“How many siblings do you have?” I asked Nathan. I couldn’t sleep and it was probably midnight.
We had been talking for hours, Nathan’s voice would echo in the dungeon as he talked from his cell and I replied from mine. I crossed my legs and covered myself with my coat.
“None, it’s just me and my Mom” Nathan replied.
“What about your Dad?”
Nathan ducked his head and I saw his eyes glitter with tears. “He died before I was born” Nathan told.
“I’m sorry” I said. Nathan only shook his head.
“I never met him” he murmured.
“My mom died when I was a kid” I told sounding sympathetic.
“At least you met her” Nathan said.
“I was two years old,” I snapped “and that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her or that it doesn’t hurt” I sounded harsh and rude but what he said was hurtful to me.
I turned away and tried to get my brain to shut down. All I could thing about lately was Tristan, I hated myself for feeling like that.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to come out like that” Nathan apologized.
I didn’t say anything, he understood that I wasn’t in the mood to talk so he kept quiet. I turned around on my bed, my back to him as I lay on my left side. Nathan copied me and fell asleep instantly.
I heard a voice in my head. Someone calling my name, that had cropped up before.
“Annabelle” she says. She repeats it about ten times.
Her voice echoes deep in the woods. It’s pitch black and I keep hearing whispers. Barefoot I walk through the forest. My red hair is flowing in the breeze, brushing every inch of my body. The white dress that covers my body is of light material and I hope it won’t fly upwards revealing my bare legs. The dirt is damp and squishy under my feet, the branches and thorns sprouting from the trees and bushes cut my arms.
“Annabelle” the voice whispers. I feel her breath against my ear as if she’s standing right next to me. I spin around to see the trees I walked past.
She speaks again and this time a million other voices imitate her. I jogged through the woods, racing the trees and plants. Her voice rings in my ears and I can hear it deep in the forest.
“Stop it!” I shrieked. “Stop it!” repeated.
My knees buckled and I push myself to the ground. The voice speaks again and it’s warm exhale touches my ear. I pull my hair back by my fingers and scream.
“What do you want from me?” I shout. I let go of my hair, some of it comes out on my fingers, sticking to my flesh by sweat. I rise and bang my head on the nearest tree trunk.
“There is no need for that” says a woman. I spin around slowly.
“You” I say. Pointing at the redheaded girl staring at me.
“Me” she smiles. I fight the urge to smack her in the face.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Calling you” she informed.
“More like trying to drive me crazy” I correct.
“No one said this was going to be easy”
“Yeah, I thought finding an unknown woman in my nightmares was going to be so much fun and not hard to process at all” I said, my voice streaked with sarcasm.
“Teenagers” she muttered under her breath.
“Why am I hear? Actually, why are you here?” I queried. “This is my nightmare” I pointed out.
“It is” she sighs and looks around with no interest. “But it is boring so I thought I would make it a bit mysterious and joyful”
“Because you are so joyful” I rolled my eyes, “And a woman appearing in my dreams makes be blissful and calm”
She just giggled. “I hate you” I hear myself say.
“Why? I’m lovely” she asks.
“You sound like my friend Lyra” I sneered.
“What constellation is she?” the woman wondered.
“Gemini” I answered.
“I am above all constellations” she replied, ignoring my answer.
Her hair was done up in braids, and her face glittered in the starlight every time she moved. She was wearing a short white dress with a cape hanging off her shoulders, there was a crown across her brow and she didn’t have any tattoos on her wrists. Who are you? I thought.
“What did you say?” the woman said to me. I realized I had spoken out loud. I cursed under my breath.
“Who are you?” I said, this time I was aware of what I came out of my mouth.
“Do you want to look at the Stars?” she added before I could say anything. I hated when she ignores me.
“Yes” I said. She smiles and looks up, the leaves sprouting from the trees have been pulled away revealing the starry sky.
“There’s Virgo” I whisper to myself.
“And Ophiuchus” she adds.
I stargazed and the woman took three steps back and evaporated into thin air. She vanished as if an invisible rope was pulling her into something. The only sound I hear is my heart beating. The winds have stopped and I hear no voices whispering to me.
“Annabelle!” called a familiar voice. Guess who it is? The same person who used to wake me up every morning. It’s Granny.
“Wake up” Granny demanded.
“Why is it that every time my nightmare starts to get good you wake me up?” I groaned.
“Aren’t I better then your nightmares?” Granny asked.
“Nope” I said.
Granny is wearing a long coat over a green dress with black heels and a hat on her head. Her face was powdered and her lips were a bright red.
“Why are you here?” I said through gritted teeth.
“Just to check on you and to make sure you hadn’t died. You’re an important prisoner” she said.
There was something about her that scared me. Maybe it was her clothes, she looked exactly like a Hydra to me. She was even speaking in a different way.
