Seven years prior
Storm clouds massed over the silent city, suspended over the rickety rooftops of shacks and the hunched bodies of the penniless. I sloshed about, waterlogged and ripped up shoes scattering the murky rainwater as I navigated my way through the slums. The cloak I wore billowed behind me as I quickened my pace, snapping in the wind as I moved.
My urgency to get home for dinner increased, just like the ripe smell of fish that radiated from the net bag I clutched to my chest. It had always been a mystery to me why my brother, Theris, favored scaly, foul meat over the others sold in the meager marketplaces throughout town. Yet I couldn’t be bothered to challenge him. His word was law. Even if he requested distasteful market fish.
The path up to the dilapidated house was a weathered one. I approached the doorway slowly—almost forgetting that the door wasn’t actually a door itself, but a threadbare blanket—and weaseled my way in.
“Theris?”My voice echoed in the diminutive house, a sound that chilled my flesh.
The silence that greeted me normally when I stumbled inside didn’t bother me. Yet, this was different.
Very different. Normally the shack was full of a lively mood-at least when our uncle was away-yet now it was tense, strained. And Theris was nowhere to be found.
Cautiously, I set the smelly fish down, carefully grabbing the hood of my cloak and pulling it over my face, just enough so I could still see. If anyone else was here, I didn’t want them to see my expression, or read the fear there.
“Theris?” I called again.
With a shaky breath I slinked through the house, stepping over frayed blankets and battered furniture. I paused at the back entrance, before pushing it open with a trembling hand, eyes wide as I gazed upon the backyard.
Then I saw the blood.
Then grass, the fence, Theris’ formerly white shirt. I wanted to scream. I needed to scream.
So, I did.
Theris broke his hunched position over the corpse, the body unrecognizable with the gashes serrated into his flesh.
Theris trained his wide eyes on his me, my mouth agape and wide as my eyes began shining with tears. “You have to keep your voice down!” He warned, yet no anger resonated in his voice. Only fear.
But not for himself.
In a matter of moments I scrambled toward the door, limbs flailing to fight my way inside the house, to barricade myself inside and pretend that my brother wasn’t a murderer. Yet I scarcely moved an inch before he was on me.
I yelped, expecting a type of stranglehold, yet instead I found myself pulled into some sort of embrace, my face squashed against my brother’s bloodstained shirt.
The silence was broken by my brother’s breathing, ragged, unnatural. Just like the blood on his hands; it scared me.
“It’s not what it seems, Areeve,” he was saying, bloodied fingers stroking through my hair in a move I tried to convince myself was assuring. This was a terrible, terrible dream. This was my brother. He was older than me, fourteen years of age compared to my mere ten years. He was wise. He protected me. He’d never do anything like this.
“He attacked me.”
With a wary glance I looked to the crumpled body heaped on the grass, in the middle of the small backyard the two of us were huddled in. I squinted, trying to recognize the person, so stained with the cardinal red that it was difficult to distinguish the face. Yet the cold, lifeless blue eyes held a clue.
My uncle had blue eyes.
With a moan I burrowed my face into my brother’s chest, overcome with a shockwave of sickness, before I flinched back, remembering just who this boy had transformed into. A murderer.
He let me go, arms falling slack at his sides. Yet the inescapable sadness his eyes held paused me. “You have to go.”
“What happened?” My voice was thick with my grief, coated with anger at my brother’s refusal. “Why did you kill him?”
I was numb as he spoke, his eyes cast down.
“He came home, stumbling into the doorway, a slew of curses spurting from this mouth. He grabbed for me, yanking me by the collar of my shirt…” He paused, closing his eyes, “his breath...his breath was so foul smelling with alcohol. He was angry. He couldn’t tell me why, but he was so damn drunk it didn’t matter…”
He glanced away from me, pulling his gaze toward the corpse slowly beginning to rot in the overgrown grass. “He gave the first punch. It sent me smashing into the wall. I was in pain, I was confused, I was terrified, Areeve. What could I have done?” His voice caught, a sob lodged in his throat.
“So I stabbed him. I didn’t think, I just acted. I did it. Again. And again. The blood was startling at first, it just kept coming, I…” He trailed off as he noticed the tears leaking down my face. Why is he scaring me so? He’s my brother...
But he was also a murderer.
The petrified look in his eyes was back again, and I knew from it that this would be our last moment together. Covered in blood.
