So there I was, a child in some war-ridden land. There were buildings all around that had been abandoned, some already part of the pale rubble that littered the streets. Trucks would drive by every now and then, collecting the stragglers, the survivors. I had to get out of there. My little 13 year-old body told me to run and to hide at the same time. My instincts were at war with themselves.
I just wanted to be safe, but I didn't know how.
I spotted a younger child in the middle of the road and ran to him. What is he doing here? Doesn't he know it's not safe to be in the open? Our black hair was caked in dust as I dragged him into a building. But it was too late. We'd been spotted already.
A truck pulled up to the building and some men got out. With grimy rough hands they forced us into the back and started to drive away. My little comrade was forgotten as I saw an opportunity to flee and took it. I jumped out of the back of the moving vehicle, and scrambled under a piece of rug littering the side of the road. I was so small, so very tiny that my form barely made an impression in its folds. The truck ambled away; they wouldn't miss one less child in their camp.
I wandered alone for days, my stomach had long since stopped proclaiming its unhappiness at being empty. Now it just sulked in a constant ache, always reminding me of its presence without making too much fuss. Wasn't that kind of it.
At some point I met up with some travelers who recognized me. They knew who I was, what I was without asking. I wouldn't have told them the truth anyway it wasn't safe. I had bodyguards now and I would need them. For someone was out there that was seeking me, seeking the knowledge I held and the power I kept at bay within me.
One of my bodyguards was a tall man with long black hair. He reminded me of a pirate with his head covered in a cloth and the long scabbard at his side. A desert gypsy perhaps. His skin was olive and his eyes trimmed in long dark lashes. His loveliness was only marred by the stern set of his jaw and the underlying brutality in his nature. I had nothing to fear from him.
The others were warriors as well, among them was a religious man, a monk I think. I knew that despite his kind manner and gentle nature he was a master of some fighting art and could easily dispatch any threat. He would be my teacher.
We had holed up in an empty building in a city. The desert was far behind us, now we were in a lush green place. The danger was constant. They all looked at me with expectation, I knew they were waiting for a sign that I was who they thought I was. I wouldn't talk to them about it and they never asked, but still they needed proof. I didn't know how to give it to them. I could feel the power within but I didn't know what to do with it, wasn't sure I even wanted it. The only one who never carried that look in his eyes was the monk. He believed I was the one. He didn't need proof. It was his unwavering faith that kept me going. My own self-doubt would have had me turning back, running to the camp to be like everyone else, instead of pushing forward with this journey I had to take.
After the second day we were set upon by a small band of fighters. They wore red silk and their faces were hidden by masks. My bodyguards urged me to sneak out the back while they kept the intruders at bay, so I crawled between some loose slats in the building and entered the side street. I was immediately pulled up by sharp fingers dug into my arms, until I was looking into strained beady eyes. The face that peered into mine was weathered and old, the mouth twisted at the corner in bitter habit. "You are the one. I knew it! It is you!" He was the one I was running from. I couldn't believe he'd actually come himself. Don't the bad guys usually leave this to the henchmen and stay in their air-conditioned penthouses for the innocents to be dragged back to the hide-out? Just as I started to struggle against his grip my desert gypsy emerged from the building and startled my captor. He released me and ran.
If I was so important, so very vital to things, why did he just let me go? This must be why they send the henchmen; the boss is always trying to save himself in the end.
We make it to a boat, which carries us away from the city, then my band of protectors breaks up. We are safer in smaller numbers they think. The gypsy and the monk stay with me, the others continue down the river hoping to draw our chasers with them.
It's decided we need to fit in more, so we decide to take the exams that will help place us in positions in the new town. We go into the classroom, each of us nervous about taking the test. With a smile I set about writing the answers on the page. I don't even look at the questions, just pick up the pencil and start writing essays one after the other. I know I could just wave my hand over the page and it would be filled with the right things, but I want to do this on my own. I glance at my friends, they are struggling, afraid they'll be placed somewhere too far to help me. So I close my eyes and imagine a spindle of light flowing from my body to theirs, giving them what they need without letting them know I'm helping. I look up at the test observer and grin, I think I'll be safe for a little bit longer.