"Quiet, Sora. Please." I whispered, trying to calm my young sister. Sora was only four. She didn't know what was happening, why we had to hide, and who was searching for people like us. We were what they called "Claimed." The mortal hosts, in a way, for the Spirits and their magic. I had heard of places where they considered our curses a blessing, powers being allowed to grow, taught how to control the extremities of our magic. Our kingdom wasn't one of them.
I could hear the footsteps of the officials overhead, and I clamped my hand over Sora's mouth as she let out a small, fearful whimper. The officials were trained by the best, and they had weapons. We didn't.
We've been in hiding for around six months, ever since Sora was Claimed. I had hid my abilities, always making sure to stay just on the average line. Other twelve- year- old Telepaths can't read minds at the age of seven, being able to penetrate through walls put up by even the most gifted. At twelve, I shouldn't be able to manipulate mind and matter effortlessly. Yet I do.
Sora was Claimed half a year ago. The people who were supposed to be our parents were about to hand us over to Sinistrian officials, but I took my sister one night and ran. We needed to get to Riverdeen. It was closer than Forane, and one of the two kingdoms where the officials didn't take kids like us into custody, being ripped apart from our families just to unwillingly submit ourselves to experimentation.
We've been hiding with this family for a few weeks, and will need to get moving once night falls. A few years ago, their son, who had been my age, had been stolen away from them. They were willing to shelter us in the extra storage space of their basement. It wasn't guaranteed to be safe, but it was better than being out in the open, especially with someone as young as Sora with me.
The footsteps subside and I relax, pulling Sora close and stroking her hair. "They're gone now. it's okay." I whispered, voice echoing in the small, cramped space behind one of the shelves. She was still frantic and terrified, eyes flitting around the darkness, finally landing on me. We couldn't see each other, but she curled up on my lap and pressed herself into me as I wrapped my arms around her, back against the wall, exhaling the breath that I had been holding.
It was about an hour of complete silence before we heard footsteps again. These were lighter and softer- not the ones of armed guards and officials. They hurried down the stairs and came to a stop in front of us, and I could tell by the soft clicking sound that they were moving the shelf.
The light of mid- afternoon spilled into our little space, and I shielded my before blinking.
The woman knelt down to our level, pulling both Sora and I into a hug. I didn't resist it, melting into her before pulling away after a few moments.
"You're so brave." she whispered to my little sister, managing to give a smile, tightly holding my sister's hand as Sora leaned into her, the woman stroking her hair just like I had done. "You too, Rynn." I nodded. I needed to be brave- it was for Sora. I couldn't let them find us. I couldn't let them find her.
Her body couldn't physically take what they would do if she was taken to one of the Sinistrian fortresses. She would be forced to push her powers to the limit, beyond what she was capable of. Mentally, it would break her.
The woman's name was Cassandra Pelles, but we just called her Cassa. Her dark hair was just starting to gray, eyes a beautiful shade of chocolate brown. I wished that we could stay with this family. Their only child was dead. And having us here, even in hiding, seemed to relieve them of their pain. I could tell by the way Cassa held Sora and whispered reassurances. She missed having someone- a child- to take care of. If we didn't have to leave for Riverdeen- if officials from three different kingdoms weren't after people like us- then Sora and I would have gladly stayed.
She picked Sora up, my sister burying her face in Cassa's shoulder. The faint smell of cinnamon calmed me as I crawled out of the space behind the shelf and stood.
"Why're they after us?" I heard Sora ask as tears stained the soft gray fabric of Cassa's sweater.
"I don't know." I whispered, taking my hair out of it's ponytail so that it fell into my face, blocking my peripheral vision. Having the dark curtain always helped. I don't know why.
The rest of the day was quiet, as usual. We had to stay in the basement, most of the windows covered or blocked in some way that was made to look natural. Sora didn't say much, hanging on to either Cassa or me almost all the time. Cassa's husband was busy with work the entire day. We didn't see him much, but I knew from pictures and the brief times that I did see him that he was kind. He was the type of dad who always offered to help with assignments or host gatherings for family friends. That was just the kind of people the Pelles family were.
