The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Fifteen

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You want to blow up the treaty.

It had been a life-changing moment for Audrey. There she was, thousands of miles away from where she was supposed to be, staring down the one person who, until a handful of minutes ago, she had trusted more than anyone else in the world.

And he lied to her.

So what if I do?” Jeremy snapped, anger and frustration getting the better of him at last. “Is this really how you want to live the rest of your life, Audrey? Lab rats under constant surveillance?

Of course it wasn’t how she wanted to live out the rest of her days. But if they wanted to free themselves of the suffocating conditions of the treaty, it couldn’t be like this.

“The question you should ask yourself is whether this is how you want to die. Because I know my answer. Do you?”

Jeremy threw his hands up and stormed away from her. “You’re being dramatic. Neither of us will die over this. We’ll get these fucking things out of us and then we’ll go back for the others.”

He looked back at her, his expression softer now.

“Please, Audrey. We have a real shot here.”

Without thinking, Audrey’s fingers traced down the center of her chest where, beneath the soft fabric of her sweater, a scar marred her flesh. The devices she, Jeremy, Connor, and Priva now lived with, nestled next to their hearts and tracking them like spies, seemed like the better end of the deal back when they made it. They hoped understanding more about them as Wishes would encourage the Loyals to see them as people.

But instead Audrey and her friends traded one form of imprisonment for another. The Loyals were always with them. The treaty came with strict rules and check-ins and repercussions for stepping out of line… Was this freedom?

Was the sacrifice worth it?

Audrey took a shaky breath and let herself meet Jeremy’s desperate gaze.

“Where do they think we are right now?” she asked.

“On vacation.” Jeremy took her hands in his. “A romantic getaway of sorts.”

Despite her anger, Audrey let slip a soft chuckle. It had been romantic, at least romantic by their standards.

At least until she caught onto Jeremy’s plan.

“You realize what they’ll do to us if they find out?” Her voice was the tiniest of whispers.

Jeremy pulled her to him. Pushing the dark curtain of her chestnut hair away from her shining golden eyes, he smiled down at her.

Gently he pressed a kiss to her mouth, working her lips until he felt her relax against him.

“They won’t,” he assured her in a tender voice. “I promise.”

Even then she knew it was a promise he wouldn’t be able to keep.

***

It was rare Em experienced a breakdown May couldn’t help fix. And if May’s touch – her embrace, her kiss – wasn’t enough, there was always the water.

On only two or three other occasions, water hadn’t been an option. When those breakdowns came, all May could do was hold tight.

From where she sat, rocking gently with her arms wrapped around Em, it looked as though her lover was falling apart. Choking and sobbing, Em clasped her hands over her ears, screwing her eyes shut and trying to shut out the barrage of cosmic noise. The trauma of her mind ripping back and forth between who she was and who she used to be, coupled with a heightened sensitivity to the energies pulsing around – the ones that are always there but no one else seemed to notice – left her screaming and thrashing.

This breakdown did not surprise May. A part of her wondered what coming face-to-face with people who once meant the world to Audrey might do to Em. The fallout was as bad as she had feared.

So May rocked her, letting Em know she was safe with whispered words. Dom sat beside them, rubbing rhythmic circles on Em’s back. He had seen her lose control before, but never like this.

“Is there really nothing we can do to help her?” He watched the scene with sad eyes.

May shook her head, acutely aware of its weight through her exhaustion.

“We have to ride it out. She’ll come around, eventually.

“This is hard to watch.”

“Imagine how hard it must be for her.”

They lost track of time while they waited, but as the night wore on Em’s breathing slowed and the screaming ebbed. May thought she had fallen asleep when a groggy voice punctuated the silence.

“What did you tell them, Dom?”

Dom sat up with surprise. “What do you mean, Em?”

Em peered over her shoulder, twisting in May’s still firm embrace. “Do they know who I am? Who I used to be?”

“I think they thought they did,” Dom admitted. “At least Jeremy did. But once they saw you-”

“What did you say?” She sounded more awake now, her voice tight with urgency.

“I told them the truth,” Dom said. “That your name is Em and you’re not whoever they thought you were. I told them I could help them find the person in the picture, but that was it.”

Em let out a slow exhale as May gave her a tight squeeze.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Dom sat back and ran his hands through his hair. “I thought it was important. When they told me about the kid, I thought you might want to make your own call-”

“Poor Dominic,” Em teased. “Always has to be a hero.”

He didn’t have it in him to argue.

“What do we do now?” May asked. She had bought them some time, but they still had a decision to make.

Em pulled herself up to sit, wobbling and looking around sluggishly as though she’d had too much to drink.

“I don’t know,” Em mumbled, lurching to her feet and staggering the few short paces to the door. “I need to think.”

“Wait.” May scrambled up and after her. “Where are you-”

But before she could finish her sentence, Em threw open the door and launched herself into the air.

May could only gape after her as Em disappeared skyward without so much as a goodbye.


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Fourteen

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Content warning: Strong language


 

Em’s eyes sprang open, widening at the sight of Jeremy’s accusatory finger pointed her way.

“Me?” She balked with indignation. “How is this my fault?”

“The Loyals caught wind of your little stunt in the mountains,” Priva said. “You remember, the one with the bear?”

Em went stiff.

“I was just doing my job,” she muttered.

“You should have been a little less fucking flashy about it,” Jeremy snapped.

“She saved someone’s life,” May countered, coming to Em’s defense. “It’s not like she had any other options.”

