A vague memory is ever present in my mind, it's a pleasant memory in which a female figure -that could be my mother- tells me something very important. With a smile on her face she tells me that our differences are what makes us special and that we can do great things with our differences; like inspire those who would much rather live in fear of themselves. However, I can't always say that she's right- no, that's not it. She's right but I don't understand at all because my difference has only ever brought me pain. It's not the physical pain that is inflicted on a daily basis that bothers me, but the mental pain that is caused by the isolation, the hatred and most of all; myself.
We can choose to be affected by the world or we can choose to affect the world. -Heidi Wills
Chapter 1, Pest
The sound of birds woke me from my sleep, the rising sun would soon follow as I know from previous experience. My back ached from the day before, I had helped lift logs for Ms Clayton so that she could fuel her stove. Most people would just use the everyday magic that they have but much like me, Ms Clayton is an abnormal. We who do not have power tend to only have jobs involving manual labor, we are the lesser species in the eyes of everyone else. Due to this birth defect we, like other rare few there are, can be decimated in the public without anyone to stop them.
Luckily we aren't alone though, there are a few of those with power who wish for equality among the people, though many of us abnormals just wish to be left to our own devices. Pavel, my friend is one of the people who wish for this equality. He is one of the few who didn't want me to get bullied from the powers at be. This was futile, he is incapable of helping me but that doesn't mean I take everything lying down.
"Lennix! Get up!" I heard my father yell from down the hall. Oddly enough he is normal like everyone else, my mother was as well. My little sister is too young to understand but it seems as if she is showing signs of having abilities. I'm not jealous, trust me I'm far from it, I'm glad for her it means that she won't go through the hell I did before she was around.
"Lennix!" I looked up from my lap to realize I had spaced out. "Alright! I'm up!" I shouted back, I heard a grunt before I began to move towards the door. Today's jobs is the same as every other day; chop wood, find more jobs, and try to find some time to read the books that Pavel has loaned me. So far I've been keeping up with everything that they've been learning in the schools but it's not enough to just read anymore. Ignorance is not helpful when you're trying to find a job that will allow you to become an assistant to a scholar or maybe even an apprentice. Though... It's probably just a dream, after all, who would want someone powerless as their apprentice.
Grabbing my cloak, I slung it around my shoulders and matted down my hair that had previously been sticking out in many different directions. Walking down the hall, the floor boards creaked under my weight reminding me that they would need to be replaced soon. To my surprise, a pair of small arms wrapped themselves around my legs. Looking down I saw my kid sister looking up at me with big eyes.
"Lenny?" She questioned. "Where are you going?" I smiled at her and crouched down beside her. Ruffling her hair, she glared at me in a playful manner before shaking her head.
"I'm off to help Ms Clayton, then I'm going to go look for some other jobs." I explained. A frown rested itself upon her face as she looked up at me in confusion.
"You shouldn't skip school so often!" She shouted, and without hesitation I picked her up to lift her into the air. "Well someone has to feed this big belly of yours!" I tickled her stomach and she squealed.
Grabbing her hand as I put her down, I walked Ava to the kitchen and threw her an apple which she caught with ease. It's the same as every other morning, our personnel routine. Ava will wake up, eat a small breakfast and grab her things before I walk her to school. Quickly she grabbed her cloak and pulled it on as she munched on her apple, I looked into the fruit bowl before sighing, almost all the apples are already gone... Snatching a piece of bread that had been left on the counter I bunched on that for breakfast as I chased Ava out of the house and into the road.
The path to school was simple, Ava's taught at the school for Mystic's near the church. It's often called the Craft School because it's where you craft your individual abilities... You see, the mystics (Those with abilities) aren't all powerful, though they may say otherwise. All mystics have one thing that they excel at that they usually work their hardest to master, this power is your Craft. Everyone has their own Craft, the less common your ability is and the stronger, the more impressive and sought for, you are. People with rare crafts usually are taken in by Masters who are looking for apprentices, but there's also a catch... To be taken in by a Master, you must have at least some control over your craft, if not it would be difficult to teach you enough to be able to participate in the Tournaments.
