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Black Dawn (Chapter 9)

She was in his mind. It was all around her, like astrange and perilous world. A terribly frighteningworld, but one that was full of stark beauty.

Everything was angles, as if she'd fallen into theheart of a giant crystal. Everything glittered, coldand clear and sharp. There were flashes of color aslight shimmered and reflected, but for the most part it was dazzling transparency in every direction. Like the fractured ice of a glacier.

Really dangerous,Maggie thought. The spikes of crystal around her had edges like swords. The place looked as if it had never known warmth or softcolor.

And youlive here?she thought to Delos.

Go away.Delos's answering thought came to her.on a wave of cold wind. Get out!

No,Maggie said. You can't scare me. I've climbed glaciers before.It was then that she realized whatthis place reminded her of. A summit. The bareand icy top of a mountain where no plants-andcertainly no people-could survive.

But didn'tanything goodever happen to you? shewondered. Didn't you ever have a friend…or apet… or something?

No friends,he said shortly. No pets. Get out of here before I hurt you.

Maggie didn't answer, because even as he said itthings were changing around her. It was as if the glinting surfaces of the nearby crystals were suddenly reflecting scenes, perfect little pictures withpeople moving in them. As soon as Maggie lookedat one, it swelled up and seemed to surround her.

They were his memories. She was seeing bits ofhis childhood.

She saw a child who had been treated as aweapon from the time he was born. It was all aboutsome prophecy. She saw men and women gatheredaround a little boy, four years old, whose blacklashed golden eyes were wide and frightened.

"No question about it," the oldest man was saying. Delos's teacher, Maggie realized, the knowledge flowing to her because Delos knew it, and shewas in Delos's mind.

"This child is one of the Wild Powers," theteacher said, and his voice was full of awe andfear. His trembling hands smoothed out a brittlepiece of scroll. As soon asMaggie saw it she knew that the scroll was terribly old and had been keptin the Dark Kingdom for centuries, preserved hereeven when it was lost to the outside world.

"Four Wild Powers," the old man said, "who willbe needed at the millennium to save the world-or-to destroy it. The prophecy tells where they willcome from." And he read:

"One from the land of kings long forgotten; One from the hearth which still holds the spark; One from the Day World where two eyes are watching; One from the twilight to be one with the dark.",

The child Delos looked around the circle of grim faces, hearing the words but not understandingthem.

"'The land of kings, long forgotten,"' a womanwas saying. "That must be the Dark Kingdom."

"Besides, we've seen what he can do," a big mansaid roughly. "He's a Wild Power, all right. The bluefire is in his blood. He's learned to use it too early, though; he can't control it. See?"

He grabbed a small arm-the left one-and heldit up. It was twisted somehow, the fingers clawed and stiff, immobile.

The little boy tried to pull his hand away, but hewas too weak. The adults ignored him.

"The king wants us to find spells to hold thepower in," the woman said. "Or he'll damage himself permanently."

"Not to mention damaging us," the rough mansaid, and laughed harshly.

The little boy sat stiff and motionless as theyhandled him like a doll. His golden eyes were dryand his small jaw was clenched with the effort notto give in to tears.

That's awful,Maggie said indignantly, aiming herthought at the Delos of the present. It's a terrible way to grow up. Wasn't there anybody who cared about you? Your father?

Goaway, he said. I don't need your sympathy.

And your arm,Maggie said, ignoring the cold emptiness of his thought. Is that what happens toitwhen you use the blue fire?

He didn't answer, not in a thought directed ather. But another memory flashed in the facets of a crystal, and Maggie found herself drawn into it.

She saw a five-year-old Delos with his armwrapped in what looked like splints or a brace. Asshe looked at it, she knew it wasn't just a brace. It was made of spells and wards to confine the blue fire.

"This is it," the woman who had spoken beforewas saying to the circle of men. "We can controlhim completely."

"Are you sure? You witches are careless sometimes. You're sure he can't use it at all now?" Theman who said it was tall, with a chilly, austereface-and yellow eyes like Delos's.

Your father,Maggie said wonderingly to Delos. And his name was … Tormentil? But …She couldn't go on, but she was thinking that he didn'tlook much like a loving father. He seemed just likethe others.

"Until I remove the wards, he can't use it at all.I'm sure, majesty." The woman said the last word in an everyday tone, but Maggie felt a little shock.Hearing somebody get called majesty-it made him moreof a king, somehow.

"The longer they're left on, the weaker he'll be,"

the woman continued. "And hecan't take them offhimself. But I can, at any time – "

"And then he'll still be useful as a weapon?" "Yes. But blood has to run before he can use the blue fire."

The king said brusquely, "Show me."

The woman murmured a few words and strippedthe brace off the boy's arm. She took a knife fromher belt and with a quick, casual motion, like Maggie's grandmother guttinga salmon, opened a gash on his wrist.

