Child of Fire

Aged only 7 years old, Marsableum was ripped away from her family, her home destroyed, and her name taken. Now, with no memory of her past, her gifts are abused and she is used as a child weapon. Until she turns 14, when suddenly her memories start to awaken. And when she is kidnapped by the people trying to save the kingdom, can she finally unlock her past and use her powers to defeat the dark lord who rules the land? Or will a certain stranger change everything?

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1. The beginning

Sometimes you never realize the true value of things until they are gone.  That was the lesson she learnt aged only 7 years old.

         The warm late evening sun filtered in like ribbons through the half drawn blinds, casting slanting grey shadows across the crisp piece of paper beneath her fingertips.  Molecules of dust swirled into intricate patterns drifting in the fresh breeze from the open window.  The small girl sat beneath the sunlight windowpane, hugging her knees to her chest as she sulkily scowled at the piece of art clutched in her palm.  Attached to the wall opposite, completely covering the dull wooden wall, was a menagerie of hand-drawn sketches, some elegantly coloured in oil paint or coloured pencil, others in varying shades of grey pencil or just simple sketches.   There were various depictions of tall, elegant buildings and churches, regal looking women dressed in ball gowns and finery, fairies dancing in grassy meadows and hills at sunset.  All beautiful, and all unmistakably the work of a child.

         However, the angry dark lines on the parchment before her could hardly be compared to the work on the wall.  Hard, dark lines covered the paper in the bizarre, rage-fuelled scrawl that marred the parchment.  Teardrops stained the paper and glistened on her face, and a snapped pencil lay in half next to it, evidence of her distress.  Life was unfair. Her brother was older than her by two years, and yet he was allowed to run around shooting and fighting all day as he pleased, and yet she wasn’t allowed to draw for more than half an hour without being taken off for a lesson in etiquette or needlework.  And when she dared protest, her finest, most treasured possession, the French watercolour pencils she received for her birthday, were ripped away from her and hidden beyond her reach.  It wasn’t fair!

      She could hear her brother shouting joyously outside with the other boys, the sounds of their happiness were like torments to her in her angst.  Her head jerked up as she heard the soft footsteps of someone ascending the stone tower stairs.  The benefit of being in the highest room in the castle was that she could hear almost everyone going about their daily business, the disadvantage being that there was nowhere for her to go.  She quickly crumpled the parchment, hiding it in her fist and hastily wiping away her tears.  The slight clack of a heel on the footstep meant it could be only one person.  Her mother.

      With deliberate slowness, the door creaked open, and her mother’s head peeked round the door.  She was beautiful.  Her maroon dress was tight on her slim figure, her light brown hair falling loose under a golden circlet.  Her soft brown leather boots peeked out beneath the hem of her majestic floor length gown, and her rich perfume of foreign spices and flowers floated towards her on the breeze.  The little girl glared at her sullenly as she entered the room and stood regarding her.

       “You can’t stay up here all day; sulking is not proper.  There are still many duties and classes that require your attendance”.  Her mother’s voice was brisk and smooth.  There was no point arguing or pleading injustice with her mother-one of her most defining characteristics was her stubbornness, and it was one they both shared.  The 7 year old was suddenly overcome with emotion as tears pricked at her eyes, and she cast her face into her knees and began to sob.  There was soft rustle as her mother sank to her knees beside her, enfolding her in a comforting hug.   Her sobbing subsided as her mother murmured words comfortingly in her ear and she buried her face in the soft folds of her dress, inhaling the familiar, soothing smell and revelling in the warmth and protection of her mother’s arms.

       “It’s not fair. They get to play all day, and all I want to do is-“

    “I know,” she interrupted gently. “I know the world doesn’t seem fair.  And believe me, I felt the same at your age.”

      “I just want to draw” she said beseechingly.  “Things are so different for girls! And I don’t feel complete without my crayons!”

         “Things are always different for girls: more is expected of us, because ultimately we are more important.  These lessons I make you take part in, though they may seem dull and boring, will someday help you greatly, and there will always be time to draw when you are older, and the boys are working men.  I had no choice but to take your pencils; you shouldn’t cheek me so!” her mother chided. The girl grudgingly nodded her head in understanding.

     “What use would the men be without women?  One day, a lot of people are going to rely on you; I just want you to be ready for that day.  I do all these things because I love you, and I’m sorry.  Can you forgive me?”

   The 7 year old smiled at her mother, nuzzling deeper into her skirt by way of reply.  In a small voice, she began to mumble “I’m sorry too-“

  An ear splitting crash resounded through the building, shattering the glass in the frame into a million tiny fragments, and the whole building rattled on its foundations.  They both cried in pain as the glass cut through their clothing, and tears once again pricked at her eyes.  Slowly raucous shouting rose up, men yelling and women and children screaming.  Was that her father’s voice?  Her mother dashed to the window as the clash of swords rose to a crescendo. The 7 year old tried to stand and look out the window, catching a glimpse of a smoke and fire, and the corner of a dark figure just caught her eyes before her mother roughly pushed her back down and against the wall.

