Because my normal beta is in hospital with a dislocated ankle, peanut_emma has beta read this chapter. Get well soon, Scara!
Chapter 14. Out of Focus
They were sat in Guude's living room. Sipping tea as Guude told them his story. Erin felt sick to her stomach, hearing about Greenwood slaughtering Guude's family was horrible.
"Joe let me mourn for a little while, while he gathered the other members. But as soon as he'd found Meria and Liana he pulled me up and told me to pull myself together and get over myself. For a good two years I could barely speak to Joe or Etho, only really interacting with the other two." Guude explained shakily. The old emotions were raw and at the surface again.
"And what about after those two years?" Chad asked gently.
Guude ran a calloused hand through his short hair, "I slowly forgave him. Maybe forgive is the wrong term, but I stopped actively plotting his murder," he laughed softly, "it's hard to believe that this was over a hundred years ago."
Erin took a long drink of her tea, thinking Guude's words over, "He's not a good man, is he?"
"Far from it. Joe was, well is, one of the worse men I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. But when you spend a good twenty years with someone it's hard to not form a friendship of sorts." Guude sighed, "I would never class Joe as a good friend, but we became friendly."
"It's like a friendship version of Stockholm syndrome." Erin mused.
"What?" Vechs looked at her, confused.
"Oh yeah, Earth thing. Stockholm syndrome is when a captive starts to feel a bond with their captor. They start to trust them, defend them even. It's messed up, but happens. It's possible that that's what you experienced. You went through something really traumatic with Greenwood and that created a bond." Erin explained.
"Huh, that's possible." Guude said, "I've always agonised over the fact that I let myself trust this man who'd had my parents and brother killed." His voice wobbled and Erin felt helpless. She didn't know what to do, she didn't know this man, she could hardly give him a hug.
It was then that a young boy ran into the room excitedly, "Daddy!" He jumped into Guude's lap, "Are you okay dad?" He asked looking at his father worriedly.
"I'm alright, Markus." He said softly, placing a kiss on his son's head. Erin felt her heart break a little, Guude had named his son after his brother.
Markus looked around at them, "Who are your friends, dad?"
Guude smiled, "Well, he's a journalist called Chad Johnson," Guude said pointing to Chad, he moved his finger to Vechs, "he's a map maker called Vechs Davion and she's a seeker; Erin Wayne."
Markus waved at them with a grin, "Hello!" He said cheerfully. This little ball of energy was really lightening the mood. The little boy then frowned, "She looks like that woman in the photos."
"Yes, she does look quite a lot like her," Guude agreed softly, "but the woman in the photos is Liana Wicken, this is Erin Wayne."
Erin felt a chill run up her back, "I'm sorry, did you say Liana Wicken? I thought her surname was Ray."
Guude nodded, "It was, but then she married a man called Dorian Wicken, lovely guy."
Erin gulped and if she'd been standing she'd have surely fallen down from shock, "The files we got don't mention any family other than her siblings…"
"No, Dorian had the information withheld when his wife died. They had a daughter, Aureylian."
That was the final nail in the coffin, Erin could feel panic rising inside her, something Chad clearly noticed because he leapt up and knelt down in front of Erin, "It's okay, breathe. Don't worry, it's okay." Erin faintly heard Guude telling Markus to go off and play.
Everything was getting confusing, she couldn't focus. It seemed the people in her dream or vision or whatever it was were telling the truth. Her real name was Aureylian Wicken. But if that was the case, how had she ended up on earth? And why?
Why would her birth parents give her up? For her safety? She had to get to the bottom of this. But first she had to calm down. Erin looked around, it felt like the room was spinning. She tried to steady her breathing. She turned to look at Chad, focused on his face.
"Just breathe, it's okay." Chad said softly.
Erin felt her breathing start to steady, the world stopped spinning and the panic was beginning to dissipate. She looked around at the others, "It's just… all a little overwhelming." She managed.
