“I am a Wychthorne.” Hera stated, in a way where she almost seemed to despise being one. “A soul eater and wielder of shadow magic.”
Feeling as if stuck in a loop of time, Hera stared at the girl again who was in front of her of nearly half her age. A little girl with bright brown hair, aged 8. This had been her nightmare ever since.
A woman in her early thirties brought her hand up. Holding a fire-tipped whip, she brought her hand down to give a harsh lash on Hera’s back.
“My family were killers, all of us wielding one element, along with shadow magic.”
The fire crackled louder as Hera fed another stick to the greedy flames.
“What are you waiting for?” The woman hissed, irritated at the 16-year-old in front that she called her daughter. “This is yours to kill. I made sure Amara killed that annoying boy who looked just like him."
The woman with dark hair, spat in disgust, imagining a certain guardian.
“Mother...” Hera looked at her, eyes brimmed with tears. The look of weakness only made her mother fluster in anger and displeasure.
Hera let out a pained scream, just as loud as the frightened girl in front of her as the flaming tip hit Hera’s exposed back.
“It’s odd that shadow magic wielding runs strong through your blood.” Juliette leans a little closer as she listened to Hera’s story. Hera only gave her a sad smile.
“I know. Though not many are given the power to wield an element, or even perform any spells at all, there are some families who are blessed with magic flowing in their blood.”
“Why does it seem as if you and your family are... overpowered?”
Juliette tilted her head as she leaned forward. Hera’s lips pursed.
The woman wearing a magnificent black dress brought her whip down again, and again in anger. This was the third time they’ve come back, and she was becoming impatient.
“Why should we do this?” Hera gave her mother a pained look. Her face was red, tear-stricken cheeks puffy.
With nothing but a cold gaze, her mother answered her icily.
“It is her fate and will lead you to the path of your destiny.”
“I’d say its a curse.” Hera heaved a sigh as she watched her memories play on the dancing flames. “Being a soul-eater is a curse from the gods, from what I believe. The magic? It runs by blood.”
She hated the fact that she could wield two types of magic. It would always tear her own soul apart when she used both.
Her mother let the whip fall and brought her hand up. Hera eyed the black ball of energy floating on her mother’s palm, the person having a sick grin on her lips.
“Well, you can take your time. I do enjoy live entertainment.”
Juliette side-glanced at Hera in pity as she watched the memories unfold with the bright flames.
“Why didn’t you help her escape? Who was she anyway?”
Hera sighed and stood up, not being able to take it any longer. She waved her hand over the fire, having it stop projecting her memories.
“I couldn’t. Mother used some spell that I couldn’t remove on Maria.”
Juliette crinkled her nose. She was disgusted with Hera’s mother and is now glad she wasn’t with the scary psycho lady anymore. She stood up and went to give Hera a tight hug, which she hugged back as a thanks for her comfort.
“Maria...” Juliette thought out loud. “She must be a nice kid.”
Hera let in a deep breath. Letting go of Juliette and standing up, she dusted the back of her leggings from any dirt.
“I can bet you she must be. She was the Guardian knight’s younger sister.”
Juliette tilted her head in confusion. “Guardian... knight?”
Hera walked towards one of their bags that had some containers. Taking out a small container with 4 sticks of skewered meat to barbecue over the fire, she answered Juliette, a smile on her lips.
“I’ve already explained Etherea to you, right?”
She looked at Juliette who nodded.
“It’s where you’re from. An entire land mass with the kingdom of Etherea.”
Hera smiled, thankful that she didn’t have to explain it again.
“That’s right. The chosen guardian does most of the tasks Royals can’t or don’t have the time to do. They are just as good and powerful as any royal. However, they are not under the royal family.”
Opening the lid, she handed Juliette one of the sticks to cook. Juliette stared at the stick of meat in her hand before hovering it on the fire, careful not to burn herself or the exposed stick.
She grimaced at the heat. “Next time, let’s bring a grill for this.”
Hera whom didn’t think this through had a matching look on her face. “Duly noted.”
For a moment, they shifted their sitting positions, making themselves more comfortable. Hera was sitting on the ground, leaning on her rock while struggling to brush the barbecue with some sauce.
They spent the rest of the early evening cooking some food.
Frontline Camp, Etherea
Gate to Lost girl’s pass
“Captain Halley, the remaining undead forces have been beheaded and buried.” A warrior saluted to the tall, muscular woman who armed a huge halberd.
“That’s good. Has Tom returned?” She faced her fellow warrior, towering over him by a head.
Hally watched as many of Zeid’s swordsmen dragged the dead bodies away from the front of their gate. She stared farther into the fog that led into the dangerous mountain pass.
“Yes, he has, captain. He’s returned with Iris from the swamp.”
The captain gave the warrior a pat on the back and with a wave, dismissed him.
She turned away from the gate to walk towards one of the smaller gates, a little less than a mile from where she was.
Outside the gates was another Captain. He had Dark Brown Hair, almost seeming as if it were black if it wasn’t for the light of the sun. This certain captain had a sword with him.
