Their new home, the new new one that they had found in order to escape prying eyes and Unwanted Guests, was in the “lost” parts of the city. It was fortified, hard to find, and the only place that Heia thought was possibly safe for their growing family of orphans. Orphans, that’s what they were now. Orphans, who had to find trade items in a world where jobs no longer mattered. After the Catastrophe they had lived above ground, for weeks, as the city was solidified. They didn’t have a home then, and this new one was only doing so much. Now that they were Orphans, hiding from those who could take them, they had to fight to survive in a way that Heia had never thought possible outside of stories. She was living it, and each day they had more mouths to feed.
They cycled through, Heia, Andre, Kony and Kori, getting supplies and searching for their family. Layla and Karla staid behind, always, to watch the babies and the little ones who Heia kept finding and bringing back. She would find more Orphans each day and bring them back home, would be handed children by their parents because some one people knew. Somehow everyone knew that they were a family of lost children now. With all the new kids, it was getting difficult to survive. They needed more hands, more people to help them survive. Just four more, just four. A mother, a father, a sister, a brother. Just four, that was all she needed. Heia refused to believe her missing family members were dead. Unfortunately it seemed that each time she refused to believe it, they were met with more orphans, more mouths, and more problems. Each day they were met by more dead who could no longer be presumed missing. Each hour they were further from finding their family alive than before.
“Heia.” Karla sat next to Heia, as Heia looked through their supplies making a list of what they needed, especially for the little ones. “We need more blankets.”
“Again?” Heia asked looking at her list. They didn’t have nearly enough to trade for more blankets.
“It happens when you have four new mouths to feed.” Kori would have to help her find more supplies to trade from the ruins. It was dangerous, but Heia couldn’t risk Andre or Kony doing it. They were the only men now. Well, Kony was a boy, but he had to start acting older soon, because Unwanted Guests were searching for them. Heia and Kori were the only one who would be able to raid people’s homes to steal from them and sell the items they found, in the broken districts that were still dangerous. They’d have to go that night.
“Is that to say we need more food too?” Heia asked trying to calculate what they would have to steal in order to get the supplies.
“Yes.” Kori’s words meant they needed much more food than they had already.
Where would they get the food back? It was already difficult enough to move regular supplies but the amount of food they needed would cause a scene if they weren’t careful. They had to be careful around Unwanted Guests.
“Have you heard from Shawn?” Kori asked quietly, bringing up a name that Heia had thought of constantly these days.
Shawn had left. She had needed him to leave. His family had needed him to leave. The pay from the military was helping his family. Him being away, and somewhere safe, made her feel less like she could lose him here, where everything was falling apart. Shawn still sent her letters, depictions of cities that were completely decimated by the Catastrophe. Depictions of the disaster that those in the Towers ignored. He told her little of his Military training, little of what he was doing, little of their last fight before he had left. She thought of him constantly, and also could not.
“We need more food and supplies.” Wasn’t there a destroyed city close to Lake Lost? It was at least a six day journey, but they needed the supplies without drawing attention to themselves here in LakeLost. Trade could only get them so far, and they had to hide from the Unwanted Guests, for all the kids. She’d need to make the plan and then leave to get the supplies. She’d take Kori, and maybe Kony, and Andre with her. It was what they had to do, what they’d have to do. They needed the food, the blankets, the anything that could help them survive.
Heia walked through the reconstructed city of LakeLost. From Applefound, she had gotten many trade worthy items, things that she could sell that would not be traced back to anywhere in LakeLost. The items could not be traced back to her if Unwanted Guests started lurking. Kori was at home with the others, because Heia had not wanted them to be there as she bought weapons. Andre had insisted, but Andre looked too kind. Being alone would give her an advantage in this. She was looking for weapons to protect her family when she heard her name. Her blood raced, and her hands went still. Not many would just call her name, which meant they knew her. However, Unwanted Guests could possibly know her name if they had asked around, in which case she would have to flee. Turning over her shoulder, she prepared herself to run when she saw the figure of someone she’d long believed to be dead.
