Lulu slammed her hand against the table, furious with Drina. “Talk to us! Stop keeping everything in the dark! You’ve dug yourself deep and if you only just open up, we can help you!”
Refusing to speak to anyone further after Mr. Gafrald left, Drina pushed past Lulu, Hestar, and Ocan to grab something to eat from the common room. Hardly having any sleep, Drina thought it was pointless to bother getting any further rest since now her time was limited. Drina had no one to blame but herself for everything transpiring, dragging anyone else down with her would only jeopardize them. Grabbing a glass from the cupboard, she poured herself water from the jug. Taking a sip, she tried to block out the ghostly wails and the stinging eyes digging into the back of her head. For once, Drina actually wished for a stiff drink instead as she chugged the glass. Placing the glass down on the counter, she closed her eyes to try and focus. All the while, Lulu continued to berate her.
“Drina, you can’t keep this up. I can feel you losing control of yourself. How much longer do you think you can deal with this on your own? Those gypsies… you have no idea what you are getting yourself into! It’s not just festivals and shows they travel around for!”
Pinching the bridge of her nose, she pushed the spirits aside. Speaking in a low soft tone, it took everything in Drina to keep it together.
“You don’t think I am aware? I know what will happen.”
Lulu stepped forward, keeping Ocan behind her. “Then why? Why did you agree to a blood binding!? If it was coin you needed so badly, I could have provided you work here instead.”
Drina was losing her patience. All she wanted was to be left alone to deal with the mess she created. Finding the spirit that was now bound to her was her main goal, even though Hestar was still in danger. Digging her fingers into the cup, she took a deep breath to calm her emotions even though it was proving to be useless. The ghosts had even begun to mock her.
“It wasn’t about the coin. I am fine and I can deal with this. Once I clear the contract and lay low, Ocan and I be on our way.”
This time, Ocan spoke up. Pushing around Lulu she tried to plea with her. “Lana, please stop trying to protect me alone. They just want to help us. Why did you do this after all the times you told me never to sign a blood bind?”
All at once, Drina felt herself crash. There was no fighting it any longer as the walls caved in all around her. Spinning around in a whirl, she snarled at Ocan.
“Because Hestar is going to die!”
The words slipped out faster than she could stop herself. That was not what she intended to say, but it was too late. The looks across each of their faces made her panic. Grabbing at her hair, she cried out in frustration.
“The first night we came, I read her fortune. The prediction was one caused by unnatural death, which can only lead to one thing: Murder. I didn’t share the reading with her and thought maybe I could do this without causing a panic. Instead, I’ve just made things worse and possibly put us all in danger because of it. If I do this alone, at least then I won’t put anyone else’s life on the line.”
Drina crossed her arms, hugging herself tightly while turning away in shame. She could not bear to see their reactions to her poor choices. Tears streamed down her face, ones she didn’t even realize she had been shedding. The sound of a chair pulled out as Hestar slowly sank down at the table.
“It’s just a reading so it could be wrong, right?” Hestar’s voice was weak with disbelief. Ocan walked over to sit beside her, placing her hand on her shoulder.
“Lana’s predictions are never wrong. I’ve seen them time and time again. But if she thinks she can stop it, then there is hope.” Looking towards her sister, Ocan confidence faltered as her voice wavered. “Right? You can do that?”
Drina lowered her head. How was she supposed to answer that? This was something she never learned or dealt with in the past. Even while her mother taught her how to use her power, the only warning she received was to never tamper with fate. Biting at her bottom lip, she closed her eyes in a frown. With a loud sigh, Lulu threw her hands up in the air.
“You girls. What am I going to do with you all? In all my years running this place, I have never come across such troublemakers!”
Lulu approached Drina, taking her into her arms for a hug. It was unexpected as Drina stiffened at the contact, only to slowly melt into her embrace. It was comforting.
“We will figure something out. If you saw this, then I believe it.” She released Drina and tapped her finger on the bottom of her chin. “Don’t despair, everything happens for a reason. As a traveler myself, I understand the threads of fate, how they intertwine with each person to weave patterns we can’t comprehend.”
Shock plastered across all the girl’s faces as Lulu left Drina’s side to sit at the table with the others. Drina turned to face them as well, interested in learning more at a distance. She looked at the mutt sitting across the room and offered her hand towards it. Maybe sharing some of her power would calm her emotions to tame the ghosts around her. While the Mutt rushed to her side, Lulu continued.
“I left my band to settle here. No one knew me and it gave me a chance to start life anew. I know it must be tough, wandering alone without guidance or knowing where you belong. I built this place for people like you and Hestar. For those without purpose or are lost. You being called to this place was no mistake.”
Ocan removed her hand from Hestar’s shoulder, resting her head against her instead. To comfort her, Hestar wrapped her arm around her while she glanced towards Drina. Still feeling ashamed, Drina avoided her gaze, allowing the mutt to lap at her hands until it was satisfied. With a few circles, it flopped down at her feet to rest. If Drina had not known the truth of the beast, it would have passed off as a regular puppy. At least the whispers of the beyond had calmed, giving her a chance to think clearly.
