fourteen

training wheels


I slept soundly, dreamlessly.

When I woke, I was warm. Too warm. The sun was shining through my still broken window. My wrist was burning up, and for one terrifying second I remembered the dragon.

I shot up so quickly I might've fallen over if the hand on my wrist hadn't tugged me back into place.

Oh. Not a dragon, a Phera.

Judging by the way my mark wasn't thrumming with any sort of itch or other sensation, I figured it wasn't Cade.

"That always how you wake up, kitten?"

I turned bleary eyes to Roan. He was lounging, fully dressed, on top of the blankets, peering down at me with a roguish grin.

I yawned loudly and pulled my legs up, careful not to touch any of the bandages. "What are you doing here?"

He gestured to the hand clamped around my wrist still and I nodded, even while pulling my arm away.

"I don't suppose there's anything to worry about while I'm awake?"

It was strange...waking up all warm and safe in this bed when, less than twelve hours ago, I'd nearly died. I looked down at my patched up hands. Despite feeling no pain at all-Cade's doing, I'm sure-the memory of the burns felt fresh. The details of my dream were so fuzzy, but one memory was vivid: the portal. It seemed so real. Just like the night I'd first left Cade's home and gone to the Elves.

"You can go back to bed if you want," Roan said, misinterpreting my spaciness.

I shook my head.

"No, no, I'm fine…" I frowned. I was missing something. Something obvious. I was only going to get frustrated the more I thought about it. "Have you been here long?"

He shrugged. "Eh, not really. It took some convincing but Cade finally got to bed."

I looked back at the door that led to his room.

"He was up all night?" I asked, guiltily.

Roan shrugged and avoided looking at me, jumping to his feet instead. "I guess so. Aren't you hungry? Let's have breakfast."

I couldn't find the energy to argue, so I let Roan drag me down to the first floor where he began some elaborate ministrations around the kitchen.

I was so tired I didn't want to eat, but I made do with some bread dipped in whatever soupy-porridgey thing Roan had prepared.

He was chatting away a mile a minute, likely aware I wasn't really listening to him, but not calling me out on it.

"Hey, hey, Roan?"

He stopped mid-sentence, a spoon held just a few inches from his open mouth. "Yeah?"

"Do you know if Cade is awake?"

"Not sure, kitten, we could go check-"

"No! No, I...I don't want to bother him if he is still sleeping."

"So you'd have no problem bothering him if he was awake?" Roan smiled.

I sighed.

"Bother away," came Cade's voice from behind us.

I turned to see him standing in the entryway of the large kitchen, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He was cleanly dressed, freshly shaven, and his hair was combed-but the dark circles under his eyes distracted from his otherwise perfect appearance. I looked at his hand and noticed it looked completely healed.

"Um, I'm sorry. It can wait, really, maybe you should go back to-"

"I needed to speak with you anyways, actually," he interrupted me, his voice strong and emotionless. "Would you like to take a walk?"

I opened my mouth and then closed it, looking to Roan and then back at Cade. Roan shrugged at me, popped a piece of bread in his mouth, and hopped off his seat.

"I'll catch up with you later."

"But-" I looked after him helplessly.

Cade was staring at me patiently.

"Sure," I mumbled, "Let's go on a walk."

… … …

Cade led the way silently. We passed the terrace, strolled past the rows of flowers I'd seen before with Roan, and ended up following a soft dirt path that was nestled between the very edge of the jungle and the back of the castle.

I was curious about where we were going, and what he wanted to talk to me about.

"When were you going to start bothering me?" Cade spoke suddenly, breaking the silence.

"I thought you would go first."

He stopped and turned to smile at me. "You first."

I stared at him blankly, a little confused. He was being so...polite.

"I...Okay," I swallowed thickly. "I wanted to say sorry about yesterday. It must've been really scary for you."

Cade snorted. "I changed my mind. Can I go first?"

"I-Yeah, I don't care," I sighed. I was only going to tell him about what Yva told me, about how it may have been possible to break the spell, but I wasn't even sure of how to approach it.

The path was coming to an end, and we were in a small, enclosed meadow of sorts. There were wild flowers growing here, looking much less tamed and kempt than the ones in the gardens. The grass was overgrown, reaching above my ankles. A weathered stone bench was off to the side, and Cade led us to sit on it.

He took a deep breath and placed his palms on his knees as I waited.

"Alder will be here tomorrow."

What?

