Excerpt - Chapter One
A whistling sound made Raina and Allen pause. Everyone turned and looked above as six armored Wind-Walkers flew from the south of the city and stopped in formation above them. With their swords held upwards with the silver blades resting against their shoulders, they hovered in the air. While they seemed to be there only to patrol the market, everyone gradually returned to their business.
“Wonder why they’re here,” Allen whispered.
Raina shrugged as she gazed at them from beneath her gray cloak. Her dark blue eyes contrasted with the bright blue of the people surrounding her. She caught the attention of one of the Wind-Walkers. A fluttering sensation flooded her stomach, and Raina found herself holding her breath in anticipation.
Wes glanced down at her from his position at the head of the troupe. Even in uniform, he stood out from his brethren. While most Wind-Walkers had blonde hair, Wes was one of the rare ones with white hair. It signified that he was Enlightened and of the ruling class. His was long, and braided in a single braid that hung down to his mid-back. He’d never cut it. It was forbidden.
Long hair was just one of the ways the ruling class was separate from the others classes.
Raina’s heart raced when his gray eyes met hers. He gave her a quick smile and nod of acknowledgement. His attention to her didn’t last long enough. He returned to surveying the crowd for any unusual activity.
“Interesting,” Allen murmured. “You didn’t tell me you knew a Wind-Walker.”
Raina grinned despite herself. She was on a mission. She had a plan and must stick to it.
“Who says that I do?”
Her smile faded as she began into the crowd once more. She tripped on a raised stone and felt her face flush with embarrassment. She hoped that Wes hadn’t seen that. She found it hard to walk the wide stone-paved street without tripping or bumping shoulders with someone else.
Her black boots made soft thuds on the stone as her eyes scanned the crowd for anything out of the ordinary.
Allen shrugged and followed behind her. “I saw him look at you is all.”
“Means nothing,” Raina said. “It was just a look.” She pulled her cloak’s hood further down, so that only her blue eyes were seen. The black cloth that covered her mouth left nothing to decipher her identity.
The lace of her long sleeves brushed just below her wrists, only to be met by black gloves. No one could see her white flesh that set her apart from the people of Jinn’Ah. She looked different because of her complexion, but it was the way her eyes glowed that made the people make a path for her.
She ignored their whispers. She was used to them by now. She pushed her yearning for attention from Wes aside and focused on her plan.
Raina looked for someone. Someone with thoughts of malice. Someone that could feed her soul with enough power to escape her servitude as a Royal Reaper.
Heat filled her body as she searched for sin. She used to think her power was a curse, keeping her up all night with horrible nightmares of things that she didn’t understand as a child. She’d seen too much. She knew the evil in everyone around her. It was enough to drive one insane. And yet, somehow, Raina still had her wits about her.
She frowned to herself, disgusted with what she saw in the souls of the people around her.
“How can I judge these people?” Raina asked Allen. It was the same question that she asked herself that every day.
“It is who you are. You cannot veer from destiny, Raina. Just like I cannot deny my own path,” Allen said.
She glanced back at him, seeing the hurt in his own eyes and feeling guilty for being so selfish.
He adjusted his glasses and looked away from her gaze.
“But I see nothing but good in you,” Raina whispered. Allen was much taller than her. She reached upward and stroked his soft brown cheek. “It is a rare thing to see such innocence.”
Allen’s blue eyes widened as he looked down at her. “Please stop, Raina. Do not read my soul. I beg you.”
He took her hand and lowered it back to her side. He adjusted his glasses, embarrassed by the thought of her learning his secrets.
Raina nodded silently. “Forgive me.”
Allen couldn’t look at her. Raina bit her lip. She knew what he was hiding. She sighed. She could never give him what he wanted.
Anyone that gained their power from the energy of sinners, bad people, murderers, rapists, and such must surely be bad as well, she thought. Allen deserves better than a girl like me.
“It’s fine,” Allen said under his breath.
Raina sniffed the air. The smell was what overwhelmed her at first. Spices and perfumes, raw fish and sweat. The early hours of dawn were the most popular times for the people to shop or sell their goods.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, raw or smoked meats, exotic smelling salts, carpets, and silks were all spread out over wooden tables draped with cloth and carts that had been pushed from far below the city’s boundaries. One might not think it due to the emerging storms, but spring had arrived, and the land was bountiful and generous with its gifts.
Raina held Allen’s hand tightly as they weaved into the crowd, afraid that if she let go she’d get swept away. She was afraid that if that happened, she would enjoy being lost and would be happy to never be found again. She had a plan, and running away too soon would ruin it. Raina knew how to be patient. She knew how to fake a smile and bow to the authority.
Something caught her interest, breaking her from her quest for a sinner. Raina smiled in wonder as she watched two twin boys dancing in perfect unison to the tunes of an old man’s drum.
She stopped and watched, captivated by the paint on the boy’s faces. White paint on brown skin and their black hair slicked back. They wore the same outfit. Black trouser pants and red shirts with large silver buttons. They smiled and continued their choreographed dance and bowed.
Raina let go of Allen’s hand and clapped. She fished a large gold coin out of her pocket and before Allen could stop her, she tossed the coin into the basket set beside the old man. The old man looked down at the coin as it glowed beneath the light of the red sun. His dull blue eyes looked up at her and a crocked grin came to his face and then, Raina saw it.
He knew it as well. He knew what she saw and his grin faded. Before he could speak, Raina was yanked away by someone strong.
Raina’s eyes widened. She pulled a dagger from the belt beneath her sleeve that was wrapped around her forearm. Her eyes glowed bright with power as she swirled around to slit the throat of whomever had grabbed her.