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Quaris

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Quaris Jones was cradled in an oak high above Fifth Street, scanning the street below for a victim. She felt her thoughts drift to her normal, American childhood with her parents, despite having to move every month. She hadn’t liked her life then, but now is seemed like it had been effortless and blithe. She was orphaned at six, when her house had been attacked by vicious creatures that killed her parents, and hurt one of her arms so bad, the puckered scar still earned her stares. Quaris could remember the creatures’ faces in her nightmares. She relived the attack on her parents every night.

She had tried, really tried, to live with her designated guardians. There were nice guardians, and horrible ones. But each time Quaris had started to fit in, the monsters had come. By the time she was eight, Quaris knew she had to go on the run by herself. At first, she tried to make an honest living, but gradually her inhibitions about stealing melted away.

In the tree, Quaris scolded herself for dwelling on the past. It was what it was, even if she didn’t understand it. Then, she zeroed in on her victim. She was a teenager, with a tight, expensive looking hoodie and short cut-offs. Quaris narrowed her eyes and dropped to the ground, running after her faster and faster until they collided.
“Watch where you’re going,” Even her long, curly blonde hair seemed indignant.
“Sorry,” Quaris mumbled, tucking the girl’s wallet into her jeans.
And then she was gone. Not due any magic, she just stepped into the street, and ran across it into a tiny alley, a huge bus hiding her wild run. She lay against a large, dirty shop window when she felt her legs burning. The lights inside were out, but sunlight made the mannequin in the window discernable. She was so lifelike that only the strategically placed out of order sign spoiled the vision.
“Nice.”
A boy, with long and ragged black hair, and dull green eyes, strolled into the alley. Unsure whether he was referring to the mannequin or her, Quaris didn’t answer.
“Nice,” he said again, “You’re better than I expected.”
She froze, “What?”
“Stealing, robbing, lying.” He was smiling now, “You’re good at it. And you don’t brush your hair. And I could smell you before I could see you.”
Quaris rolled her eyes “Oh stop it, I’m blushing.”
“Sorry. It’s just… I didn’t imagine you like this. I thought you’d be…prissy somehow. Never mind that I know you’ve been living on the streets for years, ever since they attacked your parents.”
She replied frantically, “Who are you? What do you want? How do you know my parents died?”
His hands went up in a defensive gesture,” Wait there. I’m not your enemy. Mine are gone too, for almost a year now. Same …circumstances.”
He doesn’t seem sad, just tired. But grief and fatigue are very similar. Quaris bit her upper lip, “And what about that bit of thievery. How did you know about that?”
He said, “I watched it and then got back before you were done, the better to meet you.”
“Stalker.” Quaris half-joked.
“Hey, I know girls who would pay to get stalked by me- well I don’t. It just seemed like a good thing to say.”
Quaris laughed, feeling at ease for a few seconds before she heard the blond girl’s shrill voice, and the scream of a police car “I need you to tell me all about how they died, why we can never live in peace. Come to my place tonight. It’s on-
The boy nodded, “I know where you live.”
She didn’t even have time to consider that before she was running again.
Quaris crouched on the floor, feeling stupid. He hadn’t called-probably because she didn’t have a phone, but he was still late. Probably. A soft jangling at the door of her rundown motel room made her whirl around. It was him.
Before Quaris knew it, she was close enough to hear his panting breath. He didn’t look like he’d been running though. He held a long dark bottle of Root beer, complete with two plastic cups and a bag that smelled like food.
“That must have been a nice haul,” he told her, setting his gifts down on the moldy carpet. “Usually they don’t notice until much later.”
“Enough for my room tonight“ she stepped forward, “You’re here.”
“So?”
“I thought you wouldn’t be.”
His eyes caught hers, “It’s easy for them to track two people, easy as it was for me to track you. But, you don’t know what you’re up against and you won’t last long that way. Plus, it would be rude to just leave you here.”
“So you’ll tell me about the creatures that killed my mom and dad?
“First things first, Show me your arm.” Seriousness boiled in his gaze, “Come on, I’m not going to hurt you.”
Quaris stretched her arm out warily, “The creatures didn’t break it. I did that myself, jumping off of a tour bus.” The boy touched her scar.
“The broken bone is healed, but something about this…
