Chapter One

The lights were as fireworks – blue and red and gold, alight through the night sky, filling the air and the city with crackling energy. Flowers cascaded through the arms of the people, falling from somewhere up in the sky, falling through the lights and the music. There was laughter in that night, much of it, and exuberance, too – joyous exclamations, yells, shouts, whoops of great exhilaration as the crowds made their way to the square.

It would have been a scene of great beauty, of memories and happiness. It would have been such, if it hadn't been for the spectacle they all wanted to see.

Why was it happening? Crimes against humanity, displayed for the world to see as a laughing matter, as some festival or lively event. This crime, the worst crime, done in public and making a jest of the most precious thing in the world, making a jest of destroying such beauty.

This crime, this murder.

Death.

The air was rank with it, in the mad laughter. When the real reason for such exuberance came into play, the city was ugly and wretched, something twisted and broken beyond repair. The laughter was full of malice and drunken stupor. The flowers' real reason was an attempt to smother the stench of burning flesh.

It was not a scene of beauty.

"Kill them! Burn!"
"Watch her squirm!" "She won't be squirming for long!"
"Ooh, look at his face! He's cooking, alright!"
"Die! Die! Die!"

The worst in man sprung out with startling clarity at the death of those deemed unfit to live. A huge flame was lit, flickering with greedy sparks, eager to take more lives. Most were caught up in the revelry, capering around like fell creatures of the night. Bets were taken, bets were made, betting on who would last the longest. Taunts and jeers echoed through the city square as lives burned up in smoke.

Yet not all were caught in the madness. Though the Enforcers came from door to door, evicting citizens into the streets to watch the revelry and the death; there were some who spit in their faces. The very same some who were taken, beaten, and slaughtered in some dark corner where the blood that flowed from their defiant corpses would be unseen by the mad revellers.

Others went quietly on, mourning for the death of someone they knew, even a loved one, perhaps. They mourned for those who were doomed to die on a stick, bound and helpless as a lamb led to slaughter as they choked and burned and died in flames.

And there was one other, crouched in the shadows, full of fear, pain, guilt, and anguish. Old tears lay on her face as she regarded the smoke in the sky and felt jagged pain rip through her heart. Not physical pain – grief. Grief, anger, fear, love, and hate ripped her apart as she hid from those who would do to her as they did to those she loved.

"Mama..." She whispered the word to the dark, unforgiving air. "Why?"

It was a hoarse cry, the voice of one who had used up all her tears and yet felt the need to cry so many more. The cry of one who had watched her parents burn up in flames, screaming her name as they died. A broken cry.

"Papa... Mama... I love you..."

A sniffle, a cough.

"It's my fault! Why did I run? Why did I leave you?"

A dry-throated sob.

"They came... they saw me. You told me -"

Another sob.

"- Run..."

She could see it even as she crouched in the dark. Flashes, memories, clouded with fear.

Witch-hunters, banging on her father's mahogany door. Calling her a Witch, a Demon. Confusion. Calling for her arrest and demise in the name of the Master, the Master of All, the ruler of the land of Wyneria. Fear. Her parents telling her to run. Screams. Slipping through the back gate, grabbing a throwing knife and her viola in its case. Running. Chaos. Footsteps behind her, Witch-hunters chasing. Parents fighting. Parents beaten. Running. Fatigue. Hunger gnawing at her belly. Footsteps, again. Torches, flame. A burst of panic and raw fear. More running. And then, hiding in the dark, in the corner of the square, behind a column of stone. Watching the flames leap greedily as the Witch-hunters tied her parents to the stakes. Watching them writhe. Hearing their voices screaming her name. Hearing them in her head, echoing her name as she ran.
Screams.
Why don't they stop?

She pulled her head from the memories with the echoes of the dead clinging to her skull, almost panting with the effort. Must... must get away.

It was her clearest thought, the only coherent one among the jumbles of her troubled mind. The Witch-hunters were after her.

Then, another thought, clearer than the last, clear as a bright summer's day without a cloud in sight. Revenge. There had been whispers of a rebellion against the Master, and she had always thought of it in favour. Perhaps she could find them, perhaps she could join. Perhaps she could revenge on those who killed her parents.

A shrug of her shoulders brought the viola onto her back. She would never leave without it. A twitch of her fingers brought the knife's handle to her palm.

As the sun rose in the south, Teodora di Mercanti left the Amethyst City to find friends and seek revenge. And so her story begins.

End of Chapter One

A/N: This story is based off a dream I had... so it's not going to make a whole lot of sense. Because we all know dreams don't make sense. But... yeah. Anyway. Reviews? Comments, thoughts? I'm definitely open for constructive criticism, and any ideas you might fling my way. :)