I’d never been in a position where I felt like my father had been lying to me- he had things he didn’t tell me, adult secrets and whatnot.
This, however, was something else entirely.
As far as what the hell was going on, I didn’t know as much as Carper, not by a long shot. What killed me was that my father somehow knew more than Carper. Hell, he knew Carper without Carper ever knowing him. What was that all about?
I better get some freaking answers, and fast. I growled inwardly, and felt a pang in my chest as I attempted a sigh. And I’d better freaking get these ribs healed before I break someone else’s.
My father made his way off the path to a few rocks that could serve as a dry place to sit. I followed, as did Carper. As we sat down, I noticed something at my father’s side; it was a large sword, wrapped thoroughly in a thick cloth. I held my breath a bit in anticipation for what my father would say- about us, about the sword, anything.
After a few moments of my father glancing back and forth between us, taking us in, Carper coughed uncomfortably. I screamed inwardly for someone to say something.
“So, sir- ah, Brian. I ‘ad explained to Kyla just earlier about my world- which, apparently you’re already aware of.” My father nodded, so Carper continued. “I also told her that I was sent her by my father, General Brenos, to retrieve the package. Are you also aware of that?”
He nods. “You’re father entrusted me with it,” he smiled a bit, shifting the sword from where he had placed it leaning on the rock onto his lap. He held it gingerly. “This is the package.”
“Why would my father entrust you with the package?” Carper asked accusingly.
The smile dropped from my father’s face. “Did Brenos not explain everything to you? What happens when you cross into the parallel world, why you, of all his soldiers, ‘ad to be the one to go through?”
Carper merely shook his head, freckled face paling. His eyebrows were deeply furrowed, as were mine as I watched the exchange.
“So neither of you know,” my father sighed, rubbing his forehead, one hand gripping the sword- the package. He muttered a curse under his breath directed at Brenos. “So… For someone to be able to cross over into the parallel world through a regular old portal, without the power of something like this,” he gestured to the sword, “you ‘ave to ‘ave an alter- someone on the parallel world that is an alternate you. Someone so genetically similar that you’re nearly the same person- or twins, if you’d rather think of it as such.
“Carper, your father and I… Brenos and I are such twins. You may ‘ave noticed our stunning resemblance. It’s no wonder you were suspicious of me.” He smiled. “That also means, Kyla, Carper, both of you… You two, you’re…” He hesitated. We got the message.
Carper and I turned to analyze the other. I met his gaze with newfound suspicion and disbelief at my father’s implication.
“You mean to say that…” I began, not taking my eyes off of Carper.
“Kyla and I…” Carper continued.
“Are… twins.” I finished flatly, finally looking at my father. He rubbed the back of his head with an awkward smile.
“For all intents and purposes? Yes. In actuality, you two are the same person, just from a different timeline. But if twins is easier to understand, then yes. Maybe cousins, since Brenos and I are twins and your mothers are twins- although Brenos and I don’t act much alike, but your mothers on the other hand are a riot together, they’re so similar.” He laughed to himself, lost in thought now. I felt a vein pop in my forehead. “I remember this one time Amanda was chatting with Gillian-”
“Wait- my mother?” Carper and I gaped in unison, not bothering to exchange any sort of glance.
He stopped, realizing the situation. “Ah, right. Kyla,” he turned to me. “I’m not sure how to say this but… And, um, Carper,” he turned to him briefly, “you probably don’t know this either, but… ah, your mothers… they knew each other. Know each other. They’re alive, both of them. They’re just… in the wrong place. Gillian, Carper’s mother, is here, on this world. Amanda- Mum is on Carper’s world. They swapped; that’s how Brenos and I met and found out about this alternate world thing in the first place.
“Kyla, darling,” he turned to me with a grave expression and deep regret. Carper and I could only sit in shock. “I’m sorry I kept this from you. Your mother… she asked me to keep all this from you. She thought it’d be best for you not to go looking for her and for you to learn of her when the time was right. She and Gillian,” he turned to Carper, “both were so brave. Are so brave. They knew the package ‘ad to be used when the time was right, not in silly circumstances- their words, not mine.”
I shook with anger. Carper stood. “How could you- my father- whoever keep this from me?”