I walked over to the rocking chair Cassa was sitting in, knitting some kind of scarf with magic, controlling the needles so that they wove the thread in and out, creating a diamond pattern with the dark green string.
"Cassa?" I said, and she looked up at me with a strained smile, putting down her knitting. "We'll have to leave tonight."
I didn't want to go. She didn't want us to leave, either. But we had to. She nodded, motioning me forward and pulling me into a hug, sighing.
"I know." she said softly. After a minute she let go. Tears were pricking her eyes, close to falling down her fair- skinned face. We were as close to having children again as she could be. And now, just like her son, we were leaving, never to come back.
The sun had set a few hours ago. Under the cover of darkness, we could leave. "It's okay, Sora." I kept whispering to her, trying to stop the flow of tears. "It's okay."
Cassa leaned forward, pulling us into one lat hug, placing a kiss on my forehead, doing the same for Sora. "Stay strong, okay?" she said, voice breaking. I nodded, pressing myself into her before pulling back, reaching up to touch the knitted scarf she had given me. I tugged down my navy blue sweatshirt and turned away, walking out into the night, carrying Sora's small, shaking body in my arms. I didn't look back.
Soon enough, we crossed one of the forests, passing around neighborhoods and slowly but surely making our way towards the sea that bridged Sinistra and Riverdeen. If we could get on to one of the ships heading there, we would be safe. Sora would be safe.
I quieted her as she started to ask for food, rummaging through my pockets and producing a small protein bar, kneeling down as I carefully opened the wrapper in an attempt to rest my legs. I broke off a piece and handed it to her, taking an even smaller portion for myself. Sora needed the food more than I did.
We continued along, though we were slowed down a bit whenever she wanted to walk by herself. My arms did get tired from carrying her, so it relieved me, too.
We must have walked around twenty miles that night. I was strong. I could handle it, carrying both myself and Sora.
Just as the sun began to rise, we came to the main part of Sinistra, in all it's magnificence with the glass buildings and palace on a cliff that overlooked the bay. It was truly beautiful.
I tore my eyes away from the glimmering buildings back to Sora. She was shivering, holding on to me tightly. I sat down on the grass and looked at her carefully. "Sora? You okay?" I asked, voice taught.
"Cold." she whispered, and I immediately took off my scarf, wrapping it loosely around her neck. Her sweater must not be warm enough. The seasons are changing again. Snow will start to fall in a month's time or so.
"You want my sweatshirt?" I started to take it off, but she grabbed my arm and shook her head.
"You need to stay warm, too."
I pulled her into a hug and told myself not to cry. She was four years old, and forced to run from the kingdom she had called home for the first years of her life. She was cold, but had said that I needed my jacket. She wasn't willing to let me feel the briskness of the morning to offer her the little comfort I could give.
We continued down to the main city, trying to blend in with the few people who were out. I lifted my chin and didn't make eye contact, ignoring everyone just as most other Sinistrians did. No one batted an eye as we made our way towards the docks, ducking into shadows and giving compliments about people's weapons or displays of magic whenever was expected. Living in Sinistra, life was rougher than everywhere else in the five kingdoms. Forane was peaceful for the most part, known as the kind and quiet kingdom centered around growth and life, their element being earth. Riverdeen wasn't unlike Forane, but had an edge. The flowing water could quickly turn to ice. Alcator was known for it's beauty in particular, though their kingdom is never to be underestimated. Alderon was the center kingdom, and influenced by each of the other four. Sinistra was the most violent and war- pone. Almost every battle in history was started by Sinistra, or was because of something this kingdom had done.
We were close to the dock. We had made it through the city, just as the sun was reaching it's zenith. We stopped as the guards for the ships came into view. They were armed, and had the same uniforms as the ones that did checks around houses for Claimed children. Sora's eyes widened, and I squeezed her hand.
"It's okay." I whispered, trying to find a way around them. There were too many. Eventually, I ended up with an area occupied by only three officials. I walked forward, trying not to show my fear.
"We're going to Riverdeen." I said, hoping that my voice said confident enough.
"Where are your parents?" one of them asked, raising a brow, glancing at the other two.
