The Burning of Innocence

She reminded him of the sun. She moved as if her body was in tune with everything around her, and she listened as if the fire was telling her secrets. There was nothing unnatural about this girl, and yet it felt wrong for her to be inside these caves. Away from the sun, of which she reminded him so.

It was only I who could sense them in our family, which was due to my freak nature. As soon as I met my parents’ eyes, they knew who was at the door also.

Tarass was over before it started. Mother jumped into panic mode. My father, knowing better, asked our guests to leave through the back entrance as fast and quiet as they could. Silo’s expression changed when my parents tried to usher him out the back. I imagined he’d only heard about the Sniffers but never actually had a visit from them. Silo’s family had nothing to hide while mine was only hanging by a thread.

We’d already had three visits in my lifetime.

The guests had managed to leave but Silo said he’d forgotten something back in my room. Since there was no time to lose, I told him to go and get it. Meanwhile, my father was taking out the emergency kit where my parents kept their Occuli.

“Put the ring on,” mother said as she threw me the adjusting ring. Thankfully, I was too scared to drop it. When I put it on, my father came with the blue and yellow Occuli in both hands. Before I could brace myself for the hit, he crashed them together to produce the lightning that would change my eye-color from green to brown.

The ring stung my index finger as it stopped the small storm from spreading. I heard the thunder in my head but kept from screaming. My father’s invention was ingenious. It was supposed to not only muffle the sound externally but also drain the heat from my body so that I didn’t show any of the typical signs of a Medley: hot skin, fire allergy, and little to no sweating.

And the only thing that could blow the cover was the ring. Fortunately, the Sniffers never inquired about the ring… yet. Sometimes I thought of my life as a high-risk gamble, which I could lose at any minute. The stress alone was making me heat up again. Seeing this, my mother begged me to breathe.

I did.

Since we’d practiced this a hundred times when Trick was out, we managed to finish in the record time of two minutes. In the meantime, the ring was growing louder and more restless, chiming my verdict before I was caught.

Squeak-grunt-squeak-grunt-squeak. That ring was a joke.

My father made his steps toward the door, knowing that my mother wouldn’t be able to compose herself. But before he could open the door, I heard a flurry of steps behind me. I turned toward the back entrance to see Silo’s back disappearing. In the commotion, we’d forgotten that Silo was still in the house.

My mother’s face confirmed it. He’d seen the whole thing. And now, my father was opening the door to Hell. Just breathe. 

Without hesitating, both Silo and I jumped from the bed, ran into the corridor, down the battered stairs into the living room, where my parents had guests. Crap, I’d forgotten all about the Saturday Conley Convention. Basically, it was a boring event devoid of any structure or purpose, held on the third Saturday of every month. My parents, along with some other neighboring families, would sit in a circle (the arrangement of furniture alone was a nightmare) and share the lessons that they’d learned during  the previous two weeks. Like I said, pointless.

‘Trick, hon. Can you children play elsewhere? We have to concentrate on our Tarass now.’

I never got ‘Rya, hon’, not once.

Tarass was an even more pointless ritual where the adults would write their lessons on a piece of paper and burn it for good luck and prosperity. It wasn’t real magic, yet my parents insisted that it brought them fortune.

Trick gave me the devil eye. ‘Sure Mum. I was just telling Rye not to disturb, but you know her…’ I kicked him in the shins which won me twenty-three scolds in total. Must be a record.

I motioned to Silo to get away from the room before it started smelling like burning dreams. My second least favorite smell in the entire world. But just as we reached the stairs, the bell rang, and by bell I mean the horrid little perverted tune that my parents had found in the trash. It had a steady beat but it sounded nothing like ringing, more like grunting on a squeaky mattress, of which we had plenty. Squeak-grunt-squeak-grunt-squeak.

I rushed over to see who it was just to make it stop. Before I reached the handle, however, I felt a cold breeze run through my fingers, wrist, arm, elbow, and shoulders, aiming straight for the heart. It was nothing like I’d ever felt before. That’s why I froze on the door, ignoring everybody else’s voices, and just concentrated on a new, quiet one that rained over my senses like a summer drizzle at first, but then cut them like frost-bite.

It couldn’t be… them. Could it? When I actually managed to compose myself and turn to face my parents, their faces bore the same expression I felt rising on mine. Silo, on the other hand bless him, had no idea what was going on.

I never did tell him the one secret my parents and I kept from the world.

‘Aha,’ he said, staring at my Linger Maps, tracing down every corner of Osculum I had ever been to.

‘Did you hear what I said?’

For a moment there, Silo was entranced by my little doodles as if they held some kind of secret to life only I knew about. ‘Yeah, yeah. That Kensey bitch bugs me too, but you have to let-‘

‘Did you hear the rest of what I said?’ I interrupted.

‘Nah, I’m just having an off-day,’ he said.

‘Do I wanna know?’