“It was your mother’s request. She knew you would go tromping around, fighting everyone who got in your way until you found her, and that wasn’t the point. The point is you ‘ave a great deal to do yet before you can reach her. You need to take the package-”
“The package? You think I give a shit about the package right now? Máthair is alive, here, and I can finally-”
“No, Carper, you can’t. I won’t allow it.” My father snapped, voice stern in a way that I’d never heard before. Carper immediately stiffened into a militaristic stance.
My father stood, hand sliding to the hilt of the sword and placing it to his side. I was shocked at how my father held so much authority as he stood before Carper.
“You ‘ave a duty. You must take Kyla and Claíomh Solais to your world. You and Kyla must stop King Andreas. You and Kyla, together, are the only ones on our side of the war that can wield it. Your mother understood this. You ‘ave to understand this as well. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir.” Carper snapped. He was clearly irate, but he swallowed any other response.
My father’s stance relaxed a bit. “I’m sorry it ‘as to be like this. I wished it to be different from the moment your mother left. We ‘ad to change how we lived our lives because of this new circumstance- hell, we ‘ad to move from our home to a new country because of this. There was no way Gillian could leave the country feasibly without going through all kinds of illegal measures, so we housed her with a close family friend.
“Then I ‘ad to leave the country with Kyla. I couldn’t risk her meeting Gillian and thinking she was her mother. You were both so young when it happened, we couldn’t tell you the truth. It’d interfere with what you ‘ave to do now.”
Carper had tears welling in his eyes, but he blinked them away easily, regaining his stoic expression. He nodded. “I understand, sir.”
My father suddenly embraced him. He hesitated, but finally Carper brought shaking hands around my father.
I seethed as I sat on the rock, anger temporarily blocking out what pain I still felt. I was livid. As touching as the moment was, I was still stuck on my mother being alive. I hadn’t been trained from birth for some big ‘destiny’. I didn’t have a reason to put up with this bullshit. I was, however, the one who moved to a new country because my father told me my mother had passed away. I didn’t have magic or monsters or mad kings to distract me from it. I was left to wander and navigate life with a new school and no mother.
I glared at my father, tears threatening to spill down my face as he broke away from Carper. How great, he found an understanding with his son. I thought bitterly, feeling utterly betrayed on many levels.
I caught my father’s gaze. I watched his heart break as he took in the betrayal painted on my features. “Kyla…” He floundered for a bit, but had no words.
“You told me we ‘ad to move because you found a new job in the United States. You told me my mother ‘ad died. You woke up every single day and lied to my face.”
“I did it to protect you.” He defended, voice barely above a whisper.
“You did it to protect yourself! To save yourself the trouble of explaining something you thought I wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t believe! You were right, of course, I wouldn’t ‘ave believed you- unless you would ‘ave actually tried to help me understand. But you never even tried! You never even tried to tell me, when I would cry at night because I missed my Ma, that no, she’s alive, just far away; you never-”
“You’re right!” He yelled. I shut my mouth, lip quivering in the brief moment of silence. Tears dripped down my cheeks. “I was scared. Terrified. How do you tell an eight year old, nine year old, twelve year old, seventeen year old that her mother is alive, years after telling her otherwise? I didn’t know. I don’t know. Besides the fact your Ma asked me to keep it from you, besides the fact you needed Carper as proof and I knew I ‘ad to wait for him to arrive before I could tell you, besides all of it- I should ‘ave told you. I wanted to tell you, and I didn’t know how, and I’ll regret not telling you- from keeping you from your mother- for the rest of my days.
“But,” he took a deep breath and knelt beside me, “for now, I need you to understand. What Carper says is real. What I say is real. They are fighting a war- a war that cannot be won without Claíomh Solais, the package. Before you can get your mother and bring her back home, you ‘ave to travel to Carper’s world and help him fight, using the package. Once everything’s settled down, you’ll return here with your mother, which will pull Carper’s mother back into her realm. Everything will go back to the way it was meant to be, and you’ll ‘ave helped Carper win the war. You two are the only pair we know capable of using the sword.”
The gravity of what was expected of me slowly sunk in. I knew I believed my father, and I knew I needed to do as he said- and that he didn’t ask this of me lightly- but still, it was hard to grasp. “What if I can’t do it?” I asked, my voice small.
