Chapter 2



helsea wondered for the millionth time why she was doing this. She should be back at the circus remaining inconspicuous on her way to Aroth. But she found herself following a sick stranger's horse deep into the woods at night instead. Why did she have such an interest in this boy? Maybe it had been his eyes, so dark and intense. When she first saw them after she had pulled him out of the water, she had assumed that all Adrian people had eyes like that. But she soon found that his were something different. They seemed knowing. Great, she thought to herself, I could be ruining everything because I think he has pretty eyes. Well, it wasn't just his eyes—as much as they intrigued her. He was different from men she had met before. Not that she really had much experience. It was just.....he was so mysterious and yet simple. He had not turned her in when she had released that poor, defenseless bear. His stubbornness made her angry, but he seemed kind and, as much as she hated to admit it, very attractive. No. He's sick and I need to make sure he gets cared for, that's all. But it didn't sound very convincing.

            Peering up at Landon, she couldn't help but frown. His head was down as if he were asleep and he swayed in his saddle as though he might fall at any given moment. Every once and a while he would mumble something about his mother. He definitely was very sick.

            She worried that his horse was leading them to the middle of nowhere, but the only thing that kept her from taking them back to the village was the occasional hint of a trail or a possible landmark. Nevertheless, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was watching them. It was probably just the falling darkness that scared her and the sounds of forest animals rustling through the bushes. But that eerie feeling had her jumping at her own shadow.

            After what seemed like an endless trek through the woods, she found a small farm with a peaceful feel to it. Or rather, the horse found it. A faint yellow glow in the window told her the inhabitance were still awake. Wondering where Landon was, perhaps.

            "Can I go outside, mom?" Landon muttered feverishly. He was getting worse.

            Trying to think of what to say, Chelsea approached the door and knocked. An old man with a gray beard and glasses opened the door and studied her, poorly masking his surprise. "Can I help you?" he asked curiously.

            "Do you know this lad?" she said and motioned toward Landon. He peered over her shoulder and his brows furrowed. "That I do, lass. What happened to him?"

            "He's sick," she retorted, "Oh dear." She ran to catch him from falling out of his saddle, but the old man got there first. Together they half dragged the dreaming Landon onto a bed inside the house. Settling him down, she took a look around. The house was cozy and pleasant, but poorly taken care of. It was dirty and books and such littered the table. A moth fluttered intently around the candle which was melting onto the papers. Didn't it bother them that everything was covered in dust?

            Once he had made sure that Landon was comfortably situated, the old man turned to Chelsea and inspected her openly. "Are you a friend of his?" he inquired doubtfully. He didn't seem like the kind of person who was easily fooled.

            "Not exactly," she replied, not wanting to explain. He didn't press the subject.

            Remembering her manners, she blushed and said, "I'm Chelsea. I came with the circus." A flash of recognition and maybe even awe entered his expression, but it was gone as soon as it came. Could he know who she was? Nonsense, he probably thought she was a performer. She needed to keep a cool head.

            "Uncle Ben," he told her calmly, then glanced at Landon when he murmured something inaudible. "He has been asking for his mother," she explained. Ben's bushy brows knitted together and he finally began to look worried. Sensing that something disturbed him, she asked, "Is something wrong?" Hoping he didn't think she was prying, she waited for him to answer. Ben hesitated, then said, "His parents have been dead for twelve years."

            "Oh. I'm sorry."

            "As am I, but we must worry about Landon right now. I admit, I have no idea how to treat fever," he confessed.

            Chelsea was alarmed. She couldn't just leave him here with no treatment! It was obvious they lived alone, and Ben had told her openly that he had no skill in healing. They could call a doctor, but what could a doctor do that she couldn't do for free? If she stayed here until he got better.....But what about the circus? They would be leaving in a few days if not sooner, and she doubted they would wait for her. But someone needed her help, and it was not her nature to leave them in need. Letting out a long breath, she decided to stay until he recovered. She could always catch up with the circus later. That is, if Ben would have her.

            "I could stay and help, if you want me to," she suggested.

            He turned his brown eyes on her and considered her request. "Would you? I wouldn't want to trouble you," he added, "It would be indeed better on Landon's part."  Chelsea tried to give him a reassuring smile, but she was unsure herself.

            "No trouble at all. I would love to help."

            She insisted on making a bed on the floor next to Landon's so she could tend to him easily despite Ben's protests that she should sleep on the couch. But it proved to be a tedious task.

            Sometimes Landon would begin to yell and thrash, so she had to calm him by stroking his hair and singing softly in his ear. Chelsea had no idea if it actually worked, but he calmed down eventually. Then he would become so still that she checked his heartbeat several times before she was satisfied that he was alive. And all the while he would mumble things about his parents.

