TS:Star II For a Soft Place to Fall

II

For A Soft Place to Fall

 

A deep grumbling growl rippled through Iszeldier’s stomach and he cringed, curling up tighter in the snow with his blanket around him. The attempt to sleep had not done him good, making him focus on his empty stomach and the fact that it had been a while since his last meal. He didn’t want to get up knowing his hunger wasn’t going to go away, and he was out of food. His stomach growled again, it had been four days, he couldn’t wait any longer.

Wincing, Iszeldier at up very slowly, and looked around his bed of snow for any unopened scraps of food. At the foot of his bed there was a pile of empty wrappers and bags and sluggishly he rooted through the pile for any morsel or crumb that was left inside them. All he could find was a little dust from a bag of chips and he sighed, unsatisfied by the taste.

Before he left the ASH, he had been starving himself, psychologically scarred by how food had been used to lure him around and he protested against that. But now he regretted it since he was exhausted and he had nothing. There was only one way to provide for himself now, and he had no excuse, over the last weeks he had been stealing food.

Preparing himself, Iszeldier put on more appropriate clothes, and a big brown coat so he could blend in, making sure his whole head of ice white hair was covered by a hat. His hair had grown out some since he became a Nova, growing fast then normal and in an effort to keep his coarse, wild, and wavy, white hair from constantly tangling, he learned to weave it into a short, thick braid which he tucked up into the hat. Lastly, he grabbed a sturdy fabric shopping bag, which over the last weeks he had learned made it way easier to walk right out of the supermarket. At the hatch door, he laced up his ice skates very tightly, with a pair of flat tennis shoes bulging in his pockets.

With a wave of his fingers the staircase came down, resurfacing as a ramp which Iszeldier dove down with full control over his feet touching the ice. The trees surrounding his fortress consumed all the light from outside, and as they bent out of the way to make room for Iszeldier as he skated out of there the light of day was intense. Iszeldier still worried he wasn’t deep enough into the woods to remain hidden but being just over five miles outside of the remains of the town made it easy to slip in and out. Even if his approximate location was discovered the cold would turn away anyone who stumbled near there, and the trees shrouded the fortress in more than just darkness but also from the Realm.

A month ago, Iszeldier would not have been able to skate through the thick forest without tripping over himself, but he had memorized this area, he knew where to place his ice where it would be smoothest and what places to avoid. He had several different paths so that he could throw off pursuers, and though he hadn’t been caught yet, he felt prepared for anything.

At the edge of the forest when the trees started to thin out, the creek had risen up two about three feet deep and Iszeldier had used this to create a path to skate on. It took him directly into the town and using the Realm, no one notice the ice that formed and vanished on the surface of the water. The closer he got to the epicenter of the town’s destruction the deeper and wider the creek got until it pooled up and diverted into the streets. The flooding was overwhelming but it made it very easy to get around the enormous tree that had grown up in the center of Yowell Meadow Park.

While it was not even an eighth of the size of Lucis de Cælum, the tree was impressive and its roots had taken over much of the town, cutting off water lines and electricity. It seemed at this point, everyone was just trying to cut paths through the roots so that traffic could flow through the area, diverted where needed. Two miles from the huge tree, Peractio de Umbris, was the nearest supermarket, which still functioned and saw many customers. Anything that wasn’t damaged continued as it was, trying to get past the huge destruction the Shadows had caused the area.

The MARKOH had once been responsible for taking care of the Shadows, but Iszeldier was pleased whenever he saw a police officer because he knew the MARKOH were never going to be a problem for him again. He had killed all of the MARKOH and even when that was the reason his friends turned away from him, Iszeldier regretted nothing because now he was free to move about without the specially trained officers looking for him.

The supermarket was guarded by a single police officer, who stood casually at the doorway, and Iszeldier scoped him out while switching his skates for his shoes. The officer was supposed to check everyone’s ears to make sure they were not Shadows, but Iszeldier had figured out how to get around that without even using the Realm. He had figured out early on that entering through the Realm wasn’t going to work because the officer was scanning the ground for unowned shadows, and the cold which emanated from his body put everyone on high alert.

With his shopping bag around his arm, Iszeldier confidently walked up to the door, taking a brief moment to make sure his wild white hair was totally tucked into his hat. This officer was lazy, so it was really easy for him to slip past the man as long as he put on a good act. However, on the off chance that he was stopped, Iszeldier was always prepared.

