There had been no word and they were running low on food. Even if they kept rations to a minimum it would be days before they ran out, rather than weeks. Xavia glanced at her brother, who just shook his head, because they had no other option. Opening the door could easily be the end for all of them, as they had no way of knowing who was outside, but a quick death did, at that moment, seem a better choice than dying slowly of starvation. Biting hard on her lip she did her best not to get involved in the argument, knowing that once she did it would be up to her to make the final decision, and she wasn’t ready to kill everyone in the room.
Sighing, Xavia sat down on one of the chairs. They would, as always, eventually ask her what she thought. Unfortunately there was only one answer she could give, no matter how scared she was of what they might find when they did open the door. A couple of times she’d been certain she’d heard noises, someone waiting for the day when they eventually had to risk their lives in order to survive, but that didn’t mean that whoever it was still waited for them. She had no way of knowing anything, until they opened the door.
“What do you think?” Hadar asked, looking at Xavia and she wondered how it was that she’d become the one they all turned to for advice.
“Neither option is good,” Xavia replied, shrugging. “We don’t have enough supplies to survive here for much longer and we don’t know what’s happened out there. It’s entirely possible there may be someone on the other side, waiting for us to open the door. We might be the last of our people. I just think a quick death is better than a slow one and right now we still have the energy to either scavenge for food or fight someone. If we leave it until we’ve got nothing left then we’ll have no chance of survival at all.”
“Opening the door is a mistake,” Cyrus said, sounding amazingly calm considering the position they were in. “Staying here is a mistake. Deciding which is the worst mistake is what we have to do right now.”
Mair shook her head. “I don’t agree. The only option we have is to open the door. Staying here and starving isn’t something I’m even contemplating.”
“The problem is,” Suvi answered, “you’re not the only one here. Staying here may not be an option for you, but I think I may prefer starving to having my head chopped off.”
“We can’t know that there is someone on the other side of that door waiting to chop our heads off,” Paolo said, running a hand through his hair. “It could be safe for us to leave.”
“It won’t be safe,” Xavia replied, looking at the people she had been living with ever since they’d been hidden away for their own protection. “Even if there isn’t someone out there waiting for us we all know that we were placed here to keep us safe, because something was coming. Something none of our families would talk to us about. That means that whatever has happened is bad, so we need to be prepared for what we might find, and ready to fight for our lives if that’s what it comes down to.”
“In order to fight we need weapons,” Hadar said, shaking his head, “which is something none of us have.”
Xavia looked at her brother again, who shrugged, basically telling her it was up to her if she decided to tell them or not. “We do have weapons,” she replied, her voice little more than a whisper. “Father had them locked in a safe that was only to be opened if things got this bad. He asked me not to mention them until I had to, even though he left the final decision up to me.”
It was hard to believe she might never see her father or mother again. Xavia looked around at the people she’d lived for with almost half a year, who’d all become at the very least people she cared about enough to be bothered whether or not they lived. She wouldn’t say she was friends with all of them, but then she’d never been friends with half the people she was forced to associate with because of her father’s position, and to have made a few friends made things a little better. Even if she was going to end up sending them all to their deaths.
“What could have happened out there?” Paolo asked, his eyes meeting Xavia’s. “Your father must have mentioned something if he told you that there were weapons.”
“From what I heard…” Xavia took in a deep breath, trying not to let any images into her mind as she spoke. “There are kingdoms where people believe that magic is dangerous. Soldiers from one of those kingdoms visited the King about a month before we were hidden, telling him that he either executed all known magic users in the kingdom or they would do it and take over the kingdom.” She ran a hand through her hair, feeling the slight tremor. “The King didn’t believe them until we had the first reports of the soldiers killing magic users in the outer towns and that was when Father started gathering us together. If things went as badly as I believe they must have then we may well be the only magic users alive in the kingdom.”
“You should have told us this before,” Hadar growled.
“Xavia didn’t have a choice,” Randolf said, his voice calm. “Father was adept at hiding what we needed to know until we needed to know it.”
Hadar looked between Xavia and Randolf. “Your father had a mind power.”
