The back of my head meets the wall and I am greeted with a headache. The pounding in my head I can handle. My fleeting memories, on the other hand, I cannot. They are not memories per se but rather a vision. I am supposed to know what I seek not endure this phantom urge.
The dripping of water is now an annoyance. I can hear each water pellet as it slides down the rocky face and fall into the water below. At least the water droplets know where to go.
I have been mediating with Melina Celestria Feris for well over a month. We’ve been trying to tap into my subconscious, pulling out memories that keep trying to run from me. We’ve traveled to different planets to find the one place that I am “in tuned with”, as Celestria puts it. For a realist, Celestria has a lot of faith in the art of meditation. Much to her disappointment, we haven’t found my Zen place yet. We’ve sat on top of purple mountains and rested in a field of wild flowers of metallic color. The two of us have floated under and on top of water that had the same consistency as gelatin.
“Maybe there’s a book for this?” I joke.
Celestria relights the incense stick that had gone out thanks to the water droplets. “I only wish that the books from Old Vane survived all these years. There is little of my past life that I remember. Thankfully the memory of the library remains.”
My memories in question are those that I experienced with Taryn Reed and Josh Blaire. Both are having the same problem that I am. We cannot remember what we saw during our time as wisps. Nienna took us to her home planet of Wasstrim. That was where her shaman showed us a shared vision of what we seek the most, known to her people as a Life’s Quest.
“What if finding those books is your Life Quest? Have you ever thought about going to see the shaman?” The smoke from the incense stick finds its way into my nostrils. “The side effects are fantastic by the way.” I stifle a cough.
Taryn became depressed, Josh paranoid, and myself, anxious. We lack the memories of what we saw but the drive remains. The three of us know that we are seeking something and a hole has started to grow in the pit of our stomachs. The feeling is eating away our insides. It causes us to be hungry but we don’t know what will satisfy our appetite.
“I have no intention.”
I look over to her. “If anything, you should visit the planet. I’m sure you’ll like it.” I rotate my shoulders. They, along with my neck, continuously pain me. I haven’t been sleeping well nor for long periods of time. My leg starts to shake involuntary. "Ashima is still out there."
“I know Anya, we all know that. But you need to have a clear head when you meet with her again,” Celestria takes a deep breath. She enjoys the smell of rosemary and tries to integrate it in each of our sessions.
The urge to pull out my hair is very tempting. “You would think after having her in my head for two life times I would have a better understanding of Ashima.”
“Better understanding of an alien from a higher plane of existence?” she laughs softly.
I mutter, “I wouldn’t say she’s from a higher existence.”
“I have never met someone as impatient as you. You don’t need to fight me. We’re on the same side. I just don’t want you to go running head first into a confrontation, especially not alone.”
I start to fidget. I pull my feet up from the rainbow colored stream and I start to pick at my toe nails. "Don’t worry. You’re not the first one to lecture me on that."
“Stop that, you can get an infection.”
“That you can heal,” I point out.
“Do not abuse the value of a healer.”
I roll my eyes.
There are crystals beneath the water that is causing the multicolor reflections. The stream is six feet wide that runs from the cave that we are in, to a body of water several miles away. The water is warm and I would love nothing more than to dive in. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve left Celestria behind. One time I jumped off of a mountain without even a word to her. Another session I started to collect flowers for Taryn. In my defense, Taryn asked for flowers so she could make flower crowns for everyone.
“You do know how many people have suggested that I should empty my mind?” I mention. One person being my uncle. “I just don’t understand why Mycha showed us a vision that we cannot remember.”
Celestria grins, thinking inwardly before speaking. “There will be a lot of things in life that you will not understand. Have you spoken to Nienna yet?”
“No, she still hasn’t returned but Josh did tell me that he’ll go back to Wasstrim soon if she doesn’t show.” I place my hand on my leg, forcing it to stop moving. “He wants to show Nienna that he can transform into the perfect wisp. And I think he’s worried about her.”
Celestria adds, “He’s not the only one. Many were lost that day.”
A mage of Vane, Nienna is still distraught by the death of her friend and mentor, Nessar. Ashima, blood mages, my uncle, all responsible for the downfall of the Vane Magic School. My other leg starts to shake.
Seeing this, Celestria tries to change the subject. “Maybe we are approaching this the wrong way.”