Jeremy stared May down with such burning intensity she flinched.

“The Loyals wanted us to help find you,” Priva continued, distracting May from Jeremy’s scrutiny with a shudder. “But we refused.”

“Why?” Em asked.

“Because agreeing to the treaty didn’t mean we agreed to turn on Wishes,” Connor answered. “They tried for a while on their own but they never were as good at finding Wishes they way we are. And when we refused to help them a second time-”

“They took our son instead.” Rue finished his sentence, her voice breaking.

A tense silence filled the small trailer. Em counted her rapid breaths as May looked to Dom.

“See?” he said quietly. “I told you they needed your help.”

At this Em shook her head. “How are we supposed to help? I’m sorry if I fucked things up for you guys but I’m not about to turn myself in just to-”

“We’re not asking you to,” Rue interrupted her, raising her hands to quell her rising temper. “We have a plan, but the only way it will work is if you agree to help us.

Em opened her mouth but paused when May placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Let’s hear them out, love,” May whispered in her ear. Em might not have felt any responsibility for Gaten’s abduction but May couldn’t seem to suppress the guilt roiling inside her.

Lips in a tight line, Em gave her a hard stare before letting out a tired sigh.

“What do you need us to do?” she relented.

Looking more hopeful than he had all night, Connor stepped forward.

“The Loyals wanted us to turn you in when we found you,” he admitted. “But as far as we’re concerned, we don’t owe them anything now. The treaty was as good as dead the moment they took Gaten to get us to cooperate. Our plan is to stage an exchange and, once he’s safe, come at them in an orchestrated assault. We don’t need to beat them – just create enough of a diversion so that all of us can slip away. With our combined abilities – yours in particular – we should be able to pull it off.”

Em raised an eyebrow and let out a hollow laugh. “You not only want to use me as bait, you want us to help you fight the Loyals?”

Dom jumped as though someone had shocked him.

“You didn’t say anything about using her as bait,” he exclaimed, looking scandalized. “You promised me they would be safe.”

Priva shook her head. “They are safe. We’re not going to hurt them. This is their choice to make.”

Em buried her eyes beneath the heels of her palms and tried to focus. Audrey’s dearest friends being back in her life was confusing in a way that was making it difficult to keep her mind from slipping. The fight to stay grounded in the present was wearing her out.

Scenes from Audrey’s final days cut into her thoughts like a corrupted reel jerked from scene to scene. The surface of her skin prickled with the static that warned of an impending breakdown.

With great difficulty she tried to concentrate on the touch of May’s warm hands still tight on her shoulders while her mind stumbled over the problem at hand.

This is unbelievable, she thought as bitterness boiled in the pit of her stomach. What would make them think I would agree to a plan like

Em’s mind snapped. For a split second she was Audrey again, her attention wrenching from a heated argument with Jeremy as a terrifying realization dawned on her. Audrey placed a shaking hand over her chest and the jagged silver scar that ran down its center…

“You fucking assholes,” Em shouted, shaking her head and choking on her words.

“What?” May asked, alarmed. “What is it?”

Em’s glare was furious.

“They’re fucking tracking you, aren’t they?”

No one spoke. Connor and Jeremy exchanged wide-eyed looks of surprise.

Aren’t they?” Em bellowed again, her demand for a response making everyone jump.

“No,” Connor answered, caution edging into his voice. “I mean, I suppose they might be, but-”

“For fuck’s sake,” Em snapped. She was furious, anger rolling through her veins like a tempest.

“Please,” Rue begged, stepping around her friends so Em and May could see her sincerity. “We swear we aren’t trying to lead them back to you.”

“But you might have.” There was venom in Em’s voice now. “So much for us being safe, huh?”

“Does it matter?” Jeremy mused. “From the sounds of things, you two don’t mind being on the run, anyway.”

Incensed, Em made to lunge for him but Dom had already rushed to her side and held her back with a firm hand. All her anger earned was a satisfied sneer from Jeremy instead.

“I’ve about had it with your shit,” she growled.

“Stop it,” May cut in, jumping down from her perch and planting herself between the bristling pair. “Both of you need to cut it out.”

She gave Em a look that begged for her trust before turning to Connor and Rue.

“If we help you, is there a way to end this?”

The others shared a look of unease.

“How do you mean?” Connor asked, approaching her as though her fingers rested on the detonator of a bomb.

“If we help get your son back, you have to help us too.” May could not have explained where the confidence to negotiate with these people was coming from, but she let it lead her. “You can go back to running from the Loyals if that’s what you want but somehow, when this is all over, they need to be off our trails. We walk away from this without targets on our backs or no deal.”

Jeremy scoffed. “And how would you like us to do that?”

Since the first moment their eyes met, May had been intimidated by this man. Yet now she wasn’t willing to back down. Whatever his problem was with her, she chose to rise above it.

“I guess you’ll have to figure it out.”

“It’ll be tricky,” Connor offered, his brow knitted tightly. “We need to think about how to pull it off.”

“That’s fine.” May held her head up high. “We need to think about this too.”

Everyone started, each pair of eyes turning to gaze at her with varying degrees of incredulity.

“You’re asking a lot of us here.” May took in their surprised with an aloof shrug of her shoulders. “You didn’t expect us to answer you right away, did you?”

A quick whispered exchange passed between Connor, Rue, and Priva. Jeremy glared.

