Children of the Birds Chapter 2
Aaron stood and moved around the table.
“What was that?” he asked again.
“What was what?” I replied, face innocent.
“Etti,” said Aaron warningly. “What are you hiding?”
“Nothing I’m going to tell you about. Now, stay,” I said, pointing a finger at his chair. “Lani, come.”
The Bird of Paradise started to follow, but so did the MAGI. I turned, drawing myself up to my, next to him, pathetically little height, and glared up at him.
“I said stay.”
“And I never said I would.”
“This is Guardian business.”
“If the person who made that noise upstairs is who I think it is, I seriously beg to differ.”
“Beg all you want, but you’re in my House now and I get the final word here.”
We glared at each other for a long moment before he tried again.
“Do you have who I think you have up there?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Are you going to make me get violent?”
“Are you going to make me kick you out into the rain?”
“You wouldn’t. I’m stronger than you anyway.”
“Physically. Magically, I could kick your hind end any day.”
“Don’t test that theory.”
Our second glaring contest was interrupted by another groan of pain and a sneeze. I sneezed then and shivered before I went back to glaring at the wall in front of me.
“I have to go upstairs and help them. You have two choices. Stay here and out of the way or leave.”
The MAGI crossed his arms and looked darkly down at me. I crossed my own arms in response, never breaking eye contact. Another painful groan pulled me away from glaring at Aaron. I turned on my heel and headed for the second floor, Lolani on my heels and the MAGI not far behind.
For now, I had to prioritize. Aaron was second on my list. First I had to deal with the freezing, wet, and quickly getting sick twins. Not to mention the one who was in pain.
Reaching the top of the stairs, I found them standing there shivering, a puddle of rainwater around their feet. There was a sharp intake of breath behind me as Aaron laid eyes on them and Alex put his free arm protectively around his brother when he saw the MAGI.
“If you’re going to be here, you’re going to be silent and keep out of the way,” I snapped over my shoulder at Aaron. “Lani, will you go get some dry clothes for them?”
“Yes, Mistress,” replied the Bird, hurrying off to where my Master’s old clothes were kept.
I helped take part of Darren’s weight off of Alex and led the two to the guest bedroom at the end of the hallway. Lolani came back a moment later with a stack of clothes and a couple towels. She set them down on the bed.
“Do you need help?” I asked.
Alex went red and turned away quickly.
“N-no! I mean, thanks, but no.”
“Alright. I’ll be just down the hall. We’ll check on you in a bit.”
I closed the door behind us and leaned against the wall, crossing my arms, and looked over at Aaron. Another cold shiver ran up my spine and I tried to suppress it.
“You should get changed yourself,” said the MAGI, watching me with a gentle face.
“So you can whisk them out of the House and off to NORTH?”
“Etti, have I seriously tried anything?” he asked, suddenly sounding tired.
He rolled his eyes.
“I’m not going to. For now. For now, you’re right. They’re under your protection and in the House. This is your call. Besides, they clearly need to dry off and sleep. What’s wrong with the other one?”
I watched Aaron for a moment, eyes narrowed, and finally sighed, letting my shoulders sag.
“I don’t know. He’s been like that since the Seer dumped them in my lap.”
“A Seer brought them to you?” he said, surprised.
Another chill ran up my spine and this time I sneezed, almost knocking myself off my feet with the force of it.
“Etti,” said Aaron, voice gentle again. “You’re going to make yourself sick. Go get dry already.”
I shot him a suspicious look and he rolled his eyes.
“What do you think I’m going to do? Burst in there the second you’re gone, grab them up in a headlock, and take off into the Garden?”
The idea was laughable, especially the way he said it, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of being right so easily. My eyes narrowed a bit more and I refused to take the bait. He sighed and gave me a gentle push back down the hall.
“Oi. Go on already.”
I shot him one more look before I sneezed again and shivered. Turning away before he could say anything else, I disappeared into my room.
Grabbing a towel from the bathroom, I quickly stripped and left my wet clothes in a pile on the tile floor in the bathroom. Then I toweled off and dug through my closet for a long blue robe. Tossing it around my shoulders and tying it off, I went back out to the hall barefoot.