Tournaments occurs many times in a year, it's where Masters can put their apprentices at work to make money for their books. Most of the time, it's rare mystics that win but sometimes those with more control in their abilities can excel, that is why we push control so much.
We know that abilities are common to rare based on a system that was developed a long time ago. It's also known as the circle of power or pentagram. Essentially, the five points represent the an element/category; the top right is water, the bottom right is fire, bottom left is earth, the top left is air, and finally the point of the star means Arcane. Arcane abilities can be anything and everything, there is no law for Arcane magic. Having an Arcane ability is rare in itself, it's also incredibly rare and people who used to have them now no longer exist. Essentially, people haven't seen an Arcane ability in 10,000 years, thus we assume they've all died out. You only know an arcane ability when you see one, but one of the most prominent aspects of an Arcane ability is the fact that they are extremely hard to control.
Back onto the topic of the other four categories, the farther away your are from the centre of the star, the most rare and powerful the ability, aside from Arcane of course. Essentially, any extension could be considered rare for example; from earth you could control mental or minerals like turn iron to gold (there are laws against it though), from air you can create weather phenomenas like tornados, for water you can make whirlpools... You get the point. With practice, all these earthly extensions can be dangerous, that's precisely the reason we have laws against them. If we didn't, our economy would plummet with the amount of people who can change iron to gold.
Luckily, each of these abilities have their own mark. Each Mystic has their own mark or trace that they leave when they wield their ability. These traces are marked down in multiple files back in each capital of the world, it's your own personal criminal record.
I held Ava's hand as we walked, through the early morning fog we could see the outline of the school only slightly, but it became more visible as we got closer. Ava's cold tiny hand squeezed my big warm one. She looked at me with a sad face, "Why don't you come with me? I've never seen you go..." I shook my head to her and adjusted her bag of books.
"Ava, I can't go to school for many reasons. The first one is that I need to put food on the table,-" She cut me off.
"Why can't father do that?" She had a point, our father doesn't do anything these days. Not in a very long time... When I was four, my mother died of illness. After that, my father threw himself into his work of researching until I was eight. At that time, he found another woman who he fell in love with and together they had Ava. So yes, Ava is my step sister but she's as close to me as any other sibling I know. However, when Ava turned two, her mother left. She left us for another man and that broke my father's heart. He didn't leave home after that, he was too devastated that he wallowed in his room with a bottle of ale till now... Five years later.
We stopped at the stone steps of the school and I began walking up. "He hasn't worked in a long time Ava, seems he's lost himself..." I gave her a sad smile but she surprised me with a fierce look in her eyes.
"Well, I'm going to become a great Mystic! The best you've ever seen!" I smiled at her determination and when we reached the door, I crouched down and looked her in the eyes.
"Believe in that Ava, and you can achieve anything. I'll always be watching over you." She nodded furiously before turning around and pushing on the large wooden door.
For a moment she wondered why it wouldn't open, then all of the sudden the door swung open towards us. I pulled Ava out of the way and a woman with a soft face looked down at Ava. "Welcome back! Come on in and out of the cold." Ava waved back at me before turning tail and running inside. The woman looked up at me and her smile turned sour, "Pests aren't allowed here, leave now." My face stayed emotionless as I looked at the woman, though I didn't say anything out of line, that would only bring trouble.
Walking down the steps, I heard the large wooden door close behind me.
Half way through the day and all I've done is cut logs into quarters, repair a fence, get fruit and talk to Ms Clayton. Here I am, finally taking my only break today. For lunch, I'm having an apple. I looked at the ripe red fruit in my hand with a smile, but my thoughts were quickly torn away from it's freshness by the familiar chime of Ms Clayton's back door opening.
