Chapter Four –
Recollections and Reveries
Jhase had taken refuge in the library a couple of days before his course began. It was an expansive library, equal to that of the House, he’d wager, yet far more tidy. Then again, the library at the House had a constant influx of people and there was only so much the poor librarian and her handful of helpers could do when something like two hundred people rampaged in and out of the place.
He set himself up at a table near the front and perused shelves. The quiet, studious atmosphere of the library helped him focus on building his course.
It was the day before the class started and he was settled into his spot when she walked in. Lyra. The mysterious High Princess. She spotted him immediately, smiled, and came over to his table.
“Hello, Jhase,” she greeted.
“Hello, Princess,” he replied.
Her light eyes wandered over his papers and books, “Are you preparing your course?”
There was a yearning in her expression as she lingered on a few of his texts; a book on monsters, a book on runes, “Is it dangerous, your Hunter’s life?”
He shrugged, “It has its moments, for sure. But we are highly trained fighters, your grace. What someone such as yourself might consider dangerous, we wouldn’t stress over.”
“Fascinating. I sometimes wonder if a small bit of fight theory would not suit me well.”
“Do they not train you?”
“Oh, Oliver and Nico participate in training. Oliver will become Head of the Guard when Xael becomes Queen. The girls and I, well, we have had some magic training. Just a small amount, you know. Xael’s training will become very intense when she becomes of age at 25,” she explained.
“And what will you and Isla do?” Jhase asked. He was curious what non-inheriting siblings did once they became of age.
She waved a delicate hand, “Oh, Isla will probably marry into one of the Provinces – that’s what mother’s siblings did. She already fancies one of the young lords of Isle La Rue. As for me…” she shrugged, “Xael wants me to remain at the castle as one of her advisors.”
Her tone suggested that this was not something she favored to do, “…but…” Jhase prompted.
“… but I have time to decide,” she answered quickly. Perhaps too quickly, yet she smoothly covered herself and continued, “There are many options for me. I am in no hurry to choose just yet,” she smiled, “I shall leave you to your books, Jhase.”
She walked away and disappeared between the shelves. He found himself almost sad that she left. She was very easy to talk to; she didn’t shatter his wits quite as easily as other members of the Royal Family did, like Xael for example.
And let’s face it, he was endlessly curious about her. She was clearly Lyrian, clearly shared a sibling relationship with Xael and Isla, but physically looked very different. She wasn’t as tall and willowy, her hair was lighter, her eyes were lighter. Was she perhaps adopted into this family, like he had been adopted into his? Was she a Spirit or an Anchor, and where was her companion? She was always alone, and no one made mention of a sixth child.
He burned to ask her, which was odd, because normally he didn’t much care for other people’s personal business. Maybe he just longed for some kinship; if his musings about her were true, they’d have a lot in common.
Jhase found himself standing and walking towards the shelves before he’d made the conscious decision to ask her. He’d be completely out of line, but he just had to know. Now, where’d she go? She didn’t mention what she was here for, so he had no idea what section to find her in.
He was glancing down his third aisle when he heard a voice call, “Lyra, love? Are you in here?”
It was Xael’s voice.
He’d lost his chance.
He headed back towards the front of the library, towards his table, mind mulling over when he’d be able to catch her again. Maybe after supper this evening, he could ask to speak with her privately?
He caught sight of Xael at the entrance. She smiled and he felt the lining of his stomach dissolve.
“Master Jhase! I did not realize you were here as well. Have you seen -“
He only caught sight of Lyra just out of the corner of his eye. He halted his momentum, cursed under his breath and reached out to catch her before they both crashed into each other. He braced himself for her weight, an apology right on the tip of his tongue.
Except she didn’t crash into him. She went through him.
He gasped, missed the gasp that came from Xael, missed how her hands flew up to her mouth in shock, as a curiously warm sensation seeped through his whole body, filling his organs and bones. He didn’t even have time to consider what was happening when his whole world went dark.
“You are so special. Never forget that. You are destined for greatness.”
Confused, Jhase listened harder. There was nothing to see. His eyes were open, but there was nothing in front of him. Just dark.
“Do not cry. We love you. You are not alone.”
Well, that certainly wasn’t something he’d ever heard before. Jhase listened, and his eyes strained in the darkness. He blinked. The darkness was fading, things were moving. Things were happening around him. Someone was in front of him, crouched down. He blinked harder, rubbed his eyes, trying to clear up the blurriness.
It was Queen Adelaide in front of him, a younger version, the skin around her eyes softer, her face less angled. She was smiling at him, her hands wiping tears off his face. Everything was still a little blurry, as if it were a memory.
