Malice laughed. “Bout time you woke up. Do you know who you are?”
I grunted and tried to get down. “Yes, I do. So put me down, you lummox!”
He laughed harder, but set me down. I stared up at him. “So where do we go now?”
He shrugged. “First, we need to figure out how to create new talismans for ourselves.”
I sighed. “As if it were that easy.”
“I know. But we won’t be safe otherwise. And warping like that fatigued us both. We need talismans soon.”
I nodded furiously. “I was lucky I didn’t have another nightmare.”
He stooped down so he was eye-to-eye with me. “I would have saved you. You know that.”
I felt my eyes water and I looked away.
He grabbed my chin and made me look at him. “I won’t let anything hurt you as long as I exist. I’ve sworn it to you before, and I’ll swear it again as many times as you need me to.”
I hugged his neck. “Thanks Malice.”
He laughed. “No problem, Aneen.”
I let go of him and looked up at him. He smiled sweetly at me. “Do you remember how we met?”
He got up and began walking. I followed, reminiscing.
“I didn’t know who I was or how I got there.”
“The only memory you recovered was your name.”
I nodded. “I was scared. Without a talisman.”
“You had survived a nightmare. No wonder you lost your memories.”
“And you found me there.”
“I felt needles—which was strange. I had never felt pain before, except for in minor instances, and I felt someone screaming for help. I followed my gut, and found you.”
“I cried for hours.”
“I probably would have too, honestly. Pain is no party.”
“You just held me and told me I was safe.”
“That’s all I could do.”
“Yep. You came home to my village. We decided to travel, to look for where you had come from.”
“I guess I had warped without my talisman, and the distance was too far for me to handle.”
“We looked for months.”
“No one knew me. It was like I had warped from a place no one else had been.”
“So we came back to my village, and everyone welcomed you.”
By now, we were reaching the village he spoke of. Houses looked like boxes. Due to special powers possessed by few of us, homes were storm-proof, leak-proof, and fire-proof. However, they all looked the same, so signs were erected to differentiate.
I breathed the familiar scent of earth, and of bread baking. “I missed it here.” I admitted.
“Me too.” He growled. “Those idiots who came after us… they better not have roughed anyone up here.”
I agreed, preparing the air around me to change into my weapon at the slightest provocation.
“Why did they want us?” I asked.
He shrugged. “They only wanted you. They weren’t too friendly about it, though. Taking us prisoner.”
I nodded. “Why didn’t you just back off and let them take me?”
“What kind of friend would I be then?”
“I could have warped away eventually—”
“I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if something happened to you. Those idiots…”
I quieted myself and focused on the village. The sun was setting already, to the North.
In my dreams, the sun always sets in the West. That shows you how fake it is…
I laughed to myself and walked ahead of Malice. “Let’s see if your buddies took care of your house while we were away.”
He nodded and picked up his pace. “Knowing them, they used it as a place to party.”
The house was blissfully clean, thankfully. The lady we had to thank for that stood ahead of us. She turned to us, and her long, thick braid of gold kept going when she stopped. I smiled at her, remembering not to stand too close to her when she was doing things that required movement.
She was the wife of one of Malice’s closest friends, and she had treated me with such kindness ever since I first arrived there. I almost considered her like family, even though I admittedly hadn’t known her for long. Then again, since I don’t know where I came from, she’s the closest to family I have.
Her grey eyes glittered, and her strangely deep, matronly voice emanated clearly and loudly from her relatively tiny frame. “I made sure the house was kept.” She said, giving me a hug. “I am so glad you’re okay.”
“What about me?” Malice teased. “Tora, you did a great job, but…”
“Yes,” Tora laughed. “I’m sorry. However, the people who took you made it clear they were only after her. I knew you could make it out, but I didn’t know if they hurt her.” She patted him on the shoulder. “I know you can take care of yourself.”
He shrugged. “You know I wouldn’t let them hurt her.”
I cleared my throat. “Tora, we lost our talismans and we had to warp to escape.”
She looked surprised. “Should I ask Dune to make you one until you can make your own?”
I nodded. “That would be great. How long?”
She shook her head. “That, I’ll have to ask Dune.”
I shrugged. “We can get a little sleep until then, as long as we take turns and watch whoever’s sleeping.”
Malice nodded. “You go first.”
I started to protest but he gave me a stony look. “I said you go first, Aneen.”