Aaron was still standing where I had left him and when he caught my eye, he chuckled.
“Why so surprised?” he asked, grinning that obnoxious grin.
“It doesn’t even look like you tried to burst in and put them in a headlock,” I replied airily. “I’m a little disappointed.”
His grin widened a bit.
“And why’s that?”
“I was hoping for an excuse to kick you out into the rain.”
“Didn’t want to get my suit wet,” he shot back, still smiling.
“Psh,” I muttered as I moved past him to the door. “Spoilsport.”
I knocked on the guest bedroom door as I heard Aaron chuckle.
“Come in,” I heard him call.
I opened the door and when Aaron moved to follow, I paused and shot the MAGI a warning look.
“No, Aaron, this time you stay put.”
With that, I slipped in and closed the door in his face.
Alex was sitting on the bed holding his brother’s hand. They were both in dry clothes now and Alex barely glanced up at me. I sat in the chair by the bed and looked at Darren, who seemed half-conscious now. His face was still scrunched up in pain and sweat covered his brow.
“What’s wrong with him?” whispered Alex, eyes not leaving his brother’s pained face.
I bit my lip and sighed.
“I don’t know yet,” I replied quietly. “I need to know more before I try and find out.”
“Because I need to know what I’m looking for. I have to have something to start with.”
Alex let out a shaky sigh.
“What do you want to know?”
“Everything. Anything. Start from the beginning. The smallest things can be helpful.”
The young man pressed his lips together, lost in thought for a moment, before he sighed again and began speaking in a low voice.
“We’ve been on the run for years. Ever since my powers started surfacing. I’m the older brother and I’ve always had to protect Darren.”
He looked up, suddenly earnest.
“It’s not that he’s weak, he just has this bad habit of not standing up for himself.”
I nodded and he seemed satisfied that I understood, so he went on.
“It started when we were thirteen. The usual bullies had started in on us and when I pushed one of them, he went flying, like he’d been hit by something ten times as powerful as me. That was the start of my powers showing themselves.”
“What other powers do you have? Does Darren have any?”
Alex shook his head.
“Darren hasn’t ever shown signs of anything... nonhuman.”
He winced as he said it and I hid my frown. Clearly that was a sore point for him, but he went on before I could say anything.
“I’m strong. Stronger than any normal person at least, and when I get into fights... I don’t know how to describe it.”
He paused, frowning in thought and I let him think. Better to let him take it as his pace rather than rush him. Finally he shrugged.
“I guess the only way I can describe it is it’s like in a video game when you get a power up and everything else slows down around you. Its like my brain is processing everything ten times faster when I’m fighting.”
I nodded encouragingly. The basic idea made sense, even if I had never played a video game and only had a vague notion of what they were.
“How did you end up on the run?”
Alex looked sadly down at his brother.
“Our mom died when we were fifteen and we don’t have any other relatives. This... creature showed up on our door the next day and we were forced to run. I don’t know what it wanted, but it wasn’t good. We’ve been on the run for the past three years. Then, about a month ago, Darren started having these pains. Sometimes his head or stomach or arm. Sometimes a hand or leg. It would hit and then fade after a while, but it kept getting worse and worse. Yesterday, he collapsed and was in so much pain he was crying, saying everything was on fire. I didn’t know what to do. I fumbled around, trying everything I could think of for an hour or two, but nothing was helping.”
The young man took a deep breath and let it out, clearly not enjoying the memory of being helpless in the face of his brother’s pain.
“Then there was a knock on the door and the Seer was standing there. I thought she was another one of those people who’d been after us, but after she convinced me she was on our side, she took us to meet you.”
Slowly, I nodded, glancing back to Darren who was tossing restlessly.
“And your mother never told you who your father was?” I prodded gently.
Alex shook his head and I bit my lower lip, thinking.
Their father was clearly a magical creature, which would be why NORTH was interested in them, but what creature had children that looked human and weren’t? And had massive strength and powers while fighting? What creature had children that would suddenly have riddling pains?
“Was there anything special about the day the pain started?” I asked, at a loss.
Alex sat up a bit, thinking.
“The day before that was our eighteenth birthday. Is that significant?”
“I don’t know, but the more information I have, the better,” I replied.
