His hand went out as he gestured towards the silent people in the room, who seemed to scarcely notice the interruption from the group at all. “These are the Water Whisperers. Just as your House has its flame secrets in the winding caves, so we have our own secrets. Not all are born with the talent to mould water to do our bidding; but for those that have, it is a grave responsibility, and one that is vital for our connection with the sea and its creatures.”
“Was Marian a Water Whisperer? Are you?” Claire asked in wonder.
Gareth’s strange, deep eyes spoke volumes.
“But then how can you come inland with me to Kelnariat? Won’t you die … like … like …?”
“Like Marian?” Gareth’s eyes were sad. “No, we are free to travel … for a time. Marian chose a different calling, one that worked against her love of the sea, high in the mountains, where the sea could not reach her. Besides, we won’t be gone long. You only have a few weeks left to succeed. Either we all die and I’ll be beyond caring about the sea, or I will have time to return home.”
A man began to juggle great bubbles of water, the cool spray dashing against Gareth’s dark hair. He moved to one side and Claire dutifully followed after him.
“That is the other reason why we must close The Rift,” Gareth went on. “It has affected all of the magical brethren, though we try hard not to admit that to the world. In some ways we Water Whisperers have been affected the least—we don’t find as much interference from The Rift when we source learth magic but ... it is only a matter of time before we too lose our connection—and when that happens there can only be one outcome.”
Claire dropped her voice to a whisper. “You will die.”
Suddenly everything felt more real—her quest, The Rift and its effect and the importance of learth. She had wanted so badly for it not to matter what she did here, as long as she stayed alive long enough to find her brother Marcus and escape back home, but now the people here felt real and their lives mattered to her: Rael and Kelna, her dead grandfather, Lotte, Melvin and his mother, Myrna, even Gwenivere and Tarn, but especially Gareth.
Gareth. A tingle went up and down her spine as she looked at him. Why did her heart beat a little faster every time he looked her way?
He smiled and brushed his tanned hand against hers. “You are very beautiful, Lady Claire,” he said sheepishly. “As lovely and as wild as the ocean that is my life blood.”
Claire felt her cheeks redden. Butterflies danced in her stomach. What on earth was she meant to say to that?
She pushed his hand away as confused tears welled up in her eyes. “You don’t even know me, Gareth.”
“I don’t need too. Emotions are like that,” he replied quietly.
Claire shook her head. “Why would you bring it up now? Now, when we are about to face almost certain death?”
“I thought that the situation made it the best possible time.”
She moved her hand away from his and blinked away traitorous tears. She didn’t even know why she was crying! What was going on?
Gareth stepped back. “I am sorry,” he said looking down at the floor. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It’s just the truth.”
© Maureen Flynn