Alright Everabody!!! I know this has been a long time coming and I apologize for that. Here’s what Zenyth and Sandyra have been doing all this time. @esmeralda-gramilton and I wrote this together. I’ll put three asterisks to show pov change. Thank you so much Esmeralda for working with me on this. It was super duper fun. (in the very creepy and slightly disturbing sort of way LOL)
Here it is:
Saydra fell to her knees for the seventeenth time and finally decided to stop for a minute.
Seriously, hadn’t this path ever had maintenance?
Not to mention it was nearly pitch black besides the light of her now sputtering torch. If the walk took much longer, it might go out on her.
But it had to be worth it. Something had to be here.
Saydra got up carefully and held the torch out in front of her. She’d already made it pretty far, down several crossroads and a flight of stairs, but she had no idea if she was going the right way.
Suddenly, she heard water lapping against a wall. She’d heard the sound millions of times before and recognized it immediately: The canals.
But she had to be miles beneath the surface, she couldn’t possibly be near one.
Unless it was one of the underground sources.
It seemed possible, and Saydra walked a little faster, following the water’s sound and ignoring the pains in her hand as she scratched it against the rough stone walls.
Her footsteps echoed along the tunnel and faded out. That could mean two things: An exit, or a crossroad, maybe even a large room.
Whatever it was, it was something.
Her torch sputtered out, and she cast the stump aside, beginning to run.
She could feel something ahead, and the water’s rush was getting even louder.
In her heart, she could feel something pulling her in the right direction, and she knew she was getting close to her future.
Zenyth stood waiting. He had heard the footsteps in the tunnel behind him. Now he only had to wait till she found him, whoever she was. His one hand was at his side, his fingers barely touching the handle of his long dagger.
He stared out into the canal, the water endlessly flowing downstream. Countless numbers had drowned in that canal during this unrest. It had taken many lives. . . like himself. It had always been an inspiration to him. Never stop, never give up, keep running, keep fighting, coldly and silently do what you must and hide your deeds beneath a smooth service.
The footsteps grew louder behind him. He turned again to face the hidden entrance to the tunnel. He pulled his dagger from its hiding place and held it at his side. If she opposed the Rooks, this would be the best place to dispose of her and then just let the canal be her grave.
The air grew more stale as Saydra pressed onward, and she could feel the tension rising in her. Her pulse quickened as she turned the next corner, following the sound of the water.
There was an opening in the tunnel in front of her, likely a way to access the river itself.
So close. . .
A sudden noise stopped her. It was too small to even echo through the narrow pathway, but she heard and recognized it from her own experiences with trouble.
Metal. A knife.
Someone was there, ahead of her, armed and ready to attack.
The footsteps stopped. Zenyth’s whole body tensed. He lifted his proud head high and raised his knife at his side. His eyes were fixed on the place where he knew the exit of the tunnel was hidden by the branches.
“Hey. Why don’t you just come on out?” he called, “I know you’re there anyway and there’s no way you could escape if you tried to run now. I know those tunnels better than anyone.”
Saydra swallowed hard, realizing the threat. She was completely unbelievably outmatched, and there she wouldn’t likely be able to lie her way out the situation.
She raised her hands slowly.
“Fine,” she called over the rush of the water. “You have me. Just tell me who you are, and what you’re doing down here.”
She hesitated, staring into the darkness as the realization sank in. What would anyone possibly be doing all the way down here if they weren’t hiding something?
“You,” Saydra began uncertainly. “You’re with the rebels, aren’t you? The ones who use the sparrow symbol?”
Zenyth laughed. The sound was cold and hard. “No.” he replied darkly. “I’m not a sparrow. Far from it in fact. Come out of the tunnel and I’ll tell you who I am.”
Again, Saydra hesitated. She knew she was cornered either way, but she wasn’t sure allowing this man to see her was the best idea.
On the other hand, she wanted answers more than ever now. Who would use these tunnels except the sparrows?
And she wasn’t exactly being threatened. . .
Hiding her trembling hands behind her back as she pulled a small, dull knife from her pocket, Saydra stepped forward.
Zenyth watched as the girl appeared before him. The first thing he noticed was her hands behind her back. He had been an assassin long enough to know what that meant. A look of amusement filled his face and he stroked the handle of the dagger he held. His blue eyes studied her coldly. She was scared. She was curious with eyes full of questions.
“You don’t have to hide your weapon behind your back. I know you have it.” He laughed again, “I’m a Rook. Before you ask any more questions, think carefully. Curiosity is not a very safe thing in Outopia. The wrong questions to the wrong people could get you killed.”
