Shadow | Teen Ink


June 16, 2011
By Downyhairedspicehunter, Van, Texas
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Downyhairedspicehunter, Van, Texas
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Author's note: This was an English project that bloomed into my brainchild. I enjoy writing it and love the characters. It needs work but I hope you will read and enjoy it. Feel free to comment with suggestions and changes.

The cold wind is whipping on my face. What had started as a drizzle is now a tempest downpour of angry acidic rain that burns my pale arms. I try to keep running but my lungs are on fire. I stop by the top of the fifth floor staircase and take shallow burning gulps of air. Then I hear a scream and I force myself to keep moving. The screaming stops and I know that means another one of us has fallen. Is that four or five of us left here? Was that Echo? I don’t have time to think. I have to keep running, I tell myself. I see a light. Sunlight creeping around a half open door, I sprint for the sweet radiance I have been so deprived of. The wind and rain are worse outside. I look around and see the shadowed creatures gaining on me. I know what I must do.

We have to protect the secrets of the Society. I look down at the little cross on my wrist surrounded by two semicircles. This is the life I have chosen and I must protect it and the ones I love. Echo. A hot tear rolls down my cheek as I think of my poor little sister. “NO!!” I scream and look at my blood covered feet. Baby steps Lily; one step, one foot in front of the other.

The edge of the building is getting closer and I can see the wasteland that was once this great city. The wind picks up and my torn, stained, once white sundress is blown about my rail like frame. As I keep walking I get second thoughts. What if Echo is still alive? No, I heard her scream. I heard her dying cry for Father to come save her. But Father is dead, like Mother and so many others. A new found anger is building up in my chest and I want revenge. I want to kill every last soul sucking Lyken! My eyes are full of tears and I can hardly see except for the crude outlines of the building. I know the edge is near, the air is getting colder and the wind is blowing harder. I can hear claws scraping up the stairwell. My heart skips a beat as I think about the horrid creatures coming after me. The door slams open and I turn and see them. A scream bubbles in my throat and one lunges at me.

I pull out the dagger that Cloud had given me when we were taken into the camps. "Keep this with you Lilith, and don't let them break you. The Society needs you." That’s the last time I saw the sunshine.

I slice the Lyken's throat and blood pours out of its wound. "THIS IS FOR ECHO!!!" I jab the dagger down through were its heart would be and kick the carcass away as I pull the dagger out. That one Lyken is replaced by three more and soon I’m outnumbered far more then I can hold off. Blood and rotting bodies surround me; the wind howls and rain splatters my skin. I scuttle around and dodge the attacks. I get a few more kills in before all hope is lost. I know this is my last chance to make it out. So I place the dagger back in its sheath and run towards the edge. My mad dash for escape doesn’t go unnoticed and a small pack follows after me. When I reach the end of the concrete garden, I don’t have time to second guess my jump. I lunge off the edge and can hear the scream of the defeated soul suckers.

This wasn’t the way the world always was. The country sides were green and luscious and cities were bustling and bright. Then a dark shadow named Valentine Robert Aeon came and the sun stopped shining.

Valentine was a tall slender man with coal black hair and brilliant purple eyes. But there was an air of enigma about this man. Valentine was elected Kaiser and some of us knew that Valentine was an ambitious man. Once serene meadows and humming cities were now concrete jungles and rouge’s playgrounds. Agrarians lost everything and families had to sell off their most prized possessions and even then many starved to death. People in the cities lost their homes, and work and food were scarce.

That’s when the Society of Silent Apostles was formed; a secret society of scholars bent on exposing the evils of this surly character. But if word got out about the Society, all members would be tried for treason and executed; no questions asked. The risk was worth the reward of taking down this tyrant. My father was one of the Malachi, the founding fathers of the Society. I remember when Cloud and I would sneak in and listen to the council meetings. The flag on the wall and the pin the men wore on the lapels of their collars. Golden cursive letters with a black snake woven through the script: Sic Semper Tyrannous; thus always to tyrants. That’s the meaning of the Society, to take down the government and restore order.

Kaiser Aeon had told the scholars to make a virus for his plan to take over the Alliance. His idea was if the nations would not voluntarily join him, then he would kill everyone off and take the land. Destroy and conquer.

So the scholars created this virus that would cause horrid lesions of pus and blood across the body, infection of the respiratory and immune systems, and fevers so high it leads to hallucinations. They called it El Angel Del Muerto, the angel of death. Kaiser Aeon was pleased and showered the scholars and their families with gifts and power. But a major crisis ensued. There was no anti-virus and an infected test rodent gnawed through his cage and escaped into the populace.

At first only the ghettos and slums were affected. The Kaiser was not concerned as the scholars passed off the outbreak as an effect of the filthy conditions the poor inhabited. ”They are nothing more than rats, filthy leaches that feed off the social system. Good riddance to the lot of them” was his only remark. Then it spread throughout the cities and the Society had to go into hiding. Kaiser Aeon was furious and vowed to kill every last scholar and their families. He moved the capital and condemned the cities, saving himself and leaving the people that once loved him to die.

Echo was only two months old when we went into hiding. Mother held her close in her bosom when she slept for fear that she would lose her baby. Echo’s twin brother died a week after he was born and our parents were heartbroken. Father wanted a boy to take control of his place in the Society once he died. So I was the only child he could take under his wing. I was seven at the time and Father’s favorite. I suppose that is because I was more like a boy than a girl in his eyes. Small frame, dark eyes and mousy brown hair to the small of my back, I was an adventurous child with a love of nature. I lived for the forests that canvassed the area of mountains and streams near the Society’s main base. Father was teaching me to use a knife, and I was a natural.

When I was twelve, he let me come and sit in on council meetings. Everyone was stupefied when I stood up next to Father and proudly shouted “Sic Semper Tyrannous!” Fallon de Luna, Cloud’s father and my father’s confidant stood next to me and announced “Our newest fellowship member, Lilith Jayden Morgenstern.” Father’s face was a picture of bliss and shouted out “To the Society! Sic Semper Tyrannous!”

