SNIPPET TIME

Started a new WIP, and this is chapter two

“Aten, wake up,” Seren’s tense voice woke him, and he stumbled out of bed, still half awake, his hand inside Seren’s as they went out of the house. Aten stopped, stumbling as he stared around him in disbelief.

The woods were burning.

“What-” he couldn’t find words, they stuck in his throat, and he was aware of his breath speeding up. “Where’s father?”

Seren’s cheeks were streaked with tears, dark green against the pale brown of her face. The expression in her dark green eyes gave him all the information he needed. His knees buckled, and if not for Seram’s hand still holding his, he would have fallen.

“Everything is burnt,” he mumbled.

“The humans did this,” Seren said, her voice full of anger and hatred, and he felt an answering flame light up inside him. But it was no use. They were still children, and there was nothing they could do right now. Their magic, as powerful as it was, was not fully developed yet.

“We have to leave,” he whispered. “If they… if father is gone, we’re not safe here, anymore.”

Seren looked conflicted. “We can’t leave the woods,” she said. “We’re the guardians now… If we leave…”

Aten knew it even as he shook his head to stop her. “We can’t stay. We aren’t safe, and if we too get killed, there’s no one… we need to leave.”

Seren moved closer. She was only as tall as him despite being older by five summers. “Where will we go?” she asked, fear in her voice, her eyes wide with anxiety.

“Uncle Volans,” he said, as if he had already thought of it. His words surprised him. Uncle Volans was his mother’s only brother, and he had forsaken his heritage to marry a human.

“But-” Seren stared at him, consternation in her eyes. “He lives in the human world… with humans… we can’t… Aten, we can’t!”

“We have no choice!” he snapped, tearing his hand from her grip and hugging himself. Around him, the forest was burning, but here, protected by their father’s magic, they were safe for the moment. “We can’t go to any of the other woods, Seren. The human world is our only chance at survival, and we can’t go there just like that!”

She looked mutinous, still. “I know we can’t go to the other woods,” she said. “But… why him?”

“He’s our uncle,” He frowned at her. “What have you against him?”

“Not him,” she said, face darkening. “His wife… she insulted mom, or have you forgotten that?”

“She’s dead,” he said. “His wife, that is.” He didn’t mention mom. That was still a sore spot.

I hope she’s okay, wherever she is.

“Oh,” Seren said, looking surprised. “I… I didn’t know that.”

He said nothing. It was just how she was. “Yeah, it has been five summers since.”

“All right, then,” she said. “Does he have any children?”

He shook his head. “Not to my knowledge.” Not that he knew much. Ever since mom had left them, news about uncle Volans had been scarce. Though their father maintained cordial relations with his erstwhile brother-in-law, the fact that he had chosen a human over his own kind meant they couldn’t meet or visit. The sporadic messages uncle Volans sent were his only source of knowledge.

“We’ll go to him,” Seren said quietly. Her eyes still lingered on the tree that had housed them since their births.

It struck Aten then, that they were leaving their home, their people, everything they knew. Something was crawling up his insides, threatening to spill out, in dark tendrils of terror. He looked at the burning forest and swallowed it down. They had no choice. It was leave or be consumed by the flames inching closer to their tree.

“How do we get past that?” Seren whispered, her eyes back to the raging inferno surrounding them.

“We have to try and use our magic,” he said. “Invisibility and protection.”

He wasn’t even sure they could do it. All this while, he had not thought of the fact that they might not even be able to escape.

“Aten! Seren!” a voice was heard shouting from somewhere to their right, and before their astonished eyes, a man stepped out from the fire.

Not a man, Seren’s mind corrected. He was only disguised as human. “Uncle Volans?”

“You’re both safe!” He looked relieved, his face weathered and gaunt, just like his disguise. “I came as soon as I saw the fire. Come, we don’t have time to lose.”

“You came for us?” Seren’s voice sounded strange.

Uncle Volans nodded, his expression stern. “Did you think I was going to let you die here? You’re my family.”

Family. Warmth bloomed inside Aten’s chest, and he saw Seren take a shaking step closer to their uncle, her eyes misty.

“Family,” she whispered, sounding full of wonder.

“I’m sorry we had to be strangers till now,” Uncle Volans said. “I couldn’t break our laws, and risk the humans learning of us. I had to stay away, but I couldn’t when I saw… I had to come.”

They both moved and hugged him, words again sticking in Aten’s throat. Strong arms hugged them back, holding them close, and Uncle Volans had the same smell as father, like earth and a spring morning, and lightning.

Oh.

“You were a guardian too?” Aten asked, struggling to comprehend how he could have abandoned his woods for a human.

“So long ago it might have been a dream,” Volans moved back, but his hands were on their shoulders, right hand on Aten’s left and left hand on Seren’s right. “Let’s get out of here. Plenty of time to reminisce later, if we wish for it.”

His magic crackled around them, sounding like a whiplash, and smelling like lightning striking the earth. Cold filled Aten, surrounding him, as if he was encased in ice, and the next, he was moving at incredible speeds, that everything around was a blur. When it ended, he stood before a large house, and the cold was gone, and the feel of his uncle’s magic.

“Welcome to my house,” Uncle Volan’s leathery face broke into a smile, though it was strained.

Warmth filled Aten as he followed his uncle inside, Seren at his side.


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