|Stories, Stars, and Wishes|
|Series||A Twist in the Road: The Black City by Jewelist|
|Previous||An Untimely Name|
|← An Untimely Name||Chapter Chronology||?? →|
10. Stories, Stars, and WishesEdit
“But the letter says he's nice!” I shot back, feeling fear well up inside of me and completely aware of how childish sounding that my exclamation had been. The happiness and relief that had overcame me was quickly being replaced with the horror of not being able to find my sister ever again, or that she was with some mad man who was just acting to make sure she thought he was there to help her. “Phoebe, this could mean anything, good or bad!”
"I know,” she said quickly. “But that's just it... Suppose he is nice. Suppose she really isn't in danger,” Phoebe tilted her head, an indecisive expression covering her face. “And suppose he is going to make her stay there. Clearly he won't be able to get his hands on Theresa who brought her back. So I would assume that's why he wants to take your sister instead.”
Something rang in my mind. It wasn't the best timing in the world to remember to ask, but no matter what happened in my life, I was always in a hurry. I felt as though this is something that I needed to know. “Phoebe, before anything else...” I struggled to remember Theresa's words. “Theresa said you were born in the same town... Just how old are the both of you?”
Phoebe gestured towards the Gypsy Camp. “Let's talk as we find a place to stay, alright? It's kind of a long story.” Marten led the way and we trailed behind, following him up the winding hill. When we set foot on the bridge, Phoebe spoke: “You know Wraithmarsh?” I nodded, but wondered why she was changing the subject. “Did Theresa by chance tell you what Wraithmarsh originally was?”
I wrecked my mind, but I only vaguely remembered a name. “It was a town... Oakvale, right?” Phoebe nodded. “Yeah, now I remember... She didn't seem too happy about what it looked like presently. Do you know why?”
“Sparrow, no one is happy when that is what their original home becomes...” I heard sadness in her voice, and it made me feel sad. I had gotten used to her strong personality. Not that she wasn't that way still, but after getting to know her that way, it seemed wrong for her to look and sound so depressed about something.
“Let me get this straight then... Wraithmarsh, the remains and ruins of Oakvale, is where Theresa was born? And... You?” She nodded. “Why are you telling me this? And when will I find out just how old the both of you are?”
“I can't give you an exact number, Sparrow... After being alive for so long, being held prisoner in the Black City...” Phoebe trailed off, sighing. “If you go back to Twinblade being defeated... Possibly twenty more years before that...” She quickly counted on her fingers and then concluded: “It has been over six hundred years, at the minimum.” The look on her face told me she was waiting for an insane outburst of questions, and although that was on the verge of happening, I swallowed them all and cleared my throat.
“Do you even remember when your birthday is?” Phoebe looked surprised that I had asked such a light-hearted thing, and thought about it, but eventually shrugged and shook her head. A moment later, she repeated the action, only a little more firmly.
“That isn't the point. The story I am about to tell you, of how I got taken to the Black City, happened in Oakvale. When they took me, it was because I resurrected something. I told you that. In those days, there were Resurrection Phials, just as there are now,” Phoebe must have seen the question somewhere in my face, because she continued, “You will understand why I am saying this... Where Resurrection Phials were and are used for Heroes who could not be helped by a Health Potion, because their injuries were far past that, they were rejuvenated completely and very quickly... Sometimes before death completely took them. What I did... Was resurrect someone who had been dead for years... And by years, I believe a decent amount of time before I was born.”
In return to my silence, Phoebe continued: “I don't remember how, but I came across this book. I was with Theresa, and we both decided that we should look at it...” She explained, swiping her thumb slowly across her fingertips, as if she was remembering the feel of the pages. “I could read the majority of the page bookmarked... And something told me that was enough. Theresa said we shouldn't really read from it, but something told me that we should. I know Theresa stuck around while I searched for a grave. I found one... It was pretty withered away, so I didn't know who it was, but being a child, naïve, and curious... I read what I could from the book... It vanished from my hands, and I got scared... The ground beneath my feet shook, I jumped back. I remembered thinking about running, yelling for Theresa... And then out of the dirt above the grave crawled a girl only a little younger than me.”
“The poor little thing looked so scared, so confused.” I tried to imagine what she was telling me, because I too had seen things come out of the ground... But they were never usually little girls... They were usually Hollow Men, Beetles, or Earth Trolls.
”I kept her well-hidden for a few months, in the cellar of my home. We didn't use it by any means... At night we would sneak outside and play, the three of us. I thought that she was safe, that I was safe. Theresa witnessed the whole resurrection, and she even helped me take care of her. Theresa was my one friend, and then there was the other girl, who we ended up calling Leah. She couldn't really speak, and I figured that was a side-effect from my not-so experienced magic skills. We asked her if we could call her that, and she smiled at us.” Phoebe gazed up into the darkening sky, where only a few stars had begun to twinkle. “We thought that everything was going to be fine, until one night when we went to get Leah, and she wasn't there. Around the time that we noticed, we heard the screams of someone nearby, and some sort of screech...” Phoebe's eyes squeezed shut and she bit her lip. “Theresa and I ran to see what it was... Fearing more than anything that it was Leah. We prayed to Avo, but of course,” she exhaled slowly. “We found Leah near the chicken farmer, the fence smashed, and chicken blood and feathers stuck to her, and several chickens just... Massacred... She was growling and she turned to us, her face in rage, eyes bloody red.”
“I yelled for her, as did Theresa. We said to stop, we asked what she was doing... And the thing is, she stopped. She looked at her hands and the chickens and the blood and she started crying. We ran to her and hugged her... We weren't thinking about the consequences, we just wanted her to know she was okay. She... She was our friend, too.”
