Jackrabbit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - Chapter 10

Submitted: November 10, 2017

Reads: 137

Comments: 3

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Submitted: November 10, 2017

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The moon hung low over the plains, seemingly almost close enough to touch. From inside the medic hut, Rachel and I clustered close to the entrance, peering out in a desperate attempt to catch a glimpse of what was happening. Even Larcei was gone; he had left about an hour earlier, having been summoned for the ceremony.
 
After several minutes of impatient fidgeting, Rachel finally stood up. “Let’s go and find out what they’re doing,” she announced.
 
“You’re crazy,” I deadpanned. “Do you want to get us banished?”
 
“Milady, I can’t suggest enough not to do that,” Renault added from the cot he was laying in. The manservant was still unable to leave the hut, but he always made sure he was able to be heard. And, to my annoyance, always made it clear he could hear what we were talking about as well.
 
“But I’m bored,” the princess whined. “It’s no fun just sitting around in this dumb hut.”
 
“So you’re saying you want to see the Moon Ceremony?” The voice appeared out of nowhere, completely invading the conversation.
 
I whipped around to see Layla standing by the entrance, flashing us all a devilish smile. Unlike earlier, the girl was clothed entirely in white robes. They were very similar to Larcei’s.
 
“I, um,” Rachel stuttered, suddenly lost for words.
 
The freckled girl chuckled. “It’s fine. I was coming to get you two anyway.” She grabbed my hand, running across the grass as she dragged me behind her. 
 
“Wha--? Hey!” She paid me no heed as she continued to dash forward, laughing all the way. Rachel chased after us in hot pursuit, panting from exhaustion. Layla’s hand was warm, heating up my own. We had been asleep for two days after the incident with the waterfall. Since then, my skin had been constantly clammy. In fact, Rachel had often compared me to a fish.
 
Once we were several hundred yards away from the huts, Layla slowed to a stop. Rachel gasped for breath behind us. “What are we doing here?” I asked.
 
“We’re here,” she replied. Dozens, even hundreds, of villagers poured out from the trees. They flocked together, their silken robes gliding through the air. All of them surrounded us in a circle, completely silent. Layla pushed me into the crowd of them and winked. While Rachel and I watched, five or so teenagers her age entered the inner circle. Just like her, they all wore floral wreaths. The townspeople besides us in the outer circle wore nice robes, but they lacked the extra bit of elegant touched Layla and the others possessed.
 
The freckled girl opened her mouth and shut her eyes. “Isch der fen si ash clien vandt. /
 
“So-ren, ash-tin.
 
“Van der mach den ni sech ki. /
 
“So-ren, ash-tin.” The words rose through the sky, traveling higher and higher as she danced under the moonlight. The others’ voices were also heard, but they were a low background intended only to highlight Layla’s vocals. The dragon girl danced, her skin even paler than Rachel’s. All the dragonkin looked like they were made of marble under the moonlight. With the quicksilver blood in their veins, it only accentuated the pale flush of the moon.
 
The song continued as they danced. With each second ticking by, their movements only grew more intricate, until the inner circle was hardly more than a revolving blur. At the very center, Layla looked up at the moonlight, pale flecks of glittery pollen sparkling across her cheeks. The song slowed to a stop, falling silent like the petals off a dying flower. But there was an uncanny serenity in it that brought a smile to lips. It was the sort of goofy grin that only Karen could give me.
 
The dragonkin split off into groups. Around half a dozen per group, they sat in clusters while drinking some unknown liquid from jugs. Layla suddenly appeared from behind. “Boo,” she whispered in my ear, grinning as the hair on the back of my neck suddenly stood straight up. “Come sit with me,” she offered, motioning towards an empty patch of grass. Larcei was seated there and waved a hand.
 
“So? What was the ceremony like?” he asked, smiling elegantly as he set several small cups in front of us.
 
“It was amazing,” Rachel breathed, her eyes lighting up. “What was that?”
 
“It’s our language,” Layla replied, pouring herself a small cup of the liquid from the jug. It was a clear color, looking identical to water. “We speak Estian now, mostly, but when the Moon Ceremony begins, we sing the Dragonsong.”
 
