Selera led the way to the twin’s cabin and as Sialin had signalled, all was quiet. Selera looked to Groyven, who nodded and quickly gave her a hug. She slowly opened the door, allowing Groyven to slip inside before gently closing it behind him. The lamp was low and the light dim. Looking around the cabin, he noticed that their possessions had been carefully cleaned up and put back in their place. Glanced at Tiffaniel as she stirred in her sleep, he turned and pulled a blanket out of a compartment. Tiffaniel stirred again, hearing his movements and roused herself. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she rubbed her swollen eyes, yawning while watching him ready himself to sleep.
He ignored her gaze and unrolled the blanket on the floor of the small cabin, before laying down on it, pulling his cloak around him. Rolling onto his side, away from her, he glanced at the lantern, snuffing its flame with thought alone. A few moments later he felt movement at his back, and her arms clumsily holding around his waist as she snuggled against him.
‘Go back to bed, Tiff.’ he said quietly.
‘If you sleep on the floor, I sleep on the floor.’
‘I am trying to show I am sorry.’ she said quietly.
A frown knitted his brow as a lump formed in his throat, ‘You can try and show you are sorry to everyone who cares for you.’
He felt her squirm slightly.
‘Ven, please.’ she said in response to his silence, ‘I am sorry, I went too far… There, I said it. It is all good now.’
His brow furrowed further at her comment, ‘It is all good now? An apology does not fix the problem, it just lets me know that you acknowledge your mistake and that you are atoning for it. An ongoing change in your behaviour demonstrates that you trying to make a difference to be trusted.’
Tiffaniel went rigid before suddenly bursting into tears, pushing at his back, ‘Ven, those are Father’s words. You used his words.’
Groyven snapped his fingers and the lantern flared to life, flooding the room in a flickering warm glow.
He turned around, sitting with his legs crossed and looked at her, ‘His words will never leave me, just like the feeling of Mother’s arms around me.’
‘But Selera…She is trying to, she is trying to replace Mother.’ said Tiffaniel in desperation.
Groyven looked at his sister, ‘She is not trying to replace anyone. Why would she try to replace her own mother? Selera’s hug is different, it is comforting. I can feel she needs it just as much as I do. Mother’s arms were warmth, and unconditional love. Selera lost her mother too; she is just trying her best to be there for us. She wants to hold us close because we are all she has left of her parents. You forget that she had our parents a lot longer than we did. You need to let her in, you need to stop fighting it.’
Tiffaniel sat up, trying to change tact, ‘But, she is going to take us away from our home. The Enclave is all we have.’
Groyven interrupted, ‘The Enclave was just a job Mother and Father were working. Our home was wherever they were. Didn’t you think it was strange that we were living in tents, and that we moved all the time to different places while they uncovered and studied things?’ he shook his head in disbelief, ‘Selera is all we have left, our home is wherever our sister is. Very soon, she will take us to our real home in the mountains, where we were born and where we lived before we came here.’
Tiffaniel looked at him strangely, ‘Sometimes I dream of mountains and snow, forests. But I do not remember them, only in dreams. There are faces of people I do not know.’
‘Those are memories from when we were three or four. I have them too. Mother used to tell me how she missed the smell of the pines in winter and the crunch of snow underfoot in the still, crisp air. I remember warm clothes and my nose running and sneezing from the cold air. And a fire keeping our home warm. Tiff I am afraid too, but I…’ he said, his voice trailing off.
Tiffaniel looked at him warily.
He met her eyes before continuing, leaning forward, ‘I will not attack those that are going out of their way to help us. We are on a ship that is completely run by adults, all of which are keeping us safe. All of them are far from their home for us and for Selera. Selera is our sister, our family and our guardian. It is all right to feel afraid, to be uncertain. But they are all here to protect and help us. Please, Tiff. Our memories of Mother and Father may fade, but they will never disappear, and they can never be replaced by others. Selera needs more than just her brother, she needs her sister too, just like you need her.’
A sharp glint came to Tiffaniel’s eyes, her jaw set, ‘I don’t need…’
‘Tiff, stubborn as always. That must be how you earned that mark from Sialin.’ he countered.
Tiffaniel quickly covered her cheek, a measure of fear in her eyes, ‘I, I…’
‘It is not hard to put two and two together, Tiff. Straight after hearing from the Captain that we would be leaving, you went for your lesson. You were defensive and went on the attack with the first person you talked to. What did you say to deserve her anger? You tell me the truth.’
Tiffaniel drew back, trying to hide her face in the shadows as Groyven watched her, ‘I attacked Selera, I used my power. Sialin slapped me, she…dared…’ Tiffaniel stopped, watching her brother stare at her.
