowing leaves was so quiet, so faint and simple; like sand whispering across the shore of a moonlit beach.
"Can you hear that?" asked Colette, stopping in her tracks and halting the others behind her. Her eyebrows lowered with caution as she surveyed the landscape. Fenn stopped too, and listened intently. There was no other sound. It was almost as if they were in a vacuum – so preoccupied in their own objective that nothing could disturb them. But something was disturbing Colette. The trees swayed gently in the breeze, their branches creaking like floorboards while one tries to sleep – a brooding, unidentifiable sound. One can never tell how far the sound is, or how much meaning it possesses but it nevertheless sends shivers down the spine.
Suddenly, as howls filled the empty hills, men and women poured from the scrub. They wore tattered clothing – rags and furs of animals – and their bare bodies were painted with natural dyes. Their eyes bulged out as they brandished their spears, stones, flames and tendrils of water. From both sides they came in to attack the expedition.
"Take them down!" Colette shouted to her Clandestines. The soldiers obeyed, taking out their guns or proceeding to use their bending. Colette reached into the leather satchel that had been swaying against her hip the whole time and pulled out a small pistol. It was a brilliant silver colour and made of magnificent polished parts. She aimed it at an oncoming savage and shot them square in the knee, causing the man to topple over and cry in a pool of his own blood. Sucking his surprise deep into his lungs Fenn regained his wits. A mass of savages hurtled towards them and Fenn, his curse stinging and his arms swelling profoundly as usual, produced a mass of fire. The flames scorched the grasses and burnt the attackers, knocking them off their feet. Clandestines joined in, bending away large chunks of earth, whipping lashings of water and blasting plumes of fire. Others shot at the savages, and blood soon gushed into the soil, staining the once pretty landscape.
Once the savages retreated and the wounded Clandestines were bandaged, any surviving savages were tied to trees with their weapons broken and discarded. The expedition continued on, seemingly, as a whole, unaffected by the bout. Fenn, however, was a little shaken. He had never seen Colette with that much fury – nor had he seen such a battle take place. Bodies and attacks blurred past his vision and screams and gunshots stung his eardrums. The entire thing was over before he knew it, and he seemed only to fire one attack. He'd have to train himself, because he felt utterly useless compared to his other Clandestines.
"Who were those people?" he asked Colette once he mulled his thoughts over for a while, scratching his chin.
"They were tribe people," she stated bluntly, aggravated with the topic. "They live in the Green and with no order whatsoever. They're a real nuisance for the Republic because whenever we want to expand, make some new developments, they get in the way and attack our builders. They're brutal and barbaric. They don't want to let go of the old philosophies." Fenn's brain tickled with curiosity.
"The old philosophies? What are they?"
"Who cares," Colette shrugged angrily. Fenn fell silent; he didn't want to irk her more. Instead he took her soft hand in hers and they continued to lead the expedition over the hills of the Green.
The night was warm, meaning a cold day was sure to come tomorrow. Fenn had come from dinner, a roast chicken with gravy and vegetables. He walked down to the brook that was nearby and watched the crystal black water trickle and bubble over stones and twigs. Above, a cloudless sky was dotted with tiny lights that shone faintly like fireflies fading into the distance. Everything was dim and the darkness seemed to numb every sense. Smells were damp and indefinable, the taste of fresh air was pure and flavourless and the monotone hum of unseen cicadas blended every other sound into it – a blur of noise. Sight was almost entirely blackened out, but that did not matter. The little rays of moon and star light made everything calming. Fenn took his shoes off and dunked them in the creek. The cold instantly woke him from the dizziness of his full stomach and chilled his skin delightfully.
"What are you doing?" Colette asked from behind. She sat down next to Fenn, brushing bits of grass off her pristine dress. To her they were a nuisance. They stuck on to everything and they were still prickly from the hot summer.
"Just enjoying the scenery," he smiled. Colette examined the brook, the looming trees that cast shadows on the night-covered ground and the twinkling of the sky. It was all such a waste. Imagine all the amazing architectural designs that could be established here. Or all the precious resources that lay beneath the ground. The land had so much potential, but instead it was left to go on its repetitive, impractical cycle of birth, growth, reproduce, and somewhere in there was death. And soon enough birth would come again too. With Beyond managing the scenery's cycle it would be more along the lines of birth, growth, growth and growth, with success somewhere in there.
"What's there to like?" she scoffed unenthused. Fenn laughed.
"Well," he began softly. "I've never seen anything like it. It's so beautiful." It was true. He had never, in his entire life, ever seen so many trees, or so much grass – let alone a real river. From the pollution that constantly covered the sky like a suffocating blanket Fenn had never seen shimmering stars either. Everything he saw was breathtaking.
