Mama, we’re all full of lies
Mama, we’re meant for the flies
And right now they’re building a coffin your size
Mama, we’re all full of lies
-Mama, My Chemical Romance
I watch silently, barely allowing myself to breath as the figure below me creeps through the trees. The longer I stay unnoticed, the more my lips curl into a smug smirk. “Gotcha this time,” I mutter under my breath as I aim my arrow. His head jerks to the side, obviously catching my words, before he takes off running. I groan in irritation as I leap from my perch in the tree and charge after him.
He’s not going to get away again.
My feet hardly make any noise as they dig into the moist dirt. I strain my ears for any sound he’s making, trying to ignore all other sounds. Catching sight of him ducking to his left, I turn a tree behind him, losing sight of him once again.
He’s also not going to catch me by surprise.
He darts to the right, his form once again hidden by trees seconds later. Damn these trees! I may be able to track him with my other senses, but they aren’t as strong or as quick as my sight.
I come to a small clearing, stopping at the edge in suspicion. I can smell him close by, but he’s somehow surrounded the clearing with his scent, so I can’t pinpoint his exact location. Closing my eyes, I listen for his heartbeat -- it’s the easiest to distinguish out here.
Focusing my hearing, I notice the calm, rhythmic thump of his heart. A smirk stretches across my face as I spin in the direction of his heartbeat and stroll leisurely towards it. “The scent thing was a smart trick, but not good enough to fool me. I think I’ve won this one-” an arrow rips through my left shoulder, cutting off my words and making me stumble backwards. Zane jumps from the tree I was walking towards and charges, barreling through me and knocking me flat on my back. The air is slammed from my lungs, causing me to choke as he kneels over me, a huge grin on his face.
“Really? You think you won this one, huh? ’Cause it looks to me like you lost…” Zane smirks down at me, making my frustration and anger multiply. I grab the shaft of the arrow and pull it out of my shoulder, trying to ignore the tearing of flesh.
I jerk my knee upwards, thrusting it into his gut. Caught by surprise, he hunches over, allowing me an opening. I wrap my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist, using my body to flip him over me and onto his back. Once sitting above him, I throw my right fist down towards his face. He blocks it, already recovered from my attack, but I knew he would be; that was just to get me out from under him.
Gripping my right wrist with one hand, he pulls one knee into his chest to kick me off. Before he gets the chance, I somersault over his head and hook my right arm around the arm that’s holding me in place. He realizes what I’m about to do and hurriedly tries to let go of my arm and jerk his free, but I hold tight.
I wrap my leg around his upper arm to keep his arm immobile and slide my hands to position. He moves beneath me and I catch a glimpse of a silver blade. Realizing what he’s about to do, I quickly straighten out my legs and jerk on his arm, feeling a snap the same time a sharp and intense pain flares up in my left thigh.
I release him and roll away, pulling out the knife with gritted teeth. That idiot stabbed me. He actually stabbed me.
Then again, I did break his arm…
Zane leaps to his feet, swinging a leg around at my head. I duck a second too late and his foot slams into the side of my head, knocking me on my back. A pounding starts in my head and my vision becomes a little blurry.
Great, he gave me a minor concussion.
“Alright, alright, I give,” I groan, gripping my head in my hands.
Zane sighs, plopping down beside me. “Thank God you said it first. I was just about to say it.”
I swing my head in his direction, realizing too late how bad of an idea that was as my head begins to throb even more painfully. “I hate you,” I groan, rolling forward onto my face.
“You broke my arm!” He accuses incredulously.
“Yeah, and you shot me, stabbed me and gave me a concussion. I think we’re even.”
I can practically hear him roll his eyes at me. “Yeah okay.”
Sitting back on my feet, I look over at him with narrowed eyes. “Hey, if you can’t take it, then maybe you should find a new training partner. One whose not as awesome as me.”
“That wouldn’t be hard,” he smirks, making me scowl.
“You really want me to hurt you bad enough not to have children, don’t you?” I ask before pushing to my feet and looking around for my bow.
He laughs at me, getting to his feet as well. I spot my bow and walk over to it, stooping to pick it up. While I’m bent down, Zane runs over and shoves me back to the ground, cackling as he jogs out of my reach. ”Now we’re even!”
“Jerk,” I mutter. He walks back over, still laughing, and offers me a hand. I slap his hand away and get up on my own, shoving his chest once I’m upright again. “That was uncalled for.”