It made sense, in a grotesque sort of way. It wasn’t safe to be with him. He was a criminal; he could be hanged, or sent to life in prison, and I knew I would only make another prime suspect. My gut and heart resisted, but my mind knew it was true. I would have to run away. Pondering it only amplified the whispers in my head, the murmurs slithering inside of my skull. Someone will be bound to unravel our secret, or stumble upon the corpse. They’ll find him, hunt him down. They’ll send him straight to the gallows, they won’t give a damn how cruel or vicious your uncle was.
As I glanced up to Theris’ sorrowful gaze, it only justified those thoughts.
Next, they’ll come for you. It won’t be hard, you never were much of a hider. You can run all you want, but you’ll be found out soon enough. You’ll be ruined. Your name a common topic of gossip, laced with fear.
I shoved the thoughts from my mind. A trembling feeling washed over me, shuddering my very bones. There was no one to run to, no safe haven to stake a new home at. My brother, and my now deceased uncle, were the only family I had known. The streets would be my kin, my friends. Or so I hoped.
And so, as the evening light trickled into the blackness of the night, I fled the decrepit house. There were no tears as I left, no tight embraces. Only silence. Armed with the fear cramped in my gut and a small pack of food slung over my shoulder, I tore into the recesses of the streets. And I felt my brother watching, jaw set firmly, as the last remaining tie to his family vanished into the gloom.
St. Matthew’s Church
The dust that coated the pews of the deserted church glimmered in the lantern light, a trembling flame so diminutive against the chasmal darkness. I pushed my way through, footsteps light on the groaning floorboards, wary, yet determined.
“Would you mind stepping up the pace, Areeve?” Rowan’s voice from behind me sent my heartbeat stuttering, and though it was barely a whisper, the words flew about the church like daggers. “At the rate you’re moving someone will be certain to find us.”
I turned slated eyes to him as I continued to creep forward. “Nothing will happen to us; you know that I like to be cautious. We’re fine.”
“You say that, but you don’t seem so certain. What if he’s already inside? Look how dark it is-”
“We’re fine.” I raised my head, tilting my chin as we shuffled blindly in the darkness. Trying to appear determined, yet probably failing.
“That’s great to hear, Areeve. I’ll keep that in mind when I’m engraving your tombstone: Areeve Waters, brave soul. Last words? We’re fine.”
I gritted my teeth, trying to shrug his words off. Rowan was apt to sweat and snivvle at any dangerous or relatively life threatening situation; it was simply his nature. But it certainly could be a thorn under my skin.
“We’re almost out, alright? In fact...wasn’t it your idea to take a shortcut through St. Matthews?”
I dodged a rat as it slithered around my feet, listening for Rowan’s squeak of panic as he caught sight of it before it vanished into the darkness. I continued moving forward, picking my way down the aisle, stepping over debris as I went.
“...Y-yes. It was,” he admitted in the silence. “I figured it’d be better than taking the route through the forest. It’s way darker out there, if that’s even possible.”
I decided not to answer, not possessing the energy to battle pointless opinions with him. In his own mind, Rowan was right every time, even if he never admitted it.
“Well, if we have to stay in here, can we at least take these cloaks off? It’s blistering.”
“Do as you will.”
My curt response provoked a stream of sighs and fussing as Rowan fought to remove his cloak, yet I made no move to calm him. His outbursts were sudden but were easy to ignore; after all, I had basically grown up with him.
We all had, in the underground. We lived underneath the sewer grates and weary feet of the beggars in the city, below the gnarled roots of the forest miles away. We called ourselves the Progenies, as a joke, a cluster of kids thrust from not so loving homes, kids hand-selected to become part of our underground “crew.” The destitute was what our group looked for most, besides those with obvious signs of abuse, or a tough life. We were always willing to welcome them in, even if food was scarce, and emotions grew tense.
That’s how I was found.
Two years ago, on the cross section between Barren Way and Provis Road, I sat hunched in an alleyway, picking lice and other odd creatures from my scalp. It wasn’t the most appealing thing to do, yet the boredom was high being a street beggar and the hygienics were low. I had claimed that alleyway as mine, and anyone that dared to stagger into my territory was met with dagger-glares and perhaps a snarl or two. Unfortunately, the same went for the sap that shifted the drain in the ground just inches from where I was huddled. Yet, as Ajax looked at me, he didn’t seem wary or afraid.
It was wonderful.