"You'll begin training with him, privately-in neutral territory."

What?!

"I don't know what sort of timeline he expects, but when he's determined that you...that you'll be safe enough, with a good handle on your powers...we will go to Lura."

"What?" Where was this coming from?"

"We will find a way for you to get home."

I inhaled sharply. "Home?"

Cade wasn't looking at me. "Yes, home."

"Earth?"

He nodded.

"I...But...why?"

"Is that not what you want?"

I bit my lip, shaking my head. "No, I mean-yes, it is what I want. But...I thought you wanted me to stay here."

Cade shook his head, "No, Sonam, I wanted you safe."

"That's not fair, you kept me here and-"

"There is nowhere safer for you on this planet than by my side, in my home."

I was a bit startled by the gravity of Cade's words, and the shocking truth to them as well, but he kept going, unaware of my reaction.

"But I can't ignore the fact that some things are out of my control, including, apparently, you being attacked by a dragon." He sighed, heavily, and it was a sad sound.

"That wasn't your fault," I objected, and then I realized something. It was my own fault. I manipulated a portal. Multiple portals. In my dream, and then again, to get back to Cade's home. And...before...with the window, was that how I had gotten to the Elves?

I did that. Not the necklace. Me.

"I think you are capable of a bit more than anyone has given you credit for, Sonam."

Cade was finally looking at me, and though his face was a perfect mask, his voice was a little shaky.

"I believe that on Earth, the worst danger you could possibly face would certainly be better than a dragon. And with even an elementary understanding of how to use your...magic," it sounded like it hurt him, getting the word out, "to defend yourself...you'd be more than fine, wouldn't you?"

Was he asking me for reassurance?

"But...still, if I get hurt, or you do, we'd…" I trailed off.

"I know," he nodded. "But anything could happen, to anyone, at any time. It's not fair to prevent each other from living the lives that we want."

The lightbulb went off. Yes, Cade had been keeping me here to keep me safe, for his own sake as much as mine. But I wasn't really doing him any favors being here. I'd put a strain on his relationship with Lyria, with his tribe, with Javier. I was keeping him from his life, just as much as I was being kept from mine.

Alder could, potentially, teach me enough to make sure that, at the very least, something like another Mercedes hit-and-run wouldn't be the end of me (and of Cade).

"That...you...you trust me, then?"

Cade only looked at me, but I knew the answer. He must. He was, effectively, signing off on the removal of my training wheels.

I recalled the conversation we'd had the other day in his library...I'd accused him of preferring that I be weak and defenseless and he'd gotten so angry at me. I guess I was silly for thinking that, after all, the weaker I was the more likely I would get hurt, meaning the more likely he would get hurt. I still thought his reaction was blown a bit out of proportion but then again, I barely knew the man, after all.

I stopped to look at him, with his head turned away from me and tilted up towards the sun. It wasn't often that the two of us were ever outside together and not in the jungle. I'd never seen him up close in the sun. By this point, his face had become so familiar to me. The line of his jaw, the straight bridge of his nose. I even recognized the tiny little birthmark to the side of his left eye.

But I really didn't know a thing about him, did I?

It was so hard for me to predict how he would act. I'd seen him act playful and lighthearted, just a couple times, and I'd seen him angry, at me or at others. But what kind of person was Cade, really? It wasn't as simple as saying he was controlling and rude, that was clear by now.

"What did you want to talk to me about?" he finally said. He hadn't seemed to notice my staring.

I cleared my throat, bunching the skirt of my dress in my hands. "Wouldn't it just be easier to undo the spell?"

I couldn't be sure, I was only looking at him from the side, but it seemed like Cade almost flinched.

"I mean, I appreciate the trust, and I will do everything I can to avoid getting mortally wounded when I'm back on Earth, but there probably is a more effective failsafe out there."

"What are you talking about?" His voice was sharp.

"Yva told me...she mentioned...that the Continuance could be...undone. The Elves could probably figure it out."

Cade was silent for a long time, his eyes narrowed and he looked lost in thought.

"I could ask Araelbin, they seemed to...like me, kinda, I dunno," I shrugged, feeling sheepish. I didn't know what kind of effort would go into breaking a spell, so it could be a pretty big favor to ask, but the stakes were pretty high. "And they were one of the original casters, too, so they would obviously know-"

Cade stood up. "That's not possible."