Mother was opposed to her little girls being a part of such a ring of rogues. But I convinced her that this was a different world and I had to be independent; that I should be able to make my own decisions without her interference, or anyone’s intervention for that matter. Cloud had been in the room when they marked me, holding my arm down and brushing my hair out of my face so I wouldn’t see one of the Malachi slicing my wrist and burning over the mark. I was an official Apostle, the first girl and whispered about as being the last daughter of Eve, by the crescent moon birthmark on my neck. Father saw me as his prodigy and soon my training became intense. Everyone knew that a war was approaching and we had to be ready.

The end was sooner then everyone thought. Members of the government’s militia somehow found one of the bases, scholars were executed and children were taken into camps. They said that it was for our own protection from the evils of the world; but truthfully it was a bunch of tin cabins, ruddy bathhouses, a kitchen, and hell house labor factories.

Echo and I were allowed to share a bunk because she was only five. She cried every night, after those heartless brutes forced the children to watch their parents’ last minutes. Father tried to get her to look away, and the guard beat him with the end of his rifle. Her green eyes were wide and glossy with tears as I held my baby sister and watched my mother and father die. That’s when the fire sparked in my heart, the cinder of hate that sparked the flame of rebellion in not only me, but every child would had to sit there under the violet eyes of Valentine Aeon and see the knife slit the throats of the ones we love. I remember the first day Echo and I were at the camps, a dark rainy day, her green eyes looking up at me and her small voice asking “Lilith, when will the sun come out again?”

Cloud somehow snuck out of his cabin one night and found us. I almost cried when I saw his cool blue eyes shining in the moonlight. There was a small object in his hand, lightly wrapped in a rabbit pelt. “Cloud, what are you doing here? What is that? More bread, please say its more bread. Little Echo is starving. They took her ration of food today because she was late to the factory this morning” he presses his warm finger to my lips and folds me into his arms. I return his embrace and my tears well up again. “Lilith, listen to me. Take this and keep it with you. It was father’s gift to me when I turned 13. ” He hands me the rabbit pelt and takes a small block of goat cheese and a chunk of bread out of his pocket and places it in my hands as well. “That’s all I have right now Lily. But it should fill the void in Echo’s stomach. I’ll try and sneak more out of the kitchen for all three of us.” “Cloud, you don’t have to do this. You’re going to get caught.” “Listen, just shut your mouth for once and listen to someone. I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to get caught and I cannot sit around and watch you and Echo starve to death like a bunch of Jews in Auschwitz. This isn’t the Holocaust and Valentine Aeon is no Adolf Hitler!” His normal smug smile is taught and serious, that look he gets when he’s really peeved or pensive. I look down at the ground and don’t say a word. He comes and holds me against his chest and strokes my hair. “Lilith, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I just… I just can’t stand around here and watch what is left of my family be taken away from me.” I know how he feels, how it hurts to see everything you love being slowly taken from your grasp without anything you can do about it.

After our long goodbye, I walk back into the cabin and open the pelt. Inside is the most amazing piece of weaponry I have ever laid my eyes upon. A golden hilted dagger, with sapphire gems dazzling around like a crescent moon. On the blade is engraved in beautiful cursive script is the name De Luna. This must have been in his family for ages and he gave it to me. I start to cry as I think about Fallon, my other father. I didn’t see him at the execution ceremony but there’s no way he escaped. The anger builds up again and I take the dagger and hurl it at the wall. It pierces the flimsy metal sheet and rings out loudly in the middle of the night. Echo wakes at the sound and I comfort her, breaking bread and smearing cheese on it. She eats it greedily and asks for seconds; I give in knowing that she hasn’t eaten all day and her body is growing. When she falls asleep, I tuck the dagger and the extra food away and lay in my bed thinking about Cloud and Father and Fallon, holding onto my pillow like it was my only source of salvation.

I float through the air and a voice calls to me. The voice of a girl, its Echo’s voice. I open my eyes and see a golden light and my mother is standing in front of me. “Lilith, I’m so proud of you. You are so beautiful” she strokes my cheek and smiles at me. “Your sister needs you right now.” “Mother, I’m so sorry. Echo isn’t alive anymore. I’ve failed you. ” I fall to my knees and start to cry again. Where my tears land, bright red roses bloom up. “Mother, what’s going on?” Father steps out of nowhere and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Baby girl, Echo is still alive. She’s looking for you, along with Cloud.” He grabs my wrist and my mark glows pinkish against the golden light on my pale skin. “You are strong. You know what you’ve got to do.” He picks me up and I wrap my stick-like arms around his neck and we dance like when I was little. I don’t want to leave this place. The light starts to fade and so does my father. “Daddy please, don’t go.” He kisses my forehead and whispers “I believe in you baby girl.”

As the golden glow evaporates from around me, I have just a split second to remember that I’m falling. Instincts take over and break my fall by rolling as I hit the gravel. The rough sediment scrapes across my shoulder and face. I get to my feet quickly and look around. It appears I’ve lost the Lykens that were following me. I look up to the angry sky and the rain seems to stop. The bitter wind is now just a slight breeze. It’s almost like the Heavens are smiling on me. If only I could find Echo. Father said she’s still alive. But where do I look for her?

I start to walk back to the downtown section of the city. I find a pane of glass and use it as a mirror. My hair is matted and greasy, my face cut and filthy, and I really need some new clothes. My stomach gurgles and I realize how hungry I am. I remember that I left my backpack with the few provisions I could manage to steal from the warehouse while everyone was asleep back in the building; there is no way I’m going back in there. Fallon said once that you can only cheat death so many times before he learns your Achilles heel. I don’t feel like pressing my luck anymore today.

An old abandoned hotel on 6th street calls my name. Even though the poor place has been unused for what seems like years, there is hot water and a clean bed. I find a pair of pants and a black shirt in one of the drawers that surprisingly fit me and turn the water on. I step out of the tattered dress and under the warm stream of clean water. I sigh and stand there letting the water wash away all the dirt, blood and my tears. It’s funny how the little things we take for granted everyday are the ones we miss the most when they’re gone. Things like a warm shower, a hot meal, a clean bed, the love of a family. My mind turns back to Echo and I know I cannot stay here for very long. I have to find my little sister. I have to know she’s still alive.

