Chapter Eight

“I moved through time too,” I whispered. “Will that happen to me as well?”

“I do not believe so,” Igiro said gravely. “You came back to the present day through a portal, yes?”

“Yeah. Linella opened a portal and sent me back.”

“You were consciously moved from the past back to the present,” Igiro said. “There was no aberration formed. For us…it is different.”

“I’m going to be Erased from existence?” Callan’s voice cracked and there was so much shock and disbelief in his tone that it made me want to scream.

“Not anymore!” Jia said, trying to sound cheerful. She even clapped her hands. “Because you’re here, so all is well!”

“What do you mean?” Callan asked.

“The lands within this time pocket are a blind spot,” Eruci explained. “They were enclosed in the Before Times and remained unchanged after the timeline was altered. In the Before Times we existed without a problem. So remaining in a place aligned with the Before Times means…”

“We won’t be Erased!” Jia finished. “Because being here is like being in the Before Times.”

Callan and I were stunned into momentary silence.

I felt inadequately equipped to handle all the revelations that were being dropped on me lately. It was like mind-blowing problems were lined up outside my door waiting for their turn to knock me upside the head.

Even Ashe was statue still as she sat beside me. Callan’s grip on my hand tightened and I could hear the quick, uneven breaths he was taking.

“This is a lot to take in,” Eruci said, his face concerned as he looked from Callan to me. “Let’s find somewhere to sit down, have some refreshments, and talk further. Okay?”

Yeah, sitting down and sipping a frosty beverage would make this pill easier to swallow.

But I kept quiet and waited for Callan to let his thoughts settle as much as they could. Finally, he gave a nod. Eruci, Jia, and Igiro gave wan smiles as Eruci picked up Willow and they led us into the town.

The wide pathway was lined with robust trees from which melodious birdsong met our ears. The houses we passed were well maintained, down to their tidy gardens, and varied from one to two stories. The styles were similar, and they were all made from the same dark wood. All of them had a wraparound porch that provided shade from the afternoon sun, which was somewhat buffered by the dome of the time pocket.

It was quaint, but it was hard to concentrate on taking in the view when Eruci’s words were ricocheting in my skull like bullets looking for a way out. This was overwhelming as hell.

Callan’s fingers tightened around mine.

We took a turn and headed to a small park ringed by a low wooden fence. There was a children’s play area complete with a swing set and sand box, a paddling pool carved into the ground and lined with flat rocks, and a couple picnic benches and tables.

Eruci led us to one under the shade of an orange tree.

Ashe stretched out behind us in a patch of sun.

“Willow, go and find Mommy and stay with her, okay?”

Those words immediately produced a pout. “But I want to stay and see the big sword again!”

“Honey, the grown-ups need to talk. Very boring stuff, I promise.”

“Grown-ups always say that when they wanna send kids away and then I bet you eat ice cream in secret!” My lips couldn’t help but twitch as she made one last plea, Eruci stood firm, and she scuttled off with all the attitude her tiny self could muster.

She reminded me of the adorable tantrums Kinari used to throw when she was denied a treat. And I was such a softie of a big sister I used to go behind our mother’s back and give her whatever she’d been asking for.

Something about little stamped feet and puffed cheeks was hard to resist.

“I’ll go get some refreshments and make sure she heads home and not into any trouble.” Jia gave a little wave and jogged off.

“A daughter,” Callan said, looking from Willow’s retreating figure to Eruci. “Wonderful.”

“And another on the way. Rinora is due in a few months. She isn’t from the community; we met in the years between your mom’s time pocket and now.”

“So she’s not restricted to having to stay here?” I asked.

“No, she and others who are partners to some of us have the freedom to leave, which is helpful for supply runs. We still try to keep trips off the lands to a minimum to lessen the chances of someone being followed back here.”

Callan scrubbed a hand over his face. “Okay, let’s lay everything out. I got here because I found a coded message addressed to me in one of my mother’s journals. It turned out to be coordinates. When we reached the time warps, I started to get a sense of familiarity and when I saw the time pocket, it all came back to me. I came here with Mom, and she asked me to make the time pocket. Some point after that she altered my memories and made me forget the community we left behind, my life during the magic-era, and that I was a Temporal.” He paused, looking from Igiro to Eruci. “Your memories weren’t altered, were they? I had wondered, but I think the answer is clear.”

