Aiden’s mind was racing. There were so many thoughts, so many ideas, so many fears inside his head. This can’t be real, he thought. He knew he’d wake up soon, and it would all be over. He’d be back in reality and- “Are you alright?” He was jolted out of his thoughts by the sound of Rico’s voice. “Uh huh,” Aiden simply nodded. Dammit, real convincing. The older man shot him a smile. A smile that told him that he didn’t believe the younger boy. Aiden and Rico walked in silence, then stopped abruptly “What?!” Aiden said, just before he bumped into Rico. He backed up, confused. “Is something… wrong?” Rico smiled. “Not at all.” He reached out for Aiden’s hand, and the younger boy took it. “This might be a little scary,” Rico confessed. Aiden gripped his hand tighter. Rico grimaced. “Hey, that hurts. I can't help you if you break my hand!” Aiden loosened his grip, smiling uneasily. “Don't worry. Almost everyone is scared their first time.” “First time doing what?” Rico gestured in front of them, at a mosaic design on the ground. Aiden tilted his head to one side. “ I don't understand?” Rico walked forwards, to the centre of the mosaic, where a blue tile completed the centre. It was larger than the others, big enough for Rico and Siden to stand side by on. The rest of the mosaic spiralled out from in gold and red tiles. “I still don't understand.” Rico knelt down and pressed the heel of his hands on the tiles surrounding the center. To Aiden’s surprise, the tiles dipped down, into the ground. His mouth dropped open in shock as Rico pried open the center tile- no, the trapdoor, then watched as he slowly inched forward before leaping into the hole. There was a thud as he landed on the ground below. Aiden inched forward at Rico’s call that it was okay to go down. He sat there for a moment, contemplating this decision that he knew would probably change his life- for better or worse, he didn’t know. “You coming?!” Aiden nodded before remembering that Rico couldn’t see him, and meekly muttered, “yeah.” He winced. Even a five-year-old could tell that Aiden was scared. There was no turning back now, though. He’d disappoint everyone waiting below… and he didn’t know how many people that would be. He took one deep breath, inhale, exhale. Then again. Inhale, exhale. Aiden put his hands back, and stared down into the light below him.
He launched himself of the edge, narrowly missing hitting his head on the trapdoor. He flailed as he crashed down, then landed awkwardly on the ground. Aiden turned and bit back a yell. He was surrounded by at least a hundred people. They all wore black robes with a faint silver circle in the center. In the center of that circle there was the image of a raven, its wings outstretched. It was a symbol he’d seen many times, usually on wanted posters asking for people bearing that symbol to be turned in or… killed. The gravity of the situation hit Aiden like a freight train. By leaping into the hole he’d found a whole new world. A world that could put him behind bars. A world that could kill him. And even though he could now see the ladder leading up to the trapdoor- it wasn’t visible nor usable at the top, though- even if he climbed up and left the chamber, and never looked back, he could never leave this world. The fates of Rico, of all the people who ever set foot in the chamber would haunt him forever. Not to mention the guilt of inevitably disappointing these people. No, turning back was not an option, not anymore. He blinked at the crowd, and Rico shot him an encouraging smile. Aiden rose to his feet and smiled. Not at the crowd, though it might have looked like that from their perspectives. He was smiling at Rico. Say something intelligent. They’re waiting. “Hey…” Aiden tried. “You guys are famous.” A million different possibilities of what he could’ve, should’ve said rushed through his mind. His dark eyes flitted through the ground, seeing if he could spot anyone snickering, or hiding laughter. No one was laughing at him, that was good. But most people were expressionless, still waiting. Maybe I should introduce myself. “I’m Aiden… Parrish. I’m fourteen. Thakarian.” He smiled, this time it was at the crowd. “You can probably tell.” There were a few chuckles, and he breathed an internal sigh of relief. These people weren’t laughing at him, they were laughing with him. It was true, really. Aiden was the perfect image of a Thakarian. He had black hair that looked more than a little dusty, dark skin and eyes, and he looked youthful. Finally, someone spoke. “You don’t look half bad. Definitely Thakarian. Your clothes aren’t the best but then again, you’re an orphan.” A few heads turned, including Aiden’s to face the speaker. Italonian, definitely. He had blond hair, the bluest eyes Aiden had ever seen, pale skin, and had the dumbest grin plastered on his face. It wasn't a trying-too-hard-to-be-funny annoying, or a look-I’mso-funny annoying, it was a I-didn’t-do-anything-wrong annoying, which Aiden hated.
“I’m not an orphan,” Aiden said, his hands curling into fists. People turned away from the blond kid and looked at Aiden instead. They had annoying looks too- sorrow? Pity? He couldn’t tell, but he could tell that they thought they knew something he didn’t. “An orphan,” he said, his voice low and tense. “Has dead parents. Or, their parents abandoned them.” “Then where are your parents?” The blond kid pressed. Aiden decided right there and then that he didn’t like this guy very much. “The Catago,” he said. “They took them.” “Oh.” Just as Aiden thought the blond was done being so annoying, he spoke again. “Then they’re definitely working for then. Not by their own accord, probably, but…” Aiden didn’t know if he said anything else because suddenly, he felt like he was underwater. His hands were curled into tight fists and he wanted to run forwards and punch the blond with everything he had. He never got the chance to. Someone did it for him. It was a girl. All he saw a whip of sharp ginger hair and the ‘thud’ of flesh hitting flesh. He couldn’t see her face, so he didn’t know where she came from- he didn’t usually care about that, it was just something to occupy his thoughts. “YOU,” thud, “IDIOT,” thud, “DO YOU,” thud “HAVE ANYTHING RESEMBLING A BRAIN.” Thud. The blond guy stepped back to avoid more pummeling. “Technically,” he sputtered. “It’s against the rules to hit another Raven.” The redhead tossed a glance to Rico. “He doesn’t seem to care,” she said with a shrug. “Besides, that’s only if it’s unprovoked, and you were being a jerk and a dumbass.” The group disassembled except for the redhead, who walked towards Aiden. “Sorry about that.” She held out her hand. “Dulcie. That was Curtis, and as you already know, he’s a jerk.”