“Those Hydras have rubbed off on you” I noted.
“They have” Granny confirmed. “You’ll be out of here soon” Granny said.
“Why do you have to keep me here?” I begged.
“So that you don’t run away” Granny said.
“Where would I even go?” I asked.
“Wherever your.......your grandfather takes you” Granny said.
“You can say his name you know” I told.
“I don’t want to” Granny sneered.
“Go away” I said and she did. When I was sure she was gone I turned towards Nathan’s cell.
“I thought she’d never leave” Nathan sighed.
“I thought so to” I said.
“You look tired. Did you get enough sleep?” I asked him.
“No,” he answers “You were screaming in your sleep and you kept me awake”
“I’m sorry” I said, my face flushed with embarrassment.
“Are you alright?” he asked, his voice full of concern.
“I’m fine” I lied.
“Liar” Nathan accused. “I’m sorry about last night, I shouldn’t have.......”
“It’s okay. Sorry I snapped at you” I apologized.
“You can sleep now if you want” I suggested.
“Good idea” Nathan yawned and collapsed on his bed.
I asked to use the bathroom and one of the guards unlocked my cell door, handcuffed me and led me towards the bathroom. The guard took off my handcuffs and opened the door, the smell washed over me. It burnt my nostrils. I covered my nose with the hem of my dress. I washed my hands and splashed my face with the cold water. When I opened the door the guard handcuffed me again, but something wasn’t right. My head was spinning and it might have been my imagination but the walls were vibrating.
The floor I was walking on was shaking. I stumbled into my cell and the vibrations got stronger. The bed clinked against the floor and my teeth chattered. I backed away from the wall behind my bed and leaned against the iron bars, my back to them. Suddenly, I heard beeping and then the wall exploded, sending rocks and dust everywhere. I turned away as quick as I could, something hard hit my back and my dress ripped. I felt blood running down my back soaking my clothes, good thing the dress is red. It was too dusty so I couldn’t see a thing, the explosion woke up Nathan and he was leaning against the bars of his cell.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know” I coughed.
“The guards will be here any minute” Nathan worried.
“That’s your first thought?” I asked, amazed and annoyed at him.
“Annabelle?” someone coughed. I’ve heard his voice before. A tall figure emerged from the dust, another one behind him. Both men.
“Annabelle” he says to me. It’s Alfred, my grandfather.
“What are you doing here?” I demanded in amazement and shock.
“We’re helping you escape” replied the other boy.
“Escape?” I repeated.
“Yes” Alfred confirms “And your friend is coming with us” he added. The tall boy behind Alfred breaks open my cell door, making it look so easy and does the same with Nathan’s. He steped ut and walked into my cell. The trees behind him were starting to look clear now that my eyes adjusted to the starlight.
“About time you guys showed up” Nathan said. He had a smile spread across his face.
“You know these people?” I asked him. He nodded yes.
“There’s no time, we have to go” says a female voice walking onto the scene.
“Annabelle, let’s go” Alfred grabs my hand and pulls but I didn’t move.
“Someone please explain to me, what in the name of Virgo is going on?” I demanded.
“We’ll explain everything when we get back home” said the girl.
“Home?” I repeated. The dust cleared away and revealed a van parked right outside the demolished wall. I walk towards it slowly and the rest follow.
“Where are we going?” I pleaded.
“Far away” Alfred answered. Well that clears up just about nothing, I thought.
“And you have to come with us” the girl added in a bubbly voice.
“How did you guys get here?” I looked at Alfred.
Alfred only pointed to the vehicle that the girl was getting into. I hadn’t noticed that was there. A grey van was our means of transportation.
“Where’s Jonnah?” asked the boy. His hazel eyes are shiny with tears. His voice tells me that he’s scared and anxious.
Nathan looked at him hesitantly, “He...he....” Nathan stammered. “......they killed him”
It took me a few minutes to realize who he was talking about. The boy looked hurt and fought tears of pain, the girl covered her mouth with her hand and Alfred shut his eyes. Jonnah must have been the old man they killed. I felt sorry for them.
“Let’s go” Alfred said, his voice was wobbly.
Next time you have to do what I’m telling you, run away.
“We have to go” Alfred demanded.
We all got in the van and Alfred drove us away. He drove us as fast as he could through the forest, there was window at the back of the van but I had to squint my eyes to look outside. The guards were catching up. Thankfully, the van was faster than the palace guards horses.
The road was bumpy and I could feel chime rising up in my throat, I had to force it down. After what felt like forever, the trees disappeared. We were far away from the palace. I asked Nathan to slow down. “We did it!” The girl cheered. I forced a smile and so did Nathan.
“I’m Raelynn” the girl said.
“I’m Annabelle” I replied.
