So this idea just came to me, and I went with it. And this is the only time I'm going to say this, but... feedback is appreciated, guys. It helps get me inspired to write more. Do you like this story? Hate it? Anything I'm doing wrong? If you favorite this, what made you favorite it? Let me know, please. That's the first and only time you'll see this in this story. :) Also, this one is beta'd by the lovely Faded Classic.


iv.
birds of a feather


"We are sisters. We will always be sisters. Our differences may never go away, but neither, for me, will our song."
~ Elizabeth Fishel


What happened to you, sister?

When did your kaleidoscope eyes become tainted with madness? When did your thirst for blood corrupt your senses? When did you stray off of the path of the Goddess for the path of evil?

When did I realize I didn't know you anymore?

These are questions that will never be answered. I fear they are questions I don't want answered.

And yet I stand by your side as you watch the world burn, as I have always stood by you. It's what younger sisters are for, after all. But just because I support you does not mean I support you. I may stand by your side, but your rule disgusts me.

Because you are mad. A lunatic, driven by pride and bloodlust. I see you with all of those men. They are your pawns, but you are also wrapped around their fingers. Don't think I don't see how you stare at yourself in the mirror in the mornings. Don't think I miss your morning pep talks, and the mask you wear in front of others.

Are the years finally getting to you? I think they are. I know they are.

I am your sister. I know you, inside and out.

And it is because I am your sister that I sit by your side and comfort you when your insecurities get the best of you. I know your fears about John Quinn. I know why you take Meraux into your bed (he looks like Theorn, doesn't he?). I know why you suck the life out of my children and humans alike, instead of taking just enough to satisfy your thirst and nothing more.

Sometimes I wish that you could hear the dead, and thus know what I think of you. But my words fall on deaf ears, no matter how loudly I scream.

You are a fool. A power-hungry madwoman. Your thirst for blood drives you to commit terrible crimes, even though our mother's teachings are ingrained into your brain as much as mine.

Remember Mother, sister? You adored her, once. Ever since I was old enough to remember, I remember your love for the power she held in the tribe. I remember you half-hiding behind her skirts as she drove out the dragons and saved the world from becoming a fiery hell.

But you had no interest in how to use that power properly, or how to earn it. You wanted the quick and easy way to gain control over others.

I suppose that should've been the first warning sign.

But we were blind, Mother and I; she didn't even question you when you started reading the Dark Books. I remember how you frightened me with your talks of eternal beauty and youth.

During one of those conversations, I had stubbornly recited Mother's teachings on immortality, and I remember how you patted me on the head, like I was some common dog. "Don't worry, sister," you had told me. "You're too gentle to be an immortal."

And then, when we were twenty, the newborns of the tribe disappeared. Mother was too weak to investigate, so the task fell to me. I used my own Iluna for bait, and it still remains one of my deepest regrets to this day.

I had asked you to watch her, for I was going on an important trip to a neighboring clan. You had agreed with a smile that scared me, even though you knew that I had been lying. You've always been good at that.

As soon as I left the tent, I had hidden and watched and waited. Sure enough, when the rest of the tribe was sleeping, you snuck out of my tent with my baby in your arms.

Nothing in the world could have stopped me from killing you that moment. You betrayed me, sister. Do you realize that? I defended you from the villagers, and you thanked me by attempting to murder my child.

The only thing that kept me from summoning my witch-fire and burning you to a crisp was Mother. That, and the fact that you were my sister. So instead I used my powers to rescue Iluna and drive you into the tall-grassed steppes to the east of our village.

It was only when Theorn burst out of his grave and killed Conlan that I realized what you had done to my people. And, foolish as I was, I summoned you from the steppes and tried to reason with you. Mother was dead by that time, and the leadership of the clan had fallen to me.

You refused me, of course. I can't tell you why it surprised me so much. "Theorn is mine," you had said to me. "Stay out of my business, sister."

With that, you had melted back into the steppes, leaving me with a bruised and puzzled heart.

Theorn came to me days later. He'd found his soulmate, sister, did you know? She had been proof that he wasn't yours. But I'm sure you did know that, and you chose to disregard it. You never give up, sister. It is both a redeeming and a damning quality of yours.

