The man was already dead, but he kept stabbing anyway.

First, the dagger went between the man’s eyes. Now, the boy wanted to make sure this blight of a miscreant was never going to rise up again. So he raised the dagger and impaled the torso. Raised it again, and repeated the process. Over and over.

The dead man had a companion who held the girl hostage. She was about the same age as he. Her voice was the call for help that brought him to where he was now. In the middle of a fight with two slavers. Well, one now.

The man pushed the girl aside and drew his sword to face the boy. “You little shit!”

Leaving his dagger on the first slaver’s body, the boy then picked up a golden spearblade. One with the body of a harpoon, longer than he was, and the cutting properties of a double-edged sword.

He made the first move and rushed for the man.

The man braced for the attack, expecting the boy to tackle him. It was just a boy. He knew he could take out the rascal.

But the rascal never stood close to him.

The boy hurled the spearblade masterfully. He would do well with it than put shame to his mentor, Saihme.

“Oh, fuck!”

The spearblade penetrated the man through the stomach, pinning him to a dead tree behind him. It found its exit on the other side of the tree trunk, skewering the man and the object of inanimate nature.

Staring in disbelief at his wound, the man struggled for breath. His eyes met the boy’s when the rascal stood in front of him. His expression was that of satisfaction and mischief.

The boy held the spearblade, tugging it lightly.

The man made a sound. “Don’t. Don’t do it or I’ll bleed to death.”

“But,” the boy tilted his head to the side, “isn’t that the point?”

And the boy pulled the spearblade, easily cutting through wood and flesh.

He marveled at how sharp it was. Saihme must have really taken care of the thing to not let it go dull. Now that it was passed to him, he could do with it what he will.

The boy stepped aside as the man took drunken steps forward, holding his guts that threatened to spill on the soil. He fell on his knees, coughing up blood. Soon, his body kissed the ground for eternity.

He turned to the girl. But all he saw was fear imbued in the eyes that he had saved. Her face displayed an emotion that he found oddly familiar and unnerving. Those eyes stared at him like he was some kind of monster.

Governed by the instinct to survive in the wasteland, he felt the urge to help her when she cried for help. He didn’t like the way she screamed as if she was helpless. And lost.

Like his memories.

He approached her and untied her bounds, ignoring her reaction.

She avoided his gaze.

She looked so frail, but there was also life in her eyes. He had never seen a person like this before. A girl at that.

He poked her cheek as if to make sure it was a genuine human being. She certainly moved like one. Plus, she was soft.

The girl met his gaze. Her eyes, a hue of lavender’s bloom, widened as she held her cheek and leaned farther from him. “U-umm...”

There was something strange about her. He couldn’t quite point it out.

She appeared harmless. Her hair was long. A silky shade of burgundy, straight but curled at the tips. She had these two small mounds on her chest. He wondered why he didn’t have those. Perhaps it was exclusive to them? No matter. They appeared uncomfortable and he didn’t want that.

Knowing she was safe, he decided to leave. He plucked the dagger off the dead man before attaching it to the other end of the spearblade.


He glanced at the girl who was approaching him. In her eyes, fear was now absent. Like she’s enlightened by the fact he wouldn’t penalize a harmless person.

She put a hand on his arm. He flinched at the wound the first slaver managed to leave there with a knife.

Her touch was warm. There was something in it that soothed the days he had been searching for something familiar.

An unusual glow escaped her hand. When she withdrew, the blood of his injury disappeared.

“You’re a...” He thought about what his mentor told him about these people. Mahiqa. Gifts, powers, bestowed upon people of royal lineage.

The girl shook her head. “I’m not.”

The boy said nothing more. He was beginning to feel the discomfort in their proximity.

The girl stared at him. He begged for his gaze to wander, but he wouldn’t give that satisfaction to her. If it was staring she wanted, he’d do that much.

He noticed her eyes faltered ever so slightly, almost declaring his victory. But she wouldn’t yield as much.

“Got a name?” She asked.

He hesitated, almost stammering. He broke off the gaze. “I-I don’”

“Do you have anywhere to go?”

“No. Not particularly.”

She found it odd. “Well then, do you know where you came from? Maybe you could go back the same way?”

The boy looked around. He couldn’t help but think there was something else beyond the dead forest. “I don’t remember anything.”

Her expression held its calm despite that revelation. For someone who can’t remember anything, he sure can fight or remember how to. “I’m Caltha.”

The boy looked at her, confused. Her name was a song he couldn’t interpret. So that’s what another human’s name sounded. To him, hearing another name aside from his mentor’s, Saihme, was a new form of lyric. “C-Calla?”

“No, it’s Cal-tha.”

“Calla,” he insisted.

She didn’t know what else to say. So for now, she let it slide. “If you want, we can go to Rastite. You could spend the night with us while you figure things out.”

The boy wasn’t so sure about staying in a stranger’s house. If trouble brewed, he’d find a way out like how he did recently. No one around here can be trusted. Courtesy of the slavers.

