Unleashed: The Deepest Fears Lie Within (Secrets of the Makai), page 1
About the Author
THE DEEPEST FEARS LIE WITHIN
by Toni Kerr
Copyright © 2014 by Toni Kerr
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead,
is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Summary (Book 2 in the Secrets of the Makai series): 15-year-old Tristan finally has a chance to excel with his growing powers in a safe, supervised location. But his past haunts him, dragon slayers hunt him, and the reality of his existence will change everything.
Author can be contacted at: email@example.com
To the young and old outsiders
Looking for a way in.
For those whose path is not so clear.
Everyone has a destiny
Whether they know it or not-
If they can find it within and believe.
- GOING PLACES -
SILENCE SHROUDED THE ISLAND. And loneliness. Tristan pulled the scent of pine and warm earth into his most precious memories, drawing his knees up against his chest. The lake in the valley below the lookout seemed cut off from the world; cut off from any breeze that might tempt the surface; cut off from any current circling beneath. An unnatural stillness.
Was it possible to stay and go at the same time?
The island itself called to something within him and felt like home. But the people, Dorian especially, wanted nothing to do with him. So he’d packed up his things and agreed to leave without making any trouble, just like he’d done his entire life.
The tips of trees stood eye-level from this mountaintop viewpoint. Tristan searched the branches once again for the falcon, unseen since escaping Ireland. The unfortunate adventure that cost him everything—his friends, his home, other people’s lives....
A gentle wind swirled through the mirrored reflections on the water, bringing a smile to Tristan’s lips. This he would remember—Dorian’s lake in motion. Not the untouched, mournfully still version.
Maybe if Dorian’s temper cooled.... Would she ever want to see him again? Would the villagers be kicking him out if Gram hadn’t died? Was being exiled the will of the village, or just Dorian?
“He’s at the top.” The words drifted up from the cliff house he’d spent the summer in.
Tristan glanced at his bags, worn to near shreds. They were packed and ready, leaning against each other like old friends.
Landon and Victor rounded the boulders and stopped when they saw him. Landon wore layers of hiking clothes, his straight brown hair pulled back to a loose ponytail. Victor looked dressed for a day at the beach with flip flops and shorts. Tristan smiled at the odd pair.
They were students in his school when he first met them, in a few of his classes. Then, they helped him get away from police at a murder scene and saved him again in Ireland. How they happened to be there every time he needed saving was a bit coincidental, but he wasn’t about to complain after the fact.
Nor was he about to ruin the chance to stay with them by digging a little deeper.
At least they hadn’t forgotten him, now that he had nowhere to go.
“You ready?” Victor asked.
Despite Victor’s summer clothes, they’d instructed him to dress warm, but all he had were ragged jeans, T-shirts, and a holey pair of sneakers. He picked up his duffel bag and backpack and glanced to the far end of the lake, to where the village would be, if it were visible.
Going with the Makai might not be the smartest thing, but Landon and Victor seemed respectable enough and there weren’t a lot of options. The police were probably still looking for him on the mainland and he certainly couldn’t stay here.
And then there was the issue of the emerald.
He’d handed it over to the Makai for safekeeping, but eventually he’d have to get it back.
“Hey,” Landon said. “You’ll be fine with us.”
Tristan turned away, mortified to be read so easily. Hadn’t he gotten better about keeping his thoughts secret?
“We have a house for you,” Landon added, as if walls and a roof would make all the difference.
“With a refrigerator.” Victor’s gleaming smile grew wider. “Doors and windows, too!”
Tristan wasn’t cheered by their theatrics, still dwelling on Dorian’s last words. Every time he and Dorian tried to have a reasonable conversation, it inevitably went bad. But her final accusation, the cause of his exile, felt like stated facts rather than opinion. “I have to know. Was Dorian right? She said.... How many people died in Ireland?”
Victor’s smile faltered. Landon looked away. No wonder his falcon abandoned him. No wonder everyone on the island wanted him as far away as possible.
“And the Makai,” Tristan continued. “It’s all completely normal for you—killing people all the time?”
Landon and Victor glanced at each other, frowns overlapping a mixture of expressions. “Well,” Victor finally said. “People do tend to die more often when we’re around. If we’re on duty.”
“But we’re usually around the worst of the worst,” Landon added quickly. “It doesn’t mean we’re cold-blooded murderers, and sometimes we’re the ones who end up dead.”
Tristan chewed on his lip. Just because he wanted to continue learning the cool mind tricks didn’t mean he had to support what they did for a living. Besides, they were very clear when making the offer, that they weren’t recruiting him, just offering a place to live and continue learning.
