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Name: Shannon Cortazar Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Title: Silhouette
It’s young girls they seek. Which is unfortunate for me, being sixteen. But the Throne shows no favoritism at least, they take everyone they find. Thinning the herd I guess you could say. I’ve seen their control over the living through the memories of a sparrow. A gift, my mother calls it. Though I wouldn’t go that far. Nowadays it feels more like a curse, one of the darkest kind.
I don’t dare share everything I’ve learned with my village. The hollow eyes and shuffled footsteps of the families here carry enough burdens as it is. Sometimes, some things are better left unknown.
Shivers ripple across my skin just thinking about the Throne’s legion. I look to the barren woods past the wall separating us from the wild and wonder just how long it will be before they find us. I imagine it will be soon. We’re just waiting I suppose, hiding out in the open. It’s not what I would call acceptance of the inevitable. I think most people here are just tired of living. But I’ll take this over the alternative. At least here I’m not a puppet of a merciless rule. Allegiance to the Throne is resolute. Death comes to those who resist. A slow, painful kind of death. Like a festering disease.
“I will not be afraid.” I murmur to myself. But who am I kidding.
I see a raven’s shadow glide away from the timber. The ground is littered with his brethren’s ink stained feathers, our only triumph against the Throne. My eyes follow the trail of plumage across the pocked earth and I hear a break in the air above me.
The dull thwack of an arrow pierces the foul creatures’ flesh and I watch it fall dead at my feet.
The ravens, we realized a while back, are seekers for the Throne. My hatred for them is boundless. Controlling the minds of a bird of prey was a calculated decision. But this one won’t be returning to their keep. He won’t be giving us away today or any other day.
“Another one down.” I say to myself. “Thousands to go.”
I turn and see an archer high in the watchtower, lowering his bow. The grin on his face is enough to lighten my mood. Finn, my friend, though he’s more like family. It’s his tower watch and the reason I stand so close to the edge of safety. It’s my birthday and he left a note on my door to meet him in the village circle. I expect he has a gift for me. Though he’s already given me a gift I can’t hold in my hand, his gift of friendship lies untethered in my heart.
“How many is that today O’Leary?” I yell up to the tower.
“I’ve lost count.” He shouts in his scratchy voice. “Hey.” He yells down to me. There’s a change in his voice now, it’s soft, almost tender. I immediately look away.
“Noelle.” he says.
I draw my eyes up to his steel grey stare, his dark tousled hair and pale skin make his eyes seem to glow. A strapping young man, some of the elder women call him. He is. His beauty seems out of place in this ugliness. I’ve told him that much. He’s returned the sentiment, though I don’t know if it’s out of kindness or desperation. Maybe he just wants to hold onto something other than misery.
Goosebumps spread up my arms, and a flutter in my chest makes my breath hitch. The way he says my name makes me think of velvet, the soft flow and warmth of it. Its beauty would be wasted on my pale lifeless skin, even on my best days. I look up to him and a pang of guilt cuts my thoughts short.
“Happy birthday, your grace.” he says.
He thinks he’s funny. I roll my eyes, figured him wrong today. At least he’s unpredictable.
I shake my head. He’s been saying that ever since the day we met. We were six or seven when I snagged a rabbit with a slingshot I found hidden in a fallen tree. It was Finn’s, and he chased me when it was discovered that I was the culprit who took it. He didn’t catch me, I used to run, fast. The next day he found the sling on his doorstep, I had returned it later that night. My mother was overjoyed about the rabbit, that I had taken the slingshot, not so much. I was expected to confess my thievery. When I did, he laughed and I stomped away. Ever since then, we’ve been inseparable. Some ties know no bounds.
“Thanks.” I say. “You coming down soon?”
“Maybe you should come up here.” he says. “There’s room for two you know. I could let down my hair for you to climb up—.”
“Ha ha. You know that’s not a good idea.” I say.
“You’re probably right. I’d be too distracted by your beauty.” he says resting his elbows on the tower rail.
“Finn--.” I say and lower my head.
“I know, I know. Boundaries.” he says. His voice sounds deflated.
“See you in a while?” I ask and look up to him. I wait for him to answer. But he just looks at me. Not an angry or pleading look. One that says, I won’t falter. His hooded eyes caress my skin, I didn’t know I could have this kind of feeling. I have to tear my eyes away from his. I won’t, no, can’t cling to something that will bring both of us heartache. I’m not that strong.
“Yeah, see you in a while.” he says and I walk away.
Farther across the courtyard are my brother and father. I see their graves through a rusted iron gate. Frost, our surname, is carved at the base of an angels robes. They died in the mountain cocooning the back of our village. A cave in crushed them to death just inside the entrance. We buried what we could last year, the water they searched for came trickling out the next day. They still took care of us even in death.
The sky is ten shades of overcast today. The cliffs and towers of the clouds have just started to release their fill. Behind me I hear someone shout from my village about soup. I take note that it’s ready but continue toward the wall. I blink silver glinted snowflakes away and see a sparrow’s silhouette struggling through the cold still air. It was the spring of my seventh year when I first spotted him. Every few months for the past nine years he’s returned to me. I don’t know why we have this bond, but because of it I’ve learned what our world has succumbed to.
The Throne came in the spring almost a year ago today. It was as quick as falling asleep. The mid afternoon sun cast their shadows and they appeared. Their beauty is what caught people off guard, they’re cunning. At first, they were portrayed as some kind of miracle. But their true purpose revealed itself soon after. They’re making their way through our lands, claiming everything in sight as their own. A dark magic lies in them, and humans are the object of its wrath.