“Hey kids!” the officer called out to a group of teenagers who stopped in their tracks nervously. “Let me see your ears,” the officer demanded since all of them were wearing scarves and hats. Iszeldier did this all the time, he slipped behind them, acted like he was one of them and when the officer glanced at them he usually didn’t notice the short fourteen-year-old, sneaking in behind them.

Iszeldier was a transitioning Nova, so his ears were longer than a normal Shadow. William had been born with round ears like a human and it hadn’t been until he was eleven that his ears grew out to the four-inch-long, fairy-like ears. Iszeldier however, was much stronger than William and his transition into a Nova was made much faster. Novas were easy to tamper with, Iszeldier had proven that to everyone, but the next in line for the easiest to trick was Humans. Iszeldier had been practicing with his fortress and now he was able to do it with just himself. He could make a trick of the eye, where his victim would see exactly what he wanted them to see, and that was a blue-eyed, brown-haired, round-eared, fourteen-year-old human. As long as he was focusing on each mind which focused on him, they created the link that allowed him to manipulate them, and he pulled this off every time.

This time was no different and he slipped into the store quickly, rushing to fill his bag with food. He didn’t put mush thought into it, just rushing to the section of food he liked, ranch flavored corn chips, cheese crackers, a bag of beef jerky, and a package of chocolate sandwich cookies. He knew it was junk food, but with how hungry he was he didn’t care. He looked around the store a little, strategically scoping everything out but his eyes caught sight of a pre-cooked slice of pizza. As much as he hated hot food, the smell drove itself deep into his empty gut and he couldn’t resist. Half the struggle of taking the pizza was retrieving it from the heated box without freezing anything when his skin so completely rejected the heat. As soon as it was in his hands he cooled it off, but still carried it like it was hot so that it looked normal.

In an aisle of Christmas decorations near the front door, Iszeldier took a moment to watch the people heading towards the exit. Large groups of people were the easiest to slip out with, so he gravitated nonchalantly towards the largest group coming towards the exit. This was a group of older men, one of whom was very gray but the others were burly and bearded. The only thing that made the trick of the eyes not work was when someone had already noticed his true self.

Most people ignored him if they noticed he was following them a little closely, but this group glanced back at him and puzzled, “Why are you followin’ us, kid,” Iszeldier shirked tensing at the power in the man’s accent and he looked over the bearded man’s stature and fear took his heart. He clutched his bag tighter and glanced down at the plastic shopping bags the men were holding and in this he spotted the same kind of ranch chips in his bag, in fact he vaguely spotted another item that was the same as his.

The man saw him looking and he put a hand on his hip, stopping the group altogether, “that’s a lot of junk for a kid your size, where’s your dad?”

“Right outside…” Iszeldier insisted trying to push past them quickly, but suddenly the man stood in his path like a mountain of facial hair and leather.

“How old are you?” the man blared like a beacon for the police officer to come in to see the commotion.

Panicking, Iszeldier glanced to the police officer and instinctively pulled his hat further over his ears. The trick of the eye was broken no that the police officer saw him again, and for some reason he couldn’t get the group of men to link with his mind strong enough to trick them as well. “fourteen… please, my dad is waiting for me.” he whispered trying to dismiss himself.

“No way,” the man crossed his arms, “You gotta be like twelve or something.”

The police officer drew nearer, growing more suspicious, and looking Iszeldier over as he stood there with his bag nervously, “What’s your father’s name, and where is he parked?” the man asked probing, and Iszeldier’s heart pattered, “I’ll take you out there to meet him.”

Having a little hope in this, Iszeldier calmed just slightly, the officer still thought he was human and was offering to protect him from these overbearing, biker-like group. “I can take care of myself!” Iszeldier snapped trying to run past the men but the first one jumped into his way and he collided with the man and stumbled back onto the floor. He dropped his bag so that the food spread out onto the floor and for a second that was his biggest concern.

The second passed, and everyone around the exit was staring at him in fear. Tensing, Iszeldier realized the moment he had hit the floor, Ice had sprayed out everywhere, covering the whole entrance in snow. The bearded man tensed and jump back swearing loudly, “He’s a Shadow!”

At the same time, the police officer’s heart sank and he stepped back slowly and fearfully, “it’s him…” he realized, not believing that in guarding this one store he would come across the boy how had single-handedly destroyed the MARKOH. “Everyone get back!” he shouted, spreading out his arms and looking around at the other customers as they ran away scared.

Iszeldier’s eyes grew fierce and he locked eyes with the officer while he hastily gathered up his food again, “You know what I can do…” he threatened, “so stay out of my way!” as he said this the officer pulled his gun, nervous to have it out around civilians.

