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Anaphora: Vengeance

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Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by WritingBookworm on Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:00 pm

You guys have no idea how long I've been waiting for this.

Enjoy!





Chapter 1: Light Falls


I remember very clearly, for I can never forget.

The unrestrained cruelty blazing in the dark eyes of a young heir.

The way a young girl shattered, and then put herself together again upon realizing there was no one she could truly ever trust.

A great resolve that swelled as she followed, making her descent through the dark corridors without fear.

The fall of the boy, whose eyes no longer bore the cruel power of a dragon, but the terror of an insect about to be crushed.

And then the pain, the pain and the blood and the haze and confusion --

And finally the descent into darkness, knowing that my entire world has changed.

Memini.

I remember.

And believe me; I am never going to forget.

~  ~  ~

Darkness.

It cloaks me like a blanket, giving tranquility and comforting me, assuaging my every ache. I am unaware of anything, and as long as that remains, I am void of pain. I am free.

Except . . .

There is one thing I’m aware of. An ever-so-slight pressure on my hand, like someone is holding it. The other hand is large, and coarse, but it’s warm.

This warmth is a tether to the world I thought I’d left behind. I like it. I like this warmth. I think I would like to know more about it . . .

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.


A faint throbbing in my collarbone registers, like it has a heartbeat all of its own. My eyelids begin to open just a crack, and while it still looks fuzzy, I can begin to make out a hospital machine, with a green heart monitor zigzagging up and down the screen.

I let my eyes drift shut. I move my head slightly to the side. When I begin to reopen my eyes, I see faint haze of a broad-shouldered, silver-haired man, sitting by my bedside.

Is that . . . Dad?

Again I close my eyes once the strain of keeping them open is too much to bear. A tired groan escapes me.

“Ah,” Father says. “So you’re awake.”

The pressure on my hand leaves. I feel cold.

“Father?” I try sitting up, but everything still hurts. It hurts a lot. “What happened . . . ?”

“A great many things, Therese,” he says. “But let us begin with the good news. You, without a shadow of a doubt, have the Cruelty Trait. Your abilities have manifested themselves.” He extends his warmest smile. “Congratulations, my daughter. You are truly one of us.”

One of what? I want to ask. But then I get it. I remember the figures in the night, and how I finally had my chance to give my older brother he deserved. I remember the agony I had inflicted upon him, the pain twisting across his face, and the scream that followed.

Reverent, I hold my hand up to my face. I look deep into the curved lines of my palm.

I did that. I’m a Cruelty Bearer.

”You’re truly one of us,” Vandor had said. I’m truly a Zeidan. I can hurt others, and for that, I’m a Zeidan.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.

“Lucian,” I say. “Is he . . . “

“At large?” Vandor smiles tightly. “He won’t be. Not for long. Several of our men, including General Blackthorne himself, are on the hunt for the traitor. When he is brought here, his sentence will be painful.”

I nod my head, even though that hadn’t been what I’d been meaning to ask. The real question at the tip of my tongue had been, Is he really a Compassion Bearer?

I remember him backhanding me, all the way back when I was five, just before I’d met Chase Spiterwetch. “Don’t get too close to people. You’ll only get hurt.”

I remember trying to comfort him, not one day ago, after he tried so hard to unlock the abilities that came with the Cruelty Trait only to come up short. “What makes you think you have the right to talk to me, you miserable girl?"

I remember a birdcage being slammed to the ground.

“You’re nothing. You’re nothing!”

Nothing.

Nothing.

Underneath my bedsheets, I clench a fist. A Compassion Bearer? There’s no way someone like that could be a Compassion Bearer.

But the way I’d seen him look at me, in the end, as he fled the mansion . . . with such sorrow and love . . .

No, I tell myself. There’s no way someone like him could have that much love. The epitome of Cruelty, turning into a Compassion Bearer? That just doesn’t work. It fails to compute.

The Dictator’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts. “While we might not have Lucian Zeidan in custody yet,” he says, smiling, “I am pleased to inform you that we did catch an accomplice in his escape. She will face execution today.”

“Really?” I lean in closer to him. “Who’s the accomplice?”

His smile only becomes wider.


~  ~  ~


The amphitheater where they hold the executions is basic, but it serves its purpose. Poena’s black-clad military class citizens -- soldiers, nobility, even a few students from the Academy of Poena -- trill with both excitement and nervous anticipation as they sit in the tiered metal risers, waiting to see what that their Dictator has summoned them here for -- what's important enough to get me briefly out of the infirmary for. Overseeing the tiers are two balconies on opposite ends of the circular amphitheater. Inside one is my father. In the second are me and my two siblings. In the center of it all is the execution platform, where cameramen prepare this for mandatory broadcast throughout Acritudo.

And on the execution platform, standing handcuffed to a wooden post, is none other than Mom.

Although I outwardly keep my emotions in check, a spiraling storm of confusion, hurt, and panic harrows me. Mom? She’s the accomplice? She’s the one that helped Lucian escape?

She’s about to die.

I slowly turn my head to Leyland, like he alone may have my answers. Like he may have Mom’s salvation.

I split open my dry lips. “Do you . . . think she deserves this?”

