“I’ve gathered you all here today to alert you to the incidences that have been occurring these last couple of weeks.” The Headmisstress began her speech to the three hundred some odd students. Jax, Sam, Juni and I were seated by each other in the large auditorium. Sam to Juni’s left and Juni to my left and Jax to my right. The four of us were all wearing jeans and different types of jackets. The weather outside had gotten colder the closer we moved to December. Doctor Holloway, Thalia and Mr. Parker along with all of the other teachers were standing behind the Headmistress. She had her hair in it’s tight bun and her no nonsense expression.
“I know many of you have noticed that three of our students have suddenly gone missing. We, the teachers, are trying everything within our Tama to find those who have been taken. On that note, we would also like to inform you all on the reason why Silverleaf was created.” The headmistress shifted her heels clacking on the podium, loud in the sudden silence.
“I created this academy a little over twelve years ago to help those who were lost, those who had no other place to go and for those who were trying to find solace in the place this world has become. Along the way to creating this Academy, I ran into many different gods from different Parthenons. Many of those gods had one thing in common, they wanted to use the humans who had godlike powers for themselves.” All of us in that space were listening intently. This was a version of the school’s history that no one had never heard.
“These god’s wanted the power to control others, there were others who wanted to become the new kings of their own parthenons. Having faced one of those very gods so long ago, I wanted this Academy to be a place of protection for those who could not yet protect themselves. You all have been under my protection for a long time, but one of the gods has found a way to get past my defenses.” Her face was weary, her one eye showing sorrow. She shifted again on her feet.
“I want all of you to be wary of these gods, you cannot trust all of them. There are some that would do anything to help us. But I want you to tell any one of the teachers if you see something that is concerning. I do not want another student taken.” She looked from one side of the room to the other, her face at an impasse once again. “That is all, I wish all of you the best in your studies.” She gave a brief nod and then turned and walked off of the stage, the other teachers following behind her. For several heartbeats, none of us in that room dared to move or make a sound. Then everything erupted into sound at once. All the students turned toward each other and began speaking. Some talked about how scary it was to know that the gods saw us as tools to further their own gains. Others, the friends of the three taken, were sad, thinking that they would never see their friends again.
Amidst the chaos that erupted inside the auditorium, the four of us escaped, keeping close to each other. We really needed to find a way to get the three back. Nergal needed to be stopped.
“We need to find Nergal before anyone else is taken.” I told the others as we walked through the courtyard. A cold breeze hit us and I put my hands into my hoodie pocket. Juni had her hands in her jean pockets where she walked beside me.
“We should just leave it to the teachers.” Jax protested, his voice low with some anger. He stared me down, his arms crossed over his chest, his jacket bunching.
Sam interjected, “I agree with Echo. If they are after him, we need to find a way to stop Nergal before he can come after him again.” He turned to face Jax steadily, his arms at his side, thumbs hooked into his front pockets. With the two of them facing off against each other, their individual powers sparked.
Jax growled, dropped his arms and his fists tightening at his sides. “We need to keep him safe, not send him into danger.” I pulled my hands out of my pockets and put myself in between them.
“Stop it,” I yelled, “the both of you.”
Juni sighed from behind me. “We’ve been through this already,” she groaned, shifting on her feet in the cold.
“I’ll do what I think is best, and I want to find Ethan, Holly and Noelle.” I was facing Jax square on, suddenly angry that he was trying to decide what to do for me. From the corner of my eye, I saw Juni talking to Sam. “If Sam wants to go with me, then I’ll just leave you here.”
Juni took Sam by the arm, she was leading him away from Jax and I. I was no longer going to be a doormat to those around me. I didn’t live in the Sorell house any more. Jax growled, his eyes pinpointing and his teeth slightly elongating. The violet tendrils of his power snaked around him. I checked to make sure the black band he always wore was still secured around his wrist.
“I won’t let you go with him!” Jax yelled at me. I gripped my hands tighter to my sides and suppressed my desire to throttle him.
“You missed the point completely!” I yelled back at him. “You’re acting…” The word stuck in my throat.
He didn’t hesitate to say it. “Jealous?” His teeth made it hard for him to enunciate the word clearly so it came out with a slight lisp. I nodded, crossing my arms. He sounded completely jealous over Sam. I had nothing to do with Sam in that sense of the word. Jax had no reason to worry. “Now you’re missing the point.” He continued, “It isn’t jealousy. It’s fear.”
“Fear?” That emotion had me slightly dumbstruck. What was there for Jax to fear?
“Yes.” He sighed, “Fear. I’m afraid you’ll be hurt or killed. I’m afraid I won’t be able to protect you. I’m afraid I’ll lose you…”
“You have nothing to be afraid of. I can protect myself.” Jax reached out and grabbed my arm, my jacket bunching around his fist. It was tighter than he had ever touched me before. He came in closer to me, his teeth still feline sharp. His breath escaped in puffs of white, disappearing into the air.
“The only reason you are safe around me is because I won’t do anything.” He hissed at me, adding a little more pressure to the hand around my arm. “If it were someone else, you don’t know how you would fare.” I threw off his arm, angry again. He let his arm swing to his side, watching me with his green feline eyes.
“Why do you care so much about me? I don’t get it.” I was utterly confused, no one had ever worried about me before. I had been stuck in a house with Asher and Poppy for so long that I didn’t even know how to react to someone like Jax any longer.
“I don’t know what to do without you. I can’t breathe.”
Still mad, I asked, “Am I an air freshener?”