I whimpered. “I’m not tired.”
He sighed and sat down hard on his couch. “Was it the resting in the field?”
I shrugged. “I… I just don’t feel tired right now. Get some sleep, and I’ll talk to Dune when he comes.”
Tora’s husband, Dune, was Malice’s oldest friend. The two were almost like brothers. They even shared the same taste in weapons. Dune was talented, like a few others in the universe, in the making of Universal talismans. Normally, one can only make a talisman for oneself, but Dune could make one that works for anyone, if only for a while. Universal talismans last a week or so, and then they just stop working. No one really knows why. However, that would be enough time for us to make our own talismans. In fact, while I waited for Malice to wake up and for Dune to come by, I should have been thinking about how to make mine.
Instead, I ended up playing with the air around me, materializing my scythe, changing its shape, toying with its color. After all, I didn’t have any unique powers—this was basically the most I could do.
I glanced over at Malice, seeing his face slack and rested. I smiled. It was a rare sight to see him relaxed—even rarer to see him asleep. Unless he exerted himself, Malice could stay up for almost twice as long as anyone else. He also had about him this strange feeling that would spread to others. It was a feeling of intense intimidation—and that is why he was called Malice. Even though he was a very friendly guy, people who met him for the first time usually backed away from him as if he would tear their limbs off and beat them to death with them at the slightest provocation.
A knock at the door alerted me—and Dune came in, giving me a sly glance. “Stare at him a little harder, girl. He might bite your face off.”
“Oh, haha.” I grumbled, standing up. He gave me a hug.
“It’s good to see you still alive.”
I nodded, feeling awkward at how hard he was hugging me. I couldn’t move. “So…”
He laughed and let go of me. “Sorry. I just thought the worst when you guys got taken away. I was afraid that Mal would get in over his head, and that you would either come home alone or…”
I looked away. “We’re both here, though. You’re even more emotional than Tora was.”
He shook himself, and his short, sand-colored hair flew around. “Yeah, you’re right. You guys need talismans, right?”
I smiled at him and sat back down, next to Malice. He sat down in a seat nearby.
“We do. Ours were taken, so we wouldn’t escape by warping.”
He shrugged. “They underestimated you guys. That was a chancy gamble there, though.”
“It had to be done.” I said, thinking about how many of those guys were coming in either direction. “Although I think we could have taken them on, if he would just let me fight.”
Dune laughed uproariously. Malice didn’t react.
“You know he won’t do that. Although you learned fast, he is still terrified that you’ll get in over your head.” He laughed and looked at my sleeping guardian. “Though, to tell the truth… I think he’s just afraid he wouldn’t have anything to protect anymore.”
I grunted. “Well, we should be a team. I don’t like letting him do all the fun stuff.”
Dune hitched an eyebrow at me. “Eh, you still don’t get it.”
Indignantly, I glowered at him and asked, “Get what?”
He looked away from me with a grin on his face. “Aw, nothing.”
“What don’t I get, Dune?”
He whistled nonchalantly. He then cleared his throat, “Now about those talismans…”
“Dune. Answer me.”
He sighed and gave me a cold stare. “If you have to ask, then I can’t tell you. Either think on it yourself, or ask him when he wakes up.”
“What am I supposed to ask him?”
Dune threw his hands up in aggravation. “Ask yourself, then. Sheesh, girl.” He raked through his hair in aggravation. “Now look me in the eyes and let’s get on with the talisman-making.”
I grumbled to myself but followed directions. I stared into his tan eyes, and found myself thinking they looked more orange than tan. They looked so strange, and swirly. I could see the spinning of particles, much like planets around a star. It was my dream world, I realized, and then I found myself falling into it, reflected in his eyes.
I saw the world that only existed in my head, where America was a country, and so were Russia and China and so many other places. There were these big machines everywhere that allowed us to go from place to place, as well as smaller ones that pass the time and communicate with each other from a distance.
Dune blinked and I shook my head. “Done.” He said. He held something in his hand that looked like one of those small communicator-things in my dream. What was commonly called a cell-phone. Dune looked at it. “This thing looks kinda… useless.”
I shrugged. “My dreams.”
He nodded, “Send for me when he wakes up. I’m going home for now.” He got up and went toward the door. Without turning back, he told me, sternly, “Think about what I said earlier, though.”
I started to ask him more, but then the door shut behind him, and I bit at my lip, feeling confused and disgruntled.