Tainted Feathers

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Chapter One

Chapter One: The Dark Sun


I could never forget those eyes, they stared down at me as if I were prey. I wasn’t far from it actually. I was weak, helpless, scared, I couldn’t do a thing at that moment. All I could do was pray, for just a small window of hope. Just to blind myself with a veil of false happiness. But reality is a harsh truth that everyone has to face, sadly for me it was only the beginning.


The screams filled my ears as I trembled in fear, Mira held onto me tightly as she faced away the door. I tried to stay calm but I couldn’t, I could hear her silent cries as she whimpered in my arms.


“Ssh...Mira, close your eyes. We’ll be fine. Just close your eyes.” I whispered to her, my voice trembling but I tried to hide it. She could only shake furiously in my arms, clearly my attempt to console her failed.


My breath hitched when the screams stopped, footsteps emanated throughout the shrine. My heart pounded faster than the pace of their feet, Mira’s grip on me tightened into a squeeze. The door to the room slid open to reveal the silhouette of a tall man, he was covered in a red liquid that I recognized immediately. I wanted to scream for help desperately but it was caught in my throat.


The dark figure had a smile on his face, he hid the gruesome expression that was behind his mask. His eyes burned with a great passion, piercingly bright yet deathly scorching. Like a dark sun.


My eyes shot open and I sat upright in my bed, I was covered in a cold sweat. The nostalgic sensation of terror coursed through my veins, the adrenaline didn’t help either. No light shone through my window meaning it was early, almost sunrise. I let out a trembling sigh as I fell back onto the bed and tried to steady my breath.


That night still sticks with me, I thought to myself as I looked around the room, I can never let go can I? I took in a deep breath and pulled the blanket off, walking out of my room and venturing the empty halls for a bit. And it was quiet, like it’s always been for the last couple of years. The atmosphere was more or less depressing when I did this. It was just another habit that I would stubbornly keep, but deep down I knew I should probably get some help. But again, I am one stubborn bitch.


I knew I wouldn’t be going back to sleep so I decided to practice, since in only an hour or two I’d have to pack up and leave. Mira was a bit skeptical about me leaving, but she tried her best understand my reasons. But I didn’t expect her to, after all, she had her back faced when I had to stare death right in the eye.


I stood outside in the tall grass fields, my makeshift targets many feet away from me. I aligned the scope of my sniper with the bulls eye and held my position, even if there was no movement around me. It was another skill I had to practice. Being aware of your surroundings at all times wasn’t optional for anyone in my choice of career. I pulled the trigger and braced my ears as well as myself for the bullets that would fly, the sound of gunfire rang out to as far as the countryside. That’s how far the sound usually travels, from what the farmers say anyway.


I would switch up different guns from time to time to be comfortable with all of them, the more options I had, the better the results. Sniper, pistol, musket, shot gun.


“You never take a break, do you?” I lowered my firearm and turned to the side, my longtime partner in combat stood there staring down at me. He had a smirk on his face which made me roll my eyes and stand up.


“Lian, I’ve said it before. I can’t just walk into Nessima without any-”


“-training, or by lazing around all day. I know, you’ve said it for the past six years. How can I forget.” He finished my statement and turned to walk back into the back entrance of the house.


“Mira told me to come and get you for breakfast.”


“Alright.”


I gathered all my weapons and followed Lian inside, the smell of cooking hit me right in the face like every other morning. We filed in and sat down at the table, I placed the guns on the table and immediately started doing maintenance work.


“Morning you two, hope you had a good rest.”


“Mira, you know fully well that I don’t sleep at all.” Lian replied to Mira’s greeting as he stretched himself out and placed his feet on the table. Mira faced away from the both of us, so she didn’t see this. It always annoyed her when Lian did that.


“Well, sometimes I forget that you’re an Angel. You have been living with us for a long time now.”


“It hasn’t even been a decade, six years isn’t long.” I cut into their conversation as I kept my eyes on my work, but a plate was placed in front of me. I looked up at Mira who smiled down at me, and I returned it.


“Thanks for the meal.”


