With those eyes, he could be a shape shifter.
I shook my head.
“The floor is yours, if you tell me why you are following me.”
He smiled and white teeth flashed. “Ah, it is so seldom I have the chance to spar with someone who favors my own weapon.” He tugged a spear from his side, snapping the two pieces together before swirling it in front of him. The make was identical to my own, down to the leather-wrapped handle.
I frowned. I’d never seen a spear that broke down like mine before.
I glanced at Peta who nodded, her green eyes soft as though she’d only just woken up. “You can always use the practice.”
“He’s the one from the graveyard. You think it’s safe?” I spoke loud enough that I knew he would hear me.
She didn’t answer me, just trotted away without a backward glance. My adrenaline spiked and I tightened my grip on my weapon. What the hell?
“She’s off to check on something. So you and I can talk, Lark.” He swung the spear so that it resembled my own, in a lazy wide circle.
I stepped back and beckoned him forward with a hand. He stepped toward me, a smile on his lips, and something in the air shifted.
I brought my own weapon up and settled into a crouch. I’d seen him do nothing, pull on no lines of power, and yet I felt it along my skin. He was using his ability with Spirit. I gritted my teeth. I would not be manipulated again.
“I am at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I do not know yours.”
He chuckled and settled into a fighting stance across from me. “No? Can you not guess? I have been watching you for a long time, Lark. I knew your mother. Trained her actually.” He stepped forward, his spear shooting at me in a fast thrust. I blocked him, spinning sideways in a full circle so I brought my blade back to waver between us.
“It appears you like your weapon far better than she did; that will save you one day, I think.” He smiled, and there wasn’t a mean thing about it. And yet I couldn’t help but be disturbed.
“My mother wasn’t trained to fight.” I swept the blade down toward his left knee. He jumped straight up, bringing his spear crashing to the ground, pinning the haft of mine.
I stumbled back, pulling a knife from my side. Ender rule 101. Never leave home with less than two weapons.
“She was trained to fight, even if she chose not to. She didn’t understand Spirit. Nor how it truly worked. It was her downfall.” He frowned. “I am hoping you will not make the same mistake as her.”
Spirit. What would he know of Spirit, unless . . . my jaw dropped as I stared at him. “Talan?”
He bowed at the waist, making a huge sweep with his arms and spear. “The one and only.”
Mother goddess have mercy, he couldn’t be. But then . . . it made a wicked sort of sense, except for one thing.
“What . . . why did you send Peta away, then?”
“Because she would not understand why I am here. And I am not ready to fully face the fact she loves you more than she ever loved me.” His eyes shuttered to half-mast and he gave me a small smile.
“Because you let her believe you died.” I spat the words at him, anger on her behalf snapping through me.
“Easy, Lark. There is much you don’t understand. I show myself to you so you know you are not alone.” He twisted his spear, breaking it down, and hung it from his waist. Tucking a foot under my spear, he flipped it toward me. I caught it, but did not break it down.
“Not alone? I have Peta.” And Bella. And Ash when I found him.
“She cannot teach you all you need to know when it comes to Spirit.” He shrugged. “She’ll keep you alive, though, and that is all you need right now. To survive a little longer.”
My jaw twitched. “So you thought you’d come by, introduce yourself, and then leave? Some help.”
His lips twitched. “Your time with me is not yet here, Lark—”
“Are you insane?” If I could have frowned harder, I’m sure my face would have split in half. “My time with you? You show up to taunt me, then to offer me help only to take it away—”
“I am the only one who can train you. Even now Spirit has begun to wreak havoc on your control. So I will tell you this, to prove I mean you no harm. Your power is out of balance because you are out of balance. Find your center, and Spirit will ease off. We can go from there when your training begins.” There was softness in his eyes, almost like he cared. Like for some reason my mental state truly mattered to him.
I took a step back, wanting to believe it would be that easy. “Why?”
Why for so many reasons.
Talan held a hand out to me. “The world is a far bigger place than any of the families realize, and you and I are nearly the last of ours. I have to try and teach you.”
“I see your training kept my mother alive.” Anger and fear making my words hard.
He didn’t flinch. “She made her choice, Lark. As you will make yours. Right now, you are rootbound, and your past holds you so tightly, you cannot grow into the power you are meant to be. You will be forced to make a decision soon, though. One that will change your life forever. Either you will remain as you are, tangled in the past, or you will reach for the future with both hands.” He drew in a long breath. “I will find you when the time draws close. And if you want to come with me before then . . .” He flipped something at me. I let the object drop to my feet, never taking my eyes from him.