"And also, see those stars up there?" Fenn said, taking hold of Colette's hand and pointed to the sky. "They look like your eyes. They're shining and they're stunning." Colette turned her face to his and they looked into each other's eyes. She began to stroke his light brown hair. It was rough, yet, somehow possessed a certain softness to it that allowed one to stroke all the way from the forehead down to the nape in one motion. She rubbed the back of his neck gently with her thumb then continued around his shoulder. Fenn did not take his eyes off her while hers followed her hand to where it went. He was smitten.
"What's this?" Colette asked suddenly, her brow curved downwards and her fingers pushing past his high collar. She touched his mark and it stung. Fenn's eyes became wider then they had ever been. His heart jackhammered at his chest and though his lips were shut tight it felt they could burst open any minute for him to vomit. He became stiff, like an old, withered statue that could erode away if he said the wrong thing. Colette could tell Fenn was hiding something, as her eyes began to flare when he did not reply. She looked at him with, what Fenn realised weren't angry but, worried eyes. Perhaps he was in her best interest. He cared for her, and so there was no reason for her not to feel the same; in fact it was highly probable she did. The feelings of one person in the relationship are usually reciprocated in the other. If one hated the other, the other would hate the first too. And if one loved the other, the other would love the first. This thought soothed Fenn a bit and he was able to breathe again, albeit still acute. He smiled at Colette, gesturing that everything was alright.
"It's a curse." Colette squinted at him when he said that.
"What? Did a gypsy give it to you?" she remarked mockingly. Fenn laughed, happy she did not overreact from it.
"No," he replied, his smile curving to a frown. "A demon gave it to me. It attacked me on the street just over a month ago." He had never told anyone this before. A strange feeling came over him as each word drifted across his tongue and off his lips – there was no way of retrieving them again. They were out in the world and he'd never get them back. He felt as if something was taken from him, but didn't know how to feel about it.
"Your skin. It's rotting underneath," Colette whispered distraughtly, delicately touching the taught skin around the black mark. "Does it hurt?"
"Not all the time. It comes and goes," he explained, rolling his right shoulder around to test his pain tolerance. "It hurts a lot when I firebend, but it is also what makes my firebending so crazy."
"I knew you weren't that talented," Colette joked, punching him softly on the shoulder. There was a silence between them momentarily, as the cicadas' drones echoed through the branches. Colette smiled, then so did Fenn and they kissed again – this time under the starlight.
The team did their time in the Green. They travelled over hills and small mountains, through valleys, over plains and into forests. But nothing out of the ordinary presented itself. The scientists that were hired used instruments every day to test each camp site. The acidity was normal, the air pressure fine, the light intensity, air pollution, biodiversity and metal concentration was all regular. Even at night there were no spooky noises, no supernatural flashes of colour; as was the preconceived notion of what was going to happen. The Green was simply an expanse. A sea of nothing special, of half-hearted gasps and meager applauses. Even Fenn was tiring of the place.
Making camp on a grassy plateau the expedition team sat down a stretched their weary legs, the scientists returning from experimenting with no news to report. After finishing her dinner Colette belligerently stormed down the hill to the nearby lake. Fenn went after her once he finished his meal, hoping to calm her down.
"What a waste of time," she said as she threw a stick into the inky water. The night was warm and humid, something strange for the beginning of autumn – but nothing to get worked up about.
"Half a month, Fenn. Two weeks, gone!" she continued. Her cheeks flustered red from annoyance.
"It wasn't a complete waste of time," said Fenn, taking hold of her hand and standing by her. They looked at each other and she smiled.
"We got to spend a whole month together. And it was really nice, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," she blushed, turning redder. "It was." It seemed the travel had brought them very close, and more intimate. Fenn had never thought it possible for him to be so lovey-dovey. If, a month and a half ago, he knew he'd be saying the things he was to a girl, he'd be sick. He hated consolation, compliments and mushiness – but now he didn't much mind the stuff. In fact, he had acquired a sort of taste to it. Whenever they spoke to each other Fenn could feel a sweet flavour encase his tongue and line the inside of his cheeks. The two looked out across the wide lake, the stars reflecting wobbly on its surface.
That was when Fenn saw something.