“You’re welcome, now,” She took all the things in my hands and put them aside, “eat up. You two have to head for the docks in an hour or two.”


I didn’t bother with manners as I shoveled down everything that was on the plate, not sparing a single thing.


“Lian, how many times have I told you not to place your feet on the table, you aren’t the one that cleans this shrine!”


“Hey, if you want me to help all you’ve gotta do is ask.”


“When I do ask you, you do a horrible job.”


“It’s not my fault I was raised badly, my parents weren’t exactly around when I was a child. And I'm a warrior, not a housewife."


"And who said I was a housewife?"


"No one, but you should be."


I set down my plate and quickly drank the juice that was set in front of me as well, “Alright, done with breakfast.”


Mira and Lian had turned their attention to me.


“You change moods fast.”


“Well, would you rather have me all gloomy or happy-go-lucky? Your choice.”


“Never mind that, now that you’re in a good mood you can start getting all packed up.” Mira said as she went back to the counter where she was cooking and started to clean up. I stood up from the table and gathered my weaponry.


“Sounds like a plan, come on Lian.” He followed me out of the kitchen and down the hall to my room, my eyes shifted to him and then back to my front view. I could tell he needed to say something.


“If you want to speak your mind, then do it.”


“...Are you sure you can handle going to Marita?” I stopped walking and looked directly at him, he did the same and stared down at me. I hated when he questioned me like this, it was like he was purposely trying to bring back those memories.


“I’ve waited years to finally get out of this village and actually do something, I have my reasons and you know what they are. They may not be out of the good of my heart, but they’re the only reason I have now.”


“...Someday that won’t be enough."


"I know."


The docks were never really bustling this early in the morning, imports usually come in around noon. It gave enough time for everyone to load off and set up the markets, and also for those to prepare to ship off to send their exports to other regions. At the moment, everything was calm including the lake that was in the center of the whole village and opened up to the Eastern Sea.


“I hope you guys don’t run into trouble during the trip, some sea creatures may be lurking on the ocean floor.” I turned to Mira with a smile as she handed me one of my duffel bags, she took a glance at the travel bag on my back then my weapons case on the ground and had a look of concern.


“Are you sure that isn’t going to strain your back?"


"Positive. Don't worry about me, I can take care of myself. You should be more focused on school, you only have a couple days left until your final exam.”


“I’m sure I’ll pass it, and once I do maybe we could have a match of our own.” Mira suggested, but I knew she was joking. I gave her a one-sided smirk and placed a hand on her head, she blushed madly when I messed up her hair.


"Sounds like a plan!"


"Stop!" She whined as she tried to put her hair back together, I only laughed at this.


"All aboard for Marita! Departure in five minutes!"


I looked over the shoulder to see the large two-masted ship waiting, there was a rather short line. I turned my head to see Mira with her eyes glazed over, it made me tease her. I dropped my duffel bag and pulled her into a bear hug.


“Aw, is little Mimi gonna miss her big sister?” I asked rocking her from side to side, she tried to push away but she was too weak for that.


“Let go! It’s not funny!” I could hear she was crying and I stopped moving, she stopped trying to push me off and instead wrapped her arms around me.


“Just promise me we’ll see each other again…”


I looked down at her and smiled even though I was a bit sad as well, I loosened my grip on her and lay my head on top of hers.


“Yeah...I promise.”


“Final call for Marita! Departing in one minute!”


We let one another go and I picked my bags up and ran to the ship, I ran up the rail and joined the other passengers. It was a large ship, and the bed cabins would be below deck. I maneuvered my way through the clusters of people and stopped at the stern of the boat, I stared down at my sister as she wiped the tears out her eyes and smiled up at me.


“Now departing for Marita!” The ship started to drift away from the docks, everyone gathered there waving to their friends and family. Mira did the same for me.


“Don’t forget to contact me when you can! Call whenever you need anything!”


“I told you not to worry, but when I get in trouble I'll ring you up!"


“Bye!”


