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Chapter Two - The Crack of Middrift

Thyal stirred. It had been sometime since the noise of heavy boots had filled the corridor leading to his cell. His cell, after all, was located in one of the furthest depths of the prison, wherein it was always cold, and damp. Though he was at least grateful that it was quiet, and away from the invasive frequency waves of the other prisoners. He was confident that his synth skills hadn’t been considered when he’d been shunted into the cell. No. He’d been placed in the lowest recesses for one reason—and one reason only—to be forgotten about, until the day some future ruler realised their grave mistake and came to him, begging forgiveness.

Forgiveness he would never give.

Curious. He cocked his head to one side, causing the chains around his neck to jostle. Usually one of Skarlar’s little, annoying bots brought him is food, or a change of bedding, or cleaned out his toilet—but those heavy thuds were definitely guard boots.

Jouramine boots.

He knew them well.

They still haunted his nightmares. Those boots had ripped through the peace of a peaceful, mundane night, and torn his siblings from his bed. Blood had seeped around those boots, leaving sickening imprints on the floor of his room. Why was it that he could remember the distinct sound of Jouramine boots, and how they wrapped around a Jouramine’s heavy claws, but he struggled to recall the face of his little brother and sister.

His claws brushed the iron mask clamped over his eyes. The pain of having it screwed into his skull was still raw and hot. No matter the years he had languished away in the darkness, the pain never faded, it festered.

Thyal’s ears flicked.

A new sound. He lifted his head. Someone was sobbing. He almost stood to his feet, halting only at the sound of the cell door being opened.

“Stay where you are, prince,” The jouramine barked.

Thyal hissed. His tail rattled. “Fardune.”

“Fifteen years of you, and you’re just as feisty as the day I flung you in here.”

“No, please, do regal me with your poor, unfortunate life.” His voice was weak, unused, and came out in a hoarse whisper.

Fardune chuckled. “You know what they call my squadron these days; The Stone Pillars. We never seem to age. We never seem to die. We have existed for over four hundred years.”

Thyal’s claws dug into his thighs. Four hundred years. It had been that long since his people—

“You’d think the current rulers would pay us more, but nah, here we are, still shunting you disgusting lot around like waste. Ain’t it hilarious, that I’m as much a prisoner as you are. Who’d have predicted that, heh.”

“So hilarious.” Thyal slumped back. “Have you come just to taunt me?”

“Nah. The Warden’s word is law, and The Warden wanted this furless, squishy thing in your cell. I ain’t arguing with The Warden. Personally, I wanted to eat it. We could share.”

“I am afraid my appetite is limited to gruel these days.”

“Shame.” Fardune flung its package into the cell. Thyal winced as it landed with a thud and a yelp. The cell door slammed shut. “Until next time, Prince.”

His title was said with venomous disgust. It seemed the years had done nothing to quell the putrid hatred within Fardune, instead, it had made it vile. He wasn’t one to judge, considering he too held onto bitterness and hatred with all the wrath of a burdening cauldron boiling away within him.

His fur began to settle as the sound of Fardune’s boots faded, and the silence of his cell returned—no—not silence. Sharp, jerking breaths came from whomever—whatever—Fardune had flung into his cell.

A new cellmate?

Thyal dropped back on his hunches. It took effort to spread the waves of his mind out, with the iron mask supressing most of his abilities, but the years had been long—oh—they had been so long. He’d had the time to learn how to send forth the filaments of his mind to wander beyond the iron bars of his cell.

That was how he had first met Skarlar.

And now, The Warden had presented him with something new—


Why would Skarlar do this—

Skarlar always had a motive.

The gentle tenor of her mind was female. He could wrap the waves of his mind around her, forming a creature that was not cakrei, and she was definitely not a jouramine. She was far too small to be either one—an Xawe perhaps? There were a few Xawe within The Crack, but even then, the frequency of her mind didn’t quite feel right for one.