Glancing up, Ms Clayton stood in the door way with a smile. She motioned for me to come closer so we can talk, I jogged from the other side of her garden that was bordering the forest where I was cutting the logs. Due to the fact that Ms Clayton border's the woods, most of the trees are owned by her so she sells the wood and replants them each year, depending on the rows that she set up.
"Lennix! My boy, all you ever eat is bread or apples, won't you go hungry?" Ms Clayton shook her head in disappointment at my lunch. Shrugging I shook my head. "I'm used to it by now, besides most of the apples are for Ava. She's a growing girl... Can't let her go hungry now can I?" Trying to reason with Ms Clayton wasn't an easy feat, but I can't have her worrying about me so often, nor can I ask her to pay the bills for me.
"Fifteen and working... You'll drive yourself to an early grave if you keep this up! Come on inside, I'll fix you something to eat." I was about to argue with with her but she shushed me and pulled me inside by the collar.
I had met Ms Clayton when I was ten, those were the days when our family was really struggling after dad Ava's mother left. Ava was too young to possibly remember but I remember everything like it was yesterday, we were unable to pay for food when dad began his wallowing so two day before, I had looked for work. I had found some work as a stable help that day for the Hann family, but when they found out I didn't have any abilities they beat me up and kicked me out of the stable.
Managing just barely to drag myself away from that house, I collapsed on the front porch of Ms Clayton, and her husband who wasn't home at the time. She could of just left me there but instead, Ms Clayton dragged me inside, patched me up and offered me food. At first I was hesitant to even touch it, after all I hadn't eaten for a week or so but when I did, I stuffed it into my shirt and hid it. When she asked me why I did that, I told her that I was going to give it to my baby sister, apparently she thought it was the cutest thing ever, so she gave me a bit more food for her. On top of that, when her husband got home he taught me how to chop the wood and garden, then Ms Clayton hired me.
That day, I believed that I was the luckiest person in the world.
"So, how's your family?" I looked up from the soup and shrugged a bit. "Father's the same as always, Ava's doing well though. She got honours for being the most capable with her mana." I smiled when I remembered how excited she was to tell me about that, she had gotten a certificate that had her name on it and everything.
"That means her ability should surface soon?" I nodded.
Mana is what determines how long a Mystic can wield their power, so if you had low many you wouldn't be able to wield it for long before you would need to recover. In some cases where kids have a lot of mana, they can project their essence outside of their bodies; like Ava. I guess they had been practicing that... Usually those with a lot of mana have their abilities surface at an earlier age so that they can use the mana without it hurting them. Too much many can hurt the physical body, so in some rare cases when an ability doesn't surface, they would need to stay with a healer... But those people ask for a lot of money.
"Hopefully..." I said quietly as I ate the hot soup.
Ms Clayton smiled at me, "I doubt that you'll have anything to worry about. You're so young, if only you had been born my son." She spoke just above that of a whisper. Her eyes were fixed on the window behind me though, out of curiosity, I turned around to look. In the distance, dark clouds were beginning to form. They'd probably be here by tomorrow morning, and by the looks of it, they'll probably bring one hell of a storm with them.
I sighed, heavy rain isn't great for this area. We are already in such a damp area that too much water will drown the crops, and the wind will destroy the weaker roofs of houses... Like my house that I still need to repair. Turning to Ms Clayton she began to pick up our empty bowls, but she paused when she put them onto the counter. She looked back at me with an almost desperate plea in her eyes.
"Lennix, I know that you need to pick up your sister but, If you come over for dinner would you be able to help me cover the garden and make small grooves around it's perimeter that will protect it?" I looked at her with a smile.
"Of course I will! You don't need to ask, I was thinking the same thing about all the other fields. Our harvest will be destroyed if we don't protect the crops. Besides, you're willing to feed us, that's more than anyone could ask." As I stood up, Ms Clayton came up to me and enveloped me in her arms.