He laughs as he stumbles back from my shove. “No it wasn’t. You deserved it for breaking my arm. I thought we agreed no more breaking limbs.”
“No, I never agreed to that. You brought it up and I rolled my eyes. That’s not an agreement,” I point out before shrugging. “Besides, your arm is already healing. It’ll be fine by tomorrow night.”
He rolls his eyes and turns around, muttering, “That is so not the point.” He stoops down to collect his weapons, slipping them into their sheaths before turning back to me with a sigh. “Ready to call it a night?”
“I guess,” I sigh. “I mean, now that your arm’s broken, it’s not going to be as much fun; you’re just going to whine the whole time.”
He glares at me, unamused by my mocking words. “Come on.”
Hiding a smirk, I follow him as we walk back to the village. After about twenty minutes of trekking through the woods in silence, a twelve foot, silver-studded stone wall comes into view. Zane wordlessly pulls out a coil of rope from his bag and hands it to me. I take it from him and sling it over my shoulder, stepping up towards the wall. Zane crouches down, making a little basket with his hands and I slip my foot into it. Within seconds I’m launched into the air and landing on top of the wall without a sound.
I toss the rope down to Zane, keeping one end to wrap around my waist. Zane begins climbing up the rope and I have to pull back against him with all my weight to keep from being pulled off the wall. He finally reaches the top and I wrap the rope back into a coil, sticking it into my bag. Together, we leap off of the wall, landing as gracefully as cats twelve feet below. We take off at a run as soon as our feet hit the ground, ducking behind houses any time we hear someone outside.
It’s not wrong to be out at night, but it is wrong to leave the village walls without permission; especially if you’re underage. Zane and I have been doing this since we were children and we’ve been caught a few times, so anytime we’re seen out at night, they know exactly what we’ve been doing. We’ll get punished, of course, but now that we’re getting closer to the age of joining the Slayers, the punishments are much harsher; if we’re caught too many times we could be banished. That would majorly suck.
We make it to my small house without too much trouble and Zane helps me crawl in through my bedroom window after stashing my weapons under the house. Once I’m in, I lean my head back out and whisper, “Don’t get caught on your way home,” with a teasing smirk.
Zane rolls his eyes, whispering back, “As if. You’re the one that always gets us caught.” He then turns and jogs away before I can retaliate.
“Whatever!” I whisper yell after him, knowing he was only trying to get a rise out of me, but not caring; arguing is too much fun.
Satisfied I got the last word, I pull myself back into the room I share with my younger sister and latch the window closed. As quietly as I can, I creep across my room and change into my night clothes before sneaking into the washroom in the hall and cleaning up a little; I can’t have blood all over my bed, mom would kill me. Finally ready for bed, I throw myself down on the lumpy mattress and quickly lose consciousness.
I’m woken up by the sound of dishes clanging on the other side of my thin bedroom wall. With a groan, I roll onto my stomach and bury my face in my pillow. I am definitely not a morning person.
“Jachana!” My mothers voice calls from the source of the clanging. “Jack, get up!” There’s a pause in the clanging as if she’s listening for any sounds coming from my room. Then I hear her say, “Evangeline, go get your sister up.”
I let out an annoyed sigh as light footsteps near my room. The door opens and Evangeline’s soft voice speaks from the doorway. “Jack? Mom needs you to get up. She says we have a lot to do today.” When I don’t respond, she walks into the room, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Come on, Jack, don’t anger her today.”
With a mental roll of my eyes, I push myself into a seated position, muttering, “She’s gonna be angry with me no matter what I do.”
Evangeline chooses to ignore my comment and turns, walking out of the room. She knows she can’t do anything to fix the turbulent relationship between mother and I; she’s tried plenty of times. Now, she settles with mediating as much as she can.
Muttering my irritation, I slide out of bed and change slowly. Mom begins banging on my wall from the other room, yelling for me to hurry up. I yell back something along the lines of, “I’m coming,” accompanied by some less than ladylike comments and observations that are sure to rile her up.
After pulling on my boots, I walk out of my room and head for the kitchen. I walk in, heading for the bowl of fruit on the back counter. As I pass my mother, she slaps me, rather forcefully, on the back of my head. I grab the back of my head, throwing a glare at her, but continue towards the other counter.
“Don’t speak to me with that kind of language. Where do you even learn to speak like that?” She snaps, her eyebrows pulled together in a scowl.
