The Warmth of the Hearth

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Intruders

The night is filled with stars as Claire and Carson prepare to set out in the middle of the night. They’re both wearing dark hooded cloaks over their tunics to allow them to better blend in the dark. Claire zips her small sling bag and secures the dagger sheathed on her thigh. Her brother follows a similar procedure, never uttering a word as they prepare for their endeavor.

“Have you tried reaching Eli?” Claire asks Carson, referring to whether Elizabeth would be interested in joining their investigation.

Carson ties his boots and without looking up, answers Claire. “House Fjord is keeping their gates shut for some reason, something about Liz doing her duties.” He gets up and stretches his shoulders, his veins visible on his well-toned arms. “Must be some political shenanigans. You know, Fjord stuff.”

Claire puts a hand on her waist, flipping a coin in her other hand. She leans on the wall as she waits for her brother, different scenarios rushing in her head. “You know what the plan is right? I’d like to think I’m not a sibling of a literal meathead.” She chuckles, grinning at Carson as he only glares at her in reply.

“Don’t underestimate me. The only reason my grades are that bad is cause I choose to keep them that way.” He approaches Claire, who was rolling her eyes at him. “We get in without anyone knowing, find some sort of clue that would lead us to whatever is going on, then we’re out.” Carson bends over, keeping eye contact with Claire as he continues. “If things go south, we immediately bail out. No buts.”

Claire nods, pushing herself off the wall. “Got it.” She walks towards the balcony fence of Carson’s room, overlooking the entire city. In the distance, she spots the Academy, eerily silent at night with only a couple lights seen occasionally floating around. “She turns to Carson, her eyes filled with nothing but determination. “Shall we?”

Carson hops to join her on the balcony fence. “Yeah, no flaking.” Carson leaps from the balcony a few stories above the ground and he hears Claire follow behind him. His freefall picks up speed and at the very last moment, he conjures a huge flame blanket that allows him to land safely. The flame disappears as he stands on the ground, the crimson glow in his eyes slowly fading. Blue flames erupt beside him as Claire arrives from her own fall, elegantly landing on both feet. “Show off.” Claire merely shrugs and together, they set off towards the Academy.

The Academy’s great silver gate sparkles in the moonlight, its magical glow giving it an otherworldly vibe. Elizabeth examines the huge wall that stands between her and the school. She needed some way to get in, a gap in the Academy’s defenses. Her mother was in there for some reason, and she needed to know how she can stop the madness that the houses were planning to ensue.

Two shadows are caught in the corner of her eye, unable to make out the figures in the darkness. She squints as she struggles to see them standing in front of a small, darker part of the wall. Elizabeth moves closer to see what was going on and two bright flashes erupt, stunning her temporarily. The two hooded figures enter the concrete structure, their bodies sort of disappearing within it. She waits a moment and moves closer to the patch of the wall that swallowed the two figures. The young Fjord extends her hand and to her surprise, she sees her hand move into the wall, as if it wasn’t there. “An Illusion.” She mutters under her breath.

She walks through the wall and she finds herself in front of the different quarters which was located on the eastern side of the Academy, despite being on the northern part of the wall just a while ago. Her eyes scour the area for any sort of movement. In the distance, she sees a flicker of light, followed by the sound of footsteps. The footsteps grow louder as she immediately ducks behind the small platform that was used for small announcements quartermasters would make. As the noise gets closer, she realizes that there was more than one person approaching.

A gruff voice speaks, sounding much closer than Elizabeth expected. “Did you hear the news? Apparently, all of the school faculty is getting a raise. Probably to shut us up for the Examinations incident.” Their footsteps don’t stop as another voice, much younger than the first, answers. “Yeah, first month in the job and I immediately have to deal with this shit. I wonder what really happened back then?”

Elizabeth prepares to relocate when a loud blare is heard all over the Academy. Intruders? Could it be those two? She hears the guards scamper towards the origin of the alarm, grunting something about the training center. Making sure the coast is clear, she immediately makes her way through the school grounds, sticking to the shadows as the alarm continues to scream deafeningly.

She arrives outside of the training center, bright lights emanating from within the huge structure. A scream follows, followed by crimson flashes. Elizabeth rushes through the main entrance, swerving to enter the area where the students were usually gathered.

When she arrives, she sees a sobbing Claire on her knees on the ground below, missing an arm which could be found a few feet away from her. Her robe tattered and burnt as specks of blood can be seen on the ground below her. In front of her, Carson was gravely wounded, a deep cut seen near his eye as his breathing gets heavier and heavier. Principal Loft stands on the platform, overlooking the two of them. Beside her, Eleanor Fjord stood, no remorse in her eyes. Another figure could also be seen in the background, a student from the school with dark patches in his skin. The student’s eyes meet hers and he immediately disappears from her line of sight.

Carson collapses on the ground, with Claire desperately trying to wake him up. Elizabeth prepares to run in, her eyes glowing a bright blue when she feels a sharp sting in her neck and she immediately pulls out a syringe. Shit! She slashes the air behind her, hitting nothing as a voice speaks near her ear from behind. “Normally, I’d take my time cutting you into pieces. But what can I say? Being a Bonded being means you follow the rules.” Elizabeth attempts to throw another hit, but she feels her strength wane. A sudden wave of dizziness hits her, followed by drowsiness. She falls on the ground, her vision blurring as she attempts to crawl towards them. A pair of feet blocks her line of sight as darkness consumes her. Her consciousness slips away, and Elizabeth falls into a deep slumber.

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