“J-just like overconfidence will get you arrested?” Saydra countered, wishing she could hide the stutter in her voice. But she knew she was outmatched and was completely out of options.
All she had left was questions, but the man didn’t seem like he wanted to tell her much.
She had to ask the right questions to stall for time. He could obviously tell more about her than she’d likely ever learn about him, if she even got a chance to ask.
“What are the Rooks, then?” Saydra decided to ask. “I’ve never heard of them. Are they the ‘wrong people’ too?”
Zenyth’s eyes glittered from under his mask. She was pushing him. The cold killer in him wanted out. But his human side told him that this was not the time for that. She knew nothing. There was no reason for her to die- yet.
“What are the Rooks?” he repeated her question. For a moment he was silent as he studied her further. He had to be thoroughly certain that she had no government connections. Her questions were open and honest, there was nothing subtle about them. It seemed that she simply wanted to know. . . maybe she was even interested in joining. But Zenyth was not convinced, “Why do you want to know?” he asked slowly, his eyes squinting.
“Well, because I’ve never heard of them,” Saydra replied. “And I know everything about this city. At least, I thought I did.”
She fingered the knife still in her hands, wondering if it was better to put it away. It wasn’t bothering the man in the slightest.
“You don’t know as much as you think.” he smirked. “So you have no other reasons for wanting to know?”
Saydra scoffed. “It’s not like I’m going to report you to the government or anything. They’re being pretty unhelpful right now, and they don’t like me anyway. I’m not a sparrow, because they’ve got the wrong idea, but this is a kill-or-be-killed world right now, and I’m not planning to die.”
She knew she was being a bit forthright, especially since she didn’t even know who this was, but she couldn’t stop herself.
Whether it was the curious, adventurous, or stupid part of her speaking, she couldn’t convince herself to leave just yet.
This meeting couldn’t have been chance. These ‘Rooks’ had to be up to something, or none of their members would be hiding out in an abandoned canal in the evening.
A fire lit in Zenyth’s eyes and to Saydra’s surprise, he almost smiled. “You sound like me now. Well if you’re not with the government and you’re not a sparrow I think I can tell you. But first, one more question. What’s your name?”
She immediately regretted saying that, but that was pretty normal. Giving her name to someone tended to be the start of continued communication, but it always ended within days, even hours of beginning.
She’d stopped telling anyone who she was after a while, but again, she just couldn’t run away from this.
Maybe the Rooks were actually people who were going to do something about the broken city.
She sighed. “And what’s your name, then?”
“My name is Zenyth.” he replied, “And the Rooks are the only future for this city.”
Saydra almost dropped her knife, her confusion practically a mist around her. She heard this phrase before, from the government, on a wall vandalized by the Sparrows. . . but who were the Rooks? And how could this man -Zenyth- possibly seem so sincere?
It almost didn’t sound like a lie.
Fine, she thought, gripping the knife again. I’ll play along.
“Tell me more,” she inquired.
Later. . . :
Saydra trailed one hand along the grimy walls of the tunnel, feeling the stones even out underneath her hands as they neared the surface and the well-kept tunnel systems.
She tried to follow Zenyth’s footsteps, since he didn’t seem to have his own torch and hers had burned out.
As she walked, she thought about all the man had told her about the Rooks, the underground rebels who really were making a difference, unlike the Sparrows everyone had originally assumed were the cause.
It seemed like the right side to be on, at least to her. She hated the government and how little they’d done for the city. But she’d somehow always denied the Sparrows’ subtle offers to let her join them.
They wanted her for her skills, but they hadn’t made any changes, either, despite their claims. They were just making everything worse.
She quickened her pace on the sunken stairs to catch up with Zenyth.
“I thought about what you said,” she told him quietly. “But I still don’t know why you told me all of this.”
Zenyth’s mind raced. He had just told Saydra almost everything there was to know about the Rooks. She seemed interested. She seemed trust-worthy. But what if he had just made a huge mistake? He knew that one wrong move could bring down all of their plans. Had he just made that move? He heard Saydra’s footsteps quicken and draw closer behind him.
The next second her voice echoed in the narrow tunnel. “I thought about what you said. But I still don’t know why you told me all of this.”
Zenyth didn’t answer for a moment. As light began to glow from the end of the tunnel ahead, he turned to Saydra. He looked at her in the dim light. With hawk-like eyes, he studied her face. Putting one hand on her shoulder, he spoke, his voice the most friendly Saydra had ever heard. “Because you’re smart Saydra. You’re not deceived by the Sparrows or the Government. And you care about this city. That’s the kind of person we need.”