Leyland shrugs without looking at me. “She wouldn’t be down there if she didn’t.”

My eyes linger on him. Still he sits, passive to these proceedings. Or is he? I can’t tell.

“Citizens of Acritudo!”

My face -- and everyone else’s -- looks up to their Dictator. Standing upon the balcony, Vandor Zeidan smiles, and spreads his arms out in greeting.

“We welcome you here today for a very special event,” he continues. “Treason has occurred inside of our great country, and as you all know there’s only one acceptable form of punishment for this crime.”

Some shout Death. Others, Execution.

I drown out the barbaric cries. All I can see is my mother.

In the middle of the shouting, Mom lifts her head, looking up to Jezebel and pouring out all of her love in a single gaze. Then her eyes come to me.

It’ll be all right, her eyes seem to say.

That’s not true. It’s not going to be all right. The only reason anything was ever all right in my life is because of her. If she’s gone, then nothing is going to be all right ever again.

She looks down when Vandor continues. “Jazlyn Zeidan gave me a failure son that did not produce the Cruelty Trait, and has therefore betrayed our nation.” The twisted joy on his face recedes, and his voice hardens. “Let this serve as a warning; no one is exempt from the Acritudian law.” His eyes shift to Mom, looking at her like a criminal rather than his wife. “The guilty will now be allowed her last words.”

I see the cameras shifting toward her.

When she speaks, her voice is clear and void of emotion, as it should be. “I, Jazlyn Zeidan, have been charged and found guilty of treason to Acritudo. I regret my action, as it has put the entire nation in danger. I know my punishment is just for my actions. I stand open to my punishment at this point.”

Silence. Vandor Zeidan’s lips curl into a satisfied smirk.

“Prepare the pyre.”

Soldiers and Executioners begin to stack hay around her, and I fight every instinct to burst forth and put an end to all of this, because she can’t die, I can’t lose her, I can’t. Only one other person has truly cared for me before, and that General’s servant is long gone.

She can’t go, too . . .

But if I do go down there, try to save her, it’d be me against the world. And when it’s me against the world, the world always wins.

I will have no control of the situation.

If I have no control, then what will be the use in the attempt?

There is only one thing I can have control over.

The Executioner sets a torch to the stack of hay.

The fire starts at her feet.

To keep control of myself, I remind myself why she’s here. To keep control, I remind myself that she let Lucian escape. She let the boy who hurt me and beat me and broke me go without any punishment.

I know it’s not the thing that matters in this situation. But as the flames begin to rise and the smoke starts to swirl, that thought keeps me from getting out of my seat. It keeps me from lifting a finger to help her.

I force my face to adopt a cruel look, like I’m actually managing to enjoy this somehow. I keep control as the screaming begins.

Flames swipe at her skin, eats at her clothing and devours her dignity as she screams and thrashes and sobs. Sparks crackle up to the sky, and smoke fills my nose as I see my mother’s flesh redden and blister and blacken. As she suffers.

And I don’t help her.

I don’t help her.

I don’t help her.

Instead, I keep control.

And I watch her burn.


~  ~  ~


I keep to myself after the execution.

I sit on a bench in the pristine Mansion halls, my hands lifeless in my lap. I look down at my long black skirt, ignoring any servant that might be passing by. For once, they seem to ignore me; perhaps the way I sit makes it clear that I do not want any attention.

Leyland and Jezebel have left by now. So has everyone else.

I haven't. I walked away from the execution, but I haven't left yet.

Smoke and fire and screaming and --

I didn't do anything to save her. I didn't even try.

Screaming and fire and smoke and --

All these years she's cared for me, and I didn't even try --

and smoke and fire and screaming and fire and smoke and --

"Therese."

My head jumps up.

It's Dad.

Dad smiles pleasantly, as he usually does when something bad is about to happen. "Are you feeling well?"

No. I'm really not. I nod.

"Good," Vandor says. "In that case, there's something I would like to show you."


~  ~  ~


The room is small, its walls entirely made of metal. There’s nothing in it except a dirtied, blonde prisoner chained to a chair that’s been bolted to the ground.

Vandor steps aside so I can enter the room. “Go on,” he encourages, smiling pleasantly. “Don’t be shy.”

I look up to my father. Then I take a step into the room. I keep my both of my hands close to my chest, like I’m protecting myself.

Father shuts the door behind me.

“Sitting before you, my daughter, is a prisoner,” he says.

The woman glares at him. “My name is Marissa.”

“This prisoner,” he continues, “was discovered guilty of illegally harboring the Faith Trait, and is thus also guilty of severe treachery to Acritudo. You know what happens to Trait Bearer traitors.”

I swallow. “Do you want me to kill her?”

“No,” he says. “I want you to break her.”

I look at him for a second. Then my eyes shift to Marissa, who despite the bruises and dried blood on her body somehow manages to smile at me. Comforting me.

Just like how mother would.

“Why are Trait Bearers so bad?” I expect a yell, or a slap. I get neither. So I continue. “I’ve always been told they’re bad, but I never got told why. I mean, logic, imagination, persistence . . . wouldn’t things like that benefit us?”