I make it to the bowl of fruit, picking out an apple before turning to face her as I lean against the counter lazily. “Don’t know. Maybe it’s just a gift of mine,” I say with a shrug, taking a bite of my apple. I can tell that response makes my mother angry, but I don’t feel bad in the slightest. If anything, I find it satisfying.
“I need you to go into town to get some things,” she says, swallowing her anger. She tosses me a bag of coins and a small piece of paper with a list on it. The bag of coins I easily catch, but the paper doesn’t even make it halfway before it floats to the ground.
“Why can’t Evangeline go?” I whine, embracing the fact that I sound like a toddler.
My mother doesn’t turn to look at me as she responds, staying busy with the dough in her hands. “Because Evangeline is more capable of useful things than you. I need her here.”
I pretend that that jab doesn’t bother me and shrug, taking another bite of my fruit. “Whatever. Hope you don’t need this stuff soon.” I walk out of the kitchen, having swiped the list off the floor on my way out, and listen to my mother huff angrily behind me.
Hiding a smile, I swing open the front door and stroll down the half rotten wood steps, not bothering to close the door behind me. I follow the dirt path through the small homes until I reach the center of town. Old cobblestone marks the town square with a crumbling well in the center; shops ring the area, leaving a few spaces for branching off paths that lead to more homes and one that leads to the House of the Alesten and the jail house.
I pull the list my mother threw at me out of my pocket and read through it quickly, deciding on what I should pick up first. When I look up, I catch sight of Zane and his friends sauntering into the square. They seem to see me at the same time and head my direction. As they walk over, I notice Zane’s arm is tied up in a sling, making me smirk at him.
“You poor baby,” I tease as they stop in front of me.
Zane glares at me. “Shut up.” He rolls his shoulder as if he’s actually embarrassed by the sling. Dropping his scowl after a second, he asks, “What are you doing?”
I hold up my list with a scowl. “Shopping.”
Zane gives me a mock terrified expression, grabbing the list from my grasp. “Oh no, tell me she’s not forcing you to-” he pauses to read the list. “buy eggs! And,” he gasps dramatically. “Wheat! Heaven above, she’s doing evil things in that house.”
I stare at him with a deadpan expression. He finally stops and stares at me expectantly, waiting for me to play along. “Are you done?” I ask.
Zane sighs, handing me the list back. “It’s no fun if you don’t react,” he grumbles childishly.
I ignore him and look at his three friends, acknowledging them for the first time this morning. “Good morning, boys.” I receive mixed responses from them: an eye-roll, a small smile, and a glare. It’s safe to say, they don’t particularly like me. Not that that’s uncommon around here.
“You look nice,” Aiden, a lanky guy with dark brown hair and eyes, comments snidely.
“You look stupid,” I sneer in response. He and I have never gotten along. I suppose it’s kind of a love/hate relationship; we love hating each other.
Zane groans. “Please don’t start that yet.”
I step around him, intending on gathering the things on the list my mom gave me, but sudden shouting catches my attention. My head whips around to the direction it’s coming from, spotting a tall, thick cloud of smoke. The guys and I take off in the direction of the smoke, quickly coming to a halt before a line of buildings going up in flames. People run frantically in all directions, trying to escape the rapidly spreading flames while a group of men rush back and forth from the building throwing buckets of water and dirt on the fire, which doesn’t seem to be affected in the slightest.
I’m the first of our group to snap back into reality, turning and searching for anything I can put water in. I quickly spot a bowl someone had abandoned on the porch of a nearby house and run to it, dumping out the vegetables as I grab it. More people begin rushing up the path and out of their homes as I run towards the well, making my retreat difficult and slower than I would like.
I eventually reach the well, the boys hot on my heels with water carrying objects in their hands. As quickly as I possibly can, I fill my bowl before turning and rushing into the hoard of people trying to shove their way to safety as the buildings begin to crumble and the fire grows closer to the town square.
Just as I throw the bowl of water into the fire, flames seem to jump out at me, reaching for my limbs and singeing the hair on my arms. It nearly makes contact, but I jump out of reach just in time, only to be jerked around by a rough hand. I look up into a gruff, middle aged man’s face. He scowls down at me in what seems to be anger.
“Get back! You’re going to get hurt,” he shouts over the roar of flames.
I jerk my arm from his grasp, irritated. “I’ll be fine.”
