Taint

RULES OF THE SYNDICATE:
Respect Dawn.
What she says, goes.
Got it? You're part of us now.

Sometimes, there are chances for redemption, if you look in the right places. After the tragic death of her parents, leaving her and her brother orphaned, she is no longer looking for redemption - she's out for blood.

Seven years after the death of her parents, Dawn, under the alias as Lux, arrives back into the limelight to set her vengeance in motion. Dawn isn't about to let anyone destroy her family
again.

If she's going to fall, then she's going to take everyone down with her.

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SHE READJUSTED her mask, letting it sit on the tip of her nose as she carefully stepped over the sprawled out body. The masquerade mask was a bit tight for her, and she tried to make it as comfortable as possible but the strap kept digging into the back of her head. She ignored the tingly discomfort, tucking her grimace away and swapping it for a polite smile. As she emerged from the shadows, she looked both ways to see if there was anyone in her way but there wasn't anyone important. A few drunken stragglers at the very least, making out with each other and giggling over their hiccups.

She fiddled with the coral ribbons on the poofy dress as the itchy material clung to her skin. Subtle pinches of the clothing away from her skin gave her a few seconds of relief as she strolled towards the entrance in her scruffy trainers. Women wearing exquisite masks, with blue and gold medium-sized feathers pinned to edges of the masks, smiled at her politely and bowed their heads. She hesitated slightly before returning their smile, watching as they struggled in their tightly drawn corsets to move and even breathe. She could never understand point  of condemning herself to near death just for the sake of fashion. Respect? Awe? She didn't wish to know, there was no point concerning herself with such trivial matters.

She was certainly sure that her scruffy trainers were not right for this type of attire. The invitation specifically said heels but she was sure that nobody would notice her right toe sticking out of her old shoes. The dress was far too inconvenient to move around in, let alone purposely show her feet off to her adoring fans. She couldn't allow them to see her shoes, could she? It'd be too much of a fuss, too much.

The lace part of the dress trailed behind her as she strolled along the pavement, knowingly ignoring the friendly looks that were aimed at her. She lifted the trails off the ground so that the jagged rocks don't tear at the badly sewn seams. Too late, she thought as she heard the heart-breakingfamiliar rrrip. She growled under her breath as she crouched down to separate the rocks from the dress. She struggled to get back up again, toppling over on the pavement and grazing her leg. She hissed as the dress brushed against her graze. She could feel the trickles of blood run down her leg, making its way through the maze of baby hairs on her leg.

A hand appeared in front of her, its palm outstretched attached to man wearing a navy velvet suit. He took her hand before she had a chance to offer it, pulling her onto her feet. She hesitated before giving him her thanks, not at all used to this type of treatment. He linked her arms with hers as he led her to the entrance of the grand hall.

"This is your vine de vârstă, correct?" He asked.

She simply nodded, fearing that the quiver in her voice would give her away. He smiled in return, slowly dropping his hand to the lower part of her back, weaving her in between the crowd. She struggled to maintain her composure as she felt his hand droop even lower. Managing to lose him in the waves of people, she shook the lingering feeling of his unpleasant touch on her lower back. Is this what these girls faced now? She wanted to punch him in the face, wanted to hear that satisfying crack of his nose as her fist connected with it. Yet, she restrained herself.

There would be time for that, she reassured herself. She had suffered, often wondering whether or not she would see the light of day again while the men and women here had been gallivanting with their fancy cocktails and their little pieces of food on tiny wooden sticks. Tasty little pieces of food on sticks, she thought to herself as she grabbed another four, in addition to the three she already had in her hand, off the serving tray. The pale waiter sent her a strange look but said nothing as he slinked away into the crowd. She stuffed the remaining four into the pockets under the ruffles of her dress, hoping that she could save them for later.

She smoothed the ruffles of her dress and turned around, watching as the crowd danced with each other to the classical music. A woman, dressed in a pale pink ball gown, giggled as a man spun her gracefully under her arm. The ball gown twirled with her, settling down as she rested in his arms.

"Aja!" A voice called her over, and she tore her attention from the obviously-in-love couple to search for the source.

There was no need for her to look so desperately as the crowd started to part to form a clear path in the middle. Men and women alike bowed to her as she walked past, trying to not trip on her dress. Her father looked proudly as she made her way to him, tears welling up in his eyes as he hugged her close. She wrapped her arms around him, feeling the warmth spreading around her body and making its way to her heart.

He stood her at arm's length, looking closely at her eyes then enveloping her again a hug. She buried her head in his shoulder, trying to savour every part of this moment.