“That’s fair.” Rue agreed at last. “We’re staying at a motel on the edge of town – Willows Court. Can we meet again in the morning?”

May glanced at Em and Dom, who stared back at her expectantly.

“Noon,” she said. “If we don’t show up by then, you’ll know our answer.”

While the decision didn’t sit well with everyone, WIND knew they had pushed far enough for one night. With muttered words of parting, they took their leave. Dom stayed behind and locked the door after them. He took a moment to steel his nerves, knowing full well he owed Em and May one hell of an apology.

“There’s no way for me to express how sorry I am,” he began, his back still to the girls. “If I had known-”

“Em? Are you okay?”

May’s voice was high with concern.

Dom twisted around just in time to see Em collapse into her arms.


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twelve

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Content warning: Strong language


Connor broke the awkward silence that followed Jeremy’s words.

“Do you know who we are?” he asked point blank.

It was a loaded question. Em’s mind tripped over how best to respond.

“You just introduced yourselves,” May pointed out, rescuing Em from herself. Em could have kissed her.

Rubbing his face thoughtfully, Connor considered them both.

“Let me come at this another way.” He wasn’t flirting with the edge of anger the way Jeremy had. His voice was steady and unflinching, like that of a therapist trying to connect with his patient. “We know about you.”

Em folded her arms and stared him down. “Know what?”

“About what you can do. That you can manipulate the energy around you and use it to help you fly, and as a weapon.”

“You realize what we did tonight was just an act, right?” Em drawled. “Smoke and mirrors. Rigging and clever lighting and shit like that.”

“We’re also not the only ones who know what you can do,” Priva cut in, ignoring the way Em mocked them. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

With an exaggerated shrug, Em gave a cheeky grin. “Well, there were an awful lot of people in the audience tonight.”

“A full house, I’d say,” May chimed in without missing a beat.

“Same with last night, if I remember correctly.”

“You’re on the run,” Priva snapped, interrupting their banter.

“Says who?” Em asked, sounding incredulous.

“Says your girlfriend.”

Em followed the accusatory point of Priva’s finger to where May stood gaping.

A flare of crimson flooded up May’s neck and across her face. She looked back at Em apologetically. “Dom asked about Ginger and Rosemary. I didn’t-”

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter,” Em waved her hand as if the details were trivial. “Half the people in this circus are on the run from something or someone. Did you know running away to join the circus is an actual thing people do?”

Jeremy stood abruptly from the small chair he had taken to haunting in the corner.

“How many of them are running away from the Loyals?” he asked, mimicking Em’s snark. “Is Melanie after them, too?”

This time Em kept her mouth shut. May bit her lip, becoming preoccupied with the ring on her middle finger.

“We know that’s who you’re running from,” Connor said, his voice a soothing balm after the many barbs and sharp tongues of his friends. “We know about Melanie; how she was there the day that photo was taken in Tenna.”

In a split second, Em re-lived that day in her mind like a film on fast-forward. The argument with May leading them both to a woman in danger. Em’s flagrant use of her otherworldly abilities not only saved her but got the attention of Melanie, a Loyal agent who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She and her organization of devout Star-worshipping Loyals had made it their business to hunt down anyone they assumed had been influenced by a missing wishing star. Em knew first hand just how vicious they could be in their misguided efforts to appease the Stars, which was exactly why she and May were still in hiding.

That Melanie and her cohorts were still after them wasn’t surprising. But if word of this pursuit had reached the people from her previous life, Em knew their situation was far worse than she had previously thought.

“What does it matter to you?” May asked, breaking the haze of Em’s troubled thoughts. Despite her stress, Em couldn’t help but smile. It made her proud to see how much May had come into her own, especially since they had fled the island of Hoku. The woman she met just over a year ago that fateful evening on the beach wouldn’t have been so brazen.

Connor smiled as well, the corners of his mouth creeping shyly skywards.

“It matters very much, actually,” he said in that gentle voice of his. “Over the years we’ve made it our business to protect anyone targeted by the Loyals and the way they try to scrub out anything that may have resulted from a missing wishing star.”

May opened her mouth, prepared to play dumb as long as necessary, but Jeremy cut her off.

“Don’t,” he snapped. “You’re going to pretend you don’t know what we’re talking about but we all know you do. This shit is exhausting and we don’t have time for it.”

Pursing her lips, May looked to Em. The pair exchanged a cryptic look.

“We know what you can do,” Jeremy continued, pointing at Em. “And we’re not fucking stupid. We know your abilities have something to do with the Stars.”

“Fine,” Em huffed, throwing her hands up. “Maybe everything you’ve said is true. Maybe it’s not. But it doesn’t matter. We don’t need your help. We’ve got this. But thanks anyway. C’mon, babe.” She took May’s hand and pulled her toward the door.

Jeremy stepped in front of them, blocking their escape route.

“If we could find you, what makes you think they won’t?” His eyes bored into Em’s, holding them with an uncomfortable intensity.

Em glanced over to Dom. He was hunched, his features pinched with shame, but he did not look away.

“I said we’ve got this,” Em growled through clenched teeth. She made to push past Jeremy, daring him to stop her with a glare, when Rue cried out from behind them.

“Wait!” Her voice was pained, desperate. “You may not need us, but we need you.”

“Please, my son’s life depends on it.”


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Eleven

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Content Warning: Strong language


For a heartbeat no one spoke.

Em’s wide eyes, filled with surprise, flickered from one face to the next, her grip tightening reflexively around May’s shoulder.

