Balref bit his tongue at the presence of the fourteen figures the next day when he and his grandparents received the news. Ruinei was playing quieting in the adjacent room, unaware that she'd lost both her parents within minutes of each other. Their father had been sick for some time in the hospital and suddenly succumbed to a stroke that killed him while their mother was on the way to visit him and drove off the side of the cliff after swerving to avoid a family of straying rabbits. Balref realized that such a situation was quite unbelievable and knew that no force of nature was behind this. He stalked into an empty room, despite the protests of the officers and his grandparents. The figures followed him without question, sensing his anger.

"Why?" Balref asked simply. His voice quivered none and his gaze strayed not from the view of the garden fountain through the window. The perfect day outside sickened him – the perfect composer of these monsters fed his rage. At least Ruinei was not there to see it. Balref couldn't hide the fact that their parents were no longer going to be there, she would find it too obvious after some time and if she knew, no one would know what could happen. They held up the titles by which they called themselves so perfectly, he could not help but hate himself for ever trusting them like he did. Trusting them not to harm anything.

"Lord, it was to separate your lamine in preparation for the transfer," one shadow spoke.

"Shut up!" he roared, spinning on his heel to face them. "We agreed that not until she was the same age as the sacrificed one, not until she was nineteen, would she have anything to do with this more than knowing your existence. You never had to have them killed, Marunia."

His icy glare was fixed onto the most vocal of the figures. "And the rest of you should have known better than to allow this. The deal is off."

"We cannot change what has already happened! It is impossible even if you combined all the magic of the world," Marunia exclaimed. "Ask your lamine, kaistru. Ask her what she wants for once instead of being what your kind call high-handedness. She may be young, but if the Lady Ruinei is meant to, she will do what fate instructs."

"She's a child, and you are nothing but murderers. Get out."

"But—" Marunia protested only to be cut short.

"Mare," Thera clamped her hand over Marunia's mouth. "I hope that one day you may forgive our insolence, Lord Worswind." With those words, the figures pulled into the shadows and disappeared.

Just then, Ruinei ran into the room, tears running down her face. "Kaistru," she cried over and over again, burying her head into his chest. "Mommy and Daddy," she said softly. Balref patted her head softly and cried too. He wasn't certain who would have told her when even he couldn't grasp the situation with a calm face. Perhaps it was the police. Oulio and Oumio would never have told her – they would have left it to Balref. His lamine never knew such a close death before. The closest was the classroom hamster keeling over after one of the other students decided to feed it human junk food. The teacher had a burial for the thing, but it wouldn't have been like anything to come. "Lrana… nice," she murmured just before falling into a weeping sleep.

Lrana, Balref thought to himself, the caliginous one, it must have been they that told her, those bastards.


Balref's parents had a very traditional Raptnacdaran funeral, everything excluding the horses, was done for them in the same manner as they would have buried any royal of Raptnacdar, save for the parents of Erif and Elaira. They were so embedded into the thoughts and hopes of Raptnacdar that they would have not wanted anything less. If it were solely up to his parents, Balref and Ruinei probably would not even speak English or any other Earthen language – only the languages and dialects of Raptnacdar. Of course, that wouldn't be allowed, thereby giving the result of both children knowing six total languages, only one of which could be spoken to the outsiders, the Earthen people.

Balref looked around for Ruinei but saw no sign of her. Knowing her, Balref thought that she would probably be in some small corner, crying again, this time all alone rather than with him. She should be there with everyone else for the prayers to the Essences. No one had to know that they died because of a Faest f Strul, a shame that their souls would have to carry for eons — that the family was even wished ill by the Essences themselves so powerfully that they would intentionally kill. The Essences that the elders and everyone knew came from story and legend. They didn't know about the Essences like Balref did. He detested them for everything they'd done to him and the life his family could have had. The Essences were nothing more than monsters, but no one else could see that. And Ruinei loved them; she would never call them monsters.

He was just about to search for her when he heard her voice, talking to people so softly in the forest. "Did you fight with kaistru?"

"He never did much like us to begin with," he heard Ruzin's voice.

"Especially once you were born," Orthos continued seamlessly.

"He loved you so much, and he used to trust us," Atkane.

"Until we chose you; he begged us not to," Marunia.

"But it was not even for us to decide," Lrana.

"We love you, milady," Alhan.

"He told us to leave forever when he found out," Eyjnna.

"That we killed your birth parents," Thera.

"And when he found that you knew about this," Shmyhft.

"So soon after he found out himself," Iieay.

