Chapter I: The Chainborn Boy [9]Mature

She smiled at him as she swished her cloak around her and twirled for him, her hair turning chatoyant red, slowly back to its natural colour, and her hair jumping into curls like pulled springs.

          “You have some explaining to do, Anala,” he said, lifting himself up from the platform, but staggering into her already-open arms. He brushed her away quickly, murmuring he was alright, but Anala’s eyes were narrowed on him decisively.

          “I saw you earlier, Uncle,” she said, her voice was gentle but lost none of its reprimanding. “If you’re sick or tired, why is it so difficult to –,”

She was cut off as a burst of light appeared at the corner of her eye from down the street. There stood a squat warden’s tower built half into the hillside, the door open and blocked by two weedy silhouettes. Quickly, Anala’s uncle seized her and pulled her into the mud behind the platform, peeking up over the edge to watch.

          “They are searching for us, Anala. Cloak yourself,”

She clutched her necklace and drew in a breath, and as her lungs filled, the emerald shone its brightest and remained so as she pressed it between her hands. “How did they sense us?” she whispered softly,

          “I fear that was my doing,” he answered,

          “Oh, now you have some explaining to –,”

          “Sshh!” He fixated on the wardens as they became more defined by the light, holding up lamps as bright as Hel-fire, illuminating the thick whipping chains across their chests like lines upon lines of empty eyes.

          “De wards wen’ off, I’s sure of it,” one protested. His words echoed down each of the slumbering streets, thick with fatigue and the brogue of a man once imprisoned in the East, his services bought by commutation and double rationing. “I’s sense ‘em, the damn maggers,”

          “I in’t sense anythin’,” said the other, his lamplight scanning over the platform and nearby land, burning the tops of their heads. “Leave the magger ‘unts to Doug, ya fool,”

          “I in’t no fool! There’s sum’in –,”

          “If yu think this’ll make me forgets you’s owe me twelve an’ six from the game, yu’re kiddin’ yu’self –,”

          “I in’t no swindler either!” Their voices began to fade as they slipped back inside the tower. “I tells ya, Caol…” the door shut with a creak and the street was wrapped again in darkness. Anala exhaled with leisure and sank down reluctantly into the mud.

The End

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