Ensnared

By: Marian Tee



Black.

The descent of the papers slowed down in front of her eyes, as if someone had set everything in slow motion. Words written in black ink screamed at her.

MISSING!

Toby Manderley, Age 7.

Katie Sanders, Age 11.

Darwin Colt, Age 5.

Another shower of paper fell, torn sheets of newspaper falling from somewhere above her.

More words cried out to her, headlines printed in black.

Wealthy clan owning mines denies allegations of child labor!

Furious, grieving parents file lawsuit against the Richmond family!

A possible truce? Parents invited to inspect mines!

A tragedy! All 98 parents buried alive by explosion!

Mining explosion declared accident by experts!

Richmond family builds memorial in remembrance of victims!

Tears ran down Zari’s face. She wanted to cover her ears as the howls and tears of despair reached her. In front of her, parents sank to their knees as they were shown the skeletons of their missing children, all of whom had died from either sickness or abuse. She cried harder when she saw the moment the parents realized that they were never leaving the tunnels – not alive anyway.

She thought it would end there, but it didn’t, the world twirling around her into something new, something different, and something terrible.

Black.

The color of vengeful souls, the color of hatred, the color of death—

Ghosts of murdered parents seeking retribution against the Richmonds. An eye for an eye.

A solitary sheet of newspaper once again drifted down, big, bold black letters on the front page spelling the fate of the owners of the mine.

Entire family found decapitated in their beds, mutilated, no signs of struggle!

****

“Come back to me now, pet.”

The words sounded like they came from a great distance. They were repeated over and over, louder and louder, until it roped her back into reality and Zari found herself falling to her knees, a silent scream lodged against her throat.

Frightened gray eyes sought Alexandru.

His first instinct was to reach for her, but he forced himself to remain still, knowing it was the only way to help Zari become stronger. “Breathe slow and deep.” He issued the command in a soft voice.

Zari instinctively followed the order, a part of her recognizing the fact that everything Alexandru – her Master – would ask of her was for her sake. Always for her sake.

She concentrated on breathing, and little by little, the chills racking her body subsided, enough for her to be coherent. “The children…” She started to cry again. “Their parents…” She looked around her, and this time she saw them with new eyes.

“What you saw was from the past, and you’re able to see it because you’re a soul seer.”

She whispered, “I don’t understand.”

“It’s why I was searching for you. You are one of the last of your kind. Most members of your race had been annihilated by an ancient war.” Demons in particular had been responsible for nearly wiping out their existence, but for now, he decided to keep that fact to himself. It was clear that Zari was suffering from shock, and it was best to tackle such knowledge on another day.

Zari rubbed her temples, her head literally hurting at how hard she was trying to understand what had just happened. She said haltingly, “But I’ve never seen something like that before. So why—” That was when she remembered his earlier words.

I’m going to bite you now, just to open your mind a little more and let you see…

She gazed up at him. “Why…did you want me to discover what I am?”

“Because it’s who you are, and in my world, you’ll need your powers as a soul seer to survive.”

The words struck her as both true and untrue. “That’s not the only reason,” she said quietly. “Is it?”

A smile touched his lips. “No. It’s not.”

She waited for him to say something more, but when more than a few seconds passed and his handsome face remained impassive, Zari said, “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

No. He wasn’t. Not when he knew that his reasons could – would – hurt her.

He said finally, “Just know it is for your sake that I’ve done this.” He offered his hand, wondering if she would take it. If she still trusted him.

She took his hand.

Again, the pang through his chest, one that felt more and more familiar.

He helped her to her feet, and when she was upright, he was the one who bent down to dust off her knees. It made Zari inhale in surprise. “You don’t have to—”

When he straightened, he murmured, “It’s my duty as your Master to look after you.”

“Oh.”

“You’re glaring at me, pet.”

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