This story is by Mara Casillas and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Months have passed and the only sound that echoes across the dark halls is a distant leak– a constant sound that’s both soothing and maddening. The shackle around her ankle would leave a permanent scar, evidence of scorn.
In a few hours, she’s to be fed her last meal and escorted to the city square.
“Damn you.” She said through gritted teeth, a phrase that recently turned into an hourly ritual.
He put her in here.
“I will make you suffer.” She whispered, commanding herself in a way.
“You will not win.”
Being alone in a cell, she’s had ample time to think about the gradual turn of events and cultivate her power.
Her brother had always been ruthless, beating her into submission and making sure she was never brave enough to be anything but his cowardly little sister.
Her fear was the first step in his plan.
When she was young, her mother was murdered– an arrow straight into the forehead.
Her father was driven mad from the loss of his beloved wife and committed suicide a few years later.
He was planning this for years, right under her nose. Assassinating their own mother and father, and locking his own sister away for his crimes.
To seal her fate, he revealed her cultivation to the Council Elders. She is the youngest to unlock her third element and a natural threat.
The only way to subdue a threat is to get rid of it, so he locked her away and sentenced her to the same fate he had given their parents.
The truth is she’s alone.
Not only are her parents long gone, but Master’s gone underground. He vanished shortly after the King’s death. She hopes he realized her brother’s plan to seize the throne, and disappeared to evade his clutches.
The sadness was eating away at her, but the longer she spent with just her thoughts, the faster her sadness transformed into rage.
With rage comes determination.
“I will not be resistless anymore.”
“I am NOT weak.”
The sound of armored feet began to echo across the stone floor, snapping her out of her trance.
“There’s the little traitor.” The guard said as he approached the cell door.
She just narrowed her eyes.
He sniggered, a smug grin plastered on his face.
She knows better than to make a scene, keeping her head down as the guard opens the door and unshackles her.
Binding her wrists with rope, he leads her out of the cell down the murky hall.
“If you didn’t realize by now, his Highness informed us that you were to have no meal before your execution today. Of course, he thought nothing of it until I brought the idea up myself.”
The word crossed her mind but never made it to her lips.
“I can’t wait to watch you burn, traitor.” an undeniable hatred now present in his voice.
But she’s counting on burning. Being tied to that stake is her only shot at freedom, her only chance to make him pay, and she has a secret weapon.
The crowd jeered and hissed as the prison carriage came to a stop in the middle of the city square. The guard opened the door and led her towards the stake- hatred suffocating her ears.
“ROT IN HELL!”
A single tear escaped down her cheek, but she swallowed the panic and self-doubt that was beginning to take over.
Only I can do this, and I will. I have to.
She closes her eyes as her wrists and ankles are bound to the towering wooden post; the crowd still condemning her with their words of hatred and scorn.
There was a fire kindling, not yet at her feet, but within her- Her last element, her secret weapon. Her soul was igniting and, with it, her power.
Her brother’s voice reverberated across the square.
The crowd fell silent, kneeling for their new King. To them, he was the most powerful in the kingdom, and fittest to be their new ruler– he had two elements after all, and most people couldn’t even master one.
But now she had a power he would never have, her last element.
“Any last words, little sister? Traitor?”
She kept her eyes closed, breathing slow and deep.
The young King scoffed in distaste, but there was a glint of vengeance in his eye.
“I, Lucian Damascus, Son of the Late King His Majesty, Gannyn Damascus, sentence you, Rheyna Damascus, to burn for treason and murder!” he bellowed, his real emotions hidden just beneath his words.
She finally opened her eyes and smiled, her vengeance guiding her in place of confidence.
Before her brother could light the kindle beneath her feet, she released every ounce of power coursing through her body, forcing it to encompass every inch of him– then she ignited it.
Screams erupted from the square, the royal guard fully mobilized and closing in fast.
Without thinking, she ducked and rolled away from the charred post, grabbing her brother’s sword from the sheath attached to his hip. Severe burns marred his body, his normally vanilla-musk scent now better attuned to his personality.
Her goal had been to kill him, but she could still sense his life energy and pick out the small movements of his breath. She hadn’t gotten as powerful as she wanted to in that cell.
Maybe it’s better this way. If he dies now, this will all be for nothing.
The pit in her stomach intensified. On instinct, she laid flat and rolled away from her brother, a sword slicing down into the dirt between the two of them. With a short flick of her wrist, she trapped the blade in a newly formed rock.
“STUPID GIRL!” the guard shouted.
She kicked his legs from under him and trapped his hands and feet in the same manner that she had trapped his sword.
She had trained for many years, but fear still shook her body.
Hesitating for too long, the royal guard surrounded her.
“You can’t escape destiny, little girl… DIE!” It was the guard who had escorted her in the carriage, fury distorted his facial features.
The sword fell from her grasp as she flung her hands to her throat in dread– she couldn’t breathe.
He’s an air elemental.
Panic swelled inside of her; she had to think of a plan- NOW.
Her Master’s words then echoed in her mind,
“Water exists in everything should you ever need it.”
She locked eyes with the guard, finding new resolve despite the lack of air. Reaching out with her spirit, she took hold of the water in his body and immobilized him.
“Why you….” rage was rolling off of him in waves.
With her first breath, she began boiling him from the inside out. Realization seeped through his gaze as he roared from the pain.
Now your blood is really boiling, huh?
After countering his attack, she let out a giant burst of air, forcing the guards away from her and clearing an escape route.
Knowing they would recover soon, she ran, wracking her brain for options.
Laying eyes on the carriage that brought her here, she had her new plan.
She unhitched the horse from the carriage, her life depending on her speed, and climbed on.
“SEIZE HER! DO NOT LET HER ESCAPE!!!”
She kicked the horse hard in its side, and with a whinny, they took-off headed towards the outskirts of the city.
She didn’t dare to look back, only pushed the horse to go faster.
Soon the yelling died out, but she did not stop.
Crude city structures turned into sparse housing; she did not stop.
The little farmhouses soon disappeared behind her as well, forest becoming more and more prevalent– she can’t stop.
Her horse reached its limit and safe or not; she dismounted and secured the horse to a nearby sapling.
She cupped her hands, gathering water with her spirit, and then allowed the horse to drink until it was satisfied.
“Thank you,” she said to the horse, stroking its nose.
Finally, paying mind to the blood escaping from the corner of her mouth, she sat down to rest. Her body wasn’t capable of withstanding the amount of power she had cultivated yet.
Now that she was out of her brother’s grasp, she needed to locate her Master, and she needed to do it without drawing any attention.
With the last of her power, she manipulated the surrounding air into a mirage, disguising her and the horse from wandering eyes.
She closed her eyes, fresh rain starting to drip through the foliage above.
I will find you, and I will make things right.