It was too bubbly; to airy, reminiscent of the Heathstones that had once adorned his kingdom in glorious light.

“Are you alright?” His voice came out in a rasp.

Her reply was spoken through tears, and he did not understand a word of her language. Thyal frowned. It was not a language he had ever heard, anywhere on Aburu. Though he supposed it was possible that languages had changed over the centuries he had been within The Crack.

No. It simply had none of the right inflections for a morphed familiar tongue of Aburu. He dropped his shoulders, relaxing. Alright. He supposed he was going to have to bend some synth laws to get around their communication problem.

You’re okay. He so lightly touched her panicked mind, gently matching the rhythm of his frequency with the surface of her boundary. A frown touched the edges of his lips as he sensed the subtle tendrils infused with her waves. Another synth had been conducting their influence, beyond her boundaries. A sour taste grew in the back of his mouth. Who had been daring to break the synth code to such an extreme?

Thyal shook his head. He’d worry about it later. Right now it was more important to calm his new cellmate. Something this interesting hadn’t happened—well—since he had arrived.

He heard her jostle about. It must have been dark in the cell. He would not have known. He had never truly seen the cell that kept him caged, but from her jumbled up frequencies, a vague picture of wet iron bars and cold stones formed.

He could almost see her bloodied hands in front of her.

He pressed back against the wall.


Had that just been a synchronising—no—that wasn’t possible—

Who are you? Her wave wobbled with heightened terror.

Towards the back of the cell. He raised his arm, causing the chains around his wrist to clink and clatter. About eight paces from your position.

Can you see?

He laughed. No. No. Just good hearing in the dark.

She was cold, in considerable pain, and extremely uncomfortable. He could do little about the situation, considering their location, but perhaps he could be gentlemanly in offering some warmth.

There is some bedding, to your right. He suggested. It isn’t much, but the blankets might offer some comfort at least. I apologise about the hair. I can’t brush myself, so I tend to shed.

There was a bubble of confusion from her that amused him. There was a childlike quality to her bafflement, which probably came from the absolute stunned state of her mind, utterly overwhelmed by what had taken place. Her chains jangled and he winced in sympathy. It truly took some time to get used to their weight. No. Perhaps one never got used to them. He rubbed at his raw wrists. The best that could be hoped for was to forget about them every so often, and forget about the pain they caused.

As she stumbled against his bedding her frequency fluttered with sharp, jerky relief and he smiled, tipping his head to one side to listen as she crawled into his nest of bedding.

Oh, thank goodness. She gushed.

Thyal chuckled. He slowly shuffled around, turning to face her. Though his world was completely dark, hers must have had enough light in which to vaguely see the cell they were within.

And to make out his appearance.

You’re…not human…

And you’re not cakrei. He stated.

She laughed. Not a good laugh, there was a hysterical hint to it. He heard her thump down heavily on his cot in a defeated heap in front of him.

I’m sorry. For a moment I thought…I thought they’d placed me with a human.

Human. It was an unfamiliar term. He didn’t even recognise its wave, and he was sure he had never encountered a frequency quite like hers anywhere upon Aburu. I’m afraid you might be the only human amongst us.

I’m starting to get that sense, yeah. A deep loneliness lowered her wave.

Feeling any warmer? He asked.

I am, thank you. And she brightened again. I was so worried my feet would freeze off. You, um, don’t have any bandages or anything around here, do you? I’m bleeding all over your blankets.

That’s fine. They’re due for a change. I am sure Skarlar will send some medical supplies down with a bot. It tends to be quite insightful.

Skarlar? You mean that jouramine… And her frequency began to jumble in panic again.

He held out his paws soothingly. No. No. Skarlar is The Warden. You may have met it upon your arrival.

There was a long pause as her wave worked to return itself to equilibrium and her breathing evened out. You mean the fairy?