He shook his head, his feline self receding. “When I am drowning in muck and can’t do anything about it, I find you. Then I can breathe again.”
“I don’t even know how I feel.” I lied to him. He reached out towards me, his fingers brushing my cheek. I flinched. He leaned back with everything showing in those luminous green eyes, his hands dropping back down to his sides. He stood there for a couple heartbeats, just breathing.
“I told you I wouldn’t do anything, didn’t I?” His hand went up again and brushed my lips softly. “It’s not like I just want to hold you. I want you to grow more aware of my existence.” I was aware of him, I thought, more than he ever knew. His face held so many different emotions I couldn’t pinpoint just a single one. “I’m already long passed the point of being able to look at anyone but you.” He whispered to me. His smile was almost blinding before he came in closer and rested his forehead against mine. His breath mingled with mine, finally we were on the same page. “Don’t do anything stupid. We do this together, alright? Trust me.”
“Alright,” I breathed, giving in to the comfort he offered me. His fingers intertwined around mine, squeezing lightly. I smiled, and closed my eyes. We stood there for those precious few moments, lost in each other.
Love is often in haste, uncontrolled, or disorderly, often times all three. Love could also be considered as nothing but havoc and confusion. Jax and I had been tripping over each other for so long trying to find a way to voice our feelings that somewhere along the way, we had tripped over the same roadblock. That roadblock made us fall into each other, it saved us and made us whole. It was now our job to keep it that way.
With my hand still entangled in Jax’s, we made our way to where Sam and Juni were sitting by the fountain. Juni smiled brilliantly at the two of us. Sam’s expression was unreadable as he stared at our joined hands. Juni elbowed Sam in the stomach. He huffed at the jolt and glared at her.
“Yes, Princess?” He countered. Juni tensed up for a moment like Sam’s nickname hit a nerve before relaxing. I tilted my head at her reaction.
“You know why.” Sam raised his eyebrow at her, staring down with his arms crossed. She calmly smiled up at him before inclining her head. This silent conversation was completely stupid. I was about to interject but Juni nudged him forward. “Go on.” Sam looked at the sky, grumbling something under his breath before sighing.
“Jax, we need to talk.” Sam said reluctantly. Jax looked at me, I shrugged and let go of his hand. He had confusion written all over his face. The two of them walked away, talking under their breaths. I wanted to know what was being said, but Juni stood up from the bench and looped her arm through mine.
“We are going to go see the wizard,” she told me in a sing song voice. I chuckled. “The wonderful wizard of OZ.”
“And exactly what business do we have with the wizard?”
“We need a brain, a heart, and some courage.” I snorted, and she grinned at me, her happiness contagious. “Well not really,” she amended, “We’re going to go see if Mr. Parker has found out anything else.”
We reached Mr. Parker’s office, still linked. He was standing on his window sill, the window wide open, staring out at the roses beneath him. He had on his normal clothes and was holding a teacup. Juni and I glanced at each other.
“I think I have figured it out.” He announced to us, still facing outside. We didn’t even answer before he continued. “You said that the god inside the vision was named Nergal, correct? I remember a story about Nergal and the Timekeeper Janus. It mentioned that long ago when Nergal first took over as one of the keepers of the underworld. He almost lost his ruling there because of a god named Janus. I cannot remember the rest of the story.” He turned towards us, his eyes crazed. “We need to find that book, then we should have our answers.” He jumped down from the ledge, his tea not even splashing.
“Do you remember what the book was called?”
“No,” he almost yelled, “but I do remember that I read it within this office.” He turned towards his bookshelf which held over one hundred books. “It has to be here somewhere.” He whispered before taking a sip of his tea. Juni and I reached for a book at the same time.
“Well, let’s start looking.”
The three of us skimmed through dozens of books before we decided to take a break. I banged my head on the desk, staring at my feet. Why couldn’t my father be a well known god instead of one that materialized throughout every story? Mr. Parker was sitting on the window sill, his legs crossed, teacup in one hand and a book in the other. Juni sat on the floor by my feet, still skimming through the book in her hands. I turned my head and looked at her.
“Aren’t you tired of reading yet? We must have read over a hundred books between the two of us in the last couple weeks.”
“I’m okay,” she replied, looking up at me. “But if you’re tired you can go ahead and go back to the room. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Are you sure?”
“I think the two of us can handle the last of this pile.” She tapped a pile of twenty or so books with the tip of her shoe. I glanced at the Mad Hatter again, he had already switched to another book, he knew better than us what he was looking for. I grabbed my jacket from the back of the chair and began to put it on.
“Okay, I’ll see you back in the room then.”
“Yup, keep the door unlocked for me.” I nodded and waved to Mr. Parker but got no response, shrugging, I left the room and made my way to the dorm. The nights were getting colder, and the moon was getting larger. I shivered and pulled my jacket tighter around myself, making my strides longer.
Once inside, I felt the chill start to leave my bones. It was better to be warm than cold. I waved to Thalia and jogged through the halls to my room. I immediately changed into my night clothes, the cotton warm against my skin. I sighed contentedly and went over to my desk. I had an assignment to finish before the night was over. I pulled out a piece of paper and began to write. The door opened and shut when I was halfway finished with the report.
“Welcome back, Juni.” I turned to greet her with a smile. An unfamiliar man stood right behind me. I reached for my powers but the man punched me in the temple. My vision blurred, my head throbbed. I reached again for my power to push the man away from me. I was too late, he put a cloth around my face, an acrid, medicinal scent filled my nose. I felt my consciousness slip away. The last thing I saw was a wicked grin that shone an off white before it all became dark.