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Exhaustion finally hits me after sitting there in silence watching Alatar attempt to heal my aunt for an hour.

‘She had no wounds’, I’d said.

‘The Umbra Realm is a wound in itself, Astra.’ Then the orange glow commenced, and I sat silently watching.

“She will not wake, we were too late. I am sorry, it seems as though Parallax ordered her death, but left her body as a way to trap you.” His words are mortifying, but I don’t feel them. Not really. They take her body away, I'm not sure where. When they return I'm still sitting on the couch.

“They killed my family. I have no one left.” It’s a sad brutal truth, I am alone. But again, I feel no pain. Alatar nods, Beckett and Ember keep back; everyone is giving me space.

We sit in his living room, it’s full of warm golden colors that do not reach my soul. I feel cold.

“What do you need from us?” Ember asks hopefully, but I just stare at my hands. I don’t know what I need. The last time someone in my life died I was an infant, so I just needed someone to change my diaper. Now? I don’t know.

“Answers to all my questions.” I look up to see Alatar nodding, he is expecting this. “I need to know this is all real. I’m not going to wake up from some crazy dream, right?”

“Yes, this is all real. Like I said prior, you were supposed to be raised with this knowledge. You were supposed to be ready for this day.” Alatar speaks calmly like he’s expecting me to blow up.

“Why was I supposed to be raised in all this? Why didn’t they listen?” This question seems to make him more uneasy like he’s avoiding something.

“Your parents passed, as I’m sure you know, but it wasn’t in the way I’m sure you were told. They were murdered, as they were defending the weapon.” This doesn’t shock me, not after everything I’d learned so far. It would make sense, but I’m just wondering why my parents were the ones guarding the weapon.

“I’m going to guess they succeeded since they’re still looking for it?” Alatar nods, his face is grim.

“The warlocks decided that that best thing to do for everyone was cloak the weapon. You see this is a very powerful weapon, one that needed to be contained. So we put a cloaking device over the weapon, as well as dulling its energy. Only, the cloaking would last only 18 years, and the energy dowsing had to be renewed yearly.” We sit in silence for a moment, while I mull over everything he had told me. It’s a lot to take in, a death and a whole new world.

“So, what’s the weapon, exactly?” If it’s strong enough to destroy the entirety of the Shadow Realm it must be strong.

“It’s the very essence of the stars. You see, the creation of a superweapon had to be done. Your parents were a part of its creation, while you were still in the womb. They succeeded, and the weapon was created.” The air feels heavy, and I still get the feeling that they are avoiding something.

“So...where is it?” Another long silence. I hear Ember squirming, so I look at her with accusing eyes. “Ember? Where is it? This weapon that got my family killed.” Her eyes are sad, but they don’t lose contact with mine.

“Astra,” she takes a shaky breath. “You’re the weapon.”


I don’t remember passing out, or fainting, or whatever you’d call it. I only remember Alatar and Ember worriedly leaning over me, sitting me up, and asking if I need water.

I don’t need water, I need to wake from this horrible nightmare.

“I’m not the weapon, that’s insane.” I rant, grabbing Embers’ arm. “You guys are just wrong.” They shake their heads at me, sadly.

“No, we’re not. Have you ever noticed you don’t react to situations the correct way? You don’t feel much? At least, until today? It’s because every year on your birthday a warlock shows up and reinstates the suppressor on your emotions. If you were able to feel like everyone else, we wouldn’t be sure that it would cause your powers to destroy everything.” Ember speaks quickly, trying to explain calmly but also before I faint again.

“That’s why Beckett and I went to your school, he’s educating himself on Magick and we were going to reinstate the suppressor as well as attempt to renew the 18-year cloaking device.”

“‘No, you’re lying-”, but it makes sense at the same time. I’ve never felt anything until today. My aunt was so afraid this morning, she must have known that the 18 years were up. I don’t want it to make sense.

“Astra, you’re the one who’s going to save everyone from Parallax. It is destined, you will destroy him as well as the Umbra Realm.” Alatar sounds giddy at this statement, and I shoot him a glare. I’ve lost everyone I love over this stupid weapon, over myself...I guess. It’s not something I’m very giddy about. But then, it clicks.

“You guys knew that vampires would be after me, right? That’s why you guys stayed with me all day? Followed me?” Ember nods. “So you knew they could get to my family, and you did nothing to stop it?” That’s when any excitement leaves the air. They realize their mistake, and now I’m angry.

“Our mission was to you, not your family.” Beckett finally speaks.

“Screw you! My family is dead and you could have prevented it!” I yell at him, my anger rising. But then I realize, I haven't yet felt sorrow over my aunt. “Are my emotions still blocked?” Alatar nods. “Take it off now! I want to feel this.”

“No, Astra. It's dangerous-”

“Please, please. If I go, I don't know, superweapon, you can put it back on. I should be able to mourn my family properly.” They look at me sadly, contemplating.

“She's right Alatar, and we can teach her to contain her power. Astra deserves to mourn.” Ember says, and Alatar just nods again. He reaches over and places his two first fingers on my forehead. I feel a pulling like duct tape is being ripped from my skin.

It stings, so I clench my jaw. The pain lasts for only a moment, but then it's replaced by a whole new pain. I think of my aunt in a rush of memories.

My aunt brushing my hair, reading a book with me, kissing me goodnight. I feel it all at once, the level of her love and care to an extent that I was never able to feel before.

Then comes the sorrow, a heart stabbing pain that causes me to lose my breath. Her body, lifeless, unable to be healed even by Alatar who seems to be a skilled warlock. She is gone, I'll never feel her unconditional love for me again.

I cry, a gut-wrenching cry ripping from my lungs. I feel it, all of it. The loss of my parents, who I never got to know, the loss of my aunt, who loved me as her own.

Ember touches me tentatively, scared of my emotion and what it will bring. But I don't blow up, I only sob. The first time crying in my life, and it's in a room of strangers; two defenders and a warlock.

What a birthday.

At some point, I don't know when exactly, Ember moves past her fear and wraps her arms around me; and lets me cry into her shirt. Her embrace eases the ache in my chest, and I'm able to push aside and resentment I hold for her protecting me rather than my family.

If Parallax had gotten me instead, the world could be destroyed. Two casualties instead of billions, I get the logic; but that doesn't make the pain go away.

At some point in time, I succumb to the exhaustion and I fall asleep.

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