The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Two

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Starborn.

“I don’t…”

May wasn’t sure what she wanted to say in response to Rue’s casual confession. Her mind whirled; hadn’t Em just told her that she was the last known Starborn?

“Do you know what a Starborn is?” Rue asked as if she were broaching a sensitive subject. Her eyes flicked almost imperceptibly to Em, but May caught it and understood. They knew – or at least they suspected – what Em was. This was their chance to confirm it.

Up until that point, May had avoided looking to Em for fear it give them away when they lied. But now she didn’t know what else to do, and so she cast an uneasy glance at her girlfriend, whose crystal eyes were already waiting for her.

Em exhaled slowly. “People like me, you mean?”

Even the flickering shadows of the fire couldn’t mask the fact that everyone was frozen in place. Jeremy held his breath. Everyone waited.

“Come on, don’t act like you’re surprised.” Em laughed off everyone’s tension with an ease May wished she could master. While the others gaped, fish-like and equally wordless, Em eased back onto her palms and gazed around the circle, her expression aloof.

“Who?” Connor blurted at last. “Your parents – who are they?”

“A Star and one of the Emandi,” Em replied with ease.

“What?” Rue gasped.

“Why?” Jeremy demanded.

May balled her hands into tight fists, her nails digging into the soft flesh of her palms. She was lost – she had no idea what an Emandi was – but the others clearly did. May knew if she asked about it now she would blow Em’s story, so she bit her tongue and tried not to let her uncertainty swallow her whole.

“Why would a Star and an Emandi choose to create a life together?” Jeremy scoffed.

Em raised an eyebrow; her stare firm and challenging. “That’s a pretty personal question, don’t you think?”

Her tone was dangerous. May was so overwhelmingly curious she worried her questions would bubble over in a scream.

“Is that why…” Rue looked at Em but pointed to her own eyes. Whatever was implied in Em’s nod seemed to satisfy Rue. “How interesting.”

“Anyway,” Em drawled, draping an arm around May’s shoulders and squeezing in a way May knew was meant to be reassuring. “You were about to tell us about your people?”

“Right.” Rue shook off her daze and forced a smile. “Seeing as you performed the story of the Moon and the Ocean, I’m guessing you’re both already familiar with the legends?”

“The Moon fell in love with the Ocean and the Sun fell in love with the Earth,” May answered, reciting the summary of the creation myths she had grown up listening to on the island of Hoku. “One pair gave birth to all flora and the other to all fauna.”

Rue nodded. “Because the lovers so adored for their new children, they asked the ancients to write them into the story of the universe; to give them destinies and help guide them.”

At this point May could no longer hide her confusion. That she was floundering in new information was clear to Em, who smiled and gave her shoulder another gentle squeeze.

“The Stars,” she explained quietly. “They’re the ancients.”

“Okay, but what does any of this have to do with your people?” May asked, trying to get to the crux of the story – to figure out what the Starborn had to do with any of this. Her brain felt as foggy as it had the night Em had shared her secret and admitted to being part Star.

“For as long as the universe has existed, the Stars have played a part in creating the life within it,” Rue said. “But because they had nothing to do with the new life on this planet, they had to find a new way to write them into their great Story; their plan for all life in the universe.”

Sudden comprehension blew out the fog in May’s mind; something Em had said on the bus came back to her.

‘We were a bit more common thousands of years ago…’

“The Stars parented children so they could have a part in the new life.” May hadn’t grown up with this part of the legends; she was dazzled by how much she still had to learn. “Those children were the first of the Starborn.”

Rue smiled. “And they were supposed to be the only ones, but…” she motioned to Em, who shrugged.

“Wow,” was all May could manage in response.

“As you can imagine, most of that Starborn blood has been significantly diluted over the many millennia between then and now,” Rue continued. “My people are the only group who have managed to keep the lineage strong.”

“Does that mean you have abilities like mine?” Em asked, playing up her supposed ignorance.

Rue’s smile hinted at something she wasn’t sharing. “The only thing my people can do is commune with the Stars.”

“Seriously?” May was awe-struck. “How?”

Rather than answer, Rue stood and stretched. “That is a long story better saved for another night. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m exhausted.”