I had grown accustomed to the streets, after four years of living on them. I knew the shifting gazes of the beggars that passed, petrified, somehow, of the younger generation-the street rats squabbling for morsels of food just like themselves. To them we were like snakes, poised to attack, surging with venom. Perhaps they were right.
Yet that look, the light in that stranger’s eye, was so startling. So wonderfully startling. And when he had offered a hand to lead me down to the utopia which was the underground, without question I had taken it.
“How big is this place?” Rowan lamented, yanking me from the past. He reached for the lantern I still clutched in my hand, but I jerked away, approaching the altar quickly and peering down.
“Ask and you shall receive…” I retorted. “Or rather, complain,” I corrected myself.
Rowan watched nervously as I bent down near the altar, hands scrambling around in the poor glow of the lantern. I lifted a loose floorboard up, and Rowan hacked as dust spiraled up towards our faces. Normally, no one would desire to descend into the darkness waiting below-yet for Rowan, myself, and the others, a dirt tunnel below ground was more welcoming than any home.
Rowan nearly plowed over me in his frantic dash to slip down below, and I couldn’t help but give a slight laugh. “Creepy churches scare you that much, eh, Rowan?”
I dropped down next to him, reaching up to secure the floorboard back into place.
“No,” he snapped defensively, yet I could tell he was obviously lying.
I gave a shrug, squinting toward the first torch on the side of the dirt shaft that would eventually lead us to the core of our dwelling. I shifted the hood of my cloak back, finally letting my white locks spill past my shoulders.
Rowan was already halfway down the channel. I couldn’t blame his urgency to meet with the rest of our group, after being separated for nearly a week, hiding in the gloom of the city.
It had been too long.
Ajax met us in one of the alcoves near the main tunnel, arms crossed and eyebrows raised, looking as judgemental as ever.
“And now, after weeks of us vigilantly waiting, our courageous heroes return!” The dryness in his voice was unmistakable, but I only snorted at the sound.
“That’s the thanks we get for risking our lives to gather your food? My, I was hoping you would’ve turned over a new leaf in our absence…”
Ajax narrowed his eyes, knowing that everything I said to him was spoken in jest. Usually. “Cut the clichés and hand ‘em over, then.”
In unison Rowan and I chucked the small bags stuffed with food at Ajax, whose smile grew a bit as he opened both and revealed the contents. Ten or so loaves of bread, just about a cartful of apples and oranges and a variety of other market foods were stuffed inside. He whistled slowly, flicking his gaze towards us. “Good work, team.”
Rowan jumped to brag, always quick to take the claim for doing something good or courageous, though I silenced myself. It was always unnerving to leave the safety of the underground, to clamber outside and duck into the city. The city was full of strangers. Strangers were enemies. But, we had succeeded, and I suppose that was all that mattered.
Rowan and I had made sure our scavenge was a quick one. We had worked as a team, dashing through the mucky streets with our hoods drawn low, faces obscured in shadow. While grungy merchants weren't looking Rowan had snatched the desired food from their cart; I had done the same.
Of course, our method of s scavenging around the streets inhabited by the poor wasn't a morally sound one, but for a group of starving teenagers with no money it was the best-and only option.
Yet every time I was forced to enter Marenis' cursed streets a feeling so cold and sick always drew over me, like a weighted veil.
I felt my brother watching at every street corner; I saw his eyes, that, sorrowful, melancholy gaze he had given me so many years before. Even though I knew he was dead, either executed at some point or tossed into the most torturous jail cell, I felt him with me.
Ajax looked me over, eyes drawn together as if he noticed something odd in my normally indifferent expression. "...Areeve?" He started, "are you well? You seem a bit..."
"Off?" I finished, inhaling slowly. "Don't worry. I'm just...adjusting. After weeks of being huddled in those damned alleys it's odd to actually feel secure."
If he could see past my bluffing he didn't show it. Instead he gave a shake of his head, pushing the blonde locks of his hair back as his fingers softly combed through them. "Glad to have you back either way, Areeve. Can't say I feel the same about you, though." His gaze flicked to Rowan, who was already busying himself with the abundant food we had brought back, not taking notice.
I decided to intervene, folding my arms across my chest slightly as I regarded Rowan. “You seem to forget about the celebration we’re having tonight. We brought back quite a bit, but if you devour all of our food we’ll have nothing left to eat…”
He paused mid-motion, mouth ajar as he was about to bite into an apple. He swallowed slowly, a guilty expression flashing across his face.
