Claire Ann held the smooth sphere between her cupped hands, it was about the size of a Christmas ornament, perfectly smooth and about as heavy as a glass paper weight despite its small size. She grinned brightly as colors swirled beneath the clear surface. Fire yellow and ember gold twisting around like miniature sun flares, burning brightly enough to hurt Kasimer’s eyes.
It was Soul Day in their little town. The day, once a year when every child that was five or going to be five found out what their futures would be like.
Each child was given a ‘Reflectum Orb’ that when touched would show colors and patterns that best represented what the child’s future would be like.
Parents would coo over sparkling pinks and soft oranges that meant happy futures and easy lives. Others would prepare themselves as deep greens and harsh blues appeared, signifying struggle and turmoil that would ultimately lead to peace. Others would sob as flat grays and drowning reds bloomed, telling all of useless desperation that would end in failure to complete ones wishes and goals.
Some colors were only seen every few generations like white, which told of blinding accomplishments that would stand for ages. Shining gold, the sign of a leader whose people were strong, and whose name would be remembered for centuries.
Others were once in thousands of years. Shifting silver, for a great sacrifice that would change the world. Peeling purple, telling a story of deep loyalties given up in order to make the right choice.
Some had never been seen and thus had no known meaning. Teals and warm browns alongside burgundy, ink black and a few others.
A completely clear orb had also never been seen, though it was theorized that if someone was born without the ability to feel emotions, or were to die within an hour of receiving the orb, it could happen. Those were just theories and nothing had ever been proven.
Two colors were often represented and fairly common, some were rather confusing combinations, but would ultimately make sense when they came to pass. Three however, three was about as uncommon as silver.
Kasimer rubbed at his eyes, the light from Claire Ann’s orb had imprinted on the back of his eyelids, like when he looked at a light bulb for too long. He stared at his own orb; still resting in its Styrofoam mold. He hadn’t touched it yet and now a strange ominous feeling had wrapped itself around him, he felt apprehension building in his chest, as if his body knew that something was about to happen.
He looked around the room, kids sat around at various tables all opening up boxes and exclaiming loudly as their futures were decided for the rest of their lives by over glorified crystal balls.
He hunched forward and to the side a little, shielding his orb from view. He tapped it once quickly. Watching in dismay and astonishment as the glass bubble filled with a strong waving ribbon of silver. That was soon joined by an almost solid stamp of purple in the middle and to his utter shock, a third color appeared. It was a shiny, rough, tinge of darkened black that circled the purple, even as the silver seemed to orbit both, like one of Saturn’s rings.
Pushing his chair back, he carefully stowed the orb in the box, and stuck it in his duck themed backpack.
Across from him Claire Ann’s parents were grinning and taking about a thousand pictures of her with her glowing orb, gushing about how proud they were. His classmate skipped excitedly over to him.
“Kasimer, Kasimer! Look!” The little girl said excitedly showing him her orb, “Mommy said yellow means potential! Doesn’t it look like a star?”
“Yeah,” he said, “I think it looks more like the sun.”
“It does!” She beamed before asking, “Kasimer what does yours look like!?”
Kasimer wanted to show off his three-colored orb, but he only smiled.
“Blue and pink,” he said lying. His brother had told him scary stories about people that had rare colors, and how the world liked to spy on those people. Watching them and every second of their lives hoping to catch the moment when their fates would unfold. His brother had made him promise not to show anyone his orb if it was different.
“Can I see?” she exclaimed, “I want to see!” Kasimer tugged on his backpack straps and smiled apologetically. “Sorry I have to go home now; I’ll show you later!”
Ok,” she grinned, “Bye! See you on Monday!” Her parents waved to him as he made his way out.
He carefully rolled it up in an old shirt, and kept it in the hollow base underneath his desk drawer. Only his family knew. He never told anyone else.
Claire Ann was a bright soul, as bright as her orb. Her smile was almost as warm. Kasimer and she did everything together.
He was always at her side, always there for her just as she was for him, her light only became more brilliant as they grew.
They made a stark picture the two of them.
Her long pure blonde hair.
His short blackened buzzcut.
Her light green eyes.
His harsh electric blue.
Her unblemished skin and rosy complexion.
His scattered birthmarks and rough scrapes.
Both however, shared an uncanny paleness that seemed almost white.
Little stars, Kasimer’s mom used to call them, saying they shone against the dark.
Kasimer never showed Claire Ann his orb, and she hadn’t thought about it since Soul Day. They spent all their time together, playing, running, just being children. They spent what felt like days in the fields around their home, chasing butterflies, and catching them in jars. He would sit on his porch, drawing the wings as best he could while she leaned over his shoulder to watch.
She would go with him when he hiked back to the field, always carrying her favorite glass cup, the one she claimed was good for making the best rainbows, laying on her back in the grass as he twisted the lid off the jar to let his butterflies fly free.
She showed him how to press and dry flowers, keeping little dried blossoms in glass capsules with cork lids. They would do their homework together on the couch, him showing her what he had learned in programing class, and her reading bits of her government and political books out loud to him.
Claire Ann’s parents expected great things from her, everyone did. She carried her Reflectum with her everywhere, a constant reminder of what she was destined to be. She kept it in a special pouch from her parents, right next her rainbow cup.
Kasimer thought about his own orb sometimes. Thinking about the silvery ribbon that stood for great sacrifice, purple for deep loyalty given up, a nd the black, it’s meaning unknown. But he was just a kid and his thoughts never lingered for long.
