Flames of Bedlam

Ch5.4 .. Reft Spirit

I was surprised to discover that despite the clan’s overall care-free appearance, there was a lot going on underneath. Levi must have given instructions that I didn’t know about. While we were having dinner around the bonfire and dozed to music afterwards, a group was out keeping watch over the transport and its cargo.

In fact, they not only kept watch, but began making preparations to move the eggs. The steep, hilly area wouldn’t make for easy moving, but there was enough creativity among them to figure something out.

It wasn’t until the next morning, after I woke in my little corner of a tent they’d offered me, that I saw this in action. This involved lots of ropes, moss and wooden platforms fastened with makeshift wheels.

Horizon buzzed all around the procession, half curious about the clan’s ingenuity, half worried that something would break and drop an egg to an untimely demise. For the most part, things went smoothly. I won’t say there weren’t any cracked shells here or there, but the eggs were surprisingly tough. Especially the little black one.

By mid afternoon, they’d emptied the transport and lifted all the eggs to the safety of the Grove.

At first, I was a little hesitant to enter the Grove. Grandma’s words rang through my mind, both a challenge and a warning. I didn’t know what truth I was supposed to find there that I didn’t already know. Things were complicated enough already without adding more to it.

Still, I was one of the few who understood the flows of crystal energies and knew how to set it up so that the nest was sustained. I didn’t have a lot of choice but to enter the Grove to do this.

When I strode inside and nothing of note happened, I shook off the Elder’s advice. She was probably just messing with me using her cryptic Grandma-speak. The only thing that was different in the Grove was that the other spirits didn’t shy away from me as much as they once did.

I got right to setting up the crystal arrangement, though. I didn’t really want to spend more time in the Grove than I needed.

“So, this is all your doing,” a voice spoke as I adjusted the lean of a crystal.

I glanced up to see Levi’s mate, Sura, standing there. From the tone of her voice and her aggressive stance, I could tell she wasn’t there to shoot the breeze.

I didn’t know a lot about Sura. When he was with her, he seemed smitten enough. But strangely, Levi didn’t talk much about her while we were journeying together. I never thought to ask why.

I tried to be polite despite the scowl on her face. “Can I help you?”

“Bahamut, right?” She asked as if she needed some sort of confirmation. We’d never directly talked before, but she knew who I was.


Her brows lowered, a smouldering anger in her eyes. I have to admit, even though I was taking the brunt of whatever her frustration was, she was pretty attractive.

“You could have gotten him killed,” she snapped.

“Oh.” Things fell into place — Levi’s mate was angry I’d put him in danger. That made sense.

“That’s all you have to say for yourself? Just an ‘oh’… like none of this matters at all to you?”

I’d actually just not figured out anything more intelligent to say. Aside from Horizon and Grandma, I’d not dealt a lot with the ways of women.

“It matters,” I corrected her. “And he’s the one that almost got me killed several times.”

“Yeah, well, you deserve it.”

Oh… low blow. I was quickly getting the idea that Sura had little liking for me.

I opened my mouth and would have probably said something really dumb if another of the clan women hadn’t interrupted. She strode right up into the conversation, and took Sura’s arm.

“Now, sweet, it’s best if you don’t work yourself up too much. Why don’t you come back to the tents with me?” Her voice was kindly, but spoke as if to someone far younger.

“But…” Sura tried to argue as she was being led away. Her glare told me this wasn’t over by a long shot.

I could only puzzle about the whole thing as I watched the women walk out of the Grove.

“So,” I said to Levi later that day, when I finally was able to get him alone to talk. It was hard when people constantly wanted his attention. “Your mate doesn’t like me very much.”

“Sura?” He breathed the name, eyebrows lifting. Then he drooped a bit. “Did she say anything too terrible to you? I told her not to.”

“She’s mad that I put you in danger.”

“I told her what I did was my choice.”

“She also told me if I died, I deserved it.”

He winced. “You have to… excuse some of the things she says. She has these… mood swings. She’s not always herself sometimes.”

I glanced at him. “Not always herself? Who else would she be?”

Levi motioned with his hands, trying to explain. “It’s a saying. I just mean… she gets in these odd moods. Especially when she’s stressed out. I know this hasn’t been easy on her.”

