I floated across the stage, my feet barely touching the old wooden boards. I kicked my leg up in attitude as the building crescendo of the music was relieved by the climax of the resonating rings of cymbals crashing together, I allowed a smile break across my face as I knew who wielded those brass cymbals. I froze on the point of my toe, leg bent behind me hairbreadth away from my head. A roar of applause met my ears as the reverberating sound of the cymbals dissipated. I came down from my frozen position and curtsied to the crowd before I floated off the stage.
The girls waiting by the stage hugged me and whispered words of congratulations before they themselves fluttered onto the worn wooden stage. "Great job, Lya." Whispered a red headed girl dressed in a tutu meant to look like the feathers of an ibis. She called me by the shortened version of my name: Orsolya.
"Good luck." I whispered back, breathless. She smiled back at me before running onto the stage and beginning her own dance. She was meant to be a wise girl who an evil sorcerer had turned into an ibis to keep her from telling the girl he wanted to marry to be wary of him.
I was dancing the role of a mischievous fox who desired above all to be human. I had about an hour and a half to get ready for my next dance, a pas de deux with the evil sorcerer. The fox I portrayed would meet the sorcerer in the woods and offer to eat the ibis who threatened the sorcerer's potential marriage for the price of a spell to make her human.
I sat down and peeled my pointe shoes from my feet, checking to make sure the soles of them weren't worn through. One moment, I was breathing heavily, the next I could not breath at all. My hand flew to my throat and I shot to my feet. I clawed at the ballet master, my hard nails sinking into his soft flesh. He merely brushed me away.
Outside, the air was cool and felt like a blessing against the boiling heat of my skin. Familiar pain laced its way through my body, turning the heat to a roaring fire beneath my flesh.
It was a difficult feat to keep my grimace from showing. My teeth ground together like great boulders from the effort it took to keep silent and hold a neutral face. The Reapers had come--the most brutal enforcers of His Illustriousness as they called him. I just called him bastard.
I stood with my father and mother outside our bakery. We were not the only ones on the street, everyone had gathered on the cobblestones of Mother's Way--the street in the city well known for food and drink. Of course everyone was gathered, no one would be foolish enough to not make an appearance when the Reapers were conducting a raid, or as they called it a "safety search". Staying inside might cause the Reapers to think you were up to something, and they might sick the raven on you for it. I couldn't stop the crinkling of my nose in disgust at the thought that these raids were for our safety. The idea that it was for the people's benefit was utter bullshit.
The Reapers spilled into the street. The black glint of their obsidian uniforms struck fear into the hearts of the people, but what struck fear into the mind were the three animals the Reapers had with them: a sleek white bear, huffing quietly as the commander of the Reapers rode upon her, a golden lion snarling beside her, and a jet black raven perched on the shoulder of the commander.
The Reapers had not given the animals names, but the people had: Death, Damnation, and Spy.
Death prowled closer and closer, I could almost see the delicate, precise designs cut into the golden of the collar around the lion's neck. It was without a doubt the most expensive thing I had ever seen, and the most beautiful. Around the lion's neck even the breathtaking piece looked hideous. It was called the Lion's Collar and around the necks of Damnation and Spy sat the Bear Collar and the Raven Collar respectively.
Just like that, the lion's amber eyes were locked onto me. My whole body screamed at me to drop my gaze, but I refused and stared into the lion's eyes. Death glared right back at me, lip curling around fangs that could rip through my body in less than a second. I felt my mother grab my hand; she squeezed it, hard. She whispered my name under her breath: Kylan.
The enormous paw of the lion lifted, but before it could take a step closer to me the lion's ears twitched. Death gave a low growl and prowled away towards Curtis Linton's brewery.
It all happens so fast, the lion pounced on Curtis, trapping the man under his massive paws. The Reaper commander dismounted Damnation, the bear, he leaned over Curtis. Light flashed off the man's grin, like moonlight reflecting off a knife about to enter a back. Damnation entered the brewery followed by Spy, the raven, on his swift wings. The two animals were gone for what seems to me to last an eternity. No one around me was breathing as Spy guided Damnation to the treasure they sought. The only sound was the faint whimpering of Curtis as hot drool dripped onto his face from Death's maw.
A jet black raven landed on the shoulder of the commander, he gave Spy a slow caress. The white she-bear appeared. Without warning, quick as a whip, she took a chunk out of Curtis' leg; the bite unleashed something in the lion and he too wrapped his teeth, sharp as blades, around Curtis' body. Death and Damnation took turns until all that was left of the brew master was bloody ribbons and gore dripping down the maws of a great white she-bear and a fierce amber lion.
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