"Well what have we here?" The voice made both a blushing Winna and an irritated Kaden leap from its intrusion as they twisted around to place it to the invader of their conversation. Winna sighed, "What do you want Sknyer?" The question made the boy with blonde hair and bright blue eyes shrug apathetically though his smile was filled with mischievous intentions, "Nothing, I just happened to be walking by, saw my classmates and wanted to be polite. I didn't interrupt anything did I?"
Winna narrowed her dark eyes at his mockery as Kaden placed a hand on her shoulder, "Not at all, we were just saying hello." He stood and extended an armfor Winna to accept as Skyner cocked his head to the side at Kaden's constantly courteous nature, "So, is it true what I heard? Winna is going to be the next healer of nature?" Before she was able to answer, Winna was cut off by a nasty voice from behind, "Elder Fala must be going senile."
Winna turned to see the flaming red hair and green eyes that mocked her with every move she made. Seto's freckles had faded over time, but a single line still speckled his nose like a trail of minuscule foot prints on his sun-kissed skin. Turning his patented glare on his constant rival, Seto smirked, "Well, well Kaden, I'm surprised you would want to be around someone who so blatantly lies to the people around her. Seems like that goes against your mighty principles. You know, the ones that make you think you're better than the rest of us."
Skyner smiled at his leader's comment, clearly enjoying the bullying. Winna didn't have tolook to know that Liwe was bringing up the rear, closing in on them like a pack as Kaden stood in front of the furious girl, "There are a few things I am sure of and one of them is that as long as I've known her,there has never been a false word to escape from Winna's lips. If she says it's true, then it is just that." Winna's dark eyes took in the protective yet serene stance she hadn't seen from Kaden since the day he had defended her so many years ago.
Seto pressed on, shrugging and looking to the sky as if to worry about the weather, "That's your business. I for one know that there is no possible way sea slug over there would be the next healer of nature. That would make her one of the greatest Whisperers of our time and as long as I've known her, Winna has been nothing, but a spineless, weakling with absolutely no affinity with nature at all. Now tell me, oh wise, amazing Kaden, how she could go from nothing to expert in one night? Sounds like a lie to me."
Stung by his words, Winna's temper flared as her cheeks flushed and her fists bawled up. Just as she was about to lunge out at the cretin, Kaden grasped her wrist firmly, locking his golden eyes on Seto, "I would advise you to choose your words very carefully, Seto. For I promise you now that if you do anything to insult Winna again, I may not remain so calm. And believe me when I say that you do not want to anger me.This is your final warning."
There was a thick silence as everyone in the group froze at the poison in Kaden's normally pleasant voice. Even Winna, who Kaden had been defending, felt a fear she hadn't since she were a child, hiding from nightmares of the past. A part of Winna wanted to leap under the covers that very moment, anything to escape the look of promised malice in Kaden's eyes. Although clearly shaken by his words, Seto feinged casualness and slid his hands in his pockets, "Let's go guys."
Skyner and Liwe practically ran to their leader's side, not at allshowing the same cavalier Seto managed. Though if they could see that the real reason he had to place his hands into his pockets was to keep them from shaking, neither boy would be as bewildered by his calm. "What was that boss?" Liwe asked quietly and Skyner snuffed behind his shoulder, "I've never seen that freak get so pissed over anything before."
"Yeah.....I don't know......" Seto managed to gulp back the fear that tasted like iron on his tongue. There was a flare to Kaden's left hand which the other two didn't see. He had becomeso powerful thathe had not only learned to manipulate fire, but create it from nothing. Seto had heard of Whisperers achieving it in the past, but never at their age. If he would be this strong when they were only fifteen, what would he become by the time they were adults? For the first time in years, the confidant, mocking boy shook with a true fear of the real life monster who wouldn't disappear when he opened his eyes.
Winna watched the band of bullies skulk away as Kaden's grip lessened on her wrist. Barely finding her voice in time, Winna managed a quiet, "Thank you Kaden. That was very kind of you." As if the encounter hadn't occured, Kaden rubbed her wrist gently, sweet smile on his pale face, "Don't mention it. Well, I had better be going now. Jessah will be wondering where I am. Take care, Winna."
Kaden stepped away and walked carefully down the grassy hill, leaving an awed Winna to stare after him. The wind picked up his dark hair and made it dance lightlyuntil he slowly disappeared from her sight. As the same breeze wrapped around her, Winna convinced her feet to move to the one place where everything made sense again. How long would it be before the entire village knew of her affinity? What if they brought problems she wasn't prepared for? What if the things Seto said were true and what happened was a fluke? These thoughts bounced against the walls of her mind like a swarm of vicious bees as Winna tried her best to avoid contact with anyone on the way home.
