Caeylia glared at the small crowd of creatures one at a time, silently ordering each and every one of them to shut up. Not a single one listened. They were so absorbed in their own conversations that they hadn't even seen her. She felt the skin on her back ripple slightly, a telltale sign that she had lost control, again. The tips for her beautiful brown mane began turning a sparkling white, and she let out a low husky growl.
The room became silent as most everyone's attention shifted from their own conversations to Caeylia. Aiden, who had been the first to hear her growl, set down his mirror, and hurried over to the high platform that Caeylia was standing on. He placed his hands on her now furry shoulders and rubbed them gently.
"Deep breaths, Cae , deep breaths," he whispered softly in her ear, "Stay in control." By now all twenty-four and a half pairs of eyes were staring intently at Caeylia, watching her every move. Gradually, with Aiden's help, the fur disappeared and Caeylia's hair returned to it's natural color. Taking advantage of the continued silence, Caeylia began talking. Aiden took one last look at Caeylia and went back to his seat; once again gazing into the depths of the mirror.
"How many of our members have already seen seventeen winters?" Caeylia questioned. Seven members of the crowd raised their hands
"How many moons till you've completed you eighteenth year?
"Seven," said one short and delicately built Faery.
"Three," another said.
"My eighteenth birthday is exactly two moons from now, and Aiden's is in one," Caeylia informed them. "As was Damien's," she added softly, more to herself than anyone else. She blinked away the wetness building up in her eyes.
"Tell me what you all plan to do when we leave. Do you plan to accept your fate blindly, as those before you have done?" Everyone remained silent, unsure of what she was suggesting. Caeylia sighed. She had been expecting a more enthusiastic response.
"All those who don't want to be subject to eternal bondage, come to the forest behind the school seven nights from now. Be there as soon as the sun disappears from the sky. We will not wait for you. Meeting adjourned," she said, stepping down from the platform and heading towards Aiden. The whole room was immediately filled with low whispers.
"Come on," Caeylia urged Aiden, pulling at his sleeve . He got up a bit reluctantly, still clinging on to the mirror, and walked with her out the door.
"You okay?" Caeylia asked, her eyes filled with concern, "You seemed a bit quiet today." Aiden shrugged.
"It's Damien, isn't it?" she questioned, envisioning that her worst nightmares had come true. "Is he okay?" Aiden shrugged once more. This time his eyes betrayed him.
"He's blocked me out completely," Aiden told her, his expression slightly pained. "I haven't been able to contact him since last week. Whenever I reach out to him all I see is a heavy gray fog"
"That means he's strong enough to put up mind barriers, right?" asked Caeylia, reassuring herself.
Aiden shook his head. "I don't think that's his own mind barrier. Damien's never blocked me out before. Someone else could have placed mind barriers on him, or the place that he went to could have mind barriers on it."
Caeylia looked at the mirror, wondering if Aiden had been trying to scry Damien during the meeting. As though reading her mind he said"I was trying to find him."
"Only trying?" Caeylia asked, now a little puzzled.
"Some sort of barrier blocked him from view; it was similar to the one that I saw when I was trying to contact him mentally."
"Well, why didn't you try to break through the barriers?"
" I did, but I couldn't."
"That's not very surprising, seeing as you've had almost no sleep between this and the planning of the escape," she stated. "If you promise to get some sleep and take care of yourself properly for the next two weeks, I'll try to scry Damien for you." In no mood to argue, Aiden nodded, offering her the mirror.
"Say it," she prodded. Though she wanted to see Damien as bad as he did, she needed Aiden for the escape.
The corners of Caeylia's mouth twitched, restraining a laugh. She had gotten the better of him again.
Caeylia headed through the wide archway at the back of the school into the brightly colored garden that marked the edge of the school grounds. Beyond that was a large expanse of tall grasses, and beyond that was the forest. The garden's caretakers were the Nymphs themselves, and, under their loving care, it stayed green even in the dead of winter. But that wasn't why Caeylia was here; she had a mission. She hurried through the maze of flowers until she finally arrived at a small secluded lake. She sat down slowly, trying to avoid crushing the small delicate white buds that dotted the stubbly grasses rimming the lake.