After I scrub my skin so many times its pink, I dry off and get dressed. I open the little fridge and find nothing. The showers heat has left me tired so I lay down across the bed and fall asleep. My body is so exhausted from all the running and fighting and my eyes hurt from crying. Sleep is welcomed quickly and it feels so good to finally stop running.

I wake to see the pinkness of the sun start to welcome the new day and realize I slept all night. I spring out of the bed and gather my few things. I have to find Echo. I can only hope that Cloud had kept her safe. I trust Cloud, he’s like the big brother I never had. The big brother I’ll never have.

The air is soft and warm as I step onto the street and start back on my search for humanity. I think of old hideouts and Society bases that they could be hiding. I remember a coffee shop that Cloud and I used to hang out at across town. The coffee was awful and the music was worse but it was our home away from home. I run to the abandoned java house and bust down the door, dagger in hand. I look in every room and come up empty handed. I stab the blade down into a table to the hilt and scream. “ECHO!!!” was my visit from my parents all a dream? Is Echo laying in a ditch and Cloud becoming something’s morning snack?

I’m back outside looking for what remains of family, the sky getting darker overhead. The streets are strange and eerie, I feel like I’m in a foreign place. It’s almost like a dream, walking though the wonderland of shadows and secrets; a playground of Hades. That’s when I hear my name called. It’s a man’s voice, a voice from my childhood. Fallon de Luna’s voice calling me into the shadows, like when we played hide and seek.

I turn around and see a shallow man standing on the corner under a street lamp. His cheeks are hollow and his eyes are dark rings with a pale blue light radiating from the centers. Messy black hair, a frame around his face, and under the crude light the sun allows I feel my heart swell, I know this man. Fallon is alive. Fallon is ALIVE! I don’t think my feet touch the ground as I run into his arms. He looks at me and smiles, “I’m so glad you’re still human. Where is Echo? And Cloud? Are they…?” “No, I mean I don’t think so. Father came to me in a vision and said they were fine. How did you escape?” “Now, now Lilith, this is neither the time nor the place for such questions. Come with me, I have something for you.” He sees the dagger in my belt and picks it out. With a curious examination of the relic he asks “Wherever did you get such a weapon?” “Well, Cloud gave it to me when we were at the camps.” “Tell me about these camps Lily. I’m dying to hear how our lovely leader treated the next generation of his mindless zombies.”

I feel like a little kid again, sneaking into meetings and listening to Father and Fallon and the other Councilmen’s voices. When my parents went on vacation, Fallon would come over and watch me and Cloud. He became a second father to me; he brushed out tangles, kissed scrapped knees, and even cooked chocolate chip pancakes on Sunday mornings. But I’m not a little girl anymore, and this isn’t the world that it once was. No more bedtime stories, no more lullabies, and no more hide and seek; recess is over. I have to face the facts; I am a seventeen year old member of a secret society bent on taking down the government and restoring order. This is the hand that God has given me, I have no other choice. I am going to take down Valentine Aeon and restore this world back to the way it was before his dark shadow covered it. The sun will shine again, I swear it will. This is my destiny.

Fallon leads me down the winding streets of twisted metal and rotting trash. I don’t remember this part of the city, but everything has changed so much it doesn’t matter. My eyes take in everything; the rusting heaps of steel, mountains of garbage, and all the dying buildings. If I have to make a break for it I want to know how to get back to where I was. But even though I know that this could very well be a fraud, an imposing government official trying to find out where the rest of Society is, I trust Fallon. It looks like him: blue eyes, messy black hair, olive skin, the mark on his wrist, the smell of water lilies and mint; it has to be Fallon. I stop and grab his hands in mine, look into his blue eyes and smile. “Fallon, how did you know I was here?” He smiles back and kisses my forehead and whispers “You snore quite loudly. I found you in the hotel and followed you to the coffee shop. I was hoping that you knew where Cloud and Echo were before I joined you. But when you kicked the door down leaving I knew you didn’t know. There is strength in numbers. Now come along Lilith. We don’t have time to delay. I met someone you need to meet.”

We come to a Chinese restaurant and Fallon opens the back door for me. I walk into the dark and the door closes. My heart starts to race and I try to find the door. Fallon grabs my arms and laughs. “What are you doing Lilith?” A young girl’s voice breaks through the dark, “Fallon, have you returned? Did you find them like you said? Is it time?” A small lantern lights her face as she steps into view. She is beautiful, a canvas of light pink glowing in the light, bouncy black curls that frame her face and curtain her shoulders, and those eyes. Purple gems set into pale glass, like a think from a reoccurring nightmare. I know those eyes! I flash back to that awful winter day, the only thing keeping me warm being the fire of my heat for the man with those eyes. She is his exact image; black curls, pale skin, serious smile, and those purple eyes.

My hand goes to the dagger on my hip and I hiss at the monster "How DARE you come here?! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE????" Fallon has my arms pinned behind my back and I struggle to get loose. He’s so much stronger than I remember. Or am I just that weak? I want to kill her for what happened to my parents and the parents of others and all those people who lost everything including their lives because of that monster! Her mouth narrows into a taught and sullen pucker. Then something I never thought I’d see happens, those big violet eyes I associate with death and inhumanity start to weep, look remorseful and weep. She looks down at her feet, toes perfectly shaped and painted red, and then she looks up at me with her manicured hands in balls at her sides and there’s a fire in her eyes. The little voice from the dark is gone, replaced by a mature and bitter one with an accent heavy of a Russian decent. “I am Keeran Renée Aeon. And I came here for the SAME reasons you are here!”