As Kaden made his way around the bend of the mighty river flowing through Rinsha, he took a moment question his actions. This had been the first time in over nine years that he had been on the verge of losing control. Why was it that Seto angered him so? While he was immature and foolish, he wasn't any different than he had been every day Kaden had known him. What made this time so infuriating? At that moment Winna's beautiful, far-seeing eyes flashed through his mind as a smile came upon his face, "I see......so that's it is it?"
As he stood there, confounded by his thoughts and discoveries, an elderly voice came beside him, "Something on your mind, Kaden?" Golden eyes met icy blue as Elder Fala smiled softly at his embarassment, "Elder Fala, I....um.......good afternoon." Kaden tried desperately to hide the blush forming on his cheeks as a wrinkled hand came into his smooth grasp, "Come walk with me. You look like you have much to say. It is good to keep the balance in nature, but even better to keep it in one's soul."
Nodding to himself, Kaden wrapped the anciently frail arm around his and escorted his mentor around the river bend. Rinsha went on with its day; children laughing, merchants yelling out their various pitches and profits, everyone going about their lives too busy to consider the worries on a Whisperer's mind. Elder Fala gracefully greeted all who passed by as a very small boy crossed the wooden bridge and smiled brightly at her. Fala patted him on the head, "Grace the morning....."
The child looked around desperately trying to remember the proper reply. "Embrace the evening?" He threw out praying it was correct as Kaden tried not to laugh at his clear discomfort. Elder Fala smiled indulgently and patted his head again as the proceeded on. "I remember when you were that small." She mused, running her wrinkled hand along the hilik bushes, causing them to bloom with her touch. Kaden smiled at the display, "I still feel that way sometimes. Like I'm not sure what to say or how to go about fixing a problem."
"Kaden, dear, I don't believe you've ever been that way. Even at his age, you've always had such a serenity about you, the ability to see things for what they really are. And yet, lately, you seem troubled. Is there a reason for this?" Elder Fala's eyes bore into his soul in such a way that Kaden felt caught, but not in the unpleasant way he did with Jessah. Her gaze was purely kind and it made a catch in his throat as she inquired, "Is this because of a certain girl?"
The thought made the normally calm boy blush slightly as Elder Fala laughed heartily, "I see, so it is Winna on your mind, yes? She seems to be popping up in conversation quite a bit today. The news is already spreading." Kaden carefully stepped over a treacherous rock and automatically turned to help the ancient woman, allowing her to use his strength. When they were both planted firmly again, Kaden asked, "Is it true that she will be the healer of nature, Elder Fala? Will she be asked to follow the same life as Brye?"
A cloud came over the elderly woman's face as she sighed, "That is up to Winna. The choices we make are our own, Kaden. In all we do, at the very core, it is us that makes the decisions to affect our destiny. If Winna chooses to embrace her affinity and become what she has been called to be, then I suspect she will change all our lives. But she is not the only one who must accept the parts of her life that she can't ignore. Kaden, what is it that drives you forward in such a fashion?"
The question caught him off guard as he cleared his throat, "I'm not sure what you're asking. I just do my best with what I have." Elder Fala looked him dead on as she pressed, "I've noticed you before. I've seen how hard you work to excell, Kaden. When the other students have left for the day, you are always the one who stays after to train. Late in the night, when all others have retired to sleep, it is you who will not give up until you've surpassed who you were the day before. What makes you work so hard? Is it Jessah? Do you seek her approval that badly? Or is it living up to your father's reputation?"
Unsure why his heart was racing so, Kaden tried his best to keep his signature calm, "My father's reputation?" The elderly woman smiled softly, "I remember Kidic very well. It's hard to believe that it's been fifteen years since he left us. Your father was not only a gifted Whisperer, he was the shining star of Rinsha. No matter what had to be done, he would rise up and accomplish it. There was a lot of talk about him being my supressor one day. Rinsha was better for him."
This was the first time Kaden had ever heard praise for the man who had died before his birth. An embarassing lump began to form in his throat, "So, he was a good man?" Elder Fala squeezed his arm affectionately, "Yes, dear, he was a very good man. I'm sure Jessah doesn't enjoy speaking of him and the hurt in her heart clouds the memories. But Kidic was a good man, you resemble him so and that is why I don't believe you should push yourself so hard. You are your own person."
In his world where nothing he ever did was good enough, those words were enough to make him want to smile or cry, whatever came first. But the discipline he had aquired over the years prevented such childish acts as he unwound his arm from his mentor's and bowed slightly, "Thank you Elder Fala. I really should be getting back now." She smiled and waved as he left. When the boy was out of sight, Elder Fala sighed sadly, "He doesn't need to know the truth........"