"Why not the mirror?" asked Aiden, who, without her knowledge, had been following her the whole time. Caeylia shrugged, running her fingers across the surface of the water, just barely getting the tips of her fingers wet.
"I guess I just like the atmosphere here." She waited for the water to settle, and began staring at it intently. Slowly, the small circular patch of water that she had been staring at became the reflection of a cloudy gray mass, just as Aiden had said. Caeylia stared deep into the fog, imagining (that) that a powerful wind was slowly blowing it away.
Slowly, but surely, sections of the fog began blowing away, and behind them Caeylia could see the clouded silhouette of a person. Without realizing it, Caeylia had lessened the power of her breeze, and the clouds of fog floated back into their original positions. She increased the speed of the wind and very quickly, clumps of fog began blowing away again.
Within a few seconds, all of the fog had been blown away, revealing Damien's battered body. He was barely able to stand, leaning against a stone wall for support. Caeylia's gaze traveled over his abused body. His arms were bruised, his wrists were chafed, and his back was been torn up, as though he had been whipped . His thick black hair, identical to Aiden's, was matted in a wet, bloody mass. Caeylia felt like crying. What have they done to you? My poor beautiful Damien. She gazed at his pain ravaged face, and he looked up at her. He had sensed her presence. Aiden, he mouthed, wincing from the pain of such a simple action.
"Aiden" Caeylia ordered, "try contacting Damien now." Aiden heard the urgency in Caeylia's voice, and immediately got in touch with Damien. Slowly, Aiden's expression changed from confused to shocked, then to worried. Caeylia glanced back at the water, seeing if she could glean what was being said from Damien's expression, but his face was only contorted in pain. Nothing else.
"Okay," Aiden said, nodding in Caeylia's direction, telling her to release the mind barriers. Caeylia let out a sigh of relief as she released them.
"What did he say?" she prodded gently. Aiden didn't answer.
"Aiden," she said slowly. "What did Damien say?" Aiden just shook his head.
"We have to move the date of the escape to tomorrow," he said finally. Caeylia stared at him in shock for about a millisecond, and then exploded.
"Are you crazy? We haven't prepared anything! We barely know where we're going to go, let alone how. We don't even have everything that we need to leave!"
"We'll manage," he muttered. Aiden turned back towards the school and started walking, his was of saying that this conversation was over. Caeylia didn't agree.
"Why is it so important that we leave tomorrow?" she asked aggressively. Aiden gazed intently at the muddy brick wall less than fifty feet away, pretending not to have heard her. Caeylia tried a different approach.
"How do you suppose we tell everyone about this change of schedule?"
"Arrange another meeting," Aiden suggested coolly still staring at the wall, "...or just talk to all of the people who wanted to come."
Caeylia gave him a look. "Aiden, you know it's not that easy to schedule a meeting. I need to talk to the headmaster and tell him why I want to schedule an extra meeting, not that I would tell them the truth. Then he would probably schedule a meeting a couple weeks later, but given how everything is going right now, we're lucky to have been able to have the meeting today, let alone another."
"You're smart, you should be able to come up with something," he said. Caeylia glared at him.
"We have only been planning this for a couple days, and now you want to cut what little time we have left in half?" Caeylia's voice dropped in volume. "Aiden, why is it so important that we leave tomorrow?"
"Caeylia, trust me," Aiden said. "We must leave tomorrow." Caeylia agreed reluctantly. She knew that Aiden must have a good reason for not telling her, and she trusted him completely, but she just really wanted to know .
"Then I'll go and get everything that I think we'll need, as planned, and you -"
"I'll talk to all of the people who might want to come with us," Caeylia interrupted. She could not stand anyone, even Aiden, telling her what to do. Aiden's inky black eyes twinkled, laughing at Cae's childishness, while the rest of his face remained expressionless.
"Okay then," Caeylia waved, "bye." Aiden didn't hear her. He had already passed the second set of double doors that marked the other end of the school, and now he was heading toward the forest that bordered the edge of the school grounds. What he did in there Caeylia didn't even know.