"Thank you my boy, I wouldn't know what to do without you. My husband can't make it home tonight, he's helping some of the miners today..." Backing away, I nodded. "I'll put all the wood away into the shed, and secure everything down before I leave to pick up Ava. We'll come straight back and I'll help with the garden."
She pulled me into another embrace before she let me walk outside but when I looked up at the sky, I realized the sun was already past noon. My eyes glanced at the dark clouds that were closing in on our town, I remarked that they are moving quite fast. This storm will be very bad... And it might be here sooner then we think.
Lightning makes no sound until it strikes. -Martin Luther King Jr.
Chapter 2, Storm
After I finished my work, I ran to pick up Ava but, as I expected... The storm came early. At first it was just a little rain but the rain quickly turned to a shower. The pellets of water grew harder and harder, a few people who could wield water projected their abilities into the air around themselves to shield them from the rain but I wasn't able to do that. Luckily I made it to the school while it was still visible outside.
People ran out the large wooden oak doors to make it back home; the church across the street had already taken in everyone they could so they began to close and lock their doors. Ignoring that fact that nobody wants a non-mystic coming into their Craft School, I pushed passed the people coming out and ran inside. Water dripped into my eyes but I ignored it as I hurriedly looked around to find my strawberry blond little sister. Her pinkish tuff of hair was trying to claw through the crowd but everyone was too big for her.
Pushing passed some smaller and larger children I reached out towards her. My arm only stretched so far, so I moved it around while trying to fish out the little girl that should be in front of me. Finally, a small hand found it's way into mine. I smiled knowing it was Ava as I pulled her into my arms. Picking her up, I jogged my way through the crowd before settling her down just before the stairs. She looked up at me and I looked at her in the eyes. "Ava, I need you to follow me. We're going to get father to come with us."
Though Ava was confused she knew I was in a hurry, she followed me without hesitation and we ran through the streets as the crowd began to thin out to disperse in the many different directions. We ran right down the alleys and through a shortcut I had found on my way back this morning. Making a sharp left, I held Ava's hand firmly in grasp just in case she were to trip- like right now. Ava's foot caught itself on a jagged stone but I quickly pulled up on her arm and allowed her to catch her balance. We continued to run through the closely knit houses in the area until finally the houses grew farther away from each other and into the field. Houses turned to farms, and taverns turned to stables. Taking another right, I saw our house just at the end of the road.
The pellets of water were getting faster and heavier as we ran, a shiver ran down my spine which reminded me that I had forgotten to bring my cloak with me. After working with the logs I was too hot to keep anything but a short sleeved shirt, but the frigid air caused me to slap myself at my stupidity, should have known this would happen...
Pushing open the half broken wooden door, the metal hinges creaked in protest to the fast movement. Letting go of Ava's hand I ran to my father's room that was just across from mine. The roof was already beginning to leak and there was a hole in the floor, probably my father trying to get to the kitchen. Knocking on the door with three knocks in rapid succession, I ripped it open when there was no answer.
The room was dark and the oil lamp was out of oil, the room was musky and smelt distinctly of three day old ale. I cringed at the thought as I got the lamp from my room and lit it with the candle by the door. Looking around, I shuffled through the clothing that was splayed across the wooden floor. Because of a strange sticky liquid that had been split, a disgusting mould was beginning to fester in places I didn't wish to see nor clean. Oddly there was no sound in the room, no snore from a sleeping father nor a creak from him trying to sneak up behind me.
Looking to the glass on the bedside table, I saw a lump in the sheets next to me. My eyes grew wide in realization, that is not a mound of clothes nor sheets, it's my father's body. Sniffing the ale on the table next to me, I realized it'd gone stale. My forehead creased as I poked his body, no movement. I took two fingers to check his pulse and swallowed down the bile that had collected in my oesophagus. He's dead. My father... He drank himself to his death.
