It was midnight, the clock on his nightstand told him so.
Or rather, it told him it was one in the morning. It was always an hour ahead.
Fourteen-year-old Aiden was deep in thought, but he looked more asleep than anything else. His eyes were shut and his clasped over his stomach, which rose and fell with each quiet breath. In fact, it would have fooled anyone who walked in and didn’t look closely.
After all, Aiden was awake. He knew he’d be awake for awhile, thoughts like the ones that plagued him at the moment didn’t tend to disappear.
He didn’t quite know how to describe his thoughts. His past? The world? Everything? Whatever it was, it was confusing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t only troubling thoughts that were confusing.
He’d been two when The Shift happened. His mother and father had fled with him out of Thakar, where the Catago had begun their attack. He and his family had lived on the streets for six months before entering the town of Vecuria, where they’d been caught and Turned.
Aiden, being two, had not been Turned. He wasn’t worth it and had been left to die until kindly Ms Carr had found him, sitting on the sidewalk.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember the events. He did remember, though, that he’d had a home that wasn’t the New Horizons Orphanage, a warm place run by the same Ada Carr, a woman in her forties with greying brown hair and the best smile.
Aiden didn’t mind not knowing his parents, at least not much. Ada was enough.
Once a week, he would find Ms Carr in her office and ask her to retell him the story of how she’d found him, to see if it would spark a memory.
It never did, but hope in such a dreary world was of utmost importance.
Rat tat tat.
The raven was the signature animal of The Ravens, the one group left still fighting against the Catago.
He slipped on the thick leather gloves on his bedstand- used for handling ravens that got too rowdy so they could be disposed of, as the orphanage called it, but everyone at New Horizons knew what really happened- they were released into the air, to fly back to The Ravens, wherever that was. He just hoped they found their way back. Frankly, he had no idea how the birds seemed to always find the right people. Some idealistic part of him liked to think that it was some sort of forgotten magic.
He grabbed the oil lamp, too, and set it alight.
Rat tat tat.
He fumbled clumsily with the hinges on the window until finally, he heard the last click and the hissing that came with the cold wind entering the room.
Aiden suddenly picked up on the loud flapping of wings, and no matter how hard he tried, the window wouldn’t open slowly and burst open- probably from a combination of the bird’s strength and the howling wind outside.
He threw himself to the ground, crashing into the wall. The shelf behind him teetered, and Aiden squeaked, propping it up just in time.
It was light enough for his body to support, but it was certainly heavy enough to awaken the entire orphanage. He only just barely propped it up- he was on his back, and he was lying on… something bulky.
Thankfully, the tall shelf didn’t slam into the floor, and he looked up at another issue, the loud mess of black feathers shrieking above his head. How could the ravens find their way if they couldn’t find a darned window?
Aiden saw the hall lights outside light up. Someone had heard him. He jumped onto his bed and managed to grab the raven, tugging it down. It shrieked again, and he wound up on his back.
He heard bumping and more shrieks, then heard the window sway, indicating that the raven had left his room.
He smiled uneasily as the door opened to reveal a very confused Ms Carr.
It had been such a tiny change, but it was such an emotional one. Times had reached “Raven,” he said. “In my room.” He paused. “I couldn’t catch it.”
There was silence before Ms Carr nodded. “Okay. You can clean up in the morning, you must be tired.”
“I am,” he lied. Right now, he could think of everything but sleep. The door closed, and Aiden flicked on his room lights to survey the damage.
There was a lot.
The shelf was moved- he could see that by the indentation on the carpet. That shelf had been in the same place for several years and had left its mark on the carpet.
His oil lamp had fallen- thank goodness, though, the flame had been quenched by his jacket, which must have fallen off the hook. That had to have been the thing digging into his back.
The thing that caught his eye, though, was not the wreckage, but the rolled up piece of paper on the ground, bound with a red elastic band that clearly crushed one end of the paper.. That hadn’t been in his room when he got into bed, that was for sure.
He picked it up and unfurled it.
Aiden, (Can’t say Dear, I don’t know you. Do you say Dear to everyone?)
My name is Rico. I am the leader of The Ravens, and I apologize for this letter- I can’t write one to save my life!
I know that your parents were Turned by the Catago, and from my dearly departed father, I also know that an odd prophecy appears to detail you. Actually, prophecy isn’t the right word. But hey, it’s cool to be in a prophecy, right? We’re in Parin, Ocean View Lane. Or Street, maybe Pass or Avenue. I can never remember.
With regards, Rico (That’s a good close, right?)
The letter dropped from Aiden’s hands, and a few shaky breaths tumbled out of his throat- carefully, he balled up the letter and threw it out his open window. Frankly, he wasn’t sure why he threw it out the window. Maybe this Rico guy was right. Maybe he did like cool things. Did cool even include throwing letters out of windows? Oh well.
He wasn’t too far off the ground, a mere six feet.
He leapt, hitting the dirt with a thud.
His breath turned to mist in the air, even though it was the tail end of August. Vecuria and the surrounding areas always had cold nights, so Parin wouldn’t be any different.
His hands were cold. His entire body was cold. He had no jacket, no source of warmth or food.
He sprinted away, hoping that running and activity would stop him from freezing.. There was a delivery to Parin today, he might be able to come along.
He ran for a few minutes before finding the cart.
“Can I come with you?” He panted. “I don’t have any money but…”
“You look like a nice kid,” he was cut off by the delivery man. “I’ll give ya a ride.”
Aiden silently thanked Vecuria for being so small and the citizens being so tightly knit and generous.
Aiden didn’t care that he had to ride in the back. He was going straight to Parin.
The rocking of the cart eventually put him to sleep.
The delivery man shook him awake. “We’re here, kid.”
“Hmm? Oh, thanks!”
Aiden climbed shakily out of the cart and left. He fought the urge to run, that would make him look suspicious. The man had already taken a huge risk letting a fourteen-year-old come to Parin with him, he didn't need to trouble the man by making it look like he’d been harbouring a fugitive.
He found Ocean View Lane after a while, and somebody grabbed his shoulder. “What’s your name, kiddo?”
The man immediately cringed at his own word selection and looked like he was about to throw himself into a corner and die.
Aiden stood at looked at the man standing before him. He knew his last name, somehow. “Yeah. How’d you know?” “You're the kid I’ve been looking for! You got my letter?” Aiden’s face lit up. “Great!” He let the man, Rico, he assumed, lead him. He trusted him at least a bit more than he normally would have if he’d just been a stranger, but it was still a little odd.
He followed him anyway.
Followed him to his destiny.