Skin walker? I was frightened by the prospect of being able to turn into an animal if I wore their skin. Mica had been very pleasant though, and as Patch brought me back to the rebel camp, I let my mind run through the possibilities of what I could become. I wanted to try my powers and see what would happen. I was also a little scared at the idea of trying them. Patch was silent next to me, and I found myself oddly comforted at being there with him. Perhaps it was the warmth he always seemed to surround me with when we were near each other.
"I want to try," I said slowly and looking at my feet.
"Try what?" Patch asked looking at me with a lazy grin and a raised eyebrow.
"To shift into an animal," I said.
"That is more difficult than you think," Patch said.
"Why?" I asked.
"You need to acquire the pelt of the animal you want to become by your own hands," He said in a serious voice. A shiver ran down my spine. Could I take the life of an animal, and then skin it? I wasn't so sure. "That will be even harder than you think, because as a Faery you are innately respectful of all life and loathe the idea of harming anything." I nodded in agreement. I had already figured that out.
"I'm tired," I said in a mumble.
"Do you want to see if Kelly has made a more permanent sleeping arrangement for you?" He asked. "I'd like my bed back," He added with a snide tone; so our slight truce had shattered and we were back to being snarky.
"Please. I don't find the idea of sleeping in your bed any more appealing than you do. Who knows what you do in there alone, or not alone," I said with a sly glare. Patch laughed outright at me.
"Nothing you haven't done I'm sure," He said shooting the insult back at me. My mouth dropped open and I put my hands on my hips. Patch stopped walking and turned to look at me. He was standing in front of me, closer than I wanted him to be.
"Don't look so surprised Fae, I see the way you look at me," He said grinning.
"Oh, like you're a gift from the Gods!" I said sharply.
"Hardly. It wouldn't be nearly as interesting," He said still grinning at me in an unmistakable way.
"If I didn't know better I'd think you were insinuating something," I said raising an eyebrow at him in irritation.
"But you do know better," He said winking at me and then walking away from me. I glowered and then hurried to catch up to him. What a jerk! I was left with the irrevocable desire to hit something, preferably the arrogant Elemental that was still leading me back to the rebel camp.
"Skin Walker?" Kelly asked when I filled her in on what I had learned. "How strange."
"I know. The idea of having to kill an animal to tap into that power is horrifying to me," I said.
"Perhaps, as a Faery, there is another way to access your power," Kelly said thoughtfully. "The Fae are very connected to nature and animals as a rule." Kelly gave me an idea, and I left her to find Zac.
"Do you think it will work?" I asked the wise Xanthus. He seemed to know more about me than he had let on.
"I think it is worth trying, if that is what you would like," Zac said bowing his great head to me.
"I don't know if I want to try," I admitted. "It sounds like…I'm not sure…What if I get stuck or something?" I asked. Zac gave a horse chuckle. I had heard in legends that Xanthus horses were very knowledgeable.
"Your body will just know," Zac assured me.
"What do you think the combination between Faery and Skin Walker blood will do? I asked. "Like what other powers might I have?"
"That isn't for me to say," Zac said. "That is for you to discover." I nodded in understanding.
"I should get back now," I said thinking of how angry Patch would be not knowing where I was. Not that I cared what he thought, but I was tired now and I didn't have the energy to get in another one of our magnificent fights.
When I got to the mud hut I heard voices inside. I recognized Kelly and Match, and the third voice sounded like Mica.
"Does she know?" Kelly asked.
"She will figure it out soon enough, she isn't stupid," Patch said moodily.
"No one is insulting her intelligence," Mica said calmly. "Zac has been a good asset, keeping her distracted and telling her about herself at the same time."
"She will figure it out soon enough," Patch said. "She talks in her sleep. She knows something isn't right."
"Then keep a closer watch on her," Kelly said. I felt tears prick my eyes as I realized this whole set up was a betrayal. Something wasn't right here, and every Xanthus, Skin Walker, Elemental, and Faery I had met so far was simply using me for something. I had actually come to trust these people. I had come to accept them as a sort of family.
I didn't want to hear any more of what they had to say about me and my powers, and how they were using me. I ran from that place. I ran from the village deep into the woods. And when my legs would carry me anymore, I let my blue and silver wings extend and carry me aloft. I soared for hours into the setting sun. I must have left the Woods Realm, because when I looked down again, there was a network of rivers flowing over the landscape. I had never been this far from the Winter Realm before, nor had I ever been this close to the Garden Realm and The Guild. They were just beyond the River Realm.