He was cautious, but he found himself following behind Caltha.

The trail through the dead forest rang eerie. No life, no animation, the low mist, dead trees and empty branches. Crows circled above the trees, looking down at them with longing hunger. The mist had gotten thicker the further they traveled. Until they stood at a mountain path that overlooked a city.

Towering steel buildings reached their peak in the sky. Some areas appeared to be unpolished construction sites. They had beam overhangs, cracked windows, and support wires connecting one scaffolding to the next. Webs of dust settled on top of them.

The rattle of automobiles was startling as they passed by. To the west was the port lining the shore, but the body of water was murky and no one knew what lay underneath. The dead forest bordered the rest of the city.

The color of rust hovered throughout the settlement, giving it its distinct feature under a pale sky.

Astonishment was in the boy’s eyes, never a witness to the buzzing life of civilization before.

“You’ve never been here, have you?”

The boy shook his head.

She dragged him along, hoping he knew the place somehow. “Is it okay if I give you a name?”

“I-I’m not a pet!”

“No, no, I don’t mean that. I just thought it would be weird not to call you anything. So, may I?” She corrected, asking in a gentler tone. One that’s meant to make him think twice.


He waited. He followed her eyes. She looked around the dead forest, the city. Her gaze stopped at the darkening horizon. The sky’s twinkle reflected in her eyes. She mumbled something to herself.

“Sirius. Does that sound fine?” Caltha declared.

His reaction to her words was pleasing enough to know he approved of it.

A shy one, perhaps timid, beamed back at her as a reply.

Sirius accepted his new identity. “Yes.”

There was innocence in his smile despite a savage demeanor earlier.

Caltha smiled back. “And one more thing. Please don’t tell anyone about my mahiqa. Let’s keep it between us.”

She linked her pinkie with his in a swear. “It’s a promise, okay?”

Nearing the first building that greeted them, Sirius’s hesitation bore him motionless. He stood behind Caltha a distance away.

“What’s wrong?” But she didn’t need an answer. The look in his eyes told her that he was not ready to bathe in society.

Sirius hid in an alleyway, looking around defensively, clutching his spearblade close.


Caltha turned to face a man who approached them. “Crolis.”

Crolis knelt to inspect her for any injuries. “Thank Idianale you’re alright. We’ve sent a search party for you. Are you hurt anywhere? How did you escape?”

Caltha pointed at Sirius. “I’m fine thanks to him. He actually has nowhere to go. Can he stay with us?”

Crolis narrowed his gaze at Sirius. The worry in his eyes turned into a frown.

Sirius didn’t like the look Crolis had. He smelled disapproval. Should he strike first or should he wait?

Caltha sensed that something wasn’t right. “Crolis?”

Crolis shook his head. “We can’t take him. He better find someone else to take him in,” he turned to the boy. “I don’t know who you are, but I appreciate your help.”

Crolis dragged Caltha with him.

Caltha couldn’t understand what was wrong. Why would her guardian turn away someone in need of shelter? In the wastes of all places?

She looked back at Sirius over her shoulder. “Thank you!”

Left stranded in a foreign place, Sirius held pressed himself against the wall of a building. He eyed every person who passed the evening by. He’s never seen a lot of people before. Were they weird like Caltha? Were they strict like the man who accompanied her back? Were they dangerous or deadly?

That curiosity dwindled to a halt when a group of people argued over the last stock of food on a peddling merchant. They were ready to beat each other up. They raised the issue of starvation and the shortage on every stall. Desperate to feed their families as they threw away compassion and pride.

Sirius wondered why people treated each other that way. Was the outside world that dismal? He didn’t know. In fact, he didn’t know anything of the outside. It was all new.

There was a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “Saihme?”

Unfortunately, Saihme hadn’t showed himself up. Not in a while during his aimless travels.

He hid behind the building. He disliked the idea of people discovering him.

It was getting dark. The streets were damp, and he was hungry. What would his mentor do in a situation like this?

He looked back at the commotion. If something were to give him a sign, perhaps this was it. He wanted to know how the argument would conclude.

Will one of them die? Will one of them go back home with food on their table? Will anyone regret their actions? It was only going to end in one way.

He felt a hand on his shoulder. A curious man stood before him with a smile on his face. Sirius was being offered a home to stay, but there was always a catch for such generosity.

The man needed his services in exchange for shelter.

What else could he do? Where else could he stay? So he agreed. He couldn’t witness how the fight at the market ended, but he found a place to stay as a result.

They traveled the path to the man’s house, overlooking the city from the distant hill they stood on. Sirius noticed the man stopped along the path. His gaze was fixed on the city below.

“Somehow, I’ll try to gain back everything that once belonged to them. To us. And I need your help.”

There was no hesitation in his heart when the man said those words. It was only the beginning when he smiled. With the boy as his witness to those words.

All that within this rusting city, a city long stranded in the wasteland of the empire. The City of Rastite.


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