“Dom, what the fuck?” she demanded. She looked ready to run or fight, whichever was necessary first.

Holding his palms up in surrender, Dom kept his focus locked on her. He could sense her mix of fear and anger from where he stood. A part of him wanted to bridge that gap, to coax her down to a peaceful place with a compassionate touch. He knew her well enough to stay back. His heart ached, reflecting on how he had hoped his first reunion with these friends would go; so different from the scenario he found himself in now.

“Please, Em,” he begged. “These people need your help. You’ve got to know I wouldn’t have lead them to you if I didn’t believe that.”

And that was the problem – Em did know Dom believed he was doing the right thing. He was so good, and helping people was in his nature. For the first time she regretted not being more honest with him, for waiting so long to tell him her truth in what wound up being just a hastily abridged version anyway. She didn’t know what these people told him but there was no way he could have realized just how far away from them she had hoped to stay. For that she had no one to blame but herself.

Despite having tried to avoid it, Em eventually let herself look at the man gaping at her from the centre of the room. His dark eyes were troubled beneath a mess of unruly red hair, his expression that of someone who had just been slapped – hard. His companions glanced uncomfortably between him and Em, none of them speaking until the blond man with sad green eyes cleared his throat.

“We aren’t here to hurt you,” he said, his voice gentle and low. “But he’s right, we need your help. We’ve been trying to find you for a long time and we hope you’ll hear us out.”

Em licked her lips and let out a shaky exhale. It took her a moment to reply.

“Why us? Why me?”

The man opened his mouth to answer but it was his redheaded friend that stepped forward.

“It’s a long story, so we should probably start from the beginning.” He offered his hand for her to shake. He didn’t smile. “My name is Jeremy.”

May let out a barely audible gasp, flinching imperceptibly to everyone but Em, whose arm was still draped protectively around her. Instead of acknowledging May’s surprise, Em took Jeremy’s hand and gave it a single, firm shake.

“Emanthy.”

The moment between the two seem to hang, but around them their friends exchanged wide-eyed glances. Everyone was tense.

At last Jeremy pulled back his hand and gestured to his companions.

“This is Connor,” he said of his blond friend. “His wife, Rue. And that’s Priva.”

Jeremy watched Em’s face carefully as he spoke, looking for something he didn’t seem to find as she nodded curtly in turn from Connor, to the golden-eyed Rue, and finally at Priva, who at least gave a slight wave back. In response, Jeremy frowned deeper and looked away, missing the way Em’s knuckles faded to white as she gripped at the loose edges of May’s shirt – the only hint she was reeling.

Another deep breath. Em slid her hand – clammy with nerves – to the small of May’s back and rolled her shoulders so she stood a little taller.

“I see you’ve already met my girlfriend, May.”

A person would have to be dead to miss the shockwave that shot through the room. May forced a small smile and resisted the urge to press tighter into the protection of Em’s side. She wasn’t sure what had happened but she knew the mood had gone from bad to worse. With anxiety swelling inside her she watched as Connor, Rue, and Priva glanced at one another but said nothing. Between them, May could see Dom holding his breath.

Jeremy remained locked on Em, his jaw tight and his expression stiff.

“It’s nice to meet you both,” he said at last, turning away as he did so.

May met Em’s eyes.

She wondered if Em could tell he was lying, too.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Ten

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Content Warning: Strong language


It didn’t take long for May’s cheerful excitement to give way to unease.

“As much as I’d like to believe you just wanted to surprise us, something -” she glanced back at Dom’s unfamiliar travelling companions “- tells me this isn’t a social visit.”

Dom’s jaw tightened. He gave May’s hand a quick squeeze.

“I wish, Maybe. I really do.”

“What’s going on?” Worry settled heavy across her brow. “Who are-”

“Let’s wait until we’re somewhere more private before we get into it, okay?” Dom cut her off. May didn’t argue.

They made their way out the back of the tent and into an open lot teeming with activity. May waved and exchanged quick words with the fellow cast and crew milling around. The last remnants of the night’s props were being locked away in the shipping crates and boisterous laughter drifted from an inviting-look dining tent. Beyond that, a sea of mobile trailers clustered just out of the tent’s circle of light.

“You’ve gotta tell me what this “Ginger” thing is all about,” Dom remarked after a fourth person referred to May by the name.

May laughed quietly. “We’re on the run, Dominic. It wouldn’t make much sense to go by our real names, now would it?”

“Fair enough.” He gestured at the scene around them. “Nice work hiding in plain sight by the way.”

At this, May beamed. “Yeah, we’re pretty proud of ourselves.”

“You must be happy to be dancing again.”

“I really am. I didn’t realize how much I missed it, to be honest.”

A voice was cleared from behind the pair, who looked over their shoulders in unison.

“Your performance was very lovely,” said one of the two women who followed them with a soft smile. “You’re very talented.”

May flushed; for someone who loved to perform, she was still getting accustomed to praise.

“Thank you! That’s very sweet of you to say.”

Her gaze lingered on the woman a moment longer. She was striking; warm brown skin that was etched with painstakingly detailed tattoos on her face and forearms. But it was her brilliant golden eyes that held May’s attention the most, their familiarity causing her to shiver involuntarily.

Giving her head a slight shake, May hoped she hadn’t been staring too long and changed the subject.

“Rose was in the shower when Bertram came to find us,” she said, speaking Rose’s name slowly as though she were still getting used to it herself. “But she should be done by now.”

