Author’s Note: I am nearly too late with this, but as much as I knew that I could use it, having written it not that long ago, I did not want to. In part it is because it could be spoilery, in part because I should post from something besides this story, and in part because I’m no longer sure I like it.
Still, with this headache, I can’t think of an alternate piece for Thursday Travels. This one… wins.
“This car is not big enough for all of us,” Enadar grumbled, shoving at the bags in the cargo area of their car, trying to get comfortable. The car only had seats for five, and the girls got the back seat by default when Alik took the keys and the tracker got the front, leaving Enadar with the luggage because he supposedly fit better back here. That was a lie, but the three of them probably had more room without him. He wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t have so much junk in the back.
“We could have left you behind,” Felise said, and he gave her a look as she smiled at him. He did not know why she always had to be like that, but for some reason, they weren’t good at not snapping at each other.
“We are not leaving anyone behind,” Alik said in what Enadar would have called his stop fighting or I will pull this car over voice if his brother didn’t have an ability. “Don’t start.”
“I think we could have left someone behind,” Enadar said, glancing toward the tracker using his phone in the front seat. Alik’s eyes darkened. “Or maybe we should have left some of this girly stuff so I would have somewhere to sit.”
“Yeah, because it’s not like you don’t have the biggest bag back there, since it’s full of books,” Felise said. “And my stuff is not girly.”
“Like anyone would call you a girl.”
She might have hit him, but Alik got there first—without even moving. Enadar jumped, rubbing at his sore thigh. “Hey! I am supposed to be immune to that.”
“Not if I do it the right way,” Alik said. “Behave, all of you, or I will do more than give you a little shock. You can spend the rest of this car trip—and it isn’t even that long a trip; this is unnecessary—unconscious.”
The tracker gave him a slight frown from the front seat, and Enadar thought Lisea was trying to pretend that she wasn’t here again. Felise shifted forward, frowning a little. She might not believe he meant it, but that was why he did not have a stop fighting or I will pull this car over voice. He had a stop fighting or you’ll end up unconscious voice.
“That is not necessary,” Malina said, though Enadar thought that she looked carsick, and she never got carsick. “I have a better idea.”
Felise looked at Alik. “You didn’t even hear what she was going to say.”
“Don’t have to,” he answered, speeding up to pass the small sedan in front of them. At least there wasn’t a lot of traffic today. “I’m not doing it.”
“It’s a better solution,” Malina said as the car made one of its terrible lurching noises. Felise winced. “We could all use a distraction now. Between the car and the cramped quarters and the abilities—please, Alik.”
His brother’s jaw tightened, but Enadar knew that he would give in. Everyone did to that tone of Malina’s, though it didn’t help that she looked like she might vomit all over everyone because she was too close to the tracker and couldn’t shut his ability out.
Next time, she got the cargo area.
“Use this,” she said, reaching into her blouse and pulling up the necklace. Enadar tried not to wince. He knew she started wearing it after their mother died, but he didn’t like being reminded of it any more than Alik did.
Alik let out a breath. “Sometimes, Malina—”
“I know,” she said, covering the polished stone with her hand. “You still love me, though, so go ahead and tell it.”
Alik grunted. He kept his eyes focused on the road in front of him, not glancing even close to the tracker. Must be embarrassing, that side of him when everything else he did was so tough and prickly just like the jerk in the passenger seat, but that made Alik the better person.
“There was a kingdom surrounded by a shining blue sea, straight and smooth almost like polished stone,” Alik began, and Enadar sat back, amazed by the victory that Malina had managed. Alik had sworn off that story long before Mom died. “It was isolated from the rest of the world, set apart by that sea. The rulers of the kingdom were fair and kind, and the citizens of it had known peace all their lives. They did not think there could ever be a threat to their existence. No one was curious about what was beyond the sea—no one besides the crown prince—”
“Was his name Enadar?” Felise asked. “Is this one of his bedtimes stories?”
“No. It isn’t.” Enadar glared at her. “Don’t you dare ruin this, Freckles. Alik hasn’t told this story since before Mom died, and this one is Malina’s favorite and one of his best.”
“The lonely prince,” Malina whispered, twisting the chain the stone was on around in her hand. She closed her eyes with a smile that had the tracker frowning at her.
Alik glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “He was not lonely.”
“He was stuck fighting a war without anyone’s help, without anyone even acknowledging what he was doing for them. It seems like a lonely life to me,” she said. “Go on, please. Tell us the rest of it.”
Alik shook his head. “I think this is not as good an idea as you thought it was.”
“I’d like to hear the end,” Lisea said, and Enadar knew that sealed it. No way Alik could manage to ignore the princess and Malina.
“The prince was aware of the limits of the sea, and he felt a growing threat outside of their borders, but he could not convince anyone else that it existed,” Alik went on, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. He forced himself to stop. “One day, he went across the sea, chasing after the threat, foolishly believing that he could protect his land from anything that was coming…”