Almost dropping my candle, I ran back to my room and grabbed a bag full of clothes before running to Ava's to stuff in whatever I could find. Running back to the kitchen, I stuffed in some fruit and bread before grabbing another cloak of the hook to pull over myself. My wet hair didn't help to warm me up though, Ava could feel my chill as I grabbed her hand but she didn't say anything but ask where our father was.
"Ava, sweet heart. Papa isn't going to be coming with us, I'm so sorry." I said honestly, she took that as a good enough answer and we ran outside without locking the door. If this storm blows our house away, at least we won't have to pay for the burial... Harsh but I'm telling the truth, we're way too poor to do that right now.
"Lenny, where are we going? You never told me..." Ava question through the loud pitter patter of rain. I pointed off into the distance, "You know that nice lady named Ms Clayton? Well, she's having us over for dinner if I help protect her garden." I said as I shielded my eyes from the heavy downpour around us.
We ran quite fast through the rain, our clothing is drenched by the time we made it to Ms Clayton's house. Stepping onto the porch, the door opened in front of us to reveal Ms Clayton with a worried look on her face. She looked at me and I looked at her, knowing what she was thinking I quickly picked up Ava before running inside. Ms Clayton showed us to the basement and I pulled open the two doors that led to the storm cellar. Ava looked at me with big eyes.
"Lenny... I thought we were having dinner?" A frown found its way upon my face as I crouched down at her side. My hand matted down her wet hair and I pulled the towel out of Ms Clayton's awaiting hand. I pulled the towel around Ava's neck and sat there for a moment as I took in her face. "Ava, I need you to be a good girl and wait here in this storm cellar for me. Ms Clayton's going to bring dinner down here and some towels while I cover her garden like I promised." Her wide eyes looked at me as her face visibly fell, but she kept the tears that were welling up in her eyes from falling.
Turning around to look at Ms Clayton, she looked at us with sad eyes. Grabbing her arm, I pulled her up the stairs and into the kitchen. "Hurricane?" I questioned, though I already knew the answer would be yes. Ms Clayton nodded sadly, I wiped the water away from my eyes and let out a ragged breath. "I'm going to cover your garden, can you keep Ava company?"
"Yes, of course. I'll get the lanterns, but really, do be safe out there." She spoke with a foreign emotion in her voice as she ran off to get some lanterns. She paused before heading up the stairs, "Lennix, where's your father?" I turned back to her with a grim look on my face.
"Dead." I spoke and quickly turned around leaving her standing dumbfounded in the stairwell.
The sound of thunder rang through the sky as I ran outside through the back door trying to ignore the thoughts of my father's corpse running through my mind; I jogged to the shed and grabbed the shovel. My legs pushed through the soggy grass and the sloppy mud as I rushed to the garden of vegetable, thankfully I already put the logs away because if I had to do that now... I pushed through the mud with the spade, but the efforts I put in were futile as the water quickly eroded all my hard work. My arms were already beginning to ache.
Switching to a different tactic, I grabbed the sheet that I will pull over the garden. Connecting the first tie to the tree, I threw the rest to the opposite side and tied it to the frame of the house, hopefully the house won't blow away... Grabbing the pegs from the shed, I hammered them into the ground before tying them to the peg. Unfortunately that wasn't enough to hold everything down.
To enable the water to fall down and away from the garden, I will need to tie it to the top of the tree, or at least somewhere high up. One of the higher branches should do it... But for that I'll need to climb. A crack of lightning arched through the sky, it's sound made me jump but I cleared my mind and quickly got closer to the tree. Wiping my wet hands on my legs, it didn't help dry them in the least bit, it would be slippery and it will be dangerous. Plus, I don't know how on earth I'll be able to make my way down.
An idea ran through my mind, I'll just tie a rope around me and when I come down, I'll slowly let the knot loosen itself so I will be able to slide without falling to my death.
