by C.N. Greer
A mythical world. An ancient prophecy. And an evil that never sleeps. What's a girl to do?
The first time she’d had a vision, Sawyer had been eight years old. It had happened in a dream that had turned into something else, something…more and suddenly, she was walking through this forest in the middle of the night. Only, it didn’t look like a forest should look in the dark. The bark of the tall, narrow trees was pure white, the intricate markings on their bark a bright metallic silver. All around her there was color. The grass, the trees, the flowers. All of it was lit up like the glow-in-the-dark poster that hung on the door in her bedroom; all neon pinks and blues and yellows.
As she walked, her bare feet squishing into the earth, a tiny blue butterfly fluttered through the air, landing for a moment on her arm. Sawyer stared in awe, loving the way the wings looked in the neon light. Another brushed past her nose and she giggled, but the sound must have scared it because it flew off and joined the others. Sawyer had never seen a cyclone except in movies like The Wizard of Oz, but she was pretty sure that’s what they’d formed. There must have been hundreds of them; all different colored butterflies, pooling together and spiraling up toward the sky.
That vision had been nothing like this one.
One after another, the visions came in flashes, slamming into her like a tidal wave crashing against the rocks. Running through the carnival in the rain. Aaron Gallagher’s face lit up by candlelight. A black cat dashing down an empty street. A shadow sliding in form from human to wolf. A redheaded girl on fire, suspended in midair. Quinn, bound and gagged in a dark basement. A run-down house in an old neighborhood. Her father’s face fading into the woods. Jake pulling her close while surrounded by a radiant blue light. Blood covering her hands. Her mother with a sword in her hand. Menacing blue eyes and a smile that spoke of pain. A black jaguar crouched in the trees. Sawyer and Quinn in a whirlwind of power. A man with dark hair, laughing on an onyx throne, surrounded by green mist.
“Sawyer. Sawyer, can you hear me?”
She couldn’t breathe. With every rise and fall of her chest, all Sawyer felt was pain. Her visions always took a physical toll, but the flashes were different. They’d never felt so real before, like she was trapped and spinning out of control, feeling each one like a blow to her flesh. The weight of it was suffocating her. She could feel her anxiety rise as she fought her way through the blackness of visions.
“Sawyer, can you hear me? Spencer, how’s Quinn? Is she coming around?”
Jake. She could hear his voice like a current of the wind; not faint, but not solid either.
“Damn it, Sawyer, come back to me.” His voice was barely more than a whisper.
Sawyer’s eyes fluttered open and a swirl of color rushed through her. She was lying flat on her back, stretched out in the grass. The power surge must have thrown her backward, leaving the lump on her head as a souvenir. Was it that or the string of visions that made her lose consciousness? Breathing deeply, she forced herself to expel the air around the pain in her chest and tried to sit up.
“There she is,” Jake murmured, pulling her up. As soon as he was satisfied she could sit on her own, he pulled her into a hug, his arms wrapping her against him. “I knew that ritual wasn’t a good idea.”
Sawyer swallowed hard against the rasping in her throat. “Quinn?” she managed to ask on the third try.
Jake whipped his head around, giving Sawyer a view of her friend. Quinn looked like she felt. Even in the candlelight, she could see the dark circles under Quinn’s eyes, the dirt smudged across her cheek from where she fell. Spencer sat beside her, an arm wrapped around her to help with balance. Across the circle, the two girls locked eyes.
“Did you see it?” Sawyer wanted to know. They’d been so linked when the power surged, she would have been surprised to find Quinn had not been able to see the visions through Sawyer’s eyes. Quinn nodded.
“What did you see?” Jake asked, looking from her to his sister with concerned eyes.
“Flashes, mostly.” She rubbed her temple, hoping the headache forming would go away. “A lot of things I can’t explain. You were there,” she told him. A small smile tugged at his lips. Sawyer frowned. “But most of it didn’t make any sense. People I didn’t know…a lot of danger.” She rubbed her arms against the chill.
“Well, there was nothing safe about that power surge,” Spencer pointed out, shaking his head. “What was that? Have you two ever done anything like that before?”
“No.” Beside him, Quinn shook her head. “We did create a pulse of some sort when we first met, but nothing like that.”
Sawyer shook her head and felt Jake’s arm tighten around her. “Well, whatever it was, I don’t think you should do it again,” he said. “That sort of power isn’t something you should be messing with.”
