“How old are you?” Tremor asked, glancing at her. The mud must have made it hard to guess.
“I’m twenty-two.” She’d remember this birthday, all right, but not for the usual reasons. Someone should make mailing jewelry a federal offence. “If those Fates wanted me to set you free, why did they try to kill me? I don’t know how I survived, but I’m going to have nightmares for the rest of my life.” She shuddered.
Tremor chose his words carefully. “They wanted to transform you. You’re now an earth elemental like me.”
She stopped dead. “What? What are talking about?” she asked in a small voice. She couldn’t take any more shocks.
He kept walking, a stiff, determined stride, scanning the trail for danger. “You’ve been changed. Your personality is the same, but your body isn’t. You’re of the earth now.”
She scrambled to catch up. “Wh-what does that mean? I’ll look like you soon?” She scanned his wasted body in panic.
He snorted. “I’ve been imprisoned a long time. I’m not surprised I look terrible.” He looked at her with deep appreciation. “That rock was the first food I had in hundreds of years. Thank you.”
Cara barely heard his thanks, too busy panicking. “You eat rocks. Am I going to have to eat rocks, too? What else is wrong with me?” She tugged uselessly at the bracelet, trying to undo the madness.
He stilled her hand. “It won’t come off. If you could remove it, you’d crumble to dust. It’s what happens to our bodies when we die.”
Hyperventilating wouldn’t help, but Cara didn’t care. Fear churned in her belly, aggravating the pain of the boot to the gut. “I can’t die, it’s my birthday,” she stammered, aware she wasn’t making sense. “I mean, I’m human. You can’t just change that!”
“I didn’t,” he said with strained patience. “I would have chosen an elemental. Curse the Fates for scheming witches!”
“What do you mean, ‘you would have chosen’? What’s wrong with me?” It was one thing to object to being changed and another to be rejected as unworthy. Not that she wanted to be like him, but it was the principal.
“Nothing. Forget it.”
Tremor must not have known women if he thought that would shut her up. “Look, I’m just trying to understand what’s going on. None of this makes sense.” They’d reached her house, so she used the hidden key and opened the door, grateful to be home. She glanced at Tremor, unsure what to do with him. If in doubt, fall back on the usual habit of hospitality. “Would you like something to eat?”He looked at her, stone faced, or maybe it was gargoyle faced. He really did look bad. “I can only absorb so much energy today. It will take time for my full strength to return.”