The Altered Path

It’s been an interesting time last night and this morning.  It seems that I’m too tired to write at night, but on these weekends I’m getting a lot of writing done–although “a lot” is probably a misnomer, as I’ve only written eight hundred words in ninety minutes.  Not exactly Stephen King-level wordsmithing, but I suppose if I kept it up like he does for an eight to ten hour day, that would work out to almost sixteen hundred words every three hours, and around five thousand in ten hours.

Not bad, if I should say so myself.

But this was a tough scene to write, because Annie’s suppose to say things to Kerry, and say them in a rather nice way that doesn’t make her come off like a Bulgarian Bitch.  She needs to tell him something important–one of my astute readers has already figured out what–but she has to do it in a good way, and as we’ve already seen, Annie can be fairly blunt at times.  Except when it comes to her Ginger Hair Boy, then she sort of pulls back and tries not to let him have it too hard, while at the same time saying, “No, Kerry:  bad Kerry.”

But first off:  did Kerry deliberately kill that Deconstructor in Selena’s Meadow back when he thought he was safe from being eating by one of Cthulhu’s Minions?  And how did Annie figure out that she things Kerry smoked the dude on purpose?  The answer is pretty easy, actually . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry continued staring at his hand being held by Annie. He finally responded in a whisper much like hers. “How did you find out?”

Annie pressed her cheek against his for a moment before pulling back. “I figured it out.”

“When?”

“The Monday following the attack, during Flight Class.”

Kerry slowly turned so he was looking at Annie. “How? How did you figure it out?”

“Remember how I was waiting for you to come out of the locker room before the daily briefing?”

“I remember.” That was one of the few moments about that class that Kerry did remember completely. He’d felt so strange changing into his flight gear, which a few days earlier had been covered in blood and brains, and given that he was given a lot of space to as he changed made him wonder how the class would go for him. “It was a strange day.”

“It was indeed. You didn’t know it at the time, but Emma walked out right before you did. Everyone in the room knew what had happened to her, but only about half stopped what they were doing and watched her take her seat. It wasn’t like when you came out—everyone stopped talking. I don’t think you realized how quiet the Ready Room became right then, because you had pulled into yourself.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I was trying not to pay attention.”

“I know. You weren’t looking at anyone as we headed for our seats—but I was. I caught the few stares focused on you, could sense what they were thinking. I also saw Vicky . . .” Annie paused, taking a moment to breathe and think. “When Emma came out, Vicky was looking at her like she was happy that she’d survived her ordeal and has returned to fly another day.

“But when she looked at you— I caught her expression for just a second, but it was enough. She looked like she knew something about you, like there was a secret she was holding, and she was afraid someone else would find it out.” Annie lightly ran her fingertips over the back of Kerry’s hand. “She was sad and worried all at once—and the moment she realized I’d seen her, she shifted her expression back over to what she’d shown when Emma walked out.

“While we were sitting in the briefing, I remembered a moment we’d had back in the hospital after Emma wrecked you racing. Coraline said to Vicky, ‘I know you checked the flight data,’ and I realized she would have done the same thing with your broom the moment it was recovered from Selena’s Meadow. She would have wanted to see where you’d traveled, where you hid after you nearly crashed, she’d want to know everything. The fact she had the information that got us here proves she did.”

She inched closer to Kerry, pressing against his arm as she comforted him. “I know she would have examined your path when you tried to return to The Diamond, and when you tried getting away from the Abomination . . . and right before you ran into the Deconstructor. She would have noticed if you’d actually flew straight into him, or if you’d changed your path towards him . . .” Annie rested her head against his shoulder. “She would have seen that you altered your path, that you flew towards him, that you chose to hit him.” She kissed him on the cheek. “That’s how Vicky knew, and that’s how I knew.”

 

Annie is bright, and she’s observant.  She’s also aware of the emotional baggage that her soul mate carries around, and she tries not to add to that if at all possible.  The fact that she thought she’d figured all this out six months before and had kept it to herself shows she didn’t want to burden him with more troubles.  She probably would have said something had he started freaking out with night terrors and the like, though it’s likely that Coraline and a few others knew the truth along with Vicky–if that truth did indeed exist.

