Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 18

Echo lay in her bed, awake but not wanting to get up. She had missed her old room, her mattress inLondonfelt wrong when she slept compared to this. She missed her sea green walls and bed that looked as though it were made of intertwined sticks. She missed the crystals that hung in her window, projecting rainbows around the room. She missed the crystals that sat in the corners, the ones that had been blessing her bedroom her whole life, making her feel safe. Looking at the time on her phone – while seeing that another night had passed without Aiden contacting her – Echo laid hr head back down to see if she could drift off once more, as it was very early. As she did she heard a knock at her door.

 

“Yeah?” Echo mumbled, her voice course from the night, no sound coming out to start with. She coughed, “Yeah?” She repeated, more coherently.

 

The doorknob turned, and as the door creaked open Echo saw her brothers sandy coloured hair poking into the room.

 

“What are you doing up so early, Stormy?” She asked, knowing that the endearment on the end of his name would annoy him.

 

Storm smirked at her, and then chuckled, “I dunno, just am. What are you up to today? Wanna come hang out in the park? It’s been kinda weird without you around.”

 

“Who’s coming?” Echo asked, even though she knew there was no way Storm would know for definite. She wanted to see her old friends, she really did, but until she found Aiden, she wasn’t really in the mood to socialise.

 

Storm walked over and perched on the edge of her bed, “I dunno, me, Tommy, Sasha, Jo, Dino probably, maybe Clair and Stacey too.” He saw her mind bring up each of these names faces, remembering just how long it had been since she had last seen them. They all had their lives here, it was her who had left. For the last few months they’d all have had been together, without the distance between them that Echo thought she would feel with her old friends.

 

“Sitting around here isn’t going to find him. Dad’s going to be doing research whether you’re here or out,” Storm said, gently but with a slight edge of frustration in his voice, “And everybody’s so excited that you’re back. Come on, you have to come see everyone, you can’t come home and not.”

 

He was right, she knew he was right. For a sixteen year old boy, he had more intuition than most, and far more good sense too, seeming older than his years. Echo smiled, and nodded in agreement with him.

 

“Wanna come watch cartoons?” He asked, smiling, his voice shifting to a more child-like tone.

 

“Sure,” Echo replied, getting out of bed. She’d missed this, being home, being with her family. Sure, her and Storm argued all the time as well, but the time spent not seeing each other had made them both realised how much better it was when they got along, like they knew they did. She followed him out her room and down the stairs, picking up her phone as she went, just in case Aiden or Sophia tried to call. As they passed through the kitchen on their way to the living room, they saw Alder, sat in the same place he had been last night, surrounded by the Lamadu, a pen and notebook next to him, writing down charms and notes. He looked up when he heard his children approach.

 

“Oh, good morning,” He said, looking slightly dazed, “What time is it?”

 

“Eight thirty, or near enough,” Storm replied, pulling up the sleeve of the hoodie he was wearing over his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pyjamas to see his watch.

 

“Oh,” He replied, rubbing at his eyes and looking at the writing he’d done. There was ink smudged on his chin from where it looked like he had fallen asleep on his notes.

 

“Any progress?” Echo asked, sounding hopeful.

 

“Sort of, yes. I have a few things we can try today, a couple of calling charms, the more people you get together to do them the better though. Give me a couple of hours and we’ll get started, okay?” Alder replied, realising how tired he was from not having slept.