Quaris didn’t hear him.
A twisting, slimy, burning feeling begun to ravage her arm, and she shook her limb wildly, pressing and tearing. Somewhere, in the remote province of rational land, she realized that the pain would lessen if she stood still, but she was powerless against her wild instincts. A sound was the voice of the boy who was hurting her. She lunged at his face, and scratched. His blood was red, red red...
It seemed like it was the next second that the pain dimmed, but given the exhausted face of the boy pinning her gently but firmly against the wall, it had been much longer. She tried to speak, but a jumble of nonsense words came out.
She swallowed, and tried again, remembering clearly when she had scratched him “I’m sorry.”
He gently touched her hand, “For what?”
She panted, “Scratching you. F-Freaking out.”
“Shh. It’s okay.”
She took a deep breath, on the verge between fear and sobs “You’re not mad that I couldn’t handle it?”
He threw back his head and laughed.
“What’s funny?”
He leaned in close to her, “You. How could I be mad?”
She stared into his eyes, something in them pulled her closer. When they were an inch away from each other, Quaris’s stomach growled fiercely.
For a second, the boy looked like he was holding pieces of the ruined moment in his hands, but he recovered fairly quickly.
“Hungry?” he guessed.
“A bit.”
The soda was flat and hot, and tasted like it was a million years old. The food was better, a feast of greasy burgers, fat fries, and a surprisingly tasty unidentifiable substance that came in a cup bearing the name ‘Cheap food substance.’
“Hey?”
“Hmmn”, she mumbled through a mouthful of food.
“What’s your name?”
“Quaris, Quaris Jones,” she said swallowing, “Why?”
He narrowed his eyes, turning the reflected light in them into a dazzling circle of brilliance, “Seems like a waste. A good original name, and then you tack Jones onto it.”
Quaris licked a gooey lump from her finger, “It’s not my fault. “
The boy laughed.
“You promised me information.”
The boy said “Yeah. So, I’d better keep up my end of the bargain. My name is Zamoriel Clearre , and I’m not human. I am what’s called a Forte. I’m a green forte, but there are other types, or ‘colors’. For me, this means that I can change into either a wolf or a horse, have control over the element earth, and have the power to heal people.”
Quaris’s mouth hung farther open than was natural for any species but snake, half chewed food pasted to the inside of her mouth.
Zamoriel raised an eyebrow, but let her close it and blush furiously before he continued, “That’s why it hurt when I touched you. There was venom in that scar, and it was fighting back against my healing.”
Peeking under her sleeve, she noticed her scar had disappeared.
“That’s amazing,” Quaris replied, trying to keep her voice even, “Do you know what color I am?”
“Well, the first time I turned into a wolf near here, I was behind some dumpsters across the street from this place. Even so, I could smell you, and tell you were a Forte. So I followed you, and watched you. When you didn’t use your powers, I realized you didn’t know how, and when I saw that huge scar, I figured I’d just heal it and find out what you were.”
“It wasn’t that huge, and how did healing me tell you what I am?”
“Ah” Zamoriel said, “The most basic healing offers a peek into the essence and powers of a person. a difficult healing like yours was like a backstage pass to the deepest, darkest parts of you.”
It was Quaris’s turn to raise an eyebrow, “My mom said not to let a guy into the deepest darkest parts of myself until they married me.”
They caught each other’s eyes and burst out laughing. With a start, Quaris realized this boy made her happy.
He was talking, “What?”
“You’re a blue Forte,” Zamoriel told her, “You can control ice, and stop time, although you can’t move around when time is frozen.”
Quaris rolled her eyes, “I can’t move around? What use is that?”
He shrugged, “It gives you time to think, I guess. Plus, it works wonders against the fast thinking White Fortes and our greatest enemies, the Red Fortes better known as the Helloam, who are no smarter than common beasts.”
“Why are they called the Helloam?” Quaris asked.
“Well, in the beginning, they were pretty normal. Some were good some were bad, and they balanced each other out. They had two powers: They controlled fire, and they could turn into powerful animals. Eventually, they stayed that way. The Fortes figured, they weren’t really Fortes anymore, so they were called Helloam”
“So how they become our enemies?” Quaris leaned forward.
Zamoriel looked haunted, but his voice was almost toneless as he told her, “The bad Helloam slaughtered the good ones. And once they were dead, they moved on to the others-they’re beasts!”
“They killed my parents?”
Zamoriel nodded.
“Then they will be put down like the heartless monsters they are.”

