Thomegg began to walk and Connor didn’t really have any better idea so he followed. This was so crazy. He tried to feel his opinions rather than involuntarily speak with his ‘mind voice’. It was the type of dream Maris would adore, yet Connor had the disturbing sense that it was very, very real...
Some of Connor’s thoughts got out of his head and into the air but Thomegg didn’t say anything, which Connor appreciated.
“Is there a way I can stop it?” he asked anyway.
Thomegg halted and turned, smiling wryly.
“You’d have to have some degree of trust in me,” he said mysteriously.
“What do you mean?” Connor asked nervously.
Thomegg’s expression became kind. He spoke softly as if to decrease the impact of the words.
“I’d touch one of your temples and we’d momentarily become psychically linked. I’d tell your mind to calm, withdraw my hand and only if you truly believed I was helping you would your thoughts regain their privacy.”
‘Damn,’ Connor thought.
Thomegg looked truly sorry.
“It’s hard, I know.”
Connor sighed internally and a breeze swept lightly over him in response. Hesitantly he stepped forwards.
“You... you wouldn’t probe, would you?”
Thomegg shook his head.
“And if you thought a word like... ‘incomprehensible’, I’d stop understanding anyway. There is magic here.”
Connor smiled wryly.
“I guessed when you said ‘psychically linked’.”
Thomegg smiled back.
“Would you prefer to close your eyes?”
Connor would. It would be awkward to just stare into Thomegg’s eyes and he was worried the boy would hear a thought relating to just how beautiful Connor found him.
He closed his eyes, taking a steadying breath.
He felt the lightest of touches at the side of his brow and quickly thought ‘incomprehensible’. He hoped it had worked because in the next moment he could clearly hear Thomegg’s voice in his mind saying ‘Spirri laxalla, intima rezomralla.’
The contact vanished and Connor opened his eyes.
‘Has this worked?’ he wondered silently. To his gladness it had: the words remained in his mind.
He thought about the words Thomegg had said. They seemed ... familiar somehow, though he hadn’t heard those particular ones before.
“That... language you were speaking,” he said slowly.
“I... I’ve heard it before.”
“You have?” Thomegg looked surprised. “What did you hear?”
“Um, something like ‘Monda te requia’ and then ‘Aya te miralla’.”
Thomegg looked amazed now.
“The world needs you. That’s what the first one means. And the second means ‘I’ll watch you’ or ‘I’ll be watching you’.”
“That’s interesting,” Connor said, internally congratulating himself on his own guess of the first one. “But ... I heard Latin as well. The Latin name for humans.”
“Oh, well, I’m sure whoever it was was just addressing you - since you are a human,” Thomegg said. “Could you describe their voice?”
Connor was vaguely shocked by the implication that Thomegg was inhuman but, then again, that explained the wings and the psychic ability he had just displayed. Connor shook his head.
“The words were whispered.”
“Ah, that’s unfortunate. Well, we’re bound to find out if we visit a dragon - they know everything. But at the moment, we still need to find our angel.”
“I’ll follow your lead.”
Thomegg smiled and resumed walking in the direction they had started heading in before Connor’s interruption.
After a time of navigating their way between densely packed trees where the moonlight was all but obscured the boys arrived at the fringe of a beach.
“Welcome to the Southern Sands,” Thomegg said.
Connor looked out across the desolate landscape that stretched out to every horizon. The beach was a vast stretch of grey, the seas a black and empty expanse, the sky above clear of clouds but just about starless and dark woodland bordering it all as far as the eye could see.
“It’s ...” Connor faltered.
Thomegg looked at him.
Connor nodded. He sat down on the sand and looked around for any signs of life. Save for him and Thomegg the region, country, island, whatever, looked dead.
“Is this going to turn into a nightmare?” he wondered aloud.
Thomegg’s expression became apologetic.
“It already is, I’m afraid. The night used to be so alive. Now everyone associates her sky with the Darkness and even the local fauna are quiet until the sun comes up again.”
Connor felt sympathetic towards his dream companion. It didn’t sound as though he lived in a very nice world. Maybe Maria wouldn’t enjoy this sort of dream so much after all.
“When’s the angel coming?” he asked, to change the subject.
“She’s already here,” Thomegg murmured.