“What is the Dragonsong exactly?” I asked while pouring myself a small cup after Rachel. It appeared to be water, but it smelled faintly of grapes. Warily, I waited for Rachel to take a sip before trying it myself. It was unlikely the liquid was poisonous to humans, but you never know. The water was refreshing, sending a jolt of energy through me.
 
“It’s a song of our ancestors,” the medic answered. “There are three different versions, with Celstine’s being called, ‘Windsweep.’”
 
“Three?” Rachel downed the cup quickly, her eyes shining brighter than before. The strangely-flavored water was obviously affecting our energy.
 
“Yes. There are three villages of Dragonkin on the continent,” Larcei continued calmly. “We are from the plains, and our song is, ‘Windsweep.’ Far to the southeast is Pelian, and their song is called, ‘Firesweep.’ Last but not least is Sern. Their song is called, ‘Watersweep.’”
 
“What is this beverage?” Rachel interjected, unable to contain her curiosity any longer. “It’s filled with mana!”
 
The medic offered a demure smile. “That’s the water collected off snapdragon flowers after a hard rain. It’s imbued with lilac to give it a floral scent, and grapes are fermented in it to add flavor. It’s holy, and replenishes magical energy.”
 
So that was the hum that coursed through me. Every nerve and muscle thrummed with energy; I felt like I could run across the entirety of the plains without tiring. “Is this what it feels like to have magic at your fingertips?” I asked Rachel.
 
The princess nodded her head. “Yes, though rarely. I only know that feeling when I’m in a place charged with mana, or if I’ve recently ingested something that boosts magical prowess.”
 
“Oh, so that makes sense.” I suddenly felt relaxed. “I don’t recall having ever felt this before, but then again, I’ve never been in a place charged with mana. Nor have I ever ingested something with magical properties. It makes sense I wouldn’t know this feeling.”
 
The blonde rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right.”
 
Before I could unleash a stinging retort, Layla’s giggles broke the flow of the argument. “What’s the story here?”
 
“Lennard, er, Jack, claims he used to be able to use magic,” Rachel snickered. “Of course, I detected no such thing from him when I measured it. Obviously, he’s delusional.”
 
“I remember using magic when I was younger!” I snapped back. “When Karen and I sat at the table for breakfast, sometimes the chairs would go sliding across the floor. Not to mention a ton of other stuff happened, so stop saying I never had magic!”
 
“Karen?” The princess fixed her gaze onto mine, no longer paying attention to the argument at hand.
 
My gaze quickly fell away, fixating on the grass. I had said too much. “She was my sister. It’s none of your business anyway.”
 
“Now, now, that’s enough,” Larcei interrupted before Rachel had a chance to get defensive. “This is the Moon Ceremony; let’s be merry. The purpose for this whole thing anyway is to celebrate our prosperity and connection to the gods.”
 
“Oh, by the way,” Rachel added, “you should’ve stood with us, Larcei. I didn’t see you, but if I had, I would’ve invited you over.”
 
The medic only offered a smile, his eyes closed so they couldn’t be read. “I’m afraid I’m not invited to the ceremony. I’m allowed to partake in the after party, but I cannot join in the Dragonsong.”
 
“Huh? Why’s that?” the princess pressed.
 
Layla suddenly stood up and stretched. “That’s enough celebration for today. I’d best escort you back to the medic hut.”
 
“But what about Larcei?” Rachel asked as we walked away from the smiling man. 
 
Layla looked ahead, her expression unreadable. She was completely silent as we continued to the hut. “Here, Larcei’s busy with an errand he needs to run tonight, but I’ll be closeby just in case. Good night.”
 
Before we could say anything, she was gone. Rachel was quick to go to sleep, but I found myself uneasy. The mana from the water left me too energized to really sleep, so I spent my time writing. Larcei had plenty of spare parchment, and even a quill lying around. Who was there to write to though? Elizabeth swam through my mind, but something didn’t feel right. Perhaps one of my younger siblings at home? I shook my head. Nothing seemed right. At last, my fingers grasped the quill and began to mindlessly jot down my thoughts.
 