“I know” she said in a sweet voice. “Alfred told me”
I felt uncomfortable, I lowered my eyes to the Nathan’s left wrist, I had never seen his tattoos up close. I stared at Raelynn’s left wrist, she caught me looking and carefully rolled up her sleeve. I wanted to ask who Jonnah was but everyone was obviously hurt and I knew better then to recall grief.
“Where are we going?” I asked loudly so Alfred could hear.
“Crimsyn State” he replied.
“Where is that?” I asked.
“Far away from here” Bemus answered. “On the outskirts of Stellaregno”
“The sky is dark” Raelynn said, looking up.
“Rae,” Bemus started “How can you tell?” he asked. The windows are blacked out”
“We were outside a few minutes ago” Raelynn recalled.
Bemus crossed his arms and sat back.
“It’s a long way to Crimsyn” Nathan said.
“How do you know? And how do you know these people?” I wondered.
“That’s Bemus, by the way” Nathan said, pointing at the boy. I stared at him, waiting for an answer.
Nathan grinned at Raelynn, she tried to smile. “Their my family” Nathan smiled.
“What?” I demanded in confusion. “You told me you did’t have siblings. You said you were a Pisces not Aquarius”
“Calm down crazy” Bemus grinned his hazel eyes were bloodshot and the mop of dark brown hair on his head was messy. His cheeks were stained with dry tears but he tried to put on a brave face.
“We will explain everything as soon as we’re home” Raelynn told.
“Can’t wait to get there” Nathan grinned.
“You’re safe now” Raelynn smiled brightly at me. I nodded. Even though I wasn’t tired I shut my eyes as tightly as possible and processed everything in my head. These people could be kidnapping me......what is wrong with me? I cursed myself. That’s stupid. Why would they break me out of the dungeon and then kidnap me? And besides I’m with my grandfather, who I don’t even know.
I was shaken awake by Raelynn “Wake up” she whispered. “We’re here”
I had fallen asleep on Nathan and he was still awake. I slowly lifted my head and opened my eyes. “Thanks for falling asleep while I had an uncomfortable ride all the way here” Nathan yawned. My neck was numb, it took a few tries for me to get it back to normal.
“Sorry” I said to him. I sat up straight. I was no longer leaning against my seat, just then something pushed me. My whole body felt as if it was suddenly glued to the seat. I looked around and everyone seemed calm but there was some force that had made everyone become stiff.
“What just happened?” I asked.
“We passed through the Barrier” Nathan told. I didn’t ask what that was because I knew he would say ‘You’ll find out’
“Annabelle....” Nathan grinned. I knitted my eyebrows.
“Welcome to Crimsyn State” they chorused.
The bath I had was cold and I washed myself as quickly as I could. My nose was running and my throat hurt every time I talked. I was catching a cold.
I didn’t pay attention to the surroundings when I arrived, it was early morning and everyone was in bed. Raelynn had to drag me across the concrete floor and into a dimly lit bathrrom. She helped me out of my clothes and told me to clean up. Despite my curiousity about this place I did as I was told.
Raelynn let me borrow some of her old clothes, a baggy shirt with a black cardigan, jeans and boots.
Everyone in Crimsyn State lived in small cubical houses. The girls and boys were divided into two sections, the buildings were grey and when I stepped outside people were training. This place looked familiar, like I’d seen it before. Swords, knives.....star stones. But they were locked away in a storage room. It was always cold and wet. The place was something I had seen before....and army base. Then it hit me, the same place I saw in a dream. This was that place. Had I been here before? How could I have seen this place in a dream? I heard voices too, two men talking but I hadn’t figured out who those people were.
I walked outside after I pulled on my clothes, the area was silent. Alfred was standing outside, staring at the sky.
“How did they not find you?” I coughed.
“Annabelle” he turned around slowly. “Your sick” he observed.
“How did no one find you?” I sniffed.
“All your questions will be answered soon” Alfred said calmly. He put his arm around my shoulders and led me back inside.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked.
“You need to eat and then rest” Alfred told.
“Where will I rest?”
“In the girls quarters” Alfred told. “The girls and boys have separate rooms” he added. “Some of the families have compartments too but if you are a warrior then you have to stay in the quarters. You can visit your family though” he finished.
We were turning around corners until we stopped in a huge room that looked like a dining hall. Tables were stretching over the room with matching chairs. It was just like the cafeteria at school.
“This is the cafeteria” Alfred said. He gestured for me to sit on a stool, I did.
“Where is everyone?” I coaxed.
“They’re training” Alfred said. He walked between the tables and into a green door at the back of the room. I covered my hands with the long sleeves of my cardigan, the tables were like ice and the chair was wobbly. Alfred came back with a tray of steaming hot soup, some bread and a cup of tea.
