“You are never alone,” a squeaky voice chimed in.
“Are you going to just stand there?” Chernbog leaned toward Colli. “Your voices can’t help you now,” he jeered .
It’s not us he’s afraid of.
Afraid? Of me? Colli hesitated. Why would anyone fear me?
The answer is in you. Look inside and join with the others. The voices grew quiet.
Colli smiled. Quiet, but not silent. She knew now she could draw on them, whenever she needed guidance. Her back stiffened with determination. Turning back in the direction she knew Mary and Keleon were, Colli moved slowly, ignoring Chernbog. Dark gave way to gray shapes and forms. A third smaller outline, between the two larger ones, grew brighter. Silhouettes took form.
Ashen skin dimmed the smile on Mary’s face. Keleon supported her. The fingers on his left hand that encircled her injured wrist had the same colorless quality.
Trevan stepped forward. Brightness from him grew, blocking the other two from her sight.
Remember. The memory of Sung’s last comment rang in Colli’s mind.
“I understand,” she whispered. “Trevan?”
“Collianna.” Trevan’s voice grew stronger with an unexpected maturity. “I want to go inside. Help me.”
Colli approached the shimmering circle that surrounded the others. She lifted her opened hands to the surface. When she placed her palms against it, instead of the razor sharpness that had cut into Mary, Colli found warm vibration.
Yes. A myriad of voices shouted gleefully.
Trevan moved closer to place his hands in the same manner, on the opposite side of the shield.
A soft hum filled the air and grew as the two pressed toward each other.
Brighter and brighter, the surface started to swirl. Warmth spread to the ground, melting snow and ice. Plants, once covered, stretched from the removed burden to bring life filled color to a growing vibrancy.
Animals, small and large, ventured out to watch and add their consciousness to that of Colli and Trevan. Soft tinkling grew to a loud shattering crash, as the shield collapsed. Shards of reflecting crystals spread across the ground.
Before Colli could enjoy her triumph, an invisible fist punched her in the gut, knocking the wind out of her.
“Ha.” Chernbog pushed his way between Colli and the others. “Bet you thought you won.”
Colli did her best to ignore him, trying to keep from doubling over. Somehow she remained upright.
“Treven. Keleon. Mary,” she rasped, “Get inside.” Colli turned to face Chernbog. She felt Mary and Keleon do as she asked, but Trevan, instead moved to stand beside her.
He took her hand.
Keleon, still supporting Mary stopped and turned back. He took Colli’s other hand. Warmth spread through her. Healing passed from both sides, building until it overflowed back to the others.
Mary, strength restored, stepped forward.
“What?” Colli tried to pull her back.
“Get inside.” Mary turned in a circle to smile at Colli, before once more facing Chernbog. “Strength comes for all of us in different gifts. Please, take Trevan…”