“Oh, you think?” I snap. My legs stop moving on their own. I look up to Celestria. “Sorry.”
“As much as I am enjoying our time together, I believe that I cannot help you.”
“Wait, you are enjoying this?” I place my hand over my chest, shocked.
“You are more abrasive than I remember but it has been fun.”
I almost forgot that Celestria has been, for a lack of a better word, trapped on Crystaltina. After the escape from Ozma’s, Celestria has stayed within the castle walls. She has watched and waited as the rest of us came and go as we pleased. Celestria refuses to go to her home on Earth but she is now willing to travel around to help me. Or she was before today.
Celestria looks off into the water, a hint of sadness in her eyes.
“Hey, we’ll hang out more, promise. Sitting still has never been my thing anyway.”
“It used to be,” Celestria quietly says under her breath.
I’m an active person. Celestria may enjoy sitting down and looking deep within but that isn’t my thing. I try my best to sound sincere even if I do sound monotone. “I’m sorry this isn’t working out. What do you suggest?”
“I have two theories. Both I am against but one idea is worse than the other. Depending on your point of view of course.”
I scratch the side of my head. “That only means that I might like your ideas.”
“The better of the two is aggression. Taryn went to her studies, and Josh to morphing. You work best under pressure.”
“But Taryn and Josh haven’t remembered a thing.”
“True, but it could be a start. Or it might not be. I’m planning on doing a few meditation sessions with the both of them.”
I groan outwardly. “And the other option?”
“Keep in mind that I am against this. However it could help you.”
I wait impatiently for Celestria to continue.
“Wait, what?” My words choke in my throat.
“It is just a theory but returning home might trigger something. Or, like I said, it might not.”
I could have teleported back to Earth on my own but I fought the urge. I behaved and stayed away from Earth. I haven’t been home in close to three years. Two of those years I was attending the magic school so that kept my mind off of home for the most part. With so much going on, the thought of returning home was placed in a glass jar.
My involuntary twitches all come to a halt. “Do you think it would be safe?”
“No,” Celestria shakes her head. “Of course not but we’ve already assumed that Ashima’s next target will be either here or Earth.”
“Home or no home, if you want aggravation, I have some of that already.”
“Stress is not the same. You must break free from the stress to allow your mind to open.”
“I’ll go drink some herbal tea then,” I sarcastically remark. Standing, I add, “Kasiff won’t agree with you. About going home.”
“Are you actually going to call him Kasiff now?” Celestria raises one black eyebrow.
I lean in, “I think it’s a better name than Kyle.”
“That is your opinion and not your place. Have you asked Kyle if you can use that name?”
I mutter, “No.”
“Perhaps you should. I’m going to stay here a little longer.”
“You got a way back?”
She smiles, “Of course.”
Do I teleport back to the castle or do I go straight home? Celestria has a point, like she always does. It is only a matter of time before Ashima goes after Earth. And the words of an almost eighteen year old won’t make a difference. Celestria doesn’t want me going on my own, none of them do. I can’t factor in why. I work better alone. Celestria isn’t comfortable going to Earth yet. I know someone who will be.
I put my dark brown leather boots back on, tying them up just under the knee. “I’ll see you back at the castle then.” I teleport just outside of Taryn’s room. I give the door a knock.
To compensate her missing memories, Taryn has also started to write out complicated mathematical problems. To me, all mathematical problems seem complicated, but to her, it comes naturally. Zarnell Trell, or Zar-Q, is having a field day. He’s learning a new mathematical system and Taryn is happy to teach him. Taryn has even dyed her hair blue to match Zar-Q’s skin color.
“Just a second.”
The door slowly opens. “You’re up early.”
I don’t have a normal sleep schedule. I lost all concept of time while I was at Vane. I’ve woken people up at 3am because I thought it was 8am. Sleeping for only three hours at a time doesn’t help either. Celestria is the morning bird, happy to have sessions with me at 7am. Taryn is usually the second person to wake up early.
I don’t delay with the good news. “Want to get out?”
I can see through the opening of the wooden door. What I see gives me the shivers. Taryn has started to write equations on the stone walls. There’s also a few flower crowns lying about. Indeed, Taryn does need to get out.
“Sure,” she cautiously answers with her hand still on the door. “Where to?”