“I’m not sure we have a choice.” Groaning, Quinn hoisted herself to her feet. It didn’t look like an easy task. “All that power had to go somewhere.”
“Inside us,” replied Sawyer. She could feel the energy pulsing through her veins, not quite dormant beneath her skin. Quinn nodded her agreement.
A wide grin split across Spencer’s face, and he bounced up and down on his toes. “Does that mean it worked? Are you two actually the Guardians in the prophecy? The—what was the word for it?”
“Caomhnoir.” Such a strange word for who she was now. Even stranger that it was in a language that felt both foreign and familiar. But how was it possible? How could she be part of an ancient supernatural race when she was just a small-town girl from Oregon? Okay, so maybe she wasn’t just anything. She could see the future, after all. And they may have just awoken an ancient power possibly involved in an epic war in another world. What wasn’t normal about that?
“Wicked.” Draping an arm around Quinn’s shoulders, Spencer looked from one girl to the next. “Does that mean we can use your new powers to spite our enemies?”
“No,” Quinn said, rolling her eyes and shrugging him off. “We can’t. And where are you getting this ‘we’ thing? You didn’t just get knocked on your butt by a centuries-old power surge. You don’t have a destiny you knew nothing about looming before you. We do.” She gestured between herself and Sawyer. “Us. There is no we.”
A frown creased Sawyer’s brow just as hurt crumpled Spencer’s face. “Quinn…” she started, but in truth, she didn’t really know what to say. Quinn was right; this wasn’t Jake’s or Spencer’s burden. It was theirs. Theirs alone.
Jake cleared his throat. “I think what my sister is trying to say,”—Quinn shot him a dirty look—“is this is all a lot to take in. I’m sure they both have a ton of questions. I know I do. And I can’t imagine getting hit with whatever that light was, was easy. It hit you both pretty hard. But, what Spencer meant, little sister, is you’re not alone. Neither of you are.” He gave Sawyer’s shoulders a squeeze. “We’re in this together.”
Until you can feel that power crawling through your body, we’re not in this together.
Sawyer’s eyes widened. She wasn’t sure how she heard it, but somehow Quinn’s voice was in her mind.
Surprise lit Quinn’s face. You heard that? Sawyer nodded ever so slightly. That is so cool! Do you have my powers now?
Did she? Concentrating, she focused on entering Jake’s mind, but the only thoughts inside her head were her own. I don’t think so, she thought back. But maybe the ritual linked us together? You saw my visions, maybe we can communicate telepathically now.
Sawyer could see Quinn’s smirk, even in the dark. If it wasn’t so obvious, she was sure Quinn would be rubbing her hands together. The possibilities are endless.
A laugh escaped Sawyer’s lips, earning her a quizzical glance from the boys who were now in conversation about what the prophecy meant.
Glancing at his watch, Jake dug his car keys from his pocket. “It’s getting late,” he told them. “We should probably get home. Come on, I’ll give you guys a ride.”
Sawyer spent the whole way home lost in thought. What if she couldn’t do it? The Guardians were supposed to be these all-powerful beings meant to stop some epic war. What if they failed? What if she failed? Just the thought made her sick to her stomach.
Defeated, Sawyer stared down at her fingers in the dark. Blue light sparked from her fingertips. “What the…” Her voice came out as barely more than a whisper. Confused, she glanced over her shoulder to see if Spencer had noticed, but he was busy on his phone. His brow was furrowed in concentration in the screen’s illumination. Sawyer stared at her hands. Was this part of her now? Did all that power actually go inside of them? Worried, she stared at the window, watching her world go by and trying not to think about what would happen if they couldn’t control it.
Sawyer found it hard to sleep that night. Dreams and visions plagued her subconscious and she found herself reliving the flashes from the power surge the night before. She could still hear the stranger’s laughter in her ears.
Wiping the fog from the mirror, she tightened and readjusted her towel. Sparks flared from her fingertips again. Sawyer’s eyes widened. Fighting her panic, she closed her fist, squeezing it shut, willing the power to go out. But when she opened her hand once more, the blue light was still there. It grew into a flame as she watched, engulfing her palm until a small fire sat cradled in her hand. Frantic now, she tried to shake it off, but no matter how she turned her hand, it stayed there, just hovering above her skin. What was happening to her? Sawyer reached for the water, turning the faucet on full blast and plunged her hand into the stream. Nothing.
