Stumbling upon secrets had always been a gift of Kelly Deluvia’s. At the age of seven, she had wandered into a room containing the bulk of her family’s weapons arsenal. That was when she first learned about the war. Her parents hadn’t offered much of an explanation for why they had the weapons, but since she was only seven at the time, she couldn’t say that she blamed them. What she did learn was that the war was between the southern army, from Xamalie, and the western army, from Temoragu. The war had been raging throughout their lands for generations, but her parents were optimistic that the war would be over before Kelly would be old enough to take arms. Kelly’s parents and uncle were Warriors for the southern army. Her Aunt Regan was a Healer, a potions master, who cured injuries and illness and developed poisons to attack the western army with. The small arsenal was relocated after that, out of reach from the curious eyes of both Kelly and her cousin.
Five years later, Kelly learned another secret, this one much more tragic than the first. It began when her mom, Matilda, preparing breakfast with Aunt Regan, suddenly collapsed in the small kitchen, dead. Though Regan tried everything to save her sister-in-law, it was no use. Kept awake by insomnia that night, Kelly overheard her relatives discussing her mom’s death; that’s how she learned her mom was murdered.
“It had to have been a poison, Patrick,” Regan said, her voice much rougher than it usually was. “Matilda wouldn’t have just dropped dead from anything else.”
“Poison means one person, Pat,” Nolan, Kelly’s uncle, chimed in. His voice was a little quieter than it usually was when he spoke, but other than that, there hadn’t been much difference in his tone. “Kendrick Kavich. There isn’t a better Hearer in all of Viger.”
“Kendrick wouldn’t have given Matilda the poison; he always works through an accomplice, usually his father,” Regan said.
“We know what Todd Kavich looks like!” Kelly’s dad, Patrick, shouted. “Matilda wouldn’t have taken a damn thing from him.”
Kelly heard the amount of pain in her dad’s voice and felt completely helpless. How were they going to be able to get through this?
“Maybe we have the wrong Healer,” Nolan said hopefully. “It could be someone new who’s trying to make his mark?”
“Maybe,” Regan conceded skeptically, “but I doubt it. The poison was too complicated. Even a new Flair wouldn’t have been able to do something so extraordinary. It’s a Kavich creation if I’ve ever seen one.”
“Edan,” Patrick growled. The name was spoken with such a degree of hatred that Kelly felt a shiver race down her spine.
“Pat, that’s crazy,” his brother said in disbelief at Patrick’s words. He was showing the most emotion he had shown the whole discussion. “Edan is like family.”
At that, Patrick’s voice became deadly calm when he said, “And it was Edan’s family that killed my wife. They acted through him.”
“Patrick, you’re in mourning. Don’t let your emotions cloud your normally sound judgment. Edan wouldn’t betray you, betray us, like that,” Regan said, her voice threaded with emotion. She was getting mad. Regan only showed emotion that strongly when she was angry.
“Who else could it have been?” Patrick challenged, slamming his fist on the table. “Who else would Matilda have trusted enough to take her fihae from?”
“It wasn’t Edan, Pat!” Nolan shouted at Patrick. “He hates his brother! Why would he have helped him?”
“He doesn’t hate his dad,” Patrick said in a voice so quiet that it came out as a harsh whisper. “Todd would have been able to give the potion to him.”
“Edan did not kill your wife, Patrick,” Regan said quietly. “There has to be someone else.”
“There is no other explanation, Regan. And if I am right in thinking so, we stand to lose much more than we already have. We could lose the girls.”
Being one of “the girls,” Kelly was justifiably worried by the bit of conversation that she overheard. Still in shock from witnessing her mom’s death, she didn’t comprehend much of what she heard, but that part always stuck with her. One name was burned into her memory: Edan. She had never heard that particular name before Matilda’s death, and she had not heard it since. Yet it was stuck in her mind, clear as the first time she heard it.
After Matilda’s death, Patrick and Nolan saw to it that their daughters received training for the unlikely event they would see battle. When they were away on missions, Regan supervised Kelly’s and Leandra’s training regime.
After a particularly long mission, Kelly learned that she was a secret, when the door to her home was broken down and ten uniformed men filed into the small welcoming room, Patrick and Nolan tied up in the center of them. Both her dad and uncle kept their faces carefully blank, and when she turned to look at her aunt, she saw that there was an edge to her jaw that betrayed her unease.
For a few seconds, Kelly sat beside her cousin, shocked and silent, staring at her dad, who refused to return her gaze. Then, a royal blue fire crackled to life in front of the line of men, and as the flames grew, a shadowed figure began to emerge. As the flames receded and died away, a short woman, standing only three quarters Patrick’s height, began to emerge.
Her hair was the purplish red color of raspberries and cropped short, revealing pointed ears. Kelly and Leandra stared up at her and Kelly was struck by the eerie uniqueness of her eyes. Where eyes are normally white, hers were pitch black and in the place of a regular black pupil was a glassy white one. The irises separating the two were the startling blue as the fire she first appeared in. Spotting Kelly, her lips curled into a cruel smile that exposed four very sharp canine teeth amidst an otherwise normal bite.
At the name, one of the ten men stepped forward and placed a fisted right hand over his left shoulder. He was considerably older than the uniformed men that surrounded him, his seniority betrayed by the graying hairs at his temples and the creased skin around his eyes.
“Kill them.” Her voice was low and devoid of any emotion when she gave the command. The man maintained the same stoicism as he drew a sword and began approaching where the girls were sitting. For their part, they scrambled to their feet and began backing away, hurriedly.
Patrick, finally breaking his silence, cried out to the creature, “Ella, spare them! Kelly is a Flair!”
The woman stilled the advancing officer and looked expectantly at Patrick, urging him to continue.
His voice came quickly, racing to get the words our before she could change her mind. “I have seen her with a blade only once, but it was enough. Leandra, thought not a Flair, has inherited Nolan’s tenacity. They have been following training schedules and diets for five years. Formal training with blades will not take long.”
His words took Kelly by surprise. She had never used a sword or blade of any kind. Apart from that afternoon so many years ago with her cousin, she has never even been around such weapons. When had he ever seen her with a blade? Adding to her confusion, her dad had called her something . . . a Flair? What was that? Surely her dad was talking nonsense, but oddly enough, the creature seemed to be buying it. She asked him one last question, “How was this accomplished?”
Neither Patrick nor his brother looked intent on answering her question. The brief silence was finally broken by Kelly’s aunt, who said, “A potion, Ella.”
At this, the creature gave a curt nod and turned to the man that had begun approaching Kelly with his sword. In a monotonous tone, she told him, “Captain Evans, assign one of your Warriors to the Healer. She is marked until Avery can pass judgment on her.”
“For what?” demanded Leandra, who was glaring defiantly at Ella.
“Tenacity indeed,” was the only response the creature gave her. “The girls will accompany me to the castle. They belong to Xamalie, now.”
With that statement, the last vision of the Deluvia homestead disappeared in a torrent of blue fire that leapt from the ground and swallowed the girls into their sapphire depths.