A sense of fear and unsettling weighed in my stomach. The Guild was not somewhere I wanted to be near. Not after my dreams, the dreams I was sure were telling me that The Guild was planing a war to cover The Realms. A war to enslave everyone that wasn't in The Guild already, and to cause everyone in The Realms to admit to and bow to Fae superiority; it was shocking, because The Guild was put in place by the Fae to protect us from the Winder Realm creatures. Hundreds of years ago when the Incubi and the Reapers had enslaved humans, The Guild had been formed to protect the others in The Realms. I shuddered.
I feared The Guild, but I was hurt and angry that the Rebel Camp had been using me. What for? I didn't know. They had been hiding the truth from me. What was their truth? The further I flew from them, the more I got the sense that I was going in the wrong direction. Finally, resigned, I let myself flutter to the ground, and landed in a soggy marsh that was surrounded by rivers. I immediately sank up to my knees in mushy ground. Great! The River Realm was all watery.
Trudging through the thick marshy grasses and mud made it difficult, and exhausting, to move anywhere really; I saw a tree in the distance, and willed myself to make it to that tree so I could climb into the branches and take off again. As I pushed through the muck, a sickly sweet singing met my ears. Someone was nearby, and they were singing!
"Who is there?" I asked. I stopped walking and looked around quickly. The very water seemed to take on the shape of a young woman, and she sang sweetly, dancing in a circle around me. It was a Nymph!
"Hello, sweet Helena," The Nymph said with a sweet giggle and a voice that was riddled with song.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"I'm Uka, water Nymph, sent after you by Kelly," She said.
"That was quick," I said irritably. Uka giggled again, and her form shifted with the water.
"You must return to them," Uka said. "They need you."
"For what?" I asked in an angry voice. Uka glared at me.
"Who will stop The Guild, if not you?" She asked lifting her nose and chin to the air.
"They want me to fight The Guild?" I asked skeptically. Uka shrugged and continued to dance.
"You are more powerful than you think," She said "You haven't even been given your knives yet. Besides, the Winter Realm is what you should fear."
"Knives?" I asked.
"Every Faery, even a half breed like yourself, has a set of knives crafted from the rarest metals in The Realms," Uka said. She looked at me condescendingly, as if I could control being a half breed.
"I was actually on my way back, when I landed in your marsh," I said handing her distaste right back to her.
"You're not going to be able to take off in this mud," The Nymph said with a smile and a wave before she vanished back into the water. I gritted my teeth and continued to struggle towards the tree. Pulling myself into the branches was a bit difficult, and the dress that Kelly had loaned me was covered in mud. I felt a stab of guilt, but once I was flying again I didn't feel so bad. Flying always made me feel better.
The Rebel Camp came into view after the sun had set. Only the small embers from the low burning fires let me know that there was anything below me. I landed gracefully in front of Patch's house and folded my wings back under my skin. Patch was standing watching me, with what I thought was admiration, until anger took over his features.
"That was stupid, Helena," He said taking my wrist and yanking me inside.
"You should have told me the truth," I said pulling my wrist from his heated grip.
"Truth?" He asked.
"That I am being used as a weapon against The Guild," I said. Patch gave a loud, humorless laugh. "I heard Kelly and Mica talking to you this afternoon. I know Zac has been my distraction!"
"Calm yourself, little Fae," Patch said. "You know less than you think. And running off like that was incredibly dumb."
"I thought you said earlier that I wasn't stupid!" I said putting my hands on my hips.
"I take back that statement after the stunt you pulled!" He said.
"I talk in my sleep, but have I told you what my dreams are?" I asked glaring at him. "The Guild, they are the ones that are going to start the war. Not the Winter Realm." Patch relaxed slightly. He looked at me curiously now.
"What?" He asked.
"The Winter Realm isn't going to attack, The Guild is going to try and take over! See, you know less than you think!" I said in a hiss.
"How do you know that?" He asked.
"My dreams, all Fae have prophetic dreams, Zac told me. Mine are of a great war that could cripple The Realms, but it doesn't start in the Winter Realm, it starts in the Garden Realm, and The Guild strikes first!" Patch was no longer angry at me, but he was still livid.
"Why hasn't Kelly, or the other Rogues seen that?" He asked himself.
"The leader of The Guild is distorting their dreams, but I am only half Fae, I slipped past his defenses," I said. "That's just a guess actually, I really don't know."
"I'm willing to bet that your guess is spot on," Patch said smiling a real smile at me for the first time since I had met him. I felt my cheeks burn with a sudden blush. His smile was warm and brilliant. I felt my knees go weak. What feeling was this?