I place my finger to my lips. “It’s a surprise.”
“This can’t be good.”
“Hey!” I take a few steps back into the hallway in defense. “Trust me.”
“Again, this can’t be good.”
Having Celestria telling me that going to Earth might be a good idea, was all I needed. Okay, maybe not a good idea but it was all the validation that I needed. Celestria is like an older sister to me. I can’t help think that maybe Taryn is the younger sister that I never had.
“To be fair, it was Celestria’s idea.”
“Sure it was.”
I turn my back to Taryn. “Fine, don’t come to Earth with me.”
“Earth?” Taryn drops her hand from the door.
I spin around on my foot and clamp my hand over Taryn’s mouth. “Hush!”
Taryn begins to speak. Her words come out as a muffled mess.
“Like I said, this was Celestria’s idea. She thinks going to…might help with the memory loss.”
“Really?” is the only word that I can understand from her.
I nod, removing my hand from Taryn’s mouth. I wipe off the spittle onto my pants.
“And you want me to go with you?”
“That’s why I’m here.” I impatiently say. “Maybe it’ll help you as well. However Cel did mention that she wants to try meditation with you and Josh.”
“Is he coming with us?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Going to Earth is a good idea?” mutters Taryn.
I ignore the comment. “Josh keeps changing his appearance every few minutes. He can’t do that on Earth. People would freak out.
Both Taryn and I are from Earth. Taryn was born in Wisconsin and myself in Florida. We can both use elemental magic and control our actions. Josh being born on Crystaltina would fit in only if he could control his shapeshifting powers.
“You’re right, I guess. Have you told anyone else about going home?”
I shake my head. “You are the first person I went to after my time with Celestria."
“Okay,” she simply says.
I cross my arms. “Does that mean okay I’ll go or just okay?”
Fantastic! Let’s go!” I happily cheer.
“Ummm, how will I get there?”
I hadn’t thought about that. My heart drops. I can teleport at will but others cannot. I also cannot take someone with me while teleporting. Taryn would have to use a potion of travel. That or Kasiff’s device to transport herself to Earth. Either way, I have to talk to Kasiff. I need to remind myself to buy more of those teleport devices. Or brush up on my potion making skills.
I don’t mind talking to Kasiff. We get along well. Kasiff could very well be the person that I am most close to. I’m just worried that he’ll say no. I curse Celestria for putting this thought in my head. I can taste the air of Earth rolling off my tongue. I could go alone. Looking at Taryn and the state of her room, I made the right choice inviting her. We just need to get over this one tiny obstacle.
With a grumpy sigh I inform Taryn that I would return after having a chat with Kasiff.
To save time, I teleport to Kasiff’s room. As fate would have it, he’s not there. Frustrated, I check the library, then the mess hall, coming up empty at both locations.
I roll my eyes. I don’t know why I’m getting frustrated. A fly could make its way into my mouth and I would get upset. Granted, I used to be able to teleport to a person. All I had to do was search the void and then appear in front of them. Since the separation of Ashima, I’ve lost that ability.
After what seems like an eternity, I give up searching indoors. I spot Duncan Striderman, one of the knights that protects the castle and the nearby port city of Dorter. He is tending to the horses. The huge grin on his face is a dead giveaway that he enjoys being out here. This is not his duty so he can only take care of the horses during his down time.
“Duncan!” I call out over the wind.
“Lady Anya, how are you this day?” I can hear the metal of his armor creak as he bows low.
I pat the grey and white horse on his forehead. “I’m well, thanks. How are things?”
Duncan places his arms on his hips and lets out a hearty laugh. “Just a few upstarts at Stacie’s tavern. Nothing that we cannot handle.”
"Does Tom still hang around the tavern?"
“Aye, he does. Shame that he doesn’t aid us here at the castle. Tom’s more of a carpenter than a fighter. We’re always looking for good knights to help protect the citizens.”
I cease petting the horse. "With his sensitive sense of hearing, I’m surprised that he stays at the tavern. If I remember right, the noises from his tools is a form of relaxation." I look off into the flower fields. "I guess not everyone with magical abilities wants to use them."
“Tom has found his place. He is making good in Dorter.”
“I guess you’re right.” I look back to Duncan. “Hey, have you seen Kyle around?”
“Mid-morning I saw him leave the castle. He headed around back.”
