Brenna finished attaching the eyelets to the back of white dress she’d sewn for the birthday ritual. She tried not to think of how tonight she’d have to hear wielder after wielder give her sappy “your powers will come” speeches as they look to her with pity. She sighed, thinking about it anyway.
Most wielders started showing their powers around puberty. But it came and went and there’s still no touch of magic. She can’t even feel it; the subtle hum of power that every other wielder has described. Brenna had tried so hard and so long at magic practice until she eventually gave up. Now a young adult, the world outside of their small town was beckoning her. There was more beyond the trees and meadows and she wanted to discover it.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, putting her focus back into her dress. She threaded the eyelets with a thick white satin lace and held it in front of her.
“Alright, now let’s make sure it fits.” She aloud to herself to drown out her own thoughts as she stepped into the dress. She struggled for the laces in the back and cinched the waist before making a sloppy bowtie.
She spun in front of her bedroom mirror, craning her neck to see as much of her back as she could. “Niiice. Good job, Brenna.” She pranced around the empty house in her bare feet, excited that at least something about tonight would go her way.
Brenna looked at the map of Dorinda she’d pinned to her wall, her fingers tracing the rivers from Kaern to nearby cities. “One day.” She whispered. When she was ready, when she knew her mother was ready, she’d find a place where magic didn’t matter. Where she could be normal.
She jumped at the sudden burst of screams outside of her window. Reckless and brave as usual, she rushed to the door, heart pounding, adrenaline pumping. She swung open the door, greeted by a pair scarred and dirty faces with wicked grins.
“Oh, well, hello.” One man slithered as the other began to reach toward her arm.
Brenna whipped the door closed as hard as she could and began to run to her room. The man who reached toward her grunted in pain as the door closed on his forearm. She locked her door and opened her window, the odor of burning wood stung her nostrils. She could hear shouting, swords clanging. She lifted her dress, feeling sick as the doorknob began to rattle. She swung one leg outside of the window, but they were already inside. The strangers’ hands were on her, pulling her back into her room. She struggled and managed to catch one of the men off guard, her knee landing between his legs. She pushed off of the window sill and knocked the other man over. She slipped out of her room. She didn’t expect them to be so quick.
One man caught her hair in the hallway and pulled her back against him. His other arm tight around her chest. Brenna let out blood curdling scream and clawed at his hands. The other man slipped around her and grabbed her jaw. “We can make this real easy for you or real hard.” He laughed, unbuckling his belt with his free hand.
“Get off!” Brenna shouted as she kicked the man’s leg.
“C’mon, Barker, show this lass how we handle uncooperative women.” The man behind her chuckled in her ear.
The one called Barker cupped her breasts. Brenna shouted for help. The man behind her kicked the back of her knees. She began to cry as she swung her arms wildly, but Barker wrestled her onto her back. Her nails were red with blood from the scars she left on their faces and arms. She continued to thrash, but they pinned her limbs. Unwanted fingers touched her pale skin through tears in her dress. She screamed until her throat was raw.
“You fucking pigs.” A deep voice echoed throughout the hall. Eyes wide with panic, then two mean whipped their heads and looked toward the living room.
With wide strides, the man towered over her attackers before they could move. He scowled and effortlessly lifted the men to their feet by the backs of their shirts. “Put your dicks back. No one wants to see that.” He pushed them toward the open doorway. “Go.”
Brenna looked up with blurry eyes as she sat up. The light from the entryway gave the mysterious man a soft halo. For a moment she was awestruck as the tears cleared.
He reached down and pulled her to her feet by her underarms. beautiful with unruly dark hair. He smelled like a wildfire. His black unruly hair and deep blue eyes paled his skin.
Brenna stumbled as she tried to get her footing on her sudden sore ankle. She caught the leather strap of his single pauldron that crossed his chest. He was sturdy, barely moving as she steadied herself against him.
“Easy.” His hands gripped her upper arms.
Brenna looked up through locks of stray hair. He brushed back her hair, surprised by the sting of familiar features. He eyes moved around her face, soaking in every freckle, every blemish. He didn’t remember reaching for her skin, but he palmed her jaw gently losing himself her soft brown eyes.
Brenna’s heart pounded in her chest. The silence between them rang painfully in her ears. She was confused, aroused, curious, yet unable to do or say anything. She was frozen in his grasp.
“Don’t. Just let her go.” A gentle voice came from the doorway.
The man holding her blinked, his eyes suddenly seeming colder. He’d spoken to the voice without taking his eyes off of her “Fine.” A quick jerk is all it took. The snap of her neck echoed in the silence, followed by the sound of her limp body against the old wooden floor.
Samuel winced. “That’s not what I meant.”
Alaric stepped over Brenna’s corpse, looking around her small house, “Did you find what we came here for?”
Samuel sighed, “Nope. Not here. It appears our source was mistaken.”
Alaric scoffed, “Mistaken, I’m sure.”
Samuel broke the silence during their walk back to the caravan. “That girl, you shouldn’t have-“
“It doesn’t matter now.”
“But she looked just like-”
“Sam,” Alaric sighed and rolled his eyes, “It doesn’t matter.”