They made their way through the small village of trailers to one with fairy lights framing the door. May skipped up the steps and poked her head inside.

“Babe?” she called and listened for a reply. Jeremy tensed and shot Dom a look who pretended not to notice. “Huh. Maybe she went looking for me. Would you like to wait inside?”

The troupe filed into the cramped trailer – a space not suited for quite so many bodies – and clustered in the awkward silence that followed.

“Sorry it’s so small,” May murmured, bashfully shoving stray laundry out of sight. “The other trailers have more room but we took this one so we wouldn’t have to share with anyone else.”

“Smooth,” Dom replied with a chuckle. He nudged at her with his elbow, bringing the blush back to her cheeks. She gave him a swat.

“So what’s going on?” She gave the group of strangers her full attention for the first time. She tried to ignore the anxiety that gnawed at her gut under the intense stare of the man with fiery hair. He had been fixated on her from the very first moment – the entire walk to the trailer she had felt his dark eyes boring into her, but now she couldn’t avoid them. “Is everything okay?”

Before Dom could reply, the red-haired man reached into his pocket and produced a tattered, folded piece of paper. Opening it carefully he stepped forward and handed it to her without a word.

Panic gripped May’s insides when she saw the photo – herself and Em, caught on a security camera in Tenna nearly a year ago. She could pinpoint the moment precisely, her shoulder wedged under Em’s arm as the two wove through alleys to escape a Loyal agent named Melanie.

“Why do you have this?” May’s voice hitched, her breathing shallow. Her eyes darted fearfully from the man to her friend. “Dom, what is this?”

“May, listen,” he tried to sound reassuring but there was grief in his expression that filled May with dread. “You’ve got to hear them out.”

But her mind was already racing.

“We trusted you.” May felt as though she were looking at a stranger. She couldn’t imagine anyone who knew about that day in the photo having anything but bad reasons for wanting to find her and Em – surely Dom realized that. “Dom, how could you bring them here?”

With her heartbeat thundering in her ears, May could see that the others were talking to her but she was too busy scouring the room for a way out. The strangers blocked her path – would she be able to fight her way through?

“We’re not here to hurt you,” insisted another one of the strangers; the other man, beautiful and earnest. He reached tenderly to her as though she were a wounded, frightened animal and she jerked away only to back into Dom.

“C’mon, Maybe,” he pleaded. “Just list-”

Panic overcame her and she screamed. Aliases be damned, she screamed Em’s name and lunged for the door just as it swung open. Dom and the strangers pulled back in surprise, leaving room for May to stumble into the arms of a woman with pearlescent skin. Hair like polished silver poked out from where it had been hastily tucked beneath the ragged ball cap Dom has often seen her wearing in the photos she sent him. She clutched May close while her haunting diamond-blue eyes took in the scene.

The room went silent and she spoke.

“What the fuck is going on?”


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Nine

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The wait was almost too much.

As soon as the show ended, Dom, Jeremy, and the rest hurried through the crowd and hunted for the usher who had shown them to their seats.

“I’m afraid Lenore won’t be available for a while yet,” she told them. Her voice was sympathetic but her answer was infuriating. “She’s one of the performers, you see. They don’t take any guests until after the rest of the audience has left and they’ve had a chance to freshen up. I’m sure you understand.”

Jeremy elbowed his way in between Dom and the usher.

“What about the dancers from the Moon and Ocean act?” he asked, sounding breathless. “They’re the ones we’re actually looking for.”

Dom couldn’t suppress his groan as he watched the usher’s expression fall. Just like the boy at the ticket wicket, she took a moment to think before answering.

“You’ll still need to talk to Lenore first,” she said at last. “How about you just wait in the stands? Someone will come find you when she’s ready.”

Before anyone could argue to the contrary, the usher turned and disappeared into the slow exodus of patrons making their way out of the tent. The chatter in the air was still excited as people rehashed their favourite moments from the show – eyes alight with the magic they felt they had witnessed – but for Dom and the others excitement had given way to anxious tension.

They did as the usher suggested and returned to the stands to wait. Dom made a point of sitting off on his own, hoping to avoid Jeremy and his questions. But Jeremy kept to himself as well, pacing along a row of seats with a furrowed expression while his friends whispered to each other in low, hurried voices.

“Who the fuck is this Lenore person and why do we have to go through her anyway?” Jeremy growled, throwing his hands up after what must have been more than an hour of waiting. The tent seemed quiet now and it was hard not to feel as though they had been forgotten. “We’re wasting-”

“I’m the leader of this outfit,” boomed a voice from the entryway through which they had come. “And no one gets to my performers without going through me first.”

Lenore – a woman who appeared to be in her mid-fifties with close cropped greying hair – strode toward them with an unmistakable air of authority. She paused a handful of paces away from the group and scrutinized each of them one by one.

“Now what’s this I hear about you asking after my girls?” she barked. At this distance, Dom noticed her reptilian-esque eyes and the bony protrusions that jutted out from the peaks of her cheekbones and crown of her forehead. He recognized her from the show as the performer who had danced with fire, and he made a mental note that anyone who could make flames look like well-trained animals was not one to be tested.

“Ma’am, my name is Dominic,” he began, stepping up and turning on what had often been described as his most disarmingly charming smile. “The performers we’re looking for are friends and former colleagues of mine. We were really hoping to see them.”