And did it?

 

Silence filled the clearing as Kerry removed his hand from Annie’s and slid his arm around her shoulders. “I saw the guy pretty well, because I’d looked over my left should to see what was happening behind me, and when I turned back there he was—standing with blue flame in his hand.” He pulled her closer. “I knew one of the other two people was Jessica; I was using low light on my goggles and I could tell by her height and complexion. I didn’t know who the other person was: one guy had cold fire, and he was getting ready to use it on Jessica and whoever she was helping.

“If I’d kept flying straight I’d have flown between them. I didn’t know if I’d been hit; it wouldn’t matter, since I could have flown over them. I did know that he was going to hit and burn them, and I knew what cold fire would do, so he was going to kill them. And I couldn’t let that happen, so . . .” He twisted and reached across his body so he could hug Annie with his other arm. “I shifted my path to the left a little. I didn’t think I was going to hit him in the head, though: I thought I’d hit him in the shoulders or chest, something like that.”

Even with her face buried against his flight jacket Kerry could feel Annie smile before chuckling. “What is it?”

 

I’ll get to the “What is it?” in a moment, but there’s the truth:  Kerry saw the guy, knew one of the people in his firing line was Jessica, and he altered his path to intercept, as any other flight jock might say.  Tough choice to make, and there weren’t a lot of options open.  And there’s another fact that plays out here:  If Kerry had tried to run and leave that scene of death and destruction behind, would he have lived?  Or would he have had a Morte spell thrown at him as he tried to jet away into the darkness?  Even I can’t say, because I wrote the scene the way it was written, and there’s no need for speculation.  So it is written; so it is done.

Now, what was Annie chuckling about?  Well, not what you think.  She gets there, but only after laying out her own truths:

 

“I’ll tell you in a minute.” Annie relaxed and rested against Kerry. “You knew early on that I was a witch, but I never mentioned that I wanted to be a sorceress because I didn’t want to reveal too much, or confuse you.” She turned her head, rubbing her cheek against his. “And as you’ve likely guessed, I want to be a Guardian. I thought about the possibility when I was teaching myself Exsanguination, and once we were asked to do the field operation, I wanted it to be more than a possibility: I wanted to make it real.

“I know what it means to be a sorceress, and when I started learning a Morte spell I understood that one day it might be necessary to use it—and if so, I couldn’t hesitate using it, because my life could depend upon its use.

“To be a sorceress means to use spells against other people: we learned that the first day of Sorcery class. It means you may find it necessary to use Morte spells against Deconstructors, Berserkers, and those people who turn on The Foundation and go rogue. It means you have to stop them, any way you can.” She pressed her head against his shoulder. “It means if it becomes necessary to kill someone, you have to do so without hesitation.”

 

Ambitious Annie, almost a teenager and knowing what she wants to do with her life.  It probably also answers the question of whether or not she’d have gone on the field operation had Kerry said no.  Then again, we don’t know if she would have said yes had Kerry said no–and one day I’ll actually give the answer to that question.

One day.

But Annie’s not finished:  now she gets to the most important part of her conversation with Kerry–

 

Annie twisted away from Kerry and sat directly in front of him, cross-legged. “During our battle on the Link Bridge you hesitated. I know you know this, because you’ve already said you’ve thought about the battle, and you understand your actions. I don’t know if you hesitated because you were unsure if you could craft the Electrify spell properly, or if you were, as you say, trying to do too many things at the same time.” She reached out and took Kerry’s hands, the one he’d kept sitting in his lap, and set them against her legs. “Or, lastly, it could be you hesitated because you knew you’d need to take his life.”

“Kerry—Erywin was down, I was down, it was you and the Deconstructor. You know what they’re like, you know what they’ll do to us: they’ll kill us without hesitation. Which is what he tried to do to you, and would have done to Erywin and me as well. My love—” She gave his hands a squeeze. “If I had been knocked out instead of stunned, you would be dead. You’d be dead, Erywin and I would probably be dead. Even if we hadn’t died, I’d have had to deal with loosing you, and that’s something I don’t wish to contemplate.