“We retained all,” Igiro said. “The memory alteration was done to protect you, Callan…”

Callan shook his head. “Yeah, I know, I know.” He drummed his fingers on the table.

I shifted closer so my leg brushed against his, trying to give comfort however I could.

“I wanna understand how all of this came to be,” Callan said. “How did Mom know to establish a time pocket here so we would avoid Erasure?”

“Mixuné,” I said, my eyes widening as it dawned on me. Callan looked at me. “Your mother had a card reading by Mix during the magic-era, same as I had. Mixuné must have Divined this to her.”

An uneasy feeling went through me.

I knew Diviners were powerful, that they weren’t human, weren’t born with Talent magic the way the rest of us were. But I don’t think I’d ever reckoned with how powerful their prophesizing was. And from what I understood, Diviners answered to an even higher power. As he’d learned about the Apprentice Guild and their work with Diviners, Toji told me they referred to that higher power as the Celestial Divine. That was the being Diviners extended from. What the hell were they capable of?

Erasure, for one, I supposed.

“That makes sense,” Callan said.

“It is accurate,” Igiro said, nodding. “Linella told us as much. She said that if anything happened to her time pocket we were to come here.”

“Did she know…she was going to be killed?” Callan’s voice was barely above a whisper and laced with pain. Linella had been viciously killed by one of Varian’s monsters.

“She didn’t say that in so many words,” Igiro said gently. “But the impression she gave was that anything could happen and we needed to be prepared. We were told that there would be an upheaval that would reset the timeline. That it would bring many positive changes for the world but put our existence in danger. We understood that we would not be able to stay within the time pockets she erected after we left the community. So when her time pocket collapsed, we came up here and started to build, farm, and stockpile supplies. Having a few years to do so greatly helped.”

“Linella said that you would find us,” Eruci said. “She told us she left a way for you to get here, that we shouldn’t worry.” He gave a sad smile. “But of course we did. The Auraxa Reiv passed over three weeks ago and you still hadn’t come.”

“Well, I’m here now.” Callan sounded defeated and I felt like cracks were spreading across every inch of me. Like I would shatter under the weight of these revelations. But I held myself together as best I could. Callan needed my strength right now.

“Callan.” Igiro reached over and lay his hand on top of Callan’s. “It hurt your mother to do what she did. She had to live with a son who was not really her son, and she knew that there was not an easy path set before you.” His eyes shifted to me. “But it was a path you needed to find yourself on before you came to us here.”

Callan and I looked at each other again.

I already knew that Mixuné had manipulated my fate in a way that allowed me to meet Callan, Gideon, and Toji. That uneasy feeling lingered. This was a door I hated scratching because it raised too many uncomfortable questions about how much free will we had and how much we were puppets on a string.

Everything Mix had done for both myself and Linella had been for our benefit, but it was still a difficult truth to acknowledge that hundreds of years ago Mixuné had known things about my life I could have never perceived.

Callan was quiet for a while, his head bent, eyes on his drumming fingers.

Jia returned with a tray of iced drinks and an assortment of pastries. She even had a steak for Ashe who accepted it readily.

I sipped my drink as Jia settled beside Eruci, her face pensive.

“So what it comes down to is that in this new timeline, within this time pocket is the only place we can exist,” Callan finally said. “If I leave…I will eventually be Erased.”

All three of them gave solemn nods.

“We are not sure of the particulars,” Igiro said. “If it would have happened to all of us at a specific moment or gradually, but yes, your time would have been limited had you not arrived…”

Terrible. This was terrible. After letting my guard down, letting Callan in, allowing myself to want more with him than a good time in bed, I couldn’t stomach the idea of him disappearing. There was no moving through time or risky resurrection rituals that would bring him back to me if he was Erased.

I wanted to scream, wanted to ask Jia to Conjure a Pachrall so I could punch it. Hell, I felt like I could tussle barehanded with that Suniksu Willow had called for. But I held myself still and gave Callan the time he needed to work through these revelations.

As much as it made me ache, I knew how much worse it must be for him to accept his fate.