With a harsh laugh, Lenore shook her head. “I don’t think so, buddy.”

Dom pushed onward, careful not to let Jeremy sneak a word in edgewise.

“Please, we’ve come a really long way.” He hesitated. He didn’t want to lie for fear of being found out, but… “They sent me an invitation to watch them perform.”

Lenore still wasn’t buying it.

“They didn’t say anything to me about it, which means you’re probably full of shit.”

Exasperating as it was, Dom was grateful for Lenore’s steadfast gatekeeping; at least it wouldn’t have been easy for anyone of ill-intent to get close to the girls.

The others didn’t see it the same way. In a flurry of voices they came at Lenore as one, talking and shouting over one another with questions and demands. Lenore opened her mouth and Dom knew at once they had blown it – she was going to toss them out – when a new voice cut through the noise.

“Dom? Is that you?”

The chatter ceased. In unison, every head turned to the closest entrance, where a pair of faces peeked back at them. One belonged to the boy from the wicket. The other was that of a rosy-haired woman with dark blue eyes and constellations of freckles splashed across her face. An elated smile lit up her features.

“Maybe!” Dom cried, opening his arms to catch her as she tore out into the open and lept up to greet him. “Look at you – your hair’s gotten so long!”

Scrubbed free of her stage make-up, May Alana was positively glowing. Dom marvelled at what time on the road had done to her: not only had her soft waves grown long and wild, tumbling over her shoulders, but even under loose studio clothes he could tell how much stronger she was. He could feel the firm muscles that wound up her arms and down her back as he crushed her into his embrace. Her skin had lost its sun-kissed island radiance but she still looked happy and healthy.

“I can’t believe you’re here!” May squeaked, taking a step back to see him better but keeping her fists clutched at his shirt sleeves. “When Bertram said people were here to see us I wasn’t expecting it to be you!”

Over May’s shoulder, Dom watched Lenore throw a stern look at the wicket boy – presumably Bertram – who went scarlet and ducked out of view.

“Is everything okay, Ginger?” Lenore sounded wary. “Do you know them?”

As if in reply, May pulled Dom into another tight hug. She tilted her face until her mouth met his ear.

“Who are these people?” she whispered as quietly as she could.

“I’ll explain later,” Dom murmured back to her. “Who’s Ginger?”

“I am. Just roll with it.”

Pulling back, May beamed. “Yeah, they’re friends. Everything’s okay, Lenore. Thanks for looking out for us though.”

At this Leore actually smiled, relaxing her stance ever so slightly.

“Of course. You know me: family first. Sorry for being hard on you, folks – you can never be too careful in this business. Ginger, honey, will you tell Rosemary to stop leaving her costumes on the dressing room floor? Fool girl doesn’t seem to want to listen to me and I’m about ready to kick her ass.”

May laughed. “Sure thing, Dragon Mama. We’ll go find her right now.”

She took Dom by the hand and lead him to the exit, motioning for the others to follow. When he was sure Lenore was well out of earshot, Dom ducked his head and whispered.

“Is this Rosemary who I think she is?”

A grin cut across May’s face as she winked.

“You’ll have to wait and see.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Eight

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Even if the others had known who May was, they never would have recognized her.

Her signature waves of rose gold hair had been replaced with long flowing locks in cerulean shades. The freckles normally splashed across her face and down her arms were hidden beneath thick contoured layers of performance make-up.

But Dom would have recognized her anywhere.

Soul aside, her slight but surprisingly strong body was drawn into a pose that spoke of power and grace. The poise with which she held herself was more confident than he remembered, but still unmistakably hers. Willowy bare limbs were perfectly still, a patchwork of strategically placed scales glittered along her body.

Eyes of deep ocean blue opened and drifted somewhere above – to the fabled heavens far beyond the waters she appeared to be under.

The sound of waves morphed seamlessly into music that evoked the shore. May began to dance. Dom’s breath hitched in his throat; he had nearly forgotten how remarkably talented she was.

She danced like she was exploring, moving with a rhythm that looked like how it felt when the tides pulled at your toes while you swam. It was lively and beautiful – completely engrossing until shimmering silken tendrils of silver began creeping in from somewhere in the still-dark part of the floor.

While the audience gasped and whispered, peering to see where the ribbons led, May danced on without notice.

The music changed as a single, wavering spotlight cut through the sapphire atmosphere, landing only a handful of paces from May.

Pausing, she danced curiously to the light, inspecting it warily. A dainty, pointed toe entered the circle of light, triggering another, slightly larger spot that hit the ground a few feet away. The cycle continued until May was joyously leaping from circle to circle as they appeared, like a child skipping across floating stones in a pond.

From the stands the audience could see the circles formed a spiral. As May made the final leap, the centre of the spiral illuminated to reveal a second figure.

May stopped short in dramaticized surprise. Before her stood – or did she hover? – a woman with black hair that seemed to drift away from a body that glowed and glinted in pearlescent highlights. Her silver gown drifted around her too, the silky ribbons from earlier wafting forward and encircling May like sentient beckoning rays of light.

“Oh, I know this one,” Rue whispered. “It’s the legend of when the Moon fell in love with the Ocean.”

Dom hardly dared draw a breath. He glanced beside him. Jeremy leaned as far forward on the edge of his seat as possible, his eyes wide and unblinking.

The name was different, but Dom knew he was thinking the same thing – it was her.

It was Em.

