So basically me (icanneverfindmyname) and LaPirreVonTigger are writing this together. It's my idea, but she's help so much in everything, so it belongs to both of us. I write the Jade POV and she writes Jace's, and we do a lot of editing. We really hope you enjoy this, and remember to review as we both love that and it inspires us to write. Thanks :D
The buzzing in the back of my head woke me. Silently cursing it, I rolled over in my single bed, the mattress lumpy and uncomfortable. A clump of straw dug into my side and I wriggled around until I found a more comfortable position, refusing to open my heavy eyelids. Since I had turned thirteen I had been complaining about the straw mattresses I was forced to sleep on. If I had to work six days a week until the sweat ran down my forehead and matted my red hair to my face then I deserved a new, softer mattress. Lucinda (she never liked us calling her mother) had said I could have a new one when I bothered to make it myself.
Two years later and I still hadn't. It was like there was always something else to do. When the other girls sat at home in the shade afraid of burning in the sun, I ran about the hills enjoying the gloriously golden light. During the summer my whole body went from as pale as the snow that locked us in our houses during winter, to the light brown of the wheat fields across the hill. The sun tanned my skin, although it should've burnt me seeing as I have red hair, and the mud dirtied the soles of my feet, but I didn't care. Like the boys I refused to wear shoes the day it turned warm enough. My resistance against the expected standards didn't come un-punished. Like the boys, when I turned thirteen I had to work in the fields.
Harvesting, ploughing , irrigating, anything the men couldn't or wouldn't do. But my reward was the hunt. Every month Bails, my father, took me and my twin brother hunting, Every month I felt the satisfaction of tracking a deer for days before taking it down with a single well aimed arrow. Today we left for the week long hunt.
My feet were tangled in the thin blanket I'd wrapped around myself. Angrily I kicked it off. It slipped onto the wood floor, followed quickly by my two dirty feet. My eyes were still glued together with exhaustion and the room was hazy as I pried my eyes open and gazed sleepily around. The morning light cast a bright glow; I was surprised it had not woken me already.
My attention was drawn back to the buzzing. I've had headaches before, like the time I went rock climbing. Jace had distracted me and I had tumbled down a cliff taking off half my face in the fall. People told me I was lucky to have not smashed my head in. This was nothing like a headache. This buzzing pain seemed alive, not the dull thudding pain usually associated with headaches. It was alive, I could feel it, similar to the feeling when someone is staring at the back of your head because of something you just said or did.
Pushing it to the back of my mind, I stumbled across the room towards the wooden door set in the whitewashed wall. A glare from the mirror I'd hung up by my bed caught my attention. It wasn't the fact that I had made myself jump when I'd seen my reflection, long red hair sticking up around my head and my freckles looked like someone had taken a brush, dipped it in brown paint and flicked it at me, it was in fact the beam of sunshine that bounce off the glass and into my eyes. On a hunt day Bails woke us up long before the sun. We should've been deep in the forest by now, maybe even tracking the herd's footprints. Jace might have fallen already, an accident that often occurred on our trips. Instantly alert, like the mountain beast who had just caught my scent, my body tensed and I took a more cautious look around. One hand ran through my wild locks, trying to tame them while the other subconsciously reached for the knife I kept next to my bed. My bow was across the room, leaning against a wicker chair on which my brown hunting pack lay, all ready for the trip that was supposed to be happening and I had to tiptoe across the creaky floorboards to reach it.
Slowly I pushed open the door and cautiously padded out into the hallway, holding my precious knife in a death grip, my bow on my back. I looked towards the stairs that led down to the kitchen. Nothing seemed unusual about them. The wooden bars all stood uniformly straight, one step was slightly wonky from where Jace had knocked it when we were testing how fast he could run up them. I turned my head to the left, along the narrow corridor. Jace's door was slightly ajar. Apart from Bails, I was the one who woke first in this household, and Jace always made the most noise possible for a five-foot ten fifteen year old boy.