He had to get better at everything, or killing by sheer accident would happen again. Guilt shivered through his exposed skin, warding off the warmth of the sun. Warmth that certain other people would never feel again.
Because of him.
A haunting music weaved through the hairs on the back of his neck, the trees, encircling the lake with rich tones echoing upon each other. Tristan searched the valley to find the source.
“It’s an Arcelian flute, Song for the Spirits,” Landon said, taking a serene breath as he gazed at the cloudless sky. “They’re putting Gram to rest.”
“It’s not personal. They didn’t want Alpheus there either and he’s known the woman for half a century.”
Tristan nodded, pretending he understood. Gram would have permitted him to be there—if she were alive and making the decisions. He said his own private goodbye, one the villagers couldn’t control or prevent.
“Let’s go,” Landon said.
Victor nodded his agreement. “I’ll catch up in a few.”
Tristan swung the backpack over his shoulder, as ready as he’d ever be. He had no idea where they were taking him, only that they called it Darnell.
He owed them everything for saving his life, for offering him a place to go, for taking him in. Especially after Ireland. There were no secrets—they knew everything. Mostly.
Everything except for the map at the bottom of his backpack.
Landon, gentle and quiet, smiled as Victor trotted back down the path toward the cliff house. “Ready?”
Tristan nodded, bracing himself for the mental transport and the mystery of the unknown.
With a nod from Landon, the lake, solemn and beautiful, exploded into a million shards of blinding light.
Tristan slammed the palms of his hands over his eyes, only to realize his body had no physical substance. He couldn’t detect his backpack or duffel bag, or the ground for that matter. He’d been transported before, and had even done it himself a few times. But it had never felt like this.
A vibration thrummed from his right and a dense fog settled around him, dimming the brightness until consolidated orbs surrounded him, like twenty suns existing in the same foggy sky.
The tones became a pulsating, prodding rhythm, smothering the air he couldn’t breathe.
Something must have gone wrong.
He had to be lost in Landon’s mental transport, stuck somewhere between Alaska and wherever Darnell was.
Is, he corrected quickly.
“Landon!” Tristan watched his voice fall in sputtering sparks of dark blue, winking out after drifting a few feet.
Paths of visible tones collided above him, volleying back and forth between spheres of light. Everything Gram taught him about shielding himself had no apparent consequence in this place. Although, nothing appeared to be attacking him. The light to his right seemed to take most of the impact.
Tristan leaned toward the widest gap, determined to slip between orbs to get out of the way. Or escape.
A pale-blue light descended to block his path.
The more he moved, aiming for gaps, the tighter his parameters became until he faced the single light that seemed as trapped as himself. Yet it looked identical to the others.
Was he supposed to step into it? Was moving up or down the answer?
“Molajah will take over.”
The strange words were so distinct, Tristan circled to find the source, only to see frenzied blurs of agonizing, chaotic torture—worse than hearing the thoughts of a thousand people.
Take over what?
Tristan clutched at his would-be head and tried to squeeze his eyes and ears shut.
He had to escape.
Of course! He didn’t need a physical direction, just willpower. How many times had he been told that distance is irrelevant? He’d been successful enough with transporting himself around Ireland.
With all his mental determination, he pictured Dorian’s crystal-clear lake from the lookout he knew so well. From where he’d just been with Landon and Victor. Each reflection on the water, the scent of pine, the tree his falcon usually perched in....
The result was not as instant as expected.
Aspects of weight crushed and pulled at his mind, then broke his concentration completely.
* * *
Tristan blinked several times, confused by the sharp clarity of distant mountains silhouetted by a dark-violet sky.
Definitely not his intended destination.
Where was the lake?
Freezing air bit his cheeks and burned his throat on a panicked intake of breath. The ground shifted beneath his wobbly legs, creating a small avalanche of rolling rocks. He scrambled uphill for stability, but patches of snow and the unexpected awkward weight of his bags sent him crashing to the ground.
“It’s not that steep,” Landon said, crouching just uphill, offering a hand to help him up.
“What happened?” Tristan asked, trying to swallow the panic threatening to come out in screams.
Silver wisps of clouds over Landon’s shoulder had the unmistakable shape of a dragon, long and sleek, with a wingspan as wide as the sky itself.
Tristan shrank away from the apparition glaring down at him. Away from what having dragon ancestry might mean. “Is Victor still—?”
“He’ll be along. He just had a few errands.” Landon glanced skyward over his shoulder, but didn’t seem to notice anything unusual in the clouds. “He’ll meet us halfway down the mountain with a light breakfast.”