It didn’t take long for us to be distanced and nearly leave the docks, and almost leaving Cuilwen. I stayed there staring off into the distance, trying to keep a clear mental image of the place I grew up. To tell the truth, in that moment I didn’t want to leave. I wish I could jump off the ship and go back to the shrine to sleep in, while Lian tried to get me up before Mira came in. She would barge in and nag me about getting up early to help her clean and cook among the many things she complains about.


Just the thought of it made me have a moment of melancholy, I pushed it away for now and decided to head down to the lower deck to find my assigned cabin. I was one of the last few that had went down and were already settled in, I pulled out my ticket to see I was assigned to cabin four.


I walked down the hallway, passing by other passengers as I looked at the plaque nailed to the top of every door frame. I entered the cabin to the left of me a little ways down the hall, and stopped when I saw three bunk beds along the walls and people already situated. There was a middle aged couple along with a young boy at the bunk across from me, and three other passengers. There was one bed on the left side of me at the bottom, I entered and placed my things down and stretched my arms out.


Now I can relax, I thought to myself.


“Caius, be careful.” I heard the middle aged woman say behind me, I assumed she was talking to her son. That’s when something pushed me forward from the back of my leg, my eyes met with big brown eyes when I looked down to see that little boy. He stepped back and twiddled his thumbs as he looked down at his feet.


“S-Sorry...I wasn’t looking.” He muttered, a smile made its way to my lips and I knelt down to place a hand on his head. He looked up at me confused and I ruffled his hair.


“It’s no problem.”


“I’m sorry about that,” The woman came and picked up her son, she gave me an apologetic smile, “Caius is just a ball of energy.”


“Really, it’s no big deal.”


“You’re from Cuilwen, right? What are you heading to Nessima for?” She asked me, now that I tell someone who’s a stranger. It feels a bit ridiculous and, how do I say this, arrogant?


“Well, I just recently graduated from school and heading there to become a Guardian.”


“A Guardian?!” The boy addressed as Caius, exclaimed happily. I nodded my head and his eyes seemed to triple in size.


“I’ve seen the Guardians before, they fight bad monsters all the time, right?!”


A giggle escaped me when he called Creadurs bad monsters, as if there were good ones. Even though some species of Creadur were intelligent enough to know that they can live in peace, at rare times they will attack towns, villages or cities.


“I’m not sure if it’s all the time…”


Now don’t start thinking that you’ll have a ton of vacation time, Lian’s voice echoed in my mind. This was what he did when he wasn’t in a physical form, he would transfer himself into my body and rest in a way. It was like sharing a body, but I only control it.


I know I’m gonna be doing a lot of work Lian, I shot back at him, don’t lecture me about things I already now.


“We just came to Faeron to visit some family in the countryside.” The woman explained.


“Well, I hope you enjoyed your time in the East.”


“Yes, it was very calming. Compared to Marita, it’s always hectic there. Lots of business in trade and many travelers from all the regions. But it’s very nice, I can assure you of that. Especially if you’re incredibly lucky to get a house by the seaside. Oh! I’m rambling on, sorry about that.”


“It’s okay, my sister sometimes does the same thing.”


“We should leave you alone now.” She walked off to the other side of the cabin and Caius gave me a wave as he looked over his mother’s shoulder, I waved back and went to lay down on my bed.


You should probably get some rest while you still got time, you did wake up extremely early this morning. Take the next two days to just relax as much as possible.


Yeah, maybe I should, I close my eyes trying to take a quick nap and fell under rather quickly.


I couldn't describe how excited I was, when I was in the empty training room of my home. The chalk dragged across the floor as I finished the last of the symbols, I couldn't help but have a smile stretched across my face. I looked at the illustration in the book and then back at the similar summoning circle on the floor.


"Perfect."


I put the chalk away and flipped to the next page and skimmed over the inscription really quick, it was roughly translated but it was good enough.


I was only eleven years-old the day I found that book in my parent's room, it was hidden. At first I thought it was just another one of those books about known lesser gods that my mother liked to read, she was extremely fascinated with different religions. But it turned out to be a book of summoning, we had learned about familiar summoning the week before, in class. After that, I thought I'd be a good idea to get one of my own.


