"Adrazelle, get back here!" Adrian called, reaching out to her. Adra skirted to the right, laughing, as his outstretched hand grazed her shoulder. She collapsed on the grass a few moments later, panting slightly after all of the running, looking out at the houses dotting the land below the hillside. She glanced at him as he sat down next to her, a slight smile creeping on to her face.
"You see that?" Adrian said, pointing at something off in the distance. She led her eyes to what he was gazing at so intently. "I'm going to be there some day." he said with a determined glint in his hazel brown eyes.
He was pointing to Alcator, the academy that trained apprentices of The Defenders. It was considered a huge honor to be admitted in, seeing that some of the best fighters and Defenders had come out of it; Xandra Orawen, the young woman who had acquired the Sapphire of Zellria from the Keepers, and Alani Theynor, her previous arch-nemesis, who had helped in the retrieval of the powerful crystal, were widely known examples. Most of the people that went into the academy were sent on quests, the kind of thing that Xandra and Alani had done. It depended on the mission, and what kind of fighter they were. The kind that Xandra and Alani had managed... well, it was unlikely that anyone would come back.
Now that there was war, now that their planet had been overrun by the Dark Ones, the Academy was needed more than ever. Spies, assassins, people to help differentiate their own from the enemy, and more.
Adra looked up at him, shocked. Adrian was practically glowing with pride, his smile wider than she had ever seen. "You got in?" she breathed, azure gaze flickering back down to the white piece of paper he had just handed to her. As he nodded, she threw her arms around him.
"I'm actually going." he murmured expectantly, as if he couldn't believe it himself.
"You earned it, Adrian."
She wouldn't tell him that she was scared- she wouldn't tell him that she was terrified. What if... he didn't make it? Just like the many who had tried and failed to retrieve the Sapphire? Adra held on to him for another moment, not wanting to let go. Once he had reached his fifth year at Alcator, he would be sent on a mission to prove himself to The Academy, Council, and even the inter-planetary Senate. The chances he would come back to her were close to nothing. Seeing that the Dark Ones were in charge now, they would likely give him a quest early. Too early. Just to kill off their enemies, and the next generation of people who might be a threat.
She blinked quickly, the tears that had begun to dwell in her eyes disappearing. But, still, she was scared.
Three years- that's all the two of them had left.
Everyone held their breath, anticipating who the two Chosen would be. The members of the Council stared down at the set of twenty students from Alcator, one of them being Adrian.
"Not him..." she whispered under her breath, staring at Council member Rennyn who had just stood, ready to announce who the Chosen were.
No one seemed to understand how great of a friend Adrian was. It was black and white- friends, lovers. Apparently, a friend couldn't be like a brother to you. But, in this case, it was just that. Instead of a friend, imagine your brother being sent off on a quest- one in which everyone knew that he wouldn't return. That was why Adrazelle was so frightened. Her best friend- the person who had been with her when her grandmother and grandfather had passed away- the person that told her, "everything's going to be fine" when Isis had been poisoned and put into a coma- the person that stayed with her when she had needed a shoulder to cry on- might never come back. She would never be able to tell him how much she appreciated everything he had done- how much she cared for him.
She stared up at Administrant Rennyn, gaze flickering to him and back again.
"Adrian Covera and Zelene Ren."
Adra tried to run towards him, held back by her older brother. She struggled, screaming out his name, tears falling from her eyes. She knew- this would be the last time she saw him ever again. Yet he didn't look back. The Dark Ones had won more than just the battle over their planet, Zelara. She, herself, had been defeated.
Ever since the Academy had sent Adrian on his mission- quest- whatever one would call it, Adrazelle hadn't been able to sleep without waking up in the middle of the night, wailing. Dreams turned to nightmares, each one about Adrian dying some painful death. She couldn't save him... whatever happened, she knew that he wouldn't ever return.
"Adra?" her little sister, Isis, would always say, quietly opening the door. She would walk over to Adra's bed and climb in next to her, nestling into the blankets.
Early the next morning Adrazelle would wake and see Iris sleeping next to her. With a smile, glad that her sister was still with her, she would tuck the flyaway locks of white- gold hair behind the little girl's ear, falling back asleep until it was the time to wake.
If Adrian was to return, it would have been a few days ago. It had been a little more than a week after he had left. Both she and Astraea Ren, Zelene's older sister, had been fearing the obvious truth: they wouldn't return.
The days passed, each one laying another heavy blanket over the town. The threads seemed to weave everyone, especially the families and friends of Adrian and Zelene, into their quilt of misery and dejection.
I knew that today was going to be the same as any other, except for the obvious fact that my best friend wouldn't be here to console me of my grief. I glanced outside at the streets where we used to walk, surprised to see everyone running out of their houses in the direction of the road that led to Alactor. Along with my siblings, I raced through the growing crowd, the spark of hope that had been on the verge of extinguishing lighting up again. I pushed my way towards the front, expecting and wishing that the two Chosen would run up to us, and Adrian to tell me that he was okay. But what I expected was wrong.
She let out a chocked cry as someone limped towards the growing crowd. Someone with tangled, silver hair that had fallen out of it's braid. Someone that wasn't Adrian.
She didn't speak as Zelene passed her with a numb expression, silently slipping a small object into her hands, walking as tall as she could towards the Council members with blood trickling down her face from a cut on her cheek and red soaking into her pant leg from what was very obviously a fatal wound. Zelene had followed the Dark Ones orders, seeing that she had come back. She had also carried out orders from someone else- someone who would not get to see her mission fulfilled.
Fleeing from everyone else and running towards the hill where she and Adrian had previously always gone, she finally looked at the item. It was a Nightlark, a bird that demanded and collected secrets. Sitting down beneath the trees with a sad smile, she lightly ran a finger down the wooden figure's intricately carved wings.
"What secrets are you hiding?" she murmured quietly, blinking back her tears. As if waiting for those words, it lit up with blue energy- azure blue energy. The wooden body and wings seemed to fade into real feathers, the figure no longer inanimate.
Adra smiled, wiping the tears from her eyes. The Nightlark looked at her, it's rainbow, opal- like eyes glimmering with mystery.
"I'm sorry." It says in Adrian's voice, eye color suddenly swirling to hazel. "I know I won't come back to you, so I'll say sorry now because I won't get the chance later. I know how you must feel right now, knowing that you'll only see this if I'm gone. I'm sorry that I caused you so much pain- you don't deserve it. Just know that you were the best friend anyone could ask for. I love you, Adra. Goodbye."
She was silent. She held the little Nightlark in her hands, a new wave of tears glistening in her eyes.
"Thank you." she whispered to the bird, lightly touching it's forehead to hers. It rustled it's wings and took off, hovering in the air in front of her for a moment before vanishing among the trees. She looked down at her hands, noticing a single, midnight blue feather in her palm. She lightly closed her hand around it, looking back at the forest, back at the hill.