He tried to run, but that bearded man was still standing in his way, completely unafraid, “Hold it!” The man’s deep voice echoed through him, grabbing into his thin arms and constricting around them with his huge hands like Iszeldier’s arms were nothing more than twigs. Iszeldier bucked, trying to kick the man’s feet out from under him but he was just too huge.

It took just a second more of being restrained and seeing the police officer speaking into the radio on his shoulder and Iszeldier lost it. He slipped out of his coat to reveal the blue half shirt under his thin white jacket made of ice and in the action his hat was ripped off revealing his short icy braid and white hair. It was at that moment that everyone knew who he was, and they whispered his name amongst themselves.

“He’s just a kid!” the burly first man underestimated him to reassure the people around and despite how the officer protested, the man jumped at Iszeldier and tried to tackle him. Instantly, ice skate blades of ice grew out from Iszeldier’s shoes and he tried to dash away on the ice he created on the floor, but the man dove and got a hold of his ankle.

Shrieking, Iszeldier covered himself in a flash of cyan light, resonating through his veins and protecting him from any injury for the few moments the man had contact with his leg. On instinct, Iszeldier flipped backwards, but tumbling as he landed among a group of onlooking shoppers. They screamed, panicking as they ran away from him and Iszeldier tensed, having never seen anyone so afraid of him.

More suddenly than Iszeldier could predict he and the onlooking people had their attentions taken by the burly man who cried out suddenly, staring at his hands and shivering uncontrollably. Iszeldier’s eyes widened in shock as the man’s eyes were flaring cyan like Iszeldier’s own, and he watched as the man’s hair and beard turned completely white. Before everyone’s eyes, the man got up, whirling about confused as his hands turned to ice and waving them around produced incredible fractals spreading ice over all the shopping carts and product stands near the exit of the store.

The man panicked aware as everyone else was that he was displaying Shadow-like powers, and the ice was spreading further up his arms. He started panicking and screaming, rushing to his friends and pleading for him but when his hands were bat away by the other friends in fear, his hands crumbled like snow. A woman screamed as the man stumbled, falling into the snow as a heap of ice shavings.

Iszeldier tensed as he watched it happen the took the confusion to grab up his food, his coat, and his hat, and make a break for the door. No one stopped him, the police officer actually ran out of his way to avoid physical contact with him since that had been what killed that more man. Iszeldier dashed off into the parking lot, skating until he could find a place to hide and put on his real skates and finally escape back to his fortress. He didn’t slow down, he never looked back, and nothing in him regretted killing that man. He did what he had to do.

Five minutes after Iszeldier was completely out of the area and hiding in a patch of woods, more police appeared to see the man’s friends gathered outside the evacuating supermarket. But after the police arrived, another car pulled up, scoping out the crowd of officers before it’s driver stepped out into the parking lot. Wearing all black, from his leather jacket to his combat boots, Jules did his best to protect his identity and hide his cursed right eye which held the ability to turn whoever met eyes with him to stone.

Jules watched as the police questioned as many of the people who were in the store as possible and listened closely to their stories. “Excuse me,” Jules interrupted at one point as he spotted the woman who was being questioned was brandishing her cell phone very tightly. She acknowledged a little startled to see the man dressed in black from head to toe, “is there any way you can confirm that the person who did this was actually Iszeldier Halo?”

The woman’s hand gripped her phone a little tighter, “I… caught a video…” she hesitated, very shaken up by what she saw.

Jules glanced to the police officer who was now eyeing him skeptically, “May I see?” he requested very gently. She obliged fiddling through her photo library on her phone until she pulled up the short video. It was eight seconds of noise and chaos and then Jules spotted him, Iszeldier recovering from a flip, his head whipping around in a panic giving Jules a good look at this face. Jules tried to hide his relief in seeing his son for the first time in four weeks, still, Iszeldier looked healthy, definitely scared, but it brought a tender look to Jules’ eyes to see Iszeldier’s short braid.

“Are you MARKOH?” the police officer asked suddenly as the girl withdrew he phone.

Jules shook his head slowly, “No, I’m just someone who’s looking for a way to end this chaos and put the town back together.”

The officer’s expression grew bleak but understanding, “you were with the MARKOH… weren’t you?” he realized and Jules’ sigh confirmed it. Thankfully, the officer had no idea who Jules was, even though there had been a warrant for his arrest, but even if he did the officer seemed to hold Jules’ interest in high regard. “When you find that boy… give him the biggest slap on the wrist, break it if you have to, but give him some safety, I’ve never seen someone so scared.”

