She didn't remember much about her parents. Not any of the good things, anyway. As the eldest of four siblings, she remembered much more about the way they'd made her feel than anything her parents had actually done. Despite the fact she knew nothing about them, she was sure they were good people with good hearts; she liked to believe most people were that way.
They just hadn't acted that way sometimes.
Maizah didn't know their motivations, but she had her suspicions. She remembered her mother and father crying a lot when Kamaria was born. When Issa was born shortly after, they outright screamed and wailed. It was as if the moon had come crashing straight toward Faetronia itself— as if their lives had flashed before their eyes. Her suspicions said that, unlike most expectant parents, they hadn't wanted their children to share their omen. They had probably even deliberately planned the timing of her mother's pregnancy to prevent such an outcome, but the Furoan blood running through their veins would have made that difficult.
Maizah sat just outside the room when her mother went into labor. Maizah sobbed as her father urged her mother to contain it like that was something within her control. At the time, she had thought her mother was dying, that something had gone horrifically wrong. She was around seven, then. She hadn't known better.
She didn't know that, in truth, her parents were horrified to bring a child of the Furoa Omen into the world.
They had already brought in two.
Jacinth, however, was their golden child.
Born just two years after Maizah—second born of four children— she was the luckiest of the Sterling siblings because she was born into the Teio Omen; the most highly reputed Omen out of the twelve. Furoa, on the flip side, was the lowest.
It was hard for any of them to forget that.
Three of them were treated poorly; the way one might treat a puppy destined to grow into a savage wolf. People got close, but never too close. Their attention could be interpreted as care or as barely concealed dread. The slightest mistakes were blown far out of proportion and the most significant achievements were swept under the rug. Maizah hoped her younger siblings didn't notice, but she never missed the way they cried under the shine of the moon or ensnared within the darkness of their blankets.
Jacinth, however, was treated like the blessing she was, both by their parents and by outsiders. She was given whatever she asked for. She was lent certain privileges and reprieves the other three could only be envious of from a distance. It made her arrogant, apathetic, and cold.
Maizah resented it but she loved her. All of them did. How could they not?
But, when her parents passed away when she was around the age of fifteen, things changed.
Maizah made sure they did.
She made sure no one treated her siblings any differently on the basis of their birth omens where she could see. It meant Jacinth got treated a little less like a rare, flawless gem and Kamaria and Issa got treated a little better than scum on the bottom of one's shoes. It humbled Jacinth and built up both Kamaria's and Issa's confidence.
It filled Maizah's heart with something warm and whole that she couldn't quite place.
She functioned as both their mother and father because, as the oldest of the household, it was only her basic duty. That meant she was forced to grow up far too quickly, but it mattered little. The years flew by and now, at the age of nineteen, Maizah accompanied Jacinth on her journey to Ataraxia city where the clouds were low and the air in a constant state of chill.
She'd lived among the Furoa Omen her entire life; it was past time for her to become acquainted with her true Omen.
"Does this mean we'll never see Jacinth again?" Issa asked by her side, swinging his hand back and forth where it was intertwined within her own.
"What do you think, Issa?" Maizah teased, raising her eyebrow at her brother.
"You'll see her again," Kamaria said softly before he could respond. She was picking at one of the many threads protruding from her shirt, twirling it around her finger delicately before pulling it loose.
Jacinth scoffed. "You shouldn't be so certain."
The statement earned her a harsh swat to her arm.
The voyage took longer than even Maizah expected it to. The two Omens didn't only metaphorically live in entirely different worlds, they presided in completely opposite corners of the country of Faetronia. As such, they were decidedly both exhausted and relieved when they arrived at iron gates made of intricate designs with various flowers woven in between the railings, the circular Teio Omen symbol sitting dead center. Two women waited just outside it. Considering they were both wearing circlets of gold, Teio's official color, she could take a guess at who they were.
"Jacinth Sterling?" the taller of the two asked. She smiled kindly, but it didn't meet her eyes. It was merely an expression birthed of professionalism, and Maizah would expect nothing less of one born into the Teio Omen. "I'm glad to see you've arrived safely."
"Had you expected different?" Jacinth quipped.
Neither of the women laughed.
Maizah turned to look at the shorter of the pair, smiling at her when she noticed the woman was already staring at her. The woman reverted her gaze quickly. Her eyes were dark and her skin was brown with undertones as cool as her demeanor. Her hair was styled in long locs that fell all the way down to her hips, the front portion pulled high in a large bun. She was beautiful, and Maizah was about to tell her as much until she opened her mouth to speak.
"Violetta Rivers," she introduced herself, her expression barely shifting as she spoke. "I'm pleased to welcome you into our Omen."
She didn't bother smiling, but that wasn't surprising. Considering she didn't even bother putting in the effort to look Jacinth in the eyes, that was, that was.
Jacinth ducked her head a bit in acknowledgement. From the corner of her eye, Maizah noticed the dottings of sweat behind her ears. "Jacinth Sterling."
"They know your name," Maizah said with a roll of her eyes. "They already said it."
Jacinth's eyes widened as she caught her mistake.
"Zinnia Rivers," the tall one said, her smile stretching further and leaving little crinkles near the corners of her eyes. Her hair was styled in locs much like Violetta's, but they were nowhere near the dramatic length. Nonetheless, her hair was long enough to partially hide her expression when she let her head dip, as well. "Don't worry about it. It never hurts to hear your name from your own mouth."
"Will you be staying here for the night?" Violetta asked, her voice flattened to monotony. It didn't seem purposeful. It seemed like something she probably did every day without even the slightest thought. "There is plenty of space in our inns."
"Is that a good sign?" Maizah laughed. "Sounds like I should be concerned."
Violetta's face remained a blank slate, but Zinnia surrendered a small laugh.
"They're expensive," Violetta said, "and we have high standards. That's why they aren't full."
"But if you choose to stay the night," Zinnia tagged on calmly, "it will be without charge."
"Very generous of you!" Maizah yawned, stretching her arms above her head. "We'll take you up on it. Not like I really have a choice. I feel like my legs might give out at any second."
Zinnia nodded, turning and already beginning to walk away. "Follow me."