I’m speechless. This high-class little princess wants to come live a life of danger, fear and conspiracy to take down the government and her own father? I don’t know what to say, what to think, what to do. This is all so confusing. Maybe Valentine is just as awful to his family as the rest of the world. Is she being sincere or is this all a scam? Fallon still has a hold of my arms; they start to ache under the pressure of his grasp. I try getting loose again and he lets go, sending me to the floor. Keeran runs over to me and helps me up, or at least tries. I shake her hand off me and walk back over to Fallon. “How do we know what she’s saying is the truth? How do we know we can trust her?” Fallon just nods his head and tells me to sit down. “She is the one who helped me escape the executions. She came and tried to warn the elders but it was too late for most. That’s how we know we can trust her.” Almost sinister looking, his smile is all glitter and teeth sharp as spikes.

She walks over to me and up close I can see faint marks crossing her skin: scars of deep cuts, old fractures, and faint bruises. She hides behind a mask, this girl. Pretending to love her father whilst plotting his demise, I can’t say I blame her. “Valentine is a cruel man, an animal, a monster. He has to be brought down. What kind of man beats his child?”

Just then the door blows open and an arrow whizzes past my head and lands straight into the left eye of a poster of Valentine on the wall. Only one person I know has that good a shot. Well two truthfully, but one was my father. Echo. I turn and see two silhouettes in the pale light. A tall male figure along with the smaller female with the bow in hand and a quiver of arrows on her back. The male steps forward and his face becomes clearer: black waves, olive skin, blue eyes, and a sarcastic smirk across his lips. Fallon looks at the pair and smiles, choking back tears. “My son, is that you?” “Father? Fallon de Luna? It can’t be. You died five years ago. YOU LEFT ME!” Cloud’s smirk is gone, eyes no longer bright and cheerful, a sour tone to his voice. Fallon’s voice cracks and a tear falls. “Cloud, I never left you. I only did what was best for you at the time. If I had stayed then I wouldn’t be here! ” Cloud steps forward and lowers the odd blade in his hand. It’s a gun blade, Cloud’s favorite weapon of choice. The metal clangs against the floor and father and son embrace. I’ve never seen Fallon cry before today. And I’ve never seen the two hug each other.

The female figure steps out and I see my baby sister. She runs to me and I hold her close to me, stroking her red hair and telling her I love her. She looks so much different than I remember, the shy little girl who hung to her mother’s skirt. An arrow that dead on wouldn’t come from a girl whose biggest fear is spiders. She’s grown so much since the camps. “Echo I’m so sorry. I didn’t know where you were. I shouldn’t have left you back in that building. I thought you were dead, but then I had a vision and father told me that you and Cloud were alive and so I came looking for you. Oh if only Father could see you now, how much you’ve grown. I promise I will never let you out of my sight again Echo. Do you hear me? Ever!” I hold her even closer and she hugs me tightly and whispers “You saw Father?” I nod and kiss her forehead and through my teary vision I see her smiling. I thought I would never see that smile again.

Cloud looks over at Keeran and his eyes grow cold. “Who is THAT? Are we just letting strangers into the Society now? What if she’s a spy for that pig Valentine? She knows everything now! Father, I never thought you would be so STUPID!” Fallon’s jaw drops and Keeran takes a small spear off the wall, one almost as long as her arm, and throws it at Cloud's face. But it lands in the wall next to his nose. “I AM NOT A SPY FOR THAT PIG! I CAME HERE FOR THE SAME REASON THAT THE SOCIETY WAS FOUNDED AND IF IT WASN’T FOR ME, YOUR FATHER WOULDN’T BE ALIVE AND YOU WOULD STILL BE WANDERING AROUND LIKE A LOST LITTLE MUTT.” Her voice is harsh, as sharp as the point on the spear in the wall. She walks over and snatches it out of the plaster and stops in front of him. “By the way, my name is Keeran. Pleased to meet you, Cloud.” She turns and walks out of the room. Fallon runs after her, yelling for her to come back.

I walk over to Cloud and throw my arms around his neck. Oh how I’ve missed him. He returns my hug with a quick embrace and unlocks my arms from his neck. “Do you know her Lily? Do you know who that is??” “Yes Cloud I do, Valentine’s daughter. Believe it or not, I think she’s sincere. I saw her arms, covered in bruises and scars. She’s just as angry with the man as we are. My question is why is she so bent on joining us to kill him? Couldn’t she have snuffed him back at the capital?” Cloud shakes his head; “She’s too loyal to the country. If she would have killed his treacherous there, the government would have had her head on a silver platter.”

Echo comes over to us and smiles, “I’ve met her before.” Cloud and I both look at her, “WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? ” Echo’s voice is so much stronger then the little girl I remember. It’s almost heartbreaking to see her growing up so quickly, but in this world you cannot stay young forever. “At the camp, she was one of the girls on the top floor of the factory. She used to bring me the bread that I shared with the other girls while we worked. She called herself Renee. I guess that’s her mother’s name, or maybe a middle name. She always had such a hate for Valentine, we talked sometimes and she has a great way of persuading people. The escape was her idea. She told me about the loose fence outside our cabin.” Neither Cloud nor I say a word. Valentine sent his own daughter to the labor camps? But why would he do such a thing? Then again, it is the man who made a whole race of followers into mindless monsters. Nothing he does should surprise me anymore.

“It’s true, about the camps. Echo is right. I was there, I helped the younger girls, and I raised the rebellion. But I couldn’t stand to see you three go through any more harm because of my family. I saw the potential of the three of you, and I envied the fact I wasn’t able to join you.” Keeran is back in the room, her eyes red from crying. There is something I like about her, maybe her determination, her hate of Valentine, or the fact that she saved my little sister, Cloud and me. I feel like I can trust her. She walks over to Echo and hands her the arrow from the wall, “You’re going to need all of these your quiver can hold. Now that we are all here, I think its time we ended things once and for all.” We join hands in a circle like a group of football players about to go play the championship game. All together we shout the motto, joining us all in treason, in conspiracy, and if this goes well, in Sainthood.

Fallon has Keeran marked in no time, just another scar to add to her collection. Only this one has meaning. It’s not the mark of an angry, power crazed father or a drunken mad man with an unwanted child; no, it’s the mark of revenge for all the other beatings and falls she’s had to take from Valentine. I don’t blame her for wanting to kill him; I feel the same way; only it’s not for the same reasons. At least I think it’s not.