I did not want to lose Callan. That feeling settled over me and I waited for my old habits to kick in and make me want to run, but they didn’t. Running from my feelings wouldn’t stop me from having them. Wouldn’t make me feel better about the possibility of losing someone I cared about.

“It’s really nice here in Bastillen…” Eruci said, breaking the silence.

“Bastillen?” Callan cut in. Eruci gave a small smile.

“After the lengths your mother went through to establish this place for us, we decided to name the town after her.”

Linella’s surname was Bastille. It was a sweet gesture.

“Oh,” Callan said. “That’s…nice.”

“There’s a lot of space, and we are very self-sufficient; we grow most of our own food and keep a lot of livestock,” Eruci continued. “The time pocket doesn’t need to stay up anymore but it’s a good safety measure and ensures we know the lines we can’t cross. There’s enough housing for everyone…” Eruci’s expression looked like it was going for encouraging but didn’t quite make it.

“Even you,” Jia cut in. “A lovely house that we’ve kept clean. It’s got all the modern fixings. There’s internet access and everything. We aren’t shut out from knowing what’s going on in the world. We tried to find some way to contact you using the internet but didn’t have any success.”

“We get to experience the world, but we can’t move around in it.” Callan’s tone was flat. Jia’s smile faltered.


Callan made an exasperated sound, raked his hands through his hair, then stood up. I did as well, but he clasped my forearm.

“I need a minute,” he said, not meeting my eyes. “Some time alone…to think.”

“I understand.” And I wanted to find the words that could make him feel better but there weren’t any.

He dropped his hand and strode away, leaving the park and taking the path back the way we’d come.

Ashe whined softly and licked the back of my hand. She could sense my distress. I turned back to Eruci, Jia, and Igiro.

“It’s a lot to take in,” Jia said sympathetically as I sat down.

“How did you come to terms with it when Linella laid this on you?”

“For those of us who are Temporals I think it was a little easier,” Eruci said. “Because we are more aware of time and what moving through it and changing it can bring. Even when we use portals to move through time we risk forming aberrations of ourselves, which is why time travel is so strictly regulated.”

That was similar to what Callan had said last night about handling the changed timeline, but I knew this wasn’t a circumstance he’d be able to deal with easily just because he was a Temporal. My hands were clasped together on the table. I was trying to relax but could not force any measure of calm through me.

“It was shocking, but we’ve had a few years to get used to it and I’m glad there was a plan to keep me around,” Jia said. “I know that we are technically cheating whatever natural order of things we’re supposed to abide by, but…” She shrugged. “I really want to continue existing.”

“I want that for Callan as well.” My shoulders slumped. “This is because I changed the timeline…”

“Pennrae.” Igiro placed his hand on top of mine the way he’d done with Callan. “Had you and Callan not taken action, the Majimorta would have wreaked havoc on the world and none of us would have survived. You restored what should never have fallen in the first place. No one here thinks badly of you for the conditions we must remain under. Like Jia said, we are happy we can continue to exist.”

I gave him the best smile I could muster. “Thank you for saying that. But I hurt for how big and sudden a change this is for Callan. This was not what we were expecting to find.” I studied Igiro for a moment, noting the resemblance between him and Marcai. “Callan told me a bit about you. You tried to talk to Marcai about the time reaping and resurrections and chose to leave when he wouldn’t back down.”

“A difficult but necessary choice.” A troubled look came over him. “The records we read indicated my brother did not meet with an easy end. It has weighed on me that things did not turn out better so he could be here with us.”

“Him and everyone else,” Eruci said. “Linella didn’t put any expectations on us to try and reach out to the community we left, but we feel as though we should let them know there’s a safe place for them.”

“But if the community is within their own time pockets that were established in the Before Times, wouldn’t the same rules apply?”

“Their safety is unreliable,” Eruci replied. “And while the large caverns were all enclosed in time pockets, some of the smaller ones used as storage weren’t, nor were a lot of the connecting tunnels. So it would remain unsafe to move around.”

“There is much uncertainty,” Igiro said. “Which means our lands are the safest place. I believe they would also benefit from no longer having to live underground, even with the restrictions.”

Years in those underground time pockets had done a number on Marcai, Chelara, and Sorjin, and likely a lot of others in the community. It wouldn’t be easy for them to find out they had to shift to another one, but at least in this one they could see the sun. During the Jigori massacre, Chelara and Sorjin had gotten hurt badly enough that they may not have survived, but it was likely there were still people down there. They might not even be aware the timeline had changed.