He had to squint to see it. And he had to double take to believe it. On the other side of the lake was a boat. It was wooden and had some basic carvings on it. At its bow a lantern was attached to a long wooden pole. The orange glow meandered along the water, gently flying under each tiny ripple the slow-moving boat made. The rower was what made Fenn's heart stop, though. He felt frozen in time as he stared out at it. Manning the small boat was a little figure; a demon. Rage boiled inside the boy's stomach and his curse tingled a bit, as if to remind him of what gave him the painful, rotting mark. The little demon was cylindrical in shape and jet black, it almost blended into the night. It had two stumpy legs and two stumpy arms and one, large, bulgy eye that stared straight into Fenn's heart. Like a thousand dagger blades they sliced in and twisted after entry, mutilating the bleeding flesh further.
"Do you see that?" he whispered to Colette, his voice shaky with anger – or perhaps fear. With no response he looked behind to see Colette walking back nonchalantly to the camp – with another Fenn by her side. He was transparent, but not – it seemed – to her. The real Fenn, the one on the shore, must've been in a different realm – a parallel plane of existence, for only he could see the rowing demon. The boat arrived at the bank, pressing through the mud and reeds, and the little demon looked at Fenn. He wanted to kill it, to blast some fire right into its prying eye. But for some reason her couldn't. He was stuck. The little thing's eyelid closed and it made a little squeak. A friendly note – suggested by the curvature of its eyelids.
"What do you want?" Fenn asked it defiantly, his feet breaking from their icy hold. He turned to leave but the demon squeaked again, this time louder. He looked back at it and it gestured for Fenn to hop on. Fenn stared the demon down a bit then shook his head. The thing laughed. And then repeated its gesture, this time with a bit more urgency.
"No!" Fenn yelled at it. The demon closed its eye, sighed and then rubbed its eyelid with a tiny hand. It had no time to waste, and the human's obstinacy was just bothersome. Why could there never be a smooth job, he beckoned to himself – shaking a fist up at the sky. This thing has attitude, Fenn thought. Amused by the little guy – who was to say it was a male, nobody could tell; it just seemed fitting, Fenn stepped into the boat and took a seat. The cylinder demon returned to his seat and used the oars to push the boat out of the mud; a great display of strength on the demon's behalf for the thing was tiny and Fenn must have tripled its weight. The boat slowly made its way across the lake, the lantern bobbing with each oar stroke. Fenn looked at the camp over the plateau, its lights were faint. He wondered what the 'fill in' Fenn was doing – just something commonplace probably. He sighed and brushed his left hand over his head. What was he getting himself into? Something big better not come of this, he said to himself; every fibre in his body filling with dread. He looked over the boat into the pitch black water. There was no reflection. He was no longer there. He was somewhere else now. Like a tourist in a foreign country who could not speak the language, he was going to end up hopelessly lost. Lost for words.
As the boat neared the other side of the lake, a haze covered the surface of the water, creeping along like a white cat on the prowl. A glittering aura appeared before the two of them, sparkling just above the water. Like that of an aurora, or a projected film, a transparent building appeared. As the wave-like light continued to wash over and over in the air the building became more and more opaque until it seemed entirely solid. As the sparks of light faded, so did Fenn's breath. The building was, fittingly, breathtaking. It was golden with rings of red painted around the towering columns. Magnificent windows were spread evenly along the face, statues of grimacing beasts and decorated elephants and other exotic animals adorned parts of the façade, and an ancient script painted in red was written on the walls and on a large wooden sign. Offerings of flowers and rice and incense sticks laid at the bottom, like servants kissing the boots of the mighty.
Fenn looked at the demon, his mouth gaping open like a giant cod. The demon laughed squeakily before signaling for the boy to get out and go into the building. The building rested on the water's surface, however, so even once Fenn waded through the murky water there'd be no way of getting to the front door. The demon went and started pushing Fenn, something the firebender jolted from – he did not like demons touching him. His skin seared just from being next to one.
"Okay!" he said angrily, swatting the ugly thing off him. He stood up, the boat not rocking one bit and, trying not to think about the oncoming wetness, he plunged into the water. He jumped up, came down a bit and then stopped. He opened his eyes and then howled enigmatically. He was standing on the surface of the lake, not even the ends of his lacers wet. It was peculiar beyond belief. It was as if he was dreaming. He looked up at the golden building, his amazed smile fading.
In there would be more demons – for that was probably where the little guy came from. Meaning in there could be the smiling-mask demon that cursed him. Revenge, like a hungry python, constricted him – his body becoming crushed by the power of it until he was numb and devoured. There was nothing left of him now except a white, burning fire fuelled only by a poisonous vengeance. This would make the world right again, he was sure of it. Everything he did now was pivotal. He slowly walked in, taking each step with care. If the smiling-mask demon was here, no doubt other harmful demons were too – and Fenn was not willing to gain more curses from them. He wanted to lift his present one. He came to the two grandiose doors, both inlayed with gold leaf and mythical scenes. He pushed them open and stumbled into the foyer. What he laid his eyes on made them tremble with disgust. His stomach convulsed and his skin, not just the curse, began to scorch. His fists tightened as he tried to control his rage. He breathed deeply through his nose as his brow furrowed above his eyes.
