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A note from Zearth

Thanks to EnhancedBeing and ArDeeBurger for helping out with the proofreading and editing of this Chapter! :)

The twins were quiet for the rest of their journey, too drained from the revelation. They were far from home, further than they’ve ever been to a place so inhospitable. A place they never cared for and never wanted to visit.

 

Arty constantly cussed about his own luck under his breath. Of all the trains out of the capital, we took the worst one to be on, he thought, taking a glance at Eli. When they were young, their cousins would never stop complaining about Haiya when they went there. They would talk about the frigid winds, the disorienting heights, and the difficulty of using their innate powers, which only served to build fear of the mountains in the twins.

 

Now, as the sun began to lower past the horizon, the long-buried fear that plagued their childhood nightmares slowly surfaced. It weighed down on Arty’s chest and amplified his heartbeat. He tried his best not to panic in front of his sister, steadying his breathing instead while acting tired instead, which wasn’t hard to do after the sudden awakening.

 

But there was only so much he could do in an empty train car as his eyes laid upon his sister beside him, his forehead scrunching in concern. Eli had her legs tucked in, her arms tucked around them in a tight embrace. Her face was buried within the embrace, yet he could sense her dejected state, how her heart wished to be back at a home that was no longer friendly to her.

 

The screeching brakes of the train jolted Eli from where she sat, revealing a tear stricken face hidden underneath. Arty turned away, pretending he hadn’t been spying on her. Taking a step towards the door, he took a peek outside, hoping there wasn’t a firing squad waiting for them.

 

To his relief, what faced him wasn’t the police or a firing squad, but a massive basin in the mountainside, with machinery and people moving about their day as they dug into the earth. Dark rocks fell onto the ground while some fell into crudely made braziers, some of which burned a bright orange against the darkness.

 

What surprised him was the dark, shabby town to the side, its buildings so close to the edge of the basin. The town seemed eerily quiet, its streets choked full of snow left unswept. Decrepit houses laid like corpses side by side, buried under the snow.

 

Arty closed the door, mind going into overdrive as he started thinking about their next course of action. There was only one conclusion that could happen if they stayed on the train. Even if that option was safer than what he's considering, there was no way he'll let Eli go back to that place.

 

"Eli," he called, head facing away from her, still carrying on the act of ignorance. "Get ready. We need to move soon."

 

Arty couldn't tell what she was doing, but he heard her grunt, feet shuffling as she stood up. He resists the urge to turn around, to witness the sight of her face again. She still needs space to accept our reality, he thought, thinking back to their schooling days.

 

Shaking away the thought, he opened the door a crack, peering through it as he tried to find a good spot to hop off. There, right by the side of the path of the slowing train, was a massive snowbank, positioned in such a way that would cushion their landing.

 

Arty felt Eli approach, taking position beside him, voice quivering as she asked: "What's the plan, Pot."

 

"How does jumping off a moving train sound to you?"

 

"Insane," she replied, grabbing his hand and squeezing so tight that he could barely feel his blood flow. "But you ran out of options, didn't you?"

 

"Well, we can't all be as smart as you, Kettle," he remarked sarcastically, thankful that she hadn't disagreed with him. "Ready?"

 

Eli paused for a moment, letting the silence grow stale before she answered back, "Ready."

 

Arty took a deep breath, heart racing before throwing the door open one last time. He poised his legs, running the movements he’d take over and over before he jumped, pulling Eli along and landing backwards onto the snow with a soft thud, sending them reeling at the impact. They laid there for what seemed like an eternity, catching their breath as the snow continued to fall heavily around them.

 

“I wish I hadn’t done that,” he mumbled, letting go of her hand and getting up to wipe away the sweat on his forehead. Eli grunted in reply, flipping over face-first onto the snow. “Let’s go. Day’s over soon.”

 

The two got to their feet, patting away the snow stuck on their bodies during their slow trek towards the town ahead. Wary of the inhabitants, they kept their hands in their pockets. But none approached them on their journey, and they slowly relaxed the grip they’d been hiding.

 

“There,” Eli said in the ensuing silence, the sun now barely a pinprick in the sky. Arty turned his head in her direction, staring at the now brightly lit building to his side. The light permeated the encroaching darkness, providing a beacon upon the hostile landscape. At the top, in neon signs, were the words, “Jacula Inn,” as if the number of people within the windows weren’t telling enough.

 

Arty groaned at the prospect of going in. Jumping off a speeding train had already been a risky endeavour. Looking for help was almost certainly a signal flare to where they are. Then when he remembered the state Eli was in, still shivering in the cold without her power, he thought otherwise.

 

“Let’s go there. Maybe they’ll be able to help,” he replied, reluctantly dragging his legs through the snow. With each step, he felt his legs cramping up. His breath was getting more and more laborious as he approached the Inn, the loud cheers of the patrons were as if they were greeting them, spurring them forward towards the door.

 

And as he stepped on the doorstep with Eli, exhausted, he took yet a moment to contemplate his decision, before pushing open the door.

 

The inn quietened down at the ring of a bell, its patrons turning to look at the newcomers. The twins could barely take another step through the door before collapsing to the ground, the floor shaking at the impact. Stunned silence hung over the room, before making way for the loud thuds of boots and falling chairs as those seated rushed towards the twins.

 

“Another pair of inadequately equipped mountaineers seeking refuge in our humble abode, I take it,” someone mumbled, earning a laugh from the patrons around them. Arty felt hands grabbing him and propping him up as he looked around, finding his sister being propped up in the same way.