“Keeran, what about your mother? What happened to her?” I know this could be a touchy subject but I have to know. She smiles at the mention of her mother but then her face turns grim. “She passed away shortly after the Angel got out. She was doing some humanitarian work in a ghetto in Clout and caught it from some sick man that coughed blood on her. Father was so depressed; he started drinking and became violent.” She looks at her arms. “Father said it was the scholars’ fault but I know it wasn’t! Valentine told them to make it! HE KILLED MY MOTHER!!!” her face is red and hot with anger and I feel the pain she feels. I know how it feels. “Valentine killed my mother, too.” I put my hand on her shoulder and she looks at me. Her face softens back into a cheerful grin and she smirks. “I say we do this for our mothers.” I nod back at her and we both smile.

It’s been so long since I’ve held an actual blade in my hand. The cold metal almost stings and I welcome the pain. It reminds me of my father. Fallon has the four of us under what he calls “training” but it feels more like boot camp. A katana, a bow, a dagger and Cloud’s gunblade; those are the weapons we have to chose from. Echo naturally chooses the bow and we all let her have it. Keeran picks up a small dagger and throws it into a tree down to the hilt; she’s dead good. Plus she’s not used to larger, more dangerous items. Cloud clings to the gunblade after I toss it to him, leaving me with the katana. I like swords; they’re short enough to hold in one hand while being long enough to do some real damage from a good distance.

I bring the blade down hard on a tree stump and the whole thing shakes. Fallon helps me get it out of the tree and shows me how to bring it down without getting it stuck. “If you come from the side and curve up, it guarantees a kill. Straight through the heart.” He walks off to go help Cloud, who looks like a fool trying to carry that thing. I can hear them yelling at each other and I almost feel jealous. I wish I still had someone to tell me what to do, to braid my hair and play hide and seek with. I run my hand through my hair and I feel hollow, empty. I swing the sword around and up and slice off half the stump. Leaving the blade in the ground, I run back into the makeshift house and start to cry.

The few weeks the camps were the same as usual, I thought Cloud’s visit was all a dream until I found the dagger under my pillow. Cloud was here, he would help us. I could save my baby sister. Even if I didn’t make it out of here, I wanted her to. Then Echo came back to the cabin that night and said that we had to get out. She knew a secret way under the camp and we had to find Cloud and get out. There was going to be a rebellion tomorrow and that we couldn’t stay here. “Echo, what are you talking about? Who told you this?” “One of the older girls in the top floor, her name is Renee and she brings the girls bread, she said that there was going to be an uprising and that I had to get out. She said that you and Cloud and I had to get out alive. She told me how to get out, under the fence by the warehouse.” She pulls out a key from her pocket and hands it to me. “Take this and get some supplies from the warehouse. If we go north for a while then we should get back to the city. ” I look at Echo in her frantic state, and she looks so determined to get out of here; I don’t blame her either. I want out, too. So I agree, hoping that this isn’t a trap.

I wasn’t sure how to approach Cloud on the subject. I didn’t want for him to think I was crazy; but if Echo was right about this, we need to leave. When he came to my window that night, I told him everything. And he agreed with me, he heard talk of an uprising and that’s why he came. His bags were already packed; so I gave him the key and told him to get more provisions. Just food, water, some sleeping bags, a first aid kit; normal things you need when escaping from a prison camp in the middle of autumn. I packed quickly and ran with Echo to the fence, Cloud waiting for us. After narrowly wedging through the small hole, the three of us ran through the night back to what we thought was civilization. We were wrong.

There was a small group of others who had managed to escape before us, some we knew but most were new faces. We all joined into an alliance and the Society was reborn. There were two boys no older than Echo whose names were Cayden and Rory from the mountain district. A little girl that followed her brother like a puppy, his name was Kyle and hers was Terra; they were from the coastal district. Erika and Rachel were from the farming district and James and Seifer were from the forest district. Then there was Echo, Cloud, Ashe and I from the industrial district.

We tried to band together and fight the Lykens in the city but it was too hard for us to stay together. We were separated and I think most of them are dead. Echo, Cloud and I were separated in the building, and I threw myself off the top floor trying to save myself.

I'm brought back to reality by Keeran, who throws cold water on my face. I wipe my face and look up at her, the dagger lightly in her hand. "What's wrong Lilith?" She sits down next to me and her arms wrap around my shoulders. I continue to cry and she rocks me back and forth, stroking my mousy hair and singing something in Russian. I look back up at her and ask “What does that mean?” “It’s an old Russian lullaby my mother would sing to my brother and me when we couldn’t sleep. It basically says there is nothing to fear little one, I am always with you. ” Her eyes sparkle when she talks about her mother. “I bet she was a wonderful woman, your mother. I didn’t know you have a brother.” The sparkle fades, “Yes, he’s my twin brother. His name is Sephiroth. I haven’t seen him since father sent me off to the camps. Seth was always more obedient than I was, always listening to what father said, making father proud; while I was the rebellious child. Father had always loved Seth more anyways. I mean he was his son, what good would a girl do? Especially one who cannot listen, follow directions.” I don’t know what to tell Keeran, I want to make her feel better about herself but I don’t want to say something stupid and hurt her even more.

I’m not sure why but over these past few weeks we have grown quite close. We are about the same age, I’m only a few months older than her, but she feels like an older sister to me. I don’t really know what it’s like to be the younger sibling, I was the oldest. Cloud is like my big brother but our relationship isn’t exactly like siblings, more like an extension of each other, two parts of one whole. So I embraced being the little sister for once; and besides, Echo loves Keeran. I suppose in m own way I love her too. The five of us, Echo, Cloud, Keeran, Fallon, and I, have become a makeshift family. Fallon is the acting father, while Cloud, Keeran and I have kept the five of us fed. Echo is a wonderful cook and an even greater sage. The small garden outside the back of the old restaurant is blooming with curing herbs and other medicinal plants.

