"Hey" he said, and nodded at me like any normal teenager would. I was so shocked I just stood there noiselessly. He laughed. "You couldn't possibly think that Starfire was the only one with you! Two is better than one, they say."
I shook my head, dumbfounded. My following response sounded stupid once out of my mouth: "I don't think that's how the phrase goes."
He shrugged and laughed carelessly. "I was close, at least. Anyway, why are you out so early?"
I didn't know if I should tell him about Eva. "I guess I just had a lot on my mind."
"Ah" he said, nodding sagely. He lost some of the American-teenager-ness that I had been so grateful to see. A piece of that wanted normality was lost. "I understand. Have you seen the market place?"
We walked into a bustling town, a lot like Main Street at my old home, with a wide road in the middle and shops lining both sides. But unlike back home, the street was dirt, and there were stalls lined up everywhere, and instead of cars, there were people flooding the streets. Everything was bright and colorful. Signs and banners advertising products jumped out at me, demanding my attention.
"Fairy dust, only 9.95 an ounce!" proclaimed one.
"Fried white pine! Only 2.30!" shouted another.
I turned to Luke. "Fried white pine?"
"Yea, I don't like it much," he replied, sounding uninterested.
I laughed, feeling bewildered and overwhelmed and excited all at once. Luke laughed at the expression on my face.
"What are these prices? This isn't normal money, is it?"
Luke thought that was pretty funny, for reasons that were completely beyond me.
"Normal money? I'm assuming you mean American currency? No, we trade in gold. All different sizes to show different worth. But you don't have to pay for anything. Just say your name and everything will be free"
That sounded pretty good to me!
Luke must have know what I was thinking, because next he said "That doesn't mean you can take as much as you want from everyone." He told me, his face stern.
So I only took a little of everything. Fried white pine is pretty good.
"Where have you been?!" shrieked Starfire, her eyes bulging with rage. Luke came out from behind me, smiling like nothing was wrong. "You!" she screamed in his face. "Where did you take him? What did you do?"
Luke was completely undeterred by her shrill screams. "I gave him a tour of the market place. A lot of people were really happy to see him. It's okay, I fed him."
This was true. A lot of people, after hearing my name, gave cries of joy and hugged or shook hands with me. A band carrying the strangest instruments I have ever seen, like a mix of every single instrument ever that was no bigger than a bass, asked me why my favorite type of music was. I said classic rock, and holy-freaking-crap, those men and their crazy instruments began playing all my favorite songs. Little kids were laughing and dancing by the street corner and one little girl walked up to me and gave me a dandelion and a shy smile. The whole experience was awesome. I didn't realize how important I was till now.
"Get. Out." Starfire snarled at Luke. Luke shrugged and said "We'll hang tomorrow man." We bumped fists. I seriously loved acting like a normal fourteen year old again. I turned back to Starfire, who was glaring at me icily.
"So… where's Tamwyn?" I inquired, just to break the tension.
"He's busy" she spat and her voice was like venom in my brain. "Why did you leave? Where did you go?"
I sighed. "I woke up and went to the prison to talk to Eva since you two wouldn't tell me anything, except that she wasn't there so that failed. Then I was on my way back when I ran into Luke. We went to the market place, like he said. It was a load of fun." I didn't really know Luke before now - I could barely ever remember his name - but it seemed like he was about to be my only friend. "Why are you angry anyway?"
"Not everyone is a fan of you, Flame. Someone here is a traitor."
I gaped at her, not comprehending.
"This is what you wanted to know so badly, so I suggest you listen." She said, her tone dark and serious. "None of the other tribes new you were returning, except for Air, and they have no allies. Earth and Water thought you were dead. To them, with out you we were no threat. Now that you're here, there will be frequent attacks upon our city. Many will die. Now is when we truly have to fight."
She sighed and rolled her eyes at my obvious confusion. "Don't you understand?!" she cried, sounding exasperated. "Innocent people are going to die for you! Now we don't have time to prepare, to send our soldiers out, because the enemy is coming here!"
"But" I began slowly, "Eva warned us, right? So we have an advantage."
"Not the advantage we had planned on." She snapped. "We have days to prepare before they are here."
"What do I need to then?
She looked me full in the face. "No more vacations."
I wasn't sure if I should laugh or not.
"Again." Called Star, as I lay on the ground gasping for air and clutching my ribs.
"Can't we - can't we take a break?" I panted.
"Your enemies wont - "
"Oh shut up, will you?" I snapped, having finally hit a breaking point. "I am aware that in war, you don't get a freaking break. But currently, I am practically dying, so if I was fighting for real, I would probably give up then too."
"No you wouldn't." she said softly. "Not knowing that the lives of millions depend on you, knowing that the world's fate all depends on whether or not you choose to give up. So you wouldn't give up. You would fight back, even under threat of death.
We raced back to the training center (which, ironically, we never trained in). She beat me by about a minute, with me dragging my battered body along as fast as it would go. That wasn't all that fast. By the time I got there, Starfire was already relaxing by a fire, which was burning merrily with no wood at all. Sitting next to her was Luke, who was drinking something from what looked like one of those thin vases made for one or two flowers only. It was wavy and painted a deep purple. I noticed Star had one similar next to her, the curves were softer and the color pink. Definitely would have never pegged Star as a pink lover. I was also under the impression that she hated Luke. But I'm sure she hates me too, sand she still keeps company with me.
They didn't notice me at first, so I kind of stood there
awkwardly, not sure if I should join them or not. But then Luke
waved me over, so I sat on the floor beside them. Luke offered me
a red cup, this one tilting slightly to the left, full of
something dark and hot. I took a sip and was surprised to find
that it was just coffee. I guess I hadn't realized something so
normal could possibly exist here. My surprise probably showed on
my face because Star and Luke started laughing.
"Coffee is a plant, Flame" said Luke, still laughing. I chose to not respond and continued to drink my coffee in what I hoped was a dignified way. After a considerable strethch of silence, I began to ask if the two of them were buddies again, when Tamwyn burst through the doors, and stood in front of us, looking angry and upset. But also fearful.
"What has happened?" Starfire asked at once.
"They killed Eva."
Suddenly the world went black.
I woke up screaming, or maybe crying, or maybe I heard someone else making noise at the same moment I moved my lips. I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure of anything, really.
I woke up again, this time with Tamwyn sitting nest to me. He noticed my eyes were open. "You passed out, and developed a sudden fever. You're fine now though."
"How long have I been out?" I asked, shaking my head groggily. Everything was a blur.
"Two days." He replied. His voice was strangely monotone, and he wasn't looking at me in the eyes like he usually does when he talks. But now he seemed distracted and upset, for some reason. Suddenly, I remembered. I gasped loudly and practically shouted, "What happened to Eva?!"
He sighed, a long, drawn out sigh.
"They killed her."
"But why? How? Who?" I begged, desperate to know.
"Eva was part of a group of rebels in the Earth Tribe. They were protesters against the war, working for peace. She warned us about incoming attacks, which was extremely brave and risky. The Earth king found out. From what we know, she took an arrow to the heart in the town square.
"They made her death a spectacle."
I sat in silence, drinking this in.
"She's dead." I said quietly.
He sighed again. "Dead. Gone forever."
I sighed, refusing to succumb to tears. I wanted so badly to scream, but instead I calmly said, "It's time to fight then."