“Not to mention we’ve got another long day ahead of us.” Priva rose, dusting off her pants. She looked down at Jeremy and held out her hand. “Bed?”

“Yeah, I’ll come,” he answered, accepting her help and getting to his feet.

“You guys go ahead,” Em said. “May and I will clean up here.”

“There’s a river to the north,” Priva instructed, pointing in the right direction. “It’s not far. You can use it to douse the fire.”

As the others disappeared into their tents, May and Em collected the discarded bowls and cleared up the site in silence. When she was satisfied with their work, Em grabbed a waterproof sack and beckoned for May to follow.

The woods were cold and cloaked in a haunting darkness that kept May huddled close as they walked.

“Can Rue really talk to the Stars?” she asked as the sound of the river swept through the trees to greet them.

“She can’t talk to them the way we’re talking now,” Em replied, her voice betraying something like exhaustion. “But she’s able to create a connection with them. Her people are the only humans who can communicate directly with the Stars, so they act kind of like the liaisons between us mere mortals and the powers that be.”

May laughed. “‘Mere mortals’; that’s funny coming from you.”

The sound of rushing water grew louder. May swept her flashlight along the ground until the trees gave way and the riverbank came into view through the gloom.

“I feel like every time I learn something new about your world – Audrey’s life – I end up with more questions than I started with,” she admitted, stepping lightly through the tall lush grass at the water’s edge. “It’s a little overwhelming. But at the same time, it’s kind of exciting. I guess, in a way, it’s kind of part of my history too, you know?”

Carefully she tip-toed across smoothed river stones until she was as far as she could get and waited for Em. It took a moment, watching the dark water rush past her feet in the white glow of her flashlight, before May realized Em wasn’t coming. She turned.

“Em?”

Back on dry land, Em stood transfixed, gazing up at the glittering dome of stars above. Her skin glimmered, emitting a gentle, dreamlike light. But the expression on her face was one of sorrow and remorse; her eyes shimmered with tears.

Slowly, Em’s feet rose from the earth and she hovered, suspended in her trance.

“I’m sorry,” she wept through a cracking voice. “I’m sorry for everything.”

Frozen in place, May watched in a mix of fearful curiosity. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but it didn’t seem as though Em was talking to her.

“I know you were trying to do what you thought was best for me.” Em’s arms were outstretched in an welcoming, hopeful gesture. “You were always doing the best you could. I didn’t mean to be so hard on you all the time.”

May looked up – up at the millions of winking stars – and blinked away new tears of her own.

She knew who Em was talking to now.

This was the first time she had witnessed Em’s attempts to reach Welkin first-hand. Until now, Em had waited until May was asleep or sought privacy; the ritual was all at once mesmerizing and heartbreaking.

Em let out a tragic wail.

“Please,” she cried. “Please talk to me. Where are you? Why won’t you answer me?”

Her light faded. The great, swirling magic that kept Em aloft dissipated into the night. She landed heavily on her feet before collapsing onto her knees.

May rushed forward and wrapped her arms around Em as tightly as she could.

“Why won’t they answer me?” Em asked, her tears soaking through the shoulder of May’s shirt. Her sadness gripped May’s heart and twisted mercilessly.

“I don’t know, love,” May whispered, stroking Em’s back with a tender hand. “But we’re going to find them, I promise.”

She didn’t know how she was going to keep that promise. All May knew was she’d do whatever she could to bring Em peace.

For now, she hoped being there for Em would be enough.


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty One

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By the time May, Em, and Priva returned to the campsite, Connor already had the fire blazing with a satisfying crackle. Rue busied herself with food prep while Jeremy had been tasked with creating small tin foil bowls for everyone. They took turns layering their bowls with meat, potatoes, and eggs, positioning them delicately on a camp grill once the coals were hot enough.

The snapping fire was the only sound as the group sat wordlessly, waiting for their meals to cook. May watched spits of ash pop from the flames and drift skyward into the darkening sky. The sherbet colours of twilight gave way to night by the time Connor inspected his bowl and deemed dinner to be ready.