Jules nodded courteously, “Thank you, I’ll be sure to keep your station informed,” he offered and gestured to the door, “Is it alright if I go inside?” he requested politely. The officer nodded and dismissed the girl, sending the rest of the witnesses over to another officer. Jules look around the entrance way and towards the registered where the pile of snow had been cleared up and was melting into a bucket. Jules frowned assuming this would be given to the family as the deceased remains. “How much was stolen?” Jules asked bluntly.

Tensing, the officer tilted his head a little oddly, “how do you know that?”

Jules’ frown deepened, “Iszeldier comes into town every few days to steal food, I’ve been trying to catch him in the act for weeks now.”

The officer confirmed Jules’ information was correct and he walked with Jules towards the registers, “I got a look at what he was smuggling out, it looked like junk food, not more than twenty dollars-worth.”

Jules listened to this and responded by taking out his wallet, strategically covering his driver’s license to hide it from the officer as he produced some money. “Will you make sure this goes to the manager for the goods stolen?” he requested, passing the officer the single bill.

A tenderness appeared in the officer’s as Jules took responsibility for Iszeldier’s thieving. “Who are you?” he asked softly, “why would you do this for that Shadow, even after he just killed a man?”

Jules didn’t respond and tried to brush it off, walking back out towards the exit. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you my name,” he apologized as they walked out into the cold, “but if Iszeldier shows up again, you’ll be seeing more of me.” Thankfully, the officer let him go, and Jules hurried back to his car, pocketing his wallet and rushing to get moving.

As he put on sunglasses to reduce the glare on the road, someone suddenly banged a heavy hand on the roof of his car. Faster than lightning, Jules was wielding an assisted-opening knife at the window of his car with his left hand holding the unlocked door shut with all his strength. “Cool it!” the headless torso in Jules’ vision demanded.

Gasping in relief, Jules bang on his steering wheel frustrated, “Don’t sneak up on me like that!” he demanded as he opened the door and got out to see Archer leaning against his own car which was parked next to Jules’

Archer didn’t bother with Jules’ sense of style, after disowning the MARKOH uniform he had no use for, Archer wore casual clothes and a leather jacket as a means to keep warm. “Was it actually Iszeldier?” Archer asked quickly.

Jules crossed his arms disgusted, “We need to stop meeting in public there’s still warrants out for both of us!”

Seeming to only laugh it off, Archer made Jules fume with bitterness and frustrated, “Answer the question, did we get a hit?”

Scoffing, Jules rolled his eyes, “Yes, it was Iszeldier, another shopping spree, and from the shopping list, his blood sugar has got to be through the roof!” giving a touch of Archer’s humor but it was all he would allow.

This produced a true and genuine laugh in Archer, “More junk food then…” finally he took a more serious tone, “Did you see him?” he asked softly and Jules looked up with a new hope, “you’ve got a twinkle in your eyes, you’re trying to hide it but I can tell.”

Jules frowned, “Yeah… I saw him…” he admitted very softly, putting his knife away and leaning against his car, “it was in a short eight second video, but I saw him…” he cringed a little, true sorrow impaling him through the heart, “but this isn’t good news! Iszeldier killed someone!”

Gulping a little, Archer stared down at the ground grimly, “Add that to his body-count, Jules, we’ve killed people, we’re no better than him, and we can bring him back to us.”

Eyeing him admonishingly for using his real name in public, Jules grimaced, his mind whirling with the brief image of his son. It hurt his heart so much to have Iszeldier continue running from him like this, but to be honest, he wasn’t sure Iszeldier actually knew his father was looking for him. Jules hoped it could stay like that, so that maybe one day he could catch Iszeldier and even if only briefly, look his son in the eyes again.

“What’s your plan now?” Archer broke into his thoughts.

Turning back to his car, Jules opened the door and sat down inside, “I’m gonna head back to your house for a bit… I’m running on two hours of sleep in the back of my car, and Iszeldier’s definitely not going to show himself anytime soon after was happened here.”

“Sounds good,” Archer stopped him from closing the door and suddenly threw a mass of navy blue, blue-gray, and gray fabric into his lap, “now please, wear some color, all black doesn’t suit you,” Jules wanted to protest but Archer slammed his door and moved to get into his own car. By then, Jules was staring down at the fabric and quickly realized in was a navy blue uniform trench coat with light blue trim, and a soft light gray interior what was very warm.

