Stolen (The Evalanty series, #1)

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2.1 - Alex

It wasn't my fault. Yet, the blood under my nails won't vanish. The soap with the scent of lavender is on the decline, as is the rationed water. My hands are wrinkled like raisins, but I continue washing them.

My mind is not in this world.

I was just six years old when it happened. Almost nineteen years have passed, and the memory is still achingly present. The events repeat images of blood-stained snow with footsteps from the enemy's boots within me. Screams cut into my ears.

A hand, as pale as mine, grabs my forearm. The female voice tries to reach out. My whole body is shaking, and the air is blocked in my throat.

"That's enough."

My body won't obey. The woman puts her arm over my chest and pulls me away from the big bowl of water. Only then do I see my big sister Nyla in the face. We have the same silver-grey hair, and our almond-shaped eyes have the same light purple hue. Despite our outer similarities, we are so different on the inside. I would give anything to be as confident as her…

"Go outside and get some fresh air," she says, handing me the kitchen towel. "I'll clean this up."

Nyla is so used to my panic that she is no longer affected by it. Should I laugh or cry? Thunder rumbles outside, and the rain hits the window. The towel is like sandpaper against my sore hands, and the feeling makes me drop it in a puddle of water and foam on the floor. Panic still creeps over the skin like ants. I scratch my arms, but to no avail, and pull my fingers through my hair. The lump in the throat refuses to go away.

"Now."

With my face to the floor, I walk away from the sink. Our two-story villa is barely enough for the five of us living here, as the upper floor is nothing but rubble. The living room is the largest, but there is still only room for a sofa, a fireplace, and a larger dining table. Directly outside the doorway, which separates the kitchen from the living room, are the glass doors to the patio, and the crackling rain on the roof can be heard even before I go out.

The artificial rattan sofa cracks when I sit down. The wind blows with such force that the trees in the park outside threaten to break in the middle. Even though the terrace is surrounded by glass, I feel the tension that is in the air. It's like the whole world is holding its breath. All because of the Dark. The flowing energies of Light and Dark keep everything in balance, but only a few can see them with the naked eye. They are fighting for dominance, but no one knows when or how the power struggle began. Just where: Miróna, the only known continent in the parallel dimension of Evalanty.

The Dark became overwhelming and took control. Many inhabitants fled to Earth's dimension, everything from vampires and elves without magic to shape-shifting trolls and fairies. Too many years have gone by to see anything as facts, which is why most of the Earth's magicians doubt that Evalanty ever existed. But I know it's real.

It's said that the battle of the Light and Dark forces led to devastating natural disasters and that the people ended up in misery, with homelessness and poverty, and much was lost over time. Culture, language, religion… Everything is, for the most part, hearsay. A heavy feeling grows in my heart at the thought of everything that's been.

I look down at the birthmark on my right hand. Ironically, I can heal anyone, something that the mark proves, but not what I actually want to fix. If only I could heal everything that's been destroyed by this useless war. The mark is nearly invisible to the redness, but the rough edges can still be seen. It looks like color has dripped on the skin and then formed into a heart.

Being able to heal others is valuable, of course … but a part of me has always wanted a power that I can defend myself with.

The storm is finally calming down. A quiet dripping from the sky is the only thing left of the hailstorm. Goosebumps spreads across my skin from the cold when I go back inside and lock the patio doors behind me. Only then do I see the brown top that protrudes behind the back of the sofa. A pair of pointed ears is glimpsed, but I already know it is Damien.

"Did you hallucinate again?" There's rustling from a folding newspaper before he gets up. "You should know how to handle it by now, don't you?"

My jaw tenses, today it's not a good idea to test my patience. Damien's fearless gaze meets the anger in mine. The constant indifference in his green eyes always gives off an uneasy feeling. Even when we met, something was missing in his gaze, but he always looked away before I had time to see what it was.

Damien raises an eyebrow.

"Honestly, what's so difficult? You are the one who owns the emotions, not the other way around."

"You would never understand," I say with a heavy breath.

The pain strikes without me being prepared. White lights flash in front of my closed eyes, and a painful shriek is heard in my ears. This is not the first time Damien has invaded my mind. He can feel and interact with other people's brain waves and even enslave them if he feels like it. Part of the power is to constantly send out faint signals to make an impression on others without anyone, not even him, aware of it. Therefore, his powers are both devastating and powerful.

"Stop…"

The words are barely noticeable, but I know he heard me. I try to make him lose his hold over me, but he does not give up. I'm about to hit him when it finally disappears. The head is my own again. A deep sigh comes from Damien.

"Your mind is messier than the war," he comments carelessly.

The front door opens and reveals my brother-in-law Simon with our protégé Lesley in tow, a light-hearted fifteen-year-old who we rescued from the Authorities just a few years ago. Their clothes are soaked, and Lesley's make-up runs down her face, which was so carefully placed this morning. Damien hides his grin with his hand but does not manage to suffocate the laughter in his throat.

"Who let the raccoon in?"

Lesley frowns and sticks out his tongue at him. She is too young to be out in the field, but few can match her skill with daggers. She also has more in common with Damien than any of them want to admit, but not in a positive way. Both have a hard time being sensitive to others' feelings, do not like to be wrong, and are too impulsive for their good. Therefore, they are at each other's throats every opportunity they get.

"Do you ever shut up?" she mumbles, shaking the water out of her dirty blonde dreadlocks.

"How did it go?" I ask.

"My guess is, they managed to win over Caleston's bootlickers for once," Damien comments sarcastically, "and finally got to know his plans."

A glance from Simon is enough for Damien to close his lips with an invisible zipper.

"As usual, they all got away before we got hold of anything useful," Simon replies.

"Yeah, right," Lesley snorts and walks quickly towards the bedrooms on the left.

Simon pinches his nose with a deep breath.

"What's up with her?" I ask.

"Nothing, she was just trying to find a clue where there was none, and now she's mad that I disagreed."

As usual, whenever Simon and Damien are in the same room, the atmosphere quickly becomes uneasy. I don't seem to be alone in noticing it, as Damien's smirk has faded. He looks down and walks swiftly towards the kitchen. Everyone in the house, including Damien, knows that Simon only agrees to have him nearby so he can keep an eye on him.

"I know you see Damien as a ticking bomb," I say, looking at Simon. "But if we can't trust our own, who can we?"

His drained answer does not provide much consolation.

"No one."

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