I frowned. "But if we can get to the Elves then we could just-"

"Sonam," Cade's eyes were stony when he turned to face me, his lips set in a thin line. "Breaking the spell isn't possible. Trust me."

"You're...you're sure, then?"

He nodded, his expression grim.

I sighed, my breath letting loose strands of hair flutter around my face for a second. Who was I kidding, of course Cade had already looked into that.


"I can't believe it. I knew there had to be more to you, but portal ."

I stared blankly at Alder. He had been going on and on about how much he couldn't believe the news for the past half-hour.

I picked idly at the soft grass I was lying on. Cade sat motionless on a rock to our left. He insisted on coming, at least for my first day of school, as I called it.

We were on the same island Alder had brought me to the day we first met. Hopping from stone pillar to pillar to get here was no more fun than it was the last time, and I was still feeling a little shaken. Alder, of course, had only responded by threatening to push me over the edge of one, to test my newfound portal-manipulating abilities, but Cade shot that idea down quickly.

He didn't say anything, but I had a feeling he detested portaling, as I'd taken to calling it. We had each grabbed onto one of Alder's arms, and it began and ended in a matter of seconds. I opened my eyes quickly, blinking away the dizziness, but Cade just stood there with his hands clenched and his eyes shut for at least a minute. Alder barely paid him any attention.

I told him all about my dream. Cade shared everything Taryn had mentioned about Fina Aunty's necklace. I detailed, to the best of my memory, the night I got to the elves.

"I just need to know if you portaled there or if that was some leftover Fae magic," Alder grumbled. He was usually so serious, it was funny to see him so confused.

I sighed. I could hardly remember what my trip here from Earth felt like, besides the sensation of my body being ripped into a million pieces. All I knew was that I'd never felt anything like that since.

"But Taryn said she didn't sense any power from you, ever?"

Cade nodded. I sighed. We had already been over this.

"The last time she saw me was the night I...stabbed myself," I pointed out. "And the very next night I was at the Elves' woods, and they said they detected a lot of power."

I'd already shared that too, and while Cade was worried the Elves had done something to me, Alder thought they were just lying. According to both of them, Elves were not to be trusted.

I thought of Galidor, and I knew they were wrong. Arguing with them seemed futile though.

"When I met you I could sense it too…Hmm," Alder's pacing was beginning to wear a path in the grass.

It was funny, the juxtaposition of his fidgeting and Cade's stone-like stillness. His arms were crossed and his hands were clenched tightly into fists.

I looked down at my own hands, still bandaged. I'd been too afraid to take a peek at them to see the damage. Cade's pain tolerance was ridiculously high.

"I guess it makes sense that that much power would translate into something more than just simple telekinetic magic…" Alder was still rambling.

I snorted. Simple. I'd sat in that meadow after Cade had left yesterday attempting to move a leaf for over an hour with little luck. I'd barely gotten it higher than an inch off the ground before I felt like passing out.

Cade looked up at my snort and stared at me.

"How are your hands?"

"What?"

"Your hands," I repeated, lifting up my own.

He blinked. "They're fine."

I rolled my eyes. "You don't have to lie. And you don't have to hold onto all the pain."

I felt so cheesy saying that, but I wasn't sure how else to communicate it. I chanced a glance at Alder but he was still talking to himself, actively ignoring us.

"They're fine, Sonam, really," he insisted.

I raised an eyebrow at him.

"After the necklace brought you here, it didn't do anything strange again, right?" Alder was suddenly in front of me.

I nodded, and he went back to pacing.

"Hey, are we ever gonna get started with-" I paused, as Cade finally stood up from his position. He had an intent look on his face as he approached me. "What's-"

I cut myself off when he grabbed my arms and pulled me to my feet.

"Let me see your hands."

"What?"

Cade seemed impatient, as he very, very gently grabbed my left wrist and begin undoing the bandage Javier had tied around it.

"What are you doing?"

"Wait," he muttered. His movement was as still and guided as that of a surgeon.

I was so focused on his fingers that I almost didn't notice my own hand. It looked soft and pink. For a moment, I didn't realize what was wrong with it.

There wasn't a blister, sore, or burn mark in sight.

I looked up at Cade, eyes wide. His expression mimicked my own.

"I told you my hands were fine."

I felt my heartbeat quicken. I tore off the bandage on my other hand, much less delicately than Cade had. That hand looked good as new.

I flexed my fingers, bunched them up, cracked them. I felt nothing.

Cade was doing the same.

