It was the worst pain imaginable. His soul; the very essence of his being, was being ripped out of his body. Resist. He needed to resist the pull, resist the scorching agony overwhelming his senses. He screamed against the gag in his mouth and looked to his captors with pleading, tear filled eyes; begging them to stop.
The sound of ancient words being read in an emotionless grumble filled his ears as he thrashed against the restraints binding him to a chair.
Another muffled scream escaped him as the circle inscribed with ancient symbols drawn on the ground began to glow a bright orange hue. It was as if hellish embers were glowing from underneath the stone. As despair began to overcome him, he tried desperately to fight. He needed to resist them. But he was so small… so… weak.
He could not resist the pull any longer.
They had won.
And in a dark room, surrounded by cold hearted strangers, he fell quiet into a symphony of fragile whimpers, surrendering to his fate…
Ariel awoke with a start, drenched in sweat. Panting, he looked at the small window to see the sky was being to light up with a gentle pink hue. He had woken up just in time. A sharp exhale and a shake of his head tried to dispel the dream from his thoughts, but for some reason he couldn’t escape the memory of the empty gazes surrounding him during the binding ritual. His hand drifted toward his neck, his fingers gingerly tracing the words tattooed on his neck; a constant reminder of what he was.
“Ariel,” a gentle voice pulled him from his thoughts. He looked over to meet the eyes of a young servant girl, a maid. He recalled that she had been a new addition. It took a minute for him to pull her name from his thoughts: Julia. “Do you intend to sit there all day?”
Though her words were gentle and her concern for him must have been genuine, he could tell that she was still hesitant to even approach him. Julia was a human servant, unlike him, so he supposed it was natural for her to be cautious around him. Despite that, Ariel cracked a grin and shoved the blanket off of his body.
“I’m getting ready, no need to worry about me.”
Most of the other servants had already left to start their duties for the day, leaving a few stragglers behind.
“Alright,” Julia turned away. “If you’re late again the Master might not be… kind.”
Ariel’s smile vanished as she walked out the door. The Master of the house had never been his greatest fan, and the last thing he wanted was another beating. He pulled himself out of bed and quickly changed into his uniform, making sure he looked immaculate. Any wardrobe malfunction could result in punishment if the Master of the house caught him. Luckily for me, I don’t often run in with him. While some servants were unfortunate enough to work closely with the Master of the house, Ariel was lucky enough to be the Master’s son’s Catalyst.
Realizing that the sun was quickly rising, Ariel hopped into his shoes and ran his fingers through his hair as he briskly walked through the manor. His shoes clicked against the paneling as he made his way to the Young Master’s room. The manor was quiet, save the occasional rustle of fabric as people moved about, trying their best to remain silent in the dawn of a new day.
Ariel came to a stop once he reached the door to the Young Master’s bedroom. It had been four years since he had been bought, four years since he had first stepped foot in the manor, four years since he kissed freedom goodbye. Gently sighing, he slowly turned the knob and quietly pushed the door open.
The Young Master’s room was large and covered in carpets with intricate designs spanning over them. With a nudge of his heel, Ariel shut the door and strolled over to the white, lacy curtains covering the large window near his master’s bed. With a grin, he threw the curtains open, letting the light from the morning sun beam into the room, right onto the Young Master’s face.
“Young Master,” Ariel sang. “It’s time to get up.”
His morning greeting was met with a loud groan. Ariel laughed and walked over to the bed and gripped the thick purple blanket covering the small form of his master. With a cruel grin, Ariel whipped the blanket off of him, leaving a small shivering mess. The Young Master glared up at Ariel with his lip stuck out in a pout.
“I thought I told you to call me, Jasper,” he grumbled.
“Of course, Jasper,” Ariel smiled. “Just not in front of your father, okay?”
Jasper nodded and sat up, rubbing his eyes. His pale blond hair was messy and sticking out as aftermath of a restless sleep, and bags hung under his purple eyes. Ariel paused for a moment, staring at those eyes. It was no secret to what those eyes meant, even to a simple Mage. Jasper had been born special; those eyes marked him a prophet of the humans’ great God, Vlast. A pit of anger filled Ariel’s stomach at the thought. To think such a hate-filled, vengeful God whispered into Jasper’s ears throughout the day. Jasper was much too young to have to listen to such dark rambling.
Jasper was small for his age, most fourteen year old boys were taller, or at least Ariel knew he was when he was that age. Despite Ariel being two years Jasper’s senior, Jasper was the one in charge, leaving Ariel a slave to his desires.
But those desires were usually simple and the commander was beyond patient.
“What time is it?” Jasper sighed deeply, clearly not fully arisen from his slumber.
“It’s nearly time for breakfast,” Ariel’s voice held hints of a scold. Jasper huffed and threw his legs over the side of the bed. Ariel took this as his cue, and walked over to Jasper’s closet and yanked the doors open, revealing Jasper’s expensive wardrobe.
“Any color in particular you’d like to wear?” Ariel asked, flipping through various vests.
“Not really…” Jasper admitted. Ariel cracked a smile and grabbed the necessary pieces to put together Jasper’s outfit. After years of service, Ariel had finally gotten the hang of the fashion tastes of the wealthy. As their morning ritual entailed, Ariel assisted Jasper in clothing himself and fixing his hair, making sure he looked presentable enough to sit at the table with his father. There was silence between them, most likely due to Jasper’s grogginess and Ariel’s hesitance. He knew that he had been blessed with a kind master unlike so many other Catalysts; so for that, he should count himself fortunate. However, there was a constant fear nagging at him, warning him that humans were unpredictable and that Jasper could flip at any given second. It was safer to treat humans as minefields.
As he finished buttoning Jasper’s shirt, his attention was turned to the ring on Jasper’s finger. Knots formed in his stomach at the sight of such a simple ring. It was a bright gold with small numbers etched into its surface. To think a piece of jewelry was the bane of his existence.
My soul’s in that thing…
Jasper must have followed Ariel’s gaze for he covered the ring with his hand, looking at Ariel apologetically. Ariel exhaled then forced a smile to appear on his face.
“Let’s get you down to the dining room. I’m sure your father is already there.”
Jasper wrinkled his nose, but quietly began his trip to the dining room. Ariel followed behind him as he always did.
The dining room was large and could seat a dozen people, but the only one sitting at it was Jasper’s father. He shared Jasper’s pale blond hair, but his eyes were dark. He was cold, cruel, and was immensely wealthy. Marrying into a family of prophets often brought material status as well as social. Ariel could clearly remember the first time he ever got to meet him…
“You, the blond one,” The man pointed to Ariel. “What kind of magic can you do?”
Thoroughly intimidated, Ariel gulped, shrinking back further into his cell. “F-fire magic, sir.”
“Fire, huh? That’s nothing special. But why don’t you show me what you’ve got. My son is turning ten this year, and I’m trying to find him the perfect birthday gift.”
Ariel shook the memory away as he met the eyes of the Master. Dropping the gaze as if it could burn him, Ariel gave a small bow to Jasper before turning to head to where the servants were permitted to eat. The servants’ dining area was significantly smaller. Julia was sitting at one of the benches, and across from her was a boy who Ariel instantly recognized.
A bright smile crossed his face.
“Alys!” he exclaimed.