Fairy? Thyal scratched at his iron mask. He had no frame of reference for the pattern of the word she used, and to gather the information from her mind, he would need to go beyond her boundaries. They did not know each other well enough for that—not yet—

I’m sorry. I don’t understand.

Never mind, it’s not that important. So, um, what did you do…you know…to be placed down here? Are you…an escaped slave?

Slave? Ah yes. Skarlar had said something about the lives of his people becoming nothing more than a commodity to the jouramine and their allies. His paw rested over the iron mask, not for the first time, wishing he could rip it from the bolts that fused it to his skull.

She was picking up his anger and he quickly stifled it, burying it deep, smothering the flames where they wouldn’t touch her sensitive frequency.

I existed. He dropped his head back. The iron mask clanked on the stone wall. And my existence was a threat to the new regime. Thus, he lifted his arms, playfully dangling the chains, here I am, the last of my family.

Her tone dropped low, filling with a longing he was all too familiar with. He had battled—and still battled—the immense despair of grief.

I’m all alone too. Everything…is gone…

He curled his paws together, interlinking the fingers. This was miserable. Their frequencies were tangling up in a mess of depression. He had to alter the tune.

I apologise. I haven’t offered my name. He crawled onto his foot-paws, bouncing with clanking chains to face her. And he heard the soft sound of her laugher at his movements. Well, at least she could still smile.

It had been a long time since he had given his full title. He held out his paw. I am Prince Thyal Kail Rioghan, of the Roighan Empire.

Something small and delicate slipped into his paw. It took a moment for him to realise it was her own paw, the fingers long and slender. Sunday Jewel Riverstone, formally of Planet Earth.

Well, Sunday Jewel, let me be the first to formally welcome you to Aburu. He kissed her palm.

And she bubbled out a delightfully sweet laugh.


Thyal jerked awake. The buzzing in his head was loud. Skarlar was being its usual, annoying, self, tuning into his frequency in the most brutal and painful way. It may have simply been that Skarlar’s frequency was completely incompatible with his synth skill. He had given that some thought. It was possible that The Warden of The Crack found the whole experience just as painful, to tune down to his pitiful, slow and laborious wave. Skarlar had once described the whole ordeal as slamming its head against a wall until the wall cracked, just enough, that it could peaked through.

It didn’t sound pleasant.

Not for either of them.

Communicating with The Warden always left him with a pounding headache.

But it was also the only communication he had received in all his years chained to the wall in his cell, other than Fardune’s infrequent visits to taunt him.

Ah. You’re awake. Skarlar’s frequency was unique in its tinniness.

You woke me. Thyal rubbed at one of the screws in his temple. Can’t you do something about the static. He asked, though he knew the answer.

No. Did the human female arrive?

Thyal shifted uncomfortably. Even though he could not see her through the iron mask, his head moved in the direction of the bedding. He was hyper aware of her presence. Even while sleeping, the gentle tone of her mental waves was fresh and new, as if he had finally stepped into crisp air. Why did you send her to my cell?

I was bored. I will send supplies.

The connection was abruptly cut. Thyal winced at the stab of pain down his neck. Suddenly, the static started up again. He groaned into his paws as Skarlar’s forceful wave overwhelmed his own.

By the way, can you teach her to speak cakrei, and jouramine would be helpful too.

Why? He asked, encase he was lucky enough to get an answer from the sporadic Warden.

To stem off boredom? I don’t know—you’re stuck in a cell—does there need to be a reason?

Skarlar, you have reasons for everything you do.

Static. Just static. Thyal frowned. It was rare for Skarlar to not have an immediate, tarty come back. Was it actually having an internal debate?

A single note appeared through the static.


The connection cut out again. Thyal gripped at the iron mask, curling into a ball as the screws attaching the mask to his skull burned just like the day they’d been drilled into his bones. The headache set in. He slumped against the edge of his cot. The female human—Sunday Jewel—slept fitfully, most likely still cold. He attentively reached out a finger, brushing it lightly over the goosed flesh of her bare arm.