Theorn asked me to give him something to make him sleep until his soulmate appeared again. I obliged him, and he made sure that you would never find him. My patience with you was thinning, sister. Could you tell? Perhaps you could, and you chose to overlook it.

But I should have known that it was too late by then.

Months after you took to the steppes, months after Theorn had fallen asleep, you returned with a man named Grinnel and an infant son named Red Fern. Both of them were like you—creatures not created by the Goddess, but by dark magics; creatures that were greedy for blood and death.

The tribe did not want to take you in, even though you begged and pleaded. I had not wanted to take you in.

The steppes are no place to raise a child, you had said. Red Fern needs a safe place to grow up in and call home.

And even though you were unwelcome, I welcomed you. Because you were my sister, and normal sisters do not give up on each other. (But, then again, I suppose we never were normal sisters, were we?)

I thought parenthood would change you. I thought you would give up on your quest for power and focus instead on raising your son. But, as usual, you discarded my hopes and replaced them with your desires.

You did not raise your Red Fern like I raised my Iluna. You treated him like a pawn; you filled his head with stories of dragons and conquerors and empires. You told him that he was better than the other children of the tribe, that you would make sure he rose to prominence here, just watch and see.

I would close my eyes to your words and dismiss them as mere tales. After everything we'd been through, after everything I'd done for you, you surely would not attempt to usurp my role as leader of the tribe.

You were my sister, blood of my blood, and I was willing to forgive your crimes. I ignored my advisors begging me to drive you and your creations out of our tribe.

The Mother Goddess is angry with us, they said. The only way she will be appeased is if we drive the monsters away.

I waved them off. I turned a blind eye whenever I found you stirring up the people with speeches of how you could lead them to become the greatest race the world has ever known. I did it because I was your sister, and I foolishly believed that sisterhood overcame anything.

Shame on me for choosing to disregard the warning signs. Shame on me for failing to notice how certain members of the tribe would grow weaker and weaker, then disappear for a day or so and come back as a creature of darkness. Shame on me for allowing you to twist our once peaceful tribe into a dark den of cruel monsters.

My hope—and my trust—in you shattered when I found you trying to turn Iluna against me. That was when my patience snapped. You had gone too far, sister.

Even now, you never know when to stop. When will you realize that John Quinn is miserable, even when living in exquisite finery? When will you realize that Meraux is using you just as much as you are using him? When will you realize that you are leading the world to its destruction?

Never, I suppose. Because my words fall on deaf ears, because you only see what you want to see, and because you would pay no heed to my words even if you could hear me.

I don't think you know this, so I will tell you now. Our battle broke my heart. I had not wanted to fight you, sister; even if you aggravated and aggrieved me, you and I were still family. Families are not supposed to be driven apart by greed and fear . . . but ours was.

I had not wanted to hurt you. But you forced my hand. You were a destructive, murdering madwoman. And though you killed me, I was able to rest in peace knowing I had finally driven you out of my people's lives forever. Sisters should not delight in doing such things to their blood. But I did, and you did; we both know it. No point in denying it.

We relished in hurting each other during that fight. Why?

Why—and how—were we torn apart? We had been inseparable when we were children.

Was it when you had your first glimpse of the dragons? Was it when you saw what they could do to our home that you first took interest in the wicked arts?

I don't know. Perhaps I never will. But even if this is the last time we see each other, know that I am your sister. You may have forgotten it, but I have not. We are sisters, and our bond is eternal.

I speak these words because this is the last time I will listen to your rants. I will not stand by your side and watch as you destroy the remains of your soul further. No longer will I comfort you when the memories haunt your mind or when the insecurities drive you into the arms of foreign men.

This is my farewell, sister. I loved you, as all youth love their role models. You were my hero, once. No longer.

My admiration for you died when you turned to the darkness and cursed your soul forever.

At the time, there was nothing I could do.

But the old powers are awakening, sister. I will come back. The day will come when you will pay for your sins—against me, against Mother, against the world. The day will come when you will feel pain as you have never felt pain.

You will beg for mercy and plead for me to step in and save you, as you did whenever Mother caught you doing something forbidden. The day will come when you will look up, expecting me to side with you—

And when that day comes, I will not be there.