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He couldn't stop dwelling on what he'd done. Though he begged the Eye to release him from this stomach-churning feeling.
For once, the Eye granted his wish, sending him tumbling to the earth of Turss, right on the heels of Ama. The initial sensation that quieted the voices raving about killing a man was the plea of the gate. Oh, how he'd missed it. Such a familiar and comforting song.
Unfortunately, it simply made him want to rip the book out of Damian's leather bag, where it now nestled again safely, and go right back through the way he'd come. He knew better. All he'd receive in return was silence on the other side, the portal no longer beckoning to him.
The conflicting desires threatened to rip him in two, and then three when an image of Bear's still form flashed through his mind. Until he sensed the other magic...
Bishop wove to the beginning of the living chain and peered across the chasm, into the fog on the other side. He couldn't actually see anything, but he felt it. The blink.
He spun to the others. "We have a problem." Each word he spoke was like another nail hammered into his aching brain.
But he needed to tell them -- he should have done so sooner. He finally realized his contempt for Guardians had led him down paths he shouldn't have ventured, including distrusting Damian and Obsidian so much that he'd failed to warn them about the possible danger of coming back to Turss.
The young Guardian's properness still grated on him, but all he'd just done to help him and the others proved he had a good heart. "There's a contingent waiting near my cabin. It's called a blink -- a small force, but strong in magic."
Damian straightened and leveled his gaze at Bishop. "How do you know this?"
"I can sense them. And I'm the one who contacted them before we left for Nect." There, he'd admitted his own part in the treachery. "I'm sorry."
"How could you not tell us what we were walking into?" Damian growled, allowed the pack strapped to his back to fall to the ground, then charged. He shoved Bishop, who stumbled backward to the very edge of the chasm.
Crags waited below, thirsty for blood. "Do it. Go ahead. Push me over." At least that way the gate's song would stop beckoning to him, and he'd no longer have this splitting headache. Or the guilt.
The Guardian stepped back and shook his head. "So I can have the same burden on my soul that you're now carrying for killing Bear? No."
Smart. Bishop peered over the edge, wondering if he should just silence it all himself.
"Stop!" Sid closed the distance and latched onto his arm. "Don't even consider doing what you're thinking."
Her touch rippled along his skin. How did she know? A look in his eye? He dropped his voice low, so only she'd hear. "But it all hurts so much." It hurt even more to admit such a thing.
"And what makes us strong is fighting through the pain." She smiled at him, soft and heart-melting. "Besides, we need you. To help us maneuver Turss and figure out how to get past that blink of yours. Who knows, perhaps we'll even be able to help your world, even if in a small way."
Bishop hated himself for manipulating her. Again, he felt the urge to kiss her. The only thing that stopped him was Damian and Ama looking on.
"Okay." He stepped away from the edge along with her.
For Sid -- he'd fight through the pain for her.
Obsidian breathed a sigh of relief. Tonight had been tumultuous enough, and she really didn't want it all to end with Bishop leaping to his death. One death was enough to experience in a day.
Ama drifted to the edge and peered down. "This is all so strange. Another world? Going through a gate? I mean, how many precepts have we broken simply in the last hour?" She crossed her arms and rubbed her opposite upper arms.
They hadn't warned her at all what the plan was -- there hadn't been time. Sid could only imagine the shock the poor woman felt. "I'm sorry, Ama. It was the only way to rescue you."
She faced Sid and offered a wan smile. "I understand. They had practically kidnapped me. I'd much rather be here than there."
With this blink of Bishop's, she wasn't sure if Ama would feel that way for long.
Nor could Sid be sure if any of them would want to be around her once they found out about the blue glow that she'd somehow summoned around her knife. Magic. And it was inside her.
Thankfully, it had faded after Bishop had knocked out Bear. But when she'd entered the courtyard, the power of the gates had nearly overwhelmed her. It had been as if she'd touched every single one at the same time, and they clamored for her attention. She'd almost lost hold of Ama a couple times as they'd made their way to Turmoil.
And oddly, the portal on this side now sung in hushed tones to her, whereas the first time she'd heard nothing. Not nearly as strong as from the Nect side, but still present nonetheless.
Perhaps the magic was something best keep to herself for now. For all she knew, she wouldn't be able to call it again anyhow. No reason to bother Damian and Bishop, or poor traumatized Ama, with worries that might never come to fruition.
Better to distract herself and focus on another mystery pawing at her mind. "Hey, Damian? Bear had mentioned something about me being a match for you. What in the Ancients was that about?"
Damian sat on the ground, his face ashen. "I think they intended to pair us."
"Like an arranged marriage of sorts?" What a wretched idea. Her and Damian were complete opposites. Though she did enjoy making him smile. Any friend would be happy about that, though.
"Something like that. I first found out Liss's intentions when I spoke to her yesterday." He stared at her, lips straight and wrinkles forming between his eyebrows, hands one over the other in his lap. "Worse, I think she had other plans for me. And I don't think we thwarted them. I saw her as we entered the portal. And she was grinning."
But they'd escaped her, escaped the other Guardians. Unless they returned, they were out of reach. Unless... "Could she have a book?"
"I'm considering it a high possibility." He glanced back at the gate before returning his attention to her. "We're faced with a bit of a quandary, it seems."
Bishop's mouth twisted. "We call that being caught between a rock and a hard place around here."
So, the blink on one side of the chain and the possibility of Liss coming through the gate on this side. The only thing in their corner with the latter was time moving slower in Nect compared to Turss.
Sid knelt in front of Damian and patted his hands. "We'll figure this out. I promise." And she'd make sure he smiled again.
It appeared her gate would have to wait a bit longer. She just hoped that the magic tumbling inside her wouldn't derail her course before she had a chance to get home.
And she never imagined her quest to open a single portal would start her on such an adventure. Or that she'd meet so many people she'd started to consider friends on this journey.
Obsidian was positive of one thing, though. No matter how many times her path veered or how many friends she made or lost along the way, it would end with her walking through her gate to discover what was on the other side.
❦ THE END ❦