Producing a soft smile, Jules threw the coat into the passenger seat and drove off. He had been staying at Archer’s apartment while he searched for Iszeldier, and as much as Archer was grace-filled in letting Jules abuse himself in the search, Jules couldn’t sleep on the couch anymore. It didn’t matter though, Jules was so overtired that upon arriving at the apartment he collapsed onto the couch, wrapping himself in a big fluffy blanket and falling asleep almost instantly.

Jules didn’t like sleeping during the day, it scared him since in the quiet he could see his son, visualize what he was doing and he couldn’t figure out his son’s sleep schedule so that maybe they could be asleep at the same time. Jules hated to admit that he and Iszeldier were still connected, and when he closed his eyes he could see through his son’s eyes. At first he thought this information would be helpful, but since he had to be incredibly focused and his mind had to be completely clear to see Iszeldier, there was no point, because his adrenaline was always so high.

He saw Iszeldier’s cold hands before him, tearing into the bag of chips, eating quickly. Jules couldn’t feel how hungry Iszeldier was but at the rate which Iszeldier mindlessly tore through the food he had stolen, Jules feared even more for his son. All Jules had was the ability to see through Iszeldier’s eyes, but not to know what he was thinking or how he was feeling. Jules received no emotion from Iszeldier which put him on edge for fear.

He wasn’t sure how long he slept when he was jarred to alertness suddenly by Archer as he stomped around the apartment. Without giving a single though, Jules had out his knife again ready to jump to his feet before he saw that it was in fact Archer, “Chill dude…” Archer made fun of him, setting his keys down on the kitchen island counter to the left of the door.

Gasping some, Jules collapsed back down on the couch panting from the rush of adrenaline and letting his knife fall over his chest where he clutched his heart. Closing his eyes, Jules waited anxiously for his heart to slow but he jumped again when he heard a sudden ping and vibration buzzing against his left breast pocket which made him think for a moment he was having a heart attack. Hastily he took out his tablet which was a small six-inch display which did the job of a phone and a tablet and checked the notification that had just come in.

“Have you seen this?” the message read from Mark with a video linked to it. Jules played the video and again he was able to see his son. The woman who had taken the video had posted it online and it hadn’t taken long for it to reach the Viridian where they were already scanning their social accounts for news about Iszeldier.

Typing back, Jules’ breath quivered to respond, “Yes.” He replayed the video again, obsessing over his son, and so relieved to see him again even if it was through someone else’s eyes. He laughed a little at Iszeldier’s braid, impressed that he even knew how to weave a braid. He had laughed at William the same way when he got his hair cut some time last June. It must have had something to do with the fact that both of them had been given an intense amount of Novas cells when Ira had revived William and turned Iszeldier into a Nova that their hair grew much faster. Iszeldier had hit a growth spurt in the Nova Realm, he had gotten taller and his voice was changing, but now, four months or so later, it was very evident how much he had grown in such a short amount of time.

Rolling into an upright position, Jules groaned bitterly, he wanted to be with the rest of the Shadows in the Viridian about as much as he wanted to find Iszeldier and it made him weary to continue this fight. “Got anything?” he demanded loudly into his lap, rubbing his face of the grogginess, “I really need another hit right now.”

Archer stepping into the kitchen and pulled two beers out of the fridge, “then take a hit,” he offered setting out one of the brown bottles on the counter and opening the second, “Iszeldier won’t dare to show himself with you this close behind him.”

Grimacing, Jules got up and strode across the small apartment distressed but he accepted Archer’s offer and opened the cold beer. Guzzling it down like nothing else could drown his worry, Jules sat down at the island bar and gazed off blearily with the heel of his palm to his brow so that it stretched up his forehead. He looked exhausted and perpetually hungover.

Jules’ tablet pinged again and begrudgingly Jules moved to get up, “You stay right there!” Archer urged, hurrying to go fetch it from the couch where it was slightly under his blanket. Jules was a workaholic, especially when it revolved around Iszeldier, he had always been like this so Archer thought it best to look out for Jules when he knew the youngest of the Halo brothers wouldn’t look out for himself.

Archer checked the notification for Jules which he had come to do often and Jules didn’t find intrusive. He only briefly glanced at Jules who had his mouth around the opening of the bottle as they met eyes. The notification was a highlighted location on a map displayed on the tablet and Archer’s eyes lit up, “we got a hit!” he gasped.

