Prologue: An Unwelcomed Guest
"For death has come up through our windows: It has entered our fortresses, to cut our children from the streets, the young men from the town squares."- Jeremiah 9:21
“Soph, get down please.”
Jay sighed and stuck his hands in his pockets, sucking in his cheeks in annoyance. Mona stood behind him balling the hem of her dress tightly in her fists, a nervous habit of hers. Glancing up at the older boy, she watched him hold back the scream he wanted to release from his lungs but refused.
Sophia, the brave six-year-old, carefully walked along the top of the fence haphazardly placed in her backyard. One foot wobbled on a loose plank before she pulled it back, setting it on the solid wood behind her with a bright smile. One hundred and twenty-six times they told her to get down before she hurt herself and each time she gave them the same blunt ‘no’.
Mona gasped as Sophia bunny hopped over the loose plank and landed on the other side, wobbling slightly as she regained her balance. A grin spread across her lips at the sight of her success.
“Did you see that, Jay?” she squealed turning her full attention to the boy and not the thin slips of wood in front of her. “Did you see it?”
“Yeah, I saw it.” He grumbled as he stepped forward with his arms outreached, gesturing for her to jump down. “Get off there before you fall.”
The smile was wiped off her rosy face and her tiny heart was crushed. All she wanted was to impress him. Jay always treated her like a little girl… like a sister and it wasn’t fair. As hurt as she was, Sophia wasn’t going to let him see her affected by it. She was too much like her mother.
“Piss off, Shinsky!” hissed the Frost Witch addressing Jay by his last name as an insult.
Mona whimpered and looked over her shoulder towards the house she was visiting then back to Sophia. “Mrs. Deerings will get mad if she hears-”
“I thought we were friends, Jay!” growled Sophia, balling her hands into fists at her sides.
The Witches childhood friend only sighed and gestured for her to get down, knowing it was only her temper that got in the way at times not her true feelings. She’d never reveal those. Her deepest emotions and thoughts were locked inside her like a steal diary. Jay himself was three years older than her and a year older than her twin siblings, he had to be responsible sometimes because if he wasn’t he have her mother to explain to.
“Sophia, I said get down.” Jay gritted his teeth, slowly losing whatever patients he had left. “Now.”
“No, I will-” Sophia, forgetting she was standing on a fence, attempted to stomp her foot but ended up planting her foot into air and not solid ground.
With a shriek from both Sophia and Mona, the blonde landed not so neatly into Jay’s arms and then on him. Sitting up on top of the limp boy, her deep blue eyes sparkled with a mischievous glare that could only match her mother’s. Jay groaned, he had fractured something trying to save her life, and propped himself up on his elbows before pushing her off.
“I wanna do it again!” Sophia yelled, pumping her fists into the air.
Mona stumbled over and crouched by the older girl, worry clearly written across her delicate features. “I don’t think that would be wis-”
A shriek tore through the Deerings household making the neighboring birds take to the sky with a fluttering of feathers. The moment Sophia heard the scream she knew it was her mothers and the cries that followed it were definitely Effy’s. Without another thought Sophia ran into the house, frightened to know what was wrong.
Jay tried to grab her hand and pull her back to him, where it was probably safer than in the house with whatever was causing problems, but her fingers barely brushed his. Scrambling to his feet, Jay quickly told Mona to stay outside until he told her it was safe. Giving a scared whine, she did as she was told and ruffled the hem of her dress to dry her wet cheeks.
Bursting into the house the breath left Sophia’s lungs.
There, on the living room floor, was her father’s limp body. His head was resting on her mother’s lap, his eyes still open but unseeing. Her mother, the woman who would never let her children see her cry, was screaming onto her husband’s still chest, shaking him and wailing for him to come back. Effy, in hysterics herself, was held back by Alex who wrestled with his sister to keep her from disturbing their mother.
Tears swelled inside her eyes and Sophia gave a choked sob, stumbling back.
It was the plague. It had to be because nothing else would drag her father away from his family. Blood trickled down his cheek from his lips and Sophia knew he knew he was affected but like an idiot, believed that he could fight it without realizing how it would endanger his family.
Jay dashed in and almost slammed into Sophia. At the sight he pulled her to him and spun her around, placing her face on his chest to hide the sight of her deceased father and screaming mother.
“Alex,” he shouted over the wails. “Go get my Mum!”
The younger boy nodded and released his sister, letting her slump onto the floor out of tears to cry, and darted out of the house.
