My chest burned while I ran from Aboreal. It took a great deal of focus to search without thinking about Sloe’s betrayal, his girlfriend, the threat on Raven’s life, or all the trouble we’d found.
I needed a comfort like no other, one I hoped would help me find the best way to discuss the situation with Father and give me the strength to protect those who jeopardized all I held dear.
As the white light faded, I entered a room. A glimpse of dark curls and a flash of orange blurred in front of me, before the ground violently trembled. I cradled the travel glasses to my face, cringing when I heard the crash of broken glass. Then, a yelp.
“Who is it? Who’s here?” The voice calling out was familiar, but alarmed.
Since when would she be afraid of the arrival of a traveler? The groaning and unsteadiness of the ground below wasn’t something that would frighten a seasoned traveler. Unless they didn’t want to be found.
When the rumblings subsided, I stood and removed the dark lenses from my eyes.
She gaped at me as she pulled herself up from behind a lab table covered with tubes and coils. Shards of glass that oozed with a bright, orange liquid littered the floor.
My heart plummeted into my bowels. I knew this room, a laboratory built beneath the home’s lower level; but I’d never seen anyone actually use it before. I attended science classes at the hospital under Father’s instruction and the tutelage of guests.
A trail of orange liquid flowed along the table’s edge and dripped onto the floor. I wrinkled my nose.
“Mother! Is that Edgar’s elixir?”
The woman before me, one I was learning I knew less and less about, wiped her lips.
“Mother?” She shot me a long, hard squint, then looked at the floor as if considering the arrival of a traveler from a different place and time. “Silvie, is that you?”
I exhaled, relieved she understood who I was, until I remembered what I was upset about. The new thing that upset me.
“Yes, here I am, all grown up,” I managed before scowling. “You’ve been making and drinking the youth elixir to extend your life, haven’t you? I thought you and Father had an agreement to live out your natural timelines.” Is that why she was afraid when I arrived—not of the arrival of a traveler, but afraid of being caught?
Her shoulders drooped forward. “This was the only way we could have children” she said, gesturing toward me. “Before I…”
Suddenly, the questions I’d had—and suppressed—about how Javis and I could both exist, and with different ages according to our timelines, began to make sense.
“But,” I sniffled, “using the elixir put you at risk of becoming Lost. Again.”
Mother smiled. “Edgar once told me there are many pathways in life. Some good. Some bad. But only one that will truly be yours.”
“That’s, um, philosophical.”
“I’m sure you’re disappointed in me,” she sighed. “But now that I see you like this, I know I did the right thing.”
Mother pulled a broom from a closet. She collected the glass shards and broken pieces before wiping away the orange liquid from the table and floor. She frowned.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered.
She clapped her hands after a final dab with the cloth. “I can deal with the rest later. Let me have a closer look at you.”
Barely breathing, I stood perfectly still while Mother inspected me.
“You look so much like Valcas.”
My cheeks warmed as her gaze landed at the spaces above my eyes. Her real eyebrows creased.
“Face paint,” I said, knowing her silhouette wouldn’t remember my earlier visit to the past.
“Everyone else has them,” I admitted. My voice was calm. I’d given this explanation to Father countless times before he’d finally stopped asking. “No use making others feel uncomfortable. It’s not like the hospital gets recovering Lost from Chascadia to help me blend in.”
“You work at the hospital?” She grinned.
“Yes, and I’m a healer. Not that I get to heal much besides calming people down,” I huffed. I almost rolled my eyes at myself. Here I was about to complain about Father when we had far greater problems to deal with.
“Father’s still holding me back,” I said anyway, remembering Mr. Calcott. It was true, and now that the baglamas had been recovered, Father was even more impossible and overprotective.
“Well,” tutted Mother, “for what it’s worth, I’m proud of you.” She opened her arms.
Holding back sobs that seemed to have emerged out of nowhere, I fell into her embrace.
“Oh, it can’t be that bad. I was your age—not long ago, actually. I remember how difficult it was. But things will get better, Silvie.”
“That’s what I thought, until it got worse.”