“Trace?” Heia fell into a run in the opposite direction than she had thought, as she rushed towards her sister who nearly tackled her in return. With Trace was their brother Robee. He looked worse for wear, gruff, and with new scars on his arms, but they were alive. They were alive. Heia cried harder than she expected that she could and for minutes she held on to them refusing to believe that such a dream could be real. She’d gone so long with no sign of them or their parents. Layla and Andre had made it clear that they had to act as if their family was gone and that they were all they had left. Heia had been holding out, hoping, praying, that her family would be returned to her even when Kori, Karla, and Kony gave up. And they were there, in her arms, standing before her. Truly.
“Where are mom and dad?” Heia asked them, looking them over, checking them for injuries that were worse than scars, things that could hinder them or possibly kill them if another collapse came.
“What?” Trace asked, her face was pale as she asked the question. “They aren’t with you?”
“They were looking for you.” Heia answered and as their expressions revealed, Heia knew they never found them. Her parents were still missing. They would forever be missing, and Heia had to accept that. She wasn’t sure she’d ever accept it, but she had Trace and Robee back. That was half, half of what she asked for and these days that was better than what she could usually get. “I see…”
“The others?” Robee asked tentatively, as if speaking the words into existence could make them disappear. He didn’t want to hear that they were dead but he also had to know. There was so much fear, fear that it was only them three, pain that he’d have to mourn them again, but hope that he’d finally know for certain.
“Home.” Heia answered remembering where they were and who she was in that moment. “We’ll go after I get stuff.”
“Stuff?” Trace repeated.
“Stuff.” Heia answered and then turned from her siblings trying to keep herself from breaking down into sobs. She needed to get them weapons and new blankets. Trace and Robee were home, but she had a task to accomplish. They were home and now she had two more mouths to feed.
Heia heard the rumors of the so called Night of Oblivion, reports from the people in the city that the CloudCities and Towers were attacked. She had heard whispers through the city after the attack, and believed that Shawn would tell her about it in a letter. Once it came that was. Heia couldn’t care less about what happened to them, not really. She had mouths to feed, cities to raid, a home to fortify. She didn’t have time for the elite. She didn’t have time for those who sat in their crystal sky towers and watched the world below them suffer, doing absolutely nothing to help. Alan Penn, the Prime Minister of the AmeraNor Region for the X’s of the Lowerlands, had called them selfish and she agreed. So, Heia had not cared about the Night of Oblivion and the terror that came to them. In her opinion it was deserved.
It was late into the night when Heia awoke to a strange sensation of fear, and thought to the terror of the Night of Oblivion. It was like her sensations were alive, and the thought kept coming back to her. It reminded her of the Catastrophe, only worse. How could it ever be worse? The Catastrophe had destroyed everything, yet her mind wandered back and she asked what it? What if the Night of Oblivion came for them too? Trying to sedate the feelings of worry, Heia looked to the world outside her small room. Their home was secluded from the rest of society, far removed, hidden in the ruins of the lost parts of the city, and fortified. In the shadows Heia could see strange figures moving about, closer and closer. Grabbing her knife, and Phaser, that she’d gotten illegally, Heia got out of bed without waking her siblings, leaving the room to investigate.
She thought them Unwanted Guests. She and Andre had this plan to make it so that the Unwanted Guests did not know they were there. In some ways it required stealth, but it would drag them away. However, Heia had always feared they’d need more for the Unwanted Guests if they truly had found them. Heia wasn’t sure she was prepared for murder, even when she had seen death all around her. Even if it meant protecting her family. Because it was murder, all the same. Heia could never kill another person.