May wondered if the tension around the fire had been in some part the result of empty stomachs. As she collected her meal, she felt the mood lighten as everyone tucked into their food, and decided now might be a good time for casual conversation.

“Back to camping,” she said with a sigh, dropping back down beside Em, the edges of her foil plate pinched between her fingers.

“Hey,” Em remarked, looking mildly scandalized. “I thought you liked camping.”

“I like some parts of camping more than others,” May replied with a wink.

Em rolled her eyes dramatically.

“Kids these days,” she grumbled, earning her playful kick in the ankle from May.

The comment raised curiosity in Rue.

“How old are you two, anyway?” she asked.

“Twenty-five,” May answered, distracted. She leaned over to survey what was in Em’s plate. “Yours is cooked better than mine.”

“That’s because I’m a pro,” Em teased. Then, turning her attention back to Rue, “I’m, uh, a bit older.”

At this, Priva laughed loudly.

“You saying you’re a cradle robber?” She grinned at Em who mirrored her expression.

“Ha! Not quite that bad.” Em scooped a hearty forkful from May’s plate and shoved it in her mouth. After swallowing, she continued, “Still, I almost passed out when I realized my girlfriend was just a wee babe.” She turned to look at May. “Yours is fine, by the way.”

“You’re not that much older than me,” May defended, digging her own fork into Em’s plate. The utensil pierced the foil bottom, catching in a way that May hadn’t expected. Her hand slipped, sending the plastic handle snapping backwards and striking Em’s breast with a sharp thwap.

“My boob!” Em cried, choking on laughter and clutching at her chest. “You got me right in the tit!”

May doubled over, breathless in a fit of gasping laughter and tears, unable to reply.

Everyone but Jeremy succumbed to the first true bout of laughter since the two groups met, a moment of pure weightlessness that made the night feel a little less dark and the stakes a little less dire.

“So, how’d you two meet, anyway?” Jeremy asked, his question stopping the laughter dead.

May’s heartbeat stumbled. When she and Em decided to lie, they hadn’t taken the time to fill in the blanks of their cover story. Hoping her own panic wasn’t showing, May glanced at Em and found her to be a picture of calm.

“Maybe’s a dancer,” Em said, a goofy lovesick smile on her face that left May flushing. “I was in the audience one night when she was performing and I was instantly smitten.” She gave May a wink. “I’ve been her biggest fan ever since.”

That night in Omea’s community theatre – the night everything changed between them – flashed through May’s mind. She could still see Em standing in the wings, wide-eyed and marveling, watching her take the stage for her final performance of the night. Was this what Em was thinking of as she spun her tale? May had never asked Em what it was that pushed her over the delicate line between friends and lovers; that there might have been some truth to Em’s story made May giddy.

“Of course!” Rue’s face lit up. “We saw you dance at the circus. How long have you been performing?”

“Since I was in school,” May replied, delighted by Rue’s interest. “I’m self-taught though, so sometimes it feels like I’m making it up as I go.”

“She’s selling herself short,” Em insisted.

“Self-taught?” Connor look gob-smacked. “I’m impressed.”

“Me too,” Rue agreed brightly.

“Thank you,” May gushed. But elated as she was to have a chance to talk about one of her truest passions, she wanted to steer the conversation away from her and Em. “What about all of you? I’ve been so curious to know more about Wishes. I mean, I know what Wishes are but…” she shrugged, struggling to find the right words. “What does that mean for you? Is it different than being human?”

Sure, she was playing dumb to a certain extent. But this was the first time she had ever met other Wishes; she was curious about what she might have been missing. Em’s attempts at distancing herself from her past had often made her answers to May’s questions vague or indifferent. May figured this was a chance to learn more about herself as much as the others.

Connor rubbed his chin, mulling over her question. He looked to his friends. Priva shrugged.

“I guess for the most part it’s not that different,” he admitted. “We’re born to our mothers and, if we’re lucky, we live our lives and die when we’re old. The only difference we’ve noticed – aside from how we come to be, of course – is that every Wish has their own unique ability.”

May blinked in a way she hoped conveyed naive confusion. “What kind of abilities?”

