A/N: It's been years since I've posted any of my writings on the Internet, but the hiatus is over! I'm four years older, much more rounded, and a much better writer.
Just a few notes. This is VERY loosely based on the novel "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood. You don't need to read it to understand this story. This is not a fanfiction! If you've read the novel, this is using the novel in the novel…if that makes sense ^^ I was so inspired by this amazing book that I decided to expand on the sci-fi novel woven into it. It is original enough for me to post here, since a lot of room was left to expand!
Enjoy! I love feedback, but if not I love you shadow readers!
The old man trudged up the unforgiving dunes, grains of the textured, red sand causing him to lose ground every step he took. Sparse vegetation lined the dunes around him, sand streaking it like the splattered blood of a sacrifice. There was no water, no bones, no life. Dead. Everything was dead. But what about him?
Just him. An old man come to relive all that he once had, and all that he has now lost.
A particularly violent gust of wind blew his beige cloak off his head, causing his long gray hair to whip out behind him. The heat was growing more intense, the afternoon sun bearing down on his age-lined face. He paused for a moment, his face buried into his cloak in an attempt to conquer the sand whipping around him.
What was he doing out here?
The moment passed, and the old man sighed as he continued. He had come a very long way, and he knew he was close. Somewhere deep inside his old bones, his body was counting the steps towards the harbor, or what used to be the harbor. The internal counting system that had helped him through those terrible first years of darkness was awaking in him again, even after all these years.
"Remember, 1500 steps from the door to the sea. Never more and never less. One more and you'll drown before you can scream for help. One less and the barbarians will steal you away, and you will never be free…"
Suddenly he stopped. His boot was no longer on the slippery, sinewy surface of sand but on the braced, hard surface of stone. He had arrived at the harbor.
How amazing, he thought. The great harbor where he and his twin had once escaped to years and years ago, was now reduced to nothing more but a sea of red. There was no more water, no more harbor, no more carpets.
No more slaves.
Just sand. And blood.
He smiled as he sat, the hardness of stone a welcome relief for his strained legs. The wind had died down a bit, so he pulled off his cloak, leaving him in only his thin shirt and leggings, with black boots streaked with red sand. The skin under his blindfold was itching, so he untied the useless bit of cloth and opened his eyes, not that it mattered.
It had been 80 years since it had.
Eighty-eight years old he was now. How he often forgot such things as age, a useless measurement for useless people. He had lived for a very long time. Longer than his friends, his enemies, and even his twin. Longer than this damn city and its twisted politics.
Longer than the sea.
How ironic. He could barely remember seeing, but he remembered the horror of his eyes slowly becoming useless, the brilliant colors of the carpets blurring together until he saw nothing. The carpets of Sakiel-Norn, the scorned city, the destroyed city; city of lies, deceit, whores, sacrifices.
People would sometimes pass this ruined place on the way to the smaller settlements sprinkled around the desert, where there was water and life. It had become a tradition to leave a stone on the pile he was currently sitting on. Whether it was for good luck or to abed the tragedy of this terrible city was a mystery to him, and he guessed it was the same for the people who left the stones there.
He knew he was being watched. An almost lifetime of being blind had honed his other senses to near perfection. If he concentrated, he could hear every grain of sand in the dunes, taste the sweat from the nervous figure hiding behind him, smell the heat shimmering in the air.
"I know you are there, little one. I promise I won't hurt you," the gruffness of his voice made him jump slightly. Being back in this place, he had almost expected to hear himself as a young boy, not the ancient man he really was.
The figure squeaked, the high-pitch betraying his young age. The old man heard him slowly walk towards him, his short legs stumbling in the slippery sand.
"Sit next to me little one. Why are you out here?"
"….I'm lost, sir. I can't find my way back home.." his breath caught in his throat as he suppressed a sob. He grasped the stone in front of him and sat down next to the old man.
"You must be from one of the colonies, right? I'm sorry, but I can't help you. They don't like people like me goin' there. And you're good as dead anyway boy. No water for miles."
"It's ok. Death's not that bad, sir."
The man started, but a few moments later started to laugh, his gruff voice even hoarser because of the dry wind.
The boy cocked his head, a movement missed by the blind man.
"What's so funny sir?"
The man stopped for a few moments and took a deep breath.