 

Arty kept quiet at the banter, his eyes now observing the company around him. What he thought were young men and women were instead elderly and aged people, all with wrinkles on their faces. The only person there who didn’t look old was the lady who made the comment, wiping her hand on a towel as she made her way over to the twins.

 

“Oh don’t take it the wrong way,” the lady shrugged, motioning at the patrons to give them space. “You’re lucky you made it down alive without your equipment. What’s your name, if I may ask?”



“Everett,” Arty quickly said, making a quick glance at his surprised sister. “Everett Collins. This is my sister, Evelyn.”

 

Eli stayed completely quiet, but he could sense the implied death stare he was receiving from his dear sister. He knew how much shit he was in once they got a moment alone, but he also had no intentions of revealing who they were to the townspeople.

 

“Well, welcome to my inn. I’d tell you all about our establishment, but the both of you clearly need some rest,” she said, grabbing a set of keys from her belt before handing it to Arty. “Go upstairs and rest. We’ll get the both of you some first aid once we get things sorted here.”

 

Arty nearly rejected the offer, words caught in his throat as he cussed himself at his idiocy. He’s no longer in the capital, no longer free to choose to reject the hospitality of others. As those phrases of rejection died in his mouth, he simply nodded at the Innkeeper, grabbing the keys and supporting Eli on one arm, slowly taking a step at a time.

 

It took him a while to find the rooms numbered on the keys, fumbling the lock under Eli’s weight. Stumbling into the room, he dropped her onto the bed, making sure she wouldn’t tumble off onto the floor before collapsing into a chair himself.

 

“What the fuck, Arty?” Eli starts, straining herself to sit up. “You just had to use the one name you shouldn’t have used when lying to that lady.”

 

“What? Like we can use ours?” He shot back, hands on his chest. “It’s the first name I could think of when she asked. You know Everette and Evelyn wouldn’t mind us using their names.”

“Ya, but… but...”

 

“Eli,” he starts, dragging the chair closer to her. “I know you don’t like it, but right now, don’t think about anyone else. There’s no one we can contact without giving ourselves away. If we ever go back, you can ask them for forgiveness, or atonement, or whatever. Now, just focus on what’s in front of us.”

 

Eli pouted where she sat, eyes still full of fury as she turned away from Arty, ignoring him. He sighed at her rebellious act, looking away and observing his surroundings. He barely managed to figure out the layout of the room before a knock at the door startled him, hands immediately clasped together. He stepped carefully to the door, hands still clasped as he looked through the peephole, not realising that he no longer possessed a weapon.

 

All that lay behind the door was the Innkeeper from earlier, hands full with a tray with hot soup. On her arm was a first aid kit, slung haphazardly over her shoulders. "Oi, open up, I got my hands full here!" the lady shouted, the shoe now knocking loudly at the door. Arty opened it, letting her in as he relaxed his grip, letting his arms fall to his side. This was the lady who showed them hospitality when they needed it most, and he knew better than to resort to barbarism.

 

"Both of you take off your winter wear already,” the lady demanded, setting both the food and kit down on the dining table. “You want to catch a cold?”

 

Arty took a glance at Eli, still hesitant on taking off his clothing before a stranger. Eli, on the other hand, had no reservations. She took off her coat, showing off her lean figure underneath. Her purple dress was riddled with cuts and burns, ruined beyond repair. Dropping the coat onto the bed, she sighed, unable to bear the loss of her clothing.

 

Arty stood back as the Innkeeper walked over, starting her aid for Eli. He quickly unbuckled the shoulder holsters hidden in his jacket, waiting for the ladies’ back to be turned towards him before stuffing it and the Black Dahlia into a waiting drawer and taking off his jacket as a screen for his act.

 

“And that’s done,” the Innkeeper said just as he closed the drawer, turning around and laying the ruined jacket onto the chair. He felt defenceless, standing there without the weight bogging his arms down. But he didn’t have a choice. The lady motioned him over, getting him to sit down before working on him.

 

“You kids sure are bold to come here,” she starts, wrapping a long roll of bandage over the exposed wounds on his arms. “At this time of the year, you’d be dead if you were still out at night.”

 

“We took a wrong turn,” Arty replied, grimacing as the long subsided pain now resurfaced, threatening to push deep into his mind. “Lost everything trying to get somewhere safe.”

 

“Well, you can go say thanks to your god that you made it here. Now hold still, while I finish up.”

 

Arty bit his lips as she finished up with her treatment, his hands now looking like a mummy as the Innkeeper put back her items. “Eat and go to sleep. You guys need it,” she said, moving off towards the door. Before leaving, she took a glance back, staring at the twins for a moment before closing the door.

 

Arty didn’t bother checking out the food as he looked at Eli, already knocked out on the bed. In a normal circumstance, he’d have asked to sleep on a separate bed, but he felt his exhaustion surfacing, threatening to send him face-first into a pillow. Sighing, he laid back on the bed, closing his eyes and surrendering himself to his dreams.

 

---





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A note from Zearth

Sigh.

Right, this took such a long time to finish. The bright side of it is that I know how bad it is writing while in the army, having a lot less time to put it on a laptop and having most of your ideas in a notebook. Still, I'll be continuing with the writing of Descent. Whenever and wherever I can.

So to those of you still staying with me, don't lose hope and keep reading on. Leave a comment, and I'll get back to you whenever I am available. 

See you all next time!


About the author

Zearth

Bio: Long time short story writer and currently working on Descent, a story of a pair of twins. Do check it out!

(Oh, and if you came here from the commission, that's which story that I commissioned for.)

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