• tuck7462

The Thirteenth

Kia'ra was usually in a good mood, but today in particular she was in a great mood. Today was her 13th birthday. She genuinely loved her birthday but today felt extra special. She was almost a woman by most standards, even if she didn't look it. She was small for her age and most of the villagers thought she was younger than she was. It was a sore spot for her, although it occasionally had its perks, like when she got a free tart from Agatha's bakery. Agatha was the only villager who treated Kia'ra with kindness. Most either muttered insults or ignored her completely. She was an outsider and the only reason they tolerated her was for fear of the Sisters. Kia'ra spent the first part of the morning milking goats and grabbing water from the well for the Sisters. She normally had a longer list of chores to tend to, but because it was her birthday she just had to do some of the morning chores. She finished gathering milk and water and dragged the buckets inside to deliver for the Sisters. She wasn't allowed inside any of their rooms, but she left a pale of water in front of each bedroom, and left the milk in the kitchen. She had been with the Sisters for 7 years, they had taken her in after a fire took her mother's life. She didn't remember much before them, just a few vague memories. There were 12 of them in total, and they were not actual sisters. They were completely unique from one another and came from different places.

They lived in a cottage 30 minutes outside of the village, and all that surrounded them was the forest of Eden, that no one but the Sisters dared venture into them. Kia'ra had often wondered why they chose to live so far from the village. Most of them never left the grounds, some only left occasionally to sell medicines and a special honey that they had named Dragon nectar. They got the honey from deep in the forest, farther than Kia'ra was allowed to venture to. The Sisters usually kept her busy, but they also made sure that she kept up with her studies. She didn't go to school in the village, but Sister Yu had once been a teacher so she was in charge of Kia'ras studies. They believed every woman should have some knowledge of how the world works before they chose to bear children. After she was done with her chores, she decided to go wash up, and prepare for her day.On her way to her bedroom Kia'ra found her reflection in the hall mirror, and gave herself a thorough look over to see if she noticed anything different. She was very petite, and had no hope of growing taller than an inch or two more, but she had a strong body, from all of the labor she did for the Sisters, like climbing up and down the Eden hills to get to and from their well. Her umber colored skin was flawless accept for a peculiar birthmark on her ribcage, that resembled an upside down triangle. She knew part of why the villagers didn't like her was because of her coloring, it was a reminder to them that she was a foreigner. She ran a hand down the top of her head, through her mass of curly hair which she usually kept in thick braids, but today wore out in a fluffy heap. She traced a finger over the outline of her face and poked at her cheeks. She had little to no baby fat, a square nose that ended in a bulbous tip, a small pouty mouth and dark eyes that slanted upward. Sister Jean, the second oldest, had once told her that her eyes felt like they could see into another world and that she could probably see into a person's soul if she tried. Sister Jean was blind and often spouted random things like that, but it had creeped Kia'ra out enough to steer clear of the older woman. She posed in front of the mirror in what she thought was feminine as she looked herself up and down. She did not have much of a womanly figure, but if she squinted hard enough she could swear her chest was starting to swell. "Stop preening in the mirror, before something traps your soul in the mirror.." a stern voice said. Kia'ra blushed as she spun to the side, Sister Margaret was the oldest of the Sisters, the most stern and the leader. Sister Margaret's word was law, nothing happened with out her say so. Kia'ra gave a hasty bow and murmured a good morning. "Also we will be out for a tad bit today, so ensure the cat is kept out of trouble." With that she grabbed the bucket of water that Kia'ra had left her and closed her door. Kia'ra let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. Sister Margaret was so scary sometimes, she was so stealthy and had a preternatual stillness that was unnerving for someone her age. Kia'ra ran up to her room in the attic and began to wash up thinking about what she would do today. She had found 3 new dresses and a new cloak on her bed. There was no note, so she wondered which of the Sisters had left them for her. After putting on the nicest of the 3 dresses, Kia'ra ran to admire herself in the hall mirror, noting that the dress looked more grownup than she had ever worn. She noticed the Sisters leaving the cottage one by one, all taking off in a different direction. Kia'ra's