Their happy days ended when the country across the sea declared war.
They traded their pencils for battle plans, and their butterflies for uniforms.
Both of the children learned to grow up fast. Their fellow soldiers called them dual blades, or sun and moon. She stood tall, hair blazing, maps of the battlefield spread out before her, commanding troops decades older than her. Using her knowledge of battle tactics with ruthless efficiency. Mercilessly moving the pieces on her map to annihilate the enemy.
He stood behind her, a darkened soldier. She may have created the plans, but without him many never would have worked. He fought with an almost unattainable level of skill, taking to the sword and rifle like a bird to wings. Wielding them as if he had never done anything else. Some liked to joke that he’d been born on the field, but he would never die on it.
He guarded her, protected her. He was her right hand, her shadow, her best friend. They had been children when they were thrust into the war, all they could do was watch the other’s back, and sleep one at a time to make sure they both lived through the night. It was only natural, only right. Claire Ann protected Kasimer, and Kasimer protected Claire Ann.
The Sun and the Moon quickly rose through the ranks, standing at the top as generals. Commanding entire armies as they conquered more and more. Sweeping over other nations, claiming spoils of war as they ravaged the land.
Then, after six long bloody years, the wars were over, the world had calmed, and peace was declared. But the girl that had gold and yellow swirling her Reflectum had already gotten a taste for power; and she was insatiable.
Claire Ann used her influence to build her own army, continuing to fight and take what she wanted. All the time Kasimer stayed with her.
He knew he should have stopped. Knew he never should have gone along with it. He’d fought in the wars because he had to. This, this was slaughter. This was murder.
Claire Ann held her Reflectum high at her coronation. Reminding everybody just why she deserved this, gone was the laughing girl that had chased after insects with her friend. In the child’s place stood a self-appointed queen, whose only smiles came when reports of victory did.
When she built her palace of stone and glass in the mountains, Kasimer thought maybe he’d been wrong. For when the queen in her sun Carona crown decorated her throne room, it was with hundreds of thousands of butterflies. All with bright wings spread out, and pinned down behind glass cases.
Kasimer realized he’d never seen her let any go. She’d kept them all, let them die in tiny glass jars instead of open skies, and now she was displaying their corpses like jewels.
But still he stayed; her loyal champion, until Soul Day, when he heard people in the cities talking about it excitedly.
He thought about something he hadn’t in a very long time. He thought about his own hidden orb. Three strands and the first to ever house black. He thought about his twisting silver ribbon and purple blobs of color, he thought he understood for the first time what they stood for.
He went home for the first time in years, he should have gone back when the war ended, but Claire Ann had always had one more target, one more month, always telling him that she needed him, that she was nothing without him.
He went now and she seemed not to notice. His brother greeted him with open arms, and a sad smile. Kasimer’s parents were close behind.
He carefully removed his Reflectum from where he had placed it so long ago. Unwrapping it from the faded t-shirt. He didn’t stay, but he promised that his absence would be far shorter than his last one; he promised to be back within the week.
When he got back, he found Claire Ann on her balcony, enjoying brick oven pizza with a glass of wine. She was going over reports; reports about different or unique Reflectum Orbs, deciding which ones she might be able to use, and which needed to be watched.
Deciding between the two as the whim struck her. It sickened him, behind those orbs were just children, just people.
She smiled, welcoming him back. He ignored her, walking to her throne and picking up her celestial body Reflectum. Gazing at the tightly intertwined yellows and gold.
He brought it to her, standing at the balcony’s railing, staring at the monumental mountains, and the clear forest below.
He stared at his old friend. Kasimer stared at Claire Ann, he longed to have his friend back. Longed to go back to those days spent chasing each other around their home town.
“The yellow in your Reflectum is beautiful your majesty.”
"I know,” she said smiling, happy with his praise, “the gold is legendary leadership, and yellow is power.”
He stared at her sadly thinking of when she’d first showed it to him.
She had cared only about the colors, and her parents smiles then.
As far as he knew she hadn’t talked to them in years.
“Yes, my queen.” His voice echoed in the stone hall, signaling the soldiers he’d posted outside to enter. Her head whipped toward them, the men she forced into her service, the ones she’d forced to fight for her. Forced to uphold her laws and empire, as she ruled over her lands, a mad tyrant, drunk on power and control.
“Yellow also means contradiction,” and for the first time he showed her his Reflectum Orb. He waited until her eyes fell upon the three strands, watching her reactions, confusion at the dancing silver. Wide eyes as she spotted the inky blackness. Lastly fear, she looked up at him, the glowing purple reflecting in her eyes as she understood.
“No!” She had screamed as they bound her chains, “No! No, you need me! I am your leader, your queen! You are nothing without me!” She howled, her screeching tones shattering the glass on the table, the wine splattering like blood. “Kasimer please! You can’t do this! Not after everything we’ve been through! Please! Kasimer! Kasimer!”
He said nothing as she was dragged away, and listening to her keening, pleading wails, he thought he understood what the black in his Reflectum stood for.
Crouching down he picked up one of the shattered bits of glass, holding it up; not minding the drop of blood that dripped down his thumb. He held the piece up to the light of the setting sun; and watched as tiny arcs of sparkling color scattered across his face.
Huh, so it did make the best rainbows.
Black, for a person who is the sole reason for a leader gaining power, and the sole reason for them falling from it.