 

Echo smiled and hugged her father, so excited by the idea of making contact with Aiden. Alder got up and went upstairs, and Echo and Storm made their way through to the living room, going via the fridge for snacks and making some tea. They sat down on the sofa and Storm flicked the television on, putting on some cartoon that Echo did not recognise. It was okay though, they were not really watching the cartoons for the cartoons themselves, but more as a kind of nostalgia for when they were younger, and would spend hours watching the latest episodes of Pokémon and other such shows. Alder hated it when they were younger and watched fantasy cartoons, ones with mystical characters, and things like Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He had said it made a mockery out of their race, out of the Apsu, though no one else really agreed with him. Those sorts of shows had become Echo and Storm’s favourites, partly because there was a taboo around them in their household, which their rebellious streaks loved to push, and also because, for Echo at least, they were the only shows that seemed real. The cartoon about Lu life, ones without magic, they weren’t right, they weren’t an accurate portrayal, of course they weren’t, they were cartoons. But to Echo, this made them seem strange, a sort of unimaginative fantasy, wherein it was different from the world, but not different enough to be classed as another world. 

 

Echo leaned onto the table and reached for the bag of toffee flavoured popcorn. She ripped it open and took a handful, before holding the bag out to Storm.

 

“Breakfast popcorn?” She offered, grinning. Spending time with Storm was helping take her mind off of Aiden, which, while nice, was making her feel sharp pangs of guilt in her stomach. She waited in anticipation for Alder to be ready to start trying to find him. She tried not to think about where Aiden was, where he could be, and instead focus on the positives, then soon, wherever he was, she would be with him.

 

Storm took the popcorn bag and started shoving fistfuls of it into his mouth. Echo sat, content, with the hum of the television in the background and the sweetness of the popcorn for support. She couldn’t hang on to any feeling for long though, and her content would swing from guilt to sorrow to anger and back again faster than she could notice them changing, filling her with a sense of unease.

 

“We could all cast the charms, y’know, in the park later?” Storm said over the voice of whatever creature the pixels on the TV screen were supposed to be representing.

 

It took a while for his words to register, but once they had she nodded slowly in agreement. True, the youth of the Community may not be the strongest in power, but there were a lot of them, and together they may be able to do some good. There were stories about how spells worked best if they were cast among friends rather than acquaintances, something about how it draws a bond of connection into the spell. If that was true, then the friends of her childhood could really be able to do something.

 

Storm stood up, went over to the shelf in the corner of the room, and picked out some stones and crystals from a wicker basket. They were the same ones as Echo had inLondon, blessed by the Zagmi and the Stony Oaks Community. He arranged them in a circle, and sat inside it.

 

“Why are you meditating now?” Echo asked, slightly confused as to why he had been wanting to watch cartoons one minute and connect with his inner Apsu the next.

 

“What? Oh, no, I’m just sending out a message about this afternoon, getting as many people together as possible.” He said, as if it were obvious, “You’ve been away too long, forgetting things!”

 

“Yeah, well back inLondonwe use Facebook for things like this!” Echo laughed.

 

“Yeah, well, no one here can turn a computer on, let alone navigate the internet.” Storm replied. And it was true. Storm and Echo and, to an extent, Fawn, were the only ones, with the exception of maybe two or three others who learned at the Sorrel household. A lot of the children learned at school, but barely anyone had internet connections in their homes. It was just not the way the Apsu worked, they had no need for it, really. Telepathy does a fairly good job of communicating.

 

“Hey guys, come down to the park at about 4pm, Echo’s back and needs some help.” Echo’s head buzzed loudly with the message Storm was sending out. She covered her ears, trying to muffle the loudness. Sending group distance message in close proximities had a tendency to reverberate in the ears of people closer than the message was aimed for. Echo picked up a cushion from the sofa and threw it at him,

 

“Hey! No need to send me the message too!” She said, rubbing her ears.

 

Storm caught the pillow before it hit him and smiled sheepishly, “Sorry!” He said, getting up to collect his stones back up and place them back in the basket, before rejoining Echo on the couch.

 

***

 

“I’ve got it!” Alder exclaimed, running down the stairs to join his family. Echo and Storm were helping Fawn set the table for lunch, Fawn wanting to spend as much time with her daughter as possible while she could.

 

“Got what, darling?” Fawn replied.

