Before the Fall

Fanfiction of When the World Falls to Darkness by DragonSoulJess.

The fall has begun. alliances are being formed, and guardians are being rounded up. In a small outpost called Ryoko, a small number of guardians still fight for their freedom.

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18. Message

    “What happened to your eye?” Kylora asked softly. She and Ash stood in a small courtyard, waiting for their respective masters to arrive. Ash had said they would be sparring. It didn’t sound threatening, but there was fear in his eyes when he said it. She had no doubt that they would be injured by the end of this.

    Ash’s hand rose to his solid white eye, and he looked away with shame. “It’s… nothing.”

    “Did your master do that to you?” Kylora insisted. It had taken her too long to get up the will to ask him. She couldn’t lose it now.

    Ash hesitated, and then nodded slowly. His eyes flicked around the courtyard before focusing back on Kylora’s face. “Master… he’s fond of harsh punishments. One day… I messed up. I did something to make him angry. There’s a kind of plant called skybane. If you mix the leaves with water, they dissolve into a blueish acid. It’s very powerful- it can burn your skin. Master made me mix the acid myself. Then he had two guards hold me still, while he poured the acid into my eye.” Ash winced at the memory. “The pain was… unbearable. I blacked out, I’m sure. I begged him for mercy, but he just laughed at me, and let me suffer. Finally, he stopped. I ran back to my shed, and dunked my face into the bucket of water, trying to wash out some of the poison. I only got there in time to save one of my eyes.”

    “That’s awful,” Kylora whispered.

    Ash dropped his eyes away from hers. “It could have been worse,” she murmured. “One of the angel servants tried to sneak a little bit of extra food, and he cut off one of her fingers. He did it himself, while the guards held the angel still. Most masters would let their guards do the dirty work, but him… he’s different. He enjoys the pain he causes us. It’s like-”

    “Feeling chatty today, guardian?”

    Both Ash and Kylora spun in alarm. Both Aaron and his father were standing at the edge of the courtyard. Each had sheathed swords. Aaron still wouldn’t meet Kylora’s eyes, but his father stared Ash down. Ash’s eyes locked on his feet, and he mumbled what sounded vaguely like an apology.

    “What was that?” the human spoke calmly, but Kylora could hear the cruel edge to his voice. He enjoyed Ash’s fear- enjoyed seeing his guardian suffer.

    “No master. I’m sorry master. I won’t speak again,” Ash repeated, a bit louder this time.

    “Good. Don’t let me hear your voice a second time.”

    Ash opened his mouth to respond, then closed it and nodded vigorously. The human laughed, and readied his sword, pointing it at Ash.

    “You know what to do, guadian. Get to it.”

    Ash scrambled to the side, and picked up a sword. He grabbed another, and handed it to Kylora. She stared at it dumbly. They were being given weapons? That didn’t make any sense. The humans hated them, and didn’t trust them. Why would they give them weapons?

    Ash looked at her, and she saw the message in his eyes. Take it. Please. He was terrified of his master. Kylora felt a surge of guilt. Aaron seemed a much better master than his father.

    Better is a relative term when it comes to humans

    She took the sword, and Ash let out a soft breath of relief. Then he followed the human to one side of the courtyard where they began to fight.

    Kylora watched with interest. Ash wasn’t as strong or fast as the human, and his blind eye gave him a disadvantage. The human struck at him again and again. Blood began to flow from small cuts in Ash’s arms, but they kept fighting. The human smiled, and Kylora shuddered. As they circled each other, she saw the wild, panicked look in Ash’s eyes, and she wished there was something she could do to help. She almost started forwards, when Aaron let out a little cough behind her. She turned to look at him.

    “You’re supposed to be a sparring partner,” he explained. “You can fight with a sword?”

    Kylora hesitated. Then, slowly, she nodded.

    “Okay.” Aaron swung his sword at her, and she blocked. The blow jarred her arm. The sharp pain startled her. She hadn’t realized how much her time as a slave had weakened her, but her arms shook as she tried to lift the sword. She blocked Aaron’s blows, but made no attempt at striking back. She shuffled around the courtyard, doing her best to block. Aaron, for his part, looked like he was concentrating intensely. He feinted to the right, and Kylora swung her sword to stop him. Suddenly, he jerked the blade to the left. Too slow to stop him, Kylora watched as the blade, seemingly in slow motion, sliced open her arm.

    Instantly Aaron lowered the sword and stared at her in wonder.

    “It’s the same,” he murmured.

    Kylora raised her eyebrows- the closest she could get to a question. Aaron answered her unspoken query with shock and amazement.

    “Your blood. It’s the same color as mine.”

    Obviously, Kylora thought, confused. Blood was blood. It was the same color no matter who bled it. Why should that amaze a human so much? Surely he’d seen plenty of blood spilt. Then she remembered how naive and foolish he seemed. Maybe he hadn’t. Maybe he’d lived a sheltered life. The opposite of Kylora. She had been taught the reality of the world at a young age. She would never be that childish.

