Ona was sitting on guard, not able to lose tension. Tiyan stopped burning an hour ago. She should have woken him up and told him it’s his time to guard her… but she somehow couldn’t force herself to do it.
What happened was as unnatural, as terrifying. Her city was fighting with the fey for long time before it was massacred, but no one ever witnessed something like this. Or maybe did – but never told anyone. Fae possessed winter magic, cruel, cold and hungry. This was something completely new to her.
She didn’t know as much she would like, facing this cruel world. Her sister helped her, after Feirne fell – much older than Ona, she knew more and taught her everything she learned during growing up in Feirne. Among this, was fighting – because all Feirne was taught to work with sword, bow and daggers or knives. With steel amd iron. She taught her all the city knew about the fae. It were hard lessons, Ona was only seven years old. But as she was growing up, she realized all comes to her much easier. That she feels the bow in her hand like it was her friend. And that Isnan maybe always was a harsh teacher, but thanks to that, Ona was able to learn things needed to survive.
With time, Ona became better than Isnan. And her sister took it with pride. They settled in Rotlas village, where people took them at first with a big dose of distrust. But when fae came to… play with the villagers and they managed to pry their victims from their hungry claws, they were accepted – even if with a portion of fear.
No one can kill the fae. It is known.
When they kidnapped Isnan, Ona at first was terrified. Terrified and lost. But she knew what could await her sister and didn’t intend to let it happen.
Her gaze again drifted towards Tiyan.
She was almost sure he can help her, but then, again, he was much less used to fight, he could even be a nuisance. If he didn’t work for fey. But this doubt slowly was leaving her, very slowly, dragging itself on the way, leaving a void filled with hundreds of new ones.
Does he even know what is happening to him when he sleeps?
He seemed clueless and innocent, like he wasn’t marked with the brusha of the fae king.
She was tempted to just tell him, see how he reacts. How dangerous could it be for others? For him, of all? She learned to never share her knowledge with others, not let her guard down, not let them know how much she learned, and how much she still can learn. Secrets were her second skin. Only Isnan knew about her past and her training – and they both never trusted anyone as much to even let them guess they came from Feirne. Which was a legend now, destroyed, enchanted and… dead.
How many secrets Tiyan held? Was he a clumsy, naive tool? A perfectly masked traitor? Or just a young man, trapped in a story that wasn’t written for him?
Ona heard the batting of the wings.
She closed her eyes. She knew that it would happen, a heartbreaking routine, which still held her straight and on her feet. Which harmed her but was giving her hope.
Her sister managed to send her a message.
A mockingbird, a tiny familiar, which usually held to his witch. Not rotten, a real animal, a relic of times, protected by Isnan’s spells. Ona was often terrified that the Praetor’s people would find out and capture Neir, and she wouldn’t even know that happened.
But Neir was intelligent and so far managed to not only stay uncaught, but also always find her, no matter where she was.
He didn’t even need the food, as long as the goddess’s strength from Isnan’s aura was feeding him.
You dream, Ona, but you still don’t recognize the dream.
Neir sat on her arm and pecked her. Ona silently took him in her hand. The bird looked at her with completely blue, unusual eyes. A creature of elden times.
The mockingbird suddenly looked behind. His eyes turned green, changing colors, just like Ona’s. Just like Isnan’s. And he looked just at Tiyan. It wasn’t any fear of doubt in his almost human eyes. Just… curiosity… repressed but honest. The witches’ familiar were creatures closest to the goddess, woven from her magic. Opposites of darkened spells of the fey, who were created by much different power.
This is only a dream. But it looks so real.
“Show me, Neir” urged Ona, afraid that Tiyan will awaken and see her conversation with a bird.
And the images flooded her.
The Arelt city, smaller than she remembered. More poverty than in her latest vision. Horses are still in the stables, but thin and sicker than before.Arelt didn’t thrive, it was falling apart. Like an old aristocrat, already decomposing, but still wearing the rich robes and filling his palace with huge feasts.
Dirty, wet, cold. Freezing cold. Wind stinging even protected parts of the body.
No blood, no tools of torment. But amassing shadows slipping through crevices and gaps.
Darker than night, channeling the will of much more cruel lords.
And… in one of the cells… Isnan. She looked as bad as horses, and Ona felt bad because of such comparison. Frail and pale – they gave her warm clothes, so she didn’t pass too soon, but they were not enough. Her eyes were filled with sadness Ona never has seen in them. That made her scared. Isnan never resigned, she always knew there are more outcomes than just one. And every situation is begging to be solved – somehow.
But now she looked beaten – how long already she was kept in these dungeons? One month. But it seemed like many years.
“They fed me with so much of it. Ona. Do not come here. It’s stupid. Hopeless. If you come, they will capture you too. They want all the people from Feirne, who are still alive. And you are the last. Please, do not risk.”
You are last. No, we are last. You.
“I beg of you…”
The image of Arelt overlapped with Isnan’s and Ona suddenly saw dying, sick horses standing just near her sister. Their teeth trying to reach her like they wanted to swallow her, famished and tortured.
The dirt from the streets suddenly surrounded Isnan. She looked like she was about to drown in filth. The horses started to eat the offal as her sister looked at her with a desperate expression.
It can’t end like this.
Ona found herself awakened in the snow. Tiyan still slept, like enchanted. His breath is stable, light and his lips smiling.
It was not real. The bird, the voice, it was just a dream, an elusive vision. She passed into sleep on guard. A dream sent by the sleeping mind of her sister, who was afraid of her and who didn’t want her to come her way.
It was real enough to know that Isnan can die any day.
How she could show in what condition she is and ask her to not come to save her? That was impossible. The bond between them screamed and wanted to rampage. Do something.
This made her even more relentless.
Ona curled her knees and looking into the burning fire, she tried to think of a plan. Any plan that could work. Anything that wouldn’t need her to rely on Tiyan, and which would not allow the captors to kill her or Isnan. She tried for so many days already and only one formed in her head. Dangerous. Deadly.
She had to admit that it was more difficult now, than she thought at the beginning.
And the more she looked into the fire, the darker her thoughts were becoming.