The whole place was crawling with them. Like an infestation of hideous bugs the demons walked about with purpose, bumping into each other to get to where they were going as fast as possible. Big ones with giant bellies, little ones with jagged teeth, a red one in a straw skirt, a bendy one with big lips and a human-looking one with no eyes that shook some bells as others past her. They were all so intimidating. But Fenn had to suppress his fear. There was a task at hand; he had to find and kill the smiling-mask demon. He could kill all the other demons afterwards, he decided. He walked down the foyer, seemingly unnoticed by the demons. Some looked him in the eyes but it seemed they rather looked through or past him – into someplace else. At the end of the golden foyer was a tiny green door with a small dial to its right. The dial swiveled to expose a colour. Fenn deemed it curious and continued examining. He touched the handle when suddenly a giant demon came out from the other side. It was a giant, dragon-like beast covered in white fur. It trudged past Fenn, bearing some angry expression, and brushed against the boy's shoulder. A flash of fury came across his vision. Contain yourself, Fenn said in his mind. He gritted his teeth and snorted in another big breath. He looked back at the door and, as it was shutting, he saw a place on the other side. He couldn't quite make it out but it looked like a swamp. It had trees, and vines and dirty pools, but it looked like no other swamp he had ever seen. He grasped the handle and tried pulling the door open to have a better look when suddenly a vacuum from behind seemed to pull at him. He was sucked off the handle, across the foyer and out of the building. As he flew across the lake the one-eyed demon waved goodbye and Fenn returned to the transparent body at the camp site. He was beside Colette and he was breathless.
"Are you alright?" she asked, putting a hand on his knee. Fenn looked for some words – anywhere to begin to describe what he just saw and witnessed. But no words could do it justice. His head was spinning and his eyes were blinking rapidly for no reason. His stomach churned. He was overwhelmed.
"I'm going to be sick," he murmured as he ran to a bush, exerting himself of the immensity of his discovery.
The two of them walked around the lake's edge. Fenn had told Colette what he had seen – the building full of demons – and was taking her to where it appeared. The day was sunny but brisk and crispy leaves blew up to the shore, getting stuck the reedy bank.
"So you're saying you left your body and found a demon – what – sort of hideout place?" Colette said, making sure she had the whole story correct. Fenn nodded self-assuredly and helped her over a muddy log.
"And what are they doing there?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Fenn replied, his brow crinkled with thought. "They were all rushing around to do something, and they all seemed really angry. None of them noticed me, thank god, because I would've been dead if they did." Colette smirked – the boy sounded insane.
"And what were they saying? Anything about me?" she humoured him.
"I don't know," Fenn replied seriously, as he stomped on a sprouting plant, not noticing her disregard on the topic. "I can't speak demon." Every time he said that word a fowl taste came upon his mouth and his ears became hot with hatred.
"Are you sure it wasn't just food poisoning? You were pale all night," Colette said, swatting a persistent mosquito away.
"Was I?" Fenn said, trying to remember his meal. But it must've been his other self, the transparent one, which made him seem pale to her. Nevertheless, Colette seemed unconvinced, and a little unsure of Fenn's sanity. She continued around the lake shore with Fenn and once they got to the other side and pushed open a large, broad-leafed bush they stumbled upon a girl. Her silver hair was cut short and she wore an animal skin over her shoulders, a light brown midriff and some plain shorts. A feather hung from her ear and she was bent down, scratching at the mud. Hearing something she jerked around to face them. On both cheeks were two lines of blood and her lips were painted with the deep red liquid too. Her eyes were bright blue, almost white, and intense and she had a powerful jaw line. She was a tribal girl – a savage. With a scooping motion the water from the lake moved into her satchel, her gaze not turning off them in doing so.
"Who are you?" Colette snapped, arms crossed and unimpressed at the girl's dirtiness. Colette looked at Fenn who shrugged. She stepped forward and suddenly the girl ran away into the scrub like a startled deer. There was a pause as the two of them comprehended what just occurred.
"Savages," said Colette, rolling her eyes. "Come on, let's go."
"What? But you haven't seen it yet," Fenn persisted.
"And I don't think I will," Colette replied bluntly. "Because it doesn't exist."
"I'm not lying. I'm not crazy."