brows furrowed in confusion. Whatever were they doing today? She saw that Sister Mary was the last to leave. "Mary? Where are you all going?" She asked, only Mary would let her address her so informally. "Never mind little bit. We will be back before the sun even sets. Just stay out of trouble and ensure Raven is fed and does not get into the honey again! If you do well you may receive a gift tonight" she said with a wink and walked away swiftly. She really had no idea what the Sisters did up here. The villagers respected and feared them enough to leave them be, even though they were outsiders. She had heard rumors here and there, the villagers believed that the Sisters were possibly witches, and no one wanted to mess with a witch let alone 12 of them. Much to their relief, besides selling a few things the Sisters and the villagers did not interact much. Kia'ra had long since given up trying to figure out the Sisters, or what they did in their creepy cellar. It wasn't that the Sisters were very secretive, they were just adamant that whatever they did in their cellar was not for children. She had tried asking Sister Mary what they did down there, but she always told her to mind herself and focus on things a child could understand. Mary, the youngest of the Sisters at 22, had been in charge of taking care of Kia'ra and training her to do her chores. When Kia'ra turned 10 Sister Mary deemed Kia'ra grown enough to handle the chores on her own and so since then Kia'ra was on her own. Kia'ra watched as the Sisters departed, wondering what they could be up to. There was always at least one of them home. With a shrug she skipped to the kitchen, where she mixed a small amount of honey and sugar together to scrub her lip, then rubbed a small amount of spice to plump them, and as an added touch she bit into a cherry and rubbed the juice on her lips to give them color. She had seen Mary do this a number of times before she would go out to the village. She always looked so pretty and womanly. She gave herself a twirl, then set out to the village. She had some coins saved up so she would by herself some treats. When she arrived at the village, she got a few stares, although no one really said much to her. But that was alright because she was used to it. She went over to Agatha's and got herself some treats, because it was her birthday Agatha gifted her a small cake to take home. Heading home with her treasure, Kia'ra smiled to herself. She was having a great day. A boy had even smiled at her, and had blushed when she waved at him. Now she would go home and eat her treats under the sun. When she got home she set her treats on the counter and decided to feed their cat Raven before having her lazy day. She found some food and set it out, giving a soft call to the cat. When she got no response she began looking around for the devilish cat, only to find the house empty, she even peeked outside to see if the cat might be sunbathing on the porch. As she walked back towards the kitchen she noticed the door to the Sister's cellar slightly ajar. She had not noticed before, but maybe the Sisters had forgotten to shut it, and Raven could be dosing downstairs. She ought to check she thought to herself, but she had never been allowed there. It was foolish to even think about, so she began to close the door and walk away but then a thought occurred to her. Sister Mary had told her to make sure Raven did not get into any trouble. The cat was known for breaking things on a whim. What if he was down there breaking precious items? She peered down the stairs of the opening, it was very dark, but there was a slight light coming from deep within. She could run down and check and none would be the wiser. Better to be safe than sorry later. She grabbed a candle from the kitchen and lit it, then she began to tiptoe down the stairs, trying to see as much as she could in front of her. The cellar was built very steep below ground she noted, it felt like eternity before her foot found the last step. She saw the source of the light she had seen earlier. There was a single blue candle in the center of the room. It wasn't giving off enough light for her to see. She found some sconces on the wall and began lightening them to illuminate the room. When her eyes adjusted, she discovered a large alter in the center of the room, and shelves upon shelves of weird objects. She felt nervous being there, but she wasn't scared, just aware that she shouldn't be there. She took a tentative step in and called out "Raven?…Raveeen?". She didn't hear a response, so naturally she stepped further into the cellar. Curiosity got the better of her and she began looking around the shelves. There were dried plants, herbs, goblets, stones, weird daggers and other objects she couldn't identify. Walking up to the alter she found a large book with a symbol on the front. The symbol looked almost identical to her birthmark. The book looked worn, as if many hands had turned its pages. Beside it there was a stick. Examining it closer she realized it was a wand.