Saydra felt a small surge of excitement, of appreciation for finally being taken seriously. No-one had ever spoken to her like this, at least not that she could remember.
However, she simply nodded, resisting the urge to shrug off Zenyth’s hand. She knew she couldn’t allow herself to be that comfortable. This was still a war, now one with three sides, and knowing all this could be dangerous.
She wasn’t sure she was trusted yet. She wouldn’t trust herself, at least. Not when she’d been told people needed her before, only to be cast out.
All she wanted was something permanent, that wouldn’t crumble. She wanted the city to finally be permanent, and controlled.
She decided she needed to go through with this.
“Alright,” She said finally. “I want to make a change. Show me what I need to do.”
Saydra was silent at first, with only a slight nod. But that didn’t bother Zenyth. It showed that she was taking time to consider. Instead of just jumping right in, she was weighing out her options. Counting the cost. He watched her as she thought.
“Alright,” She said finally. And as she looked up at him again, something inside of him shifted. “I want to make a change.” she continued, “Show me what I need to do.”
It was like he really saw her for the first time. She wasn’t just another potential Rook. She wasn’t just another face. She was the only person he had ever met that he couldn’t imagine hurting. A girl who had been through a lot and wanted change just as much as he did. She was another teenager like him. And- she was really beautiful.
Something forced him to smile. It was a slow, hesitant smile, but it was there. He squeezed her shoulder. The next instant his smile vanished and he turned from her quickly. How could he have just done that? He was an assassin. Assassins don’t care. Assassin’s kill. He gritted his teeth and spoke, hardening his voice again.
“Come on then. We’re going to the radio tower.” without waiting for a reply, he started forward. Taking a deep breath to calm his spinning head.
A loud ringing jolted Wes back into reality, and he rushed to silence the alarm before any passerby heard it and thought something was wrong.
He quickly checked the time, surprised to see how late it was getting. His current story had taken longer than expected, not to mention the hours he’d spent earlier on the Project, which he had yet to name.
He still believed having ordinary peoples’ reports on the Sparrows, having their point of view, was necessary and so far, it had been relatively successful, but it had also proven to be more work than he’d thought.
Shutting his notebook, Wes slumped back in his chair, his mind wandering back to earlier that day, specifically his encounter with the reporter from the Quill.
She’d seemed quite excited to hear about his project, and creating some sort of. . . alliance, metaphorically, between the Quill and Outopian Wings might benefit both with the Sparrow tracking and other news.
He hoped to talk to her more, if he ever got to see her again.
She was from the seventh sector, right?
With a short sigh, Wes sat up and flipped through his notes, promising himself this was the last time he was going to go over them before heading home again.
He adjusted the lamp on the desk, tilting it for a more focused light, though that cast shadows on the rest of the tiny office he’d set up his work in, since the radio tower itself was locked so late at night.
Finally, Wes reached the right page.
Callia. That was her name.
Wes smiled a little. Maybe he could find her now. She’d been interested in the project, and he was sure she’d be a great help.
Wes shut the book again and began packing up everything else. He’d have to get some sleep if he was going to keep working the next day.
Casting a quick glance around the dim room to make sure he had everything he needed, Wes also made the split-second decision to leave the notebook itself behind.
It wasn’t particularly valuable, and besides, he was just going to bring it back.
Alright, he told himself. Remember to just. . . focus on the progress we’ve made. We’re changing things. It’s all going to get better soon.
It was going to, because they were trying to.
Because it had to.
And this project was going to help. And if someone happened to find or read the journal, it had to be for the better.
That writing, however small, wherever it was left, would help somebody. Maybe help the city.
He left it behind.
Once again, Saydra found herself blindly following Zenyth, trying to sort out her feelings.
It seemed for just a minute there that he had opened up to her, and she had enjoyed seeing his quick smile. It was subtle, but real.
But then he’d blocked her out again.
She couldn’t say she hadn’t done this to others before, it was almost an instinct to shove people away. But when they got close.
Though that had never really happened to her before. So she supposed she didn;t know what she’d do if someone ever did grow closer to her.
That aside, she had no idea why they were heading to the radio tower, which was run by the government, when she had asked about the Rooks.
They hadn’t. . . taken it over, had they?
Could anyone really be that strong?
All the more reason to side with these people, she told herself silently, though her tone was slightly dismal at the thought.
As she’d told herself countless times before, it was about the city, not the people, that she did or was to do anything.
