Arrow Branded – Chapter 9

I knew I was dreaming, but I couldn’t do anything.

I was alone as I approached the wall. A guard behind it ordered someone to rise the gate. As the metal bars lifted, I saw a whole village unfold in front of me, literally. A community milling about and doing everyday things. I walked through the gates and down the paved road. Immediately, I was surrounded by people going about their lives. People hanging their clothes out to dry, debating politics, buying from shops. I turned toward the gate and looked back out. I covered my mouth with my hand and I heard someone scream. Maybe it was me, I wouldn’t know.

The woman from Morrow Inn walked through the gates, her very presence causing distress. As she got closer, her form morphed. She grew taller. Her hair became longer, messily braided and thrown to one side. A guard tried to intercept her, but she waved a hand and he was thrown into the side of a building. The brick wall crumbled on top of him. There was no way he was getting up from that. Another guard approached her, but she clenched her fist and the guard fell to her knees, clutching her throat. The woman rolled her eyes and continued walking. Somehow, I was no longer my own person. I followed her through the streets, hovering after her,as if I were on wings, and watching her wreak havoc on the townspeople. She snapped her fingers and the windows of an ice cream shop exploded, causing bystanders to run in terror.

“Why are you doing this? Won’t they notice you?” I heard my own voice speaking as if it were detached from my body. I didn’t know who ‘they’ was, but I was concerned that they would see her. She turned in my direction. She didn’t look at my eyes, rather, just above, making me feel immensely uncomfortable.

“Yeah, they will. I want them to,” she replied coolly. She turned back to her destruction.

“Stop, please,” my disconnected voice said. The woman ignored me completely. I moved towards her.

Suddenly, the earth moved and I lost balance. I felt the ground impact me as I fell. It was grassy, rather than paved as it previously had been. When I looked up again, I was somewhere else. She was gone.

I saw the elven boy standing in the middle of a field. The field sat right at the edge of a cliff. At first, I thought he was just standing there, facing away from me. Then I saw that he was staring, unmoving, at something in the sky. I followed his gaze and caught the large silhouette of something flying away. The form was large and had claws the size of kitchen knives. A dragon? It looked like Rumour’s demon form, but several times the size.

A murder of crows flew overhead and I looked back at the elven boy. Four wide slits opened up in the back of his sweater, revealing his tanned skin. A dark red liquid began to pour down his back and soak the sunflower-coloured fabric. Blood. The elven boy gave no indications that he was injured at all. The back of his drenched sweater stuck to his skin with blood, making it impossible to see anything through the cuts in the material. He fell to his knees, still not showing any pain. He pressed his palms to the dirt beneath him. I felt the Earth begin to shake. I couldn’t see his face but I knew his eyes were glowing green. I stumbled to the side, tripping over an uneven bit of ground. I fell and immediately felt pain up my arm and leg. The rough ground had scraped my entire left side as I was thrown to the ground in the sudden earthquake.

People ran around in a panic. Many of them carried objects from their house or nearby stores. These things ranged from a man carrying his two children, to a slightly disgruntled-looking person carrying single house plant. In the distance the dragon-like silhouette was getting farther. The side of a far off mountain collapsed and caught the dragon’s wing, taking it down. The dragon let out a horrible pained shriek. As it fell, it seemed to morph. It shrunk and its wings disappeared. It became too small to recognise perfectly, but it resembled a human body. I watched them fall until they were out of sight. I heard a loud crack and a tall building nearby began to crumble. I tried to scream, but my voice caught in my throat. I couldn’t move. The concrete apartment building came down. Dust covered everything. A large piece was falling towards me. Then everything ended. Darkness enveloped me and I heard a voice.

“When the Arrow Brandeds are gone and the elves are overthrown, then will I reign as a queen.” I knew it was the woman from the beginning of the dream, though I couldn’t see her. Her voice echoed, then the silence following left my ears ringing.

 

I bolted upright in bed. The covers slid down my torso exposing my bare arms to the winter air. It was considerably warmer inside the building, yet still a bit cold. I swung my lugs over the side of the cot and looked around, rubbing my eyes. Xavier still rested on the side of his friend’s cot. Everyone was still sound asleep. I sighed in relief. Despite the sleeping people all round, the place felt empty. I was alone for the moment.