“I’d take that into consideration, you only have a few more hours until the party,” Ajax commented, reviewing the bountiful goods once again, “we promised you both a celebration, and a celebration you’ll receive.”
I smirked, not being able to hide it. Nearly every time we sent out a group to scour for food on ground level we’d have a sort of party on their safe return the night of. Though some, like Ajax, thought it to be foolish, deep inside I felt it wasn’t. It was a time to unwind, to be together. It simply made me happy.
It made me feel welcomed.
After a while of listening to Rowan and Ajax banter I excused myself, sidling back into the recesses of the tunnels, guiding my way down through the torches posted in segments along the walls. It stunned me how I didn’t get lost down here, or feel petrified by the narrow and winding passageways, though I assumed after living under such conditions for so many years I had just adapted through time.
My fingers felt along the dirt wall as I languidly walked, entering the sleeping quarters, eyes probing the niches for my “room”, or rather, compartment. I stepped inside the tiny area, inhaling gently. Space wasn’t a necessity, nor was it possible with our numbers. Though our group wasn’t the largest, with about eight teenagers including myself, it was wise to keep our sleeping chambers close together.
I sat atop the bed, pulling my knees tightly to my chest, placing my chin atop them as my brows furrowed. The perturbing, unsettling feeling that had followed me all throughout Marenis had chased me to my very home, a place where I was supposed to feel sheltered and protected.
I swallowed slowly, moments before a loose laugh wiggled past my lips. It was silly. It was nerves, all nerves. I was excited to be back, that was all. There was nothing to be agitated about. I would have a great time. I leaned slowly against the dirt wall, closing my eyes against the torchlight as I tried to coax my unruly nerves.
Laughter bounded across the walls of the room as another cup of ale was filled to the brim. I clutched my mug with eager hands, the frothy top nearly spilling over as a stream of giggles passed my lips.
The five of us were gathered close together, sprawled out in the grandest room the tunnels could offer. Vaneese sat near me, azure eyes shimmering with merriment, and perhaps with the drink. She sipped at the beer carefully, though we all knew she adored it, however timid she appeared to be.
The center of our amusement stemmed from Ajax and Warren, trading stories in the center of the circle we had formed, memories of the time before I joined their group.
“...It took us about an hour to find him,” Ajax was recalling, eyes alight as he surveyed us, “though I’m shocked we didn’t hear his crying sooner than that.”
I raised an eyebrow, drink sloshing around as I twirled it absently in my grasp. “You swear?”
“He’s lying!” Rowan objected, throwing his knobby elbows across his chest in defiance. Ajax ignored him, dipping his head forward in my direction.
“I swear. It was right around the time Warren and I first found this place.” He gestured loosely around, talking about the whole underground system. “We warned Rowan not to wander off, no one knew exactly what this place was or if anyone else even lived here. But leave it to him to get separated from the group.”
Our gazes turned toward a scarlet-faced Rowan, chestnut hair concealing his downcast eyes. It was times like these when I felt sorry for the jokes we made about the boy, he was just too delicate. After our laughter subsided and the room grew silent, the attention was delivered to me.
“Areeve? Do you have any stories about life before you came to live with us?” Silas asked, an ambitious smile placed on his freckled face.
I shook my head quickly, darting away from their keen eyes that probed for answers. “No, no. I’m much too boring.”
Ajax snorted.“That’s a definite lie.”
I swallowed, somehow able to keep the thin smile on my face from wavering. "I'm not lying."
Vaneese shot a sideways glance to me. "You're acting rather peculiar, Areeve. Maybe you are hiding something."
A few bouts of laughter broke out, though I didn't join in.
"You never mentioned any relatives," Silas prodded. He leaned in closer from his position across from me in the circle. "In fact, when Ajax found you in that alleyway a few years ago you were alone, weren't you?"
The sickening, haunting feeling that had shadowed me the past few days was back. It nipped at the back of my neck, and I shivered. I wanted to say something, I needed to. But I couldn't, my tongue felt stiff in my mouth, my mind felt numb.
"We've shared our dark, dirty secrets. Can't you provide some in return?" Ajax pressed on. "It’s not too hard.”
Silas repeated it, then the others. Even angsty Rowan joined in, a curious smirk lighting his lips. My name slithered about the room, their whispers wrapping around my body like thorns. Areeve. Areeve. Just tell us, Areeve.
My skin felt hot. I wanted to leave, I wanted this to cease.