I crept along the wooden planks, trying to be as quiet as possible. I was just passing the door to the bathroom when the buzzing in my head suddenly exploded into red agony. I screamed and ducked at the same time lashing out with the hand that clutched my knife. An arrow splintered the wood above my head and shards whipped across my cheeks, drawing blood. I sprang up and lashed out again, furious I had missed my attacker the first time. A hand caught my wrist, the person was yelling but I could barely hear them over the noise in my head and my flying hair made it impossible for me to see their face. Yanking free, I pulled back my hand and smashed into their nose. They went reeling back and I heard the thud as they fell on the floor, momentarily dazed.
Dramatically I swept my hair out of my eyes and stood over the attacker. I prepared to strike when I saw his face. The same green eyes I'd recognize anywhere held my gaze. The freckles on his face appeared in the same sporadic pattern as mine and the nose was shaped the same, only his was slightly crooked because I had just broken it. The feature that caught my attention, though, was the same fiery red hair across his forehead. Only one other person in this, admittedly small village possessed that hair and looked like the devil our parents claimed we were. At the same time as me, he sighed in relief.
"Jade." He whispered just as I said "Jace."
I stepped off of him and offered my hand. He took it and grunted while I pulled him to his feet. Like me he wore night clothes; leggings with a jerkin that would later be replaced with the same clothes, only thicker, for day work. He pulled me into a hug so tight I thought my brains would explode out my eyeballs. Even though Lucinda claimed we were born only minutes apart I only reached his shoulder. Without hesitating I buried my head in his chest while he pressed his cheek into the strands of my hair.
"Why were you trying to kill me?" I murmured into his muscles.
A muffled laugh shook his body and his arms, impossibly, tighten their grip. "You were trying to kill me!"
I was still trembling from the loss of adrenaline and didn't reply although questions burned the tip of my tongue.
A long hug passed, while we both recovered from the shock of nearly harming each other, the blood from my cheek soaking onto his shirt.
"Do you know where Bails and Lucinda are?" Jace asked, still not releasing his grip. I ducked my head and quickly recounted the morning events.
"That's strange." He whispered. Tenderly he touched my head, pinpointing the location of the buzz "I have a buzzing in the back of my head too." He looked me in the eye, concern painted all over. A cool breeze washed over from behind and I shivered, assuming it had come from my room as I had left the door open. Jace flicked his gaze behind me and froze. I turned around in his arms and followed his stare. The breeze had not come from my room, as I had formerly assumed, instead the breeze came through the open window in our parents room at the end of the corridor. The door had opened without either of us noticing and the thin curtain that protected their privacy billowed out in the breeze. On the corner of the double bed just barely visible through the narrow opening, lay Bails sprawled out on the bed.
"Bails?" Jace called, his voice cracking. He gripped my hand. "Bails?" He called again. Together we advanced. My knuckles had turned white from gripping the blade so hard, and my face had drained of all colour. We reached the entrance to their bedroom. Jace experimentally pushed on the door. It swung all the way open with a squeak. Never had we gone into this room before, it was a place only Lucinda and Bails were allowed and I still felt guilty intruding on their space. We took a few steps in and froze. My vision blurred and I could feel myself about to faint. I would've if it weren't for Jace, my anchor, gripping onto me tightly.
Lucinda had always complained about the colour of her blanket, a light straw colour that was always covered in dirt no matter how much she cleaned it. I think mother would've like the shade it was now, the deep crimson of her and her husband's blood. I didn't really think she was dead, I mean how could she be? It was impossible. My brain just refused to accept it. I looked up at Jace, needing his support, needing him to tell me this is all one big sick joke, but his face mirrored mine, shock and denial.
Our parents were dead.
I could feel Jade's eyes on me, waiting for me to take control and keep her safe. God I wanted to, but I could only stare at the dead eyes of my father as a wave a nauseous washed over me. I turned away from Jade and emptied my stomach. I could hear her sobs echoing around the small room. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to be brave, but how can you when you see your mother's liver painting the back wall?