I grabbed his hand to hold it up close.

"Really? Nothing?"

He nodded eagerly.

"The morning that," I paused, feeling a little out of breath, "the morning that I woke up, after the knife incident, I was fine. No wound or anything." I remembered Javier being surprised by how quickly I had healed.

Cade frowned. "I thought I couldn't feel anything because of the distance…"

"Alder?" I called out, and then again louder, when he didn't respond, "Alder!"

"Yeah, what? What?" he walked over, seeming more excited when he saw Cade's expression. "What is it?"

I showed him my hands. He just stared.

"What?"

"They healed."

"Okay?"

"They were burned...by a dragon's horn...barely a day ago." I sighed in exasperation when he still wasn't getting it. "Humans wouldn't heal that fast."

"Well, we've deemed you're not human," Cade offered.

"But sorcerers don't heal this fast either," I responded, "Right, Alder?"

He was staring at my hands, looking as though he was solving a math problem in his head.

"You're right, they don't," Cade said.

"Unless they have healing magic," Alder finally gained his speech back.

The knowledge settled upon me like a heavy blanket.

I could move things, with my mind. I could manipulate portals. And I could...heal myself?

Alder muttered something so quietly I didn't hear it, but Cade responded, "You just underestimated her."

I felt dizzy.

"I have not. This cannot be...so long as she is who she says she is."

I closed my eyes, scrunched up tight.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Cade sounded slightly defensive.

"If she's half sorceress, only half, how the hell does she possess three forms of magic?"

I sat down, quickly, and pressed my fingers to my temples.

I knew it was in my best interest to get my lessons over with as soon as possible. The sooner Alder deemed I wouldn't hurt myself or others on accident with my magic, the sooner Cade would take me to Lura. That was what I told myself this morning, when I was worried about...accepting my lack of humanity so soon. And that was before finding this out.

It was strange to think I'd spent my whole life not knowing what I really was. Years of doctor's appointments and nothing ever seemed out of place.

I voiced this concern out loud.

"None of this makes any sense!"

"I am tending towards agreeing…" Alder supplied. "You're sure your mother wasn't a sorceress?"

I groaned. "Well, now I don't know. I certainly never thought I was and apparently I am one, so what's that say about my judgment?"

"And she's dead? You're certain?"

I sucked in a sharp breath.

"Mind yourself," Cade snapped.

"We need to know this, Cade," Alder reasoned.

"She is," I frowned.

"And your father?"

"He's dead," Cade responded, his voice hoarse.

I looked up, remembering my conversation with the Elves on this same subject. "I don't know that."

Cade looked at me, his face was troubled.

"I...I don't know that I've ever met him. He might've...seen me when I was a baby," I thought of the picture. "But I don't remember. My aunt-the Fae-Fina, she told me, right before she died-" I remembered her comment about not trusting panthers, and I flushed. I didn't want to tell Cade that.

"What did she say?"

I shook my head. "She told me a whole bunch of stuff, it seemed like nonsense at the time. But she did say that if I see my father to send him a message...Something silly...the cat's in the cage? But she hadn't been to Lennor in years, so who knows if she even knew he was still alive then?"

"I can't even think of that many sorcerers close to the Fae," Alder mused.

"Look," Cade began, seemingly the most frustrated amongst us all of a sudden, "We're not here to figure out her ancestry. We're here so she can learn how to manage her magic. Why don't we focus on figuring out...how it...manifested? Coming here clearly did...something. That's when her eyes changed color."

Alder shot that down quickly. "What's more likely is that she was under an illusory charm while on Earth. It probably wasn't strong enough to hold during her trip here."

Finding out that I've been unknowingly under a spell since I was a baby was slightly disconcerting.

"You think my father cast it? The spell?"

"Mm, well, a spell and a charm are different. Spells are much stronger," Alder said dismissively, "Honestly, it was probably your father's doing, and may have been for your own good."

I snickered at the thought of my father doing something for my own good. If Alder were right, however, it was further proof that my mother lied to me about when he left us.

"What I am wondering, though, is how your powers stayed hidden even while you were here."

"They weren't hidden, Taryn said she couldn't detect anything…"

But the Elves could. The Elves also knew I had Phera ancestry, they also knew Cade's blood had gotten in my bloodstream.

"The knife," the words fell out my mouth as soon as the realization did.

I shook my head, laughing slightly. This was the...least scientific explanation I could think of, but for some reason, it made sense. That was the first time I'd ever felt my magic, or used it, even inadvertently.