I see Keeran’s smile is turned to a melancholy frown and I embrace her, one of those comforting, sisterly hugs. She returns the gesture and Cloud walks in. “Awwww! I love group hugs!” He runs over and smothers both of us in his chest. “Let… Go… Cloud. ” I manage to choke out under the pressure of him nearly squeezing Keeran and me together. “Oh, sorry.” He drops the hug and Keeran and I are both relieved to have fresh air. “Man Cloud, don’t you know what a bath is? I’m sure Echo has some soap you can use.” Keeran coughs and waves away the smell of sweat and the other funk that is Cloud’s underarms. “Well thanks Keeran, you are such a doll. I break my neck trying to keep you fed and this is how I’m repaid. Man I am so glad I have great friends like you. Just come here and let me hug you again. I want to make sure you never forget me.” He smothers Keeran in another hug, making sure that his sweat is rubbed all over her. She fights the hug and gags at the smell. “I smell like a gym locker!” Cloud laughs and I can’t help giggle. She punches his arm and yells “You are such a jerk Seth!” “Wait a minute, who’s Seth?” Cloud looks at Keeran and then at me; his face so confused. “Seth is my brother. His name is Sephiroth. I’m sorry Cloud, I really am. That’s just something Seth would do.” She looks down and her smile turns grim once more.

Later that night, I go to Keeran’s room to find her looking at some pictures in a small album. “Hey, whatcha doing Keeran?” She looks up and smiles. “Hey Lily.” She closes the book and pushes it away. I sit next to her on the bed. “Do you mind if I look at those?” “I guess so, it’s nothing special. Just a little reminder of home, or what used to be home. ” The pictures are of Keeran and her family. Little babies sitting on their mother’s lap, a smaller version of the girl on the bed playing with a bunny, two children hunting for Easter eggs, a little boy with his first bow and arrow set, ribbons and dresses, a boy with his father; all the photos are happy looking except for the last one; taken at their mother’s funeral. Neither of the two looks happy and Seth’s eyes are puffy. In the back of the book is a small piece of paper that reads: In loving memory of Emma Kenzie Aeon, beloved mother, wife, and friend.

“Wow, you two look so much alike. It’s like looking into a mirror. ” Keeran smiles a little at this comment. “You know, Echo had a twin.” Keeran looks at me, interest all across her face. So I proceed with my story. “They were preemies; Echo was born first, then Alec. Father was excited about having a son, but for some reason Alec got sick. Mother had to keep Echo and Alec separate so Echo wouldn’t get sick. Father thought it because he was born too soon. But Echo didn’t get sick; in fact she was healthy and really active. She grew a ton before she was even two months old. But Alec got too sick, especially before the move to the forest. Three days after he was born, Alec Ryan Morgenstern left us. Father was heart-broken but Mother was devastated. It must be hard to lose a child, especially one so little. ”

Keeran’s eyes never left me while I told the story, and by the end she was actually crying. “Aww, Keeran. Don’t cry. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to make you cry. Come here. Shhh.” I scoot closer to her and hug her. Echo walks into the room with two cups of steaming liquid; she sets them down, comes over and joins the hug. “Hey Echo. Did you bring some hot chocolate for Lilith too?” Keeran smiles and Echo run s off to get me a cup as well. “Listen Keeran, don’t tell Echo about Alec. She doesn’t know, and I don’t think this would be the right time for her to bear something like this.” She nods and picks up one of the cups, brings it to her lips and takes a long sip. Echo brings me a cup and we all sit on Keeran’s bed, sipping hot cocoa and gossiping until we all have fallen asleep.

The sun comes up and we all can feel it; something heavy and metallic hanging in the air. I look at the sky and know what today is, D-Day. The day that the Society, or what’s left of it, goes to the Capital and the last day that Valentine Aeon lives. I know this must be hard for Keeran, since her father is the man we are after. But she seems just as ready as any of us. I know the one thing she wants the most out of this, to find Sephiroth, make sure he’s still alive, and reunite with what’s left of her family.

Everyone is up and ready by the time the sun is just breaking through the trees and greeting the day. Is this a sign from God? From my parents? From the past Apostles? Either way I see this as a good omen and I smile as I walk outside. The golden dagger is on my hip and the silver katana is slung across my back. Echo has her quiver loaded and on her shoulder, her bow restrung and under her arm. Cloud carries the backpack of supplies on his back and his gunblade in his belt loop. Keeran chose to tuck her stilettos under the topcoat over her skirt. Fallon chooses to carry a small axe in his hand and another pack of provisions on his back. As the day starts to brighten, a cool breeze blows and we start off towards the Capital.

The wind is bitter and stings our faces as we reach the shining city known as Enoch, the first city. A light blanket of snow starts to fall around our feet and I have to stop from playing in it. “Come on Echo. We don’t have time for such childish things.” Her smile disappears, and I almost feel guilty for pulling her away; she’s never seen snow before. But we really don’t have time to play around in the snow, this is a serious time, and we must remember why we’re out here in the bitter cold walking to a possible doom. It’s not about ourselves anymore; it’s about the people that have sacrificed their selves, and the people we could save.

As we enter the pearly gates, we all finally feel the weight of our task. The katana on my back feels like lead in its sling. But we keep moving, keeping our eyes open for any kind of trouble. A siren blares and I look around, the guards have spotted us. Ten of them descend upon us and the fighting begins. “Fallon, we have to keep moving forward! This is only a distraction!” Keeran shouts above the noise of metal hitting metal and felled guards dying cries. Through the fighting, we somehow manage to keep together and move towards the Kaiser’s mansion. I find myself having to keep pushing Echo forward so she doesn’t have to waste her arrows. “Here, take this. Don’t waste your arrows yet.” I throw her the dagger and she catches it just in time to stab a guard trying to grab her. “Keep running Echo! I’m right behind you.” She nods to me and runs up to Fallon. Cloud is cutting down guards for what looks like the fun of it. “Cloud, come on! You can have your hack-fest later!” “Gosh Lilith, you’re such a fun sucker.”

