This poison that is killing me is the only thing keeping me alive.
I don’t mean metaphorically, that I have a drug problem and that even though I know it’s bad, it’s the only thing that makes me feel alive. I mean literally: the “medicine” that is keeping my heart beating is also the poison that will eventually make it stop.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was young, I was healthy, happy. Well, I suppose “happy” is a bit of a stretch. Having your parents betray you, force you to the streets just because you were born with enough magical strength to be one of the Blood, doesn’t lend itself to a happy childhood. Jealousy is such a beautiful thing to see in your parents’ eyes... They didn’t even try to protect me – but they stopped short of reporting me to the Red King and his Sentinels.
So I made my own way, adopted by the other Blood on the run from the king and his decrees, and managed to live a relatively decent life. The others taught me, helped me understand what it meant to be Blood. Understand our power – my power – and how to use it. We all had our differences, but we were connected by something so much more than ourselves: the Blood. The very first girl I met had her link with wind. Her cousin’s link was water. Mine was – is – to shadows. For every aspect of the natural world, there was a Blood with power linked to it. Sometimes, we were able to find someone else with the same power – it was a rare moment to get to share exactly what you felt with someone.
We never could figure out how our links were made, why that part of the world had just somehow connected with our souls. We did know that being born Blood wasn’t random; the power ran in family lines, so if your parents were both Blood, there was almost no chance you wouldn’t be. With just one Blood parent, your odds were still pretty good, but your power might be weaker. And if neither of your parents were Blood (the non-Blood decided to call themselves saren after one of the old queens, Saracen), you were almost never going to find a Blood child in the family… unless he happened to inherit the power from a Blood ancestor, like I did. Usually, children like me could pass as saren. Lady (the woman who adopted me) described it as a twitch – like an extra gust of wind around her when her emotions were high.
My power was strong – stronger than most of the Blood with mixed heritage. And it was unique. The closest I ever found to someone else with shared power was a little girl whose power was over false images, like mirages. It was by no one’s standards a good life, but we managed. We had each other, and that went a long way to ease the hurt we felt at being abandoned by family or friends.
According to the Red King, it was too dangerous to let the Blood and saren live together. How did they know we were telling the truth about our power? What if we could do more, and had kept it secret from the rest of the world? Panic spread so fast, we barely had time to react. One day, families were holding parties, celebrating their Blood child’s latest achievement. The next, they were asking for places to send the Blood. A “safe place” but somewhere far away from them.
The Red King’s work was practically done for him. He offered generous rewards for any Blood turned over to his care. A few saren hesitated, not wanting to split their families, the braver ones even questioning the king’s motives. But the whispers and rumors spread through the cities and bled into neighboring towns and villages until the Blood’s reputation was thoroughly ruined. They were blamed for everything, and people turned them over to the king in droves.
And then came the Sentinels. The king’s elite soldiers trained specifically for the tracking and detainment of the Blood. The saren saw them as guardians. No one asked where the Blood were taken, anymore. All the saren saw was renewed safety in the streets.
We did. Rumors of another kind had reached us, from some of the Blood who had been captured. Run, they said. Run, and never stop. We watched our numbers fall and were convinced that death awaited us at a Sentinel’s hands. We fought back, preferring to die in a fight over whatever the king had in store. My little family group dwindled until there were only three of us left: Lady, her cousin, and myself. The few places that had been Blood-friendly were abandoned. Whole towns were destroyed in the effort to root out the Blood. The saren pulled together, uniting behind their kin for the first time in decades.
And the Blood were nearly wiped out. Where there had once been thousands of us, only tiny pockets remained – those groups of two or three that had managed to hide from the Sentinels. Our houses had fallen; our family lines carrying strong Blood power eradicated. In less than a year, there were only a few dozen of us left.
And still the Sentinels came.
-To be continued-