"We are the descendants

of the wild women you forgot

We are the stories you thought

would never be taught.

They should have checked the ashes

of the women they burned alive.

Because it takes a single ember

to bring a whole wildfire to life."

"Wild Embers", Nikita Gill

PROLOGUE

~SOUNDTRACK: Britney Spears – Circus~

The lights go down. The curtain rises. You hold your breath because you don't know what to expect. The roof of the tent splits open to reveal pearl white moonlight. Silence falls over the expectant crowd. Magic buzzes in the air, making blood hum in anticipation. You forget you're supposed to be scared. How could you? Lions don't seem as dangerous when they're caged.

And then they step in the ring. The moon is the only spotlight they need. Eyes glow in more colors than you can count. You can't see their shackles, but it's readable in the way they hold themselves. You can't hear the crack of the whip, but the tension in the air is palpable. You can't taste the bitter blood in their mouths, but it's evident in their scowl. People almost want to feel sorry for them, but they can't bring themselves to. They're monsters. They deserve to be caged. They deserve to be shackled. They deserve to be put on display like puppets. The magic keeping them on leash is heavy in the air like a muzzle that's been put on them to keep them from biting.

Because they would bite. They can bite. They are the Wicked. They are the most vicious creatures to have ever walked the earth.

Then thick mist envelops the crowd. People gasp and begin to wail. In the short minute before your eyes adapt to the darkness, you can feel the adrenaline running down the walls. You don't know what happens next. You're a sheep thrown into the cage of a lion and told to trust he won't eat you.

And thus it begins. A single spotlight lights up. Beneath it, a single girl. The crowd murmurs. She raises her eyes, and then her arms. And from her fingertips, an explosion of power. The pentagram she's standing on top of starts to glow and you can see her lips moving, but you can't hear anything other than the ringing in your ears. Her eyes glow red and her hair is flying in all directions like she's standing in strong ocean currents. Except she's in a closed tent. She moves her arm around the crowd from one side to the other and wherever she points, doves black as night emerge from under the seats and spread their wings toward the silvery moon.

And if you didn't believe it up until now, you can't deny it anymore when it's standing before your eyes. Because the girl is a witch.

More spotlights light up to reveal women of a beauty that seems otherworldly. Eyes that spoke fairytales and lips that entranced. You can see men struggling to stay in their seats and to keep from reaching out to them. They begin a captivating dance and the whole crowd follows their hips with their eyes.

Nymphs.

More spotlights. Growls filling the electric night. Howls. Beasts standing up on their back feet and pledging their songs to the moon.

Werewolves.

More and more spotlights. Fangs glinting in the moonlight. Bodies moving with inhuman speed.

Vampires.

And then the ring goes dark again but for the golden eyes. You hear the flap of wings. You feel the smell of smoke in the air. You hear the roar and feel the blind motion as the creature raises its head up high and breathes fire bright and vivid and fierce and hot and deadly enough to burn this whole circus down, should it want to.

The dragon.

But ultimately, the lights turn back on. The ring is empty yet again, all is smooth and flawless like they were never even there to begin with. But you know they were. You know what they were. And for a while, this circus seems like the most well-deserved cage ever concocted for a monster of the likes of them.

~SOUNDTRACK: Daughter – Youth~

No story is ever truly over. There is no beginning and there is no ending. There's always just a wrecked, imperfect middle haunted by the shadows that settle instead of dust in the hollow places not long ago filled with wild youth.

No story is ever completed. There's always that space between the lines, heavier than gravity, begging for closure. But some stories are no more than a mid-sentence pause, hanging on the tip of your tongue.

And in all truthness, no story is ever black as no story is ever white. Stories are a kaleidoscope, made of broken pieces of glass that somehow manage to come together to create a more perfect, colorful picture. And when these pieces of glass are scattered in faraway corners, not knowing the beauty they're capable of, it takes a while for one to know their own breakage is ultimately only meant to fit into something bigger.