She reached out a tentative hand, but just before her fingers made contact she heard a loud meow. Pulling her hand back she saw that Raven's black silky form was coming down the stairs, heading towards her. Kia'ra gave a sheepish huff, she felt silly. Maybe her curiosity was just too much for her own good. "Your gonna get us in trouble cat" she told to an unapologetic Raven. She started heading towards the stairs, muttering to herself about mischievous pets, she had put her foot on the first step when she realized Raven wasn't following her. The cat was staring up at the alter, tail swishing in concentration. Before she could utter a word Raven hopped onto the altar to investigate the wand. "No! Get down!" She hissed at the cat. She ran to the alter to grab the cat, but Raven had already stuck out a paw to touch the wand. The wand began to roll off the alter, Kia'ra lurched forward and caught it midair before it could touch the floor. As soon as her hand made contact, Kia'ra felt a jolt run through her. Holding it out in front of her, Kia'ra just stared at the wand. It finally hit her that the rumors were in fact right. The Sisters were witches. Kia'ra was in awe, she was holding a real magical item. She gave the wand a small flick pretending to cast a spell, and the candles flickered on and off. She gave a surprised yelp. She knew she should put it down and leave the room as she found it. But this was a once in a lifetime moment. With a giggle she gave it another flick, and this time the room began to fill with wind. She could feel the air current surrounding her going round and round, gathering her skirts, causing her to giggle more. She twirled feeling like a wind spirit, who would have known that magic was right under her feet all these years? After a minute of twirling Kia'ra realized that the wind was picking up and had begun to rattle the shelves, objects began falling , only to be caught up in the cyclone that was forming. Panic began to seep in. She didn't know how to make it stop. Raven who was already at the staircase gave a loud yowl of warning. Kia'ra saw a pair of feet at the top of the stairs and nearly passed out. The Sisters were home. Surely she would be punished, possibly kicked out. She had to hide. She ran to the back of the cellar, and discovered a short set of stairs that led to double doors. They must lead outback she thought as she gave them a push. It took her small body three tries before the door gave out and opened. She jumped out discovering she was close to the edge of the forest behind the house. She quickly closed the doors behind her and ran. She had no destination, her panic was sending her into flight mode. She could hear raised voices behind her but she couldn't make out what they were saying. She just kept running, not realizing that she was running deeper and deeper into the forest, or that she still had the wand in her hand. She ran for what felt like an eternity but must have been only twenty minutes. When she finally stopped she found herself completely lost. She was tired and her adrenaline was leaving her. She looked at her hand, at the wand that was still attached and sobbed. What had she done? She had never tried to sneak into the cellar. Why today of all days did she do it? Even if Raven had gone downstairs she would have been better off waiting for the Sisters to handle him. Although the sun was still out, this part of the forest felt very dark and dense, she could barely see the sun peeking through trees. She looked around trying to figure out what to do. Now that she was calming down she realized that the Sisters would probably be more understanding than she had given them credit. She could just explain that she was trying to stop Raven from getting into their stuff, but had been too late, and then had panicked when she saw someone was home. Only issue was she didn't know the way back home now. Finding herself in a small clearing, she sat on a large rock and caught her breath while trying to clear her mind. She would try to walk back in the general direction that she had come, in the hopes of ending near the cottage. Today was supposed to be a special day, but she just felt silly, and less like a woman than ever. A growl made her snap out of her pitiful thoughts. Her heart began to speed up as she looked around. Were there wolves out here, or something bigger? She heard the sound again, but much closer and much deeper. Gripping the wand in her hand, she squatted and tried to hide being her rock, while looking around for the culprit. There was silence for another moment or two before she felt hot breath on her neck, accompanied by a snort.