“They do, in small doses,” Father says, his voice surprisingly patient. “But Trait Bearers do not have those things in small doses. They have those qualities in such large doses that it corrupts them. They start to think they know better then the government. And that’s dangerous, both for themselves and us, and Acritudo’s people becomes collateral damage to an unneeded insurgency.”

Father bends in close. His voice slithers into my ear.

“Trait Bearers are corrupt,” he says. “Trait Bearers are a threat. Trait Bearers hurt people.” I look behind me, seeing his posture straighten. “This is why we must exercise cruelty. This is why you must exercise cruelty.”

This is why I must exercise cruelty.

I slowly start to lift my hand. My palm is pointed toward the Trait Bearer.

In the back of my head, I hear what someone told me long ago. ”To want to hurt someone because they hurt you, that's fine. That's very human. Fighting for yourself, defending yourself. That isn't mean. But hurting others just because you want to, when they don't deserve it, what your brother does... that is never right.”

The Trait Bearer’s still smiling. “I know there’s good in you, daughter of Vandor -- ”

“Silence,” Vandor snaps.

“You can be better than this, I know it,” she says. “I believe it.”

My hand trembles. “The world is full of mean people who do terrible things. And you need to protect yourself from them when you get older. But you cannot let yourself become one of those people. Never let anyone turn you into that. Not ever.”

I take a deep breath . . .

“Therese, do it now!”

The ferocity in his voice startles me so much that I jump, squeaking in alarm and shutting my eyes and wish that this wasn’t happening, and wish that I knew what to do and that I wasn’t hearing Chase and that the Faith Bearer weren’t making it so confusing, screw her for making it so confusing and she should --

The Trait Bearer screams in agony.

I freeze.

Then, slowly, I open my eyes, and see the Faith Bearer out of breath like she’d endured horrible agony.

She did endure horrible agony.

I barely register the hand Vandor claps on my shoulder. “Well done.” His voice swells with pride. “You took control of the situation and proved yourself.”

Control.

That one word snaps me out of it. I blink, registering the Faith Bearer again, and take a good look at my handiwork.

I did it. I took control. For once, I actually have control over something -- over her pain, her suffering, whether or not she may live or die.

And it feels good.

I have never been able to take control of my life. But I can take control of hers.

I stand in silence, processing this leap. Then, I take a step forward.

The Trait Bearer’s eyes widen. “No,” she says. “No, you can still stop this, it’s still not too late.”

I merely start to smile. Because the more she becomes afraid, the less afraid I am.

Somewhere, in the back of my head, I can hear Chase warning me about mean people. I can hear him telling me to never become a mean person.

But Chase isn’t here, now is he?

I stop in front of her. I lift my chin, and I feel myself beginning to rise.

I look at the Trait Bearer in the eyes.

And then I send the next wave of pain.


Last edited by WritingBookworm on Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:05 pm; edited 3 times in total

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[Infinity's Row: Interlude l Anaphora: Pariah l Infinity's Row: Uncontrollable l Anaphora: Vengeance]
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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Mythie on Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:11 pm

asdfghjkl freaking out. Writing you are amazing as always. You made me cry, well I made me cry, but you made me cry again....

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:22 pm

I felt a lot of feels, and I feel like that's going to be a trend with this story. Great job! Looking forward to more C:

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Athena Lionheart on Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:02 pm

AHHH IT'S HERE <33

Amazing as always, Writing Very Happy

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Omni on Thu Jun 02, 2016 11:44 pm

Wonderful. I now know a certain scene I need to do for Tess at some point.

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Wishie on Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:57 am

Writing, you never fail to impress, amaze, and OH MY GOD THERESE

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by WritingBookworm on Sat Jul 02, 2016 4:40 am

Chapter 2: The General's Daughter



The line of black military vehicles rip through the streets, upending gravel in their wake and leaving Poena's civilians to dart out of the way before they can be ran over. The three cars are in a tight formation, and deliberately at the center of it, protected from all sides, is me.

It's been five years since my mother's execution, and, much to my pleasure, nothing terrible has emotionally damaged me since.

Well, nothing has emotionally damaged me. When it comes to these past few years, I believe 'emotionally numbed' is the phrase I'm looking for.

The horses turn around the corner of a street, growing ever closer to our target.

My entire life has turned around ever since I became a Cruelty Bearer. Father has taught the ways of Cruelty to me, Leyland and even Jezebel, who we discovered had the Cruelty Trait just a short while after Mother's death. He trained us, shaped us, molded us. Molded me.

Now that I'm a competent Cruelty Bearer, Father has been putting my abilities to use in a more practical manner. Leyland is the heir to the throne and therefore has the aristocratic freedom to do practical things, like single-handedly endanger the boar species. In the meantime, despite Jezebel's status as a Cruelty Bearer, she did an even worse job than me at covering her emotions during Mother's execution. Despite trying to look emotionless and always doing what she's told, Father doesn't trust her with important matters.

Guess who that leaves to do the dirty work.

My chauffeur slams the break when we arrive to our destination; a stout, ramshackle house situated in the middle of the street. The men sitting on either side of me climb out of the car, and I step outside after them.

I give the house a brief inspection. This certainly looks like the place.

I nod to a few men and point to the front door. Then I turn to a few more, and gesture toward the back of the house. We've studied this house through footage on our surveillance cameras. There are only two doors, and all of the windows are close by those doors. That means it's easy for us to block our target's exits.