Down the streets of New Orleans, a man and a woman walked hand in hand. They seemed no more than a happy couple enjoying the magic of the city. She had her eyes closed and her head tilted as she listened to the mellow jazz tunes and his eyes were only on her at all times.

On a closer look, you might have seen her emerald green eyes held a beauty that seemed too perfect for it to be natural. And his eyes, gray as storm clouds, looked ancient and foggy. Their shoulders were tense, used to carrying weights that were no longer there. Her hands flew beneath her shoulders every now and then, looking for hair that was shorter than she was used to having it.

And by their smiles and the wicked looks they shared evert now and then, you wouldn't have guessed that they were up to no good.

Somewhere in the Russian woods, a girl with ebony black hair had lost it all. Again. And again and again, a dance she'd been dancing for far too long, and one in which something was always stepping on her toes.

She lay on the side of the road, in the grass, her head tilted to the sky, wishing death would just come to claim her finally. But she never was that lucky, after all.

She was weak and powerless, she was left without a purpose again, and this time, she didn't feel like she had it in her to start it all over again. She'd wasted too long, too much time, too much power, too much of herself to the point of not knowing how much of a human was left in her.

After some time, though she couldn't tell for sure how much time, they came to get her. She did not know who. She did not care. She had nothing left.

The last thing she saw before drifting into darkness was the light of a faraway circus.

Behind a desk in Sankt Petersburg sat a girl with fire-kissed hair, so beautiful that it hurt the boy with dreamy eyes sitting in front of her.

Neither of them spoke. On the desk sat an ancient book that they did not dare touch. The Codex of Anagrams, the cover said.

Eventually, the boy sat up and went to stand behind her, resting his hand on her shoulder.

"It's over," he whispered.

Her eyes did not meet his, as if afraid that if she let the book out of her sight, it would disappear and its whole magic would swallow them whole.

Then she spoke slowly. "I don't think it is."

In a faraway castle, a princess jumped off a rooftop.

She let the wind take her and let herself feel its whiplash against her cheeks.

And then, right before the impact with the ground, the rope tied around her waist pulled her back up. She bounced back on that rooftop, her heart pounding against her ribcage. But it didn't make her feel alive anymore.

The sailor stood on the shore as he did every night. The ocean called to him, as it had for a while now. Perhaps for as long as he could remember. He kept feeling that it tried to tell him something. If only he could figure out what.

A girl sat in a cell. She wrapped her arms around her knees. She closed her eyes and reached inside her, calling for the beast, but no one listened. No one answered. The beast was no longer there. It hadn't been for too long now.

The captain of the guards bowed to his queen and turned on his heels. He planned on leaving the castle behind, but stopped at its gates anyway and looked over his shoulder. He sighed. He had nowhere else to go. No one waited for him anyway.

One by one, the lights in the circus went off.

Witches whispered their charms and blew off their candles.

Werewolves went to hunt with the moon as their sister to guide over them.

Vampires took over the darkness in search for blood.

Nymphs brushed their silky hairs as their creamy skins glinted in the dark.

Demons came out to play unbothered.

Four kids with golden eyes looked at one another. They'd handled another day. They'd handle another tomorrow.

Slowly, the circus went to sleep.

Hey hey hey!

New story across the horizon!

For those of you who have read Smoke and Mirrors, Wonderland and Down the rabbit hole before, welcome back, y'all. For those of you who haven't and are new in town, enjoy the ride. This story focuses on different characters than before without being related to the previous stories, but even so, I will try to make sure to fill in the details as I go. Let me know if it ever gets confusing.

However, if you want to read the prequels, you can find Smoke and Mirrors on my profile and the other two in my Quotev library written by Laura.

The songs are a little playlist suggestions that might work if you wanna listen to them while reading certain scenes.

So, all in all, I hope you enjoy it!

Let me know what you think of it and I'll have the first chapter landing in no time!

Love, D.