It was July which meant the rain had just begun. The clouds were ominous—heavy with envy and foggy with rage. Lightning twitched and danced in the sky and thunder roared alongside it. The wind was a force of nature, whipping through the trees and bringing with it the smell of wet dirt and grass. The rain pounded against the ground, drowning out all other sounds and filling the air with a calming rhythm.
Dark clouds loomed over the Bell tower, but if you looked closely, especially when lightning flashed, a meeting was underway.
The rain was falling fast, drenching Penrose Row. Hunched over in a bland grey trench coat reaching his ankles, Andre shuffled down Harmony Street, his shoes squeaking with each step. The sweet aroma of the roadside suya just up by the curb taunted him like Destini in latex. Normally, he would stop and indulge, but he hated the rain. There was only rain in Alverton during the summer.
Turning left, he entered the alley that led to the abandoned bridge where the others awaited. Had he not received that call, he would be lying in bed right now, honing his mind and pushing his abilities to their limits. The message was short and urgent-they needed to transport a defector. That’s all he knew.
Halfway through the alley, Andre slowed down. He pulled his hands out of his pockets as his mind picked up a sinister presence. His eyes darted back and forth, seeking everything around him out. He could feel that something was off - a feeling of dread in the air that seemed to permeate everything.
The flaming blast flung her against the dumpster in front of him, and she fell into the puddle of rain with a grunt. Andre watched the young lady quietly—short brown hair, a strange tattoo on her entire right arm. His eyes shot to her attacker, sauntering up to her, a sinister delight in his eyes. Andre’s heart pounded with rage as his protective instinct surged through him; he had to help.
After glaring dismissively at Andre, the swine turned to the woman, and Andre knew he was a member of the Saffron clan. Those were the snooty, offensive fire wielders, and the Saffron pin on his black uniform gave him away. He raised his chin arrogantly and made it clear that Andre wasn’t worth his time.
“Where is it? I will not ask you again, Veronica.” His voice echoed through the alley, almost drowning out the sound of the rain.
Andre turned his gaze on her–Veronica. She was the defector he was in Penrose for. Whoever this Saffron was, he’d snatched Veronica from his associates. The alarm went off in his head for a moment as he cast a look around. Where were they?
“Who are you?” Andre asked.
A frown creased the Saffron’s heavy brows as he turned to him. “You’re still here?” he asked. “Get lost, invalid, this doesn’t concern you.”
Andre drew closer, ignoring the rain beating down on his face and the man’s guts to infer that he was an invalid–a useless gifted.
“Who are you?” Andre repeated.
Soft as silk, his voice slipped through the walls of the Saffron’s mind, invading his cognitive. He blinked rapidly in response, unable to fathom what was happening.
“Speak,” Andre commanded, the velvety softness of his tone carrying the weight of his ability.
“Aries, Squire of the Saffron Seal,” he said grudgingly. His eyes narrowed in spite as they held Andre’s. “You invalid! How are you doing this?”
“Oh shut up!” Andre snarled. The softness of his voice was replaced by a menacing rashness. “Count to a hundred and then throw yourself off the bell tower.”
Andre looked at Veronica, who was sitting against the dumpster clutching her side with her tattooed arm. As he helped her up, he looked over at the Squire counting away angrily before hurrying down the alley with Veronica. Andre knew there wasn’t a moment to lose - his friends were in danger and he had to find them.
“You’re Andre, aren’t you? You’re the one that’ll take me to the Haven,” Veronica said when they got to the abandoned tracks under the bridge.
André did not respond. He set her down against one of the columns holding the bridge up and turned to survey the area.
“If you’re looking for the men who smuggled me here, you’re too late. Aries scourged them in his fire.” She groaned.
He turned back to her while he wiped the rain from his face with the back of his hand. He hated the Saffron Squires for thinking they were above the law. Not only that, but he’d seen too much injustice from them and he was boiling with rage. As the top clan in Alverton, the Conquered Colony let the Saffron Seal do whatever they wanted. No matter how powerful the Colony was, he was determined to bring justice and equality to all Alverton’s gifted.
“I’m sorry,” said Veronica.
He did not respond. Anger clenched his jaw, and his deep blue eyes held hers for an endless second. Looking away from him, Veronica looked towards the tracks closer to the wire fence. He followed her gaze just in time to see the ashes of his friends wash downstream in the rain. He remained silent for a while, his expression a mixture of rage and sorrow as he watched his friends’ remains drift away.
“Who exactly does the Saffron Seal want from you?” Andre asked quietly. “Don’t try to lie to me. I will know, and I’m already upset.”
André stared at her; he had already accessed her thoughts and mind. He knew her deepest secrets and the darkest corners of her soul. He had seen her fears and weaknesses, but he had no interest in them. His mind was set on destroying the Saffrons now more than ever. With a heavy sigh, Veronica tried to mask a shiver. Her drenched grey tank top and black pants revealed a fine figure. Her raven hair, which was now dripping wet, framed her face in a way that seemed to make her look more mysterious and alluring.
From her appearance, he wouldn’t have guessed she was a member of the Silk Orb clan if he hadn’t read her mind.
“Can we at least go somewhere safe and warm first?” she asked.
With his arms crossed across his chest, he gazed at her while his psyche poked at her mind, seeking more answers. Whatever she’d stolen from the Saffrons would only bring him trouble, but he couldn’t pass up a chance to engage the Saffrons. It was clear that helping her meant getting dragged into a turf war between both clans… or maybe not at all since Veronica seemed to have done this with her clan’s help.
He took off his trench and handed it to her. Veronica took it and slipped it on without hesitation.
“Try to keep up.”
He turned and started down the railway path towards the wired fence. She hurried after him and fell into place beside him.