She pulled back from me and searched my eyes. “What happened?” she breathed.
“I inherited Grandpa Plaka’s baglamas.”
As I explained everything from Sloe’s glance at the funeral to how he ported to Edgar, and how Javis and I retrieved the baglamas from the man in the tunic, I couldn’t help the way my voice rose higher and less controlled. I’d barely finished the part where I’d learned of Sloe’s betrayal when Mother stopped me.
“Silvie, slow down. Sloe and…Javis,” she said, testing out the latter name as if it felt unfamiliar. “From what you’ve told me, they both have remarkable travel talents. Sloe apologized, and he could be helpful.”
My lips pinched together. He and Raven had been so terrified when I spoke to them, by the time I left Aboreal, I’d convinced myself to leave them out of it. We must stop them had become I must stop them in my mind. But Mother was right. I couldn’t do this alone. No one could.
Mother gave me a small smile; her eyes were sad. “I don’t know what I would have done without your father, Ivory, Ray, and their talents to escape the Fire Falls. Or, without them, Nick, and your grandfather Plaka when I needed them the most. In Susana.”
“I get that you want us to combine our talents,” I said. “The tough part will be convincing Father. He’s hard enough on me. He barely lets Javis use his World Building talent at all.”
Mother’s jaw squared beneath eyes that morphed from sad to serious. “Your father sees me in you, Silvie, and in…Javis. But he also knows you must make your own lives, your own contributions to the worlds.”
“So then what do I do?”
She placed her palm beneath my chin. “You’ll need to figure that out. Do what you need to do, but include him in it.”
I swallowed a sigh. Part of me expected Mother would have the answer, a plan that would help me know exactly what to do—how to stop the cloaked men and their master, the man in the tunic. She’d only suggested we combine our abilities. Raven didn’t have any travel talent as far as I knew. Sloe was a Time Keeper, and I was a Remnant Transporter. Father and Javis were both World Builders, though Javis wasn’t often given opportunities to use his talent. Maybe this event would change everything. Unless Father decided Javis wasn’t ready yet and insisted on taking his place. I wasn’t so sure I’d disagree with Father. Given the strange darkness I’d felt in my brother, it was possible he was too sick to help. I certainly didn’t want him to pass out and need to go to the hospital in the middle of our mission.
I squirmed out of Mother’s hold on my chin and exhaled a shaky breath.
“Silvie, what’s wrong?”
“I noticed something odd when reaching out with my healing talent,” I said. “Something I’ve never felt before.”
“Can you describe it?”
“It was a darkness, a cloud that swelled deep inside the person—not attached to a particular organ or body part. But it was there, it was something. I could calm the person and begin healing those parts that were sick, but I couldn’t make the darkness go away. It was, I don’t know…stuck. Have you ever encountered this before?”
Mother paled. “I have, but never at the hospital. It wasn’t something that accompanied the Lost.”
Part of me was relieved this meant Javis was not on his way to becoming Lost. Mother was right. I’d never felt such a phenomenon in any of the recovering Lost. This was new to me.
“What is this darkness, and where did you come across it?” I asked.
“Your Grandpa Plaka called what you’re describing an Occlusion. He studied it for some time, noticing he sensed it in travelers who weren’t exercising the full potential of their talents. If he found a cure for it, he never mentioned it.”
“Oh,” I said, my eyes widening. “So you didn’t feel this in the Lost because they tend to be travelers who overuse their talents rather than underuse them?”
Mother glanced at the table, shaking her head at the remains of Edgar’s youth elixir. “Moderation in all things,” she muttered.
“Nothing but an escaped thought.” Her lips formed a tight smile. “Have you been traveling far, Silvie?”
“Not often,” I said. “Other than recent events surrounding the stolen baglamas, I’ve spent most of my time on Edgar.”
Her eyebrows raised. “Then where did you find someone with an Occlusion?”
“At the hospital,” I said.
“But how’s that possible? Who has the Occlusion?”
I sighed. What good would it do to keep the information from her? She’d forget by the time I visited her again, anyway. After a deep breath, I looked into my mother’s eyes.
“Javis,” I said.