I looked at Pa. His eyes held confusion and anger. I didn't know what to do. Ma, Pa and I had been sitting around the table celebrating the send off of the first lot of cattle. Everything had gone smoothly and for the first time since I could remember, our farm wasn't surrounded by armed soldiers while the truck was loaded. Pa had asked the driver but the man had only frowned before climbing back in the truck.
The day had been going so well. After my midnight chat with Kara I relaxed. I had a couple more days to figure out how to talk to my parents, or decided that I couldn’t help Kara. I hated the idea of not helping Kara, but I wasn't ready to leave home.
Now I was faced with the decision. Except the decision wasn't should I leave home and help Kara. It was should I let our neighbour, Marcus Frank, kill Kara, or tell my parents the truth. There was only one thing I could do.
“Taria,” said Pa. “Why are you protecting the animal?”
“Because she is my friend.” Yeah, that sounded good. Pa and Ma would believe I made a friend in the woods. I was there enough. However, they probably wouldn’t be for me being friends with a panther though.
“She’s your friend?” Pa looked at me with astonishment.
“Yes.” I was determined. I don’t care how crazy it sounded.
Marcus Frank huffed. “Greg, get your daughter away from it. Let me kill it before it kills her.”
“No!” I stretched my hands out to defend Kara. “She would never hurt me.”
“And how do you know? It’s a wild animal. It could suddenly decide it’s hungry and eat you, girl.” Marcus Frank stomped his foot.
Pa looked at Marcus Frank and then at me. “Frank is right, Taria. Come away.”
Pa frowned. Ma walked outside and sighed. “Greg, what is happening?”
“Your daughter is being stubborn.”
Ma smirked. “Of course she is, she is my daughter.” Ma moved towards us.
“Ma,” I said. “Don’t let Pa or Mr Frank kill her.”
“Kill who?” she said.
I looked over my shoulder at Kara. She still stood behind me. Terror in her eyes. I hope she knew I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. She didn't deserve this.
“Taria, where did you find her?” Ma was astonished at what she saw.
I looked at Ma and then back at Kara. Time to tell the truth. Kara nodded at me. She knew I was conflicted but I had no choice. I had to tell them. “In a poacher cage.”
Ma frowned. “When? Why didn't you tell us that poachers were around?”
“A few nights ago. I heard this horrible noise during the night and went to see what it was. I stumbled upon Kara in a cage.”
“Kara?” said Pa. “You named her?”
I huffed. “No. She told me her name.”
“How?” Marcus Frank butted in. He walked closer to Kara and I. I frowned and stepped back. He wasn't getting near Kara.
“Taria, how did she tell you her name?” said Pa.
I took a deep breath. I just had to tell them. “She can speak.”
“Only you can understand me, remember. Mention that,” said Kara.
I frowned at her. “Would you let me explain?”
Kara pouted. “Fine. Sorry.”
Everyone looked at me strangely. “Sorry,” I said. “She was butting in.”
Ma said, “Taria, sweetheart. The panther—”
“Kara,” I added.
“Kara, didn't say anything.”
“Well, that is because I am the only one who can understand her.”
Ma’s eyes widened in shock.
I took another breath. Just get it all out at once. “She told me that she is my familiar and that I am her bond mate. She is like a guardian angel or something.”
“A familiar...” Marcus Frank looked terrified. He gripped his rifle and frowned at Kara. He stepped back and whistled. His dogs turned to him and followed as he quickly moved away.
“What is he so scared of?” I said.
Ma and Pa looked at me and Kara. Both of them looked shocked and scared. They glanced at one another.
“Get inside,” said Pa. “Bring Kara.”
Ma gripped my arm and pulled me. Kara followed behind me. Inside, Pa locked the doors. Ma walked around the house and she pulled the curtains shut and locked the windows. Gean wandered down stairs. His face still red with fever but he looked better.
“What’s going on?” he said.
“Nothing,” said Ma. “Just go back to bed, darling.”
“Can I have a drink first?”