"Life is, son. Life is. You've heard the stories about this city right? Why it's like this now?" he tapped the stone he was sitting on.
"Yes sir, I have."
The man adjusted himself, so he was facing the boy.
"Well, I'm going to tell you my story, while we wait to die. Help to make the time pass on by."
"But you don't believe in time, sir"
The man grinned.
"True. It's just an expression, kid. Anyway, I used to live here. I was a slave. But I bet my eyes gave it away, right?"
"Stop calling me sir and get comfortable. This is a very long story…"
"Come on Shiro..get up!"
The dark-haired little boy was becoming desperate. His twin had not moved for an entire day, and if he didn't wake up by the time they reached the city, they would both be killed.
"He's dead, Kuro. Give it up. You are too," Kuro turned away from his brother to glare at the sardonic blonde across from him.
"HE'S NOT DEAD, AI! He's gonna be fine! You see!" Kuro turned back to the still figure next to him.
They were on a wagon bound for the huge central city Sakiel-Norn next to the harbor. From what the boys had gathered from the driver, they were going to be carpet weavers. The economy of Sakiel-Norn was based on these beautiful tapestries, which required the small hands of children to weave. He, like most of the children in the wagons, was sold into slavery to relieve their parent's debt. Even at the tender age of six, these children understood they were nothing more than objects, with less value than the horses pulling the wagon.
Kuro tried to wake his twin up again. They were identical right down to their double-jointed hands, a rare thing indeed. Twins were very unusual in this country, especially "mirror-image" twins like him and Shiro. He was left-handed, and Shiro was right-handed, so the boys looked like reflections of the other.
Shiro was lying on the wagon, his breaths coming in short, stunted gasps, sometimes almost a minute apart. His eyes were tightly closed, his sweat-drenched body sometimes jerking uncontrollably. Kuro hadn't seen what had happened to him. Shiro had disappeared early the night before and was thrown into the wagon that morning in this condition. What was infuriating him even more was that he was sure the blonde Ai knew what was wrong.
"You know! What happened to him Ai? Tell me! He's going to die!" the boy pleaded to the impassive Ai.
The blonde sighed and looked away, his rare green eyes glowing against his tan skin.
"I ain't telling you..he's better off dead anyway..we all are," he mumbled to no one.
Suddenly, the wagon jerked to a stop, causing the two conscious boys to pitch forward. The boys paused for a moment to look at each other and back at Shiro, terror crossing their features.
The driver stood up, spit, stretched, and hopped of the wagon. They were at a small outpost about 10 miles from the main city, just a few buildings and one other slave wagon a few feet away was all that they saw.
"Is your twin dead yet, scum?"
Shiro shook his head vehemently, tears threatening to spill down his face.
"Hmph. He has 'till tonight 'till I slit his throat, and so do you……anyway, either of you attempt to leave this wagon, and I'll strangle you with your own intestines, got it?"
The boys nodded as the man hobbled to the outhouse.
"Hey, look at that. Those are the girl slaves."
Shiro turned his attention to the wagon across from them. Three girls were chained to the floor, wearing the same black slave collars as they were. Two of the girls were sleeping, but one was looking at them with grim determination. She had the typical tan skin, black hair, and black eyes of the desert country and could be no older than them. Her lip was swollen and a massive bruise marred her childish features, giving her a dark look far too old for a girl as young as her.
"That boy looks just like you. Is that magic?" she asked, her voice surprisingly high and girlish.
Kuro started. "He's my brother. We were just borned on the same day, so we look 'like."
"He's sick." It was a statement, not a question.
"Hmmm…" she turned her battered face towards the front of the wagon. "Kunai! KUNAI!"
A slouching figure Kuro hadn't noticed before jumped from where he was sleeping in front of the wagon.
"What is it, Kiran? Can't you let me sleep for a few moments?" the surprisingly young sounding voice answered angrily.
"Listen. There's a really sick boy on the next wagon. Can you fix him?" she asked.
Kunai tilted his head back, the hood falling off. A mass of silver hair fell down his back stopping before his waist. His numerous silver piercings glittered in the sun, making him look like a renegade angel with all his silver hair and dark clothing.