My toes touched down on the ice-cold floor as I slipped off my cot. The only light aiding my vision was from the streetlights outside. Everything looked sofer in that light. It all seemed frozen in time. I began walking without knowing exactly where I was going. My feet carried me across the frigid floor. I passed sleeping faces. Then I was at the front door. I pushed it open and was immediately met with a rush of bitter air. I pulled on a pair of snowboots by the door. They weren’t mine and didn’t fit, I didn’t even have socks on. But I didn’t care. The outside called to me. I grabbed a thick jacket that Dash had been wearing earlier.

I stepped into the open air and took a deep breath. The cold cut my lungs. I coughed once and took a few steps forward. I sat down on the step and looked down the street. The breeze nipped at my nose. My mind began to wander. I didn’t want to go back to sleep. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. What the woman said sounded almost like a prophecy. I hoped it wasn’t.

I shivered and turned my attention to the things around me.

I didn’t notice when the fireflies showed up, but they arrived at some point. They hovered near the ground and flitted through the trees by the road. I didn’t dare look closer, for I worried that if I did I would find that they were not fireflies, but fairies.

One landed on the path in front of me, and stayed a few seconds. When it left, I felt something in my heart fracture. Maybe, in my mind, that firefly symbolized my old life; getting farther with every passing second. Maybe my mental state at the time caused me to get attached to anything that would put up with my existence for more than a second. I don’t know what it was, but I felt it deep within me. A sob rose in my throat as I watched my little firefly disappear into a tree.

I let the tears fall from my eyes, trying to choke down any sound as to not wake my companions. That was the first time since we left that I actually let myself express the real emotions outwardly. Deep despair. And, perhaps, loneliness? I wanted to go back to the orphanage. To my friends. Well, more like friend.

My crying didn’t echo in the soft town. It hung in the empty air, frozen from the cold. I heard footsteps behind me and took a deep breath, quickly wiping my eyes. People weren’t supposed to see this. These feelings were secrets I kept in my chest. A person sat beside me on the step.

“Can’t sleep either?” the elven boy asked. He looked at my face briefly.

“No,” I replied, my voice shaking slightly.

“My name’s Vesstan by the way,” he said. “Estelar Vesstan Faydark.”

“I’m Lake,” I responded, offering him my hand. Vesstan shook it. His touch was as light as a breeze. It was silent for a second, then he turned to me.

“What’s up?” His voice sounded hesitant. As if he really wasn’t good at talking about things, or didn’t want to, but felt like he needed to comfort me or something. I breathed in deep.

“A lot, thanks for asking,” I responded.

“Do you.. Wanna talk about it?”

“Nah.” I shifted uncomfortably on the step. Vesstan was silent. I felt an awkward silence creeping over us.

“So, how did you get all mixed up with these three,” he asked. I didn’t look at my face, rather just beside me. The streetlights illuminated his features. I could see he still wasn’t completely there. Part of him was left back at Morrow Inn, in that padded room. I could see it in his eyes. I wasn’t about to prod at that, though. I wouldn’t do that, make him relive those obviously painful memories.

“I lived in the orphanage near their house and one day I was just in the forest, reading, and Xavier nearly killed me with an arrow. I saw his branding and was just too curious. The next day, I happened to walk by them and, between you and me, I stayed and just listened to them for a while” I said, making Vesstan smile. “I stayed out too late and the doors of the orphanage were locked, so I stayed the night. I was supposed to leave in the morning, but their house was attacked and now that I’ve been seen with them I can’t go back, although I do wish sometimes.”

“Yeah, I imagine that would put you, and many others, in danger,” he said calmly. I nodded. “They really are just kids when they’re not fighting for their lives. I think they deserve to have a childhood.” Vesstan smiled and looked down.

“I knew it! You have met them before,” I exclaimed. Vesstan laughed quietly.

“Yes, we were all friends. But that was a long time ago; I’m certain Xavier hates me now,” he said. There was a hint of sadness behind his tone. As if he had been closer with Xavier than with the other two.

“What happened?” I couldn’t help myself; I wanted to know. Vesstan looked away and didn’t speak. I worried that I had crossed a line. Stupid Lake, you can’t seem to stop invading other people’s business.

“I don’t really…” Vesstan faltered, tears had begun to form in his eyes.

“I get it. You’d rather not talk about it,” I said, putting a hand on his arm. He acted like he wanted to flinch, but he didn’t. Vesstan seemed to tense up under the touch, still he smiled.

“The sun’s going to rise soon.” Vesstan looked out over to horizon. Purple light was spreading across the sky, as if someone had painted streaks to brighten up the night.