“What!” Jules burst rushing around the table to see it. Archer had gotten him codes to hijack the feed from a satellite which they could focus on temperature fluctuations. It was difficult because of the cold weather lately, but this was Virginia, it wouldn’t get truly freezing until mid-January. When Iszeldier traveled with his ice, he used the Realm to conceal himself from Shadows and Humans, but he couldn’t hide the intense temperature change he created. “Where is he?”

Archer set directions to the location, “Mountain Run Lake, he just froze it by the looks of it and that really set it off, he’s heading north now, towards…” Archer zoomed in on the location, “Looks like… Linganore Lane,” he passed the tablet to Jules, “it’s not easy to hit him when he’s in the forest, but it looks like there’s some houses out there.”

Jules focused on the landscape of the image closely, confused for a second but then tensed. Hastily he pocketed the tablet, grabbed his navy blue coat and ran for the door, “I know where he’s going!” he shouted, running out quickly.

Dashing after him but far behind, Archer shouted down the hall, “Jules! Think this through! Don’t just ambush him!”

At the stairwell, Jules looked back with a fierce look in his eye, “One-six-one-zero-nine-seven Linganore Lane, meet me there!”

 

The most telling sign of Iszeldier’s presence was how cold overtook everything around him. It was almost as if he couldn’t control it, that, or he didn’t notice it. The lake thawed behind him quickly revealing the still black waters touched by dim moonlight and he looked back only once, savoring its peaceful appearance. He walked through the Realm, up the damp grass strewn with brown leaves from the passing autumn, and towards the little house nearest to the lake.

It seemed fitting for the house to be so small, but it was a lot nicer, and of nicer build than he expected. It was fair though, and he was glad for it. Calmly in the night, he started up the hill and up to the back door of the house. He felt through the Realm to see if anyone was awake inside and when he was as sure as he could be that the house was silent he unlocked the door telekinetically and entered.

Just the food he had taken wasn’t enough for him, yes, he felt sickened by the huge amount of sugar and salt. All he had saved back to hold him off from eating again was the cheese crackers. However, being alone wasn’t enough anymore, and as much as he felt he had to be alone and that he had no one who could understand, he realized there was one person out there who had not hurt him.

Silently, Iszeldier looked around the dark living room of the house he had broken into and he sighed a little. It wasn’t anything like the house he had been born in, one the inside this house was much bigger. Foremost in the center of the space, bordering the living room from the dining room there was a huge, very deep easy chair. After skating out this way for much of the afternoon, and with his belly full for once, he was exhausted and he sank into the chair, savoring the coolness of the leather against his skin. He let the chair rock slowly, smiling to himself pleasantly as he was tempted to let it lean back with the footrest just to fall asleep in its cool embrace.

Half consciously, he let the room get colder as he closed his eyes, savoring each priceless moment that allowed him to rest. “Freeze!” a voice suddenly shouted from behind him and as he tensed he did so, he stopped rocking the chair, and he didn’t dare look back. “I have 911 dialed in my left hand, and a .45 in my right hand, if you do anything I’ll pull both triggers!” it was a woman’s voice behind him, strong and young, without showing any fear.

“Get up and turn around slowly!” she ordered him at gunpoint and very slowly, Iszeldier rose from the chair and turned around. With empty hands before him, Iszeldier slowly raised his hands, “Stop! You make one more move and I’ll shoot you!” the woman’s face was shrouded in darkness, but Iszeldier still knew exactly who she was. “Who are you, and what do you want!?”

Very slowly, Iszeldier moved to take off his hat to let his braid fall out and reveal his ice white hair. “Don’t worry…” he whispered, fighting himself to keep a clear voice. The woman didn’t falter, her left wrist supporting her aim while holding her cell phone, and her pistol readied. Iszeldier didn’t have to lift a muscle other than letting his hat drop to the floor as he telekinetically turned on a few lights in the house.

The woman tensed, paranoid and only hesitating briefly before her eyes focused beyond the sight of her gun. Her eyes widened the second she saw his white hair, “Iszeldier!?” she swore and dropped her gun hastily, holstering it at her belt and stopping herself from rushing at him. Iszeldier saw the hesitation in her footing, his skepticism rising until she threw her arms around him and held him tightly, “you’re alive…” she gasped, “After the news—the rumors about the ASH, I wasn’t sure—”

Iszeldier slowly seeped into the true warm embrace and was reluctant to pull away, “I’m fine, mother…” he assured, looking up into her blue eyes.