“Something we’re naturally very good at,” Connor replied. “Think of it like a talent on steroids. Everyone’s is different. Mine is my strength.” He gestured back to the massive dead tree they were using as firewood and May picked up on the implication that he had felled it singlehandedly. “Nothing too fancy here.”

“Mine, on the other hand, is very fancy,” Priva said, sounding rather proud of herself. She leaned forward and grinned. “I don’t have to sleep.”

“That’s only partially true,” Rue quipped, giving Priva a cutting look. “She can live on very little sleep. One night’s worth for every three or four days awake.”

“Killjoy,” Priva pouted.

If this was a reason to be any less impressed, May didn’t see why.

She looked to Jeremy expectantly. “What’s your ability?”

Arms crossed, Jeremy studied her for a moment before answering.

“Perfect memory.” He tapped his temple, his expression impossible to read. “I don’t forget anything.”

“Oh.” May smiled. “I’ll bet that comes in handy.”

Jeremy didn’t reply.

“What about you, Rue?” Em cut in on the awkward silence filling the space between May and Jeremy.

Rue laughed. “Oh, I’m not a Wish.”

May looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Yep.” Rue set her bowl down and settled back beside Connor, leaning gently into his side. “My place in this little family is kind of different than the others. I come from an ancient line of astromantic druids.”

Now genuinely confused, May frowned. “What does that mean? Are you human?”

“For the most part. But way back, in the beginning of human history, my people came to be specifically because of the Stars.”

The firelight danced, reflected in Rue’s magnificent golden eyes. May’s breath caught as she remembered why they had seemed so familiar.

“Were they Wishes?” May asked.

“No.” Rue’s eyes – the same otherworldly gold as the Star called Welkin – creased in the corners as she smiled. “They were Starborn.”


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Seventeen

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Content warning: Strong language


May was still awake when she heard the trailer door creak.

She didn’t move as Em’s silhouette crept in the darkness.

A thud was followed by Em hissing a curse beneath her breath. May switched on the lamp above the bed. Em winced at both the sudden brightness and the pain of her freshly-stubbed toe.

It had been May’s intention to ask Em where she’d been for the past couple of hours, but when she saw the way her girlfriend’s soaking wet hair and clothes clung to her body, she had her answer.

“You went to the water after all, huh?” May asked.

“I’m sorry,” Em replied, a slight warble to her words as she stood there shivering. “I just needed to make it stop.”

May sighed and climbed out of bed. “Come on, let’s get you into some dry clothes.

They moved without speaking, Em peeling her sopping layers and draping them over chair backs while May brought her a fresh towel.

She repeated Dom’s words in her mind like a mantra: don’t make this about you. But it was hard; it stung to know her touch and her love hadn’t been enough to bring Em peace in all of this.

More than that however, was the helplessness. She had come to think of her relationship with Em – the team they made together – as being unstoppable. What was she supposed to do if this problem was what proved her wrong?

“Thank you,” Em mumbled, taking a seat on the edge of the mattress as she tugged the towel tighter around her shoulders. “Never in a million years did I think you’d be put in this position and you handled it like a rock star.” She looked up, eyes glittering with unshed tears. “I love you.”

May sat beside Em and gave her cheek a soft kiss.

“I love you, too.” May gently ran her fingers through the damp clumps of Em’s hair. “And I know you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when your mind starts to slip, but when it comes to problems like this, I want you to know you don’t have to deal with things alone. I’m here to help, even if that just means listening to you talk through how you’re feeling.”

Em shook her head and let it hang forward like a tree branch heavy with snow.

“Right now I feel sick,” she admitted. “I don’t know what to think. It feels like a fucking nightmare they’re even here, let alone what they’re asking me to do.”

“Us.” May interjected before she had a chance to think about what she was saying.

“Huh?” Em blinked at her.

May swallowed. “What they’re asking us to do. There’s no way I’m leaving you to deal with this on your own.”

Chuckling softly, Em rolled her head to rest on May’s shoulder. ”My feisty little queen.”

“I mean it.” May smiled. “We’re in this together.”

“I’d prefer if there was no ‘this’ to deal with in the first place.”