The Moon reached forward gently and held a hand out to the Ocean; the moment hung like starlight. Gingerly, the Ocean accepted the offering. They began to dance.

At first it was slow – all genteel steps and swirling silks. But as the characters became accustomed to how the other moved – their gazes locked intently all the while – their movements became grander; full of life and passion.

Overcome by the joy of their dance, the Moon did the most extraordinary thing: she began to float. Each step took her higher and higher, leaving the Ocean to watch in gaping, awe-struck wonder. Each of the Moon’s strides took her further, faster, until she was soaring around the ring of the centre stage, dazzling the audience who couldn’t spy the wires or harness no matter how hard they looked.

The music swelled to a crescendo. The Moon circled to the centre of the tent before dropping into a free fall. She dove head-first toward the Ocean, only to come to an abrupt halt when she was virtually nose-to-nose with her. Her hair and gown remained in slow, drifting motion as though she were suspended under water.

The Moon reached out again. This time the Ocean took it without pause. One step and then another; the Moon pulled her gracefully up into the air where they resumed their dance untethered by notions of gravity.

It was all at once beautiful and uncanny. The audience held a collective breath until the very final moments of the performance, when the Moon and the Ocean drew close enough to kiss, wafting silver ribbons completely enclosing around them at the very last possible second. The lights dimmed until all that remained were winking star-like lights which too eventually gave way to darkness.

When the lights came up once more the Moon – no, the Star – and the Ocean were gone. The next act began but the mood in the tent was different now, as though hundreds of people were all waking from the same gorgeous dream.

Dom turned to face Jeremy. The red-haired man stared intently back at him.

“The Moon – that was her, wasn't it?” Jeremy’s voice failed to betray whatever was going through his mind.

Dom nodded.

“And the Ocean?” Jeremy pressed on. “Who is she?”

Pursing his lips, Dom sighed. He didn’t answer, but he didn’t look away either.

How was he supposed to tell him the love of his life was in love with someone else?


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Seven

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Content warning: Strong language


Tracking down the circus wasn’t as straightforward as Dom thought it would be. The traveling company didn’t do much by way of advertising before arriving at a new destination; they simply rolled into town and set up shop. Their reputation alone seemed to be more than enough.

“You don’t have to do this,” Trina hissed beneath her breath. She had managed to get Dom alone for what seemed like the first time since he had decided to help the strangers find Em. “You told them where to look. You don’t have to go with them too.”

Dom sighed, a heavy sound that seemed to move through his entire being.

She was right; he didn’t have to take them. But when he made the decision to live among humans – as one himself – he had done so with the understanding that he would always do what he could to protect those in need. It was how he wound up with the SAR team in the first place.

His eyes drifted across the courtyard to where the band of not-quite-strangers milled, speaking guardedly to his teammates. His gaze landed on Rue. Dom was prone to overwhelming compassion even at the worst of times, but Rue’s story – and what it had meant for all four of them – left no doubt in his mind.

“You know I can’t do that,” he replied, his voice low. “They need help.”

But there was also the guilt.

Guilt that he had promised to keep Em and May safe – their whereabouts a secret – only to eventually hand them over anyway. Dom had been so torn about agreeing to help at all, and he had to trust his heart that he was making the right choice. He figured the least he could do was apologize for betraying their trust in person.

It was only in the deepest recesses of his mind that he dared admit even to himself he wanted to make sure Jeremy and company didn’t try anything stupid when they found the girls.

It took a few days of solid, tense driving – Dom at the wheel of his trusty old truck and the others taking turns riding shotgun while the rest rode out back in the bed – to follow the path woven by the travelling circus. They arrived in the city on the company’s second night and scrambled to the wicket just as the teeming crowds were making their way into a massive, light-soaked tent.

Dom lead the conversation, showing the boy on the other side of the grated window a photo of his friends from the collection of ones they had sent him.

The boy studied the photo quietly, a hand muffled thoughtfully over his mouth.

“You’ll have to talk to Lenore about those two,” he said at last. His words sent an electric thrill circuiting its way through the ragtag group. This sounded promising. “But your timing’s a bit crummy. Show’s starting so she can’t talk ‘til later tonight. Maybe even tomorrow.”

Beside Dom, Jeremy bristled, instantly combative.

“Is there somewhere we can wait for her?” Dom asked before Jeremy set their chances of getting anywhere alight. “It’s kind of important.”

“You can watch the show if you wanna!” The boy smiled brilliantly as though this was the best idea he’d ever had. “I’m sure we can squeeze you kids in.”

“Kids?” Priva growled quietly. “He’s like, what? Fifteen?”

“Shh,” Connor hushed her from the corner of his mouth.

An usher led them into the tent, a wide, a welcoming smile splashed across her vibrantly painted face. With a flourish she motioned to a row in a high section and one by one they edged into their seats.

“This is fucking dumb,” Jeremy spat, taking in the crowd around them; people of all ages laughing and chatting excitedly. “We don’t have time to watch some glorified talent show.”

Before Dom – who was starting to find Jeremy’s attitude grating – could reply, the lights were extinguished and the show began.

That this was no ordinary circus was immediately clear. Absent were the trained animals and ridiculous clowns. This show was one of fantastic, dream-like costuming and stunning feats of agility. Colourful acrobats tumbled and soared via trapeze, seeming to defy the very laws of gravity. Glistening contortionists braided themselves around one another in a way that made them appear more like serpents than humans. Performers of great strength and grace made the extraordinary look easy. Every performance glittered with an air of the magical, making everyone in the tent second guess where the line between skill and the fantastic truly was. Each act told a story and soon even Jeremy found himself lulled under the show’s fanciful spell.

