Chapter 1 : Loss
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Edited: 12 Feb. 2014
Anaxandra sprinted as fast as her feet could carry her, the sound of shrieks reverberating in her ears as she fled. The bottom of her bare feet ached as they pounded against the hard stone floor, her lungs begging for air. She heard the screams and cackles growing louder until they became deafeningly close.
“Come out, come out wherever you are!” a female voice shrieked, causing an echo through the halls. “I can smell you!”
Loud guttural screams followed, and the echoes traveled down the hall until they clawed at Anaxandra’s back. One scream in particular had made its way to Anaxandra’s ears and she felt her heart break. The cries of her little sister could be heard mingling with the hisses and growls.
She fought against the tears threatening to fall and she finally lost the battle. The tears broke the barrier, pouring down her face in torrents. Her pace slowed until she rounded another corner and came to a full halt; unable to pull herself together.
No… she had to keep going…
Just as she took another step, a nearby door opened and a pair of arms flew out to grab her shoulders and pull her in. The door closed and a hand flew over Anaxandra’s mouth, pulling her closer. More screams filled her ears, and now the flow of tears was uncontrollable.
“Stay quiet.” The voice spoke in sharp, hushed tones.
Breaking from the rough arms, she turned around to see her parents’ faces illuminated by candlelight. Her mother’s expression was distraught, the trails of tears highlighted as the flame of the candle flickered dimly in front of her face. Her father’s face was as it always was—hardened, stern, unmoving. Looking around, she realized that she had been pulled into a broom closet. Her father held a finger to his lips as a signal to be quiet. He turned and opened a small, wooden trap door that lay under a rug on the floor.
“I want both of you to go. When all is clear, I will meet you at the end of the tunnel,” he whispered, his steel gray eyes serious.
“What is happening?” Anaxandra hissed.
Her mother clung on to her father's arm. Even in the dark, her knuckles shone white with fear and desperation.
“I’m not leaving here without you!” she quietly cried.
“You have no choice, just go!” Her father ripped his arm out of her grip and ushered her to the trap door. Fresh tears cascaded down her face as she descended the ladder.
Anaxandra leaned forward and kissed her father on the cheek. “Promise me you will meet us.”
Her father’s eyes held nothing but pain as he nodded and ushered his daughter into the secret passage to meet her mother.
“Search everywhere! Make sure you find all of them!” The violent voice was far away, but it wouldn’t stay like that forever.
“I want you to run,” he begged as the sound of hisses and snarls made their way closer. “I want you to run as fast as you can and don’t look back.”
Anaxandra watched as he closed the trap door, leaving her and her mother to stand at the base of the iron ladder.
The straight stone passageway was sparsely lit; torches lining its walls every twenty feet. It was wide enough for two people to comfortably walk side by side, and it was so long that Anaxandra couldn't even see the end. It looked like it led into oblivion.
Her attention briefly flew to the anguish of her blistered feet, the throbbing in her chest and legs, and the stinging of tears on her face. Her hands balled into fists, she could barely muster the strength to keep going, ignoring the protest of her suffering body.
“Come on, Mum!” she choked out, as she began her race to the end of the tunnel.
Seconds ticked away, and Anaxandra heard a weak voice echo behind her. "I love you, Ana."
Disobeying her father’s orders, Anaxandra stopped and looked back.
She felt all the air leave her lungs. She could no longer breathe… Her mother started running back towards the trap door.
“No…” Anaxandra breathed unsteadily, “No!”
It was too late. Her mother reached the top of the ladder and exited the tunnel through the door. There was a final locking sound and Anaxandra stood, frozen. Her mother made her choice and there was nothing she could do. She turned and began sprinting down the long, cold tunnel. Her broken heart was struggling to beat hard enough and her feet ached, the bottom of them starting to bleed. The last thing she could hear was the high-pitched scream of her mother trailing behind her.
After a few minutes, Anaxandra finally made it to the dimly lit end of the passageway only to find nothing; no door and no ladder. This far into the tunnel, the light was scarce. She began frantically feeling around in the darkness, hoping to feel a way out. All she felt was smooth stone. Fear was coursing through her veins and caused her to start shaking. She felt helpless. Why would her father tell her to come down here? What was she supposed to do? She didn't even have her wand.
She fell to her knees and started bawling uncontrollably, holding her head in her hands. They–whoever they were–could find that trap door. They could follow it, and it would lead straight to her. Maybe by then she would have embraced her fate; she would have died a swift death. Or maybe no one would find her at all, and she would remain down here. Starvation and thirst would take her over first, then insanity. Then, she would die alone... Yes, she would die there, never surfacing. She couldn't bring herself to go back up the entrance to the passageway and see what became of her home... of her family...
Of all the times to be a lamb rather than a lion...
Wiping the tears away, a slight glint of something shone on the floor in front of her. Cautiously, she reached out and touched it. There was a sharp tug at her navel and she flew upward. The tunnel area began to dissipate around her, and as suddenly as her feet left the tunnel floor, they just as quickly made contact with soft mud. She looked up and saw the large, full moon. Feeling grass and mud between her fingers, she concluded she was outside, and stood up. The whole area was lit in an orange-yellow glow. Where was this light coming from if she was outdoors?
Anaxandra turned around. Her eyes widened in horror as, in the distance, she saw giant flames engulfing her home. The fire eagerly ate away at the wood paneling, burning away her childhood home. The roof she spent many nights stargazing on had caved in, and fed the murderous flames, causing them to dance in delight. Ignoring the burning sensation in her feet, the soreness of her legs, and the aching in her chest, she ran in to the darkness. She would run as far and fast as her body was willing.
She would not look back.
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