"So soon after he banished us," Luika.

"He assumed we were the informants," Mortioul.

"Doing something to twist you, milady," Rothasynd.

"And now, we cannot show ourselves," they were all there. Poisoning her thoughts with their side of a story that was not true; they were masters at telling lies without lying. That was their only positive point – they couldn't lie to those that saw them when they don't want to be seen. If it wasn't for that tiny fact, Balref would have never trusted them and banished them the moment they wanted near his sister. Now it was too late, "Not to him at least."

"How much longer do I have to pretend to be…?" Ruinei trailed off, her voice taking on a tone that Balref did not recognize. "I'm sick of it – it's been six years of tomfoolery already and I hate to play this façade any more than I already have. I realize that I'm the one that started it, this little game, but I never would have thought it to go this far."

Shmyhft sighed and then spoke. "It will be soon, milady. But, why do you not try to tell him? Why do you just not start it already?"

"And tell him who I really am? He would think I got the idea from that story and was just playing make-believe like any other little kid. How could I tell him about what I've done, what I've been asked to do, what I've pretended to be? I can't. To him, I am his lamine, the precious Ruinei that he's looked after for seven years."

When Balref heard this, he sucked in a breath and then darted away. That wasn't his sister; not in heart at least. It may have been her voice and her body, but it was not her. He did not fully understand what was going on, but he knew that something was far more amiss than them killing his parents, and it was something that involved this person that was inside of Ruinei. But he could not think of that now. Balref replaced whatever expression that was on his face with that of calmness and sadness so that the funeral could finish properly.


Two weeks later, Balref still had no understanding of the situation, of the scene he'd witnessed. He was sitting at the kitchen island bar with his oumio, Neamia, who was preparing dinner. That event consumed all his attention. Everyone mistook his distraction for mourning even though his kind did not treat death that way. The Raptnacdarans believed that in death, unless the person died by a Faest f Strul, that the soul would be cared for by the Essences until it was given another life somewhere, with a fresh start and a new hope. It wasn't farewell that they would say at the burial, it was "until we meet once more".

Tourn, Balref's oulio, came in to the kitchen holding the worn out book with their family's story in one hand, a mug filled with some sort of steaming liquid in the other hand. "Oulio, what would you do if you found out that someone you love isn't who you thought they were?"

"School girl problem?" Tourn asked with a soft chuckle.

Balref said nothing, just blushed a bit, hoping that his oulio would not inquire any further. He didn't want them to know about Ruinei any more than he wanted to find out about her. It was not something that he was proud of, eavesdropping on his little sister, or finding out something that he'd rather never know. All he knew was that it sounded like she was into something deep, abysmally so for a seven-year-old. And as far as he understood, it'd been going on for six years, which would have made her a little over one at the time.

"Well, I guess that doesn't matter," Tourn said, taking the bait. "I think that you have to realize if you really love them unconditionally – like despite how that person might act. If that person loves you, and they've been keeping a secret from you, then you've got to think that there's a reason for it, right? I mean, if they love you, why would they ever want to hurt you? They might be embarrassed to tell you, it might be to keep you safe, it might be for a future plan; do you get that idea, Balref? In any case, I'm sure that whoever's causing your heart to be muddled will help fix everything in the end and it'll all work out. I'd even bet with the Essences of Fate and Love that it will be a happy ending."

Balref smiled, still not entirely sure what could come out of this, especially since the Essences weren't made out of happy fluffy things any longer. Ruinei came in then, a little girl smile plastered on her face. "Kaistru," she squealed. "Come with me, I want to show you something."

She grabbed his hand pulled him off of his chair in the same flurry that she came with, without stopping to greet her grandparents properly.

"What is it, Rune?" Balref asked as she led him into the garden. "Where are we going?"

Ruinei stopped suddenly, close to the fountain at the far corner of the garden. "Right here," she said, still cheery. And then her eyes and voice changed, as though she were another person entirely. "I want to show you the truth that you've been blind to for six years."


A/N: Chapter 12 was supposed to be part of chapter 11 originally, but I couldn't bear to smush all the stuff into one really really long chapter. Like, when you read chapter 13, know that it was supposed to be a part of this chapter but I couldn't think of how to make that transition. Oh yeah, lamine means little sister, kaistru means older brother, oulio and oumio are in this case meaning grandfather and grandmother, and a Faest f Strul is a final death of the soul and the soul's vessel that's been delivered by all of the Essences. It's usually not a good thing to have such a thing happen to a character. :P