Chapter 21

46 3 0

MAIEL PEERED FROM UNDER the cowl of the bulky cloak that covered her. She noticed the driver watching them in the rearview mirror. She held his stare, challenging him to continue his spying. Her eyes flashed and that was the last glance he dared. She smiled softly to herself, thinking of everything that brought her to this moment as the countryside slid past her window. If she had half her strength back, she would have been able to carry both Orius and herself to their destination in the blink of an eye. Instead, they were trapped inside the stuffy car slowly rolling over cramped streets. To make matters worse, Orius wasn't talkative. She assumed it was due to the nosy driver. Anything they said would be repeated to the man they visited and he would interpret the information according to his bias. Yet Orius planned to share their greatest secret at the end of the drive. The vratin's mistrust of his elder was increasingly obvious since the first phone call.

Maiel sighed, wondering if she would see her family again. An image of Dominic coming to her rescue played in the back of her mind. The last impression she had had of her husband told her that he'd be unable to make such a rescue again. He had failed to strengthen his skills, and because of this, the others would certainly not allow a rescue either. She was lost there and had to find her way back alone if she could. The rest of the family would follow the rules, ensuring that if no one reached them, she faced her test alone to prove herself and keep the clan name untainted.

Orius touched her arm in consolation, as if he could read her thoughts. Maiel relaxed against the seat. His eyes looked as worried as she imagined her own were. In another time, they could have spoken without the human hearing them. Now they could only gaze at each other and hope their expressions imparted some meaning the other could understand. He gave a weak smile and returned to looking out the window, giving her armored forearm a pat.

The car continued on after a brief halt at an intersection. People dashed across the lane ahead. It was the same thing every minute or so. She wondered how she'd ever withstood the daily debacle humans called life. The mind wipe caused by the bio-vessel sometimes seemed like a blessing. Maiel shut her eyes and decided to focus on regaining some strength in the event Orius's fears were justified. Shrouded in meditation, she wouldn't have to witness the monotonous voyage.

Nearly an hour passed before they arrived at their destination. Maiel opened her eyes, refreshed but not cheered. The car drove up a broad drive, passing tourists and vratin alike. An old wall was littered with rubble and construction signs in which the remains of an old arch in severe disrepair overlooked the lawn. The day was still young and the sun shone brightly in the sky. Maiel wondered why they didn't move her during the night undercover  of darkness. At least it would have been more exciting with the promise of shades to combat. In the daylight, there were many humans to hide from, but no immediate threat due to their visibility. Even the shadowborn were wary. Neither world wished themselves disclosed to Samsara. In Zion, it was the law; no interference was allowed that wasn't first adjudicated and approved.

Maiel never felt self-conscious about her appearance, but when the height of most humans barely made it to her shoulder, she stood out. At more than seven feet, she cut an unusual figure among them, sure to be remembered. Thankfully, Orius was quite tall for his adoptive kind, which only heightened the spectacle of their entrance.

The car parked before the front stairs. A young vratin ran down the steps and greeted them, opening the door to the car. The vehicle had gained the attention of several bystanders. Orius climbed out first, then helped her to exit without revealing a glint of armor or crimson locks. She imagined she was quite the sight, as several others stopped to gape at their passage. Orius regarded her nervously. The driver pulled Orius's bag from the trunk and gave it to him. After he accepted the luggage, he gave her a warm, encouraging smile and urged her forward.

The Trailokya Trilogy, Book One: The Shadow SoulRead this story for FREE!