The assigned men and women begin hustling to their assigned locations. In the meantime, I hold up a hand to the two sole Black Gloves members, telling them to stay by me. They will serve as efficient bodyguards.

One of the men, Lieutenant Moss, raps twice on the door. "Thaddeus Rickards!" he barks.

Moss is met with silence.

My eyes begin to narrow into slits, regarding the house warily. The house is too quiet.

Moss clears his throat. "Thaddeus Rickards," he says again. "You have been charged with treason to the government. In the name of the Acritudian law, you are hereby under arrest. Come out now, so this may be as painless as possible."

A few spectators on the other side of the street stop and watch, confused. After all, on the records, Thaddeus Rickards is an ordinary man. He's bald, stocky, and works in the factories. He's a fairly normal lower-class citizen living a fairly normal life.

But there is one thing about Thaddeus Rickards that is not normal at all.

The area has fell quiet enough that I can hear the door's lock turn even from here. Slowly, the door begins to creak open . . .

Before a thick swath of flame flies right at the guards at the door.

Bystanders scream. Even the soldiers are shocked enough that they leap back. By the time they regain their bearings, Thaddeus is shooting out of the house, punching fire at one of my men, and a second soldier aims his gun at Thaddeus one moment only to be set on fire the next. He screams, dropping the gun, and uselessly claws at his burning face.

Moss, to his credit, tries not to appear too fazed by this. He fixes his eyes on the Trait Bearer, and Thaddeus's knees buckle when Moss uses his Cruelty Trait to hit him with pain --

But sometimes, pain only fuels anger. Thaddeus bellows a great roar and punches the ground with his fist. Flames shoot from his fist and surge across the ground, forming a trail of flame until it catches Moss's feet on fire. Moss screams at the sudden contact, and --

Thaddeus sends a hidden dagger flying so quickly that no one has time to stop it before it buries itself into Moss's chest.

Three men down.

Soldiers panic. Pedestrians flee. I stay calm.

Thaddeus turns around and runs away with surprising swiftness for a man bearing his build. I hear the soldiers I'd sent to the back storming through the house and to the front door, trying to catch up with him, but the Passion Bearer's too fast. He needs to be intercepted.

I turn to one of the Black Gloves soldiers beside me -- the younger one, with the snake-like face. He's less experienced, and therefore more expendable than the other Black Gloves soldier. "Go," I say.

The Black Gloves soldier starts to grin.

And then he's flying at Thaddeus, sending out a small knife at Thaddeus with just as much skill as the Passion Bearer. Thaddeus stops mid-run, leaping out of the way just in time to avoid the knife --

So he thinks. The soldier redirects the knife to stab Thaddeus in the shoulderblade.

The knife's too small to do any serious damage, but it does the trick for the soldier. I watch as the soldier takes that pain and amplifies it. That onslaught of pain is strong enough that it stops Thaddeus for a moment, making him grimace in pain. Using that to his advantage, the soldier unsheathes a wireknife, and rushes forward --

The soldier almost doesn't see the descending pillar of fire before it's too late. He looks up, spotting the column of fire, and backflips out of the way just before the column smashes into the ground.

He's actually rather good, I note. Perhaps I made a mistake in thinking that he was the more expendable one.

Despite how good he may be, though, every soldier has their limits -- especially against a Passion Bearer like Thaddeus. Thaddeus's fire may not have gotten him, but from the way the Black Gloves soldier coughs and retches, the thick cloud of smoke already has. The soldier hastily hooks his shirt over his nose, like I already have, but it's too late and a ring of fire is starting to materialize around his feet and --

The circle of fire explodes like he stepped on a landmine. There's no time for the soldier to even scream as he's blasted backwards.

Over by the house, the other squad of soldiers finally emerge through the front door. They start toward Thaddeus, but a line of fire surges across the yard, cutting off their path.

Thaddeus Rickards is a far more experienced Passion Bearer than the Acritudian government expected. Because of this, we're swiftly losing control of the situation.

But I will take control. All I have to do, I think as I spot something in the yard of a nearby house, is take away Thaddeus's.

I turn to the older Black Gloves agent Reiter Steel, the one still beside me. "Help get the fires under control. Make sure no civilians are caught in collateral damage." That would be a terrible inconvenience, after all. "I will see to the Passion Bearer's defeat."

"My lady -- "

"Those are your orders. Believe me, I would not get involved personally unless it was for the best. Now do as you are told."

Before he has a chance to protest any further, I pull a bullet from my pouch and send it flying for Thaddeus.

As expected, he's fast enough to dodge it. As expected, he's smart enough to figure out who threw it.

Our eyes meet.

I spin on my heels and break out into a run.

Thaddeus gives chase. I know what he's thinking: that I'm the Dictator's daughter. I'm valuable. Capture me, and he will obtain the upper hand.

I turn around briefly to unsheathe a dagger and shoot it toward him, using that to occupy his attention as I toss something else to the ground. Again, Thaddeus dodges the projectile, and even picks it up from the ground to throw it right back at me --

I shoot my hand out, like I'm using my palm as a shield. The projectile stops, but it wavers, trembling, like my hold on it is fumbl --

No. I grit my teeth, curling my fingers inward, and remind myself that I want to see him suffer. I want to hurt him.