She slowly turned her head, to find what looked to be a lizard like creature the size of a pony behind her. It was staring at her with what one could only imagine was curiosity. She stifled a scream and slowly moved away from her rock, keeping her eyes on the creature. It had scales and wings, and was a mottled green color. It started moving closer to her as she backed up. She hit a tree and almost fainted as it caught up to her and began sniffing at her. If she didn't know any better she would think this was a dragon. Which was insane, dragons didn't really exist. Did they? It seemed very curious about her, it was using its long snout to nudge at her. She calmed herself and reached out a hand to touch it. The creature sniffed at her hand, before flicking out a lizard like tongue. It tickled. She pushed her hand out further and stroked its long neck with tentative fingers. It made an odd noise that sounded akin to pleasure. Maybe it didn't want to eat her after all. It stepped back from her, while still staring at her curiously. Upon further inspection, the dragon like creature looked very young. Maybe it was a baby. She had started to reach out to pet it again when she heard a twig snap and a very large growl. Head snapping towards the sound, she found a much larger version of the creature stepping towards them. It stared intently at them. Before she could even think, her legs had carried her away, she was tearing through the forest not caring where she was going just knowing she had to get away. She didn't know for sure what they were, but one thing she knew was, the larger creature was most likely the mother, and when it came to animals and their young, they would attack anything that seemed a danger to their babies. She heard the creature giving her chase, but didn't dare to look back to see how far it was. She just wanted to put as much distance as possible. Hopefully it would tire out before it caught up to her. The thought had just occurred to her when her foot caught on a rock that was cemented into the ground. She and the wand went down with a skid. Despite the pain she felt, Kia'ra quickly turned to see if the beast was still behind her, and sure enough it had caught up and was slowing itself down. Grabbing the wand she pointed it at the beast. She willed it to do anything to get her out of there, but nothing happened. The beast stalked closer and closer looking like it was angry and ready to pounce. Remembering the accident in the cellar, Kia'ra thought of the wind cyclone she had made and gave her wrist a flick. This time she felt a slight jolt and a gust of wind exploded into the clearing, strong enough to make the trees bend. But not strong enough to push the creature back, because it continued pacing towards her. Terror like no other coursed through her body. She had all but given up the thought of escaping , when a slim robed figure slid in front of her, holding out a hand towards the beast. She heard what sounded like an incantation and the wind stopped, and then formed a shield between the beast and the person. The beast stopped moving and stared at them. The person made a shooing motion, and said in a strong familiar voice "Go back Empress!" and after a time the beast gave a snort and turned towards its youngling who had caught up. Together the dragon like creatures walked away from them and back to wherever they came from, the youngling occasionally looking back towards Kia'ra. Finally the figure turned to face Kia'ra and she discovered that it was Sister Mary.

"My instructions to you were to stay out of trouble! What in the three faced goddess were you thinking?" Mary demanded. She looked as frightened as Kia'ra felt. Words escaped her, all she could do was stand up and hug Mary. She found herself sobbing into her robes. The stress of the last hour taking its toll on her. She felt soft hands rubbing her scalp, easing some of her tension. They stayed that way for a few minutes before Mary pulled her along towards the cottage. It turns out they hadn't been too far away. When they returned, a very sad and afraid Kia'ra explained what happened, apologizing profusely for going downstairs to begin with. Stepping up to her Sister Margaret used her cane to force Kia'ra to look up at her. "This was a fine mess you got into girl, and you could have been killed. This was not how we wanted you to find out. But what's done is done and I suppose things could have been worst. So let's thank the mother you are alright, and let's move forward." She limped toward the closest chair available and sat with a big heave. "Now that you are thirteen we can tell you everything you want and need to know. But first we must ask that you swear to keep everything you have learned to yourself. The villagers have their suspicions I'm sure, but no real evidence and we have a good standing relationship with them. I would hate to have to move." She said with a wink. She gestured to Mary who rushed to hand her the wand. Sister Margaret weighed it in her hand before handing it to Kia'ra. "This was always meant to be yours should you choose to join us as our thirteenth sister. It was once your mother's. Its to help you during training to hone your power. We were sworn not to tell you anything nor show you any magic until your thirteenth birthday. Your mother had her reasons I'm sure. So here we are. You have a choice little Kia'ra. You are now a young woman. Will you join us, to become our thirteenth and learn the power of our three faced goddess?". All eyes were on Kia'ra, even Raven's, that no good cat. Kia'ra felt a myriad of emotions hit her all at once. But with tears streaming down her face and a quivering smile, Kia'ra took the wand and pledged to be one of the Sisters. She would learn all that they could do and find out all she could about her mother. There was hope and joy in her heart. She finally felt something click in place. This was the change she had been looking for since she awoke this morning. This was the magic she had been seeking all along.

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