Both girls wore thin white slips that didn’t cover nearly enough. “How long have you two been held here?” I asked as my mind began, with dread, to connect the dots of their situation.
“Why would we tell one of you anything?” the one called Nix spit out.
“Well, if I was working with them, which I’m not, I would already know the answer to that. So you have nothing to lose by telling me,” I said reasonably.
“Long enough,” Nix said.
“Too long,” the pale one stated.
“Care to elaborate?” I raised a brow at them until they spoke again.
“Months,” the pale one said.
Nix followed with. “Weeks for me.”
I clenched my eyes shut, rubbing my throbbing temples. “So the red one is Nix. What’s your name, white one?”
“Leona,” the heart-achingly soft voice answered me.
“Well, Leona, Nix, to answer your statement, yes, I am one of them. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I hate them as much as you do-”
“Impossible.” Leona’s soft voice surprised me with it’s vehemence.
“And I’ll help you in any way that I can,” I continued. “Oh, and I have some help on it’s way.”
“You look terrible,” Nix said softly. “I doubt you could even help yourself.”
I couldn’t really argue with that. I felt like crap, too, dirty and bloody and weary to the bone. And oh yeah, like my skin was about to burst, my other form was so close to the surface. It was an alarming development, to say the least.
“What are you two? You’re obviously not related to each other, and of course you aren’t human.”
They looked at each other, trying to decide without speaking what to tell me.
I just stared at them, waiting. They shifted their eyes and feet nervously. I could tell I disconcerted them. “Do the dragons already know what you are? If so, it’s pointless not to tell me.”
“I”m a phoenix,” Nix stated tonelessly, shocking me speechless for a moment.
“I thought your kind were extinct,” I told her honestly.
She shrugged, obviously having heard that before. “If they manage to kill me, then as far as I know, we will be.”
I nodded at Leona. “And you?”
Her watery eyes were pointed at the ground. “Just think of the most useless creature in existence. I bet you can guess it.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that her despairing tone brought tears to my eyes. She was powerful at evoking emotions in others, that much was obvious.
I thought for a few moments, but came up blank. “You’re a necro, then?” I shot back.
She smiled, just the tiniest bit, and hope bloomed inside my chest. She seemed to have no idea that she cold affect emotions with her slightest move. “No. A unicorn.”
I whistled softly. “I knew unicorns weren’t extinct, but just barely. Do you know of any more of your kind?”
She shrugged. “My dead-beat dad’s still breathing somewhere in the world, but my mother’s human. I don’t know of any other relations.”
“What are these bastards up to?” I asked softly.
“Collecting pets is the only idea we’ve come up with,” Nix told me.
“They like to have things around to torture,” Leona added.
“Are you the only ones they’re holding?”
They both shook their heads. “We don’t think so. We’ve heard them talking about other captives. They tell us all the time that we’re their favorites. But we haven’t actually seen anyone except our captors, you, and each other.”
”Do they move you at all? Or have you been in this room for months?”
“Oh, they move us all the time,” Leona spoke. “We’ve traveled almost constantly since they captured me. I was in Florida when they grabbed me, walking home from school.”
“They took me in Ontario, Canada,” Nix added. “They snatched me out of my bed.”
“Have you heard them talk about the two women I had with me?”
They exchanged a wary glance. “They said something about a druid woman…. They said she was dead. They seemed to think it was funny how they’d killed her.”
I shut my eyes tightly against a sharp rush of emotion. Rage, anger, and pain, oh yes, pain, washed through me. Pain for the death of a woman I had always liked and respected. But most of all, I felt guilt, that she’d died for my fight. The rage seemed to help some of the pain in my body. Revenge had always been my best motivator. Heads were gonna roll for what had happened to Sloan, of that I was sure.
“Did they mention anyone else? My sister was with me as well.”
They shook their heads in unison, and I cursed. They both cringed. “I’m not mad at either of you. And, though I know it’s hard to believe at the moment, I will get us all out of here. My kind don’t stay conscious and captive for long.”
Nix had a thoughtful look on her face. Thoughtful and determined. “So if you’re a dragon, can’t you make fire?”
I studied her for a moment, trying to see what she was thinking. “Of course.”
“Could you set me on fire from that far away?”
I just stared at her, a little shocked.
“Oh no, Nix! You can’t! You told me you’ll lose your memories! And it will hurt! You said you wake up in total agony.”
Nix shrugged. “I only lose some of my memories. As it stands, there are quite a few memories I’d love to lose. And I can take the pain. The only thing that worries me is how long it takes to recover from the change. It’s just so hard to predict when they’ll check on us.”
I shook my head at her, meeting her gaze squarely. “I couldn’t do that. I’m sorry, but I just can’t torch a little girl. I’m capable of some pretty dark stuff, but not that.”
She glared at me, but didn’t speak. I decided to cheer them up a bit. I pulled off one my faux black pearl earrings. I waved it at them. “My reclusive family must not know too much about druids and their tracking devices. Guess what these are, girls?”
They both just shook their heads at me, looking at me like I was crazy. I just smiled. “I’m being tracked by the druids, which means that, any minute now, we’ll be rescued.”
Nix and Leona both glared at me, as though I’d said something offensive. “The druids only care about their own. Why would they help us?” Leona asked, her tone accusatory and bitter.