As we get to the outskirts of the city, the mansion comes into view. It’s not like anything I could have ever imagined. It’s a dark, gothic, building with tall spiraling towers coming up the sides of the building. I think of Transylvania and Dracula. Maybe Valentine Aeon is a vampire and we can just encircle the building in garlic. Keeran looks upon the building and that fire comes back to her eyes. “Come on guys, we’re almost here.” She runs up down the driveway and we follow her. As we get closer, I start to see the true appearance of the mansion. It’s cold, unwelcoming, lonely, it screams run away as fast as you can in the opposite direction. And for a moment I want to, but I can’t. I know why I’m here and we have all come too far to turn back now. The wind is cold on my neck; I pull my collar of my jacket up and keep running.

A shadow moves from outside the trees nearest Keeran and I yell to her “Look out!” A hand covers my mouth and I fight back. In the struggle, Cloud and Keeran turn and run to help. As I swing my katana at the figure’s head, Keeran screams and lunges between the stranger and me. “NO!! Lilith stop!” She knocks me back; blocking the shadow phantom from my reach. “What is your problem Keeran?” Cloud helps me to my feet and stares at Keeran, her small frame crudely covering my assailant. The phantom’s face comes into view and everything clicks. The face, like porcelain, large almond shaped eyes; even though his hair is platinum blonde and his eyes are a dark chocolate I feel like I know him. Its Keeran’s brother, Sephiroth. “Cloud, stop! Its Keeran’s brother. It’s Sephiroth!” The boy turns and looks at me. His voice is sweet, like honey and milk that mother would put in my tea. “How do you know who I am?” Keeran looks at him and smiles. “Seth, is it really you? Is it really you? ” He helps her up off the dirt floor and she throws her arms around him, “Keeran, it’s me. It’s Seth. Oh how I’ve prayed for this day for so long. ” Fallon steps over to us and clears his throat loudly. “I don’t mean to be bothersome but we do have a purpose in being here. Once we’re done with that then you can reconnect all you please. If we all survive this, that is.” Echo interjects “Yeah guys. Come on. I can feel Valentine coming.” She shivers as she says his name and strings an arrow into the cradle of the strings on her bow. My hands go back to my katana and Keeran and Cloud ready themselves. Sephiroth pulls out a small spear and smiles. “Well now that that’s all settled, let’s go.” Sephiroth has the same smile as Keeran, and I return his with my own.

I love kicking down doors. The splintering of wood under my foot, I feel powerful. The house is large and empty. I guess that only Valentine and Seth have lived here since Keeran went to the camps and her mother died. My katana is in front, followed by Cloud’s gunblade, Keeran’s stilettos, Sephiroth with his spear and then Echo’s arrows. Fallon takes up the back with the small axe. “FATHER!! I HAVE SOME FRIENDS I WANT YOU TO MEET!” Seth yells to the emptiness and then a dark shadow descends from the stairs. The sweep of a cape, the brilliant light reflecting of ivory skin, jet black curls, violet eyes like smoldering coals on an evening fire; but his voice is what sets me back. It’s like a heavy drug, pulling me under its spell. I can see now why so many people fell for the twisted ideas of this man. His voice is an allure, a beckoning siren from out of the darkness. It’s like it knows my fears, my hopes and dreams; it promises to fulfill my dreams and grant my wishes, wash away all my fears. I almost want to follow him.

A sharp cackle brings me back to reality. “Well, well, well. What have we here? A merry band of renegades. Hah! ” He flows down the stairs with the elegance and grace of a jaguar. He stops in front of me and I push Echo behind me. His long pale fingers caress my cheek and I shrug his cold touch off. My skin burns where his fingers brushed. “Don’t touch the girl. Fight like a man, but I understand if that’s hard for you.” Its Cloud’s voice so full of venom and Valentine laughs even harder. “And who might you be? Ah, a De Luna I presume. You have their sprit. It led to your father’s downfall. ” Cloud cocks his gunblade and Valentine pushes him away. “Well done my son. You have brought such traitors to face their penance. But I shall not be such a kind judge as I was before. I would have thought that you would have learned a lesson when I had the other conspirators executed. Did you think I wanted you to watch your parents die for fun? You stupid children never learn. Run along Sephiroth, I don’t believe you need to watch such a brutal end of life. “Seth looks at his father and nods. “Yes my lord.” He winks at me as he leaves, and I wink back. I look around and notice that Keeran is missing. I lean over to Cloud and whisper “Where is Keeran?” He looks around too and shrugs. “Maybe she’s in the bathroom.” I punch his arm and Fallon steps forward. “Quit it you two!” He grins at Valentine, his teeth glittering again.

“So we meet again Fallon De Luna. I thought you were dead.” Fallon smiles and responds “Well thanks to your pretty princess I am here today.” Valentine’s face goes blank, empty, silent. “You lie! Keeran is in her room! She’s a good girl, she would never help such disease like you Fallon!” Fallon laughs and then he circles Valentine and whispers in his ear “Guess again Val.” Valentine strikes Fallon down and stands over him. “TAKE IT BACK!”

“You think I don’t know about how you beat her, blamed the scholars for her mother’s death, then when she didn’t listen to your every command to the letter you sent her to those hell holes you call reform camps? She was the one who told these three here how to escape. She was the one who led the rebellion in the camps. IT WAS YOUR LITTLE GIRL! ”

Valentine sinks down to his knees like Fallon’s words are a stab to his heart. But his remorseful appearance is just a cover-up of him drawing a sword from inside his coat. The blade stabs into Fallon’s stomach and he screams. Cloud runs over and sees the blood, the life draining from his father’s body. Fallon’s eyes become glazed and his voice cracks. Blood dribbles from the corners of his lips. He beckons Cloud and I to come to him; by his side we kneel and Fallon whispers “I love you both. And I believe in you Lilith. There…is…always…more can…see. You just……know where to…look. Remember…the…motto.” His voice fades and a forced breath ends his life. I’ve heard that the horrid noise a person makes before dying is the sound of their soul detaching from their body.