I force a smile. “Thank you, appreciate it.”
I walk back towards the rear of the castle, questioning my own emotions. Why did I have to fake a smile for Duncan? I like Duncan. He’s one of the few knights who believe that magic and technology can coexist. Is this the same way that Taryn, Josh, and I have been feeling towards other people?
I round the castle, spotting Kasiff near the hedge maze, upside down. He is doing a handstand. His eyes are closed but I’m sure that he knows that I am here. I sit a few feet away on the grass. I cross my legs over each other and close my own eyes.
“Hey,” I finally say, opening my eyes. I am tired of waiting.
He doesn’t answer, so I continue to speak. “I need to borrow the device.”
One of his eyes opens up. “For someone who can teleport, you sure use my device a lot.”
I don’t bother to hide the truth. “Celestria thinks going to Earth might jog my memory. I want to take Taryn with me. Maybe it’ll help her as well.”
“Celestria suggested going back to Earth? For you to go back to Earth?" Kasiff emphasizes on the word you.
Yup,” I say with a bit of edge added to it. “She doesn’t think the meditation is working so she suggested either sparring to help alleviate the stress or going back home.” I shrug my shoulders. “Or both could work.” I wait for an answer but after a few minutes I stand and dust myself off. “Look, you can ask her yourself. I’m not lying about this.”
“Didn’t say you were.” Kasiff brings himself to a standing position. He starts to walk towards the hedge maze. “You coming?”
“Because,” is his only answer.
Sighing angrily, I follow. “Look, Kasiff, I don’t—“ I quickly cover my mouth with both of my hands. I did not mean to use that name in front of him.
Kasiff turns around. A look of bewilderment on his face.
“Yea, that was the other thing that Cel wanted me to talk to you about.” I rub the back of my neck. “Since the vision I’ve had this, I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been calling you Kasiff instead of Kyle. Cel said I should have asked you first.”
As if he didn’t seem distant before, Kasiff’s mind seems to be elsewhere.
“Is it alright? To use that name, I mean.”
“Any reason why?” he asks me. “Besides having a feeling?”
“Funny you should say that.” I hold my hands behind my back as I rock back and forth on my toes. “I think it is a better name than Kyle. But if you don’t want me to call you Kasiff then just let me know,” I stumble over my words. “I mean, you guys call me Anya instead of JB. And Celestria instead of Melina."
“It is a name from a life long past.” He cracks a smile. “But you can use it.”
“I knew it. I told Cel that you wouldn’t mind!” I awkwardly chuckle.
“I want to try something,” Kasiff changes the subject. “It might be able to jog your memory a little bit and bring your vision to the front of your mind.”
I release my hands from behind me. “Is this why you wanted me to follow you into the hedge maze?”
The day is bright. The sun shines down on the various flowers and plants that decorate the hedge maze area. All in all, a great day to be outdoors. It is still early, not a lot of people are walking about yet.
Kasiff blushes. “Yes, I did not want any distractions.”
“There’s plenty of places to go without distractions. And why haven’t you tried this before?”
“It might unlock suppressed memories in the process. It’s the same method I was going to use to recover memories of your past life. It would have been a slower process than Ozma’s and much safer. That was the plan, anyway.”
“I’m not worried about a few suppressed memories.” I walk pass Kasiff and into the hedge maze. “I knew what I did back then and that is not who I am now.”
The only memory that I have been hiding from is the time when I killed my uncle in self-defense. My hand begins to shake as I remember not finding a pulse on Raven. The healing potions didn’t work and thinking of it now, why didn’t I try to bring Celestria to his body? She might have been able to save Raven.
Kasiff takes both of my hands upon reaching me in the hedge maze. His hands are rough. “Are you sure about this? Your hands are shaking.”
“Oh, that,” I stammer. “Sorry, I was thinking about something. I’m good. We need to know. I mean, we need to at least try to figure out the vision." My chest constricts when my thoughts go to my hands in his. I quickly focus on the task at present.
Kasiff speaks words that I cannot translate. He puts his lips to my forehead. His breath is chilled, causing goose bumps to appear on my skin. I close my eyes.