A day or two ago I had read it, surprisingly I liked it too. But then I found an almost faded page with instructions on summoning a familiar. How could I resist. I thought it’d help me when I enter the Training Academy next year, I had heard of famous Guardians who had strong familiars by their side.


I got off my hands and knees and quickly grabbed the roses in the basket to the side, placing one at every intersecting point. Finally, I grabbed the diamond necklace I took from my mother’s jewelry box and placed it in the center, then surrounded it with scarlet candles. After I had lit them, I stepped out of the circle, those would be the last of the items for the summoning.


I stood right outside of the circle and pulled out a needle from my pocket and pricked my finger, wincing in pain I let a few drops of my blood fall in and then put the sharp object away.


“That should be enough, now to start.”


I flipped to the next page in the book and started to read the incantation.


“I call upon the bindings of the three worlds that embrace one another,

set the Ram free by the scarlet blood of the Warrior,

the dancing flames of my spirit seek the drive to fight and survive,

to thrive for new beginnings and abolish despair and sin,

this is my vow to the almighty that spread power throughout existence.”


The fire from the candles grew and swirled into a spiral of heat, my heart raced as I watched intently for it to appear. I could see the crimson rose petals being thrown around, their tips being burned to a crisp by the intense heat. There was a strong atmosphere surrounding the summoning circle, I took a step back and hoped that the fire would settle a bit.


“Ari!” I heard someone call, my head turned to the door and the flames disappeared. I looked back at the circle to see the candles had melted and the roses were burned, this caused me to become incredibly confused.


“What the…?” I looked down at the inscription on the page to see I had done it correctly, but then it said at the very bottom.


Call Upon Their Name


Call upon their name? I thought to myself, what does that mean?


The door had slammed open making me jump, my heart stopped when I turned sharply to see who it was. But my body relaxed from its tense form when I saw it was only my mother, however that moment of relief was crushed by fear.


“What do you think you’re doing?” Her strict tone made me stay stiff like a statue, she walked into the room and dragged me out by the ear. The whole time, we were heading to the kitchen.


“Ow! Mom, that hurts! Please stop!” I begged her trying to remove her hand, but I knew that she would not listen. She was stronger than she looked.


“You know better than to do things without permission.”


“I’m sorry-I’m sorry! I won’t do it again! Promise!”


When we entered the kitchen, my father and younger sister sat at the dinner table. My mother sat me down at the table and she went on with her cooking.


“Alright, what did you do to get your mother worked up this time?” My father asked, Mira sat there doing her homework while I just sat there rubbing my now red ear.


“I was just trying to summon a familiar.” I muttered, but my father heard me loud and clear. He only chuckled and ruffled my hair.


“Well, as long as you didn’t do any serious damage to the shrine.”


“You let them off the hook way too easily.”My mother complained, her back facing us. My mother and father were somewhat polar opposites, he was pretty laid-back and an optimist where she was very studious and worried a lot about her family. But they balanced each other out.


There was a loud knock at the front door that caught all our attention, my father stood up to go and answer. Out of curiosity, I quietly got out of my chair and followed him. When I did I saw there was this man at the door, it looked like the weather wasn’t very good outside either. It was thunder storm from what I could see.


“I’m sorry to bother you sir, but could I trouble you one night? I got caught in this dreadful storm and have nowhere to go.” The mysterious man had an accent, Anglicus if I remember correctly, he clearly wasn’t from around here.


“Of course.” My father moved out of the way and let the man step inside, he closed the door and I ran back to the kitchen. Quickly, I sat in my seat and acted as if I never left it. My father stepped into the kitchen the stranger behind him.


“Xiao, we have a guest. He got caught in the rain, so he was hoping to stay a night here.”


I turned my head to lock eyes with the man, he wore a long trench coat that was soaked by rain. His face was clear to see, vibrant orange eyes was all I could remember. And in that moment I knew, that this didn’t feel right.


My eyes opened to meet the bed frame of the upper bunk, a sharp intake of air went through my nostrils while I looked around the cabin. Everything was silent, the lights were off and all the other passengers were asleep. It took me a moment to clear my head and relax once more.


I hoped that I’d finally find some clarity when I arrived in Marita.
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