It was true, he was stuck in a cell, inside a prison were time moved far slower than the world outside. Skarlar was his jailer. They only communicated out of sheer boredom. He was pretty sure that was why Fardune infrequently visited. Their lives were stagnated.

Thyal withdrew his hand, dropping his chin against the bedding to rest. It was nice, to feel the waves of another mind nearby, when solitude had been unbearably long.

“Just what type of omen are you…” he murmured.


Sunday stared at the ceiling of the cell. It was grey and drab, with several stalactites growing from its rocky surface. She’d woken from the soft dripping of mineral water on her cheeks. A dim, miserable light blinked with all the eeriness of an old carpark overhead lamp, spooky and unsettling in its yellow hue as it hung just outside the cell in the corridor beyond. It gave her a nasty feeling that, at any moment, some hideously foul creature—like those fish-hounds—was going to leap out and maul off her legs.

She shuffled about in the cot, tucking her feet tighter into the flimsy blanket. It wasn’t a comfortable cot by any stretch, but it was far more comfortable than anything she’d had for days since she’d stepped into this nightmare. The cakrei—her new cellmate—sat propped up against the damp wall. He had colour to his furred coat, unlike Kaiyō. Soft motley greys that folded into warm reds and oranges that almost became pink around the curvature of his chest, and beneath the underside of his hands and bare feet. There were scars, hideously cruel looking ones, where no fur grew, and they must have had such gruelling stories attached to them. His head cocked to one side, shifting in her direction, causing several chains dangling from him to clatter in the silence of the cell.

It’s rude to stare.

Heat burned her cheeks. She shook it off, pulling herself upright and swinging her legs over the edge of the cot.

She heard him chuckle. He leant on a knee, a smile curling his lips.

I’d probably be staring too, if I could see you. He raised a claw, tapping at the iron mask he wore. Did you sleep well?

“Ah…” She paused. Right. He didn’t know English. She scrunched up her nose and scrubbed her hands through her oily hair. This synth thing was weird, and getting used to it was taking effort. She’d never been smart enough to learn another language—English had been difficult enough—but now something new, and brilliant, and exciting had just switched itself on in her mind.

It was about as good as I could have expected.

Fair enough. His waves were strong, not in the sense of oppressive, or overbearing, but their beat came across as structured and sturdy—unmoveable.

A cheerful jingle, like that of an ice cream truck, caught her attention and she stood to her feet in alarm.

Don’t fret, it’s just one of The Warden’s bots. They come by to bring food and water, and other necessities.

The yellow light outside flicked on red, and a loud beep sounded as the cell door automatically opened, and through it, a little robot glided. Once again, the beep sounded, and the door shut behind the robot.

It was colourful and bright. The ice-cream jingle suited the cute sweetness and nineties toy robot vibe of its boxed shape. It honestly looked like something she’d have seen advertised as a kid, while watching cartoons early Saturday mornings, and then begged her father for it for Christmas.

Of course, no toy on Earth could ever have floated and bobbed about so naturally. It beeped, the little display screen across its face lighting up, showing a happy digital face as it held out a box, suspiciously coloured like a birthday present.

“Oh. Um. Thank you.” Sunday took the offered box, crouching to open it. Two prewarmed ramen cups were inside, along with bottles of water. Alongside, was an orange jumpsuit. Right—so her breakfast was ramen noodles.

Her life had not changed much it seemed. She was still going to be living off ramen noodles. She held up the orange jumpsuit, surprised that it was perfectly sized for her. Sunday glanced at the little bot.

Can The Warden see me?

Probably. Thyal’s reply was not at all what she wanted to hear. But it has a lot of other things to do, so, it might not be paying attention right now.

Still. She wasn’t going to undress in front of something that was most likely similar to a webcam. She motioned to the bot. “Turn around,” Sunday whispered.

