Ime clears his throat. “So, when you heal someone, what does it feel like?”
“I don’t know if I can explain it properly.”
“Well, it gathers here,” she touches her chest, over her heart, “and when I’m healing someone I send it into them. I feel warmth flow from my chest, down my arms, and into whoever it is. I direct where the warmth goes and it heals them. I see the wound and how to fix it.”
“And what about when they’re close to death?”
Meah furrows her brow. “I can feel their warmth disappearing. I send my warmth to bring it back, but if they’re too far gone it takes away my own warmth. I think it could kill me. If I could find someone to teach me, maybe someday I could bring someone back from the farther reaches of death, but I don’t know what the cost would be to me.” She touches Ime’s hand. “What does your magic feel like?”
Ime looks at his hands and clenches them into fists. “Each one feels different. When I use my air magic it sort of feels like an extension from my body, like the air all around me reaches out and moves everything around me. Earth feels like it comes from my legs. I can feel it below me and I can use the air to help move it. When I open the earth it’s like I can shift all of it. If I wanted, maybe I could make mountains or split the earth into new lands. Water…water is my favorite to use, but not for fighting. It feels like my whole body is controlling it. I feel the water in my body telling the water around me what to do.” He pauses.
“What about fire?” Meah asks.
His eyes dart back and forth as his mind searches for the words. He sighs and leans back on his hands. “I remember when I first used my fire magic. It scared the hell out of me. My sister and I were walking through the forest by my village and a wild lurgen attacked us.”
“Oh, they’re little four legged animals people from my village sometimes kept as pets. But this one was mad, feral. It tried to bite my sister. When I tried to stop it, fire erupted from my hand. I didn’t know exactly what happened, but saw the lurgen was gone. My sister had to tell me over and over that fire shot out of my hand before I would believe her. I tried to do it again, but I couldn’t. As I practiced more and more I realized the secret. The difference between the fire magic and the others was I didn’t need a physical source nearby. I could create it myself. I don’t know exactly how, but it’s similar to your healing magic.”
Ime places Meah’s hand on his chest. “I can feel the fire here, in my heart. I need to use my other magic to bring it out. It’s like they all work together somehow to bring the fire in my heart into the real world.”
Meah stares at her hand on Ime’s chest. Her own heart flutters in her chest. She pulls the hand away slowly. “What…what did it feel like when the Blood King took your fire away?”
Anger flashes across Ime’s face and he turns away from her. “It’s a horrible feeling. His power rips your magic from inside of you. I could feel my other magic trying to keep my fire from being taken, but it couldn’t.”
“When we defeat him, we’ll get your magic back.”
“If we beat him.”
“Of course we will. We’re going to find that city in the cliffs, we’ll get an army larger and more powerful than his, and we will win.”
Ime laughs. “You sound very sure.”
She nudges him with her elbow. “I know it will happen. We Rare Kinds have to stick together.” She smiles.
Ime raises a finger and flicks it at her. Water splashes from the pool onto her. She playfully pushes him a little more roughly than she had expected. Ime shouts as he falls into the pool of water.
Meah leans over the side of the rock as he breaks the surface. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to push you that hard!”
Ime yells and jumps from the water. He grabs her and pulls her in. She barely has time to grab a lungful of air before crashing into the cool water. The pool is much deeper than it looked from above. She kicks her legs and crashes through the surface.
Birds sleeping in the trees scatter at the sound and Meah searches for Ime. He swims under her and tugs her legs. She screams and looks down at his shadow. He rises from the water and laughs. Meah glares at him, but can’t keep a smile from her lips. She laughs and their laughter echoes in the clearing. They splash each other with water, Ime winning with his magic.
A strange light fills the pool and the two look down. Hundreds of small, startled fish swim around the pool. Light shines from their scales, dancing below the surface. Several swim towards the waterfall and jump up the water. Ime watches the fish for a moment before swimming towards the waterfall. Meah follows. They watch with wonder-filled eyes as the small fish make it to the top of the waterfall.
“I’ve never seen fish swim up a waterfall. How are they doing that?” Meah asks.
Ime watches the fish carefully. He reaches his hand into the waterfall and grabs one. He holds it in his hand. The fish wiggles furiously and its mouth opens and closes, gasping for breath. Water flies into Ime’s hand and the fish uses it to leap from his hand. It disappears into the rushing water and Ime smiles. “It’s magic. They’re using water magic to climb the waterfall.”