 

Echo ran to meet him, hoping beyond a measure she knew it was possible for her to hope that he was talking about a way to find Aiden. He handed her a piece of fibrous paper, yellow tinged with age and looking like it had been ripped out of the back of a Lamadu. On it was a simple charm written in Alder’s curling script:

 

“Let us know where he may be, let us see his destiny, guide our vision through his eyes, so we may find him across the skies.”

 

Echo looked at Alder, slightly confused as to how this seemly simple charm had taken him all night and half of the day.

 

“It’s not what it looks like. Well, it is, and it isn’t. I’ve never tried anything like this before, but used correctly it should make you able to be inside his head, to speak to him, yes, but to literally be inside his head, to see what he sees, so he can guide you too him, with the right brew made and drank as well, of course. You will need people to cast it on you, it cannot merely be cast on ones self, I don’t believe at least. That was the only way to give you both sight and sound.” Alder explained, using the voice he tended to reserve for explaining spells to children, although Echo didn’t mind. She hugged her father, so glad to finally know how they would be going about finding Aiden. She ran back to the kitchen, showing Storm the charm, and sat down to have lunch with her family, knowing that in just a few hours she would be able to make contact with Aiden.

 

***

 

Echo and Storm sat on fallen tree trunks in a clearing in the woods. This was the park she had been coming to her whole childhood, the place she used to Become, the place that all the Apsu children of Stony Oaks had been coming to for generations. They had arrived early, in anticipation for the others. Storm had sent out the message to all their friends in the Commune, hoping to draw in enough support to make the spell work. Echo sat nervously, picking at the dry skin around her fingernails, willing the time to pass quicker so that they could start. They had come armed with joss sticks to cleanse the area, blessed crystals and stone to make in inner circle for Echo, and an outer circle for those casting the charm, the piece of paper with her father’s scrawled words, and a small silver goblet along with a few bottles of wine. While one goblet of wine was being used in the charm, Storm had insisted on bringing the extra bottles, in anticipation of having something to celebrate after, leading Echo to realised quite how similar Apsu youth were to their Lu counterparts.

 

Gradually, people began to arrive, Dino and Tommy, then Sasha, Jo, Clair and Stacey, each in turn hugged Echo, telling her how pleased they were to have her back. Echo was happy to see her old friends, but something was different, a she had feared. It was not them that was different though, it was her.Londonreally had changed her more than she had thought, and while it was not a bad thing, Echo wasn’t so sure it was good either. But what was will be, and so Echo excepted the differences, and went about catching up with her old circle of friends, hearing all the stories she had missed out on, and telling them about London, and having them all tell her that they must come visit her there sometime, and Echo agreeing even though she knew it was unlikely any of them would venture to the city anytime soon.

 

Others arrived while she was talking, younger ones, friends of Storm, younger and older siblings of her friends, even other friends who she was not that close too arrived. By half past four, about twenty people had arrived, and Storm had attracted everyone’s attention and began to explain what they were going to do; he had a knack for public speaking that Echo lacked. The stones were arranged into the two circles, and Echo sat in the middle, surrounded by her friends. The trick to this, would be separating her thoughts from the thoughts of the group, Echo thought, as she began to hear them humming aloud, trying to connect their minds. She picked up the open wine bottle and the goblet, poured the glass full, and recited the charm over it, before sipping and passing it around. The wine was sweet, different from normal drinking wine, it was ritual wine, slightly metallic from the glass, it was not the sort of wine that was particularly nice to drink. Echo always wondered why blessed wine could not taste like other wine, what was the difference, really? Fawn had always asked Alder to bless bottles of Chablis and Fluerie she had brought back from trips to France, but the Zagmi had refused, saying they needed to be made out of bless grapes. As a result, Apsu wine was hard to come by in a lot of places outside of Communities. She passed the cup to Dino who was directly in front of her, he smiled at her as she did, before he took the cup and said the charm himself, sipping, and passing it around to the next person.