My mind is jolted backwards into a dream. It is the shared vision that I had with Taryn and Josh. The scenery around me is crumbling down. Floating down like forgotten pieces of paper. I can see Taryn longing for something. Josh is lost in a confused rage. I then spot Kasiff. He is stuck between two lives: the one stolen and the one he wants to be born into.
I walk over to Kasiff. “Are you really you? Or are just part of my vision again?”
Kasiff doesn’t answer, not at first. He looks at his hands, four of them shifting in and out of focus. “We’re supposed to live one lifetime at a time. To absorb the experience. I’ve been in this body for too long. I didn’t want to take his life as my own.”
“I know,” is all I can say.
“I want to experience life as it should be. As a Rayasha was meant to. Not with stolen lives. I never knew this child’s name. His memories have been overwritten by my own. Those that I have lived and those yet to be written.”
“We can try to help you but we need to find a way to stop Ashima. Remember? That’s why you wanted to try this? We are standing in the vision that Mycha showed me but it feels different."
Kasiff continues, his voice an echo. “I’ve activated or rather sped up my body clock. This body will age the same as yours. I wanted to tell you before the battle at Vane but the time never seemed right. Ashima is afraid of moving forward, afraid of not having control. I was like that. It got worse when you ran away to Vane. I didn’t like how I wasn’t in control of the situation. You took the matter in your own hands, throwing speculation to the wind.”
"Why are you telling me this now? And here of all places." I look behind me. What I knew of my vision is now gone. The sky begins to break into several pieces, allowing streaks of lightning to burst through. We stand on a small strip of land, surrounded by a colorless lake.
“Wait….wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” I turn back to Kasiff. “Not just you and not just Ashima, it’s your species. Obsessive with being in control. As for Ashima, she wants chaos. What would a controlled chaos do to the galaxy? You would think the Rayasha would help us.”
“What if they can? In a sense? I need my books,” Kasiff demands.
“The ones on Ferrian?”
I mutter, “Cause those books that I brought back from Vane were worthless.” I feel a chill swirling around me. Icicles begin to fall from every direction. My breath quickens while I fight back terrible memories that want to surface.
The air rushes passed as I fall into a library. It is the library at Vane where I faced my uncle one on one.
“Not good! Can we change the scenery again?” I plead. “Okay, books…those books are ancient. Are you sure they are still intact?”
“We have to go back to Zerron?”
“Fantastic,” I sarcastically reply. “Back to the planet controlled by Ashima.”
I can feel another pull. The room swirls around us, shifting into something different. I close my eyes in fear of getting motion sickness.
“And blood mages?” I continue to point out the dangers of Zerron.
“And my mother? Look, I’m just making sure you weren’t talking about a different planet named Zerron. I don’t mind going to the planet of death instead of going back to Earth. Because that makes a whole lot of sense.”
“I will go alone." I feel Kasiff’s grip loosen from my hands.
I can feel the ground shifting under my boots. “We can’t have our only Rayasha running off on his own. Besides, you want to be more human, right? And that means friends.”
“But I’m not human,” he softly says.
“Oh you know what I mean.” I open my eyes. Our foreheads are against each other’s. “Wait, when did we get back?”
“We never left."
The hedge maze surrounds us. He’s right. We never moved physically. That doesn’t stop my heart from beating fast. Or is it beating for another reason?
“And your spell didn’t work the way you wanted it to, did it?” I finally take a few steps away from Kasiff. The ground has ceased swaying back and forth.
Kasiff’s face reddens. “It did work, at first. Then the spell backfired. I don’t know why.” he rubs his hand through his brown hair.
I pluck a leaf from Kasiff’s shoulder. “What are you doing with your body clock? Is it safe?”
“Safer than slowing it, I assure you,” Kasiff explains. “Remember when I told you that Rayasha can slow down or speed up the body clock of those they inhabit? We’re not supposed to do that. A few do it discreetly however. That’s why some age slower than others. But I digress. I slowed mine to almost a standstill on the chance that I completed my quest in finding you. I thought that seeing me as your past life remembers, that it would jog your memory. Another idea that failed.”
“And now you’ve switched it back on?”
“Yes. There is no reason to keep it slowed any longer.”
I can feel my ears growing hot. Did Kasiff lie to me about trying to tap into my vision? Was he just shy about telling me this in person?
“Well, hey, at least we get to go book hunting. Again. Right, that has to count for something? We should get a team together, just in case.”