My control finally steady, I call the dagger back to my side, catching it by the handle. I turn around again and continue running.

I don't stop until I've reached it; a long, spiraling object, lying in the grass. I pick up the end of it --

Thaddeus punches a blast of fire toward me just as I twist the knob with my Cruelty.

Water explodes out of the hose, dousing the flames before they can reach me.

I don't stop blasting the water towards Thaddeus -- not even when he's soaking wet, not even when his efforts to produce flame become futile. And bit by bit, I see him start to lose hope, lose Passion --

Until he roars and swipes his arm forward, and flames materialize from behind me and rush toward me --

I drop the hose and dive away from the flames. I roll through the grass until I'm behind him and --

Now.

I summon the bullet I'd tossed into the ground earlier and slam it straight into his spinal cord.

Thaddeus gasps in pain. His fire vanishes, and, slowly, he drops to his knees, his fingers twitching. Then he drops to the ground, and he doesn't move at all.

With that injury to the spinal cord, he shouldn't ever be walking again.

I stand tall, looking down over the body like a lord.

Behind me, I hear Reiter Steel's footsteps approaching. He stops, taking a good look at the passionless Trait Bearer.

He smirks. "I suppose you gave him what he deserved?"

"Indeed," I say, tone flat. I turn around, dismissing the scene. "Cuff him. Bring him to my father before he bleeds to death. I'll deal with the rest of this scene."

"Yes, my lady." Steel looks over his shoulder. "Blackthorne!" he barks.

A few yards away, the younger Black Gloves operative straightens -- he's standing, so I take that as a sign that he's okay. He turns, his narrow eyes shifting toward Steel.

Not a few minutes before, I'd seen the audacious grin he wore before pelting headfirst into battle, reveling in the heat of the moment. But now, his face is blank. Emotionless. He bows shortly to his superior officer, and, like a good soldier, follows instruction and crosses over to Steel. He does what he is told.

I keep my eye on Blackthorne for a moment. Then I call for another soldier to unravel the rest of the hose and get to work on putting out the fires. We have quite a mess to clean up.


~  ~  ~


I am the first thing Thaddeus Rickards sees when he wakes up.

He jumps at the sight of me, whipping his head around the room to see himself within metal walls, cuffed down to a chair bolted into the floor. He grunts, straining at his bonds.

I grow tired of it shortly. "Your resistance is meaningless."

He stops and takes me in. We really do contrast each other; he is bloodied, dirtied, and bruised. However, I am pristine; my black military uniform is spotless, and my unadorned hair falls neatly down my back.

"One of our captive Compassion Bearers healed you enough to stop most of the bleeding, but I still damaged your motor functions," I continue. "Even if you could break free, you can't get far if you can't even walk. There's no reason to resist."

"You're a just a teenager," Thaddeus growls.

"Excellent observational skills. But I'm not here to talk about myself."

I look down from him and open up a small manila folder I'd brought with me.

"You're a Passion Bearer," I say. "And, as demonstrated in our scuffle, an unusual one."  I still remember the way he'd blasted Alexei Blackthorne back with that ring of fire. "You had something most Passion Bearers lack: control, and, dare I say it, even a tiny bit of ingenuity. Obviously, this means you have experience . . . or you're just well-taught."

I pause, watching his reaction. For a Passion Bearer, Thaddeus is good at betraying nothing.

"The Renegade," I finally say. "The well-known Passion Bearer that's created havoc around Acritudo. We know you're associated with him. And I'm sure you've already guessed that your relationship with him is one of the main reasons why my men didn't just kill you on the spot back there."

"Go to hell."

"I think it's already been established that I will. But first, I'd like to know more about the Renegade."

"You think I'm going to sell out one of the best hopes for humanity?"

I take the pain from his wound and spike it. Thaddeus keeps his mouth shut, but the way his back arcs speaks volumes.

"I know," I say, still keeping my face neutral, "that people have the tendency to say a lot of things under duress."

It is then that I gesture to a small metal cart beside me. On the cart is an assortment of tweezers, pliers, and hammers. I'm sure he knows that the government doesn't use them for normal purposes.

"Of course, we don't have to do this the painful way," I say. "Which route you choose is up to you. Either way, we will obtain the information we want."

"Like I said," Thaddeus says. "You're just a girl. Like hell you can torture me effectively."

I smile. "Can't I?"

For a second there, Thaddeus Rickards begins to pale.

How quickly I would have been able to break him, I don't know. Because right then, there is a frantic knocking at the cell door.

"Lady Zeidan." The messenger doesn't even have the decency to wait for a guard to finish unlocking the door. "I just received word. One of the firearms factories in southeast Poena was subject to a gas leak before it caught on fire and combusted. A-At first it was suspected that it might have been some sort of freak accident, but then witnesses . . . witnesses claimed that they saw -- "

"The Renegade," I say quietly.

The messenger nods. A bead of sweat drops down his face, as though he expects me to lash out at him at any moment. But I am not my father, nor am I my brother. I have greater things to be concerned about than shooting a messenger.

"When did this happen?"

