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Chapter 4

Her people weren’t the only ones to lose battles and to die. There were whole towns wiped out by the revenge of her kind. There, the people disappear, never to be found. These towns were left only for ghosts to inhabit, her people too smart to stay, the enemy too scared to return. Grass poked through the paved stone roads, broken glass windows let the wind whistle through the abandoned stone buildings. Some were nothing more than blackened frames, the material they were made of obviously able to capitulate to fire. The buildings reached up and up, like humans wanting desperately to touch the sky.

Taiven was delighted to find that her people had left the library alone, however. Stories were sacred, even those of the enemy.

She dragged a large bed from a nearby house to the library, setting it up behind the desk. She also raided the stores for new clothes, her own stained and tattered. Her flesh might heal rips and holes, but her clothing couldn’t. She made a home out of the library, setting up candles for the night all around her small living space. Her days were mostly collecting books to read from the shelves, reordering them to suit her preferences. She also went out on trips to get food, setting snares in the woods and fields and foraging for plants. It was easy enough to avoid patrols, to leave the library looking uninhabited- a little dirt here, a little disorder there.

She knew that the nearest inhabited town was a few hours walk away. She stayed away because she knew that if she went too close, she’d be shot at or captured for their scientific cages. She didn’t care for either option, so she didn’t stray far from her ghost town. She liked her life of isolation, she needed time to explore her new ability, time to know that it was under control, and she wouldn’t hurt someone else. She had an idea that the different aspect of her gift had to do with her emotions and her intent upon the being she touched.

She wasn’t expecting a boy to practically fall out of the sky.

She was sitting on her bed, reading, when she heard footsteps- on the roof. She looked up in time to see as a person fell through a skylight to fall headfirst twenty feet to the ground. She jumped up, hopping over the desk as she ran to the battered body lying on the floor between old fiction and present fiction. He, she could definitely tell it was a he, was lying sprawled out, his neck at a strange angle to the rest of his body, a large gash on his lower arm bleeding profusely. He was definitely paralyzed, and would bleed to death.

But she had to stop for a moment and stare. Because his ears were round, not pointed. He wasn’t one of her people; he was of the enemy. He was part of the greedy bunch who wanted to wipe her kind from the face of the earth.

But she stared at his face. He was young, maybe the same age as her. Handsome too. She felt compelled to help him, try as she might to fight it, to let him die. So she stepped around him, straightening his body, laying her hands first on his arm, then on his neck. She watched as a healthy glow returned to his face as his blood replaced itself with her help. His fingers and toes wiggled a bit, and he sighed. She sighed as well, searching through him for any other injury, finding bruising in his brain. She smoothed that out. She looped his arm around her neck, and dragged him away from the puddle of blood he left, setting him up with a pillow under his head and wiping the blood from his arm. She cleaned up the blood and the glass, thinking about where to find tarp to put over the broken skylight to keep rain from coming in and ruining her books.

He woke up just as she was lighting the last candle. She glanced at him as he sat up, blowing out her match. He looked at her as she stared back at him. He was very charming, even when unconscious, and she knew that she would do whatever he asked her to; which made her extremely suspicious. She would be very glad once he was gone.

He pushed himself up and stood, looking around as she turned away, picking up books and putting them on the shelves. She could feel his eyes hovering on her meager supplies of food, and on her. She was fighting the need to please him, scowling to herself as his eyes rested on her again, traveling from her feet up to her face then back down again to her feet. She felt inadequate. And that was just what made her dislike him all the more.

But then he smiled. He held out his hand. “Hi. I’m Pietro.”

She stared at him for only a moment longer than necessary. And then, slightly against her better judgment, she smiled back. A real smile, a warm smile, to match the one he gave her; and took his hand. “I’m Taiven.”
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