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Fantasy Suspense Teens & Young Adult

“Dad! You’re not looking!”

“What? Oh.” Mikha raised his head, blinking wildly. He sighed shakily, rubbing the nightmares from his eyes. The red and green feathers tied around his wrist tickled his chin.

“Watch,” Diego ordered. 

He raised his arms, planting one foot before the other. With a sharp whoop, he launched into a cartwheel, rolling over the shrine-house’s front yard.

“Me! Me!” Baby Moses waddled out of the shade, reaching for his big brother. His thick fingers flexed like crab claws.

“Nope, not you.” Mikha’s brother Sigma scooped him into his corpse-pale arms. “As long as I’m here, I have to keep that soft head of yours safe.”

“No, Seega!” Moses bapped his uncle’s nose with a plump little palm. “Bad Seega! Down!”

“Oh, for the love of the Ancestors,” Sigma grumbled, taking the boy in his corpse-pale hands. 

His sour, violet eyes caught Mikha snickering into his palm. Sigma was Daenagi, as were his fathers before him. He was the odd one out in Mikha’s little family, which was fine by him. It was only fair. Mikha had been the only non-Daenagiwhen he was adopted by Sigma’s parents.

Sigma scowled at his brother. “At least one of us is enjoying ourselves. I suppose you trained your brat to treat me like one of your mutts.”

“No, of course not.” Mikha fought to control his expression. “Yes, I had him with me when I was training the Hounds. He must have been paying more attention than I thought.”

“Riiiiiight.”

“Sorry.”

“Yeah, sure you are.” Sigma rolled his eyes, hefting Moses onto one shoulder. “Speaking of paying attention, you might wanna watch the daredevil over there.”

“What?” Mikha turned to see Diego beginning to stand one-footed on the fence pole, his arms spread for balance. “Diego! Get down from— stay there! Stay right there!”

“What?” Diego turned toward his father’s voice. His leg wobbled. He jumped off at the same moment Mikha dove, landing squarely on the small of his father’s back. Mikha made a sound like air being squeezed from a waterskin.

Diego looked down at Mikha, frowning. “Dad, I was fine.”

“Quiet, Diego,” Mikha muttered into the ground. He lifted his face, his dark eyes narrowed. “I’m busy calculating how long I can confine you in a padded room without the school noticing you’re gone.”

Diego stepped off, scampering back into the shrine-house.

“That’s a bit extreme,” Sigma said, raising an eyebrow.

“I know.” Mikha slid to his knees, feeling himself for injuries. “I’m half-joking.”

“Only half?”

Mikha sighed, ruffling sand from his dark hair and brushing off his kilma. “Diego’s energy is getting more chaotic by the day. Trying to keep him out of trouble is taking years off my lifespan. What the Hell am I going to do with that kid?”

“Huh.” Sigma tilted his head, giving baby Moses a little bounce. “Is that what’s been going on with you lately?”

“What?”

“You’ve been staring into space a lot. It’s really freaky, and I wish you’d stop. I see your stupid face enough in the daytime. I don’t need to see it in my nightmares too.”

“I’m… sorry?”

“Good. You should be.” Sigma’s violet eyes narrowed. “This isn’t like you. A week ago, you were as annoyingly cheerful as ever. Now you’re complaining, spacing out, and getting mad at your kids. You’re acting normal, for once.”

Mikha’s eye twitched. “You… have been holding that in for a while, haven’t you?”

“YES. You’re a freak of nature. This is the first time I’ve seen you angry since you saw—”

“Shut up, Sig.”

Sigma’s expression darkened. “I was right. You saw them again.”

Moses reached for his father. Sigma passed him back to Mikha, who cradled the babe against his chest, his face vacant. Moses inserted his hand into his mouth, staring at his father blankly. 

“Meeks, you can’t-”

“Protect them?” Mikha clutched his son tight to his chest. His face twisted. “I can’t let myself believe that.”

“That wasn’t what I was going to say.” Sigma sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You can’t go back to that place. The Sanctuary’s protection doesn’t reach that far. You’ll be in his power.”

“Its my sons’ safety I’m concerned about, not my own.”

“He’s using you, dammit!”