“Sophia,” he murmured in her ear, trying to tug her out of the house and back outside. “Let’s go back to Mona; it’s not safe in here-”
“No!” she snapped, pounding her fists against his chest and pushing him back. “No! I will not leave!” Then she added in a softer tone, gazing up at his dark eyes. “Take Mona to her parents and stay away from my house. It’s not safe for you or her.”
He opened his mouth to argue but shut it before he let his frustration get the better of him. Nodding, he placed a kiss on her forehead and ventured back into the family’s backyard to collect Mona and take her home. But as he stepped off the porch step and onto the grass he noticed something odd.
Mona had her back to him and was standing as still as a statue while staring at the oak tree. Her hands weren’t balled into fists with her dress but limp at her sides instead. Her mouth slightly open, gawking at the figure half-hidden behind the tree she was looking at.
Jay didn’t see it, of course, but she did and for some reason it didn’t frighten her which it should have. The figure was cloaked head to toe in black making him look more like a shadow than anything else and at first that’s what she thought it was, just a shadow. But of what? And that’s when she started to watch it, waiting for it to move. On its face was a long white mask shaped like a beak of a bird of some sort.
Raising her hand, Mona waved to it and in return it nodded its head and let her see the smirk of the face under the mask before vanishing without a trance.
And it was then that she felt a tug at her throat, like a bit of string was tied there and someone was pulling at her like a child pulled at a puppy’s leash. Touching her throat she felt nothing there but before she could begin to wonder at what the strange feeling was, Jay called out her name in a choked sob.
Inside the house, Sophia felt the same thing. The tugging made her catch her breath and wrap her hand around her neck, wondering if her necklace was caught in her hair but then she remembered she forgot to put it on. She paled slightly and placed both hands around her throat, biting her lip.
Across Europe, Evie was sitting with her older brother playing with a set of wooden dolls. Melih’s face was bandaged due to an attack from his Nanny and he hadn’t let anyone but the doctors see him in days. Feeling for her lonely big brother she decided to show him her new dolls. It seemed to cheer him up some and he even agreed to dress them up with her.
He was such a gentle person and didn’t deserve to have his face tore up the way it was. The doctors said he was lucky he didn’t lose an eye or lose his life. And if anyone was more torn up about it, it was their father; Kazim almost lost two sons in a day. Melih was bleeding out on the floor and Maccon, who rushed in to see the scene, killed the Nanny causing him to turn before he was due.
Forcing a smile, Melih tugged on Evie’s hajib when it slipped back on her head showing her hair. Looking up at him she gave him the biggest and brightest smile she could and watched as his blue eyes, the eyes of their father, shined back at her.
Then she gasped, her fingers going to the hallow of her throat. It felt funny. Fixing her scarf she wondered if she had tied it on too tight, but that wasn’t it. It felt different; almost like a bit of string was tied around her neck. Frowning she looked up at her brother then turned her attention back to the dolls.
A country away, Polly was busy playing with her twin. Malachi caught the ball thrown to him and laughed childishly. She could never seem to make a normal face when she chucked the red bouncing ball at him. Her tongue would jot out of her mouth and her eyes would scrunch together like she was about to be hit. Not to mention her buck teeth poked out which only made her look like a mad beaver. He was about to throw it back when he paused and watched his sister, her face washed in confusion.
“What’s wrong?” he called out in Romanian, wondering whether he should run to her side or not.
Polly shook her head and swallowed, thinking that maybe the strange feeling was just the gum she accidently swallowed caught in her throat. That could have been it. Shaking her head, she pushed the feeling away and held out her hands, ready to catch the ball.
Then there was Yua, resting comfortably on her futon in her room with her guards spread about the room. Baku and Shiro, the sibling guards, slept on either side of her in the same deep sleep that overtook her sour personality. Ronin, the eldest, lent against the wall in the corner of the room watching them with drooping eyes.
And it seemed that this particular Fate didn’t care for the seven-year-old Princess and instead of a tug on her Fate Line, Althea yanked on the string with all her might. Yua was dragged from her bed so roughly she hit the wall by her bed. Sitting up she let out a scream and held her head, refusing to let tears flow.
Ronin stifled a chuckle knowing that Fate had favorites and Yua obviously wasn’t one of them. Baku and Shojiro rushed to her side and Shiro only shifted in his sleep. With a tired nod Ronin looked at the stars through the window and sighed.
They’re fate would start soon.
And it would be a twisted one.