As the fish climb, the lights from their scales flicker out, but new lights glow behind the water. The fishes’ movements awaken worms hanging on the rocks beneath the water. Unlike the fish, they have multiple colors and as the two watch them the worms slowly move away.
Ime looks at Meah and grabs her hand. “Come on.”
“There’s something behind the waterfall.”
He pulls her toward the rushing water, but when they reach it he raises a hand and the water parts, allowing them to pass through. The water crashes down behind them and they enter a small cave. The worms have moved to the ceiling and walls of the cave, waking other worms. The worms’ lights glow brightly and the cave fills with a kaleidoscope of colors. The water glows under Meah and Ime as fish in the pool swim in circles beneath, occasionally leaping to swallow any worms close enough to the water.
Meah swims around the cave, spinning in the water to take in the strange world around her. Her eyes wide with amazement, she laughs happily. She smiles at Ime. He is staring at her, not the cave. The light reflecting off and from the water makes her body glow. Ime swims closer and wraps an arm around her waist. He places his other hand on the back of her head and pulls her into a kiss. Meah pulls away suddenly and stares at him.
Then she wraps her arms around him and kisses him passionately. It surprises Ime enough he forgets to use his magic and they fall under the water. The lights from the fish surround them and Ime raises them back to the surface. They gasp for air and look at each other. They laugh and kiss again.
“We should head back,” Meah says. Ime looks at her with disappointment. “We have to tell everyone the plan. Plus, we should probably get into some dry clothes.”
Ime smiles and they swim out of the cave. They walk back to the village talking about nothing in particular. Ime talks about all the trouble he used to get into with his sister. Meah tells him about her village and the surrounding valley.
“Meah! Ime! There you are!” Daniil’s voice calls from the doorway of the larger hut. Loud voices, coming from inside, signal the end of the celebration. Everyone is waiting for them.
“Where have you two been? Everyone’s bugging us about the plan. What’s the plan? Do you know the plan? What’s Ime’s plan? Does Meah agree with Ime’s plan? Could you please tell them we don’t have a plan?” Kylii yells angrily.
Ime and Meah look at each other and smile. Ime walks past the brothers into the hut. Meah, Daniil, and Kylii follow and everyone inside the hut falls silent, turning to Ime.
Ime takes a deep breath. “I’m going to the city in the cliffs.”
The freed slaves begin to shout at each other, with some for the plan and others against. The villagers move away from the freed slaves to avoid being caught in the middle.
Jaxon appears at the opposite doorway and leans on the side of the hut. He watches Ime carefully.
“Jaxon is right!” Ime yells over the arguing. The arguing stops and eyes return to Ime. “Jaxon is right. Even though we’ve escaped Klaeon’s Arena, he will still come after us, our homes, those we love. There is only one thing to do. Stop him. I am going to the cliff city. Those who wish to join me may, but no one will be forced to come. If this is the end of your journey with me I wish you the gods care to make it to wherever you wish to go. I will leave in two days. Whoever is going with me, I will see you then. That is all I have to say.”
Ime looks at Meah and she grabs his hand. He smiles and leads her through the crowded hut to the opposite door. He locks eyes with Jaxon. “Your map better be right.”
“We’ll find out together.”
Ime and Meah leave the hut and head for Pu’ah’s home. Fresh, dry clothes are waiting for them. They move to opposite sides of the room and begin changing. Meah unties the strings on her dress and pulls the wet cloth over her head. She grabs a dry dress and pulls it over her head. She bites her bottom lip and slowly turns her head.
Ime has his shirt off and new dry pants on. He is staring at the new shirt provided, gray, which reflects the silver of his eyes. He runs his hand through his damp hair and Meah takes a quick breath as the muscles in his back move. He looks around for another possible shirt and catches Meah staring at him. Her eyes move up and down his chest.
“Everything all right?” Ime asks.
Meah crosses the room to him and reaches a tentative hand out to his chest. He watches her, unmoving. She places her hand on his chest and her magic fills her hand. She jumps and pulls her hand away. Ime stares at her confused, but she quickly presses her hand against his chest again. Magic fills her hand and she feels Ime’s muscles. She feels his heart beating as though she holds it in her hand.
A hand covers hers and she looks up into Ime’s silver eyes. She feels his heartbeat speed up and she leans close. He meets her halfway and their lips touch. Ime drops his shirt and wraps his arms around her.
They part and Meah tries to remove her dress. When she has difficulty, Ime helps then lays her down on the blankets set out for them.