That night, the dreams were more horrible than ever. The fact that Zamoriel had told her the truth, that he was curled up on her carpet at that moment, only gave new life to her own personal hell.
The nightmare started with a scream. Not with the five creatures, like blocky sculptures of dogs, fashioned out of burning coal. Not with her mother whispered in her ear, “Hide,” But when she heard her father, her soft spoken but unshakable father, scream, she had known she was going to be an orphan. So that’s where the nightly torture always began.
Quaris, watched wide eyed from behind a floor length two way mirror. She saw her mother, whose personality could be described as slightly giddy, tip a shining bookshelf onto one of the creatures, with a ruthless glint in her eye. That she could kill something so coldly- that was the reason Quaris had glowed with hate for the creatures. She shed tears of black rage as the only two people she had ever had for friends were burned to corpses smoldering on the floor. She had run to them then, the creature scratching her arm before she disappeared into the night.

And then, Zamoriel was sitting on the mattress with her, holding her against his shoulder as she sobbed again, not angry but broken, stroking her hair, “I miss them too,” he murmured.
Suddenly, Quaris felt very small, “Will they get us?”
He hugged her tighter, “No.”

They fell asleep like that, clutching each other, meaning the world to each other, a lifeline in a world of pain. The nightmare began again, and, opening her eyes, she saw them.
Two vicious, black Helloam.
Strange that something that gave off so much heat could make send shivers up her spine.
She had gotten up, and so had he, Zamoriel, his arm snaking protectively around her waist “I won’t let them get you,”
She spun away, not wanting comfort, not wanting to let her raging emotions leave her. Rage gave her power, and time froze before Quaris. She felt ice rising inside her, and she let time begin once more. The Helloam was frozen for a split second before fire ripped through the ice. The creature turned for Quaris, and she glared at it, hate chorusing through her body.
Zamoriel, was growing, taller and darker, she noticed, and by the time she had poured her words into the steamy air in hysterical useless screams, he stood before her a black stallion, powerful muscles rippling beneath the shine of his fur.
Quaris had never mounted a horse before, but she found it easy, when fear kept her from failing. She swung onto Zamiorel’s back, dipping her hand low enough to catch a hold of the empty soda bottle. Using her powers, she froze it with a writhing, vicious ice and threw it at one of the Helloam’s evil heads. With everything in her that wanted her old life back she screamed “That’s for my parents!”

She rode Zamoriel for hours, and miles until he was ready to collapse, “I did it Quaris!” he yelled as he morphed back into a human, and started to collapse in a dead faint , “I didn’t let you down!”
Now, Quaris realized she was crying again, but this time, the tears were happy, “We did it.”
Quaris caught Zamoriel before he hit the ground. His eyes fluttered, “Yeah...”
And then he was unconscious, and Quaris barely had time to lay him down gently before sinking into a dreamless sleep.
Morning came and she rose, the stiff feeling from waking up making her smile, dull aches were something she could deal with, deal with by scooping Zamiorel’s beautiful hair away from his face. For two days and one night she was sleepless, keeping a vigil over him.
A twitch, a blink and she laughed with joy,, “Zamoriel! You’re awake”
“Coming mother, I ate my vegetables and everything.” He murmured sleepily and then he sat up,” You’re not my mom.”
Quaris blinked, “I know, I’m-
He smiled widely, “Gotcha. You’re in serious trouble if you can’t tell when I’m lying. I’m terrible at it.”
She hugged him, squeezing him like she was the jaws of life, “I missed you.”
He laughed loudly, “How could you not?”
Quaris sat back, cuffing him lightly on the collar, “For the sake of friendship, I’m not going to answer that.”
He rolled his eyes, and leaned back against the tree, and for a second, Quaris was happy to feel his presence across from her, the wind in her hair, and the air in her veins, happy to live.
It was one of those great days, where hours passed like seconds, and the sky was a beautiful, cloudless blue. The air smelled of springtime, Quaris noticed a few short hours into the day, and was that smoke?
Suddenly, a Helloam slammed into Zamoriel, knocking him onto the hard ground. A ring of at least fifty Helloam stepped forward to surround them. In the center, was a huge, misshapen Helloam. The creatures’ very presence caused the air to blister.
Quaris eyed it worriedly, “What is that?”
As the Helloam who’d tackled Zamoriel walked into the monster, and merged into its body, Zamoriel reasoned, “That must be their third power .They can mold together, the whole family can become one thing.”
“So what do we do?”
He suggested, ‘Run!”
Quaris eyed him wearily, “They surrounded us. We can’t run.”
He told her, “I’m sure we could. I’ve got a real talent for running, hiding, screaming- yep, I’m a talented guy.”
Quaris rolled her eyes, “I don’t want to live like this forever.”
Zamoriel protested, “We’re only kids. Let’s at least wait until we grow up a little…”
“And then what? We’ll be only adults, only old, only dead? I can’t believe you’re such a coward!”
At this, he ran across the ground and disappeared. He was traveling beneath the soil, she realized, and he would attack from underneath. It was a suicide mission, but he was trying to let her get away.
Quaris tasted tears on her lips, but seeing him in action brought a plan to her mind.. She froze a tiny particle of ice, and shot it toward the monster, realizing her mistake too late-
The hot air would melt the ice before it killed the monster.
But then she saw, in what must be her third power, through the monster. She could see to a glowing core to it, its heart. Instantly she froze the organ, and the monster swayed, about to collapse.
“Quaris!” Zamoriel called, and she saw that the monster was about to crush her, she braced for impact.
But she was kicked to the side, by Zamoriel in his horse form. She rolled far away from the Helloam’s fall, but Zamoriel was too close. He was going to die for her…
He morphed into a wolf at the last second, and cowered in the space between the monster’s head and neck as it fell, and emerged soon after, burned but alive and already healing.
The other, normal sized creatures had run, and Quaris would hunt them down later, because now Zamoriel was gathering her up in his arms.
Quaris whispered, “I’m sorry I called you a coward
He told her, “I just wanted to protect you.”
And then, he kissed her, gently, at first but gradually gaining momentum until, Quaris had to admit, that where kissing was concerned, he was a talented guy indeed.




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