Groyven nodded, the anger and frustration building in the pit of his stomach, ‘Why does it not surprise me? Tiff, if Selera did not come for us, who would have? Would you have food in your stomach? Think hard Tiff. I want to see the home I was born in, I want to breathe cold fresh air, I want to hold the memories of our parents safe in my memory. I want to hear others’ memories of Mother and Father. I want to do this with you, as brother and sister, as twins.’
He stared at her, tears of restrained anger and desperation welling in his eyes, ‘I don’t want to fight anymore. Can you stop fighting? Can you stop attacking everyone who reaches out a hand to help us? Can you stop hurting us? Because we are hurting too, it is not just you. You are not the only one in pain, but you make sure, almost every day, to use their memory to wound me, to cut into me and Selera, to make us bleed. Soon, I will be so scarred I won’t feel anymore, and I won’t care.’
Small tendrils of steam started rising from him, his tears evaporating where they fell, ‘All I will have left is my elemental thread, I will turn inward and be consumed by my pursuit of it. I will disappear into my flames and turn into a demon of fire.’
Tiffaniel looked at him, fear in her eyes, ‘Don’t speak like this Groyven, you are frightening me.’
‘Why shouldn’t I? It is the truth. We both have it, the Demon’s thread. Selera has it too, just like our parents.’
‘Gods, Tiff, are you blind, are you so determined to see her as not our own?! The other day I asked Sialin about the hand print that is burnt into railing on the main deck. The one you showed me. She told me that just after finding out about our parents, they were on their way to us and they were set upon by pirates.’ Groyven took a deep settling breath.
‘She told me of Selera standing mid-deck and reaching out her hand towards the ship chasing them. She coldly crushed the frigate to splinters just by closing her hand into a fist at over a hundred yards like it were a toy, while arrows rained down around her, burning up before they hit their targets. Check the starboard railing again if you must. Sialin said that Selera has changed, she said that since our parents death, even she is sometimes fearful of Selera’s power and her control over it. The three of us need each other, we need to heal together.’
‘You need to stop thinking only of yourself. Open your eyes Tiff, your anger and frustration will not bring them back. But one thing it will do is drive those who care for you away. You will be alone, with nothing.’ he said finally, breathing deeply, his words spent.
Tiffaniel sat motionless shocked into silence by his words and visage, she threw herself forwards, ‘Ven, please. I am sorry. You are right, please, don’t leave me. Please, Ven, I will stop giving you reasons to apologise for my actions and words. I know you are right, I know that Selera is… I am sorry. I have been terrible to everyone. Everyone has been so patient with me while I attacked them. I have been hiding behind my fear and anger. I raged at you, and you have been hurting the same as me.’ she looked at him, his shoulders shaking as tears ran unchecked down her face, ‘Please Ven, don’t cry.’
Groyven started sobbing helplessly, his hands balled into fists as his long contained anguish finally boiled over, ‘I hurt, every day, it is not just you! I just want my sister back. I want my family back. But every time I try, you find something to stab it with, cut it with, tear it with. Why are you doing this?’ his eyes wide in pain.
She knelt, her hands trying to reach for him as he shrank away from her touch, ‘I’m sorry, Ven, I am so sorry.’
‘Can you stop hurting us?’ he pleaded, his voice breaking, his tears steaming away from him.
She cried, trying to grasp at him desperately as he pushed himself back away from her. Suddenly he looked at her in fear, his eyes clear, alert and afraid.
‘Don’t touch me.’ he said quickly, his voice calm.
She frowned, crying and shaking her head, ‘Ven, I need you. I need my brother.’
He looked at his hands in sudden understanding and compounding fear, pulling them back and away from her, feeling the corner of the cabin at his back, ‘Don’t touch me!’ he screamed.
She drew closer, cornering him, looking into his eyes as they unexpectedly burst into flame, sudden apprehension boiling in her stomach.
Groyven stood, screaming at her again, ‘I said, don’t touch me!’
He pushed past her, his hands igniting as he pulled the door open and ran for the stairs and the main deck, screaming out for Selera and Sialin. Tiffaniel chased after him, the air in his wake scorching hot. Reaching the main deck, Tiffaniel ran to him, sliding to a stop before him. Terror in her eyes as she pulled back, the fire spreading rapidly from his hands and eyes, engulfing his whole body. He stood ablaze, screaming repeatedly for his elder sister and his teacher.
She screamed, ‘Ven, I am sorry! I am sorry! Please! Stop! I am sorry! I didn’t mean…’ she felt a hand on her shoulder, dragging her back roughly. She looked up as she was forcibly turned around, meeting Selera’s face, a ghostly blue shadow following her sister’s movements, her eyes glowing like two intense sapphire-blue orbs of light.
‘What did you say to him, Tiff?’ came Selera’s voice, otherworldly over the crackle of Groyven’s flames.
Tiffaniel looked up at her elder sister’s countenance in fear, ‘I-I just apologised, and he started to cry, and then he burst into flames.’
Selera turned aside, her voice penetrated the night, ‘Sialin?!’