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New Kingdom- Ch. II
“Nina, go! Get out of here!” I screeched, and lashed out wildly at the Inspector whose grip had moved from my collar to my neck. Consciousness was slipping away from me as pain attempted to drag my mind away into sleep.
I had to stay awake though, had to keep fighting for Nina, Corbin, and Pete. We had lived together for years ever since I found them on the streets. Nina and Corbin were siblings, and had nearly starved to death after their parents had died. Pete I discovered half dead in the snow a year ago with blood pouring from his face and hands as he choked for breath. The tiny six year old had captured my heart, and it would be worse for him to be caught than the other two.
I spotted Nina dragging the two younger boys away, trying to herd them as quickly as possible away from the scene. But Corbin, an audacious eight year old, tore himself from her grasp and charged toward me. Words I needed to stay stuck in my throat, the chokehold drowning them away. Another Inspector snatched his arm and the last thing I saw before darkness exploded in my vision was his face being blasted to the ground by the Inspector’s fist.
“Kiara,” a voice whispered in my ear, but my subconscious tugged at my mind to go back into the safe haven of sleep. “You have to wake up. Please, wake up.” A salty speck of water landed on my cheek, and I knew I was awake.
“What-“ I halted my question; my voice was not my own. Rather, a ragged croak had exited my mouth.
“What’s happening?” I inquired in a somewhat more sober voice.
“We aren’t at home,” Nina replied from above my head.
She sat on an aged wooden stool, and a candle was burning from a holster resting in her bony hands. Her frizzed ebony hair was pushed behind her ears and face, and her olive skin was paler than usual. Nina was only eleven, but she was small enough to pass as an eight year old like her brother, Corbin. Pete, a round faced blond angel, was standing unsteadily nearby, half slumped against wooden walls that were constructed of logs in straight, neat rows. I attempted to sit up, but the dull ache that besieged my throat erupted into fire and I emitted a hacking cough that shook my body.
“Where are we?”
“Mr. Ark’s house. He took us in as soon as the Inspectors left,” my friend explained in a hushed whisper, and stared at her feet. “He still can’t believe you’re not the boy you pretended to be for all those years.”
“You’re a bloody mess, Saraway.” The former butcher, Mr. Arks, suddenly emerged from behind a door.
“What is your real name, anyway? These kids won’t tell me a thing.” His tiny eyes narrowed. “And it seems you haven’t been wanting to either. Fooled me for years, you did. Never have met the ‘family’ you’ve always talked about.”
“My-my name…” I sputtered out, my throat screaming in protest with every word. Nina hastily snatched a cup from the floor and tipped it between my lips. I sighed with relief as the cool liquid seeped down.
“It’s Kiara. And I never told you anything because you have a family and it would be bad for them if you ever got in trouble. We live in the woods illegally and that’s why I always have so much to give you. I also do jobs for people, anything they need that pays.”
“She was away for weeks at a time,” Nina murmured, stealing a small glance at Mr. Arks. His robust color from earlier had faded into his natural shade of pale pink, and his flyaway hair had calmed down some.
“Well, I won’t give you up if you’re worried about that. But that kid, the one that looks like her-“ he pointed at Nina, “was taken by the Inspectors.”
I gulped, and a strange feeling tingled in my toes when everyone stared down suddenly.
“What is it? What aren’t you telling me?” I rasped, my eyes riveting from person to person.
“Kiara,” Nina said, “you’re wanted by the government.”