Clearly not his memory.
“But the children at magic lessons said…” that was not his voice coming from his mouth. It was younger, higher, the voice of a child. A female child.
“Do not fret over them. You are different. People do not always like those who are different from them. It is our differences that make us special.” Adelaide leaned forward and he felt a kiss brush across his temple, “Let us go read a story to Isla and Nico before their nap, would you like that?”
He wasn’t sure if he agreed or not, because the memory dissolved and reformed again. He was in a small classroom, surrounded by other children, all with light hair. It was clearly dismissal time. He leaned over to grab his bag and felt his table get jostled. His books fell onto the floor and someone kicked them.
“Freak…” someone hissed, then there was an eruption of laughter. He looked up to see a couple of light haired girls leaning over him, “Wild light…”
“Stop it!” his voice replied, “Do not call me that.”
“What else are you, then?” one of the girls asked haughtily, “Anchorless, no one to tie you down.”
“Would not be surprised if you just disappeared one day,” another girl chimed in, “Like a lantern light, just snuffed out by a strong breeze.”
He gathered his books and stuffed them into his bag, “I am special,” he muttered in that same high child’s voice, “Mother says…”
He turned and saw a very young Oliver walking towards him – or her, or whoever’s memory he was in – a furious expression on his young face. If he was more than seven or eight years old, he’d trade in his rank.
“You would do well to remember that she is a Princess of Lyr,” Oliver crossed his arms, “And I am certain your mothers would not approve of your rudeness.”
“Of course, your grace,” the girls bowed slightly, “We were just teasing, is all. Just a little joke.”
They walked away and Oliver ducked down next to him, “Do not mind them. They are jealous of you,” he helped stuff the books into the bag, “Let us go home, hm?”
The memory shifted again. He was in the dining hall of House Tiger. He found himself watching this time, as a third party. It was meal time – dinner, he’d guess – and he spotted himself sitting at his usual spot. Except, he was looking at his White self, merely six-years-old, a whole two years younger than his peers. And he was alone, his clothes and face filthy from a day’s training, his hands clean as he ate his food in solitude, reading one of his books.
Another White walked by him and shoved his shoulders, “Freak,” he said, comment met with laughter from his companion.
He watched his little face pucker up in anger, but he didn’t deviate from his book. Another student walked by, a little older, and ruffled his then longer hair violently and shoved his head afterwards. Someone else hissed, “Soul Eater,” and the Jhase that was watching this felt anger pinch behind his eyes. ‘Soul Eater’ was a foul term for someone who didn’t have a Spirit of its own form, someone who had their Spirit inside them.
Basically, anyone who wasn’t Lyrian.
The memory jumped a little. Still the dining hall at the House, but memory-Jhase a pinch older now. Still younger than his rank peers – he’d been held at rank Black for four years instead of two because he had to be twenty-years-old to undertake the Master Trial. For his safety. His hair was buzzed close to his head. He still had a book open in front of him and when he reached to turn the page, three ropes had been added to the white one on his wrist. The nearest his palm was yellow and green entwined. Second Yellow.
Someone sat down at his table. Memory Jhase looked up, clearly startled. Someone else joined. Girls. Two girls. Both were Whites, but just a physical year younger than him. They had dark hair, and bright emerald eyes.
“Is it true that you won the Gauntlet match today?” the girl with the long dark hair leaned across the table, getting closer to him, eager for his answer.
He nodded wordlessly.
“Against Second Greens?”
He nodded again.
The girl turned to her companion, who was identical to her except her hair was much shorter and she had dark panther spots peppering her hairline across one side of her face, “See? Told you.
“I’m Ember, by the way,” she held out her hand. Jhase shook it tentatively, “This is my Spirit, Cerys,” Cerys nodded in greeting, “We know who you are, Jhase Kade. Do you mind if we sit here? I wanna hear about your fights in the Gauntlet. Can’t believe a Second Yellow won against those Second Greens. And they’re so much older than you!”
Young Jhase looked downright confused and skeptical, and older Jhase had to chuckle. He remembered well, meeting Ember and Cerys for the first time. No one had ever sat with him at his table before. Everyone kind of left him alone unless they had something nasty to mutter to him. The girls were the first ones to treat him like a peer.
The image of the dining hall dissolved and once more, Jhase was surrounded by darkness. Then, it was as though something jerked him and he found himself pulled out of fog of unconsciousness and aware of the world around him.
He blinked. He was in the library again, though he was staring at the ceiling. And his back throbbed a little. Did he fall? More alarmingly, did he pass out? What happened?
“Thank the Goddess, Jhase.”