“Sawyer?” Even through the door, she could hear her mother’s concern. “Everything all right in there?”
My hand is on fire and I can’t put it out! she wanted to scream, but even if she could tell her mother the truth, she couldn’t get the words out. With her heart pounding in her ears, Sawyer forced herself to take a deep breath. She leaned back against the wall, her left hand gripping her flaming right wrist, and exhaled deeply. After a few more deep breaths, she was finally able to find her voice. “Yeah,” she replied, her voice shaking. “I just cut myself shaving. Couldn’t find a band aid.” With each breath, she willed the fire to go out, sighing in relief when it began to get smaller.
“Okay,” her mother replied, but Sawyer could tell she wasn’t convinced. “I have to go. There’s a big Partner meeting this morning and I can’t miss it. Breakfast is in the kitchen. If you hurry, it might not get cold.”
The flame was smaller now. “Thanks, Mom. I should be out in a few minutes.” Her mother offered a muffled goodbye, but Sawyer’s answer was barely audible. The light was down to the size of a quarter. Now a dime. And then, finally, the power went out. Sawyer heaved a sigh of relief before sliding down the wall.
“I caught on fire,” she told Quinn later that morning, catching her at her locker.
Startled, Quinn turned to face her, raising a brow at Sawyer’s hand gripping her bicep. “Am I supposed to understand what that means? From your lack of burns, I’m assuming you don’t mean actual fire.”
Shaking her head, Sawyer held out her hand. With a furtive look to either side, she closed her eyes. Blue fire sprouted from her skin.
“Holy crap!” Quinn exclaimed, clamping a hand over her mouth when she realized she’d shouted. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Does it hurt?”
“No. I mean, it’s warm, but it’s more like a tickle or something. If I couldn’t see it, I’d hardly know it was there.”
Quinn stared in awe. “That is so cool.” The click-clack of heels caught her attention and Quinn’s gaze darted over Sawyer’s shoulder and down the hall. “Oh man, put it out. Morgan’s coming.”
Sawyer immediately clamped one hand over the other, hiding the flame.
“Put it out,” hissed Quinn.
“I’m trying.” Closing her eyes again, Sawyer took one deep breath, then another. Maybe if she could recreate the calm from earlier that morning, she could turn it off. Quinn stepped in front of her just as Morgan approached.
Morgan raised one perfectly manicured brow. “Hiding something, Aspen?”
“Even if she was, it’s no concern of yours,” Quinn shot back.
Sawyer focused on her hand as the two girls argued, her concentration drowning them out. There. “Morgan, if I was interested in your opinion of my actions, I’d ask for it. As it is, I’ve got to get to class.” Turning to block Morgan’s view, she flashed Quinn her fire-free palm. A conspiratorial grin flashed across her face. Hoisting her bag onto her shoulder, Sawyer brushed past her nemesis, knocking her shoulder along the way. Quinn followed behind her, laughing as they found their seats.
Sawyer went to her desk, inadvertently dropping her books in the process. Wonderful. If her day kept up like that, it was going to be a long one. For crying out loud, it was only first period.
“Nice one, Loser,” Morgan hissed to her right, and Sawyer nearly groaned her displeasure. She wasn’t a violent person—in fact, she was a declared pacifist—but she was so sick of Morgan and all her antics that she had to clench her fist to keep from punching the girl in the face. Sawyer refused to get detention on top of everything else, but hitting Morgan Harris might just be worth it. Across the room, Quinn smirked. Sometimes it was a good thing her best friend could read her thoughts.
“Miss Harris,” Mr. Hightower chastised, his tone stern and disapproving. It was nice to see at least the teachers were still above her influence. To Sawyer’s delight, Morgan actually blushed. Sawyer tried not to smile. Quinn had this theory Morgan was quite possibly the spawn of Satan, though she hadn’t been able to prove it yet.
Hiding her grin, Sawyer leaned down to pick up her books. Unfortunately, that put her facing Morgan, and if looks could kill, she would be demon food by now. At least then Quinn would have her proof.
She wouldn’t stand a chance, Quinn thought, rolling her eyes dramatically and mimicking Morgan behind her back. In spite of herself, Sawyer laughed, outraging Morgan in the process.
“Ladies, is there a problem?”