The room grew silent after the scream shot past my lips.
I read the perplexed, slightly horrified expressions in the other's faces as I slowly lowered my hands from my face, surveying the room.
The silence stayed until Ajax dared to disturb it. "...A-are you alright, Areeve?"
I knew what they were expecting. For me to say yes, to give a meek nod while an embarrassed smile twitched at my lips. But I wasn’t alright.
The silence returned, creeping around my friends like poisonous gas. What could I say? They were so close to my past, my brother’s past, to finding our secret. I couldn’t tell them.
Panic had me in a vice. Within seconds I fled, their questioning stares and hushed whispers following me out into the corridor.
My breath left my lips in ragged gasps, drifting in smoky plumes in the outside air. I huddled at the edge of the Ram’s Inn roof, peering down into the cobbled street below. I watched the townspeople below as they shuffled about, backs hunched, eyes downcast, trying to forget the poverty they were drowning in.
I absently pulled my knees to my chest, feeling the cloak’s hood settle back as I did so, my pearl-colored hair spilling down my back. I hurriedly rose my hand to snatch the hood and pull it back into place before I realized just how high up I was; my identity would be safe here.
It was odd to be outside, alone. I had spent my time in the alleyways two years ago, scavenging, barely staying alive. I knew the underground hovel I resided in wasn’t much better than the lopsided shack I had grown up in, but it was better than the ragged streets.
I let out a breath, thoughts racing back to my friends, images of their concerned faces flashing across my mind. They were probably worrying about me, wondering where I had fled off to.
Perhaps I should apologize?
I rose to get up, steadying myself on the sodden roof of the long abandoned building. I turned to look for a way to get down before a voice froze me.
“Don’t you even dare think about going down now, I just managed to get up here.” Ajax puffed out, scrambling over the lip of the roof.
I hurried over to him, hefting him up with a steady pull of the wrist,“you followed me.”
He nodded, giving me a sideways glance. “You really have to start finding better hiding places. This is the third time you’ve run off here.”
I grew quiet. “I just needed some air.”
Ajax rose a sand-colored brow, giving a shrug. “The view’s quite nice.”
I followed his gaze to the rundown buildings lining the street in front of us, cracks lining the windows and splitting the bricks like lines in a cobweb. Below us the city dwellers hunched over near the ground as they shuffled by, ratty clothes offering thin protection against the harsh winds. I felt guilt creep into my veins. I would be spending the coming months underground near warm torches, snacking on our supply food, while strangers starved just above our heads.
“At any other time I’d appreciate your sarcasm, Ajax. But do you always have to be so brash?”
He considered, cocking his head to the side. “Perhaps not. But what fun would that be?”
I ignored his comment, flicking my gaze from the street below to the sky above our heads. Winter would be here soon enough. “We need to gather more food.”
“‘Gather’ as in ‘steal’? I’m all for it. But do you really think we should do it now?” He peered at the sun, a distant orb floating behind thin clouds, “can’t we wait until nightfall?”
I shook my head, “it’s getting colder and colder. How long will it be before we can’t even bare to travel an inch outside the tunnels?”
“You do have a point.”
“Good,” I replied, walking over to the edge of the roof. I felt for the ladder, hands clasping against the rungs as I moved.
“Let’s try to make this quick.”
We ducked inside a vacant alleyway, streaking our faces with dirt and ditching our cloaks in an attempt to blend in with the grimy crowd around us.
The marketplace was busier than usual. We slunk around the haggard merchants and their customers haggling for lower prices, trying to appear as if we belonged. As Ajax scanned the rows of lopsided dealer and trader tents I nonchalantly gazed into the crowd, trying to keep up a calm demeanor.
Until I spotted the guard.
It wasn’t too difficult to find the man, even after years of living underground without spying one patrolling the crowds on a near daily basis. He wore a tunic woven with colors only the rich half of Marenis were able to afford. The affluent group was so small yet so wealthy it held the only power over Marenis, a twisted bureaucratic system consisting of lords and their fine ladies.
They hardly ever visited this section of town, the slums, unless it was to sneer or laugh at the poor’s efforts of trying to stay alive. Or to look for someone convicted of a crime.
I elbowed Ajax so sharply in the side he yelped, turning quickly to face me, “what was that for? I thought you were here to gather food, not beat the innocent up!”
I shushed his attempt at a joke; I wasn’t in the mood for laughter. Panic seized me, rippling through my body so quickly it made my stomach turn.
