Laeriel crouched behind a large bush, peering past it, bow strung tight, aiming at a black crow that was ruffling its feathers. She had to make the shot; even though a bird this size would barely make a meal for two people. Food had been scarce lately. The small family that had taken them in this time didn’t have much. They had been weary of the two girls on their doorstep, asking for a place to stay for a while because they had nowhere else to go. Laeriel and Janey moved to a different home almost every two years, so as she had promised her mom before she died. It hadn’t always been easy and this particular family, although rather friendly, weren’t very welcoming of even more mouths to feed. They had only been persuaded when Laeriel had told them of her hunting skills and therefor the means to provide some extra food. However, she had not known that the woods surrounding the village had been so bare.
She concentrated on the crow in front of her and just when she intended to let her arrow fly an enormous wave of nausea hit her in the core of her being. She convulsed at the feeling and lost the grip on her arrow, letting it fly a good three metres past the crow. Of course it flew away. The pressing wave of dark power rippled through her as comprehension washed over her. “Janey” she started. Eyes wide she began to run.
When she reached the doorstep of Janey’s bedroom she hesitated. Her little sister, blood-drenched, sitting on her knees, looking up to her… The promise she made to her mother… Running… Running…
She was two years old. A wrinkled old woman stood in front of her, looking at her face. Talking. “It seems vital… yes… I understand… I can teach her of course… for a price…” The woman’s voice sounded more like a rasping crow, her eyes narrowed on the toddler. Laeriel winced at the scrutinising look. “Of course! Thank you.” The voice came from behind her. It was a beautiful voice, a clean, clear voice that reduced the tension in her body a little. Her mother put her hands on her shoulders. A loving, encouraging gesture. “Go with the sorceress sweetie, I will pick you up in a few hours.” Laeriel straitened her back and put on her bravest face. She’d learn. She’d learn to glamour her pointy elven ears into ordinary human ones as fast as she could. She didn’t know why she had to do it, but she’d do it. For her mom…
She was sixteen years old. She was holding her mother’s hand. Sitting on a chair next to her mom’s bedside, she listened to her mother’s instructions. Her mother’s face was white as snow, she was still so beautiful, but there was no colour left in her cheeks, even her lips had the same snow white shade of skin. Sweat beaded her forehead. With one hand she gripped her daughter’s hand tight, with the other arm she held her new born babe. “You must look after her as best as you can…” her voice still clean, but soft, like a whisper. “You protect her, you take her away from here, you don’t stay in the same place for too long, you keep moving…” The instructions had gone on and on. Laeriel listened, nodded, held the hand, until the voice stopped whispering, until the hand grew cold. She then lifted the baby from her mother’s grip and left.
When Laeriel opened her eyes she found herself wrapped around her little sister with both her arms and legs. Her back was against a tree trunk and she could already feel the soreness of her muscles from sleeping in this position. She shifted slightly to stretch her back a bit and Janey slowly opened her round blue eyes peering up at her sister. “Morning little mouse” Laeriel was surprised to find her voice nothing more than a hoarse rasp. She must have damaged her vocal chords when they had burned so bad during their flight. Janey took one look at the dried up blood covering her dress and threw a pleading look at her sister, her lip started wobbling and silver lines glistened under her eyes as she looked up. “Let’s get you out of those clothes.” Muttering comforting words she hoisted her sister up and pulled her towards a small creek. She removed Janey’s clothes and her own that had become stained, putting them next to the creek, she’d wash those later. She started to scrub the crusted red from the little girls tender skin all the while speaking softly about unrelated, carefree things. When the girl was clean she instructed her to go sit in the sun on the bank while she washed herself and their clothes.
After a few minutes she tried to poke around for some answers. “Janey…” a short look over her shoulder to her sister, who was now stringing leaves on a small stick. “Can you tell me what happened?” She continued to wash the clothes and resisted the urge to look over her shoulder, trying to give her sister the time and space she needed to find the courage to answer. She heard a breath that indicated that she was going to say something, but she kept quiet… “Do you understand what happened?” Laeriel tried instead. “No” her sister admitted quietly. “Did something happen with one of our family members?” She asked. Her sister exploded at the question; “They are not our family!!” she screamed. Startled by the aggression in her sister’s voice Laeriel turned around and found Janey on her feet, breathing fast and hard through her nose. Her eyes were pure anger as she looked at her sister. “No… I know…” Laeriel said apologetically, “It was just a figure of speech, I know they were not really our family.” Were… because they were now all dead… because of my eight year old sister… Janey let out a sigh and drooped her shoulders, looking at her feet. “Janey.. please..” Laeriel pleaded, “tell me what happened..”