Chapter 25: Haunted Dreams

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It was another one of her good days. A day without an incident, but still she missed her brother. Enzo had been gone too long this time, and Maria was beginning to worry. She spooned her noodle soup, looking into the thin liquid as if it held all the answers. Yet, there was nothing in the bowl except broth, some noodles, and mild, bland spices.

"Where do you suppose he went this time?" she asked the young teenager sitting with her at the table.

Levi shrugged as if it did not matter. "I don't know, but he's trying to help you. Remember that. Until he gets back, I'll take care of you," he said with a beaming smile.

She smiled back at him. "I know. Thanks, Levi. I'd be so lonely without you."

The boy chuckled and jumped on her, hugging her tight.

Then the door opened, and Maria's head snapped up. Enzo came into the room and went to her, kissing her on the forehead.

"Maria, I have good news," he said.

She stared up at him.

"I have made enough money to continue our journey, and I found a boat that will take us! We can be on our way in two days."

"I will see the medicine man soon?" she asked, her excitement building.

"Yes!" he said and settled himself on the small table near her. "And he will cure you of these dreams. "You'll see."

"I hope so. But they aren't just dreams anymore. They happen during the day, and they are getting stronger."

"Oh?" he asked. "Can you hear what they say yet?"

She stared at him, narrowing her eyes. "You seem awfully interested in that, Enzo. I thought you were concerned for my safety, not what the voices are trying to say."

"I am!" Enzo said. "It's just that, if we know what they want, maybe we can figure out how to make them go away. It really could help, Maria."

"You aren't a very good liar, Enzo, or maybe I just know you too well." Maria looked away. "I don't want to know what they say. I just want them gone."

"I know. The medicine man will help. He'll cast them out of you." He put his hand on her head, and she felt the kindness in his touch. It soothed her, perhaps a little too much.

She stared back at him and thought for a moment she saw something in him, but then it was gone. She shook her head clear. Trying to touch the spirit world would bring the voices, and more than anything else, she didn't want the voices to come back. They may still be just faint murmurs from some dark place, but they were terrifying. Always wanting her, always needing her, always clawing at her mind for some terrible purpose she couldn't begin to comprehend.

She chased the whispers away easily enough during the day, yet nothing kept them from invading her dreams during the dark of night. Enzo, Levi, and she shared several sleepless nights together, with Enzo using his spirit mana to calm her and drive them away, though he was finding the task more and more difficult, and it left him drained and unable to use his magic during the day. They all suffered for it. Without a proper set of labor skills and contacts in the local work industries, Enzo needed to draw from the spirits to help them make money. If only Levi was able to help her, but his magic was darker than Enzo's and better suited to fulfilling his own clamorous needs.

She shuddered at the thought and forced herself back to the world. Levi seemed to read her thoughts and offered her his hand.

"Did you use the spirit magic?" Maria asked Enzo. "To make the money?" He kept telling her he must conserve it and his sources were limited, but every few days, he somehow procured more.

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