Ma smiled at him. “I’ll bring it up. Go get back in bed.”
Gean nodded and went back upstairs, but not before he spotted Kara. He frowned but didn't say anything.
I stood awkwardly beside Kara. I felt uncomfortable with her besides me and the wary glances from my parents. Pa sat down at the table. He dropped into the chair and released a heavy sigh. He rubbed his face and looked at Ma. Ma gently touched his shoulders, almost like she was reassuring him.
“What’s going to happen?” I said, breaking the silence.
Ma and Pa looked at me. Both of their faces held sadness and fear. Pa reached up and squeezed Ma’s hand. He said, “There is a lot we have to explain to you.”
“Explain to me? I thought I would be the one who is doing the explaining.”
Ma smiled softly. “No, we knew that this day was coming.”
“I had hoped that it wouldn’t happen so soon.” Pa rubbed his face again.
“Sit down, sweetheart.” Ma pulled out her own chair and sat down.
I followed suited and waited for them to speak. Kara sat silently. She hadn’t spoken since we were rushed inside.
“You have known for a while now,” said Ma, “that you aren’t actually our child. We found you and brought you into our home.”
“Which doesn't mean we love you any less,” said Pa.
“Right, we love you just as much as Gean.” Ma took Pa’s hand. She squeezed it. “We didn't exactly find you though.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“We received a message from an my brother,” said Pa. He never spoke about his family, his siblings or his parents. I had asked once or twice when I was younger but the topic was always quickly changed. “My brother is a warlock.”
My mouth fell open. No wonder I had never met his family, ordinary people didn't like warlocks and witches. People thought they were bad luck or that they were up to no good. To have one in the family normally forced the family to either become outcasts, or the family had to abandon their own child. No wonder Pa had never brought him up.
“He was working for the King.”
“We have no king.”
Pa nodded his head. “Not anymore.” Pa leant forward and placed his arms on the table. “The king I am referring too was the Queen’s brother. He was the eldest and rightful leader of the land. When the King married they had two children, one boy and one girl. Their son was given the gift of foresight and whenever he slept he would have nightmares. My brother, along with many other abilities, has the gift of foresight as well so the King contacted him and requested his assistance. My brother became the young prince’s teacher when it came to magic.” Pa had a flash of pride in his eyes. Every time he said “my brother,” I could see how much he loved him. “The King was killed, by his own sisters, the Queen, because she wanted power. She slaughtered the King and his wife. My brother escaped with the princess and the prince and came to us. The prince was old enough to live on the run, but the princess was barely a year old. She needed a family to take care of her so my brother brought her here.” Pa smiled at me and took Ma’s hand again.
“I’m the princess?” Who else could it be? I always thought that when I found out who my real parents were that they would be just like Ma and Pa. They would be ordinary folk who couldn’t afford to look after a baby girl, so they found someone who could. I didn't expect my parents to be the most powerful people in the land. And I had a brother. Another brother.
Pa nodded. “Yes.” His eyes grew sad.
“So, my parents were the King and Queen.”
“Yes,” he said.
“And my brother is a warlock hiding with your brother.”
“And the Queen is my aunt.”
I leant back in my chair taking in everything my father had told me. It was a lot. I was related to the Queen, who I had never met, but she always sounded like a horrible bitter person who cared for nothing but power and money. Being so far away from the capital they only ever bothered us if cattle shipments were behind, or if the cattle weren’t at the proper standard. We had never witnessed the Queen’s harsh rule up close.
Everyone sat quietly. Ma and Pa watched me. Curiosity filling their faces. They probably wanted to know my reaction. Would I ran away? Would I remain calm? I couldn’t really do anything but remain calm. My own feelings on the topic didn't seem necessary. What mattered was what I needed to do. Pa had said nothing of familiars though.
“Why do I have a familiar though?” I asked.
“Familiar’s are generally connected to people of power. They are here to guide and protect those who are special.” Pa said, “Witches, warlocks, and royalty. Sometimes normal people can have them as well.”
“Your father is right,” said Kara.