And why she was doing this, though what this was, she wasn’t sure.
But change required patience, and sometimes silence.
All the voices, people shouting, declaring sides, accusing others. . . they weren’t helping. What the city needed was one voice, whether it was everyone unified or one person who rose, control was the only thing the city needed.
And it was the one thing the city lacked.
So she’d be silent, let Zenyth lead, let the Rooks take control, and watch as the pieces finally fell into the places they deserved to be.
Zenyth walking quietly along. He kept his shoulders square, but his head down. Once he threw a quick glance over his shoulder at Saydra. He wondered what she was thinking. Had he gone too far? Let her see too much. He had to keep emotion out of this. Emotion would get in the way of victory.
Everything was dark. Night had come quickly upon the desolate city. The darkness seemed to seep into the furthest corners of Zenyth’s mind as he thought about his mission tonight. He had killed before. Many times. But each time left a scar. He was not immune to the begs for mercy or the cries of pain. He never enjoyed a kill and he never slept the night following one. And up till now, he had always worked alone. What would it be like with Saydra there?
He didn’t realize how fast time was speeding by till he looked up and saw the top of the radio tower piercing the sky, not very far ahead. Reaching down as he walked, he felt the hilt of his dagger. It gave him a strange thrill of courage. His blue eyes darkened as he looked back to be sure that Saydra was still following. She was.
Finally they reached the tower. Zenyth found his breath suddenly gone and he stopped in the long shadow of a factory to catch it. Leaning against the wall, he breathed hard. Don’t panic. You’ve done this before. You’re good at it. He told himself. Good at it. The thought made him flinch. He tried to normalize as Saydra stopped beside him.
“Is this the place?’ Saydra asked, her voice barely above a whisper as she stared up at the tower. “I. . . don’t understand. Why are we here?” This place was owned by the government. . .
Saydra’s heart nearly stopped as she noticed a small, flickering light from a window near the base of the tower. Someone was there.
“Who is that?” she whispered, trying to steady her breathing. She couldn’t tell if her unsteadiness was from excitement or fear anymore. Only someone working for the Outopian Wings would be able to get into the tower, so there were two options.
Either the Rooks had infiltrated it, or that was an Outopian citizen, working for the government- and if that were the case. . . why was she here?
“Who is that?” Zenyth saw the light in the window just as Saydra spoke. His heart pounded hard. The Target most likely. He straightened up and turned to Saydra.
“Saydra, this is the test of your loyalty to this cause. If you pass it; you’ll. officially be a member of the rooks. . . if not-” He paused. The thought suddenly hit him for the first time. Standard procedure– I’d have to kill her. After all she knows all the information. If she can’t prove her loyalty I- NO there is no way! I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to. But what if I have to? He pressed his lips together and looked Saydra in the eyes. His heart stopped. Bad choice.
He was unable to bring himself to finish his sentence, so instead he let his words hang for effect.
The air stilled as Zenyth’s unspoken words hung there, sending a chill down Saydra’s spine.
She finally guessed what the ‘test’ was. Only one thing could be so important or dangerous that absolutely couldn’t fail- she was going to have to kill someone.
A worker for the radio tower. Someone on the government’s side. It all made sense.
Saydra’s hand curled into a fist, and she realized she was still holding the knife she’d been prepared to attack Zenyth with earlier. Her hands were numb now, and she’d forgotten she still held it, but he clearly didn’t.
She was armed with a weapon and information, with a threat on her back that she had to use one to keep the other. To use the knife to keep her life.
She swallowed her fear as the light from the tower flickered out.
She had to do this- for the future of the city.
It was kill or be killed.
Wes glanced around carefully, though he knew no-one would be there. Something about the atmosphere was just putting him on edge, and he wanted to get back home as soon as possible.
He forced himself to relax as he crossed the street, trying to put the Sparrows and all of that conflict out of his mind.
Aside from an occasional rat scurrying out of the alleyway, Wes was alone.
He knew this, so why was he still so tense?
No-one would be out at this time, he’d just stayed late for work. Everyone else would have left and gone home.
Just keep going, he told himself uncertainly. You’ll see everything was just fine once you get home.
No reason to look down every alley expecting to see the glint of a weapon.
It was just nerves.
He was fine.
Zenyth’s eyes narrowed as the target stepped out of the building. He felt Saydra shift her feet. He held up one hand as he watched Wes in the low light. He’s wary. He knows something’s wrong. I’ll have to move fast. Zenyth turned to Saydra and spoke so softly she had to strain to hear him.
