Colli pulled her trembling hand from Keleon’s grasp.
“We did it.” His smile held no reassurance.
“We stopped the fire, but that’s not the battle, let alone the war.” She brushed long silver-white hair from her face.
“Then what?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.” A word with no meaning formed in her mind. “Skad.” She gasped. Uncertainty shook her. “Skad did this.”
“Who’s Skad?” Keleon placed his hand on her shoulder.
She felt his strength. It didn’t help. “We have to find him. And stop him.” She turned to the car. Strangely, the torrents of water had only served to dig away at the front end of the vehicle, leaving easy retreat open to them. She knew it had something to do with the ring. Colli opened the door and climbed in, this time without urging.
Keleon took his place in the driver’s seat. The two small creatures that had urged their help moved back into the blackened brush.
“We have to get Mary.” Colli sighed. “I’m not sure why, but I do know we’ll need her skills, as well as all of our own, to defeat the evil that brought this on.”
Keleon reached over to squeeze her hand. “Can we defeat it?” Doubt filled his words.
Colli shivered. “We have to. If we don’t, this planet will look like what we’re leaving behind.” She looked down into her lap.
“Well then I guess we better gt going.” Keleon started the engine and put the car in gear. He looked over his right shoulder, leaving her to her own thoughts. He guided the vehicle onto the roadway. His hand moved to the seat behind her head. Even though his body turned toward her, his concentration moved away.
Once the tires gripped solid pavement, Keleon shifted gears and turned the vehicle in the direction from which they’d come. “Then I guess we’d better pull together and stop him.”
“Yes.” Colli closed her eyes. Despite the attempt to block it, the memory of Sung’s burned hand grabbing hers filled her mind. “I’m sorry Commander,” she whispered. Opening her eyes, she fought to formulate a plan. The ring’s glow brought soft light into the car. Dark descended by the time they reached the house.
Mary waited. “What happened?” She ran up to the car. “I tried to reach Sung, but there was no answer.”
Colli opened her mouth to reply, but couldn’t find the words to tell her sister that Sung was dead. Instead, she held up her hand.
“The ring?” Mary’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Come on. Let’s get inside.” Keleon reached across Colli and pushed the door open. “Mary. Help your sister.” The seatbelt snapped loose.
Inside the house they found only quiet. “Grandma called and asked Mom to bring Jake over for a visit.”
Colli nodded. She didn’t know what to say, but she was grateful. This would be hard enough to explain to Mary. Keleon motioned Colli to the same chair she had occupied earlier that day. “Let’s get something to drink first.” He turned away. “Mary, help me brew some of that tea you’re always bragging about.”
The two went into the kitchen, leaving Colli alone.
She twisted the ring on her finger. What happened? How can I fix it? Her mind raced. A tiny prick of awareness grew to a burning blaze of fear. Colli stood, knocking the chair over. A sharp bang shattered the silence.