“I love being awake at this time,” I said. More to myself than to him, but he agreed anyway. We sat and watched the sun rise, throwing light over the houses and buildings. Even the darkest parts of the landscape seemed less intimidating.

I heard movement inside.

“Wakey, wakey,” Dash was saying cheerfully when I peeked inside. He was standing at the entrance to the room, still in his pajamas and his hair looked dishevelled. The sleeves of his hoodie were slightly too long for him and covered his hands. Muffled protests and complaints came from my travel companions.

“C’mon, guys. You have to get ready for your journey to the elf kingdom.” Ianto entered with his hands on his hips. Vesstan appeared at my side. I could immediately tell he’d once again resumed his shy and reserved attitude. He could talk to one person at a time, and only at a calm time. It made sense, I assumed being kidnapped and tortured would be a traumatic experience.

“No, it’s way too early for this,” Rumour groaned. Dash smiled wickedly. With a wave of his hand, Rumour’s blanket was snatched from him and thrown across the room.

“Are you going to get up now?” he asked with a smirk. Rumour sat up reluctantly.

“Not cool, man,” he said, glaring at Dash. Dash giggled and opened a book the front read, Breakfast Book.

“Whatcha doing with a cookbook?” Rumour asked. Dash made a ‘what do you think?’ face at him. I realized that I was still just standing at the door and head over to my cot.

“Oh, there you are,” Soleil said, rubbing her eyes. “I saw you leave during the night, but I was half asleep and didn’t process it properly.”

“Yeah… I, um, just needed some air,” I said awkwardly. I didn’t really want to tell her about the dream I had. I felt like there was something else behind that strange night, but I just didn’t feel like bothering the others with it.

“Do you guys want pancakes?” Dash’s voice came from where he stood the other side of the room. Nobody seemed to have a problem with that, so he and Ianto walked down the hallway to what I assumed was a kitchen, still holding the book. I didn’t have any belongings to pack up, so I followed them.

“You need help?” I asked. Dash turned around, surprised, then smiled.

“Yeah, actually, I do,” he said, handing me a measuring cup and a bag of flour. “Please measure out one and a half cups.” I did as I was told. I thought as I worked in silence.

“How to people contact you if they need you?” I asked suddenly.

“We have a card. here,” Ianto said, handing me a piece of paper.

“‘Put up decorations’,” I read aloud.

“Sorry wrong one.” He took the card back and replaced it with another one.

‘Dasher Captain Hawthorn and Ianto Liberty’.” I scanned the words on the card.

“I hate that card,” Dash muttered. Ianto laughed.

“He hates it because he thinks Captain is a dumb middle name,” Ianto told me, putting a hand on Dash’s shoulder. Dash brushed it off and turned away, blushing. He looked back at his recipe book. Ianto picked up a small spellbook from the counter.

“You don’t have to give that to everyone who comes through here,” Dash said, obviously repressing a smile. Ianto smirked, as if he loved to tease his friend.

“Dasher Captain Hawthorne, don’t be that way.” Ianto opened the spellbook. Dash stopped what he was doing. He made a movement with his hand, slamming the spellbook shut. He looked me right in the eye.

“I hate him,” he said, his face breaking into a smile. I could tell he didn’t really mean it. “I hate him and his emo hair and nerdy glasses.”

“Hey, you’re wearing glasses too, warlock!” Ianto pushed Dash playfully. Dash stuck his tongue out at Ianto. I siged. This was exactly how two of my friends from the orphanage were. They were inseparable.

We finished the pancake mix quickly and Dash and I watched Ianto cook them.

“Should I try to flip it?” he asked, taking the pan off the stove and positioning himself.

“No, Ianto don’t,” Dash said.

“I’m gonna flip it.” Ianto prepared for flipping.

“Ianto, don’t be rash,” Dash insisted. Ianto completely ignored his friend and launched the pancake into the air. Dash put a hand over his mouth and stepped back quickly. Somehow, Ianto managed to catch the pancake back on the pan. Dash put his hands over his heart, letting out his breath.

“See? It turned out fine,” Ianto said smugly.

“You almost gave me a heart attack!” Dash exclaimed. Ianto rolled his eyes and laughed at his friend and placed the pancake on the stack.

“Dash can you help me bring these out?” he asked. Dash nodded.

Breakfast was amazing. It was the most appreciated meal in all my life. You never do realize how much you need and love something until you don’t have it, do you?