Dear Karen,
I don’t know how things are like where you are, wherever you are. Things are going fine here, if you can call being hunted by the prince fine. If you are looking down on us, please tell Elizabeth not to worry. Hopefully, Luther will be eaten by his Wildebeest sooner or later.
 
My hand slowed to a stop as I found myself unable to come up with things to say. What can I possibly say that would make her laugh? When we were young, she had always found my jokes funny. Even when nobody else laughed. We always took the blame for each other, never letting one get punished without the other. Her eyes flashed in my mind as she offered a smile. “I’m sorry…for lying.” Even then, Karen had the saddest smile on her face. Even then….
 
“Huh…?” The ink on the letter was starting to blot. I reached a finger up tentatively and drew the fingers away; they were wet, glistening in the pale moonlight streaming from the entrance. If only I hadn’t….
 
I miss you. Elizabeth misses you. David misses you. Alana misses you. Daisy misses you. Alexander misses you. Mother misses you. Even Father misses you in his own way.
 
The handwriting grew increasingly sloppy as I continued, tears smudging the lines until they were almost illegible. 
 
I’m sorry I hadn’t acted. Maybe then, you still would be here today, and I wouldn’t be in this mess. I miss my hair; it reminded me of yours. It’s short now. I know the you I see in my dreams isn’t real, but I really wish it were. I really, really wish it were. It’s not fair that you had to die. Just please, wherever you are, keep watching over me, okay? I don’t want to be alone. I’m not ready to be alone. 
Love,
Leonard
 
“It’s not fair,” I sniffled, my voice thick as I struggled to stay quiet. The last thing I wanted was for that stuck-up princess to see my tears. Paper crumbled beneath my fingers as I squeezed the parchment in frustration. Ink and tears stained my skin, but I didn’t care. I wanted to throw up. My stomach churned, tempting me to spill the contents against my better instincts. I wanted something to happen -- anything. But there was only the growing silence of the night.
 
“Your handwriting is really pretty.”
 
I looked up at Layla. The dragon girl stood at the entrance, smiling as the blocked the moonlight. Her shadow stretched low across the floor. After a moment, she offered her hand out to me. “Here, let’s go so they don’t wake up.”
 
I took the hand after hesitating for a moment, and followed the freckled girl out into the plains. We sat under a tree, looking out over the horizon. The hut was right behind us, but far away enough so that Rachel wouldn’t hear unless we shouted.
 
My throat felt tight and itchy. Tears still dripped down my cheeks, even though I tried to stop them. But Layla didn’t seem to mind. Her gaze stared into mine intensely, making me uncomfortable. “What’s wrong? You seemed fine earlier.”
 
Despite my throat being closed up, I somehow managed to force out the words. “It’s nothing. I’m just thinking too much about things I can’t change.” I barely knew her. What was the point in dumping my life story?
 
She sighed and scooted closer to me, tilting her head up to look at the stars. Her robes from earlier were gone, revealing simplistic nightclothes. A slight, red tinge rose to my cheeks. Was this really appropriate? 
 
“There’s grief on your mind,” she murmured, not bringing her gaze down to meet mine. It was almost like she was talking aloud instead of talking to me.
 
“How can you tell that?”
 
A faint smile graced her lips. “It clouds around you, along with sorrow, despair, and a little bit of anger. Any magic-adept can sense energy like that. Emotions are a form of energy, after all. Even the slightest movement of your muscles fluctuates energy. Some could sense your movements before you even make them, just from the energy fluctuation in the movement your muscles make to prepare.”
 
“That’s incredible,” I breathed, temporarily forgetting about Karen. “Someone like that would be….”
 
“Unbeatable,” Layla finished solemnly. She nodded. “However, only the most skilled can sense that. Only our elders can, and they’re a bit old to really do any fighting. I can sense your emotions, along with any magic-adept, but I can’t view your thoughts or actions.” She suddenly fixed her gaze on me once more. “Jack, I don’t know how long you’ll be here. But if you plan on staying, you can’t keep secrets. I’m not the gossip type, so you can be assured that your words will stay here with me.” Her hand found mine, giving it a gentle squeeze. Her energy was soothing, making my head spin.
 