"They have work. Important things, being on the Council and all. We're going to live with our aunt and uncle for a few weeks until they get back." I sighed and rolled my eyes as I said so, as if to secure everything as true.
They glanced at each other. If our parents were on the Council, or at least if I said they were, the officials wouldn't argue. That's just how things were.
I swallowed, reciting the names I had come up with in my head a final time. "Nara and Kairi Everglen."
They were about to let us through, but an official stopped us, blocking our path. He was tall and menacing, though young. Maybe in his late teen or early twenties.
"They're lying." he said with narrowed eyes. "Show me your hand." I held out my right. "No, your left." I hesitated, and he grabbed Sora's arm, turning her hand over. A small, swirling rune appearing on the back of her hand, like when a drop of ink is spilled into water. "Claimed."
He drew his weapon and I took a step back, Sora burying her face in my shoulder. No...they would force me to watch as they drew her blood, injecting all types of serums into her small body. They would force me to watch as they made her use magic until it drained her energy to the limit. They would force me to watch as she slowly died after spending years in one of the Sinistrian fortresses. Or she would watch me die, and be let free after they collected enough of her magic and blood. Either way, someone got hurt.
As the other two drew their weapons, Sora started to cry. I turned to run, but was blocked by two other officials.
'These kids tried to sneak on to a ship to Riverdeen." The officials said to the other guards who had come over to investigate what the commotion was about. "The younger one's Claimed, and I bet the other girl is, too."
One of them fired a warning shot at the ground, and I jumped back, Sora letting out a scream. I tried to put a shield around us, or to try and manipulate the officials into letting us go. They stilled for a moment, eyes glazing over, staring to put their guns away. I broke into a run, screaming as I heard gunfire. I ducked behind a stack of crates to be shipped off to Riverdeen, putting my sister down. "Stay here." I said, wiping away one of her tears. "I love you, Sora."
I stood, extending my hands and firing a beam of bright white energy towards one of the officials, feeling a rush of adrenaline as they dropped to the ground. It was short- lived, however, as one of the guards mirrored what I was doing. I managed to swerve to the left, crying out as I felt a hot, searing pain in my shoulder.
"We need them alive!" One of the officials shouted, though the firing didn't cease.
"Rynn?" I heard a soft voice say, and I turned to look at Sora. She was breathing heavily, struggling to stay upright. I knelt down, lifting one hand to create a shield, and looked at her. She looked down at her sweater, a large patch now blossoming with red flowers. I choked on another scream. I tore away at the fabric. It was a bullet wound in her side. Sora coughed, blood spattering on to the ground. I gathered her in my arms, cradling her small, frail body. I tried to heal her, I did. But the wound was too deep. "I love you too, sissy." She gasped for breath as I tried and failed to stop the breathing. I tried until I started to see black spots dancing in my vision. "It's okay." she managed to whisper. "I'll get to see flowers."
"And play in the fields," I said softly, tears falling down into her flaxen, light brown hair. "and talk to the birds while they make you a crown of daises."
She nodded weakly, eyes starting to close. I held on to her tighter, squeezing her hand until it fell out of mine.
I was still for a moment. Two. three.
Then I let out a scream. A long, pain- filled scream, the sound reverberating through the dock, so loud that even the king and queen in the palace could hear it. Sora was dead. My little sister was dead. Sora, who had always wanted to play with animals in the meadow and talk to the nightlarks when we came across a flock of them.
All of the officials stopped. I slowly stood, tears falling down my face as I faced all three of them, extending my arm and grasping the fallen guard's gun as it flew into my hand. One of the official's stepped forward as I held it, pressing it against my curtain of dark hair.
"You'll get a chance to live. You'll be able to help your kingdom." The woman said.
"You never gave Sora a choice." I said, staring at her through blurred eyes. I looked down at my sister's body, then back at her. Her eyes were a deep, ocean blue. I wonder if she knew anyone like me. i wonder if she lost someone.
I pressed down on the trigger.
Now I would be able to see flowers, too. And play with my sister in the rolling fields of the First Realm, not worrying about anyone hunting for us.
Finally, I was loose from the chains that had bound us our entire lives. Just like Sora.
I was free.