Out there, Captain Zeid instructed his warriors to drag the dead bodies, pointing out locations and barking out orders for scouts to check ahead of the path.
Coming back from the swamp forest was a purple-eyed woman with bright blonde hair bound in a braid behind her, so as to not get dragged on the ground. Iris, the mute vice-captain of archers had returned along with the guardian who was treading ahead of her.
She looked around the clearance. A couple of group of men were chopping down trees. Lumber was needed to establish the base they had all worked hard to build.
“They’re finally repairing the walls and building temporary sheds.”
She sighed in relief at her thought. Iris was mute, which was why she, besides Zeid was quiet most of the time.
She looked to find Tom watching her.
The blonde boy with matching golden amber eyes motioned for her to go on without him. Without question, she gives the young boy a salute, her left arm pressed horizontally across her body, just below her breasts, before dashing off towards the small gate to the rebel village base that they were forming and growing, bag in hand filled with items they were tasked to retrieve from a nearby ruin.
Tom watched as Iris ran towards the camp. From afar, he could see the progress of the new village being built. A few of the pale tents were already replaced with wooden cabins and sheds, mainly for important matters, such as a storage house, a meeting hall, and a blacksmith’s building for weapons.
The acres of land were occupied by either tents, free space for trainings and such, or were converted to farms to grow their food.
He was proud to be able to gather their forces and lead them to where they are now, but of course, it wouldn’t be possible without the help of the captains he had assigned.
Slowly, he walked past the people doing their part in this little war that had only begun moons ago. These men chose to stay in order to defend their home while the rest were all evacuated to different kingdoms. The rest, either dead or chose to side with her, both forming the new queen’s army.
Looking at the sky above him, it was only a matter of time before the sun starts to set. He would’ve turned back to head towards the camp to meet up with the other Captains, but something caught his eye.
Despite the bright light the setting sun provided, something seemed to be flying through the sky. Something that was bright was flying across the orange and pink canvas.
Was it a shooting star?
Tom watched it with interest, eyes squinted as he curiously let his eyes follow it. After a while, the Guardian shook his head, laughing to himself.
Shooting stars don’t usually show unless the sky was pitch black, or as dark as the sky can be.
With that, he walked back to the camp, huge broad sword in tow, carried as if the heavy metal was nothing compared to the young man.
Even though he didn’t believe it, he still made a wish.
Juliette was laughing so hard, the girl was practically shedding tears.
“I told you working there would be an experience!”
Hera had a grin plastered on her face, still recalling that time she had volunteered to work with animal rescue teams nearby.
“Well, having a squirrel fight a bird on my head was definitely an experience” Hera snickered, disposing the stick in one of the containers after breaking them into two.
“I can imagine your panic, seriously.” Juliette matched Hera’s.
Before the ravenette could talk, something caught her eye. Noticing Hera’s shift in attention, Juliette trailed her gaze to find what she was staring at.
“Is that a shooting star?” The redhead’s brows furrowed.
No matter what it looked like, she wouldn’t believe the first guess that came to her mind. There was no way a shooting star would be that slow.
“I doubt it. I’ve seen something like that before, but I don’t want to believe it.”
As if it had been listening to the two, the light disappeared, fading quickly like blowing out a birthday candle.
Juliette blinked, coming to a stand. “Did it just...”
“Vanish? Yes.” Hera squinted her eyes at the spot where the peculiar light in the sky once was, in suspicion.
Packing up the items, the two stood up to clean up their surroundings and put away their things. They were halfway to where they wanted to be, so it would be a big help if their items were packed up, along with them waking up early.
“Can I ask you something?” From the silence came Juliette’s unsure voice.
“Go on.” Hera cracked her knuckles and stretched her limbs, stifling a yawn in the process.
Juliette’s hand went from her side to holding the pendant around her neck. It was in the shape of a crescent. The puzzling problem in her head had been haunting her ever since that night she had accepted Hera in her home, and into her life fully.
“Did you cast a spell on me when we first met?” Juliette crossed her fingers, yet she was unsure what she was hoping for.
Hera gave her an incredulous look. “No? What got you that idea?” She asked with a questioning look.
Juliette closed her eyes.
Do I ask her? What if it was planned and I’m not supposed to know it?
For a moment, she had a mental war in her head. Every question was parried with another opposing question.
Hera let go of what she had been doing and walked over, noticing Juliette’s unease.
Hearing the approaching footsteps, Juliette just inwardly cursed before deciding.
How can you arrive at the truth if you let little things block your path?
“The night you entered and fell asleep in my apartment,” Juliette’s feet shuffled in angst. “My, uh, thing glowed.”
Stopping right in front of Juliette, Hera tilted her head while her brows furrowed.
“Your... thing...?” She wondered, making gestures for Juliette to continue.
Without any words, she motioned to her opal crescent pendant that hung loosely around her neck.
“My necklace. There were times it started to glow. Sometimes if I was unlucky, the thing would glow bright during my classes.” Juliette had a small smile forming on her lips. “I looked like a freak trying to hide something in my chest. Wouldn’t want them to think my chest was glowing now, would we?” She joked.