“Look,” I shifted my gaze to the man now looking in our direction, eyes narrowed as if considering something. A few other men of the same stature had joined him, probing the crowd.
The smile fled from Ajax’s face, “what on earth are they doing here?”
I had an idea why. But I couldn’t tell him.
“Try to hurry. We’ll move deeper into the crowd, lose them. Perhaps he’s not even interested in us.” I tried to keep a jovial spirit, attempting to sway my own panic bubbling inside me and the suspicion darting across Ajax’s face.
After a few moments of pause he nodded, slowly peeling his gaze away from the group of men and into the crowd that surrounded us. I followed him deeper into it, trying to become swallowed up by the noises all around us. Yet even the chattering of the crowd couldn’t drown the thoughts swirling in my mind.
They’re coming for you. You thought you were safe, huddling underneath the dirt for so many years? They found you now.
Ajax yanked me along, as if he noted my dark thoughts.
The crowd thinned out after a few moments. Ajax hovered back a few feet away from a stall, where a pale, thin man was surveying the last few slabs of meat left in his stock.
Ajax glanced to me, a smile slithering across his lips, “I’ll be just a moment. You keep watch.” He sauntered forward, attempting to talk his way out of payment.
Tense, I looked about, gaze flicking every which way.
Where are they?
The crowd moved about, some sluggish, some weary, others seemingly blind and pushing through at high speed, trying to barter for the best price. Were Ajax and I the only ones to notice them? Either they were unaware they were being watched, or they didn’t bother to care. Am I mad? The sickly sensation that prickled at my skin was back. I was insane.
The hands clamped down upon my shoulders ripped me from my thoughts.
“Areeve Waters?” The guard’s voice was like poison to my ears.
My breath halted inside my lungs. I looked up. Dear god, no.
“It would be wise if you would come with me.”
It was difficult to breathe. I felt my hands growing colder than the wind that slithered around us.
From the corner of my eye I spotted Ajax stumbling into the scene, arms full of stolen goods. When he saw the guard he halted, the pleased smile melting off his face. “Areeve?"
“The court is expecting you.” The stranger moved his gaze to me, voice eerily calm, ignoring Ajax entirely.
The square was quiet, the crowd hushed. I couldn’t meet their suspicious, uneasy stares. Nor could I stand the confusion and panic set into Ajax’s emerald eyes.
"Areeve? What's going on?" He searched my face for an answer, though I could barely look at him. He followed me, shadowing the guard as shackles were tightly clamped down upon my wrists. They gleamed in the sickly light of the sun, glinting harshly into my eyes.
"This has to be some mistake, sir." Ajax glanced hurriedly from me to the guard, who remained impassive.
"Can't say that's true." He mumbled in response, adjusting and readjusting the shackles bound to me until the metal grated against my skin. I struggled to stay quiet, but as the suspicious stares from the crowd increased, so did my fear.
"It's a misunderstanding-"
The man interrupted me, tone growing more impatient by the second. "The noble court has a special arrangement with you. It would be wise to not argue with their decisions."
I fought down the lump nestled in my throat. "I have no say in this?" My eyes flew to Ajax. I could tell from the furrowing of his brows that he was trying to conjure a plan up, trying to sneak me out of trouble.
"Perhaps I could go with her? She can't possibly go alone, without even knowing what she's being charged for..."
My gut clenched. Part of me knew just why I was even involved in this. But that was seven years ago. Why did it matter now?
The guard was deaf to Ajax's words, giving a brisk shake of his head. "You're expected to arrive within the hour, and if that doesn't happen it comes off of my pay." He jerked at the cuffs, abruptly yanking me from Ajax.
I could hear the crowd coming back to life as I was led through them. I heard Ajax shouting above them, voice constricted, overcome with the unexpected events. I glanced quickly over my shoulder as I was stuffed inside the back of a wagon, struggling to see Ajax fighting his way through the crowd, hurtling himself at the nearest guard. "You can't do this to her---"
The doors slammed shut, blocking out Ajax's cries, encasing me in silence.
I flinched at the sound of flesh smacking into flesh, the sound of a sword being drawn. Ajax...
As the wagon lurched to life I saw Ajax, Rowan, Vaneese, the rest of my friends-plastered into my mind. I was the one that brought them into this chaos, however much I tried to deny it. One thought haunted me, tattooed upon my mind as horror stirred within me.
We're going to die.