Two figures stood on a balcony, the Sinistrian palace in view from over the forests. It stood proudly, overlooking the river's bay that bridged their kingdom to Riverdeen.
The girl stared intently at the gleaming spires, elbows resting on the white stone rail. "Do you think it'll be this year?" she asked, voice laced with curiosity, not minding the strands of chocolate brown hair that whipped mercilessly into her face. The male tried to glare at her, but couldn't.
He instead sighed, crossing his arms. He stood with his back against the stone and faced away from the palace.
"You'd get in trouble if they heard you talking like that." He said, and the girl scoffed.
"It's not like you'd tell on me." She replied with a playful roll of her eyes.
She shook her head, the liveliness vanishing for a brief second. "You know what happens, Aurin."
He didn't need to respond, but looked away. "Don't remind me." He mumbled, voice a whisper. He wouldn't dare give her such a fate. There were already nine per year. There didn't need to be more.
***************Three Days Ago******************
"It's going to begin soon." A cruel smile painted the middle- aged woman's face. She ran her fingers over the control panel, keys glowing as she touched them. She pressed a small, green button, holographic images of ten people appearing in front of her. Names and information about them filled boxes underneath. She swiped all the others aside, zooming in one image so that she could see the person's face.
"He's the Emrys." she said, the question implied. She glanced at her white- clothed assistant who looked down at her tablet, then nodded. She didn't need to check, however. Everyone knew who Altair and Alaric Emrys were.
"Yes, Altair. The older one."
"His sibling's name?" she asked, eyes glittering with animosity.
"Alaric." The young woman answered, showing her supervisor something on the device. She swiped up on his image to make the screen blank, typing something in. A picture of a young boy, about ten or eleven years old, materialized in Altair's place. It faded away, replaced with one of a teenager. His face was angular yet soft, still having the childlike quality like the previous image. His eyes were dark, but still a brilliant shade of blue.
"Ah. I see." she stared at Alaric for a few moments before turning to the young woman. "You know what to do, Riva." She looked back at the image of the young boy before walking out.
Riva watched the woman stride away, the sound of high heels clacking on the white floor ringing through her ears. She turned back to the control panel, typing something in, then walking out as her overseer had. She continued down a long, white hallway, navigating through the twisting corridors. Riva stopped at a set of large, white double doors, pressing her hand to the panel and waiting as it scanned. With a small clicking sound, the doors opened and she walked in, hugging the device to her chest.
She didn't make eye contact with anyone, hurrying down the pathway in the middle of the room while trying to blend in. Someone grabbed her shoulder, and she spun around in alarm.
"Riva." The person said, the slightest of smiles tugging at the corners of his lips. "I didn't expect to see you here."
She fumbled for words, but they slipped from her grasp. "Verone needed me to do something." She murmured, looking around before meeting his eyes. "Involving the Emrys."
His eyes lit up, and he gestured for Riva to follow him. "I was actually on my way there."
After a moment she followed him as they walked through, each large room having closed off sections on either side. It was like being in an Infirmary, with patients lying still on their cots. Connected to monitors by thin tubes, white curtains shielding them from everyone's view. But this wasn't an Infirmary, and the people weren't patients. Not the type one would usually think of, anyway.
Everything was already planned out. What everyone would do, what would happen for the years to come. Nothing was a mystery. There were no unknown factors that they would have to add into the equation of The Dragon Races.
That was good. It kept everything in order. Right?
Another door loomed in front of them. He pushed it open without a second thought, Riva following after moment of hesitation.
The robotic movements of the figures in white made her uneasy, even though Riva knew she was one of them.
He stopped at a final entryway, waiting for Riva to catch up before opening the door. This place was a maze of them.
"Again!" one of the white- coats instructed. The figure in the middle did nothing. They stood trapped in a cage, of sorts, a translucent material like glass surrounding him in a bubble. The white-coat pressed a button on a small, rectangular device. The person in the middle doubled over, tortured screams echoing through the room. "Again." they hissed after a minute. The person turned, raising his hands towards a spherical object. He stumbled as white energy flecked with black coiled around his hands. It was so bright Riva had to look away. The mass grew until it filled the entire space. It pushed at the glassy boundaries, but was unable to break through. The orb pulsed brightly as the energy hit it, seeming to absorb the white.
This continued for another minute or so, before the person in the cage collapsed. Riva pushed forward, glancing down at her tablet. "His breathing's too shallow." she said to another white-coat, voice taught. "If you continue, won't be able to handle it."
The man turned to her, eyes landing on her small, bronze pin. "Subject 214, you mean? When she didn't answer, he glared. "Isn't that correct, Medic?"
"Yes, sir." she said with a small dip of her head, biting her lip. "I apologize. But you shouldn't push him so hard. He can't-"
"You wouldn't want to take his place, would you?"
A chill traveled down her body at his words. She had seen what happened when someone disobeyed. Riva quickly shook her head, looking down at the floor.
"That's what I thought." He said with a smirk, though the satisfied expression didn't reach his emotionless eyes. "So keep your mouth shut, and do as told."
The man stalked past her, the white- coats moving out of the way as he left, door slamming closed. She let out a sigh of relief as the fear blanketing the room exited with the official.
She looked over at the person on the other side of the barrier. He didn't even look eighteen. What must have once been dirty blonde hair stuck plastered to his forehead. The boy's breathing was almost nonexistent. The only sign he lived being the hazel eyes that met Riva's for a brief moment. She turned away, looking over at her companion.
"Lein..." Why am I going along with this? Why are you?
He sighed, shaking his head. "Because Verone knows best." She knows everything.
He had tried to cover up the uncertainty in his voice. The statement wasn't only trying to assure Riva, but also himself.
The Sinistrian Council knew everything- nothing came unnoticed. This was all for the greater good of uniting the Five Kingdoms. Of keeping the balance between Tenebris and Lux, Dark and Light.
They knew where people were, what they were doing, and how anything that happened would effect the future.
The Council was omniscient about everyone and everything.
"Verone! You're just on time." The white- coat smiled warmly, ushering her into the room. She stared up at the five large screens in the center, one for each kingdom. "Forane is about to announce the contestants."
She nodded curtly, strolling towards the last empty chair in the row. People dipped their heads as she walked past. She didn't have time for pleasantries, and grabbed the tablet a white- coat handed to her.
Verone glanced down at it. There were now eight names and eight images, each one of a different person who would soon compete. A devious smile shifted on her lips as she looked down at one person's picture. Therin Caius, a competitor from Sinistra.
The room quieted as the final screen flickered on, showing the official from Forane.
"Sixteen to twenty- one, stand."
She looked back down at the tablet, gaze scanning over the profile for the blonde Sinistrian. Everlys. Her sister, Althea, had died the year prior.
"Eriene Pyrallis." Her gaze snapped back to the screen. This hadn't been forseen. A volunteer? Murmurs of surprise arose. This hadn't been accounted for. Verone watched as Eriene's blood dripped into the small vial, eyes narrowing as she saw someone else stand.
"Alaric Emrys." He said, looking almost identical to his brother the fateful day Altair chose his death.
She couldn't hear anything but the gasps and appalled exclamations of everyone else in the room. Even the white- coats looked stunned.
Verone, however, smiled. They could calculate around the discrepancy. They would have both the younger Emrys as well as girl.
The power the two would bring would finally be enough.