Ander's life in short glimpses. One for every year in the Circle.
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You are five when they come for you, four big men with heavy armors and swords at their sides. You hear their cold voices, shouting and telling you that there's no use in fighting against them. You see a little boy – your brother? – crying and trying to get to you. Someone holds him, someone with your face but eyes so lifeless you don't recognize them. She doesn't look at you, doesn't say a word. She doesn't move when you call out for her and she doesn't help you when the men carry you away. She barely nods and turns her back on you, going on with her life, not watching as you go, not even saying goodbye to the son she won't see ever again.
The next thing you remember is the Circle, your home and prison for so many years to come. Until then your life was all freedom and laughter and sunshine. Now there are walls and coldness and eyes that follow your every step. You are afraid but you smile and don't show it because you always were the big brother – and big brothers aren't afraid. Never.
But when the night falls you can't pretend to be strong anymore. Even with the light turned off you see the shadows of the templars, guarding the doors. They don't move, they don't say anything. You don't know their names and faces, but that doesn't matter because they know you. They do nothing but watching and waiting, always ready to fight a danger only they know.
In the darkness you admit you're afraid. And you don't even know what they're capable of, you can't fear them as they should be feared.
II. Living in a Cage
One day you turn six. Nobody knows. Nobody cares. You awake with a smile but it fades when you realize there won't be any surprise – no presents, no games, no party with all the neighbours coming and your mother baking the cake you always loved to eat. You wait the whole day for her, looking out of every window to see if a boat is coming over the lake. But nobody comes. You miss them, more than you ever thought possible. You miss your mother's voice telling you to wash your hands before supper and your brother's tantrums whenever he thought you cheated while playing with him. You even miss your baby sister's crying that kept you awake for days and weeks. You never knew what you had until you've lost it all.
You don't have any friends here. You're still the new one, the kid that breaks all rules, the troublemaker. You run in the hallways, you speak too loud in the library and you never listen to what the teachers are telling you. You were always free, so how are you supposed to know how to live in a cage?
You are seven when you try to escape for the first time. The moon is full and the stars are falling and your little heart aches for the feeling of grass under your feet and wind in your hair. You don't even make it out of the tower. They find you in the entrance hall, searching for a window without bars after you couldn't open the front door.
That night they beat you up for the first time – to make you learn respect. Later in bed you hold your aching stomach and the shame burns hotter than the tears on your wounded face. And the whole time the noise of the waves of the lake outside rings like laughter in your ears.