           She sat against the wall, panting heavily with wide, fearful eyes.  Her mother had never been violent with her before.  ‘Something truly bad must be happening.  But what?’ the thought was laced with dread.  Her mother stayed fixated at the window, only her eyes betraying the devastation she felt watching the scene below unfold.  After 10 minutes, suddenly the noise stopped.  The sky was black, and wisps of smoke drifted past the window.  She began to stand up, thinking it was all over.  Once again an explosion rocked the castle to its foundations.  She screamed in shock, falling to the floor, as her mother too toppled over.  Another explosion, and then another, rattled the building, until there came the dreaded noise of footsteps thundering around the castle.

      “They’re in the building!” her mother whispered in pure horror, and…was that fear?  She turned to her daughter, as if seeing her for the first time. “Hide! And destroy the paintings!” she hissed urgently.  The girl started, confused.  Her mother gave her a forceful shove in frustration, and then began ripping the artworks off the wall.  Some she screwed into balls, others went flying out the window.   Again the girl was frozen in shock and horror-what was the point of destroying her work?  She shook like a leaf caught in a breeze, fear gripping her in a strangling embrace.

      “Mother, what’s going on?” her voice wobbled like she was on the verge of tears.  Her mother didn’t reply, solely focused on destroying the paintings.  The heavy clunk of many heavy boots ascending the stairs was deafeningly loud in her ear- they were almost at the door, and there was nowhere to hide.  Where was her brother?  Where was father?

   Her mother screamed in frustration, torn between a last-ditch effort to destroy the paintings or to hide.  Finally choosing the latter, she grabbed the little girl roughly and hid her in her flowing skirts behind her ankles. The door burst open; slamming into the wall behind with such force it likely dented it.

             She could only see vague outlines of huge, black, masculine shapes and indistinct, deep harsh voices in contrast to her mother’s powerful shouting.  She pressed her sweaty face to her mother’s legs, desperately trying to calm herself.  She saw one of the men walk up to her mother, could smell the leather of his boots close to her face.  Kicking and screaming her mother was seized, lifted and dragged across the room, cursing loudly in a manner she had never heard her speak.  Two strong men gripped an arm each, her mother hanging in the middle, kicking and thrashing like a trapped animal.

      The girl desperately tried to cling to her mother’s skirts, but they were ripped away and she was left the shivering object of unwanted attention in the centre of the room.  The men were all wearing loose, black metal armour with long helmets that made them look intimidating.  They were leering at her, and one woman in tight armour was kneeling and looking at the remaining portraits on the floor her mother had been unable to destroy.  One of the men referred to the woman as Crystallum.  Was that her name?  She looked up and walked over to the girl.  Crystallum grasped her chin, nails leaving indentations in her jaw.  Her eyes were icy blue and pierced her skull, leaving her trapped like a rabbit in headlights.  And then came the most hideous sight of all…

        Crystallum grinned.  It was a truly evil grimace, a vessel to convey fear, full of untold terrors.

       “This one clearly has a gift,”   The grin didn’t falter, but her voice was as cold as her appearance, only with a slightly excited edge, as if the girl were some fascinating science experiment.  “Our Lord will be most pleased.  She’s coming with us, you know what to do with the others”.  Before the girl could even gasp, she was seized by strong arms from behind and dragged towards the stairs.

         “NO!” screamed her Mother, desperately kicking and fighting even harder.  Crystallum walked up to her mother and slapped her across the face, hard.  Her mother slumped, temporarily stunned, and was yanked down the stairs.  Desperately the girl dived after her, being pushed until she tumbled down the stairs.  Once down and in the kitchen, she saw a man bundling her mother through a side room and towards the courtyard, her limbs now bound with rope.

       “Mother!” yelled the girl, tears pouring relentlessly down her grimy cheeks.  She reached for her mother, forcing fatigued muscles to strain against the hands that confined her.  Her mother looked up at her voice.

     “Be strong my darling, whatever may happen! I love yo-“, Those were the last words she ever heard her mother say, as at that moment a black gloved hand snaked around her mother’s mouth and yanked her backwards, out of sight.  The man behind her tried to do the same to her mouth, which was when she descended into a full scale panic attack.  She had no idea where her father or brother was, her artwork was destroyed, she was covered in cuts and she had lost her mother all in one hour.

    She bit the hand on her mouth, the tang of blood reaching her tongue.  The soldier (at least, she assumed it was a soldier) loosened his grip on her in shock, and she seized the opportunity to break free.  Primal instinct was awoken as she twisted, hissed, bit and writhed like and enraged cobra, screeching at the top of her voce and lashing out wildly in all directions.  She was young and weak, but she was fast and acting purely on instinct; the man could not get a solid grip on her.

     Everything was a blur after that, just like the all of the memories.  Another man joined to help the first, picking her up as she writhed and kicked desperately.  She saw a flash of ice blue as Crystallum approached, broom in hand, agony as she was hit over the head, and then…nothing

 

That was how her story began, aged 7 years old, living with no memory of her past. Until now…

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