            Chelsea treated him with the proper medicines and care, but she worried that he wouldn't survive.

            The next day, she offered to make breakfast. Ben couldn't argue that her food was better than his, so they ate together, conversing about idle things. It didn't take long for the conversation to turn to Landon.

            "He's a good, honest boy. Always does his work. Sometimes I worry that he should spend more time with youngsters his age, though. He spends most of his time in the forest. At least he's got Mark," An amused twinkle appeared in his eyes, "That one is about as much as I can handle. Always getting in to trouble, he is." Chelsea wanted to know more about Landon, so she searched for a way to get back on topic. "So you raised Landon?" Ben shrugged, then eyed her warily, considering. "His parents were murdered, so I took him in," he said carefully.

            She got a strange feeling that he knew more about her than he let on.

            She tried to lighten the mood. "What does he like to do? When he is not wandering about the forest, that is."

            "When he is not climbing trees, he is practicing the sword with Mark or doing chores. He likes to be outside," Ben recalled. Tree climbing; that would explain his falling out of the sky.

            "Is he good with the sword?" she wondered. A faint smile played on his lips. What was he thinking about? "Sure, he's a natural. Mark has got the training, but Landon's got the speed and agility. He learns fast." Chelsea didn't know what to say, so she just nodded and took a bite of soup. Silence followed, and she was almost relieved when Landon moaned in his sleep from the other room. Taking the excuse to leave, she sat on the edge of the bed and held his hand, trying to comfort him. He became still.

            Chelsea knew she shouldn't panic—he had gone still like this before—but it was a relief when she found a heartbeat, however faint. She silently prayed that he would be okay as she brushed his hair out of his face. She still didn't know why she cared so much.

            After a few days tending Landon, she was certain the circus had already left, but she hardly cared. She would leave as soon as he was better. She had a duty to do, but that had to wait until Landon was well. She was ashamed to realize she would miss him when she left. True, she had barely known him in his conscious state, but with all the days she had spent by his side talking to him, she felt as though she knew him.


Landon was four years old, playing with his mother's curly brown hair and laughing. His mom smiled and her large brown eyes shown with happiness as she admired her baby. "He has your eyes, David," she cooed, and his father laughed. "That he does, but he inherited your hair color. I wonder what he would have looked like with black like mine." He smiled heartily down at his son. "Watch this," he whispered to Landon, crouching down to touch his fingers to the dirt. A flower grew almost immediately. Landon laughed joyously and clapped his small hands. "Again! Again!" he squealed. His father made another flower. "They need water," said his mother, holding her free hand out. A ball of water appeared there and hovered just above her palm. She then dropped it on the flowers, splashing his dad. "Hey!" he protested, but his smile never left. "You did that on purpose, Merilee!" Landon laughed again and the vision faded. ­


He was six years old, in the house staring out the window. He hated learning when he could be outside. Why did they have to pick the sunniest days to keep him in?

            "....So you add three to seven and—Landon, are you listening? Landon? Landon!" He jumped as Uncle Ben's voice finally registered. "What? Oh, yeah, I'm listening," he muttered. Uncle Ben didn't look like he believed it, but he went on anyway.

            His dad entered the room and Landon's spirits soared. Maybe his dad would get him out of here.

            "Daddy, can I come to town with you? You promised I could come next time," he whined.

            "Did I?" His father said, smiling. He hadn't really, but Landon wasn't about to remind him. "Well then, jump in the wagon and I'll be right out. Maybe we can...." The vision faded.


Landon was seven years old, huddled in the corner with his face buried in his hands, not daring to look up in fear of what he might see. All around he could hear yelling and wreckage. What was happening? Wiping his wet eyes, he looked up and wished he hadn't.

            The house was in ruins and all sorts of the contents littered the ground. Strange people in black masks were setting things on fire, and a large man with a curly black beard was watching the destruction looking satisfied. Landon whimpered with fear, and the man turned to stare at him. A malicious gleam appeared in his eyes as he began to advance towards him. The big man kicked his parent's limp bodies aside with barely a glance as he approached Landon.

            "I almost forgot about this little brat," he sneered to a lanky man with shaggy black hair. The other man snickered evilly. "Now, now, I'll make it quick. You needn't worry, it will only hurt for a moment." Anger welled up in Landon until he thought he might explode with the intensity of it. It filled him until he couldn't contain it any longer.

            He let it go.

            He could feel the motion of the wind around him and directed it, guided it. Using all the force of the wind, he slammed it at the man. He barely had time to gasp before he was pushed back into the wall. The murderer dropped to the ground, lifeless.

            The other men gaped at their dead master, unsure of what to do. After a moment, one ran into the forest and the others followed.

            Landon was alone. The vision faded to darkness.


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