Elianna was outside, near the river. The river was her favorite place to be; the trickling
water soothed her, and the sweet, floral scent brought her comfort. Usually, she had to beg or
argue with her father to go outside— he was afraid that she would be exposed, but he never told
her why. She hadn’t been out long, and the sound of heavy footsteps surprised her. They couldn’t
be forcing her to go back inside already.
She turned to see her father, tall and looming, with his head guard standing behind her.
Confusion overwhelmed her as they grabbed her arms and rushed her into the castle. She hung
her head and let her feet limply drag along the floor, in a small act of protest. They rounded the
corner and started pulling her down the stairs hastily, but her head shot up and she dug her heels
into the stone floors for traction. She realized she wasn’t being dragged to her bedroom… they
were taking her to the dungeon. The place she went when she acted out.
“Elianna, don’t fight us,” her father said calmly. “This is to protect you.”
“No!” She bucked her body like a bull, flinging her legs in every direction. “I didn’t do
anything! I haven’t used my gift!”
The men continued to drag her, kicking and screaming, down to the dungeon. It was where
she was sent whenever she lost control, when even her father feared her. Her eyelids dropped,
and she felt defeated when she heard the familiar sound of cuffs on her wrists and ankles; she hit
the floor in a heap, ready to wait out her sentence… but she didn’t hear footsteps walking away
like usual. Instead, her father reached down and wrapped a single red curl around his finger. For
the first time in years, he smiled at her.
“I love you, Lianna.”
She looked into his eyes and smiled back. His gaze was soft, and she could see an immense
sadness inside them… something she hadn’t seen in a long time. A single tear fell down her
cheek as he turned and ran back up the stairs. Since her mom died, he hadn’t told her that he
loved her. In fact, he constantly reminded her that he was disappointed in her disability to control
her gift. He told her to keep it a secret instead of learning to control it. In that moment, she
understood that this was greater than her powers or being disciplined for them. This was greater
than their relationship. Something was wrong and he’d locked her down there in an effort to keep
her safe. An invisible chain snaked its way around her heart and tightened as an eerie silence
thickened the air around her. Racing adrenaline coursed through her veins bringing her gift from
her toes to the tips of her fingers. It was as strong as ever and wildly unpredictable as it coursed
through her body. Standing, she hushed her breath and listened. There were pounding footsteps
above her, and then a loud boom shook the stone behind her as she braced herself for more.
Three more sounded off in succession, and several large rocks fell from the ceiling. She shrieked
as one hit her shoulder, leaving behind a deep gash across her shoulder blade. Silence followed
the trio of explosions. Her heart raced so fast she thought it might explode. It ached, pounding
over and over like war drum she couldn’t silence. She willed her ears to hear something,
anything, to explain what was happening. But there was nothing, just her heart reverberating in
her ear drums. The nothingness lasted, dragging through the entire night. She stood, paced the
cold wall as far as her shackles would allow. Throbbing feet convinced her to sit, and when
exhaustion took over, she could no longer keep her eyes open. She curled her small body into a
ball and fell into a deep slumber.