After several seconds, I took a deep breath. My throat had loosened up from before -- perhaps telling me it was best to get it off my chest? “It’s just my twin sister, Karen. I lost her a long time ago…and, I don’t know, I just got upset thinking about it, I guess.” At the very last word, my voice cracked in betrayal.
 
Her expression didn’t change as she looked up at the sky. “Oh. How did you lose her?”
 
“Carriage accident.” A grimace covered my face as the memory came rushing into view. “I had the chance to pull her out of the way, but I hesitated. She was struck.” My hands gripped the grass in frustration as a fresh wave of tears assaulted my cheeks. “Even so, she wasn’t mad. She just laid there…and actually smiled at me. I kept holding her hand until it turned cold.” I’m sorry…for lying. What had she meant by that? Even eight years later, I still hadn’t deciphered the meaning of that final sentence.
 
“That must’ve been rough,” she murmured in reply. “I have a sister as well. She’s still alive, but…. Well, you’ll see her soon enough.”
 
I took a mental note to ask her what she meant later, but continued the conversation. “I have a feeling that she was keeping something from me. Something important….” I pounded my fist against the ground. “If she were here, she could’ve told me.”
 
“Was she friends with Princess Rachel?”
 
“No. Why would you think that?”
 
“Well, how did you get from where you were to here? You don’t seem like nobility.” She stifled a yawn. “Not to mention you two are constantly at each other’s throats. It wouldn’t be hard to guess that you two come from different walks of life.”
 
“I guess you could say that.” A small breeze flew by, tickling my hair. With a pang, I remembered how long it used to be. “I left home to regain my talent for magic. After Karen died, I couldn’t use it anymore. So one day, I just up and left. Tried to steal something from the little miss over there,” I pointed towards the hut, 
“and ended up getting caught.”
 
A giggle left the freckled girl. “That still doesn’t tell me how you ended up on the road. You could’ve hightailed it out of there once everything got so hectic, but you stayed.” Her eyes gleamed a little in the moonlight. “Why?” The question was gentle, hardly more than a whisper.
 
Now it was my turn to chuckle. “I didn’t plan on it. I came into her room to steal something and leave, but I picked the wrong time. Next thing I knew, I knocked out the perp and we were running out of there.” I fell silent, thinking over the past week or so we’d been on the run. “I told myself I wouldn’t hesitate. Not anymore. I made the decision to save the princess, and I wasn’t going to back out of it halfway through. Even if it meant throwing who I was away.” My fingers gripped the grass once more. “But even so…why can’t I forget her? Why can’t I stop thinking about Karen? Or my family? I’m supposed to be this brutal guy, and brutal guys don’t have time for family. I’m nothing but a fugitive now, with nothing to my name but my name itself.”
 
She shifted onto her side, staring at me. “Nobody can blame you for how you feel, Jack. Karen was your other half. And as for her secret, well, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to everyone around you except you yourself.”
 
“What are you talking about?”
 
She cocked her head to the side. “Have you ever been able to sense energy? At all?”
 
“Er, no, not really.” I paused, trying to recall when I was younger. “It was always Karen who seemed in-tune with those things. She could always tell when someone was upset or in pain. Karen was the only person I could read the feelings of.” The realization hit me then, like a speeding carriage. “She’s…a magic-adept.” My fingers gripped the grass, tearing it straight from the ground. “No, that can’t be right.” My eyes brimmed with fresh tears. “Then that means….”
 
“She was the one who could use magic, but pinned it on you. That way, you could be the one getting the attention,” the dragon girl murmured.
 
Hurt, betrayal, frustration, they all swirled around in my chest until I could hardly breathe. Images passed through my mind, each one quicker than the last. The plates flying off the table and shattering against the wall; the sudden fire that erupted on the hardwood floor; the flowers blooming far faster and bigger than any of the neighbors’ until they were past our heads. All of the things I thought I had done, but it was Karen who did them. My eyes stung with barely held-back tears. Why did you…? Because she prioritized me over her, she told the whole world a lie. It was just a little white lie, but it hurt her nonetheless.
 