“Are you positive? We were….” Tristan trailed off, unsure if ‘captured’ was the right word. His heartbeat pounded in his ears. The dragon turned its chiseled head into the wind and its body of scales dissipated, turning into streaks of fleecy splotches, barely visible against the dark sky.
Tristan dropped his head to his trembling arms and caught his breath. “I tried to get back to the lake, but then….” He looked over his shoulder, into the dark valley below.
Landon was right. The hill he’d fallen down really wasn’t that steep, just slick with loose sand and gravel. “How long did all that take?”
“First rule: Never interfere when someone is transporting you.”
Bubbling anxieties turned to anger. And apparently, there was no second rule. “Someone said Molajah was taking over.” Tristan flinched, sliding downhill another few feet, when Victor appeared out of thin air behind Landon.
Landon pulled back the hand he’d been offering and stood.
“Another panic attack?” Victor asked, frowning as he scanned the area.
“Not like before,” Landon answered. “Anything strange happen for you while getting here?”
Victor raised an eyebrow and looked like he would burst out laugh-ing. “So soon?”
Landon scowled and redirected his attention to Tristan. “Take over what?”
A gust of wind tore along the bare mountain, catching Tristan’s hair from behind his ears and whipping it into his eyes.
“You mean, there really was a problem?” Victor asked. “Already?”
“Molajah.” Tristan shivered. “A person? Maybe he followed us....” He didn’t dare mention the wispy cloud dragon.
Landon and Victor both shook their heads. “There’s no one here but us,” Landon said.
Tristan got to his feet and brushed off his jeans, doing his best to conceal the confused, angry frustrations. Was this something he should ignore? Something that might make them think he was more crazy then they already thought?
He climbed upward to stable ground and tried to start over. “Is this where we’re supposed to be?”
“Yes. As far as I can tell, nothing went wrong. Darnell is about three miles that way.” Landon pointed over the dark carpet of trees. “Maybe Molajah isn’t a person.”
“Maybe Molajah isn’t the right word.” The harder he tried to remember, the quicker the details faded. He gathered the straps on his duffel bag and backpack and glanced at Victor. “I thought you were meeting us halfway down?”
“Landon called me back.”
“In case we needed help,” Landon clarified. “But I don’t think there’s any threat.” He took off his outer jacket and handed it to Tristan, then turned back to Victor. “Take his bags and we’ll continue as planned.”
“Sorry if I messed things up.” Tristan handed his backpack and duffel bag to Victor and accepted Landon’s jacket. “You believe me though, right? You don’t think I’m crazy?”
“There wouldn’t have been time for you to think about changing directions, so something must’ve held you up.”
Tristan nodded, grateful they would at least consider taking him seriously.
Victor swung the backpack over his shoulder. “You’ll love it here.”
Before Tristan could respond, Victor vanished from sight. He shot a look at Landon before glancing up at the few remaining stars, unsure if he’d ever get used to people poofing in and out of existence.
“You might not believe it, but you’re safer here than you would be anywhere else.” Landon waited for Tristan to finish buttoning the jacket, then headed down the mountain. “I was hoping for a spectacular sunrise, but without clouds, it’s probably better to get out of the wind. Though we could wait for more light if you want.”
“That’s alright,” Tristan said, confirming for himself that the sky was indeed cloudless. “You really think there’s nothing to worry about?”
“I’d never say that, because we’d never claim to know all your enemies.”
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” Was there a list he didn’t know about?
“Would you prefer I lie, to make you feel better?”
- THE CALLING -
TRISTAN CRUNCHED THROUGH ANKLE-DEEP SNOW with ice numbing his sockless feet. Miniature columns of ice crystals reached for the sky in the patches of bare ground, resembling tiny labyrinth castles capped with a layer of dirt and glistening frost. Little yellow flowers seemed frozen in time, each delicate petal preserved by a thin sheet of ice.
“This is your last good viewpoint,” Landon said, veering off course toward a rocky ledge.
Jagged snow-covered peaks glowed a vibrant pink and purple. A thin line of gold began defining itself along the horizon. On Dorian’s island, the sun had been up for hours. “Where are we, anyway?”
Landon laughed, heading back to the original path. “New Zealand. East side of the South Island.” He dropped between two large rocks, then turned to wait for Tristan to follow. “What’s wrong with New Zealand?”
“Nothing,” Tristan said, surprised his unease was so obvious. “It’s just the thought of jumping from one country to another. Alaska one second...New Zealand the next. I remember now—you’re an empath.”