Stealthily Akamu followed behind the boy as he wandered off the streets and into a wooded area. When he was sure there was no one else around Akamu bent to retrieve some soil from the ground and picked a seed from the pouch on his belt. Then he hurried up to fall into step beside the boy.
“I hear you have an extraordinary skill,” Akamu began.
“Then leave me alone or you’ll feel the weight of it,” the boy answered without even glancing at Akamu.
Akamu moved to hold out his handful of soil, but the boy suddenly turned on him and he felt a fierce gust of wind hit his chest. He stumbled backward, dropping the soil but managing to stay on his feet.
“I’m not here to challenge you,” Akamu said, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender.
“Then what do you want?”
“To help, if I can.”
The boy looked at him and Akamu registered in his face a deep anger that made his grey eyes flash. But there was a hardness in his expression – his mouth set in a line and his brow slightly furrowed – that Akamu believed to represent a general sadness and isolation that he himself could relate to.
Akamu bent again to grab a handful of dirt, “Watch,” he whispered as he dropped a seed into it and he willed it to grow. In an instant Akamu was holding a small sapling, with vibrant green leaves and thin, sinew branches.
The boys eyes narrowed and took a step back.
“That’s my sister’s skill – who are you?”
Akamu smiled, not taking his eyes off the boy in case he tried to bolt. He put the sapling down and stood – they were about the same height, and Akamu knew that if it came to hand to hand combat the boy would easily win.
“My name is Akamu. I am also a double birth and my own sister has your skill, though by no means is it was well controlled as your own,” Akamu bowed his head slightly to indicate his deference, “she sent me to you to help you escape the clutches of Than and his Seton Guards, having heard that you were being forced into actions that were not your intention.”
The boy cocked his head, examining Akamu with those flashing grey eyes. After a minute, whereupon Akamu simply stood looking straight ahead at him, he spoke.
“Why have we not heard of other double births if you tell the truth? Adamine and I were told we were the only ones.”
“Because Than is trying to manipulate you. To guilt you into doing his bidding. If you were to refuse he would do with you the same as he did to us: imprison you and threaten the safety of those you love until you do as he says.”
Again, there was a moment of silence and look of concentration on the boy’s face.
“He’s already doing that.”
“Your parents?” Akamu asked.
He nodded, slowly and deliberately.
“Then I am here to help in whatever way I can. My sister is determined that no other twin should have to go through our suffering.”
“Where is she? Your sister?”
Akamu dropped his eyes to look at the floor, breaking their contact. He felt ashamed to admit he had left her behind, abandoning her to Than’s whim. Rather than have to explain he settled on what he presumed to be the truth.
“Than killed her.”
They both remained silent for what seemed like a long time. The air around them still and the woods becoming darker until Akamu could only make out the outline of the boy stood a few paces away. Eventually, the boy must have decided to trust him, as he stepped forward, disturbing Akamu but with his hand held outstretched.
“I’m Vata,” he said, “can I presume you’d be recognised if we are seen together?”
Akamu nodded. Now that he had gained the boy’s trust he was not sure what else to do. The mission to find the double births in the East Land and make contact had been the one thing driving him until this point. He realised he had doubted himself, had not thought he would get this far, would disappoint Tadewi. Perhaps he would have, were it not for Masika.
“I am not alone. I came with another twin. From many years ago. She escaped when I was just a boy like yourself and has been hiding away. She is waiting near your house, looking for an opportunity to speak with your sister.”
Akamu noticed a gentle breeze. Vata must be angry with them, for trying to get to his sister.
“We do not mean harm, Masika will be discreet. She knows how dangerous the Seton Guard can be. They were the cause of the separation between them. She will not put your family in danger.”
Vata nodded, then began to walk back toward the village. “I must go back. Make sure they are safe.”
Akamu followed, a few steps behind, he did not plan to exit the woods with Vata just in case there were guards waiting on the edge of the street.
“Can we talk further?” he asked, hoping that Vata would agree to meet up later, so they could form a plan with Masika.
“When the moon reaches it’s highest point.” Vata pointed back toward the path they had been on, “There is a clearing with a stone circle, I’ll meet you there. I’ll try and bring Adamine, but she is reluctant to leave our parents alone with the Seton Guards, for good reason. She will want to keep them safe at all costs.”
The way he phrased Adamine’s concern for their parents seemed odd to Akamu, and he couldn’t help but ask:
“You are not as worried for their safety?”
Again there was a gust of wind that gave away Vata’s feelings. He was an expert at manipulating his ability, but he had not yet gained full control over the emotions that connected him to it.
“The guards would never kill them, not while they need us.”
Akamu sensed further detachment in this statement. It was true, but it struck him as strange that Vata did not seem to care about the fate of his parents. He suspected that Vata may be at that stage in a boy’s life whereupon disagreements between father and son could spoil a good relationship. Of course, this was speculation, but it might account for Vata’s disinterest in their welfare whilst also accounting for his duty to protect them.
“It would be good to speak to you both, if Masika has not yet had the opportunity to talk to your sister.”
“I’ve got to go,” Vata replied, and he stepped out of the trees and into the open space where the village began.
Akamu hung back, and was rewarded for his caution when he noticed a Seton Guard on the corner of the first street, no doubt waiting for Vata. Now all he could do was wait and hope that the boy would show up for their arranged meeting.