“What power or spell have you placed on this place?”
Lulu smiled with a huff. “Right to the point as always. Protection and peace. Those are my specialties. When I lived with my band, it was my duty to set it up. It kept us safe numerous times, again and again.”
Ocan spoke up, curiosity twinkling in her eyes at the story. “Why did you leave?”
“Simple: I longed to travel. To see the world and meet people. I was granted my pilgrimage, welcome to return any time. Yet shortly after I left, they were decimated. I had learned of it only years later when I returned. If I had not left that night, they would have been saved. I do not regret my choice in life, though. It helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life rather than regretting what I've done or could have. With that knowledge, I decided to set this place up here with the same power. Anyone who walks through the door is under the spell. It allows them to feel at ease and safe.”
Drina sighed heavily. “It’s no wonder why we have let our guard down here then.”
Bursting out with a hearty laugh, Lulu turned to face Drina. “You, my dear, have been the hardest shell to crack! You are strong against the influence and have much distrust to let go.”
The direct comment made Drina’s face heat up, her embarrassment causing the other girls to laugh. Sure she was not one to just give in and trust those around her, but it was what kept her and Ocan safe after all these years of running.
“Yeah, well...I have my reasons!” In a pout, she crossed her arms.
“And there is nothing wrong with that. You’ve done a good job watching over both you and your sister alone. None shall fault you for it. I know you struggle to let go of your past and so I promise that while you are under my care, no harm will come to either of you. You are not alone in this, we can help each other figure this out.”
Lulu extended her hand to the chair beside her, offering Drina to join them. It was an offering to include her instead of her keeping her distance from them all. Shuffling against the counter, she debated if she wanted to finally accept her help. Really, what choices did she really have? Doing it alone with no idea where to start? Drina had already done so much damage alone that maybe she needed to accept that there would be progress with others. What else did she have to lose? Ocan, she thought. If she didn’t stop making more mistakes she could lose her if she was not careful. Admitting defeat, she pushed away from the counter and slid into the chair. With Lulu being a traveler and having power, there was hope. Resting her fingers on her lap, she fidgeted waiting for what was next.
Offering a smile, Lulu patiently crossed her fingers on her lap. “Good. Now could you please tell us, what's going on?”
Drina took a deep inhale, slowly releasing it as she recalled the memories of the previous night. There was no point in hiding anything anymore. She needed to be open and honest if she was to get anything accomplished.
“During the seance, I was attacked by a dark spectral. I don’t know what it is, or its the purpose, but I do know that by summoning it I was able to see Marcus even though he was alive. My power isn’t strong enough to communicate with anyone from this plane so I shouldn’t have been able to. And now if Mr. Gafrald is right, I am bound to it all because it was attached to the boy. Saving the boy means I took his place. Unless I can find where it is coming from, the seance is not complete and it will have a tether to the living plane. Being taken by Mr. Gafrald is the least of my worries if I have a tag along.”
Lulu propped her arms up, resting her face against her crossed hands in thought. “What about Marcus? What happened when you returned to town with him?”
Drina shrugged. “The usual I suppose. Guards questioned me to no end, asked me where I’ve come from and been since in town, asked me to show on a map with the men that assisted me where we found him before letting me go. Marcus went home with his parents and thanked me for saving him. I didn’t get a chance to really speak to him since it all happened so quickly and probably won’t get another opportunity to. They sent protection to guard the house in case the kidnapper might attempt a second try, not that I believe they would.”
Hestar frowned. “What makes you think that?”
For the first time that day, Drina locked eyes with her. Concern was plastered across her face while she continued to comfort Ocan. It was endearing, tugging at Drina’s heart. How could she be destined to such a fate while being such a gentle and kind being? It made Drina want to save her all the more.
“Because they will be targeting me. I’ve impeded them from completing their task and have put everyone, including the guards on high alert. Being that I am from out of town and a traveler, no one would think twice if I were to go missing so quickly.”
Drina paused with a sigh, rubbing her fingers at her temple. “I was planning that once I got the money from Mr.Gafrald that Ocan and I would lay low for a while before leaving town. That way the attention of the town would hopefully drift away from us and we could draw the culprit out. If he tried to attack us, we would be waiting for him.”
Lulu scoffed at the plan. “And what would you be able to do against him?”
“A hell of a lot more than most people. I am no stranger to a predator.” Drina withdrew a dagger from her side, flipping it in a flashy show that she faced Lulu. “Plus I have my powers to aid me.”
Ocan looked over to Drina with a deeply saddened face. “But now you’re going with Mr. Gafrald. We can’t leave together if you have the contract.”
Drina chewed on her lip, looking to Ocan. “I know. I am sorry Ocan.”
Lulu tapped her finger on the table. “Don’t give up yet. I think I may yet have a plan to help get you out of this mess.”