Marigold Halo stood before him as regal as ever, but hardened somehow, a touch of anger in her heart which she couldn’t hide from him. “Come over here and let me look at you!” he insisted, pulling him by the shoulders into the light coming from the living room. She circled him once, observing how much taller he was, touching his braid, and impressed with everything she saw about him, “wow… you’ve really grown up,” she breathed with a hint of sorrow in her voice, “and it’s only been a year. How’s your father?” she asked with a touch of distain Iszeldier expected in her voice.

Frowning bitterly, Iszeldier let his eyes fall to the floor, realizing the hardwood was covered in a large rug that was scratchy to stand on, “fine I guess…” he whispered, “I haven’t seen him in I-don’t-know-how-long.”

Marigold leant into his face, “Well what about the Shadows, what are you doing here?”

The darkness in Iszeldier shone through like a cloud blocking out the sunlight and his demeanor grew evermore bleak. “I need a place to stay… somewhere Dad won’t find me,” he admitted softly. He wanted that to be enough but she eyed him expectantly, “I can’t go back to the Shadows, I—they don’t want me.” It was a lie, he knew that, but it was how he felt, the Shadows shouldn’t want him back.

Looking over her boy, Marigold’s expression grew tender in understanding gradually, “and your father is looking for you?” she confirmed and Iszeldier nodded, “God help anything that gets in Jules’s way when he looks because he will find it…” she breathed to herself and this disheartened Iszeldier further, “and don’t I know it? I watched him experiment on you for years, when I should have stopped it so much sooner.”

He watched his mother sit down slowly into the easy chair, thinking over the painful memories of how she fought with Jules constantly all through Iszeldier’s childhood. Inviting himself, Iszeldier sat slowly against the armrest of the chair and produced and acting sigh, “you don’t have to do anything for me, I was just wondering… if it would be alright for me to sleep here sometimes.”

She nodded quickly, “of course!” the response was a little hasty, too quick for Iszeldier’s liking, “I’ve got a spare room, you’re free to use it whenever!” she assured confidently “plenty of blankets…it’s been so cold lately,” Iszeldier’s paranoia might have been playing tricks on him but he dared to fear that she sounded rehearsed. She stopped and forced a very fake laugh, “that’s right… you won’t need them, you love the cold.”

Folding his hands together, still acting for his mother, Iszeldier wet his lips and allowed himself to meet eyes with her, “When… was the last time you saw Dad?” he asked, going out on a limb. After Jules started living in the ASH, Iszeldier had had no contact with his mother at all, Jules still claimed to be married to her until February or March of this year, but in the last days of the ASH it was all too clear that they had divorced.

The question was a test, and Iszeldier could see it in her eyes that she knew it. She laid a hand on his shoulder and produced a pitying smile, “It’s been almost a year now since I saw him, you have to understand with him in the ASH when he was recovering early on and learning his powers—”

“You’re lying!” Iszeldier spat abruptly, standing up in one quick motion. He was skittish and paranoid, but he knew this for sure, he was certain she was lying to him, everything from the moment she had put down the gun was a lie. “He’s been here, hasn’t he?” Iszeldier demanded, taking two steps away from his mother, “He came here to warn you about me,” his voice grew dark as he scowled at her, “that you should put on this act for me.”

Gasping, appalled by the accusation, Marigold tried to step nearer to him, “Of course not! Alright… Jules did come by, but he’s worried about you.”

Iszeldier was livid to hear this, Jules had been here, and he had walked right into his father’s trap. Hastily, Iszeldier sent out a wave in the Realm that Marigold could somehow feel, and he found that Jules was pulling into the driveway at this moment.  Thrusting his hand in front of him, Iszeldier froze this whole side of the house, from the living room, kitchen and dining room to the front door. Ice scattered from his fingers, coating everything in a thick frost which sealed the door as Jules started banging on it.

“Iszeldier!” Marigold shouted after him as he tried to leave, “you can’t keep stealing food, you can stay with me if you want, and I’ll keep your father away from you!” she hastily tried to promise but Iszeldier wouldn’t hear any of it, trying to move towards the back door. “Iszeldier!” she shouted again, chasing after him and grabbing him by the wrist.

Marigold had never seen an action in her son as violent as throwing her hand off and whirling at her infuriated, “Don’t you dare lie to me!” he screamed suddenly, “you were supposed to be the one person I could trust!” he insisted, his voice coming out of a shout but still firm and enraged, “the one person who hated him as much as I do!”

Shocked, Marigold stood frozen for a moment, not denying anything he said, but amazed by his intense hatred. The lights flickered out and all the lightbulbs Iszeldier had turned on shattered, as Marigold stared at her son’s glowing red eyes, “How could you hate him now? After all he’s done to try and make things right?”

