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Deri dove through the branches, Kaman close behind. The wind carried her past the forest and she pulled strands toward her as they reached the castle. The two dropped into the courtyard, the tense silence breaking.
Prince Dakan was pacing back and forth as he waited for his two spies. Deri threw her hood back and dropped to one knee, bowing her head. “We discovered nothing more, my prince.”
Dakan came and put a hand on her shoulder. “We are equal, Deriwynn. You do not need to bow to me.” She rose and flashed him a quick grin. /italic/I'm sorry, my prince./italic/
“We were nearly discovered, Dakan. We cannot continue with these missions. Deri was almost killed.” Kaman came and stood by her. “She has another life, away from us. Surely we must not endanger her more than necessary.”
Deri raised her eyebrows at Kaman. “I can take care of myself.” She pushed a strand of wind against his shoulder and smiled. He smiled back.
/italic/You belong here, Deriwynn./italic/ She turned away and stared across the shadowed courtyard. What would it be like to see this castle in daylight?
“What do you suggest, Deri?” Dakan was watching her. She tried to smile, to hide the thoughts that were evident in her eyes.
“Warn the people - don’t keep them from the truth. Tell them to prepare for the attack. Our King will not fail us.”
She paused, then clenched her jaw in pain.
“He is calling,” she whispered. “I must go.” They nodded silently and left her.
Swallowing tears, Deri closed her eyes and surrendered to the pull, as countless times before.
A blast of wind and fire tore through her, erasing the knowledge of their tongues from her soul. She lifted her face and spread her arms, tears escaping from the pain. There was the gate – there was the hand. With the ease of practice, she took hold of the hand – her King’s hand – and stepped through the gate.
She had passed through these golden doors countless times, but each time the pain stole her breath, leaving a hollowness in her chest – the knowledge she was leaving the life she loved behind.
Darkness settled on her and she relaxed.
“Deri!” Seth shook her shoulder. She slammed her hands on her bed and rolled over. “Ouch!” her brother jumped back just in time.
“Come on, sis!” she wrinkled her nose at him from on the floor - Seth bent down and tugged a lock of unruly hair. “Get moving – Kyle won’t even look at you if your hair looks like that!”
Deri groaned and swiped at his leg. “Move it, private!” she growled, scrambling to her feet to chase her brother out of her room.
After pulling a shirt and jeans out of her closet, she turned to her mirror and stopped. She stared at her reflection. She didn’t look the same in the other world…this mirror image stared back, eyes dark in her tanned face, questioning.
Deri turned away. She didn’t want to face the questions – not yet.
She pulled a brush through her hair and ran down into the kitchen.
“Don’t choke.” Seth appeared at her elbow, her backpack ready. She held up a hair tie with her free hand and motioned to her hair. “You’re joking.” Deri rolled her eyes.
“You are paying big-time for this,” he muttered as he finished the braid. Deri put her bowl in the sink. “Aw, you’re getting better.”
Seth grabbed the keys and started out the door. “Hey! It’s my turn to drive!” she ran after her brother, but Seth hopped in and locked the door before she reached him.
Deri pounded on the door, laughing, before going around and plopped into the passenger seat. “Go. Now.”
Seth grinned victoriously and pulled out of the driveway, turning the radio on. Deri switched the station.
“In your dreams!” he switched it back, warning, “Don’t mess with the driver,” as he held her away from the radio and tried to stay on the road at the same time.
Their relationship wasn’t like other siblings. They each respected and loved the other deeply, but they would never admit it – to each other. They each knew they could depend on the other when in need, be it a late ride home or a date gone bad. They were in this crazy life-ride together, and nothing would change that.
Deri stared out of the window, humming along with the music. /italic/I thought this was all there was. Now I have two completely different lives./italic/ She glanced at her brother and grinned. /italic/I wouldn’t trade this for anything./italic/
She was just getting out of her sophomore year, colleges were beginning to notice her talents - her life was just beginning.
They pulled onto the curb in front of Kyle’s house and Seth reached over and unbuckled her seat belt. “Me? What if his brother answers the door?” Kyle’s older half-brother, Chad, teased her about Kyle nonstop. Seth raised his eyebrows, grinning.
Finally Deri made a face. “You will pay.”
“Ooh, I’m so scared.” He pushed her. “Go!“
Groaning, she got out of the car and jogged up the steps, turning to stick her tongue out at him.
Chad opened the door before she got there. “Your boyfriend’s running a little late. It’ll be a few minutes.”
“Get outta here, Chad,” Kyle growled, shoving him aside and stepping outside. “I’m really sorry,” he muttered. “He‘s…”
“Don’t worry. We’ve been over this a gazillion times already. He’s just jealous,” Deri teased, linking arms with him. “Let’s get out of here.”