I thought of something. “As the years passed, some people in the community had children. Would they also be subject to Erasure?”

“Yes,” Jia said, nodding gravely. “If their parents are Erased, then their existence never occurred. They do not have to remain on unchanged lands like we do, but their parents do if their children are to endure.”

What a shitty fate. “Got it. That will not be easy for any of them to hear.”

“We want to get word to them,” Eruci said. “But we hesitate to send someone who does have the ability to go off the lands to seek them out…”

“I can tell them. I know Callan has to stay, but I can let anyone I find there know about Bastillen.”

Their faces brightened. “Thank you,” Eruci said. “Thank you endlessly.”

“It’s the least I can do.” I felt helpless against this, against finding some way that Callan could avoid Erasure and keep his freedom. But there was no way around it.

I stood up. I wanted to give Callan all the space he needed, but now that I had to inform whoever was left in the community that there was a haven for them, I needed to get going as soon as possible.

“I’m gonna go find Callan.” They nodded.

“Tell him we await him here when he’s ready,” Igiro said.

I said my goodbyes, and Ashe and I headed back down the lane.

We found Callan standing near the time pocket’s barrier, looking at the forest beyond it.

“Hey, you.”

He turned around and I wanted more than anything to ease the look of dejection from his face. But I had no words that could make this better.

I walked over and put my arms around him, holding him as tightly as I could.

His arms wrapped around me and he buried his face in my neck, exhaling a shuddering breath that said more than any words could.

We held each other for a while, then broke apart but stayed close.

“I didn’t come here expecting I could never leave.” We were holding hands, fingers entwined. “That I would never be able to move around the world freely again. With you…” His voice cracked. “I can’t believe this.”

“Me too…” I was feeling so many emotions I could hardly think straight. “I hate this.”

“There are always consequences for manipulating and moving through time. I’ve always known that. But this is still hard. I’ve gone from being a free person to a prisoner.”

Hearing him say prisoner was like a punch to the gut. “It’s not a prison, it’s a safe place where you and everyone else will be able to live.”

“And never leave,” he said, something hard creeping into his voice. “For the rest of my life I have to stay here. I can’t live my life the way I want to. I can’t travel, can’t work, can’t go to bars, plays, restaurants, beaches…” He let go of my hand and started pacing, his voice becoming more agitated as he spoke. “I can’t go to a fucking corner store for a bag of chips! The whole world just changed in all these amazing, strange, exciting ways and I can only view it from here? I can’t…I can’t…” He looked at me, the expression on his face making the spiderweb cracks crisscrossing my entire body feel like they would finally shatter. “I can’t be myself on my own terms. And I can’t be with you the way I want to.”

Don’t shatter. Don’t shatter.

“All that’s going on with a Kiabi Warrior coming after you…” He shook his head. “I’m gonna lose my mind with worry thinking about it targeting you again and I can’t do shit to help.”

I tried to pull on every ounce of emotional strength I had. I stepped closer and took one of his hands while my other cupped his cheek to make sure he looked at me.

“I’ll be safe.” I tried to give him reassurance I didn’t truly feel. “And I’ll figure out how to handle the Kiabi Warrior issue. But no matter what, we will be together. Nothing will change that. You finally wore me down so you’d better not have the audacity to think you’re gonna get away from me now.” I was rewarded with a twitch of his lips. “I’m glad I let you in, Callan.”

“I’m glad I’m inside you.”

I snort laughed.

“Wait, wait, that’s not what I meant…” He laughed too. “I mean, I’m always happy to be inside you, but what I’m trying to say is…”

“I get it.” I planted a kiss on his lips, still giggling. When I pulled back, I smiled up at him, my hands resting on his shoulders. “The world could be falling apart and you’d still make me laugh.”

He touched my cheek, his face sobering. “I want to make you laugh when it’s not falling apart.”

“We’ll get there.” I tightened my hold on his shoulders.

“Do you really believe that? That we could…be normal? I wanna know what it’s like to go to the store and buy your favorite candy bar. I wanna know what making out with you in a movie theater is like.”