He lifted himself up onto his elbows and found himself very close to Xael, her blue eyes wide with concern and relief. His brows furrowed, “What happened?” he asked.
“I…” she started, “I am not completely sure. You and Lyra accidentally collided and – “
“Lyra,” he interrupted her, his mind clicking, remembering the visions he had, “She’s Anchorless?”
“Not anymore I am not.”
He glanced behind him. Lyra was sitting up. Oliver was next to her, looking as though he were prepared for her to keel over at any moment. As soon as Jhase locked eyes with her, he knew her. That sounded silly, because he’d just spent the better part of a week in her home, so of course he knew her. It was different. He knew her. He could feel her energy, feel her thoughts and emotions. And it was subtle, but there was something in her face that had changed. The lift in her chin, the tilt in her eyes, the shape of her mouth, the tint of her eye color, something; but now, more so than the last few days, it felt as though he was looking into a mirror. She was him, albeit with softer facial features.
And he was her.
“I saw your memories,” she said, “When we Paired.”
“What?” he asked.
“Your memories,” she repeated.
“Yes,” she continued, “And that’s how I saw them, your memories. I saw your isolation and your loneliness. I saw a little boy, at supper, reading books all alone at his table while the children around him teased him.”
“I saw yours then,” he told her, “They called you ‘wild light’, because you had nothing to contain you.”
He heard Xael’s quick intake of breath beside him.
“They called you ‘soul eater’,” Lyra continued, “But you whooped their butts in fight games until everyone was afraid of you.”
“Everyone still is.”
“This is incredible,” Xael finally interrupted them.
Jhase turned his eyes back to her. Her fingertips were pressed against her lips, “Incredible. You’ve Paired. Do you understand what this means?”
Neither of them spoke up immediately, so she continued, “You are a Spirit/Anchor Pair. Born separately, only to find each other later. Lyra, even your facial features have altered slightly, to match his. A Spirit’s form is mirrored after their Anchor,” she burst to her feet and rummaged in a nearby desk until she procured a small hand mirror, “Look.”
Lyra took it and startled slightly at her reflection. She turned her face side to side, studying, then flicked her eyes up to Jhase, then back into the mirror, “That is quite bizarre,” she commented, “It is like looking into a photograph. It is myself, but not myself.”
“It’s me,” Jhase supplied.
She smirked at him, “I’m prettier,” she replied.
“Of course,” he answered without hesitation.
“Never in all the history of Lyr has this happened,” Oliver said, “It is the Goddess’s Divine Law that Spirits and Anchors are born together, for neither can exist without the other. One does not simply find their Spirit or their Anchor on chance. They are designed to be two parts of the same whole.”
“How do we know it’s never happened before?” Jhase asked.
“Surely, something like this would’ve been recorded,” Oliver said, “It goes against Divine Law. It is spectacular. This must be within the Goddess’s plan, she must have plans for you.”
“We must tell Mother,” Xael said, “Come.”
Adelaide looked up from her papers to see Master Jhase standing in the doorway with Lyra.
“Hello, Master Hunter,” she greeted, “Do you require something…”
She paused as both Jhase and Lyra stepped into her office and their facades came into sharper light. Their eyes the same shade of subdued amber, freckles dancing across their noses, even their widow’s peak mimicked each other’s. Had they always looked so alarmingly similar? No, surely she would’ve noticed before.
Yet neither of them truly looked different either.
“What…” she rose from her chair, “What is happening here?”
The Master Hunter had the grace to flush and rub his hand over his short hair, “Well…” he started.
“We seem to have Paired,” Lyra stated.
Adelaide flipped her eyes between the Pair of them, back and forth, taking in their faces, the same shape, even the shape of their figures. Then she flipped her gaze up to Xael, who was also just inside the door, “Xael?”
“I saw it happen,” the High Princess came forward and Jhase stepped back to allow her to enter the room, Oliver behind her, “I went looking for Lyra in the library and she and Master Jhase just…” she clapped her hands together, “Collided. And Lyra’s form disappeared for a few minutes, then reappeared and they both roused.”
“Disappeared?” Adelaide asked.
“Into Jhase,” Oliver said, “A light was glowing in the center of his chest. And Lyra reformed from there. Exactly as a Pairing happens”
The Queen leaned back against her desk, and covered her mouth, “What did you see?” she turned her attention to Jhase, “I assume you lost consciousness for a few minutes.”
“Memories,” Jhase replied, “I saw… her memories.”
“And you?” Adelaide asked Lyra.
“The very same,” she said.
Silence fell over the room. Shock and surprise rendered her speechless. She hardly dared to believe it could be true, “If you could… show me.”
