Rae Wilder has problems. Plunged into a world of dark magic, fierce creatures and ritual sacrifice, she is charged with a guarding a magical amulet. Rae finds herself beaten up, repeatedly, and forced to make a choice: to live and die human, or embrace her birth-right and wield magics that could turn her into something wicked, a force of nature nothing can control.
The day I learnt I was a demon was the worst day of my life. I won't lie. I spent most the day terrified of dying, or losing a limb.
The first thing I heard, and thought about when I woke that morning was of demons. A were-cat scream echoed for a beat, before an answering scream, higher in pitch called in the distance. It sounded like the packs were fighting; a territorial dispute most likely. There was a Pride not too far from the Temple. A muffled shriek drifted up through the floorboards, and I rolled my eyes when it happened on the next scream. I buried my head under the pillow, pulling my blanket up. New Disciple's thought the world was ending every time a demon passed nearby. It took them long to understand, if the Wall was breached the klaxon went off to warn us.
I rolled out of bed, tripped over the mountains of fabric and crushed cans that littered the floor of my room, and head butted the wardrobe door. It bounced back. Clothes flung over the top and spilling out the bottom had stopped it from clicking shut. I was not a dirty person, but a messy one. I was the kind of person who could make mess in an empty four by ten box. Stood in my fraying bra and panties, I groggily scratched at my knee, trying to pull myself together. It took a lot of rummaging around before I pulled on my ragged jeans and faded tee shirt, some pre Rupture band on the front. Not the best gear for running, but I was going to have to go straight to class afterwards. I put my boots on and headed outside.
It was dark. Dawn was hours away, and the grounds were eerily quiet. Fire drums set alongside the pathway flickered, and weak flames cast a sick flush over the cold ground. Electricity was hard to generate, so the Sect cut corners where it could. Resources during the day, and after dark, focused on Wall hotspots, places difficult for the Clerics to easily defend, like steep ravines and cliff faces. These were the places demons too often breached. My eyes skipped over the Temple grounds, and every graffiti wall, battered trashcan was colored fondly in my mind's eye. The Temple was an army base, before the Rupture, but now it was the stomping ground of the Sect Clerics and their Disciples. It was home. Safety. My eyes settled on the Wall in the near distance, peeking out from the forest bordering the region. Past that electric fence was Outside. Past that fence roamed the demons.
I started at a jog. In no time I was at the main gate whistling to the security guard who barely looked up from his book. I wondered where he'd gotten that. Books made purely for entertainment were as rare as plain paper. The Sect had a library of course, right here at Temple, but you had to have serious pull with the Priests to be able to rent one. We lucky Disciples got to feel the smooth pages of a book on a regular basis, even if they were educational, and my envy was brief. The guard caught me eyeing up the pages and placed it on his lap. He waved me on as the gate cracked to let me out.
Leaving Temple, I was soon on a wide and flat lane gravitating toward the forest. I reached the Wall and stared at it. Each time I came here I asked myself the same question; was defying Sect Doctrine and stepping past this point worth it? The excited thump of my heart told me the answer. I glanced behind to scan the roadside and check I was not in sight. Confident I was alone; I slid through the sliver of space between the charged wires then held my breath for a beat. There was nothing but silence. I had no idea how I'd done it, but one morning I was tired of plodding the same ground, and I'd looked out into the forest with its thick tree trunks, jutting roots, and seen a thrilling new route to push myself harder and faster. I had stood, and stared at the webbing of steel then wished for a hole to climb through. The wires had just unraveled without setting off the klaxon. I remembered thinking with a horrible kind of panic that I had somehow done witchcraft, and was convinced I was the blackest kind of evil. Then I realized how ridiculous I was being, and figured it was a coincidental gift from the universe, or something. Now every morning I had a new obstacle course to enjoy.
The trees were tall, and the air was fresh and clean and free. I ran, racing the beat of my own footfalls. Cold wind whipped past pushing hair into my face. Gods, how I loved to run and revel in the illusion of freedom it gave. I was the fastest Disciple at the Temple, and the best at cross-country; it took a lot to tire me out. I ran until the forest became too dense for me to sprint without tripping over roots. My chest rising and falling was a pleasant feeling I rarely got to experience, and only could experience when I ran Outside. Pushing at the long and dark tangle of my hair, I wished there was less of it. I snapped off a knobby twig from a shrub at my heel and pulled it back into a messy bun, using the twig to pin it there. I was distracted, and only because a raven boldly cutting past drew my attention from the task of managing my hair, did I see a movement at the corner of my eye.