Chapter 3 (30th of Rumatan in the year 6190)

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When one becomes two

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When one becomes two. When one goes away. When one is scared. When one is angry. The souls can never be at peace. And the world will suffer.

-Prophecy 3411 by Aricese

-Prophecy 3411 by Aricese

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*Six Years Later*

The hushed call of her name startled her. Dazed, the elder daughter of Stormband turned over as the straw of her mat cut into her sides. She blinked and stared as Cassandra stood over her.

"Aw, Cass," Sheala moaned. "What is it? Go back to sleep."

Sheala rolled over and pulled her tattered blanket over her shoulders. With winter looming, the nighttime air was crisp as rain pounded outside, driving a chill into her. The lumber comprising the walls and floor of the broken down, old supply wagon that passed as their home these days desperately need repair. Many of the boards were so warped that the gaps between them provided little protection from the elements. It was tightly packed with crates of various sizes and contents, forcing the cots the girls had been relegated to sleeping on to be shoehorned tightly into one corner.

Cassandra shook her. "Come on sis, we're getting out of here."

Sheala pulled away from her hand. "What are you talking about?" She rubbed her eyes with the desire to return to her sleep as the soothing warmth of the medallion about her neck calmed her agitation. "We don't have anywhere to go. Besides," she yawned, "it's not so bad."

"Not so bad!" Cassandra quickly lowered her voice. "Sheala, you've been caught three times in as many days. How much longer do you think Ebeth will be able to keep you from real trouble? Sooner or later, someone's not going to give in to him. What happens then? This little scam you two have going? The one where you pick pockets while his performers and freaks distract the audience? It's going to get you in real trouble."

"Cass, I'm just having an off week is all. I've been doing this for what, four years?" Yawning again, Sheala pleaded, "Now let me sleep."

"What happens if one of the town guards catches you?" Her younger sister warned. "I heard someone today say they recognized you as the same girl that got caught two days ago. He can't protect you forever."

"You're just upset," Sheala snapped, "because the only thing you're good at is scrubbing the pots."

Cassandra planted an angry foot on the loose boards of the old wooden floor. She moved aside the tangle of long red hair that fell into her eyes and barked, "Fine! If all you want to do with your life is to scrape and steal with Ebeth and his gypsy freaks, that's your call." Turning, Cassandra felt for the knob of the rickety wagon door. "I'm through being their little slave."

As the door opened in her hand, the wind howled inside and rain spat at her face. Cassandra wiped it from her eyes, pulled her raveled coat over her shoulders, and leapt to the ground with a muddied splash. Transfixed on the door, she watched as it closed in the darkness, as though it were a story in the book of her life ending. Something inside her desperately wanted to reopen it and read that story again and she almost turned around. Almost.

Sheala listened to the door as it pulled shut, first with a strained creak of the spring and then a tooth rattling double bang as it bounced against its frame. She lay there for a while, expecting her twin to return. Just like so many times previously.

Sometimes Cassandra lingered longer than others on the other side of the wagon's door. Sheala imagined her twin, standing there, pondering what life would be like if she didn't come back; what her world would become if she chose to leave behind the only family she had left.

But the time continued to pass. The door never did reopen.

Sheala laid there for long hours. In hopeful silence, she continued her wait until the rains subsided and the morning sun began to break through gaps between the boards of the supply wagon's sides. She clutched at the medallion she wore, the one her father had given to her six years ago. Its warmth was now faded, making it feel like a worthless trinket and not something special. The distance between the two daughters of Stormband had grown too far apart, and it had never before been this lifeless.

For the first time, Sheala considered herself alone; truly alone. And it scared her.

She closed her eyes tightly and whispered, not knowing what else to do. "She's gone, Father. Cass is gone ... Please don't leave me alone too, Father."


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