I glanced at her. “Well, what happened to them all?”
“The Queen,” spat Kara. Her golden eyes darkened and she moved towards a window. She looked up to the darkening sky. “She destroyed most of us.”
“What is she saying?” said Ma.
I looked at Ma and then back at Kara. Kara seemed distraught and I wanted to comfort her but I didn't know how. What was I to do?
“Taria?” said Pa.
“She said it was the Queen who destroyed the familiar’s.”
Pa nodded. “Yes. The royal family was known to always have a familiar. Every single person in the family had one. The King had one. The queen didn't have one as she didn't have royal blood. Your bother had one. And you even had Kara.”
“Why don’t I remember?” How could I forget I had a familiar?
“You were too young. Kara was born on the same day you were. She was at your side until the day you were brought to us. My brother took her to the White Wood to grow up because it was too dangerous for her to stay here.” Ma looked at Kara with affection. It surprised me. Ma didn't have the biggest fondness for animals of any sort. She continued, “If the Queen were to find out where you were and that Kara was your familiar, she would have killed you both. But now Kara is here to protect you, and you her.”
Kara frowned but didn't answer. She stayed silent.
Pa said, “Because she was jealous, still is. Of everyone who has a familiar. She was the only royal family member who never had a familiar. When she was younger her parents spoke to many witches and warlocks, but no one could explain why she didn't have one. I guess that the jealousy turned into hatred for familiar kind and she decided that if she couldn’t have one, then no one could. After she took over as Queen she started a man hunt for every familiar. Anyone who tried to defend or hide their familiars was killed as well.”
I gasped. “That’s horrible.”
“That’s not the worst part,” said Kara. She had moved from the window to stand beside me again. “When a familiar is killed or when a familiar’s bond mate is killed, the other feels the pain. They would experience it like it was happening to them. Those who are left fled their homes and their family’s to protect themselves. The sad thing is that some humans chose to save themselves and killed their familiars.”
I reached out and touched Kara’s head. I gently stroked her black fur. She closed her eyes and purred under my touch. All I wanted was to comfort her. I was glad she had never experienced such horror though. Like me, she was hidden away from everything until now. Who knows what she had seen on her travels to find me.
“What is my part in all of this?” I asked.
Pa looked down at the table. Ma’s grip on his hand tightened. She said, “Your uncle told your father that during their travels to us that your brother had a vision. He saw that one day you would be the one who would save everyone. That you would kill the Queen.”
“I have no choice then. I have to go with Kara.” Fear seeped into my stomach. I didn't want to go, but I had too. I didn't know what I needed to do. And I didn't know how to kill someone. I couldn’t kill anyone.
Ma frowned. “No. You have a choice. This is only something you can do if you want to do it. You can stay here with us and live your life.”
“Or you can go with Kara,” said Pa.
“But there is no one else,” I said, more of a statement then a question.
“No,” said Kara.
I left out a sigh and stood from my chair. I needed to think. I opened the front door and moved to sit down on the porch steps. I needed to give them an answer. I knew the right thing to do would be to go with Kara. To leave my home and help her save familiars and find my brother. But I already had a brother. Gean. He drove me crazy just like a brother was meant to and I loved him. And how could I leave my parents. I felt like I was telling them that they didn't mean anything. Just watch me get up and leave my life behind, for a one of danger and possible death. Sounded like great fun.
I groaned and stomped my feet on the stairs like a child. I didn't know what to do. If I asked Ma she would tell me to do what I felt was right. It wouldn’t matter how scared I was, or what anyone else said. I needed to listen to my heart. Pa would simply say that he would accept whatever I chose to do. Gean would most likely tell me to leave so I would stop dragging him outside. Kara, she would encourage me to go. I needed to go, for her and every other familiar out there.
I didn't know if I could kill someone though. Pa had told me that almost everyone felt the same way. Some people would say that they would never kill someone, no matter the situation. But when your life is threatened, self preservation kicks in and you would kill to survive.ns 126.96.36.199da2