Bails throat was sliced almost completely through and his stomach was ripped open almost as if someone had punched a hole through his midsection. Lucinda was in a similar way. With a shuddering breath, I wiped my mouth and composed myself, as much as I could. I turned around and saw the tears in my sister's eyes. God, this was real. This was all real. My parents were gone and they weren't coming back. What do we do? What do we do? What do-
"We need to move the bodies." I said, my voice sounding far stronger than I actually felt, although it did broke at the last note.
"What?" Jade was in shock. So was I, but at this moment I couldn't afford to be. I could feel the tears stinging my eyes and I wanted to collapse into Jade's arms and cry until the tears ran dry but I knew that I was the only thing stopping Jade from doing just that and if I gave in she would too. She was my anchor, and I was hers.
"We need to move them, Jade." I met her red rimmed gaze. "We have to bury them." They deserved that, at least. It was the only thing we could do for them now. I desperately wished we could do more, or turn back the clocks and do all the things Lucinda had ever asked us to do, because right now guilt from all those tiny little things we'd done to make their short time with us harder, came crashing down and the weight was so strong I felt like it was going to break me.
I entered their room, dread stealing over me. Lucinda looked at the ceiling, fear and pain stamped forever on her blood stained face. "Mother." I choked and stroked her matted hair. I could hear Jade behind me trying to muffle her sobs and not make this any harder for me, or alert the neighbours that something was wrong. I knew we should probably leave, that whoever did this was probably still lurking around, but I couldn't bring myself to, not until I knew they were buried.
"Can you go get the spare blankets?" I couldn't tear my gaze from Lucinda's face. Throughout the few minutes I had been away from my dreams, I'd had all emotions thrown at me, but now I felt completely drained and blood roared in my ears blocking out all other senses. I didn't even care that my foot was in a puddle of red liquid, I couldn't bare to move away from my parents.
Moments later Jade was back handing me the scratchy blankets. I took one and wrapped it around Lucinda, covering her face and body. Then I scooped her up and carried her gently out the back door, set her down on the carpet of grass that last spring she had worked so hard to grow and make a quiet place for us to rest after the day's labour. It was the perfect place to bury them. I needed Jade's help with Bails, but together, with me by his head and her by his feet, we were able to carry him down the stairs and out the back door after Lucinda.
I wasn't sure if I should leave Jade with our parents or have her go off by herself and get the shovels. In the end, I figured that our parents weren't going anywhere and Jade and I went together round the back to a little wooden shed Bails built a few years back to store wood for the winter and outdoor tools like our wagon and our shovels. I grabbed the larger one and Jade took the smaller. Clumps of dirt and grass covered the ends from the last time we had to dig. We had been helping the neighbours build a shelter outside. In case of attack from the king's troops they could go there and hide. It's too bad we didn't have one.
We hurried back to the Lucinda and Bails worried some hungry animal might be nibbling at their remains.
"It's strange." Jade whispered, clutching her shovel desperately against her chest. "I can't hear any birds."
She's right. There were no birds. That was incredibly strange. Birds were a constant in our village, hidden deep in the middle of the forest. They were always chirping peacefully in the trees, or trying to steal our harvest or pooping everywhere, but now they couldn't be heard in any direction. Not even a peep. I looked up hoping to see one flying past, but the air was still. Nothing moved.
"That is strange." I mumbled as we reached our parents. They lay together, and I slowly walked over to them. I didn't want to make their death final, as digging their grave would do. I paused, shovel hovering above the ground, but the rational side of me took over. They had brought us into this life, nurtured us and taught us as much as they could in the short, too short, time they had had with us. I thrust the shovel into the ground and began to dig. I couldn't hear any movements from Jade and I looked up. She was pensively staring at the brown bundles, I couldn't bring myself to think what lay in them. She looked up at me, the all too familiar look in her eyes. I knew what she was about to say moments before she opened her mouth.
"I'll be right back." Then ignoring my questions she ran back into the cottage a determined look I knew all to well plastered on her face. I sighed, frustrated that she'd left me, but from experience I had learned that once she had a plan she would follow through with it. My way of mourning was to do work, I didn't know what hers was.