I felt a hint of anger and hatred for Alfred, he ignored me for my whole life and now he’s suddenly so interested. I tried not to show my feelings.
“Here” he passed the meal to me.
“Thanks” I tried to smile but failed. I ate quietly while Alfred stared at the ceilings.
“Why did you bring me here?” I coughed.
“Would you rather be back in your cell?” Alfred challenged, “or back at home?”
“No” I replied quickly.
I drained the tea from the cup, the bread was a little dry so I had to dip it in my soup to soften it up. I pusked away the tray and got up, my knees shaking.
“Where’s Nathan?” I asked “Nathan Pisces”
“He’s asleep, he’s in the boys quarters” Alfred replied. He walked out and I followed.
“You should sleep” Alfred said.
“Okay” I agreed.
“As soon as you get better your training begins” Alfred said to me.
It took me a moment to realize that he was talking to me.
“Wait, you mean me?” I asked, astonished. Alfred nodded yes.
“I think your mistaken, I’m not a fighter or a rebel. I’m just a simple Virgo girl” I said. He opened his mouth to say something but I knew what he was going to say. “I know what you’re about to say, I’m not just a simple Virgo girl I’m Lady Virgo. I know but.....”
But he cut me off. “No your not” Alfred smiled. He took a left and started walking faster. He stopped at a half open door.
“This is your room” he said, creaking the door open.
“Will you please tell me what’s going on?” I begged. His expression told me that he knew everything I didn’t know and he wanted to tell me but he restrained himself.
“Go inside. Take a nap and when your well rested we will explain everything” Alfred said. I reluctantly stepped inside.
We? Who is ‘we’?
“Goodbye” Alfred waved.
“Goodbye....uhhhh” I hesitated.
“What’s wrong?” Alfred asked.
I scratched behind my ear and cleared my throat. “What am I supposed to call you?” I asked, my face flushed with embarrassment and so did Alfred’s.
“I’m your grandfather” Alfred said before he shut the door tightly and left me alone. I pulled the cardigan around me tightly, as if the clothes would protect me from what was coming. Indoors was
The walls were painted a greenish grey color lined with beds, the white sheets were tucked tightly under the mattress and the green wool blankets folded at the edge of each bed.
I slipped my feet out of my shoes and slid under a blanket. I closed my eyes and the first thought that came to me was of my friends. Especially Tristan, I missed them all. I had a bad feeling, like they were in danger. Stellaregno was not safe anymore and neither were the only people I cared about. I fought the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes carefully, making sure the tears stayed at the verge of my lashes.
I heard the door open, a tall figure dressed in black walked in. Her blonde hair was braided neatly, the tips of her hair were red and her eyes changed color every time she blinked. It was Raelynn. Her clothes were damp with sweat and her boots were dirty, she left muddy footprints as she walked towards me slowly. I gestured for her to sit next to me instead she took a seat on the bed across mine.
“How are you?” she asked quietly.
“How do you think?” I said in a small voice.
Raelynn exhaled, she tapped her heals to the floor. There was a long pause before I spoke up.
“Will my friends be okay?” I choked.
“What?” Raelynn knitted her eyebrows.
“My friends,” I repeated. “Will they be okay?”
“I don’t know” Raelynn admitted.
“Why am I here?” I asked for the tenth time.
Raelynn seemed awfully calm about this. She took a long time to answer, I almost asked her again when she stood.
“Come on” she offered her hand, the ghost of a smile on her face. Anger rose in me when I looked at her.
“Where are we going?” I demanded. I was tired, irritated and upset.
“I’m going to give you a tour,” Raelynn grinned. “You can meet everyone and get to know them. It’s better than sulking here by yourself”
I figured protesting was useless so I lifted myself slowly and covered my hands with the long sleeves of my cardigan. Rubbing my wrists together, feeling the Signs under my clothing. I outside and sucked in a breath. Raelynn had out run me and I had to catch up. The coldness wrapped around me the second my body touched the air. The air smelled of sweat and isolation.
“Annabelle!” Raelynn called. She was running towards me and behind her were two tall figures who I couldn’t see clearly since they were both dressed in dark colors.
Raelynn put her hands on her knees and her breath turned to fog. Her breathing steadied and she was back to normal. Well....as normal as she could get.
“Come on!” she grabbed my hand and pulled me. I walked slowly towards the two people while Raelynn babbled. “My friends want to meet you” she sounded excited and she was.
“Really?” I said, my voice clearly stated I had zero interest in this.
“We have been waiting so long for this” Raelynn told. I sighed miserably and dragged myself across the grounds. A light flashed in my eye. I looked around, there was no light near me. Then I looked up, it was Virgo. One of the Stars in it twinkled for a moment. I couldn’t have made that happen, it must have been Dad or Granny back home.
Home. I don’t even know where home is anymore.
End of book one
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