Glancing down at Darren once more, I gave Alex a quick smile.
“Is there anything else that might be important?”
He shook his head. I nodded before standing, patting his shoulder, and turning to leave.
“Wait,” he said.
I paused, hand on the doorknob, and looked over my shoulder at him.
“What happens now?”
I sighed and gave him another small smile.
“Now, you try and get some sleep,” I replied.
Quietly, I closed the door behind myself, letting a heavy sigh escape me.
“So?” rumbled a deep voice beside me.
I jumped and turned, scowling up at Aaron.
The MAGI rolled his eyes.
“What did you find out?”
“Not nearly enough,” I replied, moving around him and heading toward the stairs.
Aaron followed. I reached the first floor and met Lolani, about to come up with a full mug of coffee for me. I took it with a grateful smile.
“Thank you. You read my mind.”
She smiled back.
“What else can I help with, Mistress?”
I took a sip and closed my eyes, organizing my thoughts.
“Alright,” I said with an exhale, keeping my eyes closed. “First, I need to contact the other Guardians and see if they might have any light to shed on this. If they don’t, I need to hit the books, so keep the coffee coming.”
I opened my eyes and looked at the Bird of Paradise, who bobbed her head in a very bird-like fashion.
“Of course, Mistress.”
“And will you see to the twins? Make sure they’re alright and see if there’s anything you can do for them? Especially Darren.”
“Of course, Mistress.”
“And if you happen to have any insights, please, tell me, because I have no idea what I’m doing here.”
She smiled sympathetically at me.
“Of course, Mistress.”
“I never realized how bossy you were,” cut in Aaron. “Guess you never had anyone to order around before this, though.”
My face immediately fell into a deadly glare which I turned on him.
“Snarky goes out in the rain,” I warned.
He bowed mockingly.
“Of course, Mistress.”
My glare darkened as one hand went to my hip.
“So does sarcasm.”
“Of course, Mistress,” he said again, grinning that stupid grin at me.
I watched him through narrowed eyes for a moment as I took another sip of coffee. I couldn’t decide if he was still mocking me or not, but figured it would just be easier to play along.
“Mm-hm,” I muttered. “Best keep that attitude without the sarcasm if you wanna keep your suit dry.”
“As you say, Mistress.”
“You’re being infuriating.”
“Just so, Mistress.”
“If I deck you it’s your own fault.”
“Of course, Mistress.”
“Hush your face.”
“As you wish, Mistress.”
I moved past him, giving him a shove as I did so. It didn’t do more than slightly unbalance him and make him laugh, but I ignored him and headed down the stairs.
I needed the library. But not just any library. This library, the entire basement of the House, stretched out beyond sight and was so vast I thought for sure I could easily get lost in it for days. There were magical lights that, sensing our presence, glowed brightest near us and dimmed when we didn’t need them any more. The whole place smelled like worn bindings, old pages, and well read books.
“Where are we going, Mistress?” Aaron asked, following me.
“Call me Mistress one more time,” I said in a deadly even tone.
“Say it and find out.”
We reached the bottom of the stairs and he paused, taking a good look at me.
“Hmm, no,” he said finally. “I think I like my head where it is and my suit nice and dry.”
“So what are we looking for?”
“I’m looking for a communication spell. I didn’t actually need your company.”
“What you want and what you need are two very different things.”
I drew up short, frowning up at him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He smiled obnoxiously at me.
“If you’re gonna be here, shut it.”
He threw up his hands in surrender, and I moved on, weaving my way between the bookshelves. I knew the book I was looking for and found it quickly enough. Then I moved on and located the second book I had in mind, which was an overview of various species in the magical world. It would be somewhere to start at least.
“Itzel,” I said quietly.
The Aether spirit appeared immediately at my side. Her swirling rainbow eyes were the only solid thing about her. Her body was made of semitransparent pastels and she floated about a foot from me.
“Mistress,” she said, bobbing a bit.
“Can you drop these up in the kitchen for me?”
I held out the two books to her and she swallowed them up, making them disappear. Then I turned back toward the stairs.
“Time to start digging.”
A/N: Ta-da! Second chapter down... and I really shouldn't be up this late writing. Lol. Enjoy! :)