Five-year-old Delos didn't flinch or make asound. His golden eyes were fixed on his father's faceas blood dripped onto the floor.

"I don't think this is a good idea," the old teachersaid. "The blue fire isn't meant to be used like this,and it damages his arm every time he does it=

"Now," the king interrupted, ignoring him andspeaking to the child for the first time. "Show mehow strong you are, son. Turn the blue fire on …" He glanced up deliberately at the teacher. "Let'ssay-him."

"Majesty!" The old man gasped, backing againstthe wall.

The golden eyes were wide and afraid.

"Do it!" the king said sharply, and when the littleboy shook his head mutely, he closed his hand onone small shoulder. Maggie could see his fingerstighten painfully. "Do what I tell you. Now!" Delos turned his wide golden eyes on the old man, who was now shrinking and babbling, his trembling hands held up as if to ward off a blow.

The king changed his grip, lifted the boy's arm.

"Now, brat! Now!"

Blue fire erupted. It poured in a continuousstream like the water from a high-power fire hose.It struck the old man and spreadeagled him againstthe wall, his eyes and mouth open with horror. Andthen there was no old man. There was only a shad owy silhouette made of ashes.

"Interesting," the king said, dropping the boy'sarm. His anger had disappeared as quicklyasithad come.

"Actually, I thought there would bemore power. I thought it might take out the wall."

"Give him time." The woman's voice was slightlythick, and she was swallowing over and over.

"Well, no matter what, hell be useful." The kingturned to look at the others in the room. "Remember-all of you. A time of darkness is coming. Theend of the millennium means the end of the world.But whatever happens outside, this kingdom isgoing to survive."

Throughout all of this, the little boy sat andstared at the place where the old man had been.His eyes were wide, the pupils huge and fixed. Hisface was white, but without expression.

Maggie struggled to breathe.

That's-that's themost terrible thing I've ever seen.She could hardly get the words of her thought out. Theymade you kill your teacher-he made you do it. Yourfather. She didn't know what to say. Sheturned blindly, trying to find Delos himself in this strange landscape, trying to talk to him directly.She wanted to look at him, to hold him. To comfort him. I'm so sorry. I'mso sorry you had to grow uplike that.

Don't be stupid,he said. I grew up to be strong.That's what counts.

You grew up without anyone loving you,Maggiesaid.

He sent a thought like ice. Love is for weak people. It's a delusion. And it can be deadly.

Maggie didn't know how to answer. She wanted to shake him. All that stuff about the end of the millennium and the end of the world-what did that mean?

Exactly what it sounded like,Delos said briefly. The prophecies are coming true. The world o f hu mans is about to end in blood and darkness. And then the Night People are going to rule again.

And that's why they turned a five-year-old into alethal weapon? Maggie wondered. The thoughtwasn't for Delos, but she could feel that he heard it.

I am what I was meant to be,he said. And I don't want to be anything else.

Are you sure?Maggie looked around. Althoughshe couldn't have described what she was doing, she knew what it was. She was looking forsomething… something to prove to him …

A scene flashed in the crystal.

The boy Delos was eight. He stood in front of apile of boulders, rocks the size of small cars. Hisfather stood behind him.

"Now!"

As soonasthe king spoke, the boy lifted his arm.Blue fire flashed. A boulder exploded, disintegrating into atoms.

Again!

Another rock shattered.

"More power! You're not trying. You're useless!"The entire pile of boulders exploded. The bluefire kept streaming, taking out a stand of trees behind the boulders and crashing into the side of amountain. It chewed through the rock, meltingshale and granite like a flamethrower burning awooden door.

The king smiled cruelly and slapped his son onthe back.

"That's better."

No. That's horrible,Maggie told Delos. That'swrong. This is what it should be like.

And she sent to him images of her own family.Not that the Neelys were anything special. Theywere like anybody. They had fights, some of them pretty bad. But there were lots of good times, too, and that was what she showed him. She showed him her life… herself.

Laughingasher father frantically blew on a flaming marshmallow on some long-past campingtrip. Smelling turpentine and watching magical colors unfold on canvasas her mother painted. Perch ing dangerously on the handlebars of a bike while Miles pedaled behind her, then shrieking all theway down a hill. Waking up to a rough warmtongue licking her face, opening one eye to see Jake the Great Dane panting happily. Blowing out candles at a birthday party. Ambushing Miles from herdoorway with a heavy-duty water rifle

Who is that?Delos asked. He had been thawing;Maggie could feel it. There were so many thingsin the memories that were strange to him: yellowsunshine, modern houses, bicycles, machinerybut she could feel interest and wonder stir in himat the people.

Until now, when she was showing him a sixteenyear-old Miles, a Miles who looked pretty muchlike the Miles of today.

