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“We’re going to pull shields,” Rustum tells her when she sees their eyes brightly burning again. This night, though, they’re not so new to her that she wouldn’t ask. “They’ll cover us, protect us from being seen or traced by anyone else.”
Rustum sets the logs in a sandpit and burns his eyes to start the fire, then glances around the small make-shift clearing.
“I’ll mark the boundaries, then we’ll walk it,” Rustum glances at Jasper, “Watch us,” He tells her.
Jasper’s face contorts like a wolf’s in anger, but he doesn’t say anything. After Cana’s greeting of her three days ago, Jasper hadn’t said much. If anything, his anger was worse, knowing that his wolf wouldn’t pull now to fight against her.
“Oh,” She answers him. And Rustum starts towards the edge of his shield, latching on to Jasper’s shirt as he passed, pulling him with him to the edge of the barrier, then nudging him in the opposite direction. She sat down on one of the logs he’d placed around the fire, and burns her eyes to match the burning flames.
And follows the path Rustum and Jasper trace into the ground, watching as he and Jasper cross each other, at places, their eyes burning. Sometimes they stop almost right from running into each other, and she thinks from the way Rustum half smiles, and the tension that drowns out of Jasper’s shoulders every time, he’s doing it more purposeful than out of need.
Rustum told her to watch them, the day they’d begun driving, that she would learn the way a toddler normally did for the first time, watching. So Rebecca tries to follow what they’re doing, but other than just walking, their eyes burning, and occasionally brushing against each other, there isn’t much else to their walks. They’ll keep walking for almost half an hour, and it reminds her of home, of Daniel, every single night, walking around Hawthorne’s grounds, and right to the stables at the back, to make sure everything was locked up for the night.
Rebecca found her mother’s words leaving her almost without meaning to, she burns her eyes to think of her mother, and sings again. There’s no piano tune to carry her words, and it doesn’t echo like it had in the high ceilings of Hawthorne House, but she remembers her mother better, all the same. She does it only a few times, before she stops.
And Jasper and Rustum are both staring at her.
They looked like they stopped dead. And Jasper wore the look of fury Rustum was trying to coax off of him.
“What?” Rebecca asks defensively.
They don’t say anything, not for a long moment.
“What?” She prompts again.
“Rebecca what you’ve just recited,” Rustum tells her, hesitating himself. “That was the Protection Words, there’re no stronger words that defend from anything, tenor burnt or without.” He gestures around him. “That’s what we’re doing with the shields.”
She hadn’t seen either of their lips moving, or heard a single word from them.
“She taught you about this?” Jasper demanded, almost accusing, as though Elizabeth committed high treason by whispering a memory. “About tenor. You knew,”
“Stories,” Rebecca cut him off, starving off a fight for as long as she could. “When I couldn’t sleep, when I had nightmares. Or when the rain poured down too much to leave the house. She would tell me stories.”
Rebecca remembers, the days when Daniel, sprawled on his office couch, would write pages after pages, the rain pouring down on him words he wouldn’t have drawn otherwise. Zane secluded in his room, remembering a different life, a different time, when Rebecca knew not to intrude. And James, not knowing that as well as she did, or maybe better than she did, and pushed himself into Zane’s thoughts and memories.
Elizabeth would be curled on the window seat of the alcove, a book, a mug of tea and a blanket. And Rebecca would curl up to her mother, to disturb her in any way she best could.
Once she’d desperately needed ink, another Elizabeth wanted earrings.
“Once,” Elizabeth would begin. And her stories were different to Daniel’s. Her voice was different, her eyes more wild, but her words rang truer. And now Rebecca knew. Her mother’s stories weren’t stories. They were memories.
“Once she told me about Raphael Greyeid,” Rebecca tells Rustum and Jasper. “A boy with a pet wolf. He stopped a war on his own.”
“Not a pet,” Rustum murmured. But Jasper was silent, biting on his jaw. Rebecca thought she could guess why. “A Mirror.”
Rebecca paused, gathering her words, struggling through memory.
“Did Elizabeth ever speak to you about tenor, maybe even in passing, or wording it differently?” Rustum pressed her.
Rebecca shook her head slowly. “Not that I remember.”
“I wonder if she knew about you,” Rustum murmurs. “If she was trying to teach you.”
“Do you want to know what I think?” Jasper hissed, staring at her, speaking to Rustum. “She doesn’t belong to this world, she doesn’t belong to any Burning City,” he said. “The tenor that flows through her isn’t hers.” He paused, and Rebecca knew what he would say next, what she always knew. “It’s Anastasia’s.”
Anastasia died to give Rebecca her place in her family.
“And she’s walking with Anastasia’s trace, but I don’t have to call her sister. To steal someone’s tenor is something disgusting, it’s to steal their life. I’m hunting my parent’s killers. I won’t forgive my sister’s.”
Rustum’s eyes burnt.
“Don’t bother,” Jasper finally spoke to him, tilting his head. “I’m done here.”
Jasper disappears into the thickets, again. And they stood still, watching after him, again.
They both watch him leave, and it’s so unlike James, and like him all the same, and she isn’t sure what that causes in her anymore.
“You’re empathetic,” Rustum tells her after a moment, and she sees the faintest smile on his lips.
“What does that mean?” She knows the word, she doesn’t know it in the new meaning she’s sure he will give to it.
She tells him that, when he asks her to tell him.
“My meaning would be almost the same as yours, just tenor wrought,” Rustum inclines his head. “Jasper does that too. Sort of.” Then smiles. “Don’t tell him I compared you to him.”
“Do I look like I have a death wish?” She murmurs.