Chapter Eight: Aura

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"Aura, I'm hungry. We haven't eaten anything since our meat pies. And that was a long time ago, like, we slept two times since then."

Aura inspected the frail frame of her youngest sibling, who was sitting quietly in a corner of the small makeshift home, her face unusually pale. She had wanted to wait a while before venturing out again since the hooded one would no doubt be searching for her. It was dangerous to use her gift on them, for magic was practically illegal in Allegora, despite the fact that the humans shared the world with dragons, griffins, dryads, and more.

"I promise I will go find something today, alright? We must be careful though, Oobay is a dangerous place. If they were to find you, they would take you away from me. You understand that, don't you?"

Aerik and Aela nodded solemnly, their faces hollowed with hunger. Aura's heart bled at the sight; they were starving, all of them. She would have to take another risky venture to get food. They were definitely looking for her, so she would have to be extremely careful. Usually, it wasn't tough pick-pocketing a few coins here and there, but this was food, something that was always hoarded and treasured.

"I'll take care of Aela while you're away and she can take care of me." Aerik put an arm around the youngest and grinned. "We'll watch each other."

Aela giggled, her nose scrunching up. "Yep, we can watch each other while you're gone. I'll make sure Aerik doesn't do anything crazy," she added, a smirk on her little features.

Aura grabbed them up into a big hug, her heart full of love for the little terrors. "You're both so brave. Mama and Papa would be proud. I promise I'll be back as soon as I can. Remember, if I don't return by the time the sun has come up again, go to Mam McPhobe's home. There should be a purse of coins under my bed. Take those with you and give them to her. She will keep you both safe until I return."

Aura knew there were no real coins in the purse; she would have used them for food already if there were. It was a coded message that Mam McPhobe would know. It meant that Aura's abilities had finally been discovered and that she was either dead or captured. The woman owed Aura a favor for helping her fall asleep at night when she was unable to.

Sleep was precious to the people of Oobay. Falling asleep while working was deadly. Either the machinery would kill you or the hooded ones. It also meant punishment for your families. So, you got as much as sleep as you possibly could and hoped that you wouldn't be the next one to die.

Aura had saved the favor for a day such as this. She had always known her abilities would one day be found out and that she'd be hunted for them. At least the children would have someone to care for them, for Mam McPhobe was a kind woman, though strict. She had been one of the few to encourage Aura to stay out of the factories. She was also one of the few who wasn't broken by Oobay.

"Goodbye," she called as she exited their tiny home. "I'll be back soon." They shouted a cheerful response, bringing a smile to her face.

Jogging slowly to the end of the alley, Aura looked cautiously about, having seen firsthand where being hasty got you.

The streets were busy--as usual--the heavy smog hanging like a floating blanket over the tops of the buildings. More people died from breathing in the noxious fumes that the factories constantly belched out than from the hooded ones, but the people still feared them more, for they had the power to send you to the palace. The one place that just might be worse than Denthlire, the king's personal prison for those who defied him.

Everyone was going about their usual business, veils drawn across their faces to prevent the inevitable decay of their lungs. Everyone here worked in the factory, unless you ran your own business, like the baker. Those who had their own occupation were extremely lucky and among the very few to have any real rights.

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