Beginning Note: So Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy has been a favorite of mine for several years. It is only now that I have been inspired enough to write short piece for the series. This is the first chapter of three in a very short story from Kartik's point of view, from each book. I hope you enjoy them!
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Libba Bray. Any mistakes are mine and wholly unintended.Intertwined
I stared at the ceiling of my thin, threadbare tent, trying to fall asleep. Usually the crackling of the Gypsies' fire and the hum of their native tongue lulled me to sleep, but sleep seemed determined to pass me by. I closed my eyes, trying one more time to slip into sweet dreamlessness. Again, she came into my thoughts. With a sigh, I sat up and rubbed the heel of my palms against my eyes. It was clear that sleep wasn't coming anytime soon.
I could still feel her lips pressed sweetly against mine, tasting of honey and boldness. I touched my still kiss-swollen lips with calloused fingers. I hadn't been able to help myself when the urge to deepen our kiss overtook me. A kiss that shouldn't have happened. A kiss that would never be accepted by anyone in her world or mine.
I sighed again and pulled on my rough boots and homespun shirt. Maybe a walk would clear my head, especially around the lake. It was a peaceful place where I could gather my thoughts in silence.
The Gypsies gathered around the fire looked up as I emerged from my borrowed tent. I offered them a tentative smile and a slight nod. Ithal nodded back before returning his attention back to the wizened storyteller next to the blaze. I wound my way through the camp, mind unsettled. I was grateful that the Gypsies had taken me in when I had nothing and no one. And it did make it easier to keep an eye on the girl and her three overly curious friends.
Lost in my own thoughts, I was startled by a thin, wavering voice that came from the trees.
"Carolina? Don't hide from me so!"
I walked towards the voice and found the aging Gypsy fortuneteller by a copse of trees that were still trying to cling to their last leaves.
"Mother Elena, what are you doing out here this late?" I asked the poor, fragile lady, hoping she would snap to lucidity. She made me nervous sometimes when she was submerged in her madness.
"I am searching for my Carolina," the woman said. "Have you seen her?"
I shook my head.
"No, but I'm sure she will find her way back soon," I said, taking hold of the old woman's arm, feeling sorry for her. "Let's take you back to your tent where it's warm."
The fractured woman allowed me to lead her back to her dwelling, where she sat on a cushion and shuffled a deck of battered tarot cards on a small wooden table. I eyed the cards nervously.
"Young Kartik, the cards are calling you," Mother Elena said, waving her hand at the well-worn cards.
"Well, I would rather –" I began, my heart beating wildly in my chest. I already knew my destiny. It was to prevent the girl from continuing her reckless trips into the realms, and finally secure my place in the Brotherhood of the Rakshana. That's what I wanted. I didn't want the old woman to tell me any differently.
"Come. Sit," she said, beckoning for me to take the cushion across from her.
Hesitantly, I sat down, sweat beading on my forehead and upper lip, despite the chill in the air. I watched with growing apprehension as Mother Elena shuffled and arranged her cards. A slight frown appeared on her face and I swallowed hard.
"Your path is not an easy one, Brother Kartik." I blinked in surprise at the use of my Rakshana name. "The path you journey on is dangerous. You will be tested in your loyalties to many different parties. Your enemies are great and powerful and familiar. Your heart will break, but will be mended. And the girl with the fire hair…"
Mother Elena paused, a quick smile flitting across her face, and I sat up, listening intently to how my destiny was entangled with the beautiful and intriguing girl that had wandered into camp earlier seeking a fortune from the very lady before me.
"The girl with the fire hair is a mystery to you. You wish you could easily place her as you do others, but it is impossible. You resent her for the tragedy of your brother. You fear her and your feelings for her. Don't. Fear will drive her away and she is deeply entwined in your fate. You will be a great hero and you will be the one to save her. But do not be afraid to make sacrifices. Don't fear the choices you will make. And do not me afraid of love. It is what makes life beautiful. Do not be afraid to love her."
The old woman stopped and blinked rapidly. She suddenly became aware of where she was, and looked at me, a lopsided, crazy smile on her lips.
"My Mary came to visit me today," she said unexpectedly. I just nodded, not sure whom she was talking about. "It had been so long. But she did not have Sarah with her. Sarah has taught Carolina naughty things like hiding. She's a dark one, that girl. Always wanting to know about the dark and its secrets." Mother Elena shook her head, the movement making the bangles at her wrists clack together with a metallic ring. "Mary had a timid, broken girl with scars inside and out and a ferocious, broken girl with hair like corn silk. But Mary was the same, green eyes and all."
Green eyes, I thought. She must mean-
"Are you here for a reading?" Mother Elena asked all of a sudden as if seeing me for the first time. She went to shuffle her tarot cards and frowned down at them. "I don't remember taking these out. Carolina, are you playing tricks? She loves tricks, my Carolina."
"I'm fine, Mother," I said, mind ready to burst with what the sometimes feebleminded woman had said. "Goodnight."
I left her muttering to herself and reshuffling the battered deck.
Only a few of the Gypsies were still gathered around the fire by the time I got back to my tent. I let Ithal know that I had found Mother Elena wandering in the woods and where. He thanked me in Romani and said someone would keep an eye out for her, even though the woman's wanderings were frequent. I entered my tent and prepared myself for sleep again, slipping off my boots and shirt, my mind still processing everything the Gypsy fortuneteller had said. She had told me that the girl, Miss Gemma Doyle, was deeply entwined in my destiny. I probably should have realized this earlier. With the Rakshana finally finding a path back to the realms, she would be deeply ingrained in my life.
And she had told me not to be afraid to love her. Love. I shivered at the thought of it, despite the heavy wool blanket that was over me to keep the night's chill awake. Love was a strong and powerful word and emotion. Did I really love the girl holed up in the formidable academy on the rolling hills? She certainly frustrated me with her lack of caution, but she drew me in with the innocence and trust that was always reflected in her hauntingly green eyes. I didn't think that I loved her, but maybe one day I would.
Sleep finally overtook me a few moments later and I slipped peacefully into dreaming of a garden that was nothing like I had ever seen, a beautiful temple that emitted colorful smoke, a circle etched on a wall, and the peals of laughter of a girl with hair the color of fire.
A/N: Please enjoy this story. I hope I did one of my favorite characters justice. Please read and review and ignore any plot holes. My brain doesn't work late at night.