“Yes, he did.” Xavia did her best to seem as calm as Randolf, but it wasn’t easy. “It’s not something he liked to be common knowledge or something he used often. When he did it was because he knew he had no other option and with this…” She shrugged. “He didn’t think there was another option. All he wanted to do was keep us safe for as long as possible, which is what he’s done, and now we have to make a choice which step we take next. In order to make that choice we need all the information he had at his disposal to give us.”
“That is information you should have given us before,” Cyrus said, sounding more disappointed than angry, and Xavia shook her head, knowing that they had no idea how hard it had been not to tell them, but she had been told more than once that they needed to stay safe for as long as possible. “We should have been permitted to make an informed decision.”
“Your parents were,” Xavia replied, attempting to keep her voice calm, even though she wanted to shout at them. “It was up to them to make the choice, not you, and as you’re here they obviously decided they wanted you here for some reason, although I have no idea what that reason might be.” She sighed. “Look, I didn’t make the choice to keep what I know from you out of malice, but because it was the best option. Until the day came when I was certain that no one was going to come for us I was fulfilling the duty I promised your parents I would do – I kept you all safe for as long as possible. Now we have to make the decision together what we’re going to do next and in order to do that you need to know everything that I do, but in order for me to do that I need to break down a number of walls my father placed in my mind, in case someone did find us, and that may well lead to me going mad.”
A long silence followed, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. Xavia waited. She knew what she wanted to do, even though she knew how dangerous it was, but in the end it was up to the rest of the group. If they wanted to know what had happened outside she would be able to tell them. If they didn’t then she would keep the walls up until she died, which might be of starvation if the group’s decision was to keep the door closed, although she couldn’t imagine that was even a valid option for most of them – no matter how scared they were of what might be on the other side.
“How much do you know?” Hadar asked, finally, his voice much quieter than it had been before.
“More than I want to.” Xavia almost smiled. “Father told me he would keep sending reports to my mind, so I would know exactly what happened out there, and as he isn’t here to get us out I know he’s dead. As no one knew of his mind power it’s very likely that somewhere behind those walls will be the moment he died, because his magic would have automatically connected with mine.”
“Before we came here Father told us exactly how his power worked and told us we were lucky to have been born when we were,” Randolf said, and Xavia could hear the sadness in it, even though she was certain that no one else could. “Within Xavia’s mind there are a number of different walls that he set up, some that could be broken by the right phrase and others that she will have to break herself if she wants the knowledge within them, but she couldn’t do that until she remembered that they were there, and that couldn’t happen until we said the right things.”
“How do you know so much about it, Randolf?” Suvi asked, her question one that Xavia had been waiting for and couldn’t stop herself from smiling at. “If Xavia has all those walls in her mind then why don’t you?”
Randolf was smiling too. He shared a look with her, raising an eyebrow as he did so, before looking at Suvi. “He knew exactly which positions we would take. Xavia has always been the one people look up to, and I’m often seen as nothing more than her brother, which is something that I’ve never been bothered by, because I knew this time would come eventually.”
“You’re a Seer?” Hadar’s voice was incredulous. “I thought they were nothing more than a myth.”
“I don’t know if they are or they aren’t, because I’m an observer, Hadar. When I heard what was happening I knew what position our King would take and that, to me, made it entirely obvious what was coming.” Randolf shook his head, his smile having faded away entirely. “Our father thought the same as I did, so he begun the preparations for protecting those who could be protected. This isn’t the only sanctuary he created, but, for now, it’s the only one we know about.” He sighed. “The real problem is that breaking down those walls, accessing those memories, might mean that we can’t get at them at all, because, as Xavia said, it might make her go mad. You see the magic that our father used is something he would only have dared to use in an emergency and as we had a horrible feeling that we were going to lose the war it was his only option as he thought it was important that we had all the information that we needed.”
“What happens if you do go mad?” Cyrus took a couple of steps towards Xavia and she remembered what her father said about him – if it wasn’t for the war he would have been a good choice if she wanted to take a husband. “How does that affect what happens next?”