“Em…” May wasn’t sure how to tell her what she overheard at the motel, let alone her own feeling about what WIND was hoping they’d agree to do.

“Ugh,” Em groaned, flopped backwards onto the mattress with a defeated fwump. “Do you think if we just went to sleep now we’d wake up in the morning to find this was all just a dream? I don’t remember taking anything before the show but maybe we did and this is all just a bad trip-”

“Babe.” May eased herself down beside Em. “I’ll lie to you if that’s what you want to hear right now but we’ll still have to face it in the morning.”

Sighing, Em look at May. For a moment she didn’t speak, searching the dark pools of May’s eyes for the right things to say instead.

“I thought I was done with this.” Her voice was tight with sadness. “Fuck, if Welkin knew…”

She had to take a moment to steady her breath. May wrapped an arm around her and wriggled in closer.

“The entire time we were talking to them, I could feel Audrey’s memories bubbling back up,” Em explained quietly. “It was so confusing.”

“Confusing how?” May wanted so desperately to understand what Em was going through.

“I’m not sure how to explain it.” Em closed her eyes, a look of concentration settling across her face as if searching for answers on the back of her eyelids. “There had always been a tiny, tiny part of me that wondered what would happen if I ever saw them again. Would I forget who I am now? Would the Audrey in me be, like, awakened or something?”

May held her breath as she listened. She had wondered – and worried – about the same things, only that part of her was anything but tiny.

Em sighed and opened her eyes. “But instead I just kept remembering bits and pieces of life with them and I… don’t feel anything. Audrey would be devastated about the Loyals taking Gaten but instead here I am, grateful it’s not my problem.”

“Em.” May couldn’t help but feel scandalized. “You don’t really believe it’s not our problem, do you? That little boy…”

Omi’s face flickered across May’s mind. She sat up as a wave of emotion came over her and threatened to tumble out in the form of a sob. Em righted herself as well and watched May carefully.

“You think we should help them?” Em asked.

“You honestly think we shouldn’t?”

“You realize we’re just going to end up getting pulled back into the system that cost Audrey her life in the first place, right?”

“Emmy, look around,” May didn’t mean to shout. “We’re already there. We’ve been on the run for a year now. Isn’t this exactly what Audrey and the others were trying to get free from? What if helping them could put an end to all of that once and for all?”

A darkness fell over Em’s face. “I think you’re forgetting I’ve heard this argument before, May.”

Clutching the towel around herself tightly, Em rose from the bed. Before she could march away, May reached out for her with a tender hand.

“My love, listen to me,” she begged. “I’m not saying I want this. But I don’t know if I can walk away knowing there’s a little boy whose life might depend on us. And if you forget the others – what they meant to Audrey and what they mean to you now – and just think of him as one kid who needs help, I know you’d feel the same way. I know you, Em.”

With a defeated sigh, Em slumped back down. “Fuck. Who am I kidding? We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

“What do you mean?” May asked, unease creeping into her voice.

Em pointed at her chest. “Remember that scar Jeremy showed us? They all have one – it’s from a device the Loyals planted in them after the treaty to measure their vitals and shit like that. I wasn’t being paranoid; they are being tracked.”

“Oh,” was all May could think to say.

The air in the trailer felt heavy. It pressed down on the pair who struggled with the weight of their predicament in silence. After a moment, May took Em’s hand in hers and held tight.

“I know this is hard for you – scary, even – but I’ll be right beside you the whole time.” She gave Em her bravest smile. “Whether the others like me or not.”

Em’s body rocked with a silent laugh. “What makes you think they don’t like you?”

“Oh, please,” May groaned. “You were there. I’m pretty sure Jeremy wishes I was a bug just so he could step on me.”

Em’s face dropped, her expression growing distant.

“He thought I was Audrey,” she muttered, indistinguishable enough that had to May lean in to hear better.

“What?”

“Isn’t that what Dom said?” Em asked, snapping back to the present. “Jeremy was expecting me to be Audrey.”

Failing to follow Em’s train of thought, May frowned. “What are you saying? Jeremy’s mad at me because you’re not who he thought you were going to be?”

With her free hand, Em pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled slowly. “Knowing Jeremy, he probably hasn’t given up on that theory quite yet.”