He addressed the crowd. "It's my pleasure to..." He choked on his words, pausing to regain his composure. "welcome you to my beautiful, intelligent, loving daughter's vine de vârstă celebration." He turned to her, his grey eyes welling up with tears as he tried to sniff them away. "I'm so incredibly proud of you. How much you've grown in the past few years, how much you've progressed into this beautiful young woman. I am so lucky to have seen you transform into the woman you are today."

She could hear the sniffles from the crowd and she tried so hard not to cry. She just let the tears sit there with no way of escape. She watched as he disentangled his arms from her body and stepped away from her and walked towards the crowd.

"When she came to me, a year ago, telling me that she wanted to lead her own pack – a new pack – I didn't know what to do with myself," He chuckled along with the crowd, "but who am I to deny the wishes of my own child? Today, you all bear witness to this magnificent event. Today is the day that my daughter becomes a kaiārahi."

Someone wearing a full face silver mask walked towards him and bowed as he lifted a scroll sitting on top of a red pillow. Her father gestured for her to come closer and she obeyed his orders, lifting her dress above the ground slightly so she didn't trip over. Her father opened the scroll, she watched as the ends of the scroll hung over the pillow, swinging slightly in the air as her father signed with the feathered quill.

She never had time to look closely at the scroll, at what the different foreign words and terms meant. It was tradition for the father to step away and turn around, it symbolised breaking the bond between father and child, allowing the child to mature on their own. This was only the first step, she knew that.

With the feathered quill in her trembling hand, her handwriting was shaky as she signed her signature on the scroll. The child would then have to kneel, symbolising the humble beginnings of this new chapter in their lives, then close the scroll themselves. On her knees, she struggled to re-scroll the contract, her hands shaking as she wrapped the ribbon around the scroll. She heard some concerned gasps in the crowd, as the ribbon fell to the ground in front of her. She had come too far to embarrass herself at this point. She steadied her shaky hands and tied the ribbon in a perfect bow. She stood up, suddenly remembering the graze on her lower thigh as it brushed against the fabric of the dress and held the scroll high above her head.

She looked proudly as the crowd roared with applause, looking at her with awe-stricken faces. Someone swung the door but the noise was disguised against the roar of the crowd, but she noticed it. She hugged her father quickly, before trying to make her way through the fixed crowd. Some moved out of her way but some stood in their place, apparently frozen in the presence of a new kaiārahi. She ducked and weaved out of the crowd until she was standing at the edge of the crowd.

"Stop her!" Someone shouted over the loud noise.

She had to go now. Her heart raced as she looked for the nearest exit, realising that the nearest door was blocked by a procession of cake stalls.

"Aja is dead!" Someone cried out, making the crowd pause as they turned round to face the source of the voice.

He stood by the door, mask removed and sitting on top of his head. His hands were bloodied and his white and black suit obviously stained with a mixture of blood and alcohol. There was a foul stench coming from his suit too, and she knew it wasn't the vomit she had almost stepped in earlier.

"If you don't believe me, then come see for yourself!"

She started to back away from the crowd, looking for the next nearest exit. There was a door that led to a long hallway, perhaps if she could just slowly back away, then she could escape without all the drama.

The current kaiārahi ran past the bloodied man, shoving him into the nearest column to see his apparent daughter. The crowd followed him, amassing around the entrance to the grand hall. She took this distraction as an opportunity to open the door as silently as she could. She ran, ripping the ruffles off her so she had more freedom to run. The only problem was that they now knew where she had ran to. She unzipped the corset, allowing her to breathe more freely.

The man's wail made it to the hallway she was currently running in. Her heart almost broke at the sound of it, and she almost second-guessed herself. She almost stopped but she didn't. Something in her, call it her instincts, call it fight or flight, told her to keep going. A scuffle around the door forced her to run faster, almost making her sprint. The graze ached but she still kept going.

"Get her!"

She jimmied the door handle, looking back to see the horde of men tripping over themselves and the stairs as they neared closer to her. She whispered to the moons above, hoping that she would at least leave this place alive.

At the very last moment, just when she thought about giving up, the door swung open, making her losing her grip. Someone threw themselves at her and grabbed a handful of her dress. She kicked him in the face, ignoring his painful groans. She jumped down, ripping the dress in the process.

She heard the painful cries of the kaiārahi echo through the night, as he emptied his entire mournful soul into the stars. She climbed over the wall, ignoring the pang in her heart as she heard the collective mourning of the crowd.

I'm sorry.

 
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