Prologue - Found - Age 4
There was little left of the small village. Buildings had been burned and bodies lay strew over the landscape. Those who served the evil never left anything alive when they swept over the land. He stopped here and there to check to see if anyone survived, but there were no survivors. A sigh escaped him as he moved through the destruction.
His steps slowed and he came to a halt, his head tipped as he listened. He was certain he’d heard a small sound, yet now it was gone. His eyes scanned the ruined village, but he didn’t move or make a sound. He simply waited and after a few quiet minutes, his patience was rewarded.
“Where are you?” he muttered quietly as he moved in the direction of the sound. It took him several minutes of searching to locate the sound. “Well, hello there and how did you manage to survive?”
The little girl sat in the center of a pile of debris, her eyes wet with tears. His eyes scanned the destruction around her. The child sat in the center of what appeared to be a small crater in the debris around her. His eyes went slightly wide when he spotted the bodies poking from the debris here and there. Men, but not villagers. They wore the uniforms of those that served the evil. His eyes went back to the child. How had she managed to survive this? Who killed those soldiers and why had they left the child behind?
She looked up at him, the tears causing her brown eyes to sparkle in the dim light. “I want momma.”
He sighed. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible, little one. Come, let’s get you out of this place.”
She sniffled and held her arms up to him. “Up?”
He smiled. “Yes, of course.” He lifted the child into his arms. “My name is Carder, what’s yours?”
“Affinity,” she told him quietly before snuggling her head beneath his chin. “It hurts, make it stop.”
He frowned. “What hurts, were you injured?”
She shook her head. “It always hurts.”
He stopped walking and allowed his mind to open. The wave of emotions that hit him nearly sent him to his knees. It took him a few moments to shut himself away from her. “I’ll help you, don’t worry.” He began walking again, quickly now. He’d found what he’d come searching for. This child was their future and he needed to get her to safety before it was too late.
Two weeks and the little girl had settled into his home, though she still struggled with the pain in her mind. It was time he began her training, she’d had the time she needed to mourn those lost to her. He sighed and stared down at her. Her confusion was plain to see as she stared up at him, her eyes scrunched, brows drawn tightly together, as she tried to explain what she was feeling to him. While he had an understanding of how her gift worked and what she felt, she seemed to believe it was necessary to explain things further for him.
“The pain comes from everywhere around me. It’s so great and I feel all of it. Why?”
He made his way slowly to where she sat in the small space at the window and took a seat beside her. It appeared no one had taken the time to explain her gift to her. How did he do it without frightening her?
“You feel it because you’re special. Once you learn to, then you can feel more than the pain. It will be difficult because it’s so great. Larger than anything. There is joy around you, small as it may be, it is there. I promise these lessons will help you, it will take some time to learn but I’ll be here to help you work it all out.”
The crease between her brows increased as she attempted to block out the world’s pain. To keep it from her mind. The tips of her fingers were pressed tightly to her temples. “Are you sure?”
He nodded, though he prayed for it to be so. He hoped he wasn’t wrong. If he’d made a miscalculation about her power her life would be filled with nothing but pain and sorrow. The anguish of the world would be hers for the rest of her days. She would die young if nothing was as he hoped it to be. Prayed it would be.
She’s different than the others. It will work. He watched as she pressed her forehead to the window glass. This tiny, fragile-looking child was special. The gift was strong within her. Therefore, she must be strong as well. This frail-looking little girl was the one he’d been searching for, waiting for, and her gift would save them all.
Her forehead remained pressed to the window glass when she spoke, “Carder, how do I find the joy?”
“With lots of work, little one.” He reached out and stroked her shining auburn hair.
He would work hard to keep the pain of the world from destroying her. They couldn’t lose the opportunity to fix what had been broken. It was his duty to make certain Affinity survived.