The bot slowly did as asked and Sunday quickly stripped off her tattered summer dress, slipping into the orange jumpsuit. It itched, in all the wrong places. A pair of underwear and bra would have been considerate. Still, anything was better than her muddy, urine smelling summer dress.

Sunday buttoned the suit all the way up. She shuffled about uncomfortably. Well, it was a prison outfit. She doubted it was designed to be cosy. Thyal wore a similar one tied around his waist, though, his was in a far worse state.

The bot was facing her again. It beeped and Sunday crouched beside the box, pulling out their meals and the water. A second jumpsuit, far larger, sat at the bottom. She held it out.

Oh. Um. I think this outfit is for you, Thyal. She glanced back at the seated cakrei. Thyal tipped his head to one side. She hadn’t gotten used to it yet, the way the iron mask was moulded around his eye sockets.

Ah. Thyal smiled. Yes, it does seem about that time. He lifted his arms, clinking his chains, but the action was to reveal the sorry state of his jumpsuit.

Sunday set the jumpsuit aside. At the bottom of the box, a pen and paper waited. She frowned at them as she held them up.

The bot began to beep and squeak.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand?”

Thyal’s patient tone translated. It is asking if you have any requests for items. The Warden will do its best to provide what it can for you. Within means.

Oh? Well—that was considerate. Sunday frowned at the pen and paper. They were extremely normal and earth-like, not at all what she’d have expected to find on an alien planet. Standard office supplies. Um. I can only write in my own language. She looked back at Thyal.

That’s fine. The Warden will understand. Thyal heaved a long sigh. She could almost picture him rolling his eyes behind the iron mask. The Warden knows many things.

Sunday quickly scratched out several items on the notepad, passing it back to the small floating bot. It beeped in thanks and darted to the door, waiting for it to be automatically unlocked and opened for its passage.

Can this Warden see what’s going on in all the cells? Sunday asked.

Honestly, I’m not sure about that. Thyal shrugged.

Sunday gathered up the jumpsuit, and the bottled water, along with the two cups of warm noodles. She settled them all down in a pile beside Thyal. Grabbing the blanket she’d used the night prior, she bundled it up and propped it down, using it as a back rest to join him by the wall.

She held out the jumpsuit to him. Here. Your clothes.

Thanks. He accepted them.

Sunday pulled back in alarm as he stood. The chains were loud, almost roaring in her ears, dragging along the ground and clanging against each other as he hefted himself up to his full height. Yesterday she’d only seen him kneeling, and she was completely unprepared for the height. Sunday squeaked as she rolled off her small cushion of bundled up blanket.

Thyal paused from redressing.

You alright?

Yep. I’m fine. Just…didn’t expect you to suddenly change.

Sorry. The frequency of his waves altered to amusement, tinted with what she could only interpret was actually embarrassment. I’ve been alone so long.

I bet I must seem like a figment of your imagination. Sunday crawled back to her spot, shifting her eyes away from him as he tied the jumpsuit around his waist.

I had considered it. Thyal chuckled.

Sunday breathed in, daring to look up as he brushed his stiff tail, giving it several good knocks against the wall to dust it off. That’s what drew her attention to the chains, and their linkages, and where they ended. She sucked in a sharp, horrified breath.

Your chains are connected to the wall? Sunday grabbed at the iron links. They were heavy. Sure, the iron ring around her neck was a weight, and she’d grown rather used to it, but it was nothing compared to the mass of the chains bearing down on the cakrei’s arms. How do you…do anything?

They’re long enough to reach the gate. Thyal pointed to the cell door. And the lavatory, and sometimes if I’m in the mood, I’ll use the bed, but that can be uncomfortable if I get tangled up.

He started winding them up into a neat pile before seating himself once more. He reached for his cup of ramen, pulling open the lid and letting out a gush of hot steam. The tip of his tail flicked about happily as he held the warmth to his chest.

They really wanted to keep you down here, didn’t they? Sunday slid down beside him.

