It had been a few days since the fire and Winna had been kept in isolation to recover from the smoke in her lungs. This left Kaden in a constant state of worry for her injuries. Mie assured him that she would be fine and make a full recovery, but the fact that he had waited so long to call upon Lumin filled the young Whisperer with guilt. Maybe if he had acted sooner, Winna wouldn't be in the state she was in. Kaden walked along the burnt wood line, taking in the damage that the flames caused. It hurt him that the balance had been interrupted so badly.
He climbed over a downed log when he nearly fell on the old woman perched beneath him. Elder Fala rested gently on a match of moss that had been recovered as Kaden startled at her presence, "Elder Fala, what are you doing out here? Isn't it a bit far from the village?"
The ancient woman looked up to him with her clouded eyes and smiled, "I'm fine Kaden. There is still some magic left in these old hands. The balance needs to be restored and I'm simply helping it along. Come, sit with me will you? I could use some of your strength for this." Happy to oblige her, Kaden leaned against the singed tree and reached out his hand. Elder Fala rested her's gently in his grasp and Kaden marvled at how light she was, her bones feeling as if they had no strength left in them. She smiled and closed her eyes, absorbing a bit of energy from her former pupil and expressing it out on the land.
"Please help this grow." She whispered to no one in particular. Kaden smiled as the shadow the flames left behind began to disappear and green, lush plants took it's place. Vines, leaves and brand new trees started to emerge from the scorched soil as the forest began to look more like it was meant to be. After a moment, Elder Fala withdrew her outstretched hand and turned back to the other that was still grasping Kaden's.
"Is there something wrong?" He asked as she stared at it confused, "Where did you get this power, Kaden? Your energy feels different than before. It's much more......wild than I'm used to feeling from you." Kaden's heart began to quicken as he shrugged, "I've been practicing much more lately and developing more skill." Elder Fala nodded, "Yes, I remember watching you the other night. That was quite an impressive display of power. I had no idea you had developed that much. Surely that wasn't all you now was it?"
Not liking to lie to his teacher, Kaden cleared his throat, "I've been in touch with my spirit guide and he showed me some new power." Elder Fala's eyes shot up to his as her normally calm face became very serious, "Just how much connection have you had with Lumin?" Feeling like he was backed into a corner, Kaden fidgeted under her gaze, "Enough to do what I had too." She tightened her feeble grasp, "Kaden, please listen to me. Lumin is a very powerful spirit, he has a reputation that isn't that favorable. I would implore you to keep your association with him as limited as possible."
Kaden suddenly felt very offended, "It's because of Lumin that I was able to save Winna. I wouldn't have had enough strength on my own. And besides, I don't have that great of a reputation in this village either and I'm not bad. Whose to say that Lumin is, just because he is powerful?" Fala watched him carefully, "Your reputation comes from the ignorance of others, not from any solid proof. Lumin has been known to cause chaos when he feels the need. He is a dangerous ally. Kidick knew that...."
Suddenly Fala's eyes widened as if she had given something away as Kaden watched her suspiciously, "What does Lumin have to do with my father?" The elderly woman tried to stand up on her aching bones, "I have to go Kaden, I've used up too much energy here." He rose and squeezed her hand slightly, "Elder Fala, you aren't telling me everything. What does Lumin have to do with my father?" She winced and looked down to her hand, "Kaden, you're hurting me."
Catching himself, Kaden released her, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean too." She rubbed her fragile hand and watched the worried expression on his face, "It's all right Kaden, my bones are as brittle as an autumn leaf. No harm done. I have to go home now and rest, take care." He helped her over the fallen tree and waited until she left before he began to walk towards the village. Feeling ashamed that he had harmed Fala, Kaden walked with his head lowered.
"Kaden! Wait up!" Mie called as he slowed his pace for her to fly next to him. Mie's face was flushed as she smiled, "Winna is awake and asking for you. Want to go see her?" There was a small leap in his heart as he followed Mie. If anyone could improve his mood, it was Winna. He hadn't spoken with her since the night of the fire and the yet the kiss between them still lingered in his memory. He wanted to know how she felt about it and him and everything else that had happened.
Mie knocked on the wooden door as Lena answered and smiled at the pair, "Ah, Mie, Kaden, how nice of you to drop by. Winna will be thrilled to see you." Mie went right in as Kaden lingered in the doorway for a moment. He had never been in Winna's home before and it was very rarely that he was openly accepted anywhere. Lena turned and sensed his unease as she placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently, "Come on in, sweetie. Winna has been asking for you."
He looked to her hand and nodded, crossing the threshold into a home he wasn't familiar with. Along the walls were moment captures of Winna as a child that glowed with the faint hint of magic as he followed Lena towards the back of the house towards Winna's room where Mie was already curled next to her friend. Kaden knocked and timidly walked in as Winna looked to him. There was a moment between them as he stared at the beautiful creature before him. Her pale cheeks were flushed slightly, her hair falling gently around her shoulders as she smiled at him from the bed.
"Hi Kaden." She said softly as Mie looked between them both, "Well, I'm going to help your mom with her bird situation. She's been having a problem with them eating her berries, so I'm going to see if I can make peace with them." As quickly as she had appeared, Mie flew out of the room silently leaving the two to stare at each other. Winna held out a hand for Kaden to accept as he held her's so tenderly and sat beside the bed. At first they didn't say anything, which would seem awkward to some, but not to them. No words had to be spoken between the two Whisperers, they just knew.
