I am

"She was made out of pure spirit and life. A star on earth. Yet a hurricane in space. Cassiopeia Turow was different."
When Cassiopeia leaves her small island of Sars for the continent Irille she's in for more than she bargained for. Between seeking out adventure and making a tenuous friendship with the King, she has a drug that grants superpowers and the elusive Sect organisation to deal with.


19. "It upped the stakes,"



“That frightened her didn’t it? A threat to those she loved.”

“It upped the stakes and along with that it upped the pressure that everyone felt.”


Three and a half months ago

The Golden Compass


Being held aloft in a cocoon of blankets, Cassiopeia allowed herself to think. Her mind spun and spun in hopeless thoughts like a washing machine and her eyes felt two red balls screwed onto her head. She had cried so much that she felt awful. But she felt comfortable; a comfort like going home after a long time away, or getting into a warm bed after being out in the numbing cold. The comfort wasn’t enough however, and Cassiopeia felt herself tumbling and tumbling and tumbling.

Memory after memory stirred and although she didn’t wish it, they came up and surfaced with wild abandon. Today had been a day of many firsts.

Stumbling around without being able to see, the Sect had let her go after their intimidation tactics and of course they didn’t want to alert her to her current whereabouts. No, they made her wear a blind fold for that. Stumbling around and then being manually pushed out of the door, it was only when she knew that she was alone that she herself removed the blindfold and found herself near a pond. Shaken and wistful about what had just happened she made her way back into town, stumbling for a while before finding her baring’s. She did not go home, neither did she head in that general direction. Cassiopeia just went into town and she felt that the more people that surrounded her would mean more safety.

To answer the great question that hung like a rain cloud, yes Cassiopeia was scared after the meeting. Suddenly getting a job and your family being threatened if you didn’t perform that job was unsettling. Being kidnapped by someone that she lived with made her afraid to even go to the place where she now called home. She was scared to get close to the family again because once they had said, I’ll be there for you, and then voluntarily took her to them without any question. It was the first time that someone had betrayed her trust so readily like that. Cassiopeia had never felt that before and it was like a knife splitting her spine in two. She felt fragile and defeated. A complete stranger to the person she was. The last time she had felt that low was when she had killed two people.

The incident reminded her of something that her mother had once said. Back then the worst thing that could happen to her was to have a bad nightmare and her mother would come in and stroke her hair, and tell her a story until she fell asleep. She didn’t have her mother there now but the memory was welcome.

All you need to do is breathe. It’s okay. As long as you breathe then you know that everything is going to be alright. Breathing means that you are alive and that means that tomorrow you can fix the mistakes of today. Breathing allows you to remember all of those times that you ever felt the same level of pain and desperation and hurt that you have before. It reassures you that since you got over those hurdles that time, then you can get over those hurdles this time. You made it through everything life has thrown at you and that is shown in the way that you are still breathing. You are a powerful human being and breathing is the most overlooked and most essential thing you can do. This struggle is a single part of this life and as long as you push forward and keep breathing, you will be alright. I love you and your awesome self Cassiopeia, remember that.

That was the first time that Cassiopeia had really allowed herself to think of her home and her family. She was ashamed that thinking of them made her feel so sick and wound up like a coil that she didn’t even want to remember them in too much detail.

This was not the first but the second time that she had felt that her home wasn’t her home. Things would be alright, but she couldn’t go home just yet. Going home wasn’t safe for her. It was strange to think that a town full of strangers was safer than a place with two familiar people. The first time was back on Sars and again thinking back made her stomach twist like it was a constant and still tornado within her body. To distract herself she found herself walking and walking aimlessly. Cassiopeia felt lost and abandoned. It was not a good feeling to have. Wandering around she found herself on the Walkers Plaza, the one street that was essential to get to anywhere important and which had a series of shops worth entering.

The noise coming from the center of the plaza reminded Cassiopeia of the first day that she came to Irille. Instead of an execution there was a protest. One person stood in the center of a ring of people and that person was a woman. She looked put together and falling apart at the exact same time. Her face may have been carefully constructed with makeup to appear to have blushed cheeks and defined eyes but Cassiopeia could tell, in her stance and in her fraying dress that she wasn’t what she appeared to be. At first she was handing out leaflets but when one person too many pushed past her in ignorance, the leaflets were thrown up in the air. Some of them cascaded like confetti, rising up and then falling down, and others floated like birds, giving some flaps before landing on the cobbles. From the corner of a shop, where Cassiopeia was dwelling, she could see the deliberately covered defeat shown in that motion. Then a little girl, maybe of about five or six, picked up a leaflet and stepping away from her father, gave it back to the woman now kneeling down.