Xavia did her best not to show how uncomfortable it made her to talk about what was the worst case scenario, although she knew with the number of walls that needed to be created in order to hide everything that needed to be hidden there was a higher chance of it happened to her than there would have been if they’d needed less walls. “If I go mad the only thing you can do is kill me, because I’ll be no use to you, I’ll be using up food that it would be unfair of me to use if that does happen, and there’s every chance that my magic will go haywire.”
“Our father prepared me for that. If Xavia goes mad I am ready to do what needs to be done.”
Even though it wouldn’t be easy, Xavia continued internally, knowing already that her brother didn’t want to lose his only remaining family member. Unfortunately they both knew he might now have any other option, because the likelihood of her magic going wrong if she did go made was scarily high, as it had already happened to family members before. Without really thinking about it Xavia reached out and squeezed his hand, wishing she could be the one in his position, because right at the moment it time it seemed like the better option – even though she knew it wasn’t. He would have to live with what he did for the rest of his life while she’d be dead.
“So what’s the next step?” Cyrus asked, after a long tense silence, as they all seemed to realise what it meant if Xavia did what they needed her to do.
“That depends,” Randolf replied. “We can make our decision without Xavia breaking down any of the walls that were created, apart from those what will come down naturally, because it’s not information that will necessarily make it easier. If we find out that our families are dead, that Haerith has been taken over by invaders, and that if we go out there there might well be prices on all of our heads due to what we are – it’s not as though we hid it.” He shrugged. “To be honest I think we have no choice. Staying here means we’ll starve to death, no matter what. Learning more about the situation we find out there might mean that we’re better prepared for it, but it won’t change anything – whatever happened out there will still have happened.”
Xavia nodded. “If we can make a choice without me going hunting for answers I would appreciate it, although I do understand the want to know. There’s been a part of me that keeps telling me just to go for it, to break down the walls and find out why Father hasn’t come to get us, but I’ve been ignoring it. Right now I’m not sure that I want to know, because I think it means he’s dead, and I don’t want him to be dead, don’t want the King to be dead, don’t want to think that our home has been taken over by people who think that magic is too dangerous to exist, but that is probably what’s happened. Otherwise Father would be here, to get us out of here.”
“Do you truly believe that?” Suvi sounded unsure. “I can’t help but think this is a test. They’ve waiting to see what we do and expect us to make a decision based on all of the information we have available…” She shook her head. “As the majority of it is trapped in your head, Xavia, that technically is not information that we have available to us at this time, and therefore I wouldn’t include that.”
“Without that information what do we know?” Hadar sighed. “I know much less than I’d like to for making this sort of decision, because leaving the only place we know for certain is safe seems to be a huge mistake and yet it’s illogical to stay here when we know we’re running out of food and won’t be getting any more.”
“Like I said neither option is good.” Xavia bit her lip. “Going out there knowing that there are probably people who want to kill us around doesn’t make sense to anyone here, but at the moment we’re still strong enough to run or fight, depending on what seems to be the best option, so the longer we put it off the harder it will be for us to do anything when we’re out there.” She shrugged. “There is always a third option, although it isn’t one that I like.”
Randolf looked at Xavia and she did her best to ignore him, because it was something they had talked about before. He thought it was reckless, and he was right, but being reckless seemed to be their only option, especially as she was certain that, if it came to it, they would lose the vote. Leaving was the only logical option. Unfortunately the others were too scared to go with logic, when they knew that whoever they came across would want to kill them. It was, unsurprisingly, Cyrus who broke the silence. “What are you suggesting, Xavia?”
As their eyes met Xavia knew that Cyrus suspected she was being reckless as well. They hadn’t known each other well before their world changed, but being thrown together had changed things for both of them. She could understand why her father had thought of him as a possibility, although it would never have worked out, because he was too like Randolf. Having to deal with one on them on a daily basis was hard enough, two of them… she could imagine what that would be like and imagining it was bad enough. “I have the ability to find out what’s happening without delving into the memories my father left for me, but if I do and someone feels what I’m doing then we’ll be in danger from them finding us here because they’ll be able to trace the magic back to here.” Breathing deeply she ran a hand through her hair. “Father and I never talked about it as a possibility – I don’t think he ever truly believed that we would be in a position where we would need to think about the options that we have, even though he put his memories into my mind. They were, as far as he was concerned, a just-in-case thing…
“Now, though, we’re facing the future without our families and I now need to think about what the best option for me is. I’m sure if you were in the same position you would be thinking about ways to protect yourself from doing something that might lead to your death.” Xavia bit her lip. “Of course that is the position we’re in right now, where our death might be slow or it might be fast, but if I can see what’s out there we might stand a chance of surviving this. Your next question will be why I didn’t mention this before.”
