Chapter 1
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“Charly, tell me another story.”

The small girl shivered, despite the many blankets covering her. She was in pain, but there was nothing I could do. Nothing, but be there for her, to be by her side so that she would not have to face the pain alone.

“Many years ago, the world was ruled by a powerful empress. She was incredibly powerful and feared by all. It was said that even death itself would bend to her whim. With a single wave of her hand, she could raise the dead to fight at her command. The pale, glowing, green eyes of her shambling undead struck fear into even the most hardened soldiers. For centuries, the empress ruled absolute. Until one day, a great hero rose up to stand against her. Aided by a powerful sorceress and many great knights, the hero slew the undead army of the empress, but it came at a cost. The hero’s wife was slain in a sneak attack by the empress. Enraged, the hero drew his sword. It is said that all the light in the world gathered around the hero to help him strike down the empress. The battle between the hero and the empress shook the mountains and cracked the earth, but in the end, the hero was victorious. The empress was slain, and the hero became the king of the land. However, we must remain ever vigilant. Death is no stranger to the Empress. One day, she will return to exact her revenge and bring calamity to the land.”

Finishing the tale, I smiled as I looked down at the sleeping girl. Even when I tried to keep things short, she could never stay awake through a story, but even in sleep, her face was far from peaceful. Plagued by constant pain and fever, she rarely slept well. I swept the hair out of her face and replaced the damp cloth on her forehead.

I worried continuously that this time she might not wake up. Years of being bedridden had left the girl thin and pale. She could barely keep her eyes open for a few minutes at a time and rarely keep any food down. Despite everything we had tried, it was only getting worse.

I prayed constantly for a miracle but one never came. There was only ever more of the same. The same excuses from the doctors. The same pain that afflicted her every day. The same tears, as we were unable to do anything to help her.

I sat by her bedside, cursing my own uselessness. I would continue to sit here till she woke. At least then, she would not be alone.



Chapter 1


Tears of pain blurred my vision. Through the muddled mess of my own mind, I could see the memories of my short life in vivid detail. I could feel my dad’s rough hands as he lifted me onto his shoulder. I could hear the sound of my brother’s voice as he read to me from one of his books. I could taste my mom’s famous stew. All of it was there.

“I don’t want to die.”

I clutched at my blankets as my chest tightened. Another wave of searing pain tore through my body. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted anything that could stop the endless pain, but my body would not let me. Even breathing was impossible. All I could do was curl into a ball, waiting for the pain to dull.

Through the haze of my own tears, I saw figures standing over my bed. My family. I felt my mother’s hand as she tightly grasped my own. The figure of my always imposing father, hunched over the bed. His face was stained with tears. My older brother was arguing with an unfamiliar man. He was normally so timid.

“I am sorry, but there is nothing more I can do. Her fever is too advanced.”

My brother was shouting again, but I couldn’t understand him. Everything felt so distant and blurry. It’s cold. My mother’s voice echoed. Through the haze, I heard her. “Wren, stay strong. We are right here with you. Always.”

My eyelids were so heavy. It’s so cold. Everything began to fade. Her face was the last thing I saw.

Everything was black. There was no more pain, no more cold, no more family.

Far in the distant void, I could feel something calling me. I instinctively struggled against it, but I knew I was getting closer and closer to that distant calling.

“I don’t want to die…” a surge of anger welled up within me. “No… I refuse to die!”

Suddenly the calling stopped. A small green flame appeared in the void. A gentle warmth flowed through as the flame began to fill the empty void and push away the darkness.

The unfamiliar voice of a woman echoed through the void, hammering into my head. “A price must be paid if you want to live.”

The reverberating voice seemed to reach the depths of my soul. Touching the very core of my being, the effects of the voice left me stunned, unable to respond immediately.

Time passed as I slowly regained my senses. The pale green flame continued to spread, growing until only a small spot of darkness remained in the distance.

“Who are you?”

“Someone like you. Someone who refuses to die.” The flames flared violently with the words. They roared loudly, as they reached high into the sky.

“Can I go back? I want to be with my family. I want to live.”

“If you are willing to pay the price.” The flames around me began to dim. A figure appeared out of the flames, floating in the void. She was a beautiful woman clothed in green. She floated closer until she stood in front of me. A small smile on her lips. “If you want to live again, I can make it happen. However, it will not be just you who will return to your body. This is my price. You will be reborn, but so will I.” the woman reached out her hand. A small flame ignited in her palm. “Take my hand and you will live. I will become you, and you will become me.”

I hesitated for only a moment. Thoughts of my mom, dad, and brother flashed through my mind. Remembering their tears, I reached out and took the hand.

Green flames wrapped around our hands and then began to spread. Pain worse than any the disease had ever caused coursed through me. Screams echoed through the void until nothing remained.



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