“Who had screamed before, Phoebe? Was it the farmer?” I asked, suddenly aware that my voice was shaking.
“Yeah, he saw it all. We took Leah and ran, in hopes that he hadn't recognized us... How stupid we were.” She shook her head slightly, as if in shame. “Anyway... We cleaned Leah up, calmed her down. I didn't want to go home, because I was scared that the farmer would be at my house.”
“Did you think that he was going to wake your parents?”
Phoebe shrugged. “I never really knew my actual parents. They were affiliated with magic, and from what I understood, it got them both killed. So I lived with some family friends who in general just didn't care about me. They weren't bad people, but they weren't very family-like, either. Any way... Overall, we just didn't want something bad to happen to Leah. Theresa said something about her mother probably looking for her, because she said sometimes her mother would get up in the night, so I told her to go on home. It took some convincing, but finally, Theresa said she would be there at daylight to check on us. Just as she left, a bright blue light, a Cullis Gate, blinded us. Theresa had just made it to the brush, and I saw her duck down. Leah clung to me in fear, and I didn't know what to do but hold her.”
“There were four men. One was Scythe, he led the others, and the remainder... They were covered head to toe in black... chainmail shirts, heavy hoods, thick trousers, large, scary boots... And they wielded massive, gleaming axes that pulsed with a strange silver static.” I could tell that Phoebe didn't like remembering these guys, but they didn't seem all that much worse to me than a Spire Guard. “Scythe said that the men were Knights of the Black City. They were there to rid this town of its demon and take the one responsible for it back as punishment. I screamed at them, said they couldn't hurt Leah. Leah was shaking in terror... I tried to show them that she was safe, that I didn't know why she killed the chickens but I assured them she was a sweet person.” Phoebe's fist clenched. “He told me she wasn't a person, that she was a demon, and nothing could change that.”
I watched her face carefully, beginning to regret my thoughts... I didn't like where her story was going. “They ripped her from me. Scythe held me back and I watched as two of the Knights grabbed Leah by the arms and the third... He took his axe,” Phoebe's voice shook and her eyes closed, “I was screaming, Leah was crying, and the last I heard was her say my name, and then the Knight killed her. That son of a bitch killed her. I watched her head hit the ground, no more sobs, no more life. Just pouring blood. I think I screamed the whole way to the Black City. I screamed when I got there. I hit things, I kicked things. I scratched myself, tore out my hair...” She shook her head. “Later, I discovered that if you enter the Black City in a very panicked, unstable state, that the energy in the place can cause you to go mad, and you just have to get it out of your system. Some people have died there because they eventually killed themselves out of madness... But there is nothing anyone can do about it.” We reached the caravan at the end of the camp where I often stayed if I needed a day or two to rest up before continuing to hunt down Lucien, and I finally spoke.
“Phoebe.” She didn't answer me, and I decided that she needed a hug. Everyone did once in a while. When I did, at first, there was no reaction, and then slowly both of her arms embraced me, and we stood there. She had been through her own hell, just as I had.
“I had a lot of time to think about Leah, and why she had to die,” Phoebe whispered, turning her cheek against my shoulder. “It was a lack of experience with magic. I brought her back through a demon by accident, but not a very strong demon. That's really the reason they made me stay there twenty years... Which, I stayed longer, because I decided to train there. I wasn't getting any younger, or older, at that point, so I didn't see the harm in it.” Phoebe stepped back and smiled very weakly at me. “That's why I know how to fight, why I'm more... Educated about wounds and creatures, why I haven't told you anything, and...” Phoebe trailed off. “That's why I took the Dark Seal from you. I was immortal. Now, I'm mortal. They wanted youth, and they took my eternal youth away. It hurt like hell, but it didn't really harm me in the end.”
I tried to wrap my mind around all of it, but the only thing that I managed to stammer out was what I thought it all boiled down to. “Phoebe, does that mean at some point time will catch up with you and you'll... You'll grow old suddenly and die?” She shook her head and touched her heart.
“I have a mark from the Black City,” she explained, dropping her hand. “Although my immortality was taken away from me, I am still protected. I learned about it when I was training.”
“Wait,” I shook my head this time, confused. “Is the Black City good or bad? At first you went crazy there, and it was like a prison, and you told me so many bad things about it... But then you say you decided to stay and train and now it protects you?”
“The Black City is similar to hell in many ways, if you ask me,” she said. “But if you stay there and take advantage of its works... 'Legal' and 'illegal,' you find that it has certain perks.”
We sat side by side in the opening of the caravan and stared into the star-filled sky, past the glow of the scattered fires that the gypsies danced and talked around. It was a clear night, no clouds, and the air was calm and cool. “It's so easy to take the most beautiful things for granted,” I said, gesturing to everything around us. Phoebe smiled and nodded in agreement. “I'm going to lay down. It's not a bed by any means, but the blankets in here are pretty soft,” I explained, picking one to lay on myself. As I settled myself, Phoebe continued to stare at the sky.
“When I was little,” she began, folding her arms around the front of her knees and hugging them to her chest. “I believed in wishes,” I felt my chest tighten as I laid there, being reminded of the consequences of the wish I had made only a handful of days before. “But I didn't believe in wishing for everything I wanted. I still haven't made a wish, actually,” she admitted, laughing under her breath.
“Why's that?” I was curious, mainly because I had learned more about her than I think anyone knew that day. Waiting for her answer, I propped myself up on one elbow.
“I don't know,” she didn't turn and look at me, but I could hear the smile in her voice. “Everyone and everything have kind of came in and out of my life at just the right time.” I heard a goodnight, and I returned it. Once I had readjusted myself on the blanket, I smiled, too, because I realized that my life had been working the same way.