“What are we, sixteen?” I made a face, but my voice was teasing. “I want those things too. And we’ll have it. I have to believe that. Have to believe our lives are more than running into danger and trying to save the world every other month. I understand how this changes everything about your life and it’s beyond unfair. But call me selfish, all I care about is that you’re here, Callan. That you exist. I want you to exist. I need you to exist.”

“I want to exist too.” He closed his eyes briefly and leaned into my palm. “But I want to build my life the way I want to. I want to be by your side without having to wait for you to come to me.”

“I know. I know…” And what else could I say? I wanted all of that too and we’d just had a very abrupt and unexpected reality check. I dropped my hand and we leaned our foreheads against each other. “I’ll talk to a Diviner about this too,” I said after a few moments. “If anyone can let us know if there’s any way around having to stay here for the rest of your life, it would be a Diviner.”

“A Diviner orchestrated this,” Callan said softly. “This is the way we survive, Penn…”

“I can still ask.” I wanted to tell Callan I would pull the world apart to find a way to get him from having to stay here, but they would be empty words and neither of us needed lies. The truth was bleak, but we had to face it.

“There’s something else.” I raised my head and told Callan about letting the others from the original community know about Bastillen and he agreed that it was better I go sooner rather than later.

“I’ll come back tonight with clothes and whatever else you want,” I said. “Text me a list. I’ll drag half your apartment up here if you want.”

He smiled. “I appreciate you.” He let go of my hand, opened a zipper in his backpack, and took out the pouch of Portalorbs Sage had given him. He took out the five orange ones and I watched as he called up his magic to activate them, then touched each Portalorb to the time pocket. He gave them to me.

“Thank goodness for Portalorbs because I wouldn’t want to dodge those time warps every single time I came here.” Although I guess I’d have to dodge them when I left. I tucked them into a small pouch attached to my belt.

Callan stepped close and put his hands on either side of my face.

It looked like there was so much he wanted to say. I felt a wealth of words sitting on my chest too, but we said nothing, and after a few moments Callan released a little sigh and kissed me.

His lips were warm, and my body heated at the feel of his tongue sliding against mine. His arms went around my waist and mine circled his neck as he kissed me slowly, savoring the contours of my mouth like he would never taste them again.

Callan’s arms were a familiar place, where I knew the hard lines of his body, the scent of his skin, the way his right hand always kneaded the small of my back when we kissed. How we always stood with one of my legs in between his. How he often made a sound that drove me wild when I danced my fingers across the dimples at his lower back.

Kissing Callan was like following the paths of an old map. The destination was always the same, but the journey was passionate, electric, and all-consuming every single time.

We broke apart and it was no easy thing. We stayed close for a while, holding each other. He rested his chin on top of my head as I stood in the circle of his arms.

His Mortalstone was usually tucked into his shirt, but it had come out and I idly traced the twists of wire that wrapped around it. After he got his memory back, Callan had said he realized Linella had implanted in his memories to never take off his Mortalstone and never let anyone see it, so it had always been on a long cord tucked out of sight.

I’d never noticed it during our interactions in the Before Times. Now, it was on a shorter cord, and he’d asked me to wire wrap it for him. I’d always thought gold wire looked the best against the blue and black colors of the stone.

Callan released another sigh and stepped back, looking down at me.

“I’ll be back soon,” I said. “Your uncle and the others are waiting for you in the park.”

“I’ll head back to them.” He kissed my forehead, and I felt his reluctance in letting me go.

I was reluctant to let him go as well. But he was safe here.

And I wouldn’t think about what would have happened if we’d never come.

Ashe headbutted Callan and romped with him for a few minutes. He ended up on his back and she gave his entire face a lick before stepping over him and trotting over to me. He was laughing as he stood up and dusted himself off.

“Thanks, Ashe.”

“You’ve won her over for sure,” I said, smiling.

Callan made an opening in the time pocket, and we stepped through. “You’ll be okay getting around the time warps?”

“I remember where they were and I can feel them. If it feels too dicey, I’ll purify them, but I’ll try not to.”

“Be careful.”

“I will.” I squeezed his hand one last time, then Ashe and I headed back down the path to make our way through the forest and back to Merewynd.

This wasn’t a final parting. But I wasn’t having an easy time convincing myself.