Home > Stellarlune

Stellarlune
Author: Shannon Messenger

 


ONE


ARE YOU OKAY?”

Grady had asked the question three times, and Sophie still didn’t have an answer. All she could do was stare at the crumpled note she’d found waiting for her in her bedroom, hoping she’d somehow misread it.

Keefe couldn’t…

Wouldn’t…

A sound bubbled up her throat, something between a laugh, a cry, and a groan.

This was Keefe.

He definitely would.

“How long ago did Keefe leave?” she asked, glancing between Grady and the tiny gnome standing near her canopied bed.

Grady shrugged.

Flori shook her head, making her plaited hair rustle like windblown leaves. “I didn’t see him—but I was out in the pastures, waiting for the new patrols to arrive.”

Sophie sighed.

Sandor was in the process of frantically amping up Havenfield’s security because she’d burned down one of the Neverseen’s storehouses a few hours earlier, and everyone seemed to think that meant she’d officially started the war they’d been teetering on the brink of for years—but she couldn’t worry about that at the moment.

“Is Sandor still outside?” she asked, hoping he’d gotten a report about Keefe from one of the other guards.

Grady blocked her. “Listen, kiddo. I know what you’re thinking—”

“I doubt that.” Even she wasn’t sure if she wanted to clobber Keefe, lock him up somewhere, or wrap him in a huge strangle-hug and tell him everything was going to be okay—though the last option seemed the least likely.

“Keefe will be fine,” Grady promised, carefully steering her away from her doorway. “He’s very resourceful.”

She locked her knees. “If you knew what he’s planning, you wouldn’t be saying that.”

Silence followed, and Grady wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“You talked to him while he was here, didn’t you?” Sophie guessed, tapping her temples when he stayed quiet. “You know I can find out what you’re hiding.”

“Not without violating the rules of telepathy,” Grady reminded her. “But to answer your question… yes, I did talk to him—and he didn’t say much. He was obviously still afraid to use his voice.”

Something sour coated Sophie’s tongue, and she tried not to think about the fear she’d seen in Keefe’s eyes after he’d accidentally given his first command. Or how empty and hopeless she’d felt when the command turned everyone numb.

“That’s why he’s running away,” she murmured.

Part of the reason, at least.

Keefe’s letter had also implied that he’d manifested other scarier abilities—but he didn’t tell her what they were. All he’d said was that it was too dangerous for him to be in the Lost Cities and he was planning to hide among humans—which was why Sophie had to find him.

“How long ago did he leave?” she asked in a tone that hopefully made it clear she wouldn’t let Grady shrug away the question again.

He glanced out her windows, where the clouds were slowly turning pink with the sunset. “At least an hour ago, so it’s too late to stop him—but it’ll be okay. I think he actually has a solid plan this time.”

“Oh really? So you think he’ll be able to survive on his own in the Forbidden Cities?”

She’d hoped Grady’s mouth would fall open when he heard Keefe’s destination.

Instead, his lips set into a grim line.

“Wow,” she mumbled. “You really did know what he was up to, and you still let him go. I know Keefe’s never been your favorite, but—”

“I never said that,” Grady interrupted.

“You didn’t have to. You call him ‘That Boy’ and glare at him all the time.”

“Not all the time.”

His smile was probably supposed to soften her mood.

It didn’t.

“Okay, fine. Sometimes your friendship with Keefe… makes me a little nervous,” Grady admitted, dragging the toe of his boot through the flowers woven into her carpet. “He has a gift for getting in trouble—and you do that more than enough on your own. But he wasn’t his usual overconfident self today. He looked tired. And terrified—”

“And that didn’t seem like a sign that maybe you should stop him?” Sophie cut in.

“Hey, we both know there’s no stopping Keefe Sencen once he makes up his mind.”

“Um, last time I checked, you’re still a Mesmer,” Sophie felt the need to point out, even though she wouldn’t have wanted Grady to use his ability that way.

It was easier having someone to blame.

Then she wouldn’t have to wonder if she could’ve talked Keefe into staying if she’d been home when he came by, instead of spending so long at Solreef answering Mr. Forkle’s questions about her unexpected inferno.

Or if she’d checked on Keefe more often after he woke up from his trance-coma thing, instead of letting him push her away.

Or if she’d fought a little harder in Loamnore and stopped his mom before she triggered Keefe’s unnerving new abilities.

Or if she’d at least been able to learn more about Keefe’s “legacy,” so they had some idea of what they were dealing with.

Grady stepped closer, tucking a strand of Sophie’s hair behind her ear. “I know this is hard. And for what it’s worth, I actually did try to talk Keefe out of leaving. But I’ve never seen him so determined. Best I could do was…”

“Was?” Sophie prompted when he didn’t finish.

Grady closed his eyes, and his lips formed a few different words before he asked, “You trust me, don’t you?”

“Why do I need to?”

“Because… I promised Keefe something. And I’d like to keep that promise. But it’s hard to do that if you keep asking questions.”

Sophie studied him, wishing she were an Empath and could tell what he was feeling. But the Black Swan had left her without that particular talent.

“Fine,” she decided. “I’ll stop asking questions—if you stop trying to talk me out of going after him.”

Grady blew out a breath. “I think you’re forgetting that now’s really not a smart time for you to leave Havenfield. We have no idea how the Neverseen are going to respond when they discover what you’ve done to their storehouse. And you have your own army here—”

“And the Neverseen know exactly where to find me,” Sophie argued. “Besides, I’m not going to sit around, waiting for some attack that may never happen. I’m not afraid of them!”

“You should be.” Grady lowered himself onto the edge of her bed and rested his head in his hands—which made it hard to hear him when he said, “I am.”

Sophie wished she could sink down next to him—lean on each other as they tried to prepare for whatever came next. But she forced herself to stay standing. “I’m done making decisions based on fear. It gives the Neverseen more power.”

“Isn’t fear the reason you’re so desperate to track Keefe down?” Grady countered.

Sophie glanced at Keefe’s note again. “Yeah, but… this is something I can fix.”

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