My eyes are blurry with angry tears. First Keeran disappears and now Fallon is dead. Like a dream, a blur of movement; Cloud is to his feet, gunblade cocked and aimed at Valentine’s heart. My hands find my katana and I see the blonde flash behind Valentine, Sephiroth. Echo is hidden behind an iron rail with an arrow in her bow. All we need is to see Keenan, to know they haven’t gotten to her, to know she’s still alive and fighting with us.

Echo’s arrow pierces the wall near Valentine’s head, but it’s not dead on. Her hands are too shaky; having seen Fallon die in such a bloody manner. It’s too much for most people to take, especially since she’s still so young. I know she’s seen a lot but death is still a heavy burden to carry on your shoulders. She’s so pale, almost skin and bones; I know I’ve tried the hardest I could but I still feel like I’ve failed her, failed Cloud and Keeran and poor Fallon, still and cold on the marble floor, failed my mother and father, failed myself. I just want to scream and run and hide away from all of this. I want to be a normal seventeen year old girl with both of her parents and friends and a boyfriend and without all this guilt on my shoulders. The worst thing I should maybe be failing a math test, not everyone I love.

My eyes look around the cold room, to Fallon’s calm face, to Echo’s trembling fingers, to Cloud’s gunblade at Valentine’s heart, Sephiroth hiding on the twisted iron steps, Valentine’s cold purple eyes starring me down. It’s like he can see into my soul, make me feel this way; all the pain and guilt I feel right now. Cloud’s blade comes down on Valentine’s and he jumps back. Valentine turns to run and taunts him. “Come child, I want to play a game.” His laugh is wicked and it breaks my trance. I haven’t failed, not yet at least. I have to follow them; I can’t let Valentine get to Cloud as well. But I have something to do first. “Sephiroth, take Echo and keep her safe.” He just nods to me and escorts Echo up the spiraled steps.

Slowly I walk to Fallon. He looks like he’s asleep, except for the large gash in his stomach; blood still trickles out some and soaks the cloth around it. I kneel down beside him and kiss his forehead then close his eyes and kiss his lips, still warm and bloody. I whisper a silent prayer and stand up. His blood is on my lips, like a symbol of his presence. I feel a warm surge of hope, strength, and I want revenge. Like an animal after its first taste of blood wanting more, that’s what I am. I want to bathe myself in Valentine’s blood. As I brush his hair out of his face I notice a small mark on Fallon’s neck, a sign of a second change. Two small pricks in the base of his neck, vampire embrace marks. I should have known; all of the changes in him, the extreme strength, the way he left when we would eat, his sharp teeth. He’s a vampire, and I know what that means; I can save Fallon!

Quickly I grab the axe and cut my wrist open, wincing at the pain shooting through my body. I press my bloody wrist to Fallon’s dead lips and pray this works. “DON’T LEAVE ME FALLON!” I’m crying from the pain; both physically and emotionally. Slowly his body starts to move, his fingers grab my arm, his lips surrounding the cut dripping with blood, drinking in the sweet nectar of life. The color returns to his face, his eyes open and his drops my arm; almost embarrassed with what he’s done. “Lilith, how did you know?” “Well Fallon sweetheart, the marks on your neck gave it away.” He smiles and says “I knew you would know what to do. I guess I have managed to cheat death once again, huh Lilith? ” I help him to his feet and yell “Hurry, we have to help Cloud. Valentine led him outside.”

We make a break for the back door and Fallon asks “Where is Echo?” “She’s with Seth. I still can’t find where Keeran is.” The fighting outside is intense, Cloud has shot Valentine in the shoulder and they stand toe to toe with each other. Their swords are meeting again and again, and it’s almost too much to watch. I have to try to do something. Sephiroth and Echo stand beside Fallon and I. Fallon starts to speak and I run to Cloud’s side.

Valentine laughs as I raise my katana up and strike his right arm. Down on one knee, he charges up at Cloud who swipes at his masamune with a wrist flick. He falls to the ground and I pin him down with my heel at his throat. “Why should I let you live, after all of this? Fallon isn’t dead. It turns out he’s a vampire. So that’s strike one. ” I push my heel down harder, cutting off more of his oxygen. “You forced my baby sister into a camp where she nearly starved and I had to break my back to keep the two of us alive, strike two.” I bring my blade to his throat as well. “And you took away the parents of thousands of children, including your own!” I let go, kick him hard in the side and back away some. “Get up. I SAID GET UP YOU VILE CUR!” I toss his masamune to him and match my own smaller version with it. “Fight like a man, or else I will kill you now!” There is so much acid to my voice I hardly recognize it as my own, until I find that it isn’t just my voice. Keeran! She stands behind her father with Fallon’s dagger in her hand. She puts a finger to her lips and I smile.

Valentine is quick, hard and ruthless; but I keep up with his attacks and come back with some of my own. I’m tired and so is he. I get a chance to move and run to the top of a marble deck above what looks like a swimming pool, frozen from the weather. “Lilith, Look out!” Cloud shouts to me and I see Valentine running towards me. Echo is tending to the long cut along his arm. I whisper a small prayer and cross myself, just as Valentine reaches the base of the steps. “You’re going to need all the prayers in the world to save you now little girl.” I laugh and run around the side nearest the pool. Keeran is waiting; I am going to let her have him. I had my chance and this isn’t my fight. I have what I want; Echo, Cloud and Fallon are safe and alive. I am happy, besides I think I saw Sephiroth watching me.

He reaches the top and I slip around, circling the hem of his coat, my blade’s edge catching his Achilles tendon. Valentine falls to the ground, unable to move. I glide back in front of him and smile. “Any last words?” He believes this is for him but I nod at his mirror image behind him, with his fiery eyes and black curls; the only difference between them is that Keeran has a heart.

Keeran’s dagger finds his throat and he makes a squeamish noise, like a wounded animal. Her hand moves swiftly and severs Valentine’s jugular vein. The sun breaks through the clouds, showering my skin in its warmth. Valentine’s dead body falls forward at my feet like he’s bowing to me and Keeran whispers, “Sic Semper Tyrannous, Father.”

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