Putting my plan in action, I grabbed the extra pieces of rope and tied it around my legs and waist. By the cracks of the tree, I pulled my body weight up and tried to fix my footing before moving forward. My boots didn’t grip to my liking but I ignored it and continued either way. The bark of the tree was soggy and slippery which made my climb all that much harder; my legs scrapped against the tree. I felt blood trickle down my leg from the shallow wound and I winced at the burn it caused. My hands were already beginning to become raw from my tense grip and the ache from all the wood cutting was coming back. As I got closer to the lowest branch, I clawed my way up until I was right next to it. My clothes snagged on the branch and I tried to shake it off but almost slipped while doing so.
Eventually, I opted to just tear the clothing. While I was busy doing that, I heard the loud rumble of thunder echo through the sky. If I had been flat on the ground, I’m sure I would have jumped. Closing my eyes and shaking my hair out, I tried to see through the rain that was hitting the tree and falling back into my eyes.
By the time I reached a good branch my legs were shaking from both the cold shower and the pain that radiated through me. I grabbed the rope that I had previously tied to my waist before wrapping it around the trunk of the tree. The rope was already quite frayed but I would make it work, it had to.
Twisting the rope, I finally finished with the most secure knot I knew before I thought of any possible way to tie my rope that will let me down. Pulling the extra line out, I tied the first end of the line to the trunk and the other end to my person. Pulling on it to check how secure it would be, I deemed it good enough to scale down the tree. Just as I was about to begin my hop down the side, thunder rang through the sky that was followed by another arch of bright lightning. This continued for another minute as I hugged the tree. My heart pounded in my chest as I tried to calm myself, though I was unable to.
As I squeezed my eyes closed, I heard a distant voice from below. Glancing down I saw Ms Clayton looking up at me with frantic eyes. She was gripping another end of the rope from below to help me down. “The rain is getting bad out here, get down!” As she said so, the wind whipped my back and carried a branch to hit me as well.
My breath caught in my throat as searing pain went through my that was followed by the loud crack of lightning. The pain caused my eyes to widened and my hands to loosen their grip on the tree that was the only thing keeping me from falling at least six feet up. Just as I was falling, another strike of searing pain hit me that was followed by yet another crack of lightning and thunder. The dark clouds above us spiraled in my vision as wind whipped my hair side to side. The rain seemed slower around me as my body seemed to be lifted up slightly.
Closing my eyes for a split second before they shot open with full consciousness to remind me that I would be falling back first to almost eminent death. I could hardly breath as my lungs seemed almost stuck. It felt as if I were choking but I just couldn’t cough. A severe burning feeling radiated through my back and spine but it really felt as if it were in my veins. My nerves seemed electrified, couldn’t possibly be because I was just struck my two bolts of lightning… Glad to see my sarcasm is still intact-
A loud ‘thump’ was heard as the left side of my body hit the ground. If I wasn’t in pain before, I was now. Had I been able to scream at this moment I would have with all my might. The scream would be ear piercing and it would echo through the air for at least a minute allowing everyone to hear.
My conscious mind was beginning to lose itself in the overwhelming pain that coursed through my whole being. It was almost as if my very soul was shaken to it’s core, but that wasn’t the only thought that left my mind.
Thoughts of Ava’s safety, my father’s death and Ms Clayton’s home, those were all examples of things that ran through my mind. However, my eyes grew heavy from every second they stayed open. Ms Clayton’s feet were standing in front of me, her knees crouched down beside me and she looked at me in the eyes before covering her mouth. Tears filled her eyes as the nice old woman took in my broken down form.
Looking past her and at the porch, I saw Ava standing there holding a bunny in her shaking arms. Her legs weren’t able to withstand the shock of seeing her brother collapsed on the ground withering in pain. “A-Ava…” My voice croaked out and my eyes finally clicked into the noise around me.
The sound of rain was so much louder than it was seconds ago. Ms Clayton’s heavy breathing as she tried to figure something out to do, was harsh to my ears. However, the most painful sound of all was the heart retching scream that was yelled out over the downpour from my baby sister just as my eyes closed, leaving the darkness to surround me.