Hera scratched her chin, a hand placed on her hip as she racked her mind for any possible reasons this could be happening. Then she shook her head.
“I can’t think of any reason why that would happen.” She raised her hand to hold Juliette’s pendant. The moment her fingertips grazed the warm metal, the pendant glowed bright and rose, floating on its own.
Hera immediately retracted her hands towards herself, stepping back with wide eyes as she watched in silence.
“Wait a moment, it never floated before!” Juliette was bewildered at the sudden occurrence.
Hera snapped her fingers when an idea formed in her head. “Maybe it’s reacting to my magic. I haven’t been using my mana that much ever since I got here. I’m probably oozing of it by now.” She mumbled the last sentence, eyes watching the necklace like a hawk.
“That could explain things. This is exactly why I told you to do some magic once a while.”
Slowly, a grin was forming on Juliette’s elated face. The girl had been wanting to see the different things Hera could do.
Hera scowled at her. “Juliette, for the last time I am not a magician nor am I a clown for your entertainment.”
Juliette’s shoulders sagged as she stared at Hera in disappointment.
Juliette was silenced when she felt the chain around her neck snap. As if it had a mind of its own, her necklace started running away or rather floated away with speed.
“What in the world?” Hera stood rooted to her spot as she watched the scene unfold.
“Wait!” Juliette held her hand out, but obviously, this dramatic act we do couldn’t stop the fleeing necklace, yet alone a thief stealing a purse on the street.
Feeling a shock run through her when Juliette ran after the small glow into the darker parts of the forest, Hera’s legs moved on their own accord after Juliette.
“Juliette, wait!” She hollered, but it was no use.
“No! My grandpa gave me that necklace. I can’t lose that too.” Juliette yelled back at her, quite a little out of breath at the sudden chase.
If her grandfather saw her now, he probably would be amused at why they were running after a necklace.
“Wait just a moment you might trip on something! Like another squishy froggy!” Hera stopped for a moment and panted. It was dark, and she could only rely on the faint glow that was slowly fading each second.
With a huff, she brought her hand in front of her.
She focused a good amount of mana into her spell. On her hand was a small sphere of light orange light, a ball of her mana. Once it was big and bright, she tossed it in the air.
She immediately ran forward, this time careful of her surroundings. Though she could have traveled through the shadows, it required not only a lot of mana but her focus and energy, the energy that she now didn’t have from traveling.
“Oh my...” Juliette who came face to face with her floating necklace stared at the bright tear in space right in front of her. With a faint blue glow and an inviting aura, she walked forward, hand stretched a little away from her to attempt to grab the necklace that had stopped. However, the moment her hand was about to capture the flyaway accessory, the pendant flew right through the mysterious portal.
Yes, a portal. That’s what it seemed to look like, as it showed another forest through there. A swampy forest.
Behind Juliette, leaves of the bushes shook as Hera stepped over them, eyes never leaving the familiar light in front of her.
Juliette looked at Hera with uncertainty. An “Oh no” from Hera meant bad news.
“What do you mean ‘Oh no’?” Juliette frowned. “This isn’t that bad, right? My necklace just jumped into that thing—that portal thing!” She exclaimed.
Without even thinking, the redhead stomped over towards the portal, ready to rescue her beloved pendant.
Hera brought her hand up. Her eyes sparkled, glowing a brighter blue-green shade, yet more of a shade of blue. Projecting her energy, vines that were like what she used on Juliette before materialized from the ground, holding onto both Juliette’s arms and wrapped around her waist.
Juliette tried to break free from the firm grip of the vines. Throwing her a desperate look, she pleaded. “Hera, that necklace is important to me. It’s a family heirloom from my grandfather.” She explained.
Unconvinced, Hera walked over with a sad look on her face. “I know, J. I just can’t let you go through there. That place is dangerous.”
Hera eyed the swamp. She absolutely hated—no, despised swamps. Not only were they muddy and watery and filled with bugs and whatever there was in them, but there was slime. You heard it, slime.
Juliette sighed in defeat. She calmed down, stopped thrashing around the vines. “Fine. Could you please let me go now?”
Hera eyed Juliette warily before ending the flow of her energy. The vines slowly dematerialize into little shining particles, like black glitter.
“Alright, but no funny business.” Hera hissed at her, massaging her wrists. The quick flicking of her wrists and the use of her energy affected her body. Had she practiced magic once a while like Juliette told her to, she wouldn’t feel drained at the little act she was doing.
Once free from the tangles of magic, Juliette gave Hera a smile of thanks and reassurance.
The minute Hera let a relieved sigh, Juliette gave her a short, apologetic look before diving into the portal, leaving Hera frozen with mixed emotions, consisting of confusion, shock, and anger.
Of course, she would defy me. Hera rolled her eyes and charged at the portal. From experience, the portal will close once an entity passes through, and she can’t leave Juliette alone there. With no doubt clouding her mind, she went after the redhead.