"Don't worry about it," Guude said, "I'm sorry I made you panic."
"It- it's all right. I've gone my whole life wondering who my birth parents are and I find out that not only are they dead but they're also from the completely different universe to the one I know. It's really confusing and I started to panic." Erin explained, still taking deep breaths. She felt Chad push her cup of tea into her hands. She drank, slightly detached.
"Would you like me to tell you a bit about your parents?" Guude offered gently.
Erin nodded, "I'd like that."
Guude smiled, "Well, I'd known your mother the longest, she was one of the greatest casters I'd ever met. She was very kind and caring and would look after me when I was very young. As for your dad I met him much later. I'd never seen your mother as happy as she was with Dorian. Charming gentleman with a love for carpentry. You have his smile, the kind that could make even the saddest person feel better."
Erin smiled, "Thank you, Guude," she whispered, "what happened to my parents?"
"There was an accident when Joe was trying to make a gate between Sunreth and Earth. He got stuck on Earth and Liana got put in a coma for three years. We thought we'd lost her. When she woke up she was mad with the need to find Joe and bring him back. I was terrified that I'd lost a friend. Then suddenly, after four years of insanity, she went back to normal. To this day I don't know what happened. Everything was normal, for a while. We went on with our lives. Meria and her wife started studying magical mutations. I made a name for myself as a blacksmith. And Liana became a teacher, she taught potions at a small magic school, where she met Dorian who was the librarian."
As Guude talked Erin imagined the lives the old members of Sphinx must have had. She pictured Meria and her wife travelling and learning, Guude in his shop and her parents meeting.
"In 1951 I got word of your parent's wedding. It wasn't a big wedding, that wasn't Liana's style. During the vows your mother used magic to slow Dorian's aging down to the same rate as hers, a feat only an extraordinary caster can perform. Fifteen years later, you were born."
Erin frowned and held up a hand, "Hang on, I was born? That can't be right, I was born in 1986. I may not be great and maths, but 1951 plus fifteen isn't 1986."
"No, it's 1966. Your mother was a caster, some of her magic and slow aging will have been passed on to you." Guude explained, "I imagine your magical is fairly powerful for someone who's only part caster, based on how strong Liana was."
"So I'm not thirty… I'm fifty?" Erin leaned back against the sofa, "holy crap, this is confusing."
Chad stood up, "Okay, let's sat Erin's aging is half the rate of a caster, which would be half a slow as a human. Guude, do you know when Erin was sent to Earth?"
Guude nodded, "Yes, 2001. Dorian apparently heard a prophecy that told him the two of you couldn't be on Sunreth, the prophet said it was dangerous. So he took you to Earth. Last I heard of his plan was he was going to separate himself from you to protect you. I suppose he got a powerful memory spell to make people think you'd been there all along."
"Wait, if Doria- my dad was on Earth, how did you know he was dead?" Erin frowned.
"I'll show you," Guude stood up and went to chest of draws. He pulled a bundle of keys from his pocket and inserted one into the lock of a drawer. He carefully withdrew a metal square, about half an inch tall and maybe eight inches in width and length. Guude placed it on the coffee table. It was like a photo frame; it had a sheet of glass and underneath were names, some with little lights next to them.
"A few years before you were born your mother designed this, with a bit of my help. It displayed the names of all the old Sphinx members as well as their family and whether or not they were alive. See, I have a light by my name, whereas your parents don't. Joe's light never worked properly, it always flickered on and off." Guude explained.
The names with lights were: Skereth, Meria and Kerin Luran, Jason, Amedee and Markus Guude, Etho, and Aureylian Wicken. That name felt alien to Erin, it didn't fit for her, but she felt like keeping the name given to her by her adoptive parents was a betrayal of her birth ones.
"I think I'm going to take my parent's surname, but I want to stay as Erin."
"Erin Wicken." Chad said, trying the name, "It's got a good ring to it."
"Erin Wicken it is then," Erin said with a smile. The name felt right.