Green and scarlet maple leaves appeared out of thin air a few inches away from where Connor was sitting. They rushed out of the invisible gate between this dimension and another, forming a large cocoon above the ground. When the formation was complete the leaves stopped coming, fell to the ground and revealed a small, pale figure wearing muddied cloth rags with sticks for limbs, scraggly brown hair and a freckled face with fierce eyes, a hard chin and a sharp line for a nose.
Connor was confused. Was this child really an angel? Or was the angel somewhere else and this girl just random company?
“Maple,” Thomegg said warmly, ignoring the child’s appearance. He descended to one knee where he stood, bowing his head. “So wonderful to see you.”
“Thanks, Thomegg,” ‘Maple’ replied. Her voice was a hoarse whisper, like she’d spent a day bawling or singing too loudly or something. She glanced at Connor. “Welcome to Reivamonda, Connor Benell.”
Thomegg rose to his feet and moved beside Connor.
He seemed a little apprehensive as he asked, “Do you know what Su-Ri has been up to lately?”
Maple frowned, looking quite stern, though her body resembled that of a child of no more than ten years.
“That is not why I am here, Thomegg. You should not ask - you know that thoughts of her distress you.”
Thomegg looked ashamed, but unhappy as well.
“Of course. I apologise, Maple.”
Maple reached forwards and took Thomegg’s hand. She gently squeezed it. Connor noticed that her fingers were thin and bony: the skin about them only slightly softened them.
“I understand, Thomegg. Your life has not been easy.”
Connor felt an unexpected pang of jealousy. Suddenly, he wanted to be the one comforting Thomegg - Thomegg, who looked so vulnerable right now - not this plain, untidy little girl whom he didn’t appreciate knowing his full name.
“Don’t resent me, Connor,” Maple said, without looking away from Thomegg. Connor was shocked. Were his thoughts suddenly audible again?
“I...” Connor floundered. What could he say?
Maple regarded him.
“Thomegg will come to like you even more than he does for being kind enough to be chosen to be his companion. Such blind admiration for a stranger is quite a feat, by the way. You should not be jealous of a relationship that has had more time to grow. And the feelings that we share are mere companionship. An angel could never be anymore than a friend to a human.”
Connor blushed. This child was the angel, despite her lack of beauty and tidiness. And it was clear that she saw exactly what he was feeling with regards to Thomegg. But more than embarrassed he was amazed. The angel really thought it was okay that Connor had a little crush on Thomegg?
Connor had never actually told anyone that handsome guys caught his attention, rather than pretty girls, so on one level he was astounded that the angel could read something of this.
On the other hand, he vaguely understood that some people were homophobic, including some members of religious groups, so the fact that an angel, one of many religious symbols, seemed to condone the beginnings of a tricky sexuality.
But a thought struck him: that he was treating these events too much like reality, that of course there would be a part of his subconscious that hoped, even longed,foracceptance, even though he himself hadn’t been rejected yet. It was a little disturbing that he was getting so drawn into the story of this dream.
“Thank you,” Connor murmured, appreciating the acceptance whether it was real or dreamt. “And ... sorry for thinking of you as a scraggly little girl.”
Maple looked amused rather than offended.
“It’s okay. I find that funny.”
Thomegg, however, looked a little shocked.
“You thought of Maple as a scraggly little girl?”
Connor nodded, heat rising to his cheeks.
“What does it matter? Her heart and her soul are purest gold. That’s what makes her an angel. What are angels on Earth like?”
“Well, you don’t tend to see them,” Connor answered awkwardly. “But ... I think a lot of people think they’re incredibly beautiful. You know... because they’re perfect.”
Thomegg shook his head in wonderment.
“Perfection doesn’t exist. But there is a level of goodness so high that it’s considered the extreme. And that’s all you’d want in an angel. An angel is there to protect you, to guide you, not to make you feel insecure about a comparative lack of beauty...”
“Sorry,” Connor said, not knowing how else he could respond to Thomegg’s verbal eye-opening display of knowledge.
Thomegg nodded, his expression softening to a smile.
“Moving on,” Maple said briskly. “I have to present to you your swords.”
“Swords?” Connor repeated in bewilderment.
“Yeah. I forgot to mention that bit. We’re partners on a mission to chase away the Darkness, and the reason we needed to see an angel is that to achieve our goal we each receive a sword of Hope.”
Connor blinked. “Swords.”