As I’m turning to get more water, I hear his not so subtle response, halting my movements. I spin back to face the man, shoving his back, fire forgotten as anger surges through my veins. He stumbles a couple steps before turning to look at me in shock.
“Do you wanna say that to my face?” I grind out. There’s a small voice in the back of my head telling me to let it go, but I’ll be damned if I allow a comment like that to slide without so much as a snide remark back.
The man takes what is supposed to be an intimidating step towards me, pulling his shoulders back and puffing out his chest before replying. “I said, if a stupid bitch wants to get herself killed, then it’s not my fault.”
I narrow my eyes slightly with a nod. “That’s what I thought you said. Glad you’re man enough to say it to my face.”
“You know, you talk real big for such a small woman- if I can even call you that,” he says, taking yet another step towards me.
A cynical laugh escapes me as I toss my bowl to the side, leaning forward slightly in preparation for a fight. Suddenly, a building explodes beside us, flames shooting out in every direction and knocking me off of my feet and several feet away. My ears ring and my skin stings with newly blistered flesh.
It takes me a moment to get my bearings before I push myself into a seated position, lifting a hand to my throbbing head as I look around at my surroundings. The flames continue to spread, crawling closer to the bits of burning debris scattered around with the bodies of the other Slayers. Movement to my right catches the corner of my eye near where the building had stood moments before.
Everything seems to click in my mind and I push to my feet, ignoring the pain in my body as I chase after the retreating figure.
I tear through the village, keeping the dark figure in my sights. As I run, I pick up on another person running not far behind me. I don’t bother to look, knowing it’s Zane by the rhythm of his feet on the hard ground.
The wall that surrounds the village comes into view and the figure before me begins scaling the stones. A fist sized rock sails past my head and strikes the figure in the side, causing her to lose her grip from the sudden pain, allowing Zane and I to close in on the short woman.
She turns to face us, piercing me with one silver and one gold eye.
“A witch, I shoulda known the moment the fire started,” I sneer, creeping towards her.
The witch cackles, a hand going to her throat where a bird skull hangs on a black chord.
I reach down to grab one of my knives, only to feel the cloth of my pants. My expression hardens as a groan pushes its way past my lips; I never grabbed any of my weapons this morning. I was just going to the town square for crying out loud!
The witch begins muttering under her breath as Zane charges at her, a small dagger in his hand. I fan out to his right, providing him back up and ensuring less possibility of the witch escaping.
In a matter of seconds, thick dark clouds roll across the sky, covering the sun and casting us in dark shadow. The shadows on the ground between the witch and us begins to swirl, quickly taking shape of three catlike creatures.
I silently curse at myself as the shadow creatures leap towards us. I need to find some sort of weapon or I’m not going to be any help.
Zane meets the first cat, ducking under it as it lunges for him and thrusting his dagger up into its under belly. He hold his injured arm close to his chest as he forces himself back to his feet, the creature dissipating.
Zane tosses me a confused look as he rushes toward the second cat. The third creature lunges at me and I duck to the side, turning just in time to see it land. I charge towards it, knowing my only chance at having an advantage is to catch it off guard.
The cat bats a large shadowy paw up at me, but I side step it, looping one arm around its throat and use my momentum to swing myself onto its back. Despite its shadow composition, the creature is solid as a rock.
I grasp the beasts head between my hands and jerk its head to the side, expecting it to dissipate, but the beast simply snarls in anger and rolls, crushing me under its solid weight.
“Seriously?!” I hear Zane shout from my left. I scramble to my feet, locking eyes with the jaguar with irritation. “It’s freaking made of shadows, Jack, it’s not real! You can just snap it’s neck!”
“How was I supposed to know?! You stabbed one and it went away!” I argue back, ducking out of the jaguars attack, hissing in pain as the cats claws catch my shoulder. I scan the area quickly, looking for something I can use to kill the thing. “Just hurry up and get the witch already,” I shout, spotting a jagged tree stump jutting out of the thin group of trees near the wall.
Zane runs off after the witch as I dart towards the tree stump. The shadow beast runs after me, gaining on me much quicker than I anticipated. I’m just barely too far from the stump, my shoulder throbbing and feeling heavy as if it gained ten pounds in the last few seconds, when the cat lunges at me again. I drop to the ground on my stomach, the shadow sailing over my head. As soon as he clears my head, I jump to my feet and kick his back as he lands, shoving him into the tree stump with a thud.
