38: The First

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7/24/3028

The cloak was a loose fit with the hood draping easily over my head. I opened the locket and placed my right palm over it. Instantly, I felt that electric shock. It was stronger this time. The shock ran all the way up my arm, like I had hit my funny bone.

The room spun violently, creating a blur of fog around me for an instant before the spinning came to an abrupt halt. Once the fog faded, I could see that I was on a cliff with a vast forest far below, stretching out as far as I could see. I backed away from the ledge.

Rustling came from behind me and I immediately spun around. A tall woman dressed in a dark-brown robe with the hood pulled low over her eyes emerged from the trees. She sauntered forward as if merely skimming the ground she walked on. "I've been waiting for you, and I'm most pleased that you've come."

"Who are you?" My voice was shaky and small.

"Sye-Liene Anmyn, do not be alarmed," said the woman.

She held her hands out before her, thumb to thumb and fingers to fingers, touching in the shape of an upside-down triangle. She stopped several feet in front of me, then dropped her hood. I gasped. It was the raven-haired Ra I had met at Hemley Park.

"I am Rahaiwen, the first," she said.

"Stay away," I said, stepping back.

"Don't move any further." Rahaiwen held her hand out as if to grab me. "You're standing near the edge of the cliff, Anmyn."

I stole a quick glance over my shoulder to see that I was just a foot from the edge. I was cornered with nowhere to go. I had to play this as calmly as possible.

"Where's Katie?" I tried to sound as brave as I could.

"She is well."

"Your sister tried to kill me a couple of weeks ago, so it's a bit of a stretch for me to believe you without any proof."

"Radevin was foolish and defective. I assure you that Katie is well taken care of. You have no other option but to trust my word." She was polite, but she wasn't going to give me what I wanted. Her voice was warm like honey and she had a natural charisma about her.

I hated to admit it, but she was right. I had no other choice but to trust her word that Katie was safe. For now.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"To negotiate."

"I'm listening."

"I want you in exchange for the girl," she said.

Rahaiwen obviously still believed that I was Sye-Liene. Was she the 'help' from the outside that Sye-Liene spoke of? I didn't know what to think, but I had to keep playing the role if I wanted to negotiate—it was my only bargaining chip.

"Are you going to kill me if I come with you?" I asked.

Rahaiwen laughed. The intonation of her laugh was both alluring and menacing at once. "Why would I kill you? Couldn't I have done that in Hemley? Let me reiterate that my sister, Radevin, was defective. I offer my sincerest apologies on her behalf." She stepped back with one foot and bowed deeply.

"You're going to help me, then?"

"Yes, Sye-Liene Anmyn."

I hadn't decided whether I believed her sincerity or not. I needed more information from her before I could come to a final decision. "How do you plan on helping me?"

"Your memories are gone, are they not? I can help you regain what you have lost."

"Not even Eloss—" I stopped myself. I didn't want to reveal Elossai's name. "Not even my Elos could help me remember. What makes you have the ability to get my memories back?"

She placed a hand on her chest and her dark eyes sparkled. "Because I was there, six years ago when you went into the Ora, Anmyn."

My mouth parted. No one knew what had really happened to Sye-Liene—they knew only that she disappeared. Was Rahaiwen really there when it happened?

I looked back at the cliff behind me, then faced her again. "Is this real?"

"No," Rahaiwen said, smiling. "You will have to make your way here to trade places with the girl."

"Where?"

"Once we have come to an agreement, I shall tell you where and show you the way on your locket."

I clutched the locket around my neck. "How do you know about my locket?"

"It was War Raven that instructed the woman to pass on the locket to you," she said. I didn't know who War Raven was, but I assumed it was her other sister—the redhead that Jarek had knocked to the ground back in Hemley Park. "Have we come to an agreement?"

This wasn't the time to make impulsive decisions. I had to think this through. "No. I can't agree to anything until I've seen Katie first."

"Very well. We shall meet again when she is here." She made the same greeting gesture which made her black veins very noticeable. "Make contact tonight and the girl will be present. You have until our next meeting to decide," she said before slowly taking several steps backward.

I opened my locket and placed my palm on the corin.

I have to speak to Keiran.

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