His head dropped from side to side. I suppose I was considered quite the threat. Don’t much feel it now. His hand settled on the iron mask covering his eyes, giving it a tap. It was intricately detailed, mimicking a beautiful masquerade ball mask, with stunning pictographic designs and little jewelled stars etched into the metal. Yet it wasn’t some flight of fancy mask that could be so easily removed after a night of dancing, someone had screwed it into place. Sunday swallowed the rising spit in her mouth, tempting her uneasy stomach with the urge to heave.

It acts as a muffler to my synthetising ability. He replied to her unasked curiosity.

Then…how are we—

Muffles, doesn’t erase entirely.

Suddenly, she was handed the ramen cup he held.

Eat up, otherwise you’ll lose more of your strength.

Not sure if ramen noodles has that much nutritional value.

It’s better than nothing, love. Thyal cracked open the second cup, his tail jiggling happily at the pop of steam. Sunday compressed her smile behind a sip of the warm brew. This was probably Thyal’s happiest time of the day. She breathed in the warm scent of chicken spices and curled her toes tightly.

Yep. The taste of home.

The day wore on. At least, she presumed it was day. There was no way to tell the passage of time inside the cell. Thyal assured her that food was delivered three times a day, but, how long was between those stretches? What constituted to a day within the prison and who decided on when they were fed.

She found herself staring at the flickering light outside of the cell, waiting for the ice-cream jingle that would foretell the coming of the little bot. She was freezing. Didn’t The Warden realize how cold it was down here?

Would her message be received?

Would it be ignored?

What was she thinking—hoping for help—

She scrunched her hands through her hair, hissing out air.

I haven’t even been in here a day, and I’m already going mad. Tears dampened her cheeks.

The overwhelming immensity of the whole situation gripped her stomach in a tight vice. She was stuck here, in a different world, probably forever—and she’d gotten locked away in some hellish prison.

“I went from one stagnated life to another stagnated life. Dad. I am so sorry.”

Sometimes the act of standing still, is in fact, the right action to take. Thyal’s wave gently soothed. Sunday wiped at her cheeks, looking over at the cakrei, sitting at his spot by the back wall.

How can you possibly bare it? Doesn’t it burn you up inside? You must have been in here for so long…

Fifteen years, I believe. Thyal raised a hand, running it over his arm.

Fifteen years. Sunday covered her face. Wait. How do you know?

The jouramine guard who dropped you off. His name is Fardune. Each year, on the anniversary of my capture, he comes to visit and gives me one of these. He held out his arm.

Sunday sat beside Thyal, taking his arm. Between the warm fur, fifteen scars’ ran in a row. She touched her forehead to his arm, sighing deeply.

That’s awful.

I suppose so, but it’s also helpful. Thyal’s hand rested on her head. You’re freezing. I can hear your teeth chattering. You must come from a very interesting world if you don’t need fur.

Sunday bit her bottom lip. Maybe I had one once, and I’m actually a Selkie, and I lost it, and now I’ve come back home to this world to find my fur coat.

Laughter rumbled from his chest. Thyal took her hands, holding them to his mouth, warming them with the heat of his breath before rubbing them. Soon, they stopped tingling, and feeling began to gradually return to them. She envied his thick fur. A small, tiny part of her rather hoped that her words were true, that she had a fur coat somewhere in this world—

That she maybe—

Belonged someplace—

I know it can’t be easy, being stuck down here. I could teach you to learn to speak cakrei, and jouramine. You know, to pass the time. Thyal offered.

Sunday dropped her head against his shoulder. She stared at the cell door, and the blinking light beyond it. Well, I suppose that might be useful, and I guess it’d give us something to do.

Amusement made his waves bubble. Sunday slapped his arm. I’m not good at this yet, okay. You’ve obviously gotten good at this boredom thing.

Not entirely sure if that’s a compliment. He laughed. So, would you like to learn to speak cakrei the easy way, or the hard way?

Wow, there are options.

There are.

There was a hesitant pause in his waves.