“She sounds difficult to deal with,” I muttered. “Why would you choose a moody mate?”

He gave a soft laugh. “In all truth, sometimes I ask myself that, too.”

I was surprised at this. So, his relationship with his mate wasn’t always so smooth. But why would someone as popular and beloved as Levi, who could have any mate he wanted, deal with a difficult person instead?

Then, I thought about the fact that he dealt with me for so long. And even considered me a friend. Me. The guy that no one should ever come to like.

I figured it out: Levi must be brain damaged!

“So?” I prodded. I still didn’t have any more answers than I began this conversation with.

“How can I explain it?” He shook his head. “We grew up together. Sura and I did almost everything together. We were best friends. Everyone just assumed we’d always be that way.”

“And you’re not?”

Levi furrowed his brows. “Things changed as we got older. We both changed. I love her dearly… but she has… emotional challenges… that makes it difficult sometimes. I’m not sure she can help it.”

“Like flying off the handle at people?”

“That’s just part of it,” he sighed. “Don’t worry. Later, she’ll probably stop by to apologize for everything.”

He sounded like he spoke from experience. And he was right.

I heard a light knock on the tent post near me. I turned to see Sura standing there, framed by the evening sky. It’d taken all day, but just as Levi said, she did return.

“Do you have a moment?” Her voice was subdued, as if she’d burned all the anger out of it.

It seemed safe enough, so I nodded. I turned to watch her warily, giving her my full attention.

“I apologize for what I said to you earlier.” She was straightforward about it. It sounded like she had to say this sort of thing often. “I know that you and Levi have been through a lot, and I shouldn’t have insinuated that I wanted you to die.”

“Well I…” I leaned back against the tent post casually. It wasn’t very strong, so I found my cool-pose ruined as I floundered to keep my balance. I tried to keep a straight face. “I don’t completely disagree with your earlier statement.”

“Oh, please,” she rolled her eyes. “Levi put a lot of effort into all this. I don’t need to hear your self-depreciation.”

“Hm.” She was sharp, even when she wasn’t angry. I didn’t know where to take the conversation from here. So, I went off on a tangent. “Did he tell you everything that happened?”

“Some of it,” Sura frowned a bit. “He’s been… different… lately.”


“Since he heard the Call.”

“Oh, that,” I murmured. I couldn’t imagine Levi ever being different. “Different in what way?”

Her eyes flicked up to my face, judging me. Deciding whether or not I was safe to talk to. Finally, she decided. “He’s kept more secrets recently. He’s not so sure of himself as he wants people to believe.”

“He’s not sure of the Dragon, you mean,” I supplied.

“I guess that’s a big part of it,” she agreed.

“Are you… okay… with that?”

I mean, what if the person you’d grown up with and had been dating for years suddenly transformed into a Dragon?

She thought about her answer for a moment. “It’s part of him. It’s part of what… who… we are as a people.”

“But are you okay with it?”

Sura’s eyes dropped lower.

That would be a no.

“It’s not Levi… or… or… the Dragon.” She tried to backpedal now.

I’d put her on the spot without meaning to. I felt a little bad about it, and backed off.

“I didn’t mean to pry.”

Her hands suddenly gripped the front of my cloak. Her face was now strangely frantic. I didn’t understand what was happening.

“It’s not Levi!” she insisted.

One of her “mood swings,” I wondered. I needed to approach this carefully. Diffuse the situation I just made. I was terrible at things like this.

“Okay,” I told her. “I believe you.”

This… seemed to be the right answer.

She visibly relaxed, releasing my cloak. She put a hand to her forehead. “I’m sorry. I just get…”

“It’s fine.”

Then she said something I didn’t expect. “The Call. It’s so strong.”

“Call? You mean… the spirits?” I asked.

Sura bit her lower lip and nodded slowly. Then she shook her head. “No… no. Forget I said anything.”

Was she also dealing with the Call of her clan? The spirits of the Grove who wanted to guide her? If so, why was she so frazzled about it? What was she afraid of?

“Sura,” I tried to coax answers from her in the most gentle voice I had. “What is…”

She turned away from me, ending the conversation. “I need to go.”

And just like that, she left.