May laughed. “I don’t understand. What reason would he have to think you and Audrey are the same person?  Why would it matter if-”

“Babe.”

Em repositioned herself so she was facing May, both of her hands now clutching May’s in a way that almost seemed pleading.

“If you’re serious about wanting to help WIND find Gaten, then there’s something you need to know about Jeremy and Audrey.”

May’s mouth went dry.

“They were in love, weren’t they?” she whispered, realization hitting her head on.

“That’s putting it lightly.” Em seemed to shrink into herself with embarrassment.

“They were engaged.”


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Sixteen

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“This is easier said than done, but don’t take it personally.” Dom was trying to make the best of Em’s sudden and very unexpected departure. “She probably has no idea she hurt you.”

May turned to him with an icy stare. He winced accordingly.

“I know you think that’s supposed to help, but it’s really not working,” she said.

“Noted.” Dom raised his hands in surrender.

“Yes, she has every right to be freaked out and upset.” May could hear the octave of her voice rising. She didn’t care. “But this affects both of us. We should be working this out together. And if she doesn’t realize that taking off like this would hurt me-”

“Maybs,” Dom placed a hand on each of her shoulders and exhaled. “I know you don’t want to hear this but I don’t think this is the time to make this about you. Em loves you but she needs a bit of space. She’ll come back to you when she’s ready.”

He was right – she didn’t want to hear it. But with every second that passed, it sank in that he might have a point. With a heavy sigh she stepped away until she backed into the cool metal side of the trailer. She slumped against it miserably.

They were outside, watching the sky, waiting to see if Em would return. Every time a star flickered May’s heart skipped, but it was never her. Dom dropped himself onto the steps and together they let the moments slip by in silence.

“What happened to her hair?” Dom asked eventually, intruding on the stillness of the night.

When Em had tumbled into May’s arms, her ballcap fell to the floor to reveal her once long, shimmering locks had been chopped short.

“It’s easier to hide under hats and wigs this way,” May answered absently, gesturing at her own head. “We tried colouring it but it wouldn’t take. Her body just rejects stuff like that. Wouldn’t even take a tattoo.”

“A tattoo?” Dom raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“We were supposed to match.”

“Are you telling me you got a tattoo?”

May shot him a mischievous look. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Chuckling softly, Dom looked skyward.

“I really fucked up, didn’t I?” he asked, his voice heavy with defeat. “If it’s worth anything at all, I really did think I was doing the right thing. But I guess the road to ruin is paved with good intentions.”

May smiled sadly.

“Don’t beat yourself up over it, Dom,” she said. “I think I would have done the same thing.”

Dom groaned in reply, dropping his head into his hands.

“Are you alright?” May shot upright in alarm.

Fast as a blink his form appeared to flicker.

“I’m sorry to do this to you now, Maybe.” Dom grunted as he pulled himself to his feet. “But it’s been awhile since I’ve spent time in the forest. My magic is getting weak.”

“Oh no.” May watched as he flickered again, revealing a flash of roots and foliage. “Your glamour is slipping.”

It was so easy to forget what he really was. In a way it was the same with Em.

If someone told me a a couple years ago I would one day be surrounded by magical creatures and not be phased by it, I would have laughed in their faces, she thought as she reached a hand out for Dom.

“Come on.” She motioned for him to follow. “I’ll take you to the woods.”

The walk to the outskirts of town took some time and by the time they arrived, Dom’s human form had been replaced by the hulking silhouette of his true self. May could just make out the points of elk-like antlers reaching from his crown of lush greenery and vines, and the glint of his inky eyes reflecting the moonlight.

“Ahh.” His exhale sounded like the wind passing through mountain pines as they ambled into the forest’s edge. “Better… al…ready.”

“I’ve never seen you like this.” May squinted through the darkness. Even in the shadows he was an impressive thing to behold. “Not properly anyway.”

Dom held out his hand and let her run her fingers over what were previously his fingers.

“I can’t believe I spent most of my life thinking magic only existed in myths and legends,” she mused. Dom grunted in what she realized was supposed to be a laugh; his capacity for human speech was now as gone as his glamour.