“So is everyone else!” Mikha scowled, pulling away. “Don’t pretend you weren’t curious too, brother. How many times have you asked me about the future? How long did it take for you to realize that I’m not not a fortune-telling toy? When did it first occur to you that I just want to be normal?!”

“Too loud!” Moses’s face crumpled. He pressed his hands over his ears. “Daddy, too loud.”

Mikha breathed hard. He blinked, shaking his head with a groan.

“Meeks,” Sigma said quietly. “Your hand.”

Mikha slowly lifted his hand off his son’s waist, turning it toward his face. Ashy blackness crept over his fingertips, creeping under his trim nails. He closed his hand, letting it fall to his side. He lifted his head, taking deep, controlling breaths.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You didn’t know. You didn’t mean to.”

Don’t, Meeks.” Sigma grabbed his brother by the shoulder with his free hand. “Don’t fake being okay. Don’t go back into the Dark.”

“There’s nothing else I can do.” Mikha grasped the doorknob tightly, stilling the shaking of his fingers. “This has to end. My mind can’t take much more. I need to put my sons first.”

He stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He lifted his Blackened hand to his face, watching the darkness slither to his knuckles.

“That’s the only way they’ll stand a chance.”

Air rushed from his mouth. He leaned against the door, closing his eyes. 

White light smeared across his tumbling vision. White cots flickered hazily in the corner of his eye. Before him shone blindingly reflected lens, and a wide yellow grin.

“Hey, shamanesi!” The man in the gray coat grinned. His curly hair was a stale gray, though his face was smooth. His large glasses sat low on his nose, and his too-large teeth were sickly yellow in the light of the infirmary. “It’s good to finally meet you in person!”

Mikha met his eyes evenly, his sun-beaten face carefully neutral. A brown poncho hung from his shoulders, covering his torso and arms.

The young man at the counter glanced from Mikha to the man in the gray coat. His worried, violet Daenagi eyes searched Mikha’s face. His pale fingers plucked at his white cotton tunic.

“You can go now, chalkface.” The man in the coat shooed him away. “The adults are talking.”

The young man stood abruptly, ducking his flushing face. He lurched to the infirmary door.

Mikha’s voice was hard and cold. “Stay, Cinnah.”

Cinnah froze. He turned to Mikha, his violet eyes wide.

The man raised both eyebrows at the shaman. “What are you doing?”

“Don’t insult my intelligence. We first met through the Dark. That’s only possible for shamans and Blackened. That already gives you leverage.” Mikha’s eyes narrowed. “You having the liberty of combat magic was already far too much of an advantage. The boy stays.”

“Ha! You should’ve kept your mouth shut. I’d completely forgotten that it’s illegal for shamans to learn battle magic.”

“It doesn’t matter now. Show me the seal.”

“Show me the future.”

Mikha grit his teeth, and the cloaked man laughed. The man jabbed a thumb in Cinnah’s direction. 

“You know he can’t do anything if I cheat you, right? Being Daenagi doesn’t automatically mean he’s a god of combat. I’d be willing to wager even more than a prophecy that I’m a higher tier than this little white mouse.”

“I don’t need someone to hide behind. I need someone to run and tell Iron John if I get into trouble.”

The grin became a growl, the man clenching his jaw.

“Ha.” Mikha lifted a hand to his chin, smiling gently. “I’d completely forgotten. Iron John has already thrown you over the wall, hasn’t he? I should’ve kept my mouth shut.”

“This doesn’t concern him.”

“It won’t, so long as you fulfill your end of the agreement.” Mikha stretched out his hand. “The sigil.”

The man grasped Mikha’s hand, and the shaman gasped with pain, falling to his knees.

“Mikha!” Cinnah ran to the shaman’s side.

“No, stay back!” Mikha thrust out his Blackened hand, his breaths heavy. He lifted his gaze to the man’s watery green eyes. His grip on the man’s hand tightened. “This had better be it, Cavicchi.”

Cavicchi gave him a yellow smile. “Just trust me.”

July 23, 2021 22:53

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2 comments

Francis Daisy
11:34 Feb 17, 2022

I love how you introduce the characters to the readers. Your dialogue and your descriptions are amazing! I also liked how you tucked some humor into the story too. What a great read for me; I'm glad I found your story!

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Ari .
18:29 Feb 17, 2022

I’m glad you enjoyed! Thanks for dropping by (:

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