Ascend / Page 9

Page 9


After dinner, I went back to my room and watched bad eighties movies with Duncan. He had to stay with me sixteen hours a day, then the night watchman took over. I’d wanted to study, since Tove was teaching me Tryllic, but Duncan wouldn’t let me. He insisted I needed to shut off my mind and relax.

Duncan fell asleep in my room, which wasn’t unusual. Nobody said anything, since he was my guard, and it was better that he was with me. He probably wouldn’t be able to after Saturday, which made me a little sad. I slept sprawled out in my bed, and Duncan was curled up on the couch, a thin blanket draped over him.

“It’s Thursday,” I said when I woke up. I was still in bed, staring at the ceiling.

“It certainly is,” Duncan yawned and stretched.

“I only have two days until I get married.”

“I know.” He got up and opened the shades, letting a wall of light into my room. “What are you doing today?”

“I need to stay busy.” I sat up and squinted in the brightness. “And I don’t care what anybody says about me needing to relax and take time off. I have to keep active. So I think I’ll train with Tove today.”

“At least you’re spending quality time with your fiancé,” Duncan shrugged.

Whenever I thought about the wedding I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Sometimes, if I thought about it too much, I actually threw up. I don’t think I’d ever been so afraid to do anything in my life.

I showered and ate a quick breakfast, then I went down to Tove’s room to see if he wanted to do any training. I’d mostly gotten the hang of all my abilities, but they weren’t something I wanted to lose, so I practiced often to keep them strong.

Tove had moved into the palace after the Vittra had kidnapped me to help keep things safe. He was actually much stronger than any of the guards here, and he may even be stronger than me. His room was down the hall from mine, and the door was open when I stopped by.

A few cardboard boxes were set around the room, some of them empty, but one had books overflowing from it. He had one sitting on the bed, and Tove put in a few pairs of jeans.

“Going somewhere?” I asked, leaning on the doorframe.

“No, just getting ready for the move.” He pointed down the hall toward Elora’s room – our new room. “For Saturday.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.”

“Do you need help with anything?” Duncan asked. He’d followed me down to Tove’s, since he followed me everywhere.

“Sure, if you want.” Tove shrugged.

Duncan went in and pulled out some of Tove’s clothes from the drawer. I stayed where I was, hating how awkward everything felt between us. When we were training or talking politics, everything was good with Tove and me. We were almost always on the same page, and we talked openly about anything having to do with the palace or work.

But when it came to our wedding and our actual relationship, neither of us could ever find the words.

“Did you want to train today?” I asked Tove.

“Yeah, that’d be great actually.” Tove sounded relieved.

Training helped him a lot, too. The palace was so full of people, and Tove could sense their thoughts and emotions, creating loud static in his head. Training silenced that and focused him, making him more like a normal person.

“Outside?” I suggested.

“Yeah,” Tove nodded.

“But it’s so cold out,” Duncan lamented.

“Why don’t you stay in here?” I asked. “You can finish packing up some of Tove’s stuff.” Duncan looked uncertain for a second, so I went on, “I’ll be with Tove. We can handle ourselves.”

“Okay,” Duncan said, sounding reluctant. “But I’ll be here if you need me.”

Tove and I headed out back to the secret garden behind the palace. It wasn’t really secret, I guess, but it felt that way since it was hidden behind the trees and a wall. Even though a strong January storm had been blowing the last few days, the garden was peaceful.

The garden was magic. All the flowers still bloomed, despite the snow, and they sparkled like diamonds from the frost. The thin waterfall that flowed down the bluff should’ve frozen over, but it still ran, babbling.

A drift of snow had blown over the path. Tove simply held out his hand, and the snow moved to the sides, parting like the Red Sea. He stopped in the orchard under the branches of a tree covered with frozen leaves and blue flowers.

“What shall we do today?” Tove asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What are you in the mood for?”

“How about a snowball fight?” he asked with a wicked grin.

Using only his mind, he threw four snowballs at me. I held up my hands, pushing them back with my own telekinesis, and they shattered into puffs of snow from the force. It was my turn to sling a few back at him, but he stopped them just as easily as I did.

He returned fire, this time with even more snowballs, and while I stopped most of them, one of them slipped by and nicked me in the leg. I ran back, hiding behind a tree to make my counterattack.

Tove and I played around, throwing snow at one another, but it became increasingly hard as it went on. It all looked like games, and it was fun, but it was more than that. Stopping a slew of snowballs helped me learn to quickly stop multiple attacks from different directions. I tried to return fire even before I stopped the snowball, and that helped me learn how to fight back while stopping something.

Those were two completely different tasks, and they were difficult to master. I’d been working on this for a while, but couldn’t get it down. In my defense, neither could Tove, but he didn’t really think it was possible. My mind would have to be able to hold something and throw something at the same, which it could do, but starting and stopping things at the exact same time was the impossible part.

When we were both sufficiently frozen and exhausted, I collapsed back in the snow. I’d worn pants and a sweater today because I knew we were training, but all that exertion always left me overheated, so the snow felt good.

“Is that a truce then?” Tove asked, panting as he lay down in the snow next to me.

“Truce,” I said, laughing a little.

We both lay back, our arms spread out wide as if we meant to make snow angels, but neither of us did. Catching our breath, we stared up at the clouds moving above us.

“If this is what our marriage will be like, it won’t be so bad, will it?” Tove asked, and it was an honest question.

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