"I know. But you didn't sleep well last night, did you?" Colette replied softly so as to not hurt his feelings. "You must be daydreaming."
"I'm fine. I know I saw it." Fenn could still feel the glisten of the golden walls on his pupils, and smell the haze that came just before the building emerged. It was real, yet at the same time it wasn't. The rage he felt from it was real – just as love and sadness could be. It was real emotion. One does not feel real emotion in a dream. He couldn't have been dreaming.
"We just need to make it appear. Try and get it to show itself," Fenn argued. "Do we have anything to force it out?" Colette looked at Fenn uninspired. She had had enough of being in a remote, useless area. But what Fenn was getting worked up about would provide her with some entertainment. Something to keep her amused for a few more weeks.
"We've got some dynamite."
Packs of dynamite were laid out around the shore; on the right, the left and the back. The Clandestines all crowded around the front shore, eager to see something explode. They leaned in excitedly; Colette could feel their thrilled breaths on her neck. The right flank of explosives was let off. Mud and sticks and reeds plumed out in a violent, loud burst and a wave of water rippled from the shore into the centre of the lake. Fenn's orange eyes narrowed. A little twinkle occurred at the point where the building appeared the night before; Fenn swore he saw a patch of gold reveal itself behind a rippling curtain of nothingness. Like a wound it lay open to the world only momentarily before scabbing over.
"I saw it!" he shouted. "Just a bit!" Colette scowled at him. He didn't want to him to speak so loudly about it and have people think she was in a relationship with an insane person.
"Prepare the other flanks!" Colette ordered. Behind her some soldiers wired up the back and left flanks for destroying. In the distance Fenn saw the tribal girl from before wading through the shallows on the other side of the lake. She picked up a stick of dynamite and examined it curiously.
"No!" Fenn shouted at Colette.
"Fire!" the girl screamed, not hearing Fenn nor realising that the girl was there. Maybe she did, Fenn did not know that. The water in the lake rose into the air in a giant spout of water, smoke and fire and then rained down, returning even murkier than before. The savage fell from the spout and into the shallows of the right shore. Fenn ran around to her aid, pulling her face out of the water. Her face and clothes were sodden and scratched up. He wiped her white fringe out of her face and looked at her chest – to see if she was still breathing, of course.
"Are you okay?" he muttered. No response. Suddenly she jumped out of his lap, spun around and pushed him into the water. The mud and water entered his ears and splashed into his eyes. Fenn spluttered and struggled but the girl kept him down forcefully, holding three small daggers of ice between her fingers.
"What are you doing?" shouted Fenn, spitting dirty water out of his mouth onto his chin. "I was seeing if you were alright!"
"Hah!" the girl screamed, flashing her daggers at him. She swiped them through the water and they came out longer. She must use her waterbending to make them. She put one to his throat, the ice chilling his blood.
"What's wrong with you!" Fenn yelled, fed up. The girl stared at his face and suddenly, with just a blink, his face was gone. It wasn't that his head went missing – it was still there. But instead of a face, there was an orange mask where it used to be, smiling at her menacingly. She jumped away into the deeper water, holding out her ice daggers for defense. She was shaking fearfully. The mask looked at her, still smiling, but the body did not make a move. Fenn had no idea what was going on. She looked at him like he was a monster. Perhaps she was hallucinating.
"What's your name?" the mask asked her. To appease the thing she replied instantly and loudly for it to hear.
"Akira." There was a pause as the two stared into each other's eyes, Akira still scared of something to do with him. Realising this was a break in the conversation Akira splashed her legs through the water and ran off back into the woods. Fenn stayed in the shallow, inky water, his back dampening. He was perplexed. What did she see on him? Or in him? Maybe she saw his deepest, darkest desires or his hatred – for sometimes his capacity for anger scared him too. Like shining a torch into a cave causing a flurry of bats to come out in frenzy, the only normal thing to do was run. But Fenn couldn't run from it – whatever it was.
"Hey!" Colette shouted at him from atop the plateau. The campsite was bare and the Clandestines had their hiking packs on, ready to go.
"There's a demon attack at the Republic! We've got to end this thing early!" Fenn rubbed his eyes. Things seemed to be happening one after the other. The world clock had sped up and he was finding it hard to keep up. Soon enough everything would go fast past him and he'd fall off the edge of the world confused and alone. Colours and squiggles covered his eyes and his lungs beat faster than his heart.
"Did you hear me? There's a demon attacking the Republic!" Colette shouted again. "Get over here and into the truck!"
Fenn sat instantly up. Last night in the building he swore to kill all the demons that dwelled there, and now there was an opportunity to do so.
It was show time.
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