Cyrus shook his head. “I’m guessing your father hid it behind another one of those walls and that means he thought it was dangerous for you to use, but less dangerous than you delving into the memories he left for you.” He sighed. “Which means that our third option isn’t any better than either of the others, because we’re going to end up dead… but with this one we might have some time.”
“We will,” Randolf said, sounding as though he’d given in. “How much time is something I can’t estimate, but we have a better chance of getting away from the invaders if we know where they are and what they’re doing.”
“Unless,” Xavia said, feeling the need to be more blunt than normal, “one of those invaders happens to be right outside.”
Cyrus stared at her in such a way that she knew he hadn’t thought of that as a possibility, and she could feel the eyes of the others too, so she wasn’t surprised when it was Randolf who replied. “There is, unfortunately, a chance of that, because they will be looking for us. However I do think it’s very unlikely and should there be someone out there it will only be one person.”
“Who might be a magic user.”
“They need to know, Randolf.” Xavia sighed. “Even though the invaders are doing their best to rid this kingdom of all the magic users here that doesn’t mean they aren’t making use of their own. What the King believes is that any magic user who isn’t under his control is dangerous, but he’s happy to make use of those he feels he does control, including the man I think is most likely to be out there waiting for us.”
“How do you know that?” Cyrus asked.
“It’s something Father told us, before hiding it behind a wall.” Randolf sounded annoyed and Xavia didn’t blame him, but she understood why their father had made the choices he did. “We know a little about the invaders, which is the little the King and Father knew – it’s just isn’t enough for us to be certain that there will be someone out there waiting for us, although I think Xavia and I have differing opinions on that.”
She nodded. “We do. There are a lot of things we have differing opinions on, so I think it’s important that you listen to both of us and make a decision on what sounds like the most sensible option for us. I am certain that the kingdom on the other side of that door is not the same as it was when we came in here. I worry that there is a chance someone might be able to open it from the outside. I believe I know what we should do if we want a future, but Randolf and I will never agree on that, either.”
“Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?” Randolf asked, worry replacing the annoyance.
On a normal day Xavia would have laughed at the question, but it wasn’t a normal day. “Yes, Randolf, I am. We both know it’s an option.”
“No, Xav, it’s not.” She felt a hand tilt her head up and she found herself staring into Randolf’s eyes. “Promise me you won’t.”
“That’s not going to happen.” Xavia put her hand over his. “I know what you think, but I truly believe it is the only way I’m going to get you out of here alive. You know that you, as far as I’m concerned, will always come first, because you are my brother, my best friend, and the only family member I have left now.”
“I feel the same way, which is why I can’t let you do it.”
Fortunately he wasn’t the only one who had a say any longer. Xavia’s eyes met with Cyrus’, and she smiled. “Would the two of you like to let the rest of us in on what you’re talking about?”
Randolf shook his head. He didn’t want to tell them. He didn’t want to believe what he’d Seen was possible, and she accepted that in the same way she accepted her own belief it was the most likely scenario. “Not all of us need to leave.” Xavia looked around the room. “At least not to begin with. With my knowledge of who might be out there I have a chance, although small, that I could convince him I’m the only person who survived within this sanctuary. If I can do that then you will all be able to leave without worrying about having your head chopped off, at least to begin with. You’ll have to leave the kingdom. I’ve heard that there may be safe places in the mountains.”
“What’s the other possibility?”
“He doesn’t believe me and he keeps waiting until the day you choose to open the door to make the world a ‘safer’ place.” Xavia looked at Randolf. “My brother knows better than I do how likely that is.”<<< Aurora’s World: Atecia: Sauin: Talking to the Dead***Aurora’s World: Haerith: Randolf: Being a Seer >>>