Jhase and Lyra looked at each other, both with the same looks of confusion and apprehension that Adelaide almost recanted her request, feeling though it seemed no longer necessary. Their expression was proof enough.
Lyra held out her hand to Jhase and he hesitated only for a moment before he firmly placed his hand in hers. In a flash of light, Lyra disappeared and Jhase gasped and stumbled back a step with a curse under the tongue.
“Goddess, that’s weird…” he muttered, pressing his palm against his chest where a slight glow was emitting, “It almost hurts,” he paused and a faraway look crossed his face for a moment, “Alright, ya… just go…”
Lights began to gather in front of him and within moments, Lyra’s form reappeared. Both of them stumbled another step, clearly unused to the combining and separating of forms.
“This is unbelievable,” Adelaide said, “Unheard of, even. Never have I ever heard an Anchor and Spirit to be born separately, only to find each other later in life. It goes against the Divine Law set by the Goddess herself….” she paced behind her desk and scribbled a quick note, “Oliver,” she asked, “Take this to the medical chief at the University. Have him check his records. If anyone would know of such an anomaly, it would be him.”
Oliver took the slip and nodded and in a flash, he was gone.
“How can a Spirit even form without an Anchor?” Jhase asked, “I dunno much about the process, really…”
“They cannot,” Adelaide answered, “There have been cases of Spirits and Anchors born without the other… and those children do not live much more than a day. They have nothing to anchor them to this life, or no character to breathe life into them. Those cases are few and far between, however. I only heard of it when Lyra was born.”
“So… what happened?”
Adelaide paced back to her desk and absently fingered some of the scrolls on it, “My pregnancy with Lyra was strange. I displayed all the signs of a healthy pregnancy. The doctor could hear heart beats, sense energy growing, but I did not gain weight. The doctors prepared me for the worst. He’d seen a case like mine only once, when he was brand new in his practice. And that child had not survived.
I gave birth and she was just an energy form. A tiny bundle of flickering lights. The midwives were kind to me and allowed me to tuck her into a bassinet. Had I been anyone else, I think they would have just taken her from me.”
“And done what?” Jhase asked. He was now leaning against the back of one of the chairs, his fingers gripping tight.
“I do not know. My guess would be… they would have disposed of her.”
“I can only guess at the details, for my imagination makes them crueler inside my mind than I would hope. But I tucked her into the bassinet and I spoke to her all night long. The next morning, she was still there, flickering, pulsing. And then the next day, she remained. The doctors were astounded, of course. Within a few days, she took form. Blonde, with bright eyes…” she cupped Lyra’s cheek, “Complete as she is now. Never has it been heard of, for a Spirit to live without an Anchor to keep them. I had great expectations for her,” the Queen eyed Jhase, “Perhaps I was not wrong.”
Xael spoke, “That begs the question then, Jhase… of your birth.”
The Master Hunter shrugged, “I’m adopted,” he said simply, “Raised in an Order-run orphanage until I was about four years old, then I went to the Hunter House,” he shook his head, “I don’t remember anything before the House, and the matron of the orphanage said no one knew my parents. They didn’t live in the town, no one remembers seeing them. They vanished in a night.”
“Just long enough to have a child and leave him?” Lyra frowned.
“Perhaps, since he was born Spiritless, the parents assumed he would perish in a few days?” Adelaide suggested, “Perhaps the parents were not in a place to afford a proper send off and trusted the orphanage to handle it?”
“Silas and Xandria think as much,” Jhase shrugged.
“Pray tell, when is your birth date, Jhase?” Adelaide asked.
“Mid May,” he replied, “We don’t know the exact date, but somewhere around the 15th.”
“Oliver said the medical chief pulled the records,” Xael interrupted, “As far back as he knows, nothing like this has occurred. Lyra remains the only Spirit to survive a birth without an Anchor. And… no Anchors have been reported to survive a birth. Ever,” she frowned at Jhase, who just shrugged.
The Queen hummed thoughtfully, then regarded Jhase and Lyra in turns, “This is most unusual. No, remarkable. Something has began its course with this, the Goddess must have some plan for you. This Pairing has set Her plan into action, I am certain of this. Destiny awaits.”
She smiled as the Master Hunter looked positively skeptical at this idea, “I’m just a Hunter, your grace,” he said.
“Indeed! And there are Hunter duties to be done!” she replied, “Perhaps this is a wonderful time for Lyra to take you into the city and show you the Royal Guard academy? Your course will begin tomorrow morning,” she glanced at Lyra expectantly.
“Oh yes!” Lyra said, “That will be fun.”
Adelaide gave them a little wave, “I shall tell Czar to expect you. Run along, my children.”