It took a moment before Winna inquired, "You're upset about something. Want to tell me what's troubling you?" Kaden watched as her delicate fingers gently stroked the mark on his forearm. He opened his mouth to speak, but found himself too ashamed to say anything at first. Winna's eyes were patient and loving as she took in the hurt expression on his face, "You know you can talk to me Kaden. I'm not going anywhere."
He turned his golden eyes towards her and sighed, "I'm just really confused lately. I feel guilty for not acting sooner when you were in danger. If anything worse had happened to you, I don't think I would ever forgive myself." Winna squeezed his arm gently, "Kaden, you saved my life. I wouldn't be alive without you, you don't need to feel anything, but my gratitude." He shook his head as his dark hair fell forward slightly, "I could have stopped it sooner, but not by myself. You know how you can sense your spirit guide normally?"
Winna nodded, she hadn't spoken with Leafwood for quite some time, but she always sensed his presence when she used her affinity. Kaden licked his lips, "I've been speaking to mine quite often lately and he let me use a little of his strength to save you. It wasn't all me, if that makes any sense."
There was a little flare that went off in her heart as Winna inquired, "Is that normal? Leafwood doesn't usually speak to me unless it is the Harvest. How often does Lumin commune with you?" Kaden looked away from her, "Almost every night. He talks to me in my dreams and when I need more power, he is always there. I'm.....I'm afraid of what it's doing to me, Winna." She watched him carefully, "What do you mean?"
Kaden felt his heart race as the words tumbled out, "I mean, I'm grateful because I wouldn't have been able to save you without him, but I'm changing. I notice it all the time. My mood darkens much quicker, I'm calling on his strength a lot more, he is much clearer when we speak. It used to be only when I was asleep or unconscious, but now he can speak to me whenever he likes. And I'm hurting the people around me. I just harmed Elder Fala's hand by squeezing too hard when I wanted information. I'm scared, Winna. I'm afraid of the person I'm becoming. I'm afraid of the evil I sense in me."
With that, Winna stopped his rant by placing a finger to his lips, "Listen to me Kaden. I know you, I've known you all my life and I know for a fact that you couldn't be evil no matter what happened. Elder Fala is fragile, so you can't help it if your strength is too much for her. As far as your communication with your spirit guide, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you should ask the elders what they think? But I know I am grateful that you saved my life and I know that you are good, Kaden. That's one of the reasons I feel for you the way I do."
Kaden felt his heart sink as he leaned forward and rested his head on her shoulder while Winna stroked his long hair gently, "You are very good Kaden." Her voice was sweet and comforting and Kaden promised himself that he would never do anything to make her think otherwise. He would deal with Lumin on his own, he had too, for her.
Kaden stayed with Winna for about an hour until she started to drift off to sleep. When she had closed her eyes, the young Whisperer backed out of the room and off to the cleared practice space where he had come so often to train. Once he had arrived, Kaden closed his golden eyes and called to the being within him, "Lumin, I need to speak with you."
There was stir in his heart as Lumin slithered around for a moment, his smooth voice replying, "Yes, my friend? What is it you wish of me? Time for more practice maybe?" Kaden sat down on the lush grass and meditated, "No, I want to tell you that I'm out. I am grateful for the strength you gave me to save Winna, but I don't want anymore. If I'm going to become the best I can be, I want to do it on my own. Thank you for your help, but I don't want this anymore. I don't like the person I'm becoming."
Lumin was silent for a moment, "And what person is that? Are you implying that it is my power that's changing you? Or is it possible it is your own weakness that consumes you?" Kaden's heart raced at the words Jessah spoke to him so often, "I am not weak. My power is my own and I don't need anymore."
"Don't you want them to accept you, Kaden? I seem to recall the joy you felt when the villagers embraced you so openly. You think I didn't see the happiness in your soul? What will they think when they see that your power that night wasn't your own? What if another disaster happens and you find yourself unable to help? Do you think their love can be kept so easily? My how naieve you are."
Kaden sighed, "I will work to keep their acceptance. I haven't had it for years, it won't be that big of a hole in me to live without it again." Lumin pressed harder, "What about Winna? I can sense it whenever she uses her affinity and it is something of legends. That girl is more powerful than anything I have felt in over thirty years. Do you think she will be satisfied with someone so weak? She needs a partner that can keep up with the power she is accumulating and I fear that she will become bored with you."
"That won't happen. Winna loves me for me, not the power I have." Kaden protested as Lumin smiled inwardly, "For now. She has always watched you in your studies and for a good while, you were the best. But now, her natural talent has blossomed and she is only growing stronger. Just wait and see when she surpasses you. It will happen and when it does, she will move on to someone who can support her strength and you will be alone, again."
Kaden inhaled and tried to push aside the doubt in his heart as he replied, "I'm done talking about this. Lumin, I don't want your power anymore. In fact, I don't want to commune with you except at the Harvest. Please leave me be. I don't need you anymore, I'm done being your vessle." As the young Whisperer began to pull away from the inward conversation, Lumin lashed out a comment that pierced his heart, "Do you want to know what happened to your father?"