He smiled at me, certainty in his loving eyes. “My darling Kyla- I know you can. You’re strong and brave, stubborn and willful, as well as kind and merciful and honest and just. You are the only one I’d trust to do it. I believe in you- your mother believes in you as well. She’ll be so proud when you finally meet her again, oh- I’m so excited for you!” His smile grew excited and child-like.
I laughed at my father’s antics. I rushed into a tight hug, emotion overpowering pain. “Thank you, Pa. I love you.”
He sighed. “I love you too, my darling. Now,” we stood and joined Carper, who watched with a forlorn smile. My father placed a hand on either of our shoulders. “You two need to get through to Eriu before the king gets impatient and sends more shades. Kyla, darling,” he turned to me, “I know you ‘ave many more questions, but I trust Carper to answer them when you two are in Eriu. I hear it’s a beautiful country, Kyla. You’ll have to tell me all about your adventure when you return.”
Carper and I exchanged a glance, both of us amused by my father’s excitement. In light of the current situation, it was probably best to carry a lighthearted air, and not dwell on the impending sense of dread.
Admittedly, I would be excited too- it was just too much to process in such a short time. I had no choice but to accept and move on.
“I will, Pa.” I nodded swiftly.
“How do we get back to Eriu?” Carper asked, tone urgent and willing.
“This.” My father placed the sword before him, grasp on the hilt. “It should be kept tightly wrapped unless you know what you’re doing; it’s dreadful on the eyes. You can use it to make a portal to alternate worlds- or just to other places on the world- as well as some other… hidden powers.”
“Hidden?” I interjected. “Hidden how?”
“Hidden as in… we have no idea how to use it.” My father gave a resigned smile and shrugged. “There’s not exactly an instruction manual- at least, none that we found. Word of mouth is how we learned it can create portals and separate those who are inside their alter. You two are separated by a weak spell that lasts less than twenty four hours.
“Using this sword to draw the blood and placing a hand on it while reciting the spell separates the alters permanently- no need to redo it, ever. At least, that’s what we’ve heard. One problem with the separation spell- it draws a lot of power. There’s not enough magic in this world to perform the spell, it won’t work. You’ll ‘ave to wait until you get there to perform it. There is, however, enough magic here to create a weak, short-lived portal in the general area where the user last was in the alternate world- or where their alter is. Brenos is in Eriu still, as far as I know,” he looked to Carper for affirmation, who nodded in confirmation. “So there shouldn’t be an issue if I make the portal and hand off the sword to you, Carper, before you go through.”
“Why him?” I asked out of curiosity, and definitely not out of jealousy.
My father turned to me with a mischevious smile. “You’ll see.”
He and Carper exchanged a glance, and Carper’s confusion turned to understanding, and from understanding to a wicked grin.
“Dear me,” I muttered, suddenly much more wary.
“Don’t worry about it, darling. Now, how about we get this show on the road?” My father broke away from us and picked up the sword. He took a few steps back and turned his back to us.
He held the cloth-bound sword in a stance as if he were squaring off in battle. I watched as my father heaved the sword above his head and made a wicked slash down through the air.
The air stilled, and the line my father had drawn in the air was traced with a bright yellow light. The line expanded and seemed to rip the air apart with a scream that sounded like a freight train. The yellow portal swirled in the air, dipping into the ground and above my father’s head, so it was easy to walk through.
“Come on!” My father gestured forward, voice mostly drowned out by the noise of the portal.
Carper and I gave each other a firm glance, and both nodded. My father handed off the sword to Carper and gave a quick hug, exchanging a few words. Carper nodded. My father then turned to me and hugged me as well.
“I love you,” his voice was probably very loud but right next to the portal it was barely more than a whisper.
“I love you, too!” I gave him a last squeeze and turned back to Carper.
He was trying to hide a wicked grin, but failing. He leaned to me and asked, “Ready to be the voice in my head?”
I froze, any trace of a smile dropped from my face. “What-?”
“Yep, payback time!” He gave a hearty laugh as he looped his arm in mine. Before I could get another word out, he jumped into the portal, dragging me along with him.