"From the reports, only an hour or so ago, ma'am."

An hour ago. An hour ago, I happened to be busy apprehending Thaddeus.

I have no time to think about the timing of the factory's explosion before the messenger continues. "On a slightly better note, Alexis Blackthorne has finally returned to Poena after her mission in the Putro Desert. She is yours to call upon whenever you might need her."

Alexis Blackthorne. Daughter to the late General Abraxas, younger sister of Black Gloves operative Alexei. And, as I'd discovered yesterday, the partner my father assigned to me to help me oversee this operation.

Even now, I'm not entirely sure why my father chose her to be my partner.

But as long as she does what she's told, I decide, then there will be no problem. "Where is she?"

"Servants last saw her in the training room, ma'am."

"Excellent. Tell her I will be on my way shortly."

The messenger bows, and then scurries off to do his job. The guards close the door again after he leaves, and I turn back to Thaddeus.

"Now," I say. "Where were we?"


~  ~  ~


A half-hour of torture doesn't surrender much, but there was some information to be gained -- ten pulled-out fingernails and six crushed knuckles later, Thaddeus admitted that he had known nothing about the factory explosion. He was high-up, and assisted the Renegade with most of his exploits, and yet he knew nothing about this one.

How very interesting.

But there's only so much time I could spend on him. So once I extracted that bit of information, I left him to his agony and set off.

Just as always, the halls are quiet. One might expect them to be abuzz with activity, given the amount of servants we have. But these walls have a silence stuffed within them, for fear and dread hangs over them like dark clouds. Servants have heard the screams that come from the dungeons below. They know what will happen if they make one wrong move.

It's better this way. We have more control.

But there's one part of the mansion that doesn't have that fearful silence. It's a different kind of quiet -- a slower, more mournful silence, like that of a funeral. It lingers by one room in particular.

I know that room. It's Lucian's room.

Or, rather, it was.

I slow my footsteps as I pass by, stopping for a moment. I wait. I listen.

There's nothing to heard. She must be staring at that glass knife, then, like usual.

I stay outside for a few moments, keeping my eyes on the door. At last I turn away, and go back on my way. The maid isn't the girl I need to see. It's best that I find the one that I do need to see.

It takes a few minutes to get to my destination -- our vast training room, big enough to host hundreds, if not thousands, of army trainees. Yet despite the number of training dummies, targets, and spare weapons, only two people occupy it. One such person is myself. The other is hacking at a metal dummy like it personally wounded her.

Her longsword cleaves to the left, and then to the right, the blade striking the dummy both times. She's tall, standing at least two inches taller than me, and lean but not lanky, as her arms are easily some of the most toned I have ever seen. She wears not an Acritudian military uniform like me, but a black tank top and black and gray camouflage pants. Sweat plasters chin-length strands of dark hair to her face and rolls down her neck, but still she continues attacking the dummy.

She tries for a few jabs before going up for an upperhand slash. She slashes again, the one attack so vicious that it sends her entire body weight stumbling to the side. But this does not deter her; instead she swings her sword to the side, continuing to attack in a mad, unhinged dance of raw emotion. The flow of combat guides her until she spins, brings her longsword up, and delivers a powerful overhead blow.

Her back heaves up and down as she tries to catch her breath. I let her do so.

Thought not for long. "Alexis Blackthorne."

Her back straightens. She looks behind her, and then begins to turn around to face me --

And when she does, I see a pair of almost frighteningly green eyes.

"Well, well," she says. "If it isn't the daughter of Vandor herself. I'd been wondering who was watching me."

I narrow my eyes, watching her as she casually lays her sword against the wall and swaggers over to a bottle of water. She uncaps it, and guzzles the entire thing down in one go, not stopping for breath.

I wrinkle my nose. All I can think is: She should have more respect.

"I like the uniform, by the way." Alexis sets the bottle down and wipes her mouth with her shoulder. "Not so much the black, but the red trim suits you."

"I don't like the color red."

"Oh, but why not?"

Alexis picks up her longsword and inserts it into a large sheathe.

"Red is the color of love," she says. "Of courage. Of passion. I'd like to think that when you put something red on, you don these things."

"Don't be ridiculous," I say. "Red is the color of blood."

Alexis shrugs. "That's your interpretation." She looks up, pondering something. "It's interesting, how much things rely on interpretation. Light and dark, good and evil . . . the world is what you make of it. In a way, water can be fire and fire can be water, if those are the meanings you choose to assign to them."

I stare at her, and she holds that thought for a moment. Then she gives a casual wave of her hand, dismissing the notion. "Or, at least, that's what Mom always told me."

Ah. So that would explain it. "Be careful in considering what words of hers you find value in," I say. "Your mother was an Imagination Bearer, and there are no places for Imagination Bearers in our society."

Alexis looks away from me so that I can't see her face.

"I know." Then she looks back over her shoulder. "But it's some nice food for thought, isn't it?"

"Stop wasting time. My father has assigned you to work with me for an especially dangerous assignment. We should focus on completing that as soon as possible."

"What's the rush?" Alexis says. "C'mon, Therese, you should just take the time to relax and live a little -- "

I send a wave of pain at her. Alexis gasps and sinks to her knees.