The beast dissipates and I let out a sigh of relief before turning and running to where Zane and the witch went. My right hand reaches across my chest to grasp my left arm in an attempt to staunch the bleeding.
Zane and the witch come into view, the witch running as Zane gains on her from behind.
I change my direction, running to the left, knowing that the witch is about to meet a corner in the wall. I push myself to run faster, struggling due to the increasing weight of my arm. I can see the wall up ahead and hear the sound of feet sliding on dirt as they make a sharp turn. Tucking my head and right shoulder down, I pick up my pace and ram into the witch just as she comes into view. We crash to the ground from my momentum, both of us getting the air knocked from our lungs.
I take that opportunity to roll on top of her, pinning her hands with my knees as I try to get the air back into my lungs. Zane comes to a stop beside me, crouching down as I grab the witches head between my hands. She struggles, but the combination of lack of breath and my body weight on her limbs and chest keep her weak enough to remain under my control.
With the last of the force I can manage in my injured arm, I lift her head and slam it into the ground with a crack, knocking her unconscious. I roll off of her body and slump back, cradling my injured arm to my chest as I catch my breath.
“Nice work,” Zane mutters as he pats the witch down, taking anything she could use as weapons or for spells off of her person.
Once he has all of her possessions, he hands them to me. I fold them into the bottom of my shirt and hold them against my chest, not wanting to lose any of the small trinket like objects. Zane maneuvers himself so that he can lift her onto his shoulder with his good arm and stands. I follow suit and we head towards the center of town.
We pass the area where the fire had been, glad to see that it’s been put out, though many of the buildings and homes are now destroyed. Villagers carefully pick through the ashes, searching for anything salvageable, none paying us any attention as we pass.
A friend of ours, actually my secret trainer, spots us as we enter the town square and hurries over to us.
“I should've known you two would catch the culprit.”
“Darn right,” I reply as smugly as I can with pain pulsing from my shoulder. “Now hold out your hands.” He does as I instruct and I dump the witches belongings into his hands.
He snorts. “Go take care of that shoulder; you’re losing a lot of blood. We’ll take care of the witch.”
I nod, too tired and pained to argue, as I turn and head back towards my house. When I arrive, my mom and sister are still in our kitchen, working as if our village hadn’t just been attacked.
I shuffle into the kitchen and lean against the counter, only then gaining the attention of my little sister. Her eyes widen as she takes in my blood soaked clothes. She quickly rinses her hands off before rushing to my side, beginning to inspect my shoulder.
“Where are my supplies?” my mom questions, still working with the dough in front of her.
“I didn’t get it,” I grind out, squeezing my eyes shut as Evangeline begins cleaning out the wound.
“Why am I not surprised,” my mother sighs. She continues to work the dough in her hands, though it’s obvious that it’s already over-kneaded. After a few moments of silence, she slams the dough down and braces her hands on the counter, letting her head fall forward. Evangeline rushes out of the room, finished cleaning the wound. She returns seconds later with a needle and stitching thread.
“I don’t know what to do with you anymore, Jachana,” my mom says lowly. Evangeline sterilizes the needle beside me, the strong scent of alcohol filling the room.
“What do you mean? I didn’t just deliberately come back without your supplies. I had a legitimate reason. Once Evangeline is finished stitching up my shoulder, I’ll go back and get the stuff.” Evangeline places her cold hands on my arm, slowly putting the needle into place before pushing it swiftly into my skin and out the other side of the biggest gash. I wince as a sharp pain shoots through my shoulder, but it’s nothing compared to the pain caused by the words my mother says next.
“No, Evangeline will get them. I want you out.”
“What?” I ask in shock. I knew she felt I was a failure of a child, but I never thought she would straight up kick me out.
“You heard me. Once Evangeline finishes with your arm, I want you out and I don’t want you back here.” Her back is still facing me, which only makes me angry.
“Are you kidding me?” I grind out.
She finally spins to face me, her dark green eyes blazing. “No, I’m not kidding you; I don’t want you here anymore. I can’t begin to express how disappointed your father would be in you.”
Her words slice through me like a knife, making my stomach roll with nausea. She knew exactly what to say to hurt me.
Evangeline ties off the last stitch in the first gash. Before she can begin on the next one, I jerk away, trying my hardest to hide my pain with my anger. “Fine, I don’t wanna be here anyways. And he would be more disappointed in you than me. Unlike you, he cared about me.” With that, I spin on my heel and storm out of the house.