"What do you know about blood magic, Alder?" I asked excitedly.

Both men looked surprised. "What do you know about blood magic?"

"Just what Gali-what the Elves taught me," I was grasping at something here, I knew it. "The Continuance...it's blood magic. The Elves knew something happened, even before I told them about the knife incident. They knew my blood was spelled."

"What are you talking about?" Cade seemed impatient.

Alder's forehead creased, his hands steepled in front of his mouth. "I feel like I should read up on Elven lore to understand this, but it's an excellent theory…"

"What is the damn theory?" Cade demanded.

"Phera blood-from someone as powerful as you-entering her system, it could've triggered her magic."

"That sounds insane," Cade huffed.

"There are too many factors here...The Continuance, your ancestry, hers…I'm missing something, but honestly, it seems slightly plausible."

I snorted. I felt like I was missing more than something.

"I'd like to study this, my father might be of help-"

"No," Cade's voice was firm. "I told you, Alder. My main condition throughout all this is that it stays private."

Alder looked conflicted, "I trust my father. He has nothing against your kind-"

I flinched, suddenly reminded by just how much animosity existed between the Pherai and sorcerers.

"You tell him about her, and the both of you will have my tribe to face," Cade looked more serious than I'd ever seen him, gone was his frustrated, helpless attitude. He was angry now, and he was an Alpha.

Alder backed down easily. "Alright, fine."

They both continued to stare at each other. The tension felt palpable.

I let out a breath.

"How about...how about we get back to my lesson?" Or start it, more like.

Nobody said anything.

I reached for Cade's arm gently, and he started at my touch.

"It's fine, right?" I looked at him tentatively, hoping he'd relax. His arm felt tense under my hand.

He let out a breath, his muscle relaxing, though his face remained tight.

"Riiight, so, your lessons," Alder said evenly, "Shall we get started with the basics?"

"No," Cade cut in.

"What now?" I whined.

He ignored me. "Start with portals."

Alder and I both stared at him. That sounded like the least simple of all three of my...gifts. I voiced this, and Cade stared at me like I was an idiot.

"Are you forgetting two nights ago?"

"I-"

"Yes, it's the most complicated, it's also the one most likely to get you killed if you don't master it."

Mastery. I was only aiming for an elementary understanding, but he had a point.

Alder nodded, "Alright then. Portals. First, though, we just want you familiar with your magic, okay?"

Cade seemed to have calmed down, for now, and took a couple paces back till he was back, sitting on the same stone from earlier. I tried to listen to Alder as he spoke, but I was never a very dedicated student in lectures. I kept peeking at Cade from the side. His eyes met mine every time.

… … …

I was exhausted and starving by the time we were done. Roan wanted to hear all about my first day over dinner, but I could barely speak in between all the food I was shoveling in my mouth.

Alder had explained that food would help with the special sort of exhaustion that followed expending a lot of magic. It didn't feel like regular tiredness. I felt a little bit willowy, like my limbs were turning into jello.

Apparently, that would go away when I got more efficient with my magic use.

The way Alder described it, I imagined I had a set amount of hearts, like in a video game. Using my magic would use up my hearts, and if I used them all up, I'd...well, I'd pass out.

We didn't even get to portals or anything material today. I just kept waking my magic up, as though it were a dormant force within me, and I needed to "dig down" to "bring it up to the surface". Alder had me "hold" it in my palms for as long as I could.

I didn't last that way more than seven seconds at a time.

Apparently, you could conjure a portal in as fast as two seconds, depending on how far it was taking you.

"Leave her alone, Roan," Cade said. He sounded tired too. "She's had a long day."

Roan frowned, "I'm getting impatient. When do you think you'll be ready to fight me?"

I choked on the bread I was chewing. "Fight you?"

"Yeah!" Roan grinned, "Since you're a big bad sorceress and all. We should have a friendly duel."

I caught onto his sarcasm a bit belatedly.

"She'd put you on your ass, Roan," Cade said, surprising me.

I turned to look at him, he was taking a sip of water, but I could detect the slightest smile behind his cup.

"I'll wait for the day," Roan laughed.

I smiled too, but honestly, the thought of being powerful enough to knock Roan-easily the largest man I'd ever seen-on his ass kind of scared me. And besides, if everything went according to Cade's new plan, I'd only need to learn the basics before I'd be on my way home.