 

Echo said cross legged and closed her eyes as the humming stopped. She knew now they would be going into the charm, starting with Storm it would be sent through everyone’s minds, with Echo focusing on the sight she would be receiving rather than the sounds going on around her. The wine made its way round the circle as she tried to relax, anticipating her vision. She’d had visions before, back during her Zagmi training, but now that seemed like a lifetime ago now. She kept thinking of where she may see Aiden, what he might say, of how angry he could be at her for letting who knows what happen to him. She shuddered, thinking of her morning spent laughing with her brother, and felt more guilty than she ever had done before that it was not spent worrying about Aiden, time that he could be being held somewhere, or lost, or hurt. She breathed deeply, knowing that this sort of panic would not help the charm to work.

 

And then it happened. As the charm went round, she felt herself slowly slipping, flying, seeing her body below her, a hazy glow surrounding everything. It was real and not real, her senses were muffled and she wondered how this astral projection would help her to see Aiden. She felt herself spinning, her surroundings going dark, until light flooded her senses. She saw black paws laid out in front of her on a grey stone floor that felt cold against her stomach and chest. She saw the end of Aiden’s nose, brown pink speckled. It was strange, not like how looking through a dogs eyes should be, it was clear, with the same hazy glow as before.

 

“Aiden?” She asked, softly.

 

Aiden jumped up, alert at the sound of her voice, “Echo? Where are you? Get out, it’s not safe for you here.”

 

Echo’s heart sank as she heard his worry, “No, Aiden, it’s fine. It’s a spell, a charm, no one can trace me. Where are you? What happened? I’m coming for you as soon as I can.”

 

“I’m with Mick. It’s where I should be, Echo. And if I’m here, he wont be coming after you. Echo, my father was the Xul who came after your brother, the one your father killed. Just leave me alone, I shouldn’t  be found.” Aiden said, sadness filling his thoughts as Echo heard and felt them. She wanted to be there with him, to have him know everything was okay, that he was not his father, but she couldn’t find the words to say so.

 

“Echo? Echo I have to go, Mick is coming. Please, listen to me. Do not try and find me, leave me, I am fine here but you won’t be. They don’t hurt me much, and I try to stop them from hurting others as much as I can. Please, be safe. I love you, Echo, it kills me every day I have to spend apart from you, but I want you safe, so leave me.” He sounded like he was close to tears, or as close as a human mind in a dogs body could get to tears. She tried to look through his eyes to see where he was, but all that was there was grey concrete and dirty white walls. She saw a small window, and wished she could turn her head to look at it, but all she had was the direction Aiden was looking in.

 

“Aiden, I will find you, even if you will not help yourself to be found. I love you too, that’s why I can’t leave you there.” As she sent the words, she felt her grasp on Aiden’s reality slipping. She hoped he had heard her, that she loved him, and that he would be found. Her head began to spin, as she send a final message of love to Aiden, hoping it would arrive at some time. The world went black and hazy, before she felt herself land back inside her body. She slowly opened her eyes to feel tears streaming down her cheeks, her eyes hot and stinging from them. She saw everyone sitting round her, the stone circles broken. She felt Storm’s hand on her shoulder and felt Dino take her hand.

 

“Echo? Are you back now? Are you okay? What happened?” She heard, although she wasn’t sure which direction they were being asked from. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve to try and stop the tears, and hid her face in her hands, hugging her knees into herself. She could not find words to answer the questions. She couldn’t think of what to do. She needed Aiden back, but still did not really know where he was.

 

“Echo?” She heard again, this time knowing it was Storm, “Where is he?”

 

“H-h-h-he’s w-w-with… with M-m-m-Mick.” Echo said eventually, lifting her head slightly to see him.

 

“Where with Mick, Echo?” He asked, as calmly as he could.

 

“I-I-I-I-I don’t know.” She stuttered through her tears.

 

Storm sighed and rubbed Echo’s shoulders, “He can’t be far. Don’t worry, we’ll find him.”

 

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