He shook his head and that was enough for me to back off. Then he ran his hand through his matted ponytail and pointed out that my room needed some sprucing up, at which I snorted. It wasn’t that bad, really. It had its … minimalistic charm. And whatever anyone claims, there is no excuse for clutter. From its lonely spot on the wall, my poster of Simbaya the Scorcher winked at me. I shook off yet another hallucination. Those came along quite often recently…

I had to stop myself from overthinking yet another pointless subject. The tides were rolling in and I could do nothing to stop them. And since there was no other way for me to vent my frustration and helplessness, I did my usual visualization where I buried the feelings deep into a hole in the ground. Then I said my mantra three times in my mind. “I am only spirit, this flesh is only mortal.” I cringed at those words sometimes because they sounded fancy-shmancy and naive. Yet, I hadn’t thought of that when I’d picked it out of hundreds to be my life-tune.  It sounded wise at the time.

After I finished, I repeated what I’d told Silo earlier, quite abruptly with no preamble. This cost him a deep choke and I had to revive him for the next five minutes by hammering my fists on his back, repeatedly. ‘What-‘ Cough cough. ‘He said what?’

‘He asked me-’

‘Bloody trillion birds of Aspen! He asked you to be his-‘

‘Apprentice,’ I said, feeling the trill of the word against my vocal cords and then its pressure  against my ears. It tasted sweet, like melon.

‘Have you told-?’

‘No. Can you imagine their reactions?’

Silo couldn’t drop his eyes from me, doodles forgotten. ‘But you’re going to.’

‘Of course,’ I said without thinking. Without thinking indeed.

‘Can I watch?’

I threw one of the throw-pillows at him but he ducked just in time. For the first time I noticed that the pillow strangely resembled him, which he obviously tried to ignore or didn’t care about. It was a mongoose-like kind of creature with overlong limbs. I think they called it Kakista beyond Osculum (where no interesting creatures dwelled).

When I was about to say that I would not –in a trillion flying monkeys- let him witness my worst nightmare, the door opened wide. I jumped at the too-familiar grating voice of my little brother.

‘Am telling Mom,’ he said and closed it before I could react. 

Meanwhile, my eyes were hooked on a small boy, who looked too young to be holding a huge metal instrument, and yet he did his job with speed and precision. I took a few steps to see his face, and when I finally saw the left side of it, I recognized the same screen I’d seen on Gogor’s face. The boy’s eye, though, seemed alive with… something I did not recognize.

 “I saw what you did at the Burning. I wonder why your parents even let you attend these rituals.” Gogor’s words, though sounding less and less threatening, made me lose my balance. I felt the fear burning on my face, but I didn’t have time to hide it. “Don’t worry, I haven’t told anybody.”

I could hear the sound of my own heart over the din of metal hitting rock.

“It wouldn’t serve me well, would it?” he said, smiling. I had to blink hard to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I had not seen a member of the Olden circle smile before. Not even once.

“What-“ I choked, still nervous because of what he said. For all those years of hiding what I was, I should have gotten better at covering my blunders and lying about it, but alas, I was only good for tripping and choking on words. Pathetic. My mind swam with visions of being shunned from Osculum, along with my whole family.

“What do you mean serve?” I was on the verge of bursting in tears. It was one thing to expect to end up at the worst possible place, but to be banned from my home along with people whose lives were in constant danger because of me, was even worse. The price of harboring a Medley into one’s home was a lifetime in the depths of the Concaves, no matter what the family’s name or rank was.

“What I mean to say is…” He stopped, then slowly got closer. “Don’t be afraid, I didn’t mean to scare or upset you, Rya. I just had to know if your spirit was pure.”

I frowned at the nonsense that spilled out of his mouth. I had always thought that Hopefuls, at least, had to do better than that. “I don’t understand,” I mumbled, my eyes pinned to the skilful small boy, whose fate I’d soon no doubt be sharing.

“Wisdom’s earned in time,” he said.


I finally looked up at his face to see that he was smiling again, or perhaps he had been smiling all this time. I could see the whole wide world in his eyes and that scared me. People did not have worlds in their eyes, only pain. At least they did where I grew up.

As if reading my mind, Gogor said, “I know you want more from life than this. And I know you try to convince yourself it’s okay. You probably have friends who are headed here as well, and that’s okay, too.”

I opened my mouth to cut him off, but his hand flew up in the air to stop me from speaking.

“I think that you can do much more. I’m going to be honest with you, Rya. I expect more from you. And if you let me, I’ll teach you everything I know.”

I was so choked up that I couldn’t say more than, ‘Bught- I mean, you- You want me to..”

Unlike most people, Gogor didn’t laugh. His eyes, however, grew warmer.

“Yes. I want you to be my Apprentice.”

I could faint right there on the spot. 

Hello, wonderful people! Just a heads-up, I've updated the blog so that everyone can follow the story-line without any difficulties arising. If you look on the right, you'll see two new widgets under the Rya's Story one, titled GUIDE & Chapters. Under GUIDE I've provided links to pages and posts where you can see the basic info that you need in order to follow the story as it goes. 

'Welcome' links back to the first post which introduces the blog and its purpose. 'Blurb' links to a page containing the basic summary of the story, very short. 'Meet Rya' links back to one of the first posts, which includes Rya's picture and some basic information about her I've just added today. And finally, 'Book of Will' contains all fantasy terms you are unfamiliar with that are inherent to the plot, in alphabetical order; a sort of a reference guide right there. 

And if you're new to the blog, you can go back and read the chapters from the start with the help of the 'Chapters' widget underneath. Hopefully, all this makes it easier for you guys. Thank you for stopping by and joining Rya on her journey!