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Out of the Curse – by Gabrielle (This is a new version of a piece submitted earlier)
Another was already here, and the shadows of his wings flickered on the stone wall. I did not want to fight, but I needed the food.
Moments ago, I had woken up to find myself in the gray, dim room which had been my home for the past three days. Red shadows stretched down from the lone torch high on the wall to illuminate the small boy crouching by the door, but the food had not appeared yet. As I cautiously rose to my knees, I brushed my hands against the stone floor, sweeping away the sketch of the sun on a field of flowers, which I had made last night with the ashes that had fallen from our torch. The drawing did not fit with the dark underground world that was all I had ever known but then again, neither did I.
The boy was small compared to the other six-year-old Livyahaks, including me, but he hissed aggressively as soon as I started crawling toward him and the door. His gray eyes flashed, trying to protect his food that had not yet appeared from the slot at the bottom of the door. Slowly moving closer, I raised my hands in a gesture of passivity and searched for any sign of friendliness. It did not matter he was only three quarters my size if he could stab his fangs into me.
“I only want one loaf.”
He flinched at my whispered voice, but his wings, displaying venom injectors on each tip, folded behind his back. After glancing quickly at the ten other children in the room, he seemed relieved that they were still asleep, an eyelid covering each of their gray eyes. I glanced at him again before shifting my focus to the small slot in the iron door. But I would not turn my back and continued watch him out of the corner of my eye, waiting for any sign of aggression.
It was before dawn, or at least, what I knew as the dawn. All I could guess was the dawn happened when they lit the lamps in the tunnels beneath Black Towers. This underground world and the constant cycling through tests and training were all that I had ever known. I never knew what was coming next, but I did know that some of us would die during each test. Nakavar could only have the fittest Livyahaks survive to join his army.
For the three days since they put us in this stone cell, the caretakers slipped us six small loaves of bread through a slot in the door, five minutes before “dawn.” Each loaf was just enough to get one of us to live to the next day. But that was the problem: there were twelve of us locked in the room and only six meals.
Pulling down my oily, dirt saturated tunic, I tried to cover up my cold knees as I knelt a few feet away from the other boy in silence. I waited for the bread, but more than that, I waited for the boy to try to kill me. I waited for the other Livyahaks to wake and try to kill me. I waited. At any moment their soulless eyes might flash open, the wings on their backs might expand, and the venom in their fangs would kill me in a few painful hours.
Careful to keep my own dragon wings folded behind my back, I leaned against the stone wall and stared at the sleeping others, each wrapped in their leathery wings. We were made for perfection, and I was proud of it. We were the perfect army, unlike the elves, though our first ancestors had been Eshaem elves, and each of us bore some resemblance to the race. Most had the elves’ pale skin and red or golden hair. But none of us had their blue eyes. We were not like them. Instead, we had dragon wings on our backs and a venomous fang on each wingtip. Each of us slept with death in our wings; each of us knew we had the power to kill.
A small grating sound reached my ears. I jerked my head back to the boy. He has shifted to his hands and knees, and now he started at the food slot, his mouth agape. With little noise, the food slipped in from the crack at the bottom of the door. Grabbing one of the six loaves, I scurried to a corner and started to scarf it down quickly, barely pausing to breathe. While the food kept me alive, it was dangerous to be caught with it. While I moved away, the scrawny boy dived in on the food without first moving away from the door. His mistake.
A Delwic might have the strength to dare the others to fight him, but I was not that strong yet. Yet, I was just a Syd like all the rest of the Livyahaks in the room, and we were only meant to become foot soldiers. But someday I would be stronger. I would be a Delwic. Before any of us could remember anything, Nakavar has separated us into two groups: Syds and Delwics. The Delwics could become leaders or solo fighters, but we Syds never could. But someday, when I survived this, I would be that strong. I would be a commander or assassin; I would be a Delwic.
It did not take long before the ten others woke up, and I watched the inevitable from my corner. With hideous screeches, they pounced on the food, each of their venomous fangs extended. They quickly spotted the boy with his half-finished loaf, and he, too, disappeared in the scramble for food. As I swallowed the last bit of my bread, the thick food caught in my throat, and I almost gagged.
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