Any day now. Any day, I’m going to find the Sibyl. She’s going to magically appear right next me, and I’m going to say something clever like, “Hey there, I’m Owen, and boy do I have deal for you!” And she’s going to look at me with large, shining eyes and thank me for being her hero, her savior. Then, she’ll tell me where to find the man I’m looking for, and I’ll tell her the ultimate hiding place.
I snort at my own stupidity. Yeah, right. She’ll do that—right after pigs fly and dogs learn to dance! I muse over the dogs dancing, redacting that claim. Dogs are pretty clever.
Then, I roll my eyes at myself all over again. Focus, Owen! Stop being a moron. In my defense, I had seen a funny dog video this morning that could’ve passed for a dog dancing. It was a tan poodle wearing a tutu, walking on its two hind legs as it spun a few circles, chasing a treat in someone’s hand.
And yeah, I’m getting distracted again.
I heave a sigh, looking out over the square. I’m seated on the steps of Suzzallo Library, watching the masses of students as they hustle between classes. I could be inside, getting a coffee from the cafe. I could be in the HUB, getting a bite to eat. I could be a million other places on campus, but I’m sitting here, soaking in the fresh air. It’s the first day of blue skies we’ve had since I got here, and for once, the threat of rain isn’t hanging in the heavy gray clouds. Today, the clouds are fluffy and white, and the sun is even shining down.
For an elemental like me, it’s hard to be inside, especially with the gentle breeze playing with my hair, air giving me just a bit more attention than the Norms milling around. I’m okay with that, though. It’s refreshing, especially because the stench of smog from busses, cars, and transit doesn’t reach this far into campus.
But the thing I’m realizing about a nice day in Seattle is that I’m not the only one who wants to enjoy the blue skies. Nope. I’m sitting on a stair because the metal tables on the entrance floor are already claimed but students. The wall that creates a short balcony is a seat to many swinging legs. The stairs are even crowded with clusters of students, who lean out of the way as library-bound students pass by.
In other words, the entire square is crowded with bodies, more than usual. I can barely see faces, let alone get a head count as the students walk by like fish caught in a stream. I can barely hear my own thoughts, either, it’s so loud. Perhaps that’s why I’m having unproductive ones.
I’m tempted to put in my earbuds and drown out the chatter, the talk about classes and assignments, midterms and professors, papers due and projects still incomplete, but I don’t. This is the human element I crave. It’s part of why I love theater. It’s real, it’s emotional, and it’s live.
With the heat of Helios shining down on me and the wind of Uranus lifting my hair, I close my eyes and connect to spirit, letting the energy surrounding me fill me. As soon as I open to the element, it’s at once too much and not enough. I can feel those around me like a living thing—because they are alive. I can sense the cluster of girls to my right, their energy tearing through me and filling me with their excitement and trepidation, their irritation and their joy. I’m not sure what upsets them—probably classes or midterms—but I’m suddenly on edge, too. I also feel the couple a few steps up, drinking coffee and flirting. Their happiness flushes my cheeks, making my heart rate double. I feel the sea of students before me, anxious energy pelting me with concerns as they race to their next classes or worry through thoughts in their minds. I feel the students in the library, in the other buildings to my left and right, the ones in front of me and further, still, spirit sending my senses to touch every living soul within a mile.
The wind kicks up around me as I lose control, and I can’t do anything to calm it, to sooth it, to bring it back to myself. I can feel clouds rapidly approaching right before rain begins to pour from the sky. Even the ground gives a little shake, and I’m just thankful I haven’t set anything on fire yet.
Sweat slicks down my skin, and the bodies around me start shrieking or gasping in alarm as the weather continues to spiral out of control around us. Their panic consumes me, spirit dragging their raging emotions back to me in spades. I’m panting now, and air races to fill my lungs.
Then, I feel it. And suddenly, the air stops whipping, the rain stops pouring, the ground stops shaking.
My eyes snap open.
I’m on my feet and running before I’m conscious of the decision. I’m nearly shoving people out of the way—people still trying to climb back to their feet or move from the shock of the receding earthquake—as I bolt across the square. I’m not moving fast enough, and now that my connection to spirit is cut, I’m not sure where that feeling went, where that Caster went. Another spirit elemental, and their power had been incredible, damn incredible. Impossible.
All I can think is, Find him, find him, find him! as I continue ducking and weaving students, students who are now back into the flow of walking between buildings now that the strange weather has passed, now that the ground has stopped shaking, now that they have places to be. Not even freak weather storms rattle these people. I’m starting to think nothing will.
But I felt him, for a moment. It’s him, my blood screams at me. He’s here!
I’ve gotten turned around in the mass of bodies, and I’m not even sure which direction the feeling had come from anymore. Had it been in front of me? Behind me? My blood is pointing, pointing, pointing. Every. Single. Direction. I’ll never be able to find him like this.
He was why I lost control. He was why my power raged. The sheer number of people around me hadn’t helped, but I’d never lost touch like that before. Never became consumed by the elements.
“Where are you?” I whisper to myself, standing at the edge of the crowd on the other side of the square. I can see Suzzallo mocking me, towering over me, the stone structure aware of my failure. “Please, Gaia, tell me where he is.”
I wait. One heartbeat. Two.
I let out my breath, pressing my back against the building I’ve stopped next to. “Figures.”
The door next to me opens, but I don’t bother moving. If it hits me, then maybe it’ll smack some damn sense into me, maybe some luck for good measure, too.
“That was freaky,” a man in his early forties says, holding the door open. He’s much too old to be who I’m looking for, and I feel myself deflate further. “It’s been a while since the last earthquake.”
A young woman snorts, her back to me as they walk toward the square. “Please, Dad. We’ve seen crazier weather than that.”
“You’re right, pumpkin, but don’t think an earthquake is going to distract me from the topic at hand.”
“Daaad,” she drones in defeat. “You know this is a bad idea.”
“Everything’s a bad idea to you!”
“Yes, but school, Dad? C’mon. That’s just asking for trouble.”
“Damn it, Samantha, indulge your father…”
My lips twitch up as I watch them disappear into the crowd. Now there’s a drama that could be interesting to see unfold.
I look skyward, smiling up at the blue sky.
“Maybe next time,” I whisper to myself. “He’s closer than I ever imagined.”
Owen first appears in “Hunter’s Mark,” book 2 in the Light of Chaos series. Click “Buy on Amazon” below to read “King’s Chaos,” book 1 in the Light of Chaos series, free on KindleUnlimited. Follow this link to preorder “Hunter’s Mark,” available March 20, 2020.