"Hmm…I think I know the problem. I can help," he nimbly jumped off the rickety wagon, not making even the slightest noise as the landed on the ground. It wasn't until he turned around to did the two boys realize something shocking.
He was blindfolded.
The boy, for he was no older than 14, grinned as he climbed into the wagon where the boys were.
"You aren't from Sakiel-Norn, are you? No wonder you're surprised by me."
"My name is Kunai, and eight years ago I was in your exact position. I also met a blind assassin right at the city gates, and I'll give you boys the same option he gave me before I save the other. Where you are going is a terrible place. The life you will lead for the next few years will make Hell seem lukewarm. If you persevere, and let yourself go blind, you can get great power at a great price. I can heal your twin, or kill all three of you. The choice is yours. Take the easy way out, or live a life of pain and uncertainty, little ones. But you should know, those girls over there refused my offer, much the same as I refused Aoudenau's back then."
Ai stared back at the boy in wonder.
"Are you really one of the famous assassins?"
"Let me prove it to you."
He knelt down next to the unmoving twin, whose breathing had become much more labored in the last few minutes. He was still sweating, and his lips were tinged a light blue.
Kunai rustled through his satchel and pulled out a simple pin. He brushed aside the boys' black hair and started to pick the lock on his collar.
Ai and Kuro looked in wonder as, in seconds, the collar was loosened just enough to allow the suffocating boy to sputter and cough as his restricted airway was cleared. Kunai sat him up as he coughed up congealed blood that had been stuck in his throat.
"He was beaten, and before he could recover some idiot put his collar on too tight," the silver-haired boy barked out angrily. "It's a wonder he lasted this long." He looked back at Shiro, who was just starting to come around. "You ok, kid?"
Shiro's unfocused black eyes slowly opened, and he squeaked at the strange face in front of him. He panicked for a moment, until his twin crashed into him.
"SHIRO!! I was so afraid you were goin' to sleep forever! Please don't do that again!" the normally calm boy broke down in his twin's arms, all of the trauma and fear of the past few days pouring out of him in a torrent of tears.
"I'll be fine Kuro, my throat just hurts a lot. It's ok…" the younger of the twins held his older brother in his weak arms as he sobbed and sobbed.
Ai turned his attention away from the brothers back to the assassin Kunai, who, to his surprise was "looking" right at him.
"What do you want, cripple?"
Kunai grinned. "I like you. What's your name?"
"Ai…" the boy muttered.
"Ai..interesting name. Do you mind if I look at you?"
"With my hands? I have a hunch about you."
The boy nodded, and somehow Kunai understood so he knelt down in front of him and ran his nimble fingers down his face.
"Blonde hair, tan skin, and green eyes right?"
He nodded again.
"So beautiful….you rival those twins in looks. I truly fear for you boys. Be strong and don't alienate yourself. You need friends, and those two need someone to look out for them….I would take you away, but those girls are helpless without me. Remember, being sightless will set you free."
Ai's eyes widened at the cryptic remark as Kunai jumped out of the wagon back to the slave girls.
"Hey, Shiro, Kuro, Blondie? Are you three carpet weaver slaves too?" the black-haired girl Kiran yelled back at them.
She smiled. "I'll see you in the city!"
Kunai snapped the whip the wagon creaked down the road, leaving the three boys blinking in confusion after them.
Kuro had calmed down enough to let his exhausted brother rest against his shoulder. Shiro was breathing much better, but he still looked ill enough for concern.
Ai was puzzled. He had never seen anyone besides his mother with silver hair before, and something about Kunai seemed so…comfortable, like a toy he had lost and recently found.
"He didn't let us pick death….."
Kuro smiled. "He thought we were strong! One day, we'll be free from the carpet factory and be strong assassins like Kunai!"
Ai only nodded. He knew much more about the reality of Sakiel-Norn and the carpet factories.
And the whore houses where the blind children escaped from..
"Hey Kunai? Was that him, that blonde boy? You two look alike.." Kiran asked.
"Yes…I never thought my parents would sink so low as to sell both their children to the carpet-weavers…he's too beautiful for his own good, so are those twins. They'll be ripped apart at the whore-house. I should have killed them.."
"You said the same to me! I'm strong and so are they! You just wait! One day the world will remember us!" Kiran exclaimed.
"Such strange children they are. I'm curious to see how this story will play out…"