She thought them Unwanted Guests as she walked through the wreckage, near silently, hoping to catch them unaware. What she found were monsters of her worst nightmares, two of them walking together swiftly. Her blood ran cold and suddenly she knew there was far more danger. She didn’t know what they were, but she knew they weren’t human. Activating one of the safety traps she blew up one of the buildings crushing them and hurried back to her home, hoping to buy time from whatever they were. They had fortified the house in the event of an attack by Unwanted Guests. Would it work for monsters? As Heia entered the home she was startled to find another dead body of a monster who had died from the traps she had set. Her thoughts all at once went to the Night of Oblivion and how the Towers and CloudCities had burned, from monsters? From riots? Why didn’t she understand? Why could she only remember the collapse of Arcadia?
Screams erupted from inside. Racing in, Heia saw a second monster going to attack the kids who had staid up too late. Trace, who was on night watch, was up ready to defend them gun in her hand shooting at the monster. The monster reached out for her sister and Heia shot at it with her Phaser. She had expected it to do more damage, as the weapon was a military grade weapon, but as it left a little less than a dent and a scratch, Heia was at a loss. The monster turned to her and went to attack her, seeing her as a threat. Instinct and training came to race through her body. Mr. Listal’s training was going to be what either made or broke her her survival. He had not trained her much, but he had trained her to survive better and it was going to have to work. Moving out of the way she used her knife to try to cut the beast failing and instead scratching it’s metal like exterior less than the Phaser did. How was she supposed to injure it? The Phaser had done damage but not nearly as much as it could, perhaps because she wasn’t a Circle and the Phasers needed more mana than what was just stored within? She wasn’t sure.
Go for the neck, it was the weakest point on most animals, she remembered. She wasn’t sure it would work on a monster but she had to hope. She had to pray, or else her entire family was going to die. It was what she did. Yelling at her siblings to move out of the room and trying to remember where each of the traps in the room were hidden, Heia moved, seeing that she was slower than the monster but was able to avoid by being unpredictable. Rope. She needed rope. Shooting the creature to back off, she dove to the ground to rip up the floor and find the rope that was hidden. Rolling over the ground she avoided it’s next attack and then quickly tossed the rope to Trace yelling at her to make a knot in it. Heia shot at the beast and slashed at it, trying to keep it at a distance.
With all the moving and all the shooting, Heia was tired, but her adrenaline was racing and she had to keep going because one slow movement would mean her end, she knew as she was nearly cut but the beast. Dropping her Phaser, she thought of how to get it back, but with each passing second death loomed greater.
“Heia!” Trace yelled, as she threw the rope end with the noose towards Heia, keeping hold of the other side. Heia moved over the furniture, climbing and jumping through the air to loop the noose end through a metal loop they had installed in the celling to move things when fortifying the space. In retrospect she had no idea how she had done it as they usually had to use a ladder to do so, but she had and it was in that moment that she won. She dove to the ground, the monster chasing her and pulled the noose over it’s head rolling away just in time to only get a gash in her arm. Heia yelled at Trace who pulled the rope with the others who were in the room. The Monster was yanked back and up, just high enough that its legs danced across the floor. Heia then saw a space between the shell of it’s body, where she hoped it was weak, knife in hand she slashed at the neck cutting it enough that the monster squirmed and the yellow blood fell.
“Now!” Heia yelled, and she watched as the rope went higher. She cut deeper, and then all ato once the monster’s head snapped, falling limp and blood splattering. Her next immediate thought was to make sure the other one was dead when her skin began to burn and a scream errupted from her throat. Some of the blood had landed on Heia causing her to scream as it burned her skin. Heia bit it back, trying to wipe her skin off as it bubbled, trying to think of how to wash it off, she had to wash it off. She felt herself lifted from the ground by Robee, and brought to the only place in the house with running water. Layla poured milk and water over her burned arms, yelling at Karla to grab the burn medicine that they had. It took everything Heia had to focus even when her thoughts were spinning.
This was death. She’d survived the Catastrophe and killed what ever that monster was, but it was still going to destroy her.
“What was that?” Layla asked as she breathed heavily and quickly moved to help Heia.
“Monsters.” Robee answered.
“Fortify the house now.” Heia bit out between breaths. “They are everywhere.”
These were the monsters that attacked the Towers.