Gareth saw the tears as Jasmine lowered her head a little. Quietly pushing himself off the bed, he silently crept out of the tent. He walked to the edge of the shimmering shield, and stood there with his feet slightly spread and his arms crossed over his chest, watching the remaining minutes of the sunset. He knew she needed a minute to gather her thoughts and emotions. It wasn’t as hard to keep from taking her negative energy as he made it seem. He barely felt it, but he still needed her to think that it was dangerous around him. He didn’t want any other halfling to track her from her powerful emotions. He was already worried enough because of the attack earlier. He wondered how they had found them. Were they still on his tail? He hoped they had walked far enough from the attack.
He thought about his words to a dying man. I promise to protect her, always. It had become increasingly difficult to protect her, especially since Jasmine had come to be on the queen’s radar. He wasn’t sure how it had happened yet, but as soon as he knew, the leak would be destroyed. Gareth had always known where Jasmine had settled and created a home, but the queen didn’t know that. If she ever found out, about that and so much more, the entire world would be in trouble. He just needed time.
He hoped his tactic of making her feel at ease with him was working. He needed her to trust him, everything depended on it. He was frustrated at not being able to tell her anything, but he needed to keep his secrets for now. He needed the queen to know that he was on her side. He took a deep breath as he thought about how complicated it was becoming. But, he had known that it would. He had always known, ever since he had joined the Resistance and made a pact with a dying man about keeping his very special daughter safe. Jasmine was unaware of the full potential of her powers, and she needed to stay oblivious for a while longer.
Gareth flexed his magical muscle, testing his shield, prodding it for weakness. He gazed at the emerging stars and reached out to feel their power. It was quite heady, but he’d practiced channeling it for decades. He centered his chi and became one with the universe; feeling bits of himself spiderweb out and come back as one. He felt stronger, rejuvenated from the attack the previous night. He saw everything as he released the magic out into the universe again, even the stars that nearly anyone else couldn’t see. He quietly contemplated his plan, pinning all his hopes on whether or not Jasmine would trust him at the end. He would have to do some things that seemed like he wasn’t on her side, and he hoped that she would see past that, knowing he had no choice.
The Resistance had started when generations of full blooded halflings bred with full blooded fae, creating a race of mixed blood. With each generation, the halflings were less inclined to feed off of negative energy, and more inclined to give energy back as they manipulated it. They also weren’t as evil or twisted, and Gareth was fifth generation mixed. His father was part fae part halfling, and his mother had been full-blooded fae. The fact that he could pull energy from the universe was unique; there was only one other who could. This was why Jasmine was to be protected at all costs, even his own life.
Jasmine’s father, Brock, had joined the Resistance, an assortment of mixed blood and full blooded fae working together to plan an attack against the queen and the other full blooded halflings at her side, when he found out just how special his daughter was. He had repeatedly warned Jasmine that she could never let anyone know how powerful her magic was and had started working with her. Brock and Gareth had gotten quite close during their work with the Resistance, as Gareth had been telling Brock how to train his daughter. The queen had found out about Jasmine though, and he had never been able to find out who the traitor was. She had dispatched a team to murder everyone in the village but Jasmine.
The queen knew of Gareth’s powers, and frequently used him to her advantage. He was her number one. He had let this happen, strategically letting himself get close to her. He shivered at the atrocities he’d had to commit over the long years. Thinking about that night, he had been terrified that someone else would get to Brock and his family before he could. He had sighed in relief when he felt the field in place around the home. He kept an eye on the house as he attacked the others in the village. When it finally went down, he knew that Brock was dying, and too weak to keep it up. He’d shouted that he had this house, and ran inside.
Brock’s wife and other daughter had screamed, but Brock had reached out with a hand, looking old and lying on the floor. He’d whispered in Gareth’s ear. “Keep Gabriella and Aria safe. Take them through the trap door and bring them to the Resistance. They don’t know anything, you must tell them. You have to gain their trust.”
His heart in his throat, Gareth dared ask, “And Jasmine?”
“She’s safe, out of the village, through the trap door. You have to protect her. Do whatever you must, but she has to stay safe,” Brock had said fiercely, gripping Gareth’s hand tight. He could feel the older man fading. He made his promise just before Brock had died, and squeezed his hand. Brock had bowed his head over the clasped hands for just a moment, mourning his dear friend, but he knew he didn’t have time. He’d told the women that they could trust him, and he led them to the trap door and whisked them away to the Resistance, leaving them, in safe hands. He doubled back and tracked Jasmine, his senses taking more in than others could.
With his mixed blood, he could perform both light and dark magic, and he kept himself surrounded in darkness so she never knew she was being followed. He had been able to feel her fear and he mourned for her, and for himself. He knew that she wouldn’t be able to keep working on her magic to bring it to its full potential, so she thought all she knew was all that she had. He followed her until she was a safe distance away and she had set up a house. He went back to the queen, reporting that the trail had fallen cold. For decades, he checked in on her every once in a while. He had been plotting how to get Jasmine to the Resistance when the queen had summoned him, to follow a lead on where she was in hiding, and to bring the girl to her if she was in fact there.
Gareth had worked furiously for months, on a plan to get Jasmine to the queen first, and then to get her to the Resistance. The last six months, he’d watched her, making sure no one else claimed the bounty on her head, to bring her to the queen alive. He had staved off a few attacks without her knowledge. He was also working on trying to figure out who had betrayed Jasmine’s location. He didn’t think it was just by chance someone had stumbled upon her. The Resistance kept growing in numbers, and there was a healthy number who knew about Jasmine and her power because it was so important to the cause. He didn’t think the queen knew about the Resistance, but one could never be certain just what she knew.
He ran a hand through his shoulder length black hair, placing his hands on his hips. There were more stars out now, and Gareth just looked at them, thinking about the woman in the tent, crying over her perceived loss of her mother and sister. He wanted to tell her that they were okay, but he couldn’t, he could only hint that there were some that are okay. The less she knew right now the better. He felt her loss as his own, and he hoped he could keep his feelings for her at bay when he had to do necessary evil. Over the years, he had grown so fond of her, and attached, but only from a distance. He could only hope that this didn’t cloud his judgment.
Yes, everything was certainly complicated when he thought about his feelings for Jasmine, never mind the fact that he had to give her to the queen and then get her back. It was only one more wrench to throw into the cogs, he sighed. Gareth felt her poking his energy, and knew that she realized he was no longer in the tent, giving her privacy. He had needed this time as well, to reflect and remember, and think. He looked out at the limitless sky, wishing his choices weren’t so limited. He wished he could take Jasmine straight to the Resistance, but he needed the queen to still think that he was on her side. The stars were shining and the moon was glowing; he could feel the power, always tugging on his consciousness.
He shifted when he heard the rustle of the tent flap, as her heard her bare feet slowly walk to where he stood. He didn’t turn to look at her, not knowing what kind of emotion would be on her beautiful face. He could feel a little sadness coming from her, but he also felt strength, and he didn’t know what he would see. She stopped beside him at the edge of the force field, looking at the same sky. They were silent, both contemplating the universe and everything it held. He wanted to tell her everything in that moment, but he held back and held onto his silence. It almost seemed like a magical moment between them, and he hated to break it.
He heard her sigh, and wondered what she was thinking. She didn’t speak, and he almost wished she would, if only to tell him what was on her mind. They stood for a while longer before Jasmine spoke first.