Cassiopeia couldn’t hear what the little girl said to the woman but it must have been inspiring. As in moments, the woman was back on her feet and shouting. She rose a crowd of women with her words and Cassiopeia was drawn away from her corner.

“We have been silenced for far too long!” The woman shouted and the women around her cheered. However, the men felt the need to grab the arms of their wives and drag them away from the protest. “We are women and we deserve a voice. We are people just as much as they and we don’t want to be bought like pigs at a farm. We want our husbands to take our surnames one day. We want equality.”

“It’s embarrassing how the New World is worse than the Old World.” Someone from the crowd screamed out and chaos descended on the group. A sense of camaraderie was strong within them all.

“Pick up a leaflet and write about women on the back, it may just show you how women are best supported from women themselves. It may just show how awesome women truly are.”

Cassiopeia didn’t know where the drive to write came from but it came like great gust of wind:

There are many types of women out there. There are the moonbeam girls, the ones of soft curves and a shining gaze. Their voices are like a warm cup of tea and a blanket of comfort. There are also the sunshine girls, the ones who are comfortable in their own skins and make you feel beautiful because just looking at them makes you feel worth it. Along with them there are the stardust girls who are ethereal and then the galaxy girls who are a great combination of everything imaginable. We may be complicated, but as women we are just as much a part of this universe as the men. It’s time that this universe sees how strong we are.

She handed the leaflet back to the woman when she was done and felt herself become heavier than before. Acknowledging it all made her feel as though she was an anchor and she didn’t want to be made of metal.

One thing that she saw since arriving at Irille was that the gender divide was stronger than it was in Sars. A bigger population seemed to fuel the fire when it came to inequality. But it was the first time that Cassiopeia had gotten the chance to reflect on the hatred and resentment she felt due to the divide. She had moved away from Sars to seek a better world and all she had found was a worse world. It was the first time that she let all of her emotions crash over her and she stood there, in the middle of a crowd of women, just reflecting on everything that she had ever experienced. It was a strange occurrence and afterwards she felt herself ache. All she wanted was to go to bed. But that would also mean going home. 

As she walked away she figured something out; Cassiopeia never learned the names of any of the women in the group but she felt safe in their presence.

Her steps felt like lead as she neared the Golden Compass and as she arrived she didn’t want to go in. She knew that she would eventually have to but that didn’t mean that she had to like it. Cassiopeia found the tavern closed and the inside barren of life. It was only when she pushed herself upstairs that she could tell that anyone was there at all. She heard arguing.

“What on earth were you thinking? No, don’t speak, you obviously weren’t thinking.” That was Lisa and her shouts indicated that she was furious. Nearing ever closer to the arguing couple, Cassiopeia could see that they were on the landing and Lisa had her back to the younger girl. It was Bruce that met her eyes and both sets of eyes could not have moved away from each other any faster than they did. It was the way that Bruce shied away from eye contact that alerted Lisa that she was there. The elder woman was quick to hug the younger girl, and Cassiopeia felt the echo of her ribs hurting due to the force of the embrace.

“I’m so glad that they didn’t hurt you,” Lisa whispered and Cassiopeia felt herself freezing. How did she know about them? Cassiopeia asked the question. “Girl, I think you should sit down.” Lisa led the girl to her bedroom and all three of them sat. Bruce may have been the furthest away from her but Cassiopeia still didn’t feel quite safe.

It made her skin crawl.

Lisa nudged Bruce and the man was forced to speak due to the sheer intensity of his wife’s gaze. “Cass, I am so, so, so sorry about what I’ve done to you,” his voice was gruff and apologetic as he talked, “I had no choice in the matter but be rest assured that I would never do that to you willingly.”

“You would never betray my trust, never drug me, never drag me out and physically leave me in a place that I didn’t know.” Cassiopeia tugged her hands between her legs and looked at her knees. She couldn’t bear to look at the sad face of the man who had just kidnapped her that morning.