I turned back to the task at hand. With no Jade beside me, I had no reason to hide my feelings although she would eventually figure it out, no matter how hard I tried to cover it up. The smallest things irritated me, the stones I kept hitting, the bugs that crawled out of the soil and onto the blankets. The silence disturbed me. I had fallen asleep to birds, I had woken to birds and now they were gone everything seemed like a man bearing a knife was going to jump out of the bushes, I shuddered to think that maybe that was what had befallen my parents. I continued to dig. Now the tears came, and dropped into the grave. They blurred my vision and I continued my task like a zombie. Focussing on one thing at a time and trying to forget the rest. My feet were shoeless, Lucinda hadn't bothered to make me new ones when my feet grew too big for my winter shoes. I was pleased, the morning dew soaked into my soles and washed the blood off. The red solution seeped into the earth and disappeared from sight. My shovel scooped out chunks of earth and dumped them in a pile next to the growing grave. Jade still hadn't returned, and the drone in my head was alive again and felt like it was searching for something. It annoyed me and I willed it away. Suddenly, as I was almost up to my knees in the grave, it stopped searching and became triumphant. Puzzled I lifted my head, and wiped the tears away. Mud streaked across my cheeks and I saw Jade sprinting across the grass, a slightly triumphant smile on her face although tears still shone in her eyes. Something in her hand glinted in the sunlight, she came over and dropped her surprise onto the blankets then looked at me, the grave, the blankets then ran back towards the house.
"Jade!" I shouted, leaning against my shovel. Then quickly looked around to see if anyone had heard. My neighbours remained silent, like the birds I thought. I clambered out of the pit and, shovel in hand, walked across the grass to the door.
Peering inside I saw Jade struggling with the basin we used for baths. S
he had filled it with water from the pump outside and
was trying to drag it across the stone tiles. I smiled, guessing her ambitions. However gory they were, Jade had found the one way that would satisfy us. I hoisted up the basin, and she smiled at me gratefully then disappeared yet again. I didn't even call after her. Instead I lumbered over to Lucinda and Bails. I placed the basin on the un-even ground, swearing as some splashed over the edge and into the half dug grave. Guiltily I looked at Lucinda's body, she had band us from swearing near her, she had said that her children would not grow up to sound like the pure collector's' brood but would sound like the educated
children we were. I had sworn at her and stomped off. How my heart broke as I thought of this memory and wished I could eradicate it.
I crouched down next to them and waited for Jade to appear. The objects she had gathered caught my attention; the necklace Lucinda only took off in bed, the band Bails wore around his wrist religiously and their wedding rings. A tear dropped next to the objects that brought back so many memories. I hugged my knees to my chest and buried my head in them, letting my sobs carry round the garden. Jade rushed to my side after a while. She slid her small arm around my shoulder and rested her head against mine.
She stirred and I saw the new object she carried; the metal box Lucinda had used to store our limited medical supplies. Jade tugged it open and sponges, bandages and various medical objects spilled onto the grass. She picked up a sponge and walked over to the bodies. I watched her slow movements. She dipped the sponge in the basin and hesitatingly peeled back the blankets. The face of Lucinda stared up at her. I copied her actions, only the blanket I peeled back was Bails. Together we removed the entire blanket until the bodies of our parents lay exposed. I scrunched my eyes then quickly set to work. Teaching us medical skills had always been of very high importance to Bails and Lucinda, so professionally we cleaned and bandaged their wounds. It occurred to me that we shouldn't be wasting precious supplies on our parents but I brushed the thought away and finished the job. Eventually their bodies were prepared. They looked like they would've wanted. Delicately I picked up Bails' bands and Jade took Lucinda's necklace. In unison we slipped them on the appropriate person then put on the wedding rings.
"Never start a job unless you're going to finish it. And never finish it until it is perfect." Jade whispered, quoting Lucinda. Satisfied I picked up the shovel and continued the dig. With Jade's help it was finished twice as fast, although it was near midday when the bodies lay in the grave.
Taking the lead, I let a handful of dirt trickle from my fist into the deep pit. I didn't need to think about what I was going to say.