“I’ll go first. Once I’ve got him down. You come out and join me.” Zenyth only waited long enough for a nod of understanding before he stepped forward. He took two steps out of the shadow of the building, then started on a full out run. His feet were absolutely silent on the street. He smiled. He had learned that art well. As he reached Wes, he jumped up, his feet hitting the center of Wes’ back and knocking him to the ground. Zenyth steadied himself, his feet planted firmly in Wes’s back.. Motioning to Saydra, Zenyth whipped out his dagger and dropped to his knees.
Barely twelve yards from the radio tower, Wes stopped for just a moment.
Something still didn’t feel quite right, and it was worse than normal. The atmosphere was terrifyingly still, causing flashbacks in the back of his mind of worse times.
When the rebels were active and causing destruction.
It was all like that.
Tension and uncertainty. Confusion, even. Something about it even smelled wrong. The air was so thick it could be sliced through with a knife.
It was too much like those days.
Wes tried to turn, finally noticing the figure behind him, but he’d come to the realization too late.
In a flash, someone was behind him, and a blow to his back sent him to the ground. He couldn’t breathe, struggling as something put pressure against him, causing more pain to jolt up his spine.
He felt another presence on his left, but was unable to do anything.
What was happening? And why?
He heard shallow breaths from the second figure, as though they were as afraid as he was, or at least hesitant.
Finally, the person bent down, and a feminine voice muttered in his ear, “Too late.”
Zenyth stood up, clutching his blood doused knife. Saydra stood beside him, but he was only vaguely aware of her presence. He stared downward. Their victim now lay lifeless on the road in a pool of blood. Something inside of Zenyth was satisfied. It was the monstrous part of him; the hard killer instinct, driving him to do these horrific things. But there was something else that tortured him. Once again he had taken a life. He would never become immune to that. Looking down at the victim he felt hollow and cold inside as if his heart were dying. Everything around him seemed to be spinning. He swayed. Normally he dealt with these feelings alone. No one knew how he really felt as he walked away from a kill. But now Saydra was here. How could he let her see him like this? What would she think of him? His knees gave out under him and he caught onto Saydra’s arm for support.
Saydra stared at the young man’s still form- the man she’d just killed. It was basically her, and whether or not the blood was on her own knife or hands didn’t matter.
She didn’t even know who her victim was or had been- maybe they had nothing to do with the government or the city’s problems. Now she’d never know.
A chill ran through her body, numbing her even more than the harsh autumn winds ever had with the oncoming winter.
What had she just done?
Beside her, Zenyth seemed to stumble, and Saydra caught him somewhat accidentally. She held on, though, realizing he was probably experiencing the same feelings, or something similar.
A small voice in the back of her mind asked why she’d agreed to do this in the first place, why she thought what she was chasing was worth this, even why Zenyth had asked her to do such a thing.
This was an absolutely terrible thing she’d just done.
She had no idea what to do anymore. This had never happened to her. It never should have had to.
Even though she’d just met Zenyth, recently managed to ally herself with him and whatever side he was on. . . Somehow, she felt even more lost than she ever had before.
Zenyth looked at Saydra. The look on her face was one of shock and horror. He bit his lip hard. He couldn’t believe he had actually made her do that. But her loyalty was proven now. He gripped her arm tighter, lifting his other hand to her shoulder. He turned her toward him and looked sympathetically down into her face.
“Saydra. . .” He began, “Are you okay?” It seemed like such a lame thing to say when he knew she wasn’t anymore than he was, but what else could he say?
“I-” Saydra hesitated, biting her lip to keep it from trembling. “I’ll be fine.” she took a deep breath, repeating the phrase again in her head.
Zenyth’s voice had brought her back to the present, and she remembered how late it was getting- and why they should have been moving a long time ago.
“We need to leave,” she said, forcing herself to look up. She couldn’t bring herself to look behind as her as she turned away from the body on the streets. “Someone could be coming any moment now. We don’t want to be here.”
All of that was obvious, she knew, but speaking was a reassurance that she herself was still alive and in danger. She couldn’t lose focus now.
On cue, a light shone against the wall of a building four streets down. A night watchman, perhaps, or someone who was out exploring, like she had been.
Either way, if they came out onto the main road, there was no way they wouldn’t see Saydra and Zenyth.
As she motioned to Zenyth the threat they were facing, her only reassurance -though an upsetting one- was that the body would at least be found.
Okay. . . so that was really really long. . . if anybody made it all the way through. Congratulations!!
Sold souls and dead promises