Astra

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7.) Superweapon

Exhaustion finally hit 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 were mortifying, but I didn’t feel them. Not really. They took her body away, I’m not sure where. When they returned I was 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 felt no pain. What is so wrong with me, that death constitutes numbness over grief. Alatar nodded, Beckett and Ember kept back; everyone was giving me space.

We sat in his living room, it’s full of warm golden colors that do not reach my soul. All of me feels cold, my skin, my blood, even my soul.

“What do you need from us?” Ember asked hopefully, but I just stared 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 looked up to see Alatar nodding, he was expecting this. “I need to know this is all real. I’m not going to wake up from some crazy dream, right?”

“Nova!” Alatar called out, not too loudly, “come here please?” Nova? I don’t have the strength to turn to watch her come into the room, but my jaw drops slightly when I realize it’s his cat that he was addressing. She slunk into the room silently, awaiting his words I assumed. “Tea please? Astra needs something comforting,” he taps his temple and the cat leaves the room once more in a knowing way. I think a warlock talking to his cat was the least confusing thing that happened today, though.

“Yes, this is all real.” He began answering, ignoring my slack mouth at his interaction with the silver cat Nova. “Like I said prior, you were supposed to be raised with this knowledge. You were supposed to be ready for this day.” Alatar spoke to me 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 seemed to make him more uneasy, as if he was 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 nodded, his face pulled grimly.

“The warlocks decided that the best thing to do for everyone was to 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 sat in silence for a moment, while I mulled over everything he had told me. It’s a lot to take in, death and a whole new world. They’re patient with me.

“So, what’s the weapon, exactly?” If it’s strong enough to destroy the entirety of the Shadow Realm it must be strong. The answer was postponed to Alatar looking to the doorway with a small expectant smile, I turned looking to the floor expecting Nova. Rather, I see pale bare feet and the hem of a lilac gown. I jerk my gaze upwards, and meet the gaze of a young woman who looked back at me nervously.

She has green cat eyes, their slits widening when she smiles at me. Thick messy curls the color of pale silver frame her face and bare shoulders, her skin is warm like golden honey. I noticed last, after her shocking appearance, the tray in her hands, on it is a steaming tea kettle and several cups for all of us. She walked silently through the room, Alatar patiently waiting for her to finish before continuing. Each of us is given a tea cup that she lightly pours tea into, as she pours mine she smiles a thin lips smile at and blushes.

“You called me, ‘beautiful’, earlier. Thank you.” She whispers, at her comment I feel like I was slapped with a bag of bricks. I’d called the cat beautiful earlier, and he’s asked his cat Nova for tea...the idea is too much for me to handle. I just nodded numbly and with a swish of her skirts she was gone from the room.

“It’s the very essence of the stars, the weapon.” Alatar continued where he had left off, “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 felt heavy, and I still get the feeling that they are avoiding something. It weighs thickly between us, I know I must pry. It’s like they want me to pry, if anything.

I take a sip of the tea, it tastes like flowers and the moon, cool and sweet. “So...where is it?” Another long silence. I could hear Ember squirming, so I looked at her with accusing eyes. “Ember? Where is it? This weapon that got my family killed.” Her eyes were sad, but they didn’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 worryingly leaning over me, sitting me up, and asking if I need water. Alatar calls for Nova, for his cat, to get water.

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

“I’m not the weapon, that’s insane.” I ranted, grabbing Embers’ arm. “You guys are just wrong.” They shook 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 spoke quickly, her words pouring from her mouth, trying to explain calmly but also before I could 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.

’You, honey, are so unbelievably strong. Do you hear me?’ I hear her words in my head, ‘Astra, please hear me. You are going to be great.’ I hadn’t heard her this morning, not really. It hadn’t been making sense at the time, but does it now? 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 sounded giddy at this statement, and I shot 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? Why you followed me?” Ember nodded. “So you knew they could get to my family, and you did nothing to stop it?” That’s when any excitement left the air. They realized their mistake, and now I’m angry.

“Our mission was to you, not your family.” Beckett finally spoke, the wrong thing to say though. Everyone knew that, even Nova who came in with a glass of water in her hand lost the smile on her face at the comment.

“Screw you!” I exploded, my fiery glare landing on that stupid boy, everyone else looked away. “My family is dead and you could have prevented it!” I yelled at him, my anger rising. At a pause I felt anger towards myself, swarming and suffocating, that I can feel emotions towards that asshat over there but I can’t feel sorrow for my aunt.

I stood and whirled around to Alatar, who seemed to already know my thoughts. “Are my emotions still blocked?” Alatar nodded. “Take it off now! I want to properly feel this. My family deserves to feel mourned!”

“No, Astra. It’s dangerous-,” Ember started but she looked as though she didn’t want to have to disagree.

“You decided that for me! I had no say in that matter because I was a baby, a bunch of warlocks and my family decided for me that I wouldn’t be able to handle this power. Now I’m an adult and I get to choose! If I go, I don’t know, superweapon, you can put it back on. I should be able to mourn my family properly.” They looked at me sadly, contemplating. The room stifles for a long pause, Nova awkwardly just picks up the tea cup I had broken while fainting. Maybe I’ll apologize for that later.

“She’s right Alatar, and we can teach her to contain her power. She should be able to choose this for herself, she wasn’t able to choose to be the weapon the least we can do is let her learn to live with that. Astra deserves to mourn.” Ember said finally, and Alatar just nodded again. I’m not sure if he liked the decision, but either way he reached over and placed his two first fingers on my forehead.

There’s a pulling like duct tape being ripped from my skin stings, so I clenched my jaw. The pain lasted for only a moment, but then it was replaced by a whole new pain. Memories. Overpouring, painful, memories.

My aunt brushes my hair, telling me about my mother and our family hair color. She reads a book with me, kissing me goodnight. Her hanging up a painting of mine, one that I pretended to hate but secretly felt pride in her hanging it up. Meals, upon meals, all cooked with love and served before she fed herself. I felt it all at once, the level of her love and care to an extent that I was never able to feel before.

Then came the sorrow, a heart stabbing pain that caused 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 ripped 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. The pain of knowing I was numbed my whole life, and never got to love them the way they deserved. A pain for myself too, for my younger self who never got to choose. I cry so loud and so fiercely that I dropped to my knees, clenching my gut that threatens to rip open in anguish.

Ember touched 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, a cat that turned into a woman, and a warlock.

What a birthday.

At some point, I don’t know when exactly, Ember moved past her fear and wrapped her arms around me; and let me cry into her shirt. Her embrace eased the ache in my chest, and I’m able to push aside the resentment I held 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 succumbed to exhaustion and I fell asleep.

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