But because of her lie, things had ended this way. I never would’ve left home had I known the truth. Perhaps Father would’ve grieved over Karen instead of turning his bitterness towards me. My name would’ve been Leonard instead of Jackrabbit. All this sacrifice and pain built on top of some trivial lie, I seethed, feeling my throat tighten. 
 
I was distantly aware of Layla sitting beside me. She rested her hand on my arm, soothing me with her energy. “Jack, calm down. I know it’s a lot to take it, but calm yourself. It’s best to keep your composure.”
 
“You don’t know how it feels,” I replied, my voice cracking. “This whole damn thing would’ve never happened if she told me the truth. But now I’m in the middle of nowhere with people I barely know!” I hissed.
 
She turned away, her gaze unreadable. “You may not know this, but my sister, Erinys, is the Divine Priestess here. She’s exiled to live in the cave beneath the waterfall you fell down because of her gift. I wanted to lie to protect her, say it was me, but I chickened out in the end. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice or not, but still, Karen’s decision was hers to make and hers alone.” Her eyes held an intensity that was almost inhuman as she stared at me. “Karen made her decision, and there’s no point in crying about it now. Keep in mind, Jack, that she had your best interests at heart. She couldn’t see the future. She didn’t know what would become of it.”
 
I took a deep breath, telling myself to calm down. “I know you’re right, but it’s easier said than done. My life is kind of a mess right now. Maybe if Karen had told the truth, I would’ve been at home right now living with a happy family.”
 
“There’s no use wondering about the ‘what ifs’ in life.” Layla shook her head. “You’ve been beaten down, Jack, but you’re not down for the count. You’d be surprised at what people can bounce back from. With all Larcei’s been through, he’s still going through life happy.”
 
“Wait, what happened to Larcei?”
 
A gust sent her hair flowing in the wind. Was that sadness in her eyes? “He’s half human on his father’s side. Of course, that’s strictly forbidden, so his mother was banished. We couldn’t allow him to roam free, though, so the elders took him in.
 
“He tried his hardest, but Larcei was beaten a lot. He didn’t have the same talents as we did. His ears look normal enough to pass for human, but his eyes were bizarre. He couldn’t even use magic.”
 
“But he’s so attuned to how people feel around him,” I argued. “What’s that?”
 
“That is from constant practice,” Layla replied. “He’s struggled and cried countless times over the years, but he always keeps going. To be honest, I’m surprised there’s even room in his heart to love anymore.”
 
I recalled from earlier the image of his slightly exposed chest. I had hardly noticed at the time, but it was crisscrossed with scars. A shiver passed through me, making the hairs on my arm rise. What had they done to him? Was Larcei so timid because of the abuse he received as a child?
 
The faint, fragrant scent of flowers caught my attention, thrusting me back to reality. A red blossom sat in Layla’s fingers as she spread the pollen on her lips. “What are you doing that for?” I asked.
 
“It’s a way of making your lips look better,” she replied evenly. “Not to mention it tastes good.”
 
“Really? Do you ever rely on it as a food source or anything. Now I’m wondering how it tastes.”
 
“You wanna taste it?” she asked, her tone so casual she could’ve been reading a book.
 
I considered the question for a moment before deciding against it. “Er, no thanks. I’d rather not munch on flowers.”
 
She rolled her eyes in exasperation before pushing herself to her feet. I followed her quickly, confused by her behavior. “You ought to go to sleep,” she suggested, looking slightly frustrated.
 
“All right, sure, I guess.” Did I say something to offend her? Girls could be so strange. She was quick to leave, her brown hair still trailing in the wind. Inside the hut, Rachel slept silently, not even snoring. As I settled down on the floor, a small smile met my face. Karen’s secret may have changed a lot, but some things would always be the same. I would always be Jackrabbit, and I would always be looking after that dopey girl. And that was fine to me. Or at least, for now it was.
 
 


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