Aryl looked into his sister’s green eyes through the iron bars separating them. Her hair floated on the wind, dragging soft violet lines across her face. He touched his own locks and knew without a reflection that they mirrored the color of her eyes, just as his eyes matched the dusky purple of her hair. Twins. But not. Strangely mirrored—if said mirror had been stolen from the King’s funhouse.
A whistle blew behind her off in the distance. The wagons would be headed back to their village soon and if she waited much longer, she’d be left standing outside the gate while he was forced into the building he never asked to enter.
She should’ve been the one chosen. Her heart belonged inside those stone walls. His would rather be back home, tilling behind their sturdy oxen or chasing hares in the field. She would’ve given her right hand to take his place, just as he would’ve given his left. But she would never say so. He said as much every time their parents would listen.
If wouldn’t have mattered if they both put their hearts into the argument. Aryl possessed the magic from their twinning, not Lyra.
The whistle blew again. Their parents had already begun the trudge back across the cobblestone streets. Their mother gave him a kiss in front of the other boys while Da ruffled his hair and slapped him hard on the back. The pride in their eyes made him feel like a fake as he closed the metal gate and separated them from his new life. Only Lyra remained, clasping his fingertips while the rough flakes of rust chafed her arm.
“You have to go,” she said while she clutched at him tighter.
“As do you,” he replied, knowing he should pull away but unable to stop this last contact. After today, he may never see her again. After today, he would be in training and she would be in the outlying districts where any manner of things could happen. Especially with the beasts growing bolder by the day.
If he could complete the training, he would have a chance to push the things back into the mist where they belonged. That was the hope. That was the stated purpose of the Academy. At least that’s what the crier said when he stopped in front of their barn for a sip from the well.
“There’s troubling times ahead,” the old fop muttered while he quenched his thirst. Da only nodded. Already they’d lost a half-dozen wooly sheep to a flight of wyverns. Before long larger things would come drifting out of the mist and the next thing ripped apart could be their oxen or their plow or gods forbid themselves.
“The King’s own wizard,” the man said when he’d drank his fill, “ordered men like me out into this dark land to seek those who could form an army. Young, strong ones who possess the spark.”
Aryl had seen the look on his Ma’s face. She didn’t want either of her children to be conscripted into this deadly service. She opened her mouth to tell the crier to leave, but Da shook his head.
“We all have to do what we must,” he said. Then turning to the crier, he offered Aryl into service. Aryl didn’t get a chance to object. Not that he would’ve. He knew what horrors could come. He’d seen the scars on the trees from where the trolls sharpened their horns like two-legged stag approaching the rut.
“He looks puny. You sure he’s of age? The King will have no babies who will cry for their mothers at the first sign of battle.”
Aryl stepped forward, shocked by the implication enough to forget that he didn’t want to go. “I killed my first boar two years ago. If I can do that, I can do this.”
Yes, it has mistakes. Yes, it needs work. It's a first draft of a book in a genre I've never written before, so don't expect great things yet. Having said that, though, I'm enjoying writing it. And that's the important part, right?