This is chapter 5 in the Farworld series, book 3, Air Keep. Previous chapters can be read here:
Master Therapass released Kyja so quickly, she barely had time to get her feet under her before hitting the ground.
“I . . . I can explain,” she said, straightening and smoothing her robe.
“It was my fault,” Riph Raph blurted. “I told her to do it.”
Master Therapass flicked his right hand, and suddenly Riph Raph was lying on his back in the center of the room, his legs bound with silver string and an apple stuffed in his beak like a pig ready to be cooked. “I have no time for stories,” the wizard said sharply. He glared at Kyja. “And no patience for thieves.”
He held out his hand, and Kyja meekly returned the glowing circle. She opened her mouth to explain, but realized there was no explanation. Riph Raph had been right; she should have shown the wizard the note as soon as she found it and asked for his help. She wondered if she’d lost his trust for good. Looking at the ground, she reached into her pocket, took out the note, and handed it to him.
“What’s this?” Master Therapass drew his glasses from the sleeve of his robe and balanced them on the end of his nose as he studied the scrap of parchment. He read the message, turned it over and examined the back. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it on my bed yesterday morning, after you told me I couldn’t . . .” Kyja chewed her lower lip. “After you told me I couldn’t use the aptura discerna.”
“Do you have any idea who put it there?”
Kyja shook her head. “It’s just . . . I thought it was a riddle. I figured out that it’s talking about a shadow, and I thought—I thought . . .” She wiped a tear from her eyes, trying hard not to cry. She wanted to be strong. She wanted to do the right thing. But lately she didn’t seem to know what the right thing was anymore. “I’m so sorry.” She sniffed.
The wizard’s eyes softened. He placed a hand on Kyja’s shoulder. “Now, now, there’s no need for tears. I know you were only worried about Marcus.”
Kyja bunched up the front of her robe and dabbed at her eyes with it.
The wizard lifted the parchment to his nose and sniffed. “Odd.”
“What?” Kyja asked
“The ink. It has a strange aroma I’ve never smelled before.”
Kyja hadn’t noticed. “I thought maybe the note was a clue about how to get Marcus safely through the realm of shadows.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” the wizard said.
“The riddle talks about shadows disappearing at noon and in the middle of the night.” Kyja swallowed. It had all made sense to her at the time. Now, as she tried to put it into words, the whole thing seemed sort of silly.
But Master Therapass was tugging at the tip of his beard, his eyes thoughtful “Go on.”
“I thought that maybe the riddle meant that if those are the times shadows are at their weakest, maybe they’re also when the realm of shadows is the least dangerous. I thought I could try pulling Marcus over at midnight. To see if it worked.”
Master Therapass frowned. “Making guesses like that is far too dangerous. You could have put Marcus’s life in danger on a simple hunch.”
Kyja pressed her lips together, her eyes feeling hot again.
The wizard sighed. “Would it help if I let you see for yourself that Marcus is safe?”
Kyja nodded. “Oh, yes!”
“Very well. I had thought it would be easier if you could keep your mind on other things, focus on something other than the boy. But it’s clear I was mistaken.” He laid the aptura discerna flat on a nearby table.
Still trussed nearby, Riph Raph mumbled around the apple in his mouth, his yellow eyes bulging. “Grprut turhurg ribe bor.”
Master Therapass glanced at him and snapped his fingers, releasing Riph Raph from his bonds. “Try to stay out of trouble.”
The skyte flew to Kyja’s side and pouted
As soon as she looked into the aptura discerna, Kyja’s heart began to pound. Was Master Therapass right? Would she be better off not seeing Marcus? Maybe seeing him would make it harder to wait until he could be brought safely over. Maybe she was being selfish.
But the wizard didn’t understand. Kyja had always had a special connection with Marcus. Sometime she could almost think his thoughts, feel his feelings. She knew how frustrated he had to be by now. And she did have a strong feeling that he needed her help.
As she looked into the window, the colors began to mix and blur, taking on a hazy pink hue. She tried to remember everything Master Therapass had taught her about using the aptura discerna. First, she had to clear her mind. She had to push aside all negative emotions—fear, anger, disappointment. She wasn’t angry, and disappointment wasn’t a problem. But to let the window look inside her, she’d have to get rid of her fear. That would be harder. If she hadn’t been afraid for Marcus, she wouldn’t be here in the first place.
Instinctively, her hand went to Riph Raph. They argued sometimes, but ever since she’d rescued him as a baby, the skyte had been her best and most loyal companion. “I’m sorry I got you into trouble.”
Riph Raph rubbed his head under her chin. “It’s all right.”
She tried thinking of happy things. Riding the motorcycle across the roads of Earth while Riph Raph cowered in terror. Floating down the Noble River with Cascade. Watching the skyte catch fish. Finding Marcus safe in Land Keep. A little at a time, her breathing evened and slowed.
Riph Raph edged around to look into the window, where the pink haze was slowly clearing. “Let him be all right,” Kyja whispered under her breath.
As the pink disappeared, Kyja made out a small room. Marcus’s? She saw a bed, a desk, and a mirror. There, beside the mirror, Marcus’s wheelchair was turned on its side. But where was Marcus? Her breathing sped up, and as it did, pink began to swirl back into the window, clouding her view.
“Relax,” Master Therapass said. “Clear your mind.”
But she couldn’t. Where was Marcus? She’d come to the window looking for him. The aptura discerna had found his room. Why not him? Her heart thudded. Why wasn’t the window working? The image began to fade.
“Show me Marcus,” she demanded, reaching for the aptura. “Show him to me.”
But the room disappeared and a terrible certainty filled her chest. Something had happened to Marcus. Something horrible.