They watched in breathless wonder, only taking snatched moments to whisper to one another between acts. During one such interlude Dom sat back and smiled while the others shared their awe with one another. This place had Em and May written all over it.

Again, the tent was plunged into darkness.

For a few moments there was nothing but blackness.

The sound of peaceful rolling waves grew gradually louder in tandem with brightening blue filtered lights, drifting across the floor like dappled sunlight touching the sandy surf. It was only when the light had come to its full intensity that a single, solitary performer came into view.

Dom lurched up in his seat so violently people in other rows turned and craned their necks to see what was going on.

“What is it?” Connor asked quietly, his eyes darting between the centre stage and Dom’s gobsmacked expression.

The costume was a good disguise, but Dom – a forest spirit – saw with more than his eyes. He could feel her soul.  

“It’s her,” Dom whispered back, his lips barely moving.

“It’s May.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Six

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“She’s amazing, Dom. It’s like I was sleepwalking before I met her and now… Now everything just kind of feels right.” Even in the darkness Dom had been able to tell Em’s cheeks were flushed, her face tilted up at the night’s sky as she spoke. “Is this… Is it okay that I’m telling you all this?”

Dom had laughed; genuinely.

“Of course it’s okay, Emmy.”

“I swear I’m not trying to be a bitch here.”

“I know you’re not. You’re happy, and I’m glad.”

He had meant it – he was glad Em finally found happiness with someone. It didn’t bother Dom it hadn’t been with him.

They talked about it on what had been Em’s second night back in Tenna. With the rest of the team asleep or settled into their night duties, she and Dom had escaped to their favourite spot: the flat roof of the SAR headquarters. They appreciated the peace and quiet from that vantage point; level with the treetops and a stone’s throw from the sky.

Two days previous, Dom had watched Em step down onto the shores of Mondova with a slight, rosy-haired young woman in tow. He didn’t need to speak with them – he had known.

Em had never looked at him that way. She hadn’t smiled that brightly.

In that moment in the shipyard he realized what perhaps Em herself didn’t yet know, and he was perfectly okay with it.

Em was head over heels in love with May.

When Dom had first met Em, it was as if she hadn’t existed before that moment.

It wasn’t some self-consumed sense of importance that had put the idea into Dom’s head: it was the fact that Em had never spoken of her life before he found her lost in his forest.

Not that he hadn’t wondered, of course.

He had wanted to ask throughout those first many months after she had joined the Tenna SAR team. Her unique abilities gave rise to so many questions. She never offered anything up, offering her services in exchange for the rest of the team minding their own business.

He had hoped she would open up about her past during their brief love affair; assuming, perhaps vainly, that their relationship would grant him access to her secrets.

But she hadn’t.

She had been sad. Not because of Dom, or anything he had done; she had always been a bit melancholy. Despite his best efforts, Dom couldn’t make that sadness go away. It followed Em like a shadow; memories and regrets she couldn’t bring herself to talk about distracting and draining her until she threw her hands up in surrender.

“You don’t deserve this,” she told him one night by the river. “You want to help me but I can’t figure out how to let you. That’s not how relationships are supposed to go.”

It hadn’t been what he wanted to hear; he wanted her to let him try. But she hadn’t been wrong: loving someone who refused to let you in was exhausting. He knew she had done them both a great favour; it was the reason they managed to stay so close.

It had taken May – a girl from a tiny island that most people didn’t know existed – to finally sneak beyond that veil of mystery. She had done the seemingly impossible, winning Em’s heart and earning her trust in a way Dom never could.

May was the only reason Dom learned Em’s greatest secret and finally got a long-awaited glimpse into who Em was before she and Dom met.

As it turned out, Em hadn’t been Em at all.

Dom mused over all of this now as he sat across from the strangers who had come to Tenna looking for Em.

“Don’t you see?” the woman they now knew as Rue asked in a quiet, shaking voice. She had just finished telling Dom and his team a story of her own. “It has to be her. She’s the only one who can help us.”

With a heavy sigh, Dom looked at Jeremy, the man claiming Em – no, Audrey – was the love of his life. None of that had come up in Rue’s story – Jeremy hadn’t said another word once everyone had sat down to talk, avoiding Dom’s eyes completely. Dom couldn’t help but wonder if he had his own reasons for wanting to find Em. What would he do when he learned the truth?

Dom didn’t know much about Audrey, but he knew enough; she and Em may have shared the same life force, but they were far from the same people.

Not that Dom was going to tell him that. It wasn’t his place.

Jeremy was going to find out eventually. All of them – Connor, Rue, and Priva – they were all going to find out, and Dom didn’t envy them at all.

But they still needed help.

“Please, do you know where she is?” Connor – the angel – asked, a hand laced tightly in Rue’s. Her eyes glistened back at Dom, desperate and hopeful.

Dom shook his head. “I wasn’t lying when I told Jeremy we don’t know where she is…”

His voice drifted into a thoughtful, drawn-out pause. A vision percolated to the surface of his mind: a fold-creased poster, tacked to the back of his closet wall.

“But I think I know where to look.”

He could feel the eyes of his teammates boring into him. They were no doubt thinking the same thing he was.

These people may have had a good reason to be looking for Em, but that didn’t mean they were going to be good to her.


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