“No, sir,” Sawyer and Quinn replied in unison.
Morgan smiled sweetly, hands folded demurely in her lap. “Sawyer was asking me for the notes on the lecture Friday morning. I was just explaining to her that it is inappropriate to interrupt the rest of us because she can’t be bothered to take notes.”
Seething, Quinn glared at her, but Morgan wasn’t looking at her. She was still smiling up at the teacher. Sawyer’s skin was tingling as if electricity was writhing on her palms.
Mr. Hightower pursed his lips, looking from one girl to the other. “Indeed.” Then he went back to his lecture as if nothing had happened.
From her own desk, Quinn began to rub her temples. Sawyer frowned. You okay?
“There are many different pantheons in mythology,” Mr. Hightower told them, writing the word pantheon on the white board with a dry erase pen. Sawyer focused on her hands, willing the pulsing throb to lessen. “Can anybody tell me what a pantheon is?”
A boy across the class raised his hand. “The recognized gods of any group of people.”
“Precisely. And what are some examples of these groups of people?”
Sawyer’s heart began to race, the blood rushing in her ears. This couldn’t be happening here. And what was going on with Quinn?
Mr. Hightower began to make a list. Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Norse, Native American, Celtic. Chinese, Germanic, Slavic. The list went on and on.
Blue light flickered from Sawyer’s fingertips again and she clenched her jaw, her eyes flashing around the room to see if anyone had seen. No one seemed to be paying any attention to her. Morgan—thank the gods—was busy taking notes on the lecture, as Sawyer should have been.
“Pantheons of gods can include demigods as well and all of them have a creation story,” Mr. Hightower continued. “Sometimes, there are even stories of how the gods started over with their chose people after the first attempt succumbed to evil or sin.”
“Like Noah’s Ark,” the same boy said. Mr. Hightower nodded.
Squeezing her eyes shut, Sawyer fought to calm her breathing, counting backwards from ten the way she had since she was a kid. Ten. Nine. Eight. The tingling in her fingers began to fade. Five. Four. Three. Chancing a glance at her fingers, she sighed with relief. No blue lights. No sparks. Good.
Pulling out her notebook, she began taking notes as the teacher rattled off the elements of a creation story and started asking for examples. “The interesting thing about mythology, is that most of these pantheons come complete with their own set of prophecies.”
Sawyer smirked. He truly had no idea. Determined not to let Morgan get to her, Sawyer stared out the window. She’d always found the trees surrounding campus to be a comfort. Something about being that close to nature comforted her. She could feel the energy in her hands calming down. What once felt like sparklers on her fingertips now felt like the steady hum of static electricity. She would need to work on that, to control her power, otherwise she would be worthless as a Guardian. And why wasn’t Quinn having these issues? Were her powers enhanced as well, like the link between their minds? Or would she be able to control her new powers as easily as she controlled her old ones?
A surge of unfamiliar jealousy spurted through Sawyer, and with it, the energy on her skin increased. Across the room, Quinn shot her a concerned look. There was a quick sensation of fingers combing through her mind before Quinn’s eyes widened with confusion and then hurt. Sawyer focused on her breathing, willing the feel to go away. She’d never been jealous of Quinn before and she had no desire to start now.
Two more deep breaths and her heart rate began to slow. Grounded once more, Sawyer watched the trees. The slightest bit of movement on the west end caught her eye. Was that a person? Narrowing her eyes, she tried to see him better. Yes, that was…was that Grayson Stark? What on earth was he doing on campus? He didn’t go to her school. And yet, there he was.
And he was staring right at her.
The rest of the day was more of a train wreck. Every time she lost her focus, her powers would rise. She’d almost electrocuted her math teacher when he’d handed back the test she’d missed a few points on, and nearly set a trash can on fire during lunch. Quinn, though Sawyer had thought otherwise, didn’t appear to be fairing any better. Her powers had amplified her ability to hear thoughts, but instead of being able to pick and choose like she had before, she’d been overrun with every thought her classmates were having, giving her a massive migraine she couldn’t shake.
“Maybe you should go home,” Sawyer told her as the two girls and Jake were gathering their things for their last period. “It wouldn’t be a lie to say you don’t feel well. Jake could take you home.” Face full of concern, Jake nodded. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to walk home alone just now.”
“Yeah, I’m getting that,” Quinn muttered with a grimace. “Your thoughts are coming through loud and clear. You don’t think you could tone that down and quit yelling at me, do you?”