When they reached the car, Kyle paused to open the door for her. She grinned at him before she ducked inside. “Chivalry’s not dead yet,” Seth joked as Kyle climbed in behind her.
“Just because she’s your little sister doesn’t mean I can’t be nice to her,” Kyle retorted.
“Guys, please. Some of us here are trying to sleep!” Deri leaned her head back and yawned.
Kyle reached around and poked her. “What’s with you, Deri? You got an entire night of sleep - how the heck can you be tired all the time?”
“My guess’d be mono - but we’re talking ’bout Deri here. There’s no way she’d get mono.” Seth grinned at her.
“Shut up, Seth!” Deri rolled her eyes. “Come on, guys. It’s not that bad.” Her protest was broken by another yawn. “Okay, okay. It’s still early. Give me a few hours.”
“You’ve had all month. How long will you take to get over school? You‘re only a sophomore - wait ‘till junior year.”
She groaned. “Don’t remind me.” Deri leaned her head against the window and closed her eyes. God…what can I do? I’ve been living like this for too long. How much longer? What will I decide?
There was the pain…there were the gates, the hand.
She opened her eyes and breathed deep. The wind whispered to her, reminding her of the task before her. Slowly, Deri turned and walked from the shadows.
She met Dakan in the courtyard. “Where is Kaman?”
Dakan ignored her question and took her hands. “I don’t want to lose you, Deri. You’re too important to me. I cannot allow you to go. Let Kaman go alone.”
She stared back into his eyes, gently but firmly pulling her hands away. /italic/Please, Dakan. Not now…/italic/ “You know I must. We are more powerful together.” Flames circled around her hair, sending light to his face.
“But your life, Deri -"
“My life doesn’t matter when your kingdom is in danger. Please, Dakan. Step aside. I must find Kaman.”
Mouth pressed in a tight line, the prince moved over and bowed deeply, aching to keep her safe.
Kaman turned from the map as she approached him. “Where are we going?”
She stepped closer to the map as he motioned. “Follow the river until it branches. Then – “ he stopped, peering intently at her face. “Deri, you do not look strong enough.”
She shook her head, turning from the light. “If I wasn’t strong enough, I wouldn’t be here. I know what I must do. You cannot go alone.”
Kaman took her shoulders and stared into her eyes, searching for the answer.
Deri stared back, allowing him to see the things she had hidden from the others – for theirs was a lonely path to travel, a path no mortal could follow; a path that was made of the fire’s tongue and the wind’s touch, of the earth’s steadiness and the water’s healing.
/italic/I am strong enough, Deri assured him. You will help me./italic/
Slowly, Kaman nodded. “Then let us go.”
Dakan came into the room and embraced both of them. “May the King go with you,” he whispered. “Travel swiftly and silently.”
Deri fingered her necklace, then pulled it off and handed it to them. “Keep it until I return,” she said softly. /italic/It is the only thing I take with me between these worlds./italic/
Dakan watched his comrades roll through the opening, hands open to catch the air.
Silently, they soared up and out of the castle. He watched until he could no longer see their shadows. “Protect them, my King,” he whispered. “Protect Deri.” He clenched his fist, Deri’s necklace in his grip.
They swept over the river, almost ripples over the water. As they drew close to the torches, Deri prayed she would be alive when this was over. /italic/Please, my King. I want to see them again…/italic/
She now knew the dangers of living two lives.
She jerked awake. “What?”
“Field. Five minutes.”
She groaned. “Now?”
In less than five minutes Deri was up and down the stairs, once more dragging a brush through her hair. Seth was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. “Ready?”
“You’re braiding my hair again.”
Seth groaned and lifted his gaze to the ceiling. “What will it take for you to learn?”
Deri giggled and sat down at the table. “Hurry up, sis. Busy day ahead of us.”
They walked down to the field, soccer balls under their arms and sweatshirts around their waists. “Who are we meeting, exactly?” Deri asked, hurling her ball towards the field.
“Just some of the guys – Kyle, Tom, Chad…the whole gang.”
She groaned. “Why’d you bring me along?”
He shrugged. “Needed an extra player. The other girls are busy.”
Deri scoffed. “Busy. I was busy!”
“Sleeping doesn’t count, sis.”
“It does for me, bro.”
He rolled his eyes back at her and grinned. “Aw, stop pretending. You wanna play.”
She stuck out her tongue at him and didn’t answer.
The other guys were already there, warming up and stretching. The two siblings joined them.
Kyle and Chad stood at the same time and came toward Deri. “Watch out, sis,” Seth warned, grinning.
She looked over her shoulder and wrinkled her nose. “Great. Just what I need on a Saturday morning.”
“Hey, girlfriend!” Chad slung his arm around her shoulders, smirking.
“You know what? I need to go for a jog around the field to loosen up.” Deri smiled sweetly at him before slipping out from under his arm. Kyle joined her.