As soon as she said this, Jules broke open the door, kicking it with all his might so that it flew open and he dashed inside, “Iszeldier!” His voice boomed and Iszeldier’s heart nearly leapt out of his chest with fear. Waving a hand, Iszeldier resurfaced the ice on the floor to a flawless pane of glass causing Jules to slip and fall the moment he set foot in the living room. “Iszeldier… wait!” Jules pled as he struggled to stand up again, fumbling to find any footing until he grabbed hold of the large sofa in the room.

By the time Jules caught sight of his son in real life, Iszeldier had his back turned and was running headlong out the door without looking back a single time. All Jules got to see was Iszeldier’s back as he ran away again and Jules despaired. He shouted a curse into the ice as it slowly evaporated into a cyan mist and vanished since Iszeldier wouldn’t allow his ice to melt.

As soon as he could get a grip on the floor, Jules got up to run after his son with all his might but before he could get to the door, Marigold grabbed him with a powerful grip, “Don’t bother, once he gets to the lake you won’t catch him.” She knew Iszeldier had too much of a head start for even Jules to catch up with him.

Jules didn’t want to listen and stormed out to the back patio, watching sorrowfully as Iszeldier froze the lake and skated across it in the distance. Jules sent out messages of love and reassurance to his son, but not even this got Iszeldier to look back. “You know he ran because you didn’t get here soon enough!” Marigold accused him bitterly.

Whirling, around, Jules stared at her disgusted by her tone against him, “How is this my fault!? What did you say to blow your cover like that!?”

The woman who had once been his wife, glared at him in the dim moonlight, furious and silent for only a second before she started yelling at him, “It was your dumb plan to get me to act like I was going to let him stay!”

Jules gripped the patio railing, biting down his tears and his anger. He was used to this, it had never subsided over the years and Iszeldier knew it. His parents had been screaming at each other since the day he was born. “I needed him to stay calm, I needed you to take him off his guard and make him feel safe! I needed you to keep him here just long enough for me to get here!”

“And then what!?” she snapped back at him, “Sedate him? knock him out? Tase him?” she saw the bleak confirmation in his eyes and shook her head disgusted at him, “You don’t change do you, did it ever occur to you that maybe that’s the main reason he knows better than to get close to you? He knows you’ll do this to him! So why would he trust me!?”

Whirling around at her, Jules fumed finally showing his true anger at her, “Because he didn’t suspect you!” he screamed, “You are the one person he hasn’t had contact with since the ASH was destroyed, and now your cover is blown, again!”

Nodding at this fact enraged, Marigold stepped closer to him, “Oh, so you’re blaming everything on me again! How is it my fault he got caught for using his powers, he was a baby!”

His hands clutching into fists, Jules had to walk away from her to suppress his violent hand, “You wanted to have a little family outing,” he mocked sarcastically, “and look where that got us!?”

Marigold crossed her arms and plopped down into the nearest patio chair, “You seemed happy with it, you got all that funding from the MARKOH to do all your experiments on him.”

Her bitter tone only fueled Jules’ ability to scream at her, “We wouldn’t have had to join the MARKOH if I had more time to find the Overseer! If we found Mark or Irwin, they would have protected us!”

She glared at him, “They would have never let you do this to Iszeldier!” she spat at him, getting up very slowly and stepping towards him, “This is your fault! You did this, and you can’t accept that you’re the one who’s going to have to pay the price!”

Jules inhaled to retort but at that moment Iszeldier reached the other side of the lake and blocked out their whole conversation from his mind. He had been able to hear all of it through Jules and it struck his heart so deeply to be able to hear his parents argue again. Iszeldier collapsed into the damp leaves of the forest floor, trying to get up again and run just a little longer but he stumbled just two paces later and fell to his knees in tears.

Iszeldier’s whole body trembled as he sobbed wholeheartedly, and he couldn’t even think straight enough to shroud his location in ice using the Realm. He didn’t want to focus hard enough, but most of all, he didn’t want to keep running. He loved being alone in his ice, but he had been on his own for a month now and he couldn’t stand it anymore. But he couldn’t go back to the Shadows, he couldn’t bear it, he just needed to keep going, just a little longer. Managing to stand up weakly, Iszeldier kept running, searching, for a soft place to fall.

 


Chapter 3 Available at http://e-kathryn.deviantart.com/art/TS-Star-II-For-a-Soft-Place-to-Fall-641637078?ga_submit_new=10%3A1495410180

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