"Bails. You were my role model, you taught me everything you knew and gave me everything you had. If, by the time I die, I have many friends, have gained as much respect, or am anywhere close to achieving what you have then I will be proud. And Lucinda. You were always there. The perfect shoulder to cry on, the perfect voice to calm me. My rock during my hardships. My mother, someone who I wish with everything I own, could be here right now. I love you both." I stepped away, hoping I had said enough. Jade stepped up. Slowly she raised a fist and copied my movements.
"Bails. You have given me the greatest memories. You have taught me my skills, throughout my life you have guided me along the right path and I will spend the rest of my life following that path and I hope to see you at the end. Lucinda, when I am old the village will gather round me and ask to hear the story of you. If I tell the truth they will think that you were a beautiful queen who the population adored. If one tiny inch of my being is like yours, then I will have accomplished my dreams. I love you both." She managed to gulp out. Tears streamed down my face as I covered up the bodies. Silently I added more to my speech. I swear that I will avenge your deaths. Finally I dropped my shovel and Jade placed a bunch of flowers onto the mound. The smell enveloped me and I smiled. They were Lucinda's favourite flowers. Jade took my hand and stood by my side.
We stood together in a moment of silence, thinking back to all the times we'd had with Bails and Lucinda. The day they presented us with our bows, and the endless hours that Bails spared to teach us how to shoot and watched proudly as we became the best shots in the village. The hours spent curled up in front of the fire listening to their stories and voices. The warm hugs, the laughs, the tears, the kind and caring eyes. The hands that comforted me, the lullabies to send me to sleep, the days spent hunting, the knowledge passed on. The two greatest people I loved most in the entire universe. All I remembered. I found a special place in my heart and I stored all those memories there, so I would have a place to go to when I needed to.
Finally I nudged Jade and we lifted our heads with a shaky sigh. It was as though something was ending, a door that was never meant to closed locked with the key thrown away. How could things ever be right again when some so horrible and irreversible has befallen on us so early in life?
So wrapped up in these melancholy thoughts I didn't notice Jade frozen, her breathing quickened and a curious look falling over her. Suddenly tense, I followed her gaze to see our neighbour's door was kicked in, only hanging from one hinge as it teetered precariously in the wind.
We shared a look, both knowing what the other was thinking. It must be that twin connection, but together we
crept forward silently I looking left, she looking right, guarding each other, protecting each
other. We stopped at the door and I pushed it in, there was a snap and the hinge finally gave way the whole structure collapsing in a heap of splintered wood at our feet. Jade gave me a pointed look and I could only shrug, embarrassment colouring my cheeks a brilliant red.
We stepped through the threshold alert and ready for someone to attack and as our eyes adjusted to the dim light and as the cloud of billowing dust around us settled, we realized we were truly alone.
There was no one home.
Jade and I did a sweep of the living room, checking anything that might give us a clue as to where the family could have gone. Why would they leave now of all times? It seemed peculiar and yet-
I whirled around, knife in my hand ready to murder whomever was intruding when I noticed Jade sprawled out on the floor rubbing her butt.
"Ow. I slipped on something." She whispered, before standing to examine what exactly had caused her to fall.
Even in the dimness of the room it was as clear as day.
"Jade come here." I hissed urgently. She obeyed, standing next to me her bow out an arrow ready to fly.
The trail of blood led through the kitchen and out the back door. Some part of my brain registered the fact that the kitchen was torn apart, pots lay scattered, food was overturned and everything was covered in a white layer of flour, but I was mostly focussed on the blood. We stepped outside and I saw exactly where it lead.
The underground shelter our families had spent the better part of a week building, was collapsed, the ground caved in. I hurried to it and peered down through the hole. Magna's dead eyes stared back at me. Dread seeped into my being. I quickly removed a few of the larger clumps of dirt.
In her arms, Magna clutched her infant child to her chest, even in death trying to protect it. Her eldest daughter was beside her, her arms around her younger brother. Magna's husband was collapsed under the caved in doorway. They were all dead.
I understood at least where the blood had come from, each person had a gaping hole in their chest the same as Bails and Lucinda. It worried me that I didn't feel anything for their death, but after my own parents demise, I don't think anything could have fazed me at that moment.