“Let me tell you it from my point of view, please allow me. I won’t do anything that you don’t want to do.” Bruce moved one step closer to her and watched as the younger girl visibly flinched. Cassiopeia hated feeling vulnerable and emotionally broken. It made her feel weak and those who were weak didn’t survive for long.

She only nodded because a brain without all the information was ignorant.

“It started when I was sixteen and a member of the guard. I was impressionable but I was also good at my job. A man approached me and told me that the people I worked for were ordering a hit on another man. He asked me whether or not I would like to work for someone who openly assassinated others they perceived as a threat to their public image. I didn’t believe it until he showed me that the King himself killed someone with his bare hands after a young woman threatened to admit that she was carrying the King’s bastard son. Horrified, I quit my job as soon as I could without looking suspicious and I worked for the man who approached me. The Sect. It’s an organisation whose pure existence is based on creating a pure and perfect society. They believe that their first objective is solving the political system. I didn’t do much, just did admin and stuff like that. But the group as a whole had the best intentions for Irille. They didn’t do anything drastic back then but the men who work there were those without families. There were no kids or settling down when it came to stopping political corruption.


“I met Lisa when I was twenty and as I fell in love I realised that the Sect wasn’t the right place for me. I distanced myself, allowing myself to become more of an ally, instead of an active participant. I moved back in with my parents and worked at the family business here. I fell more in love with Lisa and as my life progressed I forgot all about the Sect. They approached me again when we found out that Lisa couldn’t get pregnant. They said that they had hunted down a criminal ring of child smugglers that the palace had turned a blind eye on. We fostered a girl from there, Maddie she was called, but with her came problems. The Sect took it as me becoming a member again and I worked long hours. Maddie was emotionally traumatized and a sick child and when she grew terminally ill it made us seek her real parents. She spent her last days as a five year old with her parents and us. The trauma that her death caused resulted in me cutting all ties with the Sect for good. They left us alone until earlier last week. One of their operatives came to me during a night when I was locking up and demanded that I would escort you to a location. I didn’t want to do it and I refused. However, the Sect isn’t as pure as it once was and the leader came to me the next time and he threatened Lisa and you if I didn’t do it. He promised me that you would not be harmed and gave me all the tools to do it. He was expecting you to arrive at a specific time and area, and if you weren’t there he was coming to extract you with force. I felt that if I did it you would be safer and so with my hands tied I swallowed all of my morals and did it. I hated it. I confessed to Lisa straight away once I had done it.”

“Where did you take me?”

“To a van, in some street or another. The Sect has changed their hide out since the time when I worked for them all of those twenty years ago.”

Nausea swam in her stomach and crawled up her throat. The Sect wasn’t as pure as it would have liked to have been. Forcing a man to kidnap someone was far from the pure and careful decorum that they were perceived to have. Their image was unadulterated illusory.

“I can’t trust you now,” Cassiopeia whispered and didn’t look at them, “It’s too much.” But there was one thing that she was absolutely sure of, “You aren’t the enemy here, the political system is. If it wasn’t corrupt the Sect wouldn’t have its objectives and it wouldn’t exist.”

Lisa burst into tears then and fiercely hugged the girl. Bruce didn’t want to approach in fear that he would further traumatize her, but he moved closer when Cassiopeia lifted a nearly tearful gaze to meet his. The three of them hugged and although it wasn’t the comfort that Cassiopeia would need, it was enough. It was something.

Cassiopeia stayed in bed for the rest of the evening and Lisa brought up food for her. Being a blanket burrito was safer than out there had been. When the room stopped spinning in memories she allowed herself to just be there.

It wasn’t very heroic of her to be this raw and collapsed. It wasn’t very appealing to look at either, especially since you could barely see that Cassiopeia was a person and not a part of the covers. But it was what she needed and so the aesthetics were screwed. Avery and Tommen would tell her to get up, the job that she had would demand her to get up, but for now she could just simply exist. For now, she could be there within those covers and she could recover. Once one hits rock bottom, and she believed that this was her rock bottom due to how stripped back she felt, the only direction to go towards was up.

Every hero has a breaking point, they have many breaking points in fact, and they can allow it to shatter them completely or force it to build a new layer to them. Cassiopeia hoped that today would prove to have the latter effect on her. Hope was a creature with feathers though. Fleeting yet elaborate. 


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