The streets are loud and boisterous as people celebrate one of their favourite times of the year. Mardi gras. I have heard of Mardi gras but have never actually gotten the chance to experience it. Ariel and I have been on the run since her first birthday. We never really had much of a choice of where we were going to end up. I would always look for a place that would keep us hidden from the Dragon Hunters.
Being in a busy city like this has its advantages and disadvantages. It is easy to blend in, but it would only take seconds for me to lose eyes on my sister. It is a risk I am willing to take for one day and one day only. There are a few times every year that I break a few of the rules I set. As long as everything appears stable in the environment, then there isn’t much harm.
Ariel drags me down one of the streets in the new outfit she bought. I didn’t have much choice when she bought it. She told me to wait outside the store, and the next thing I know, she is wearing a crop top and short shorts. It makes me shudder, and anytime I catch a man looking at her, I glare at them, practically burning their eyes out.
Suddenly, there is a loud crack, and people are screaming with laughter. I place a hand on the side of my head as a sharp pain shoots through it. I wince, trying to control myself, attempting to keep myself in the present. This hasn’t happened in years. Not since I ran away from home.
My mind is trying to pull me back into a memory, and I have to force myself to stay in the present, which is harder than one thinks. I grab onto one of the poles, gripping it tightly even as my hand slides down on it. The blackness starts to spot my vision, and within seconds, I am thrust into the past.
Warm liquid drips down my back onto the cold stone below me. My brow is beaded with sweat, and the pain from the lashes is almost unbearable. I can feel my vision going in and out, reality threatening to slip away, but I force myself to stay awake. I need to be strong. My bruised knuckles go white as I grip the stone, trying to focus my energy on healing my broken skin.
“Disappointing, Caspian.” My father’s voice echoes off the walls. “I thought you would be better than that.”
“They…they were i-innocent people….” I breathe as the pain shoots through my body. The image is still fresh in my mind. Water Dragons. Our sworn enemy. The family was trying to make their way through our territory when my father and I came across them on our trip to one of the villages. He ordered me to kill them, but I couldn’t.
“They are our enemy. It doesn’t matter if they are innocent or not,” he says. “The next time I tell you to do something. You do it.”
Crack. I shout out in pain before collapsing onto the stone. My father pulls back his weapon, curling it into a circle. My muscles are too weak to push myself up. All I can do is feel the pain from my broken skin and the blood dripping down my body.
“I thought I raised you to be strong, but I see that your mother has made you weak.” He spits.
“D-Don’t t-talk about h-her—”
Crack. Another strike on my already broken and bloody back. My face hits the cold stone ground. My father steps closer and crouches beside me, tilting his head as he observes his work.
“My son will not speak back to me again, or he will face the consequences,” he says. “Is that understood?”
I croak out a broken yes, though it tastes like poison on my lips. Even though I want to fight, even though I want to scream at him, I can’t. Not while he has the upper hand, and I am left bleeding on the floor.
“When my son is told to do something. He will do it.”
“Y-Yes…” I rasp.
My father clicks his tongue before standing. “I am glad we are on the same page, boy.”
He snaps his fingers, spinning on his heel before walking out of the room. The guards follow him, leaving me bleeding open on the ground. I won’t die from these wounds. A dragon can never die unless someone rips their heart out. So, I will just lay here and heal slowly, wishing and praying to the gods that my mother was still here, giving me advice on what to do.
I am sitting on the sidewalk, Ariel rubbing my back as the memory slowly fades away. She holds out a cup of water for me, and I take it gingerly before throwing it back. I choke on the liquid, spitting it onto the ground.
“What the fuck was that?” I ask her.
“What?!” she exclaims, taking the red solo cup from me. “It’s water!”
“Try again, Ariel.” I choke, hitting my fist against my chest.
Ariel frowns before sniffing the liquid. She makes a sour face. “Vodka.”
I snort before laughing. “Where did you find it?”
“I was asking people if they had water! I was given this.”
“And you accept drinks from just anyone?”
“What else was I supposed to do! I was freaking out!” She gapes.
I laugh again before wrapping my arm around her shoulder. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Me?!” she gasps. “You were the one that almost passed out! Now, are you going to tell me what that was all about? Or are you going to pretend it never happened?”
I frown, looking down at her. “What do you mean?”
She rolls her eyes. “This hasn’t been the first time, you know? Every time you get that weird look in your eye, you pass out for a couple of seconds and then act like nothing happened.”
My shoulders stiffen. “That is because nothing happened.”
Ariel looks me up and down before shrugging beneath my arm. “Fine.”
I open my mouth to say something before shaking my head. I don’t need to burden her with the past. Not while we are on the run and just starting to settle in a new city. Perhaps one day I will share with her what happened, but not today. Standing, I look back down at her.
“Well. Are you going to pout all day? Or are we going to have some fun?” I ask her.
Ariel looks up at me, her face serious for a moment too long before she sighs dramatically. She stands beside me, brushing the invisible dirt from her outfit. She smiles up at me, though her smile doesn’t meet her eyes. Fuck. I fucked up.
“Let’s go,” she finally says before walking in front of me.
I’ll have to tell her. As soon as I get the chance, I will tell her everything.