The easiest way would still take a while, and the hard way would be a little more difficult on me, considering my current disposition. He touched the iron mask.

Sunday heaved herself to her feet, giving a long stretch. Why am I getting a sense from you that the easy way isn’t…easy…

No, you’re reading my frequency wrong, what you’re seeing in my wavelength isn’t hesitancy, it’s caution. You’re going to need to learn to pick up the subtle differences between various similar waves.

Sunday frowned. Isn’t hesitancy and caution basically the same thing.

Thyal shook his head. Hesitancies major is fear, while cautions major is experience. He raised his hands, holding up two fingers. Once you know the major of fear, you’ll be able to see how that major effects lesser waves, once you know the major of experience, you’ll see it scattered throughout other waves.

So, majors are like stronger beats, or something…

Or something… Thyal smiled.

Okay. So, why your caution about the easy route? She sat back on the cot.

Because back when I was a pup, it was frowned upon to use the technique. It was sort of considered a cheat. While synths were highly esteemed for our skills, it was not proper to use them to speed up our personal performances beyond the norm. It was always better to learn things through great difficulty, to feel like you have achieved something worth striving for. At least, that was the idea my people had long tried to live by.

Sunday folded her hands together, leaning on her knees. Well, if it makes you feel any better, I completely flunked English at school, and mathematics. Frankly, I never amounted to much at all in academia. So, I highly doubt I’d be able to learn any language without divine intervention.

Not entirely sure what your references mean, but I think I get the gist of your tone. Thyal scratched around his mask. Alright, I suppose we’ll take the easy path.

Sunday bounced on the cot. Brilliant. So, what do I do first?

Thyal gave the ground in front of him a pat. Come. Sit.

Sunday gathered up the blanket from the cot, rolling it up as a pillow to sit on. She shuffled closer as Thyal urged her nearer, until their crossed knees bumped.

Okay. This feels really weird, and awkward.

You’ll get over it. He held out his hands and she tentatively slipped her own into his. The warmth was so refreshing. She had a feeling cakrei’s ran hotter than humans. Considering she hadn’t seen anything at all like a sun, maybe this world required being born with the ability to make a lot of heat.

First thing we need to do is to efficiently tune our frequencies to each other.

Um. Haven’t we already done that?

Oh. No. No, no. Thyal’s grip tightened. He bent forward. I’m tuning down for you, what we need to do is get you tuned up.

But…what if I can’t match your level? Sunday moved to release her hands from his grip. He held her tighter.

You will. It will just take time, and patience, and perseverance. So, close your eyes.

Sunday rolled her shoulders, forcing them to relax. I’m ready. She wasn’t entirely sure what he was supposed to be ready for, but perhaps for once in her life, she could take her time—while stuck in a cell—and persevere with something.

Squeeze my hands if you begin to feel pain.

It was all the warning she received. For the briefest moment, Sunday felt as though she floated as the acoustic surge resonated through her body, sucking the air from her lungs. It came in an incredible rush—static—no—she turned her head—a new dimension had been added to the wavelengths beating in her mind, their fractal patterns forming a beautiful language. If she just reached for it, just a little bit—

Sharp needles speared through her spine. Sunday stiffened, gripping at Thyal’s hands in desperation as her world plummeted into blinding swirls of endless light.

She came awake slowly. The light peeling away like stage curtains. Sunday groaned. She was back in the cot, wrapped up tightly in the blanket, and one of her hand’s was nestled tenderly in Thyal’s as the cakrei sat propped up against the cell wall. He was so still, even his breathing was shallow, creating an eerie illusion that he was a stone guardian. Even as his solid, warm tone filled her mind, he didn’t stir from his position.

You alright?

Sunday squeezed his hand. It was barely noticeable, but it was there, the slight increase in his cadence. She smiled.

You know, for the first time in a long time, I actually think I am.

His head shifted. Metal clanked. His smiled mirrored her own.

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