"You need to get in touch with the reality of the situation," I say coldly. "I am the Dictator's daughter, and you will treat me with more respect."

Alexis grunts. "You're supposed to be . . . my partner -- "

"I am your superior."

Another round of pain. Then I stop, deciding that this might be enough. Her attitude might have angered me to the point where I wished to see her suffer, but the pain was also a kindness. If she had taken that tone to my father, she could have died. I'm just letting her know what might happen when she does such a thing. It's for her own good, in the end.

"Know your place," I say. "This -- " I point to her, on the ground, "is your place. This -- " I point higher to myself, white notes that I stand above her, "is mine. Are we clear?"

The look in Alexis's eyes is scathing. "Crystal," she seethes.

"Good." I say. "Now, so that we might be rid of each other as soon as possible, we will speak with General Morton about this assignment."

I turn around.

"We do, after all, have a Renegade to catch."

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Athena Lionheart on Sun Jul 17, 2016 9:56 pm

Looking forward to more, fam <333

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by WritingBookworm on Sun Jul 17, 2016 11:01 pm

Chapter 3: Debriefing



Following the suicide of Abraxas Blackthorne, Acritudo needed strength, discipline, and honor. Angelica Morton represented all of these virtues and more. Unlike Abraxas's untamed sadism, Angelica kept her Cruelty carefully leashed, as a tool to be used only when necessary. Abraxas was deemed a General for how he burned down everything in his path like a wildfire; Angelica was deemed a General for her calculation like ice. It is this exact calculation that helps me and Alexis now as we stand in a debriefing room, watching the screen as General Morton cycles through whatever blurry pictures of the Renegade we have.

Presently on the screen is a shot of the Renegade close to a burning building, his form far enough away from the camera that we can't recognize any detailed features. Then comes another photo of him running from a battle, his long legs the only body parts visible.

"Is that even him?" I ask. "It's just the legs. Technically, that could be anybody."

"Perhaps, but that was the direction a soldier saw the Renegade run," General Morton says. "Given his lean body, and based on other shots of him we've seen, we're certain that that's him."

General Morton presses a button on her remote, and the photographed file on the Renegade marks the end of the security camera photos.

"The information we possess on the Renegade is, admittedly, very little," Morton says. "For a Passion Bearer, he doesn't appreciate the spotlight. He's gone out of his way to avoid camera shots, so photographs of him are blurry at best."

"But other men have still seen him before," I prompt. "They know what he looks like." Why would he avoid cameras if our men have spotted him anyways?

"Indeed." Morton points up to the drawn picture of the Renegade that serves as his profile picture in the file. His face is long, narrow, and sly, with a pointed chin and topped by chestnut-colored hair. "Normally, we'd use a professional photograph for the file, but no one has managed to take a good shot of his face, and there are no faces in the Acritudian records that match his."

"Which means he most likely wasn't born in Acritudo," I say. If he wasn't born in Acritudo, why specifically target our government? "How did he get in?"

"By stowing away on some truck, most likely," Alexis says behind me.

"If that's the case, we need to tighten our security. What else do we know about him?"

We've filed many Trait Bearers over the years. A daughter from the high-ranking Lange family, kept in isolation to the point of suspicion. A fourteen-year-old Compassion Bearer whose powers were demonstrated in public before she fled. The former Faith Bearer we keep in the mansion. And though we have no exact confirmation, some conspiracy theorists believe that emergence of a new Trait could be the reason why Vidya Myrandus disappeared. One way or another, we have different sources of information on them, whether the information come from files, family members, observations made by spies, or something else. But out of those intelligence sources, the only one that can manage to yield information about the Renegade are spies. When it comes to this particular Trait Bearer, every scrap of information is a tool, every observation a weapon. I must have as much as I can.

"For one thing, soldiers have never heard the Renegade speak." Morton says. "He may be a Passion Bearer, but he instructs his second, Coulter Brooks, to speak words he's written down -- "

"Yes, I know that," I say, resisting the urge to roll my eyes. "What I meant to ask is . . . why? Why is it that he never does the talking?"

"He's voiceless."

I look over my shoulder to see that Alexis has spoken again.

"Or, at least, that's what they say," she continues when I don't say anything. "Rumor has it that a government officer cut out his tongue. It could explain why he wants to bring the governments down."

"That makes no sense," I say. "If a punishment like that happened, surely it would be on record."

Alexis shrugs. "Maybe it was unsanctioned. I mean, you Cruelty Bearers do have a nice track record of enjoying the suffering of others."

I force my head to turn away before I can bite back at that. "What else do we know, General?"

"Not much more than that, I'm afraid."

Morton turns around and looks up at the screen herself, her brown eyes scanning over the contents of the photographed file like she can find something she hadn't gleaned before.

"It's as I said before," she says. "For all of his fire and grandeur, he's mysterious. Elusive. So elusive, even, that no one has managed to land a single hit on him before."

"No one has managed to land a hit on him before?" I repeat, disbelieving. "All of our men have had years of brutal, thorough training at the Academies, and none of them have even managed to hit him?"

"To be fair, when's the last time someone has managed to hit you, Therese?" Alexis says.

"Lady Zeidan," I correct.

"You still didn't answer my question."