“Sorry.” Empathetic, Sawyer glanced at Jake. “Get her home, okay? And call me later to let me know how she is.”
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“There’s got to be a way to curb this. I can’t go around setting people on fire any more than Quinn can live being bombarded by everyone’s thoughts. Maybe there’s something in that book with the ritual. Do you have it with you?” Quinn pulled it out of her bag and handed it to Sawyer. “Thanks. Well, we’ve scoured the school library. I’ll check out the community library after class today if there’s nothing in this one, see what I can find. Maybe Spencer will go with me. Where is he today, anyway?”
“I haven’t seen him, but I can meet you there, if you want,” Jake said. “That’ll give me time to get Quinn home and check Mom’s office for anything peculiar.”
“You think Mom knows something about this?” Quinn asked, surprised. “Why?”
“I’m not sure she does,” he replied, “but it seems plausible that if you two are these ancient Guardians the prophecy spoke about, both your moms would know something. They knew each other from before, right? And neither of them will talk about it. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that you both ended up in the same small town? That can’t be a coincidence.”
“Well it didn’t, but it does now,” Sawyer grumbled. “Okay. See what you can find out, then meet me at the library around four. Sound good?” The bell rang, its shrill alarm echoing down the crowded hall. “Hang in there, okay?” she said to Quinn. “I’ve got to go.”
Waving them off, Sawyer darted into the girls room to catch her breath. This was all too much. Could her mother really know what was happening and not bothered to tell her? Even the thought of that sort of betrayal felt like a punch in the gut. Locking herself in a stall, she waited for the panic to settle, watching the blue flames dance along her arms. She was washing her hands, trying to lose the sensation, when the restroom door opened, and Morgan walked in.
The two girls glared at each other, neither willing to move. With a shrug, Morgan pushed her aside and began checking her makeup in the mirror. Something about the physical shove pushed Sawyer over the edge. The water in the still-running sink began to bubble and glow blue. She could see the steam fogging up the mirror, dancing its way up to the ceiling like a flame. Before Sawyer could stop her, Morgan stuck her hands into the boiling stream and jerked them back with a blood-curdling scream.
Sawyer stared in horror at Morgan’s hand. Had she done that? Panic started to well in her and Sawyer had no idea what would happen next. “The sink must have malfunctioned,” she told Morgan, a plea in her voice. “You should get to the nurse.”
“The sink didn’t malfunction, Sawyer,” Morgan exclaimed. “You did this to me!”
Energy thrummed over Sawyer’s skin. “Get help,” she murmured quietly, then darted from the room. She finally stopped on the far side of the gym, away from the main part of campus. What had she just done? How had she done it? Her heart was thundering in her chest; it was a wonder no one could hear it. Her hands and arms were still engulfed in the blue pulsing energy. She pressed them up against the cool stone, hoping the temperature would calm them. For a moment, it seemed to work. Then movement caught her eye in the trees once more.
“Hey!” Sawyer called out, pushing off the building. Hiking her backpack onto her shoulders, she started walking across the grass, all thoughts of Morgan forgotten. It was Grayson again, she was sure of it. “Hey!” she called again when he turned away and started into the woods. Sawyer broke into a jog. “Wait. Grayson, I know it’s you!” When she got to the fence, he’d disappeared, but she could still hear him trudging through the woods. Sawyer threw her backpack over the chain-link fence and climbed after it. When her feet hit the ground, she began to run.
She didn’t make it far before she knew she was alone. There was no sign of him, and she couldn’t hear anything but the chatter of birds. Sawyer let out a frustrated cry, sending her chirping companions flying in a flurry of wings. She’d lost him. Damn it!
The energy began to build again, but this time, she didn’t stop it. She let it coalesce into a ball of light about eight inches in diameter. She could feel it pulsing between her palms and let all her fear and frustration feed it until it glowed so brightly, she could see every detail of the stream that fed into the lake beyond. Then she let it loose.
The energy flew through the air, not stopping until it crashed like a firework against the rocks at the far side of the stream. Her power lit the air, for a moment illuminating a disruption in the mud. Pulling out her phone and turning on the flashlight function, Sawyer moved closer. She shined the flashlight on the ground and gasped. There, perfectly imprinted in the mud, was the paw print of a wolf.
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