This story is by Kirara Moon and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Elen!? What are you doing here!?” Shota shouted over the noise of the battlefield, surprised to see his younger brother there, defending himself against an opponent. He took him down easily, and turned back to Shota with a look of bewilderment in his eyes.
“Why are you fighting!?” Elen shouted. Shota’s heart dropped. “ I thought you said you hated father and everything about this war, yet you’re fighting. Get out of here before they kill you!”
Shota moved on his brother’s last word, crushing a nearby opponent with the back of his spear. The man went down silently.
“You get out of here!” he yelled back. “You have no business being around me, you’re just a fool for coming,”
This stopped Elen for a moment, but that moment was all it took for someone to shove a spearhead in his shoulder. Elen’s eyes went wide with pain, and he fell without a sound.
But it was loud in Shota’s ears. “NOOOOO!”
Shota never knew how fast he was. He took down everyone within vicinity of him and his brother, but more was coming constantly. He grabbed Elen in a one-armed shoulder carry and ran.
He ran and ran, not stopping even as Elen’s moans got louder, not until the groups of soldiers they were fighting thinned out and the ground, riddled with exploded dirt and dust, became grass and messy puddles of yesterday’s rain.
Shota spotted a hut among the fighting stragglers and readied himself to stab lest the men saw them and came closer. He barreled into the abandoned building and set Elen down gently on the dusty ground.
“Hold on, brother, I’ve got you,” Shota said to calm his brother down, but more for himself. He didn’t want his brother to die for his sake.
“Dammit,” Shota cursed under his breath. He left his bag of supplies at the bunkers and that was where the first aid kit was. He quickly took off his armour and tore at the fabric of his sweaty shirt with the spearhead. Elen moaned again, breathing hard as he clutched his bleeding shoulder.
“Let me see it, Elen,” Shota rasped, prying his hand away.
“Ow, just leave it, damn it…”
Shota ignored him, tying the wound up with his shirt and making sure he didn’t lose any more blood.
“I’m sorry this had to happen to you. War is a beast.”
“I should be saying that to you,” Elen said weakly. Shota watched him stare up at the ceiling. His breathing had calmed somewhat.
“What are you doing here, Shota? Why did you leave the kingdom?”
This wasn’t what Shota had been expecting at all, to see his brother, and then to get asked this question so early. He thought he’d never have to answer to another family member ever again.
“You shouldn’t have followed me here,” he said gruffly. “Who told you?”
“Haven did.” Elen heaved.
This surprised Shota. “Haven?”
Was it possible his brother knew where he was going all along? Six years ago, was he awake when Shota told him about the drafting?
“I never gave anyone an idea I was leaving for the war. I made it so that everyone thought I would stay. How in the world did Haven-”
“You might have fooled me and the rest of the royal family, but Haven knew,” Elen looked away then, his voice whispery. “He knew and I didn’t believe him…”
“Then how come you’re here now?”
Elen didn’t answer his question.
“The war is turning for the worse. They’re going after father now. All of them.”
Including the king’s soldiers. “I know, Elen.” Shota responded. “Father’s in trouble because he’s the most powerful man in the world. I wondered when we would turn on him, it was only a matter of time.”
“Yet, you still want to fight in this war.”
“I never loved father.”
“He’s not the reason, though, is he?”
Shota sat back on his haunches, tired. “No, he’s not.”
There was silence in the building, the only sounds being the grunts and metal clashing of fighting outside.
Shota stared up at the ceiling in a semi-daze, the familiar darkness he came to find comfort in during these moments of pain crowded his vision.
“I poisoned you and Haven when you were in mother’s womb.” he said suddenly. “That’s why I’m here. By fighting in this war I can at least make a difference for your lives and help you live a peaceful life again.”
“By dying,” said Elen.
“You’re not surprised about my confession.”
“Because it doesn’t make sense.”
“But, it’s the truth.”
Elen shook his head. “Poison kills. We would be dead if you poisoned us, as well as mother if what you say is true.”
Shota sighed. “It was a special kind of poison,” he clenched his jaw. “One of enchantment.”
“Magic?” asked Elen.
Shota smirked at the new word everyone was now calling Pandora to be. “Pandora is not magic, it’s power.”
Elen frowned where he lay. “It’s not called that anymore. You’re so far away from us it probably haven’t come to you yet.” he muttered. “We call Pandora magic now.”
“Well, whatever it is, I created the poison from it.”
Elen went silent then, listening.
Shota began his story.
“Shota? Shota!” shouted a voice close to his ear. Shota opened his eyes again to see Elen hovering over him, face unreadable in the dim light of the abandoned building they’d taken refuge in.
The familiar sounds of gunshots and explosives, screams and grunts of the soldiers fighting outside, came back into his head like a song, and Shota remembered where he was.
He was not in his home with his family, his feet on that soft flooring his father so loved, with a bottle of “magic” poison in his hands.
He was not hurting his loved ones.
“Why am I on the floor?” he asked Elen. He noticed his bleeding shoulder was bandaged, realizing he’d fixed him earlier. Elen shook his head. “You were telling me stuff about how you tried to poison me and Haven before our births, but you blacked out all of a sudden. I thought you got shot by a stray bullet.”
Shota’s head felt cloudy. He sat up gingerly and looked over at Elen worriedly.
“What…What did I tell you?”
Elen seemed to shut down then. Finally, he spoke. “Everything I needed to know.”
Shota blinked, his stomach roiling with nerves.
“I’m sorry, Elen. About everything I did-”
“No you’re not.” Elen snapped. Then he stood, having Shota crane his neck to see him.
“If you were, you would have told us a long time ago. Instead you allowed Haven to think he was sickly and weak naturally, and you let me think I was too slow to live on my own. Well, look at me now, Shota-look at me now,”
Elen said loudly, and Shota did see. He saw Elen as a soldier, not that little boy of pale skin and weak bones following him around anymore, or trying to keep up with his younger slightly healthier brother, Haven. He was standing on his own now.
Shota smiled. “Yes, I see you now, Elen. And you’re better than I am. You deserve to be called a Mercantos.”
“But,” said Elen sadly. It confused Shota. “That’s not good enough anymore.” He looked at Shota now, and Shota saw something different in Elen this time, something broken.
“This war is killing me, it’s breaking me down and creating me into something I’m not. All this time I thought there was something wrong with me, but it’s not is it? I’m acting irrational because of what you put inside me all those years ago.”
Shota felt his friend, guilt, bubble in his stomach. “I can’t change what’s done-”
“No, but you can save yourself from it.”
Shota perked at that, his eyes widened at his little brother. For so long he’d been trying to find some sort of redemption for his actions, but nothing could overcome the devastating truth that he tried to harm his brothers. His family.
Tears formed in his eyes. “How?” he rasped.
Elen’s golden eyes nearly closed. His right hand splayed, and small blue lightning skittered out and over his fingers as if in a dance. While dancing, the Pandora grew and stretched to nearly cover his arm. Blue light and the sound of low electricity filled the room. Shota’s eyes went wide.
Was he going to…?!
“Elen, please, I can’t die by your hand. I want to die fighting in the war, to bring myself peace for leaving your life-”
“Kill me.” Elen interrupted him. Shota stopped stuttering, blinking up at his brother. There was pain in his brother’s eyes. “What?”
Elen smiled one last time. “That is how you may redeem yourself.”