The Warmth of the Hearth

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Bright. Elizabeth flinches as she opens her eyes. For a good moment, white was all she saw, causing her to wince in response. Her vision steadies, and she finds herself in her room. The curtains were the same blue silk that she always loved; the windows behind it were open for the breeze to enter.

A silence filled the entire room, making it seem as if she was alone in the manor. “How long was I out?” She mutters. Elizabeth sets herself upright on the bed, her recent memories hazy. She knew that there was something she was troubled with, but she could not remember what exactly. Fog engulfed her mind, causing her to slightly panic.

A knock is heard on her door, its familiar rhythm was engraved into Elizabeth after hearing it all her life. Eleanor speaks from behind it, her prim and proper way of talking shining through her words. “Elizabeth, are you awake?” Elizabeth responds, the feeling that something was missing remains in her thoughts. “Yes mother, you may enter if you wish.”

Eleanor opens the door dressed in her house robes, an elegant work of blue and silver silk. She was relieved to see Elizabeth awake, and that it seems that she does not remember anything at all. Elizabeth opens her mouth to ask, confusion visible on her face. “What happened? I remember being outside the Academy, and I vaguely remember being in the training center. I’m at a loss.” Eleanor answers, her words well versed for this exact moment. “You went to see me at the Academy, Carson and Claire were also present. Do you not remember?” She pauses, seeing no reaction from Elizabeth. “They were prying on Kayden’s behalf, and thus subdued you when you threatened to get in their way. I could only fear what would have happened if I did not make it in time.”

A faint image of Carson plucking her neck with a syringe pops up in Elizabeth’s head, Claire appearing behind her. She remembers a pair of feet blocking her field of view as she slowly fell unconscious on the ground. “What happened to them? How long was I out?” She sees Eleanor bow her head, as if she was afraid to tell Elizabeth something.

“House Blaise is no more than a memory now, Elizabeth. The Royalties have also been uplifted in the time that you were asleep. There was chaos a few days ago, but everything is over now.” Eleanor sees Elizabeth’s eyes widen and she continues to speak. “Ezicion is much better now Eli. There is no division between us and our countrymen, no more injustice.”

Elizabeth swiftly gets up on her feet and peers out of the window, checking to see what was going on. In front of her were the same buildings that she always woke up to every morning, shops and other contraptions bustling in the ground below. However, she sees something new in the distance. Beyond the various structures that made up their city, there was now a thick gathering of forestry that she never saw before. Her eyes fall on the people below and she notices that there were new faces in her neighborhood, people that she never met. She looks at Eleanor who was smiling at her. “Mother, it couldn’t have happened over a few days. Tell me, how long have I been asleep?”

Eleanor turns to her daughter, glad to see that there really was no memory of the incident left within her. She stands up to face Elizabeth, her smile now gone. “You’ve been asleep for some time Eli, for we did not know what they have injected into you that night.” Eleanor pauses, knowing that she has won this battle of hers. “A week Elizabeth, you’ve been gone for a week.”

Carson sits with Claire in the hidden bunker found on the outskirts of the Slums, hiding with the surviving members of House Blaise. The large metal structure resembled a box that was big enough to house an entire city, which made it seem a lot bigger considering there were only around twenty of them occupying it. They were deep underground, which made it difficult to track their whereabouts. Food was no trouble as well, considering the built-in agricultural systems in place.

Carson looks at his sister, her white air seemed to be glowing in the pale light offered by the artificial sun above them. She was wearing a leather coat over her tunic, its left sleeve remained empty. Carson felt guilt each time he looked at his sister, wishing that he could’ve done things differently. He speaks, hoping to break the silence between the two of them. “How are you feeling?”

Claire does not look up to face her brother and instead continues to stare at the ground below her. Her mind was blank, she did not feel anything. She shrugs in response, really not in the mood to humor her brother’s attempt at a conversation. Their father, Kayden, was no longer around. She had lost her arm in an unnecessary attempt to get answers; she basically lost all of the motivation she once had.

Carson chooses not to push it, and instead keeps quiet as he watches the other members of House Blaise do their assigned tasks. He was set for border patrol in the next shift, so he had no choice but to prepare for it. He puts on his dark cloak and faces Claire once more. “I’ll get them for this, I promise.” These were words with weight, words that he was going to follow through. Claire does not fidget, continuing her ongoing staring competition with the metallic floor.

Carson walks away, his mind now dwelling on the desire to make everybody responsible pay. Rage boils within him, against the people responsible and against himself. I was powerless. This thought has been haunting him since the incident, and he lost his father because of it.

He arrives at the outpost that guards the entrance to the bunker, a huge hatch that sported a huge lift that ran on manna. Carson greets the person on duty, his cousin Essie, a former captain of a squadron in the army. “Anything to report?” Essie shakes her head, proceeding to hand Carson the logbook. She speaks, her voice strong, fitting for a captain such as herself. “Look alive Carson.” She pats his back as she walks away. “We’ll get them back for this, for Kayden.” Carson nods and proceeds to take the lift up to the surface. The mechanism whirs, giving him a swift boost to the top.

The entrance was covered by illusions, seeming as nothing more than the mountainside to those who were outside. Carson walks through the illusion, now on the cliff overlooking Ezicion and its surrounding area. Huge structures were now forming in the distance, meaning that those who live in the Slums were in a better place now. Peace for everybody, what do you think Luke? He thought, knowing that Luke would approve of this peace even if he had to sacrifice himself. “Always the kind one, even though you were a smartass.” He whispers to himself.

A faint movement catches his attention in the corner of his eye, two hooded figures walk in the ground below him. He uses the binoculars wrapped around his neck to get a closer look at who it was. The two take off their hoods, one seemed older than the other. The binoculars were hazy from use, which made it difficult to see who it was. Carson drops down on the ground to avoid being seen and continues to focus on identifying the strangers below. He peers through the lenses again, his face paled with what he saw. The younger man looks at him, his bright orange eyes glistening underneath the afternoon sun. Carson’s eyes tear up; an unexplainable surge of emotion overcomes him. “Luke?”

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