“Will you come back before we have to meet them tomorrow?” she asked.

He nodded before turning slowly.

May watched wordlessly as he disappeared into the trees. She stood for a while, letting the breeze send goosebumps racing along her flesh. The sound of crickets distracted her from how very strange it felt to be completely alone for the first time in ages.

Eventually the chill of nighttime made her shiver and she decided she had no business lurking in the dark any longer. She took a meandering route back to the circus grounds, shuffling her feet down a quiet road. Aside from the crickets and the occasional passing car, the world was peaceful and still, which is why, when the sound of weeping drifted from somewhere ahead, May paused to listen.

The sorrowful sound came from the lit parking lot in front of the building she was coming up to. She hesitated before continuing, unnerved by what she might find. The cries sounded more heartbroken than distressed and May didn’t want to intrude.

Stepping lightly, she crept along in the shadows of the building, peering around the corner into the lot. She gasped. Sitting on the curb, her knees drawn to her chest, was Rue. Her shoulders shook with each sob.

May glanced up at a poorly lit sign that read Willows Court.

“Shoot,” she hissed under her breath.

The door to one of the motel rooms creaked open. May ducked low and watched as Jeremy stepped over the threshold and closed it behind him with a quiet click.

“I’m sorry, J,” Rue sniffed. “I was being too loud, wasn’t I?”

Jeremy took a seat on the concrete beside her, giving her shoulder a nudge with his own.

“Nah, I just couldn’t sleep.”

Rue mumbled and the pair fell into distracted silence. From their expressions May could tell their thoughts were taking them to complicated places.

“I’m really sorry, Jeremy,” Rue said, snapping him out of his daze.

“For what?” he asked.

“That she’s, you know…” she shifted awkwardly. “That she’s not her.”

Jeremy went stiff.

“It’s fine,” he muttered, staring off into the darkness so he didn’t have to meet her pitying eyes. May shrunk back, worried the intensity of his gaze might allow him to spot her in the shadows. “It was stupid of me to think she was somehow still alive.”

“Not stupid.” Rue leaned her head on his shoulder. “Just hopeful.”

Giving his head a small shake, Jeremy tried to loosen up. He peeked down at his friend and took her hand in his own. “Speaking of hopeful, how are you holding up?”

Rue’s mouth puckered and for a moment May thought she might start to cry again. Instead she let out a slow, shaky exhale and closed her eyes.

“Do you think they’ll say yes?” she asked quietly. “Do you think they’ll help us?”

Jeremy frowned. “I wish I could say yes, Rue. Audrey would have. But-”

“She’s not Audrey,” Rue finished, sitting back up and pretending to fuss with her hair so she could wipe discretely at a stray tear. “And they don’t know us and they don’t know Gaten.” Her voice cracked, her breath fluttered. Now she let the tears slide. “It was so dumb to think they would they ever agree-”

“Hey,” Jeremy stopped her, draping a long arm around her quivering shoulders. “Don’t do that. She might not be Audrey but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a good heart, right? Who knows, they could still surprise us.”

May pulled back. As quietly as she could she backtracked and found a sidestreet to take instead. Before she knew it she was running, pumping her legs as fast as they would carry her until her lungs seared with the effort.

But it didn’t matter how far or how fast she went – she couldn’t outrun the memory of Rue’s sadness. Her mind flashed between the image of Gaten in the locket to every mental photograph she held dear of Omi. If it were him, she’d be just as devastated.

If it were him, she wouldn’t think twice about doing whatever it took.

She didn’t stop until she reached the circus gates. Breathless, she doubled over and let the weight of the truth crash down over her.

It was stupid.

It was dangerous.

May peered up at the sky with all its winking stars and wondered what her own would say when she told her what she was thinking.

They had to do it.

They had to save Gaten.


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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Fifteen

[ Start from the beginning | Read Previous Chapter ]


 

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

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter ]

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

[ Start at the Beginning| Previous Chapter| Next Chapter ]

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

Star at the Beginning Read Previous Chapter | Read Next Chapter ]

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

[ Start at the Beginning | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter ]


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.”


[ Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May