"Blackthorne," General Morton says, her voice like the lash of a whip.

I ignore her and address Alexis myself. "Show me proper respect, and I might consider answering it."

Nostrils flaring, Alexis opens her mouth for another retort --

She never gets to finish. The door flies open, and a messenger stumbles into the room, tripping over his own footsteps in his haste to get here.

"Lady Zeidan. General Morton." The messenger swallows and uses whatever energy he has to salute. At least he knows proper form, unlike a certain sixteen-year-old partner. "There's been a sighting at the edge of the forest."

"And?" General Morton prompts.

"The men identified him as Coulter Brooks."

The Renegade's second.

"The man couldn't capture him, not before he got away," the messenger continued. Sweat slicked his forehead. "But he was seen heading west."

The Renegade's second, heading west.

"We need to move out," I say automatically. Wherever the Renegade's second is, the Renegade himself won't be far. If we go now, maybe we can catch him, or at least glean more information.

Dismissing the messenger with a wave of my hand, I spin around to look the General in the eye. "Put together a small squadron of men, men that can travel quickly through the forest," I command.

"With all due respect, Lady Zeidan, we don't know what Brooks was doing," Morton says carefully. "He might have let himself be seen by our forces. This may be a trap; it would be inadvisable to take any chances."

"And that's why I'll be coming along." Operations rarely fail: not when a Zeidan personally oversees them. "Find men for that squadron. Include Howard Young, Nessa Ellsworth, and . . . " I think for a moment. "And Blackthorne," I decide. "Alexei Blackthorne."

From the corner of my eye, Alexis's back goes rigid.

"I want those soldiers prepared and at the gate within fifteen minutes," I say. "I will be waiting for them there."

A short nod and a salute is all I need from Morton before I let myself go and head out the door.


~  ~  ~


I'm not even halfway through my preparations for my second battle of the day when Alexis barges into the armory, her eyes wild with anger.

"Take him out," she says, seething. "Take him out, for skies' sake, take him the heck out -- "

She stops when a bout of pain envelops her. It's nothing major, but it's enough to make her knees knock against each other. Enough to shut her up.

"Hold your tongue, or you will find yourself losing it," I say. "That is my final warning to you. Disrespect will not be tolerated."

I drill my stare into her own eyes, driving my point home. Her jaw somehow becomes even tighter than it already was, clenching and unclenching her fists like she wants to strangle me.

Until she takes a deep breath, and looks away.

Wise choice. I turn away from her, going back to examining the ammunition I'll bring.

"Is there any chance," Alexis says slowly, "that you can take Alexei out?"

"That would have to depend." I pluck a few smaller bullets from the metal shelves, and put them into my pouch. "Is there any reason not to have him? Does he disobey? Is he not cruel enough? Is he too cruel? If there is legitimate, strategic reasoning as to why I should not bring your brother, then by all means, tell me."

"I . . . " Alexis hesitates, obviously choosing her wording carefully. "I just don't . . . play well with him."

I choose a small wireknife from the armory, and take time in strapping the blade to my waist. When I am done, I allow myself to face Alexis again.

"You don't play well with him," I say flatly.

I'm sure Alexis knows that her reasoning is as weak as it sounds, but still she tries to justify her case. "He hasn't been the same since our older brother's death. Or since our father's death, for the matter. He and I haven't gotten along in years. If you're bringing me, then you shouldn't bring him, because our relationship may affect our ability to work together in a battle."

I almost dismiss her instead. Better to bring a capable, talented Cruelty Bearer than a hotheaded, disrespectful non-Bearer. But I have my orders from Father. She is to be my partner. I have to bring her.

Why did my father assign Alexis, of all people, to help me oversee this?

"We want different things, the two of us," Alexis says. "I guess you can say that divided us."

"And what do you want, Alexis Blackthorne?" I ask.

When she next speaks, her words do not falter. "I want justice. For my family."

I don't have to ask who she's referring to. "For your father." His death may officially be a suicide, but given Abraxas Blackthorne's assignment to track down a certain missing Zeidan, it's not hard to guess the circumstances that led to it.

Alexis smiles very, very tightly.

I see the anger in her eyes. It's not the petty indignation that was there when she stormed into the armory a minute ago. This is different. Deeper. Her green irises throb with an anger born from hate -- a hate that could rage and ravage and raze, should she let it out.

But she keeps it contained, because it is the incorrect time and place to let it out. In the meantime, it simmers, deep within. And she lets it drive her, propelling her ever closer to her one final, ultimate goal. To the time when she'll unleash it.

I know because I have that same wrath.

"You're nothing." I can hear his voice, even here. Even now.

But I am not nothing. And I will show him that. One day, Alexis and I will find Lucian Zeidan, and we will give him the end he deserves.

One day, I tell myself. One day. Not now.

"I will still be bringing your brother," I finally say. "If you're concerned about not working well with him, then stay away from him."

Knowing that I have wasted enough time, I get back to the task at hand. I take a few more weapons, and then make my way out, walking right past her.

"Come with me, Blackthorne," I say without looking back. "It's time to go."

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Re: Anaphora: Vengeance

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:03 pm

Can't wait for the chapter when Alexis and Therese make out
Great job! Very Happy

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