First posted in 2019. || Image Credit: Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash
“GET UP!” The Commander’s voice boomed through the barracks, “IT’S TESTING DAY!”
Ethye groaned, pulling the covers over her head. Her body ached from yesterday’s practice time trial, her head burned with the alcohol they had drunk afterwards, and her whole sense of self was screaming to stay in the bed.
The door to the barracks slammed shut as the Commander went to announce the fact it was Test Day to the next set of barracks. Not that everyone already knew what day it was. It was the day they had spend the last two years training towards. This date had been burned into their skin since their induction day.
“Ugh,” Uneli groaned from the next bed, “why does Commander Ret have to be so loud.”
“Your fault for smuggling in beer,” Megai’s voice chimed in from one of the top bunks further down. Her voice sounded almost as bad as Ethye’s head felt.
“Venk,” Ethye groaned, rolling over on her side to Venk’s bunk next to her, “can we have some of your healing please-”
She stopped when she saw Venk’s empty bunk, neatly made up with a little note on the pillow.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Ethye swore as she swung her legs from her bed, catching her hand on the metal bunk as the room swayed around her.
“What?” Megai asked.
“Venk,” Ethye said, as she tried to stop herself throwing up over the floor as she crawled towards Venk’s bunk. Venk never left it that tidy. She was the messiest of the lot of the four of them.
“Venk?” Uneli said, sitting bolt upright and holding her head.
Ethye grabbed the note from the pillow, holding it away from her face as she tried to focus on the handwriting.
It wasn’t Venk’s, that much Ethye could make out.
“Give it here,” Megai said, teleporting in front of Ethye. Her horns were a dull purple colour, a sign that she had far, far too much to drink.
Megai snatched the note from Ethye’s hands and peered at it.
“It’s written in Colloqui,” she said, cocking her head to one side, “sometime about enemy, enemy defeated? Enemy defeats-”
“The enemy who is defeated is the one who does not respond to provocation,” Uneli whispered, “it’s a Betrgan threat. One used when you kidnap-”
Uneli’s voice hitched. Ethye’ felt her heart sink.
“When you kidnap royalty,” Uneli said, looking at Venk’s bunk.
“Venk wasn’t royalty,” Megai said.
“We don’t know that,” Uneli said, “she never said where she had come from, before the testing.”
Ethye felt her blood turn cold. No one spoke of where they had come from before the testing, what had brought them here. Why they had chosen to join the infamous Pretoreg Guard.
“She could have been royalty,” Megai said, “but if she was, someone would have known-”
“Not necessarily,” Ethye said quietly, “not if you pay off the right people.”
She should know. It was what she had done to wipe her records of her family, her title, of any kind of connection to the Heraldic Line.
“What do you mean?” Uneli said.
“I don’t think they meant to take Venk,” Ethye said, wrapping her long green hair round her fingers so tight they tips of them began to turn a darker blue than the rest of her skin, “I think they meant to take me.”
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