“This is why I asked if you want to be a good sorceress, because if you want to be good, you can’t ever hesitate like that again. Because the time will likely come again when your life, and perhaps the lives of others, will depend on whether you’re good or not.”

There it is:  she lets him know that he could have died and maybe gotten them killed at the same time.  You know, last year at this time, Kerry was probably sitting down for dinner, maybe having a favorite dish because it was his eleventh birthday, and while he was munching on his cake he was thinking that he was gonna see Annie in his dreams and she’d have a birthday kiss for him.  Quiet a difference from sitting in a tiny clearing hearing about how he almost died and maybe, just maybe, almost caused the deaths of the people with him.  Not exactly the sort of birthday goodness one would expect.

What is the end result of this conversation?  This:

 

Annie moved close enough that they were nearly sitting in each other’s laps. “I don’t expect you to walk my path; I know there are things you want to do that I won’t, and there are things I want to do that you won’t. But . . . you have the abilities of a great sorceress, and it would be a shame to let your skills go to waste.” She leaned closer. “Do you want to be a good sorceress?” She closed in, brushing her lips against his cheek as she whispered. “Do you want to be my Dark Witch?”

 

Annie is pressing home her question, and doing it as nicely and sweetly and . . . well, in a way that should leave Kerry with no misconceptions that she’s angry–it’s pretty much the opposite.

And he gives his answer–

 

Kerry sat there breathing slowly, his eyes half closed, his hands locked tightly around Annie’s as he considered her questions. He didn’t wait long to give his answer. “Yes.”

She didn’t pull back from her place so close to him. “Are you certain?”

“Yes, I’m certain.” He swallowed hard and sighed twice before continuing. “I screwed up; I know I did. I hesitated because I wasn’t certain I could craft Electrify, and . . .” He shook his head. “I screwed up: I won’t do it again.”

Annie had to extinguish all her doubts, however. “It wasn’t because you were afraid to kill him?”

“No. I knew he’d kill us: I knew they would all try.” He turned his head just enough so he could see Annie so close to him. “I can do this, Sweetie. I can.”

“I know you can.” Annie kissed him on the cheek. ‘Do you know what I was laughing about before?”

“No, what?”

“The Day of the Dead, you left from here and ended up risking your life fighting a monster you’d never seen before, all to save someone’s life. And ten minutes after that, having been chased all around the school—tired, frightened, scared you’d never see me again—you made a quick decision to save two more people.  You did so without hesitation, and you did so at the risk of your own life again.”  She touched his arm. “You thought like a Guardian, my love.”

 

And that is the truth:  Kerry did risk his life to save several people that day, and in both instances he could have been killed.  Hell, he faced getting killed three times that day, and while he might not have thought his last action was going to put him in the hospital, he didn’t know for certain.  He acted in each instance without giving it a lot of thought.

Now . . . just so it’s addressed, one could argue Annie used her feminine wiles to manipulate Kerry into choosing to do something that he’s really mature or emotionally stable enough to handle.  After all, Annie was pretty touchy-feely with the, “Do you wanna be my Dark Witch?” question, and it’s easy to see how someone could say, “She totally used his hormones against him!”  It’s possible, but I could argue that Annie’s not that manipulative, and she’s never tried that on Kerry before.  Or maybe she has, but she’s been a lot more passive-aggressive about it, and this is the first time she’s known she’d have to push him hard to get him to do something without making it look like she was trying to get him to do something . . .

Maybe Annie's a Overly Attached Magical Girlfriend?  Do we want to find out?

Maybe Annie’s an Overly Attached Magical Girlfriend.  Do we want to find out?

I do know the answer to this question, too, because I know what Annie’s thinking.  But here’s where the pain comes in:  that particular question will never get answered at any point during their attendance at Salem.  But it is answered–

When both of them are in their thirties.

That’s not that long to wait, is it?