That's Miles. He's my brother. He's eighteen and he just started college.Maggie paused, trying to feel what Delos was thinking. He's the reason I'm here.He got involved with this girl called Sylvia-Ithinkshe's a witch. And then he disappeared. I went tosee Sylvia, and the next thing I know I'm waking up ina slave-trader's cart. In a place I never knew existed.

Delos said, I see.

Delos, do you know him? Have you seen him be fore?Maggie tried to keep the question calm. She would have thought she could see anything thatDelos was thinking, that it would all be reflected inthe crystals around her, that there was nothing he could hide. But now suddenly she wasn't sure.

It's best for you to leave that alone,Delos said.

I can't,Maggie snapped back. He's my brother! If he's in trouble I have to find him-I have to helphim. That's what I've been trying to explainto you. We help each other.

Delos said, Why?

Because we do. Because that's what people are supposed to do. And even you know that, somewhere down deep. You were trying to help me in my dream

She could feel him pull away. Your dreams are just your fantasies.

Maggie said flatly, No. Not this one. I had it before I met you.

She could remember more of it now. Here in his mind thedetailswere coming to her, all the things that had been unclear before. And there was onlyone thing to do.

She showed it to Delos.

The mist, the figure appearing, calling her name.The wonder and joy in his face when he caughtsight of her. The way his hands closed on hershoulders, so gently, and the look of inexpressibletenderness in his eyes.

And then -I remember!Maggie said. Youtold meto look for a pass,underneath a rock thatlooked likea wave about to break You told me to get awayfromhere, to escape. Andthen…

She remembered what had happened then, andfaltered.

And then he had kissed her.

She could feel it again, his breath a soft warmthon her cheek, and then the touch of his lips, just as soft. There had been so much in that kiss, somuch of himself revealed. It had been almost shy in its gentleness, but charged with a terrible passion, as if he had known it was the last kiss theywould ever share.

It was … so sad,Maggie said, faltering again.Not from embarrassment, but because she was suddenly filled with an intensity of emotion that fright ened her. I don't know what it meant, but it was so sad….

Then, belatedly, she realized what was happeningwith Delos.

He was agitated. Violently agitated. The crystalworld around Maggie was trembling with denialand fury-and fear.

That wasn't me. I'm not like that,he said in avoice that was like a sword made of ice.

It was,she said, not harshly but quietly. I don't understand it, but it really was you. I don't understand any of this. But there's a connection betweenus. Look what's happening to us right now. Is thisnormal? Do you people always fall into each oth ers' minds?

Get out!The words were a shout that echoedaround Maggie from every surface. She could feel his anger; it was huge, violent, like a primal storm. And she could feel the terror that was underneath it, and hear the word that he was thinking anddidn't want to think, that he was trying to bury and run away from.

Soulmates.That was the word. Maggie couldsense what it meant. Two people connected, boundto each other forever, soul to soul, in a way thateven death couldn't break. Two souls that were destined for each other.

It's a lie,Delos said fiercely. I don't believe in souls. I don't love anyone. And I don't have any feelings!

And then the world broke apart.

That was what it felt like. Suddenly, all aroundMaggie, the crystals were shattering and fracturing.Pieces were falling with the musical sound of ice.Nothing was stable, everything was turning to chaos.

And then, so abruptly that she lost her breath,she was out of his mind.

She was sitting on the ground in a small cave lit only by a dancing, flickering flame. Shadows wavered on the walls and ceiling. She was in her ownbody, and Delos was holding her in his arms.

But even as she realized it, he pulled away and stood up. Even in the dimness she could see that his face was pale, his eyes fixed.

As she got to her feet, she could see somethingelse, too. It was strange, but their minds were still connected, even though he'd thrown her out of his world.

And what she saw…was herself. Herselfthrough his eyes.

She saw someone who wasn't at all the frailblond princess type, not a bit languid and perfect and artificial. She saw a sturdy, rosy-brown girlwith a straight gaze. A girl with autumn-coloredhair, warm and vivid and real, and sorrel-coloredeyes. It was the eyes that caught her attention: there was a clarity and honesty in them, a depth and spaciousness that made mere prettiness seem cheap.

Maggie caught her breath. Do I look like that? she wondered dizzily. I can't. I'd have noticed inthe mirror.

But it was how he saw her. In his eyes, she wasthe only vibrant, living thing in a cold world of black and white. And she could feel the connectionbetween them tightening, drawing him toward her even as he tried to pull farther away.

"No."His voice was a bare whisper in the cave."I'm not bound to you. I don't love you."

"Delos-!'

I don't love anyone. I don't have feelings."

Maggie shook her head wordlessly. She didn'thave to speak, anyway. All the time he was tellingher how much he didn't love her, he was moving closer to her, fighting it every inch.

"You mean nothing to me," he raged through clenched teeth. "Nothing!" And then his face was inches away from hers, and she could see the flame burning in his golden eyes.

"Nothing," he whispered, and then his lipstouched hers.

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