After a few laps, Deri took a deep breath. “Kyle, what would you say if I told you…”
He stopped and stretched. “Told me what? That you’ve had a secret crush on me ever since you saw me?”
She laughed. “Yeah, sure, Kyle. No, this is more important. You see…aw, never mind. It’s too impossible.”
Suddenly a flash of light made them cover their faces. Deri recovered first and peered into the light. “Kaman!”
He strode toward her, obviously out of place in her world. His face was grave. “Our mission is dangerous, Deri. You can no longer live both of these lives. Now is the time to decide.”
Seth came jogging over. “What the heck happened? Who‘s this guy?”
Deri looked from her brother to Kaman, still speechless.
“I take it you are Deri’s brother?” Kaman’s tone was formal.
“Uh, yeah. Seth.” he held out his hand.
Kaman bowed, ignoring the hand.
“I am Kaman, master of the elements.”
Seth dropped his hand. “Okay…Deri, what’s going on?”
Deri clenched her jaw. “You’ll never believe me, but there is another world to our own. Another world that…that needs me.”
Kyle shook his head. “You’re losing it, Deri.”
She rubbed her forehead and sighed. “I knew it. I knew you wouldn’t believe me.” /italic/Do I even believe myself?/italic/
“Prove it to them, Deri.” Kaman’s gaze was strong, steady.
She shook her head. “I…I can’t. I have no power here.”
“Then you must come with me. There is much more at stake.”
Deri looked from one to the other.
Her brother, his brow furrowed in concern and confusion. And Kyle, the person she secretly hoped she would have a future with. With them lay her normal life; her friends; living like a normal teenager; learning how to live, to laugh and to love.
But Kaman…the only person who could understand the lonely path she had to walk in his world. With him stood Dakan, ‘her’ prince. They needed her as well. With them lay the tongues of wind and fire, of water and earth - four languages that had changed her, even in this world.
It was time. She had to choose. Deri lifted her head to the sky. /italic/Show me, God! Show me, my King!/italic/
“I am with you no matter where you are.”
/italic/What do You want me to choose?/italic/
She could live in both worlds …but could she live knowing she had left the other behind?
“Show me!” her heart cried. /italic/Where do You live? Where can I be closest to You?/italic/
“Where do you hear Me? Where do you feel My touch? Where do you hear My voice? That is the path you must take.”
Deri closed her eyes, searching her heart, her soul…every part that held the fingerprints of her Maker.
The answer came. Dreaded, but Deri could accept it.
Slowly, she turned.
One last look…she couldn’t to go any closer. “Seth…I have to go. They need me there. Tell…tell everyone I love them.”
Seth stared hard into her face, then suddenly wrapped his arms around her. “Go,” he whispered, understanding beyond explanation. “You were not meant for this kind of life.”
Deri hugged him back, holding on like she‘d never let go. “Tell Mom and Dad,” she whispered back. “Tell them where I’ve gone. We’ll see each other again soon.” Seth held her at arms length and stared hard into her face, engraving it into his memory.
Eyes stinging with tears, he stepped back and let her go.
Kyle took hold of her and gave her the same suffocating embrace. “Don’t forget me,” he whispered, holding her far enough away from him so he could see her face.
/italic/I love you…/italic/
“Don’t you forget me,” Deri said softly, burying her face in his shoulder.
/italic/I know. I love you, my friend. You will find another…/italic/
Deliberately, she stepped back, letting her fingers slip through his.
Finally, she turned and looked deep into Kaman’s eyes. Then Deri put her hand in his.
Fire and water circled their clasped hands and wind wrapped its fingers around her shoulder.
“Are you ready?” he asked softly.
Tears blurred her vision. “Yes.”
Another flash came, erasing the scene from her mind - her brother‘s face, and Kyle‘s…
Deri closed her eyes and screamed at the pain. Her heart was being ripped out of her chest, forcing her to leave everything behind; all her memories…everything.
Then there was silence. Deri opened her eyes and looked around. “Welcome.” Dakan was smiling at her. No longer was the castle in shadow. Everything looked so different in the daylight…
She was home.
Seth stared at the place where she last stood. Slowly, he turned to Kyle.
Wordlessly, Kyle knelt in the place where she had stood moments ago. His hand rested on the ground, then moved and snatched something from the grass. He clenched it in his fist and bent his head, jaw set. Seth went over and knelt next to him. Kyle opened his hand, revealing a silver heart pendant, pure and shining in the light. Deri’s necklace. Left behind for him. “She’s not coming back.” He lifted his face to the sky. /italic/Why did You take her from me?/italic/
Deri chose that day - to walk down a path no one else could follow – a path of wind, of ground, of water and fire, of loneliness and danger, tears and pain, laughter and joy…walking down it holding her King’s hand; for no other could understand her as He did.