    “I mean, I thought guardians would have a different color of blood. Since you take two forms. I thought maybe your blood would be blue or green, but it’s not. It’s red. Just like mine.” He was far too obsessed with this fact. Why would it matter that their blood was the same color? Did he think that gave them something in common? The human must have been misguided in more than one way if he believed something so straightforward and simple.

    There was a loud, jarring clang and a victorious laugh from the human. Ash’s sword had been knocked from his hands, and he cowered away from the human standing over him. With a triumphant smirk, the human slammed Ash over the head with the hilt of his sword. Ash crumpled to the ground, completely limp and unconscious. Kylora bit back a cry of protest. It wasn’t her place to argue, disagree, or fight back. It was her place to shut up and do what she was told. And nothing else. She had to remember that, or she was going to get herself killed.

    I’ll get myself killed eventually anyways, she thought, seeing the triumphant light in the human’s eyes as he stood over Ash’s fallen form.

    Soft footsteps distracted her as an angel walked into the yard. His eyes were downcast, and she caught a glimpse of emerald green wings, bound against his back.

    “Master, there’s a message for you,” he murmured.

    Kylora watched silently as the human turned on the angel, smiling cruelly as the angel flinched away from him in fear. As the angel spoke softly, Kylora could almost imagine Miel standing in his place- a prisoner just like she was. It terrified her and made her angry. The human seemed to grow more and more dissatisfied with what the angel was saying. He began to reach for his sword, and the angel cowered away in terror. Kylora’s hands began to hook into claws, some of her old spirit surfacing. She let out a low growl.

    She hadn’t meant for it to be loud, but her growl echoed around the courtyard. Both the angel and the human fell still. Then both turned to look at her in disbelief.

    “What was that, guardian?” the human said quietly. “Did you have a comment to add?” He sneered at her, and her blood boiled. A part of her was terrified, but her passion burned strong, if only for a brief moment.

    “Leave him alone,” she said softly. “It’s not his fault that he has to deliver a message you don’t like.”

    “I am the master of this household,” the human said quietly. “I decide what is and isn’t satisfactory, including my servant’s delivery. You serve me, and my son. You are not entitled to any opinion. Your job is to keep silent, and not speak, understand?!” He advanced towards her, and she shrunk back, knowing she had gone too far. What had made her think her burst of passion would lead to anything but trouble? Of course she shouldn’t have spoken up. She was an idiot. An idiot. And yet, seeing Ash crumpled at his feet, something inside of her had started to burn. That little bit of spirit both amazed and terrified her. But here it would do her no good. She would just get herself killed if she tried to feed that spirit, and she couldn’t risk that. She had to stay alive, so that she could someday see Hylla again and apologize to her for failing her as a sister. So that she could tell Miel she should have been a better friend- should have been more grateful to Miel for saving her life. She had failed both of them so many times, and she had never been able to properly apologize to them for it.

    She nodded slowly, but it did nothing to dispel the human’s anger.

    “You’d better remember your place, guardian,” he growled. “I could have killed you if I wished. You were so weak and helpless that it would have been easy. I spared you, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hesitate even for a second to end your miserable life if you step too far out of place. You’re done being that passionate leader that you imagined yourself to be. Now get back, and don’t let me hear you speak again!”

    Kylora backed away, head down. Quietly, she cursed herself. She was an absolute idiot. She had lost her passion in that underground torture cell, away from the sun. She couldn’t just go and find it again. She would end up dead.

    She started to turn back to Aaron, when she heard the unmistakable sound of a sword being drawn. She turned back in time to see the human run the angel through with his sword. The angel collapsed to the ground soundlessly, dead.

    “No!” Kylora screamed with fury. She lunged forwards, but Aaron was suddenly behind her, grabbing her arms and pulling her back.

    “Are you crazy?!” he hissed in her ear. “My father will kill you!”

    Kylora ignored him. To her, the fallen angel was Miel, who the human had just so callously killed. The human watched her struggle against Aaron with a little smile.

    “Control your guardian, son,” he said firmly.

    “Stop fighting,” Aaron insisted.

    Kylora’s eyes focused on the two bodies on the ground. Ash, unconscious, and the unnamed angel, dead. All at once, all the fury went out of her, and she sunk to her knees with a soft sob. The angel was facedown. They had died with their face away from the sun. Died because their master was in a bad mood. And Ash… just a practice target.

    I hate you, she thought at the human, her mind full of misery and fury. I hate you!

    “Get out of here, guardian,” the human ordered quietly. “Take my guardian with you, and don’t let me see either of you again until this evening.”

    Kylora nodded weakly, and lifted Ash, slinging his arm around her shoulder. He was heavy, and she stumbled under his weight momentarily, before getting a hold of herself. She lifted him into her arms, and then ran from the courtyard. She tried not to look at the fallen body of the angel, but the image stayed in her head. Red blood, against green wings, under a cruel, blue sky.

 
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