Gifted: Part One
By Allison Ziegler
Her electric blue eyes gleamed in the glow of the flaming torch the guard pointed at her. She had been discovered by her enemy, but her demeanor was calm. She looked up at the man before her with surprisingly little interest for someone sitting in the middle of an enemy’s line of sight. She licked her paw. As the guard shook his head with disbelief, the black cat padded away into the darkness.
The moment she was out of sight, the cat stood on her hind legs, her fur retracting into her body to be replaced by a black body suit. Her tail faded and her ears shifted downwards as her pupils dilated. She chuckled lightly, brushing her bright red hair away from her now-human face. Shape-shifting was such a useful Gift to have.
Pulling the bag from her belt, her blue gaze lifted to lock onto her precious targets. The royal jewels of the Ungifted king and queen would surely fetch a high price from the neighboring kingdoms, greatly benefitting the cause she served. Her own king had entrusted her with the dangerous mission to secure them, and, with the help of the powers she had possessed since birth, she would do exactly that.
She immediately set to work, scooping the glittering jewels into the bag. There were rubies, sapphires, emeralds, pearls, and even diamonds in the pile. “Oh, they won’t be missed,” she laughed slyly to herself.
She clipped the bag back onto her belt, though its weight had considerably increased. Once she was sure her cargo was secure, she proceeded to close her eyes and hold out her arms. Gradually, feathers began to sprout all across her body and her mouth and nose curved and hardened into a beak. Her arms became wings and her feet morphed into talons. The raven opened her beady blue eyes and took to the sky, the bag of jewels skillfully concealed in her human form.
She let out a caw that could have been a scoff. The foolish royals would never know the truth behind the missing gemstones. If she was lucky, perhaps they would find a random scapegoat and have them executed for a crime they clearly had not committed. This way, she thought, the king and queen will have taken their pound of flesh, and there would be no further search for the thief. Yes, that would work out rather nicely...
As she soared, her lithe form a fleeting shadow on the moon, she surveyed the area beneath her. She was looking for the secret entrance. To where? Why, to the secret hideout, of course. In a matter of seconds, she observed a small familiar fissure in the ground. Smirking as well as she could with a beak in place of lips, she drew herself into a dive by pulling her midnight black wings to her sides. Within a few mere heartbeats, she had entered the earth, the tunnel leading to an underground lake. She returned to her human form before she even touched the ground, but nevertheless landed perfectly on her booted feet.
“Well, well, well, look who it is,” came a painfully familiar male voice from somewhere behind her. She spun around in surprise, glaring at his dazzling white teeth, mismatched blue and brown eyes that were never without a spark of mischief, and tousled chocolate brown hair.
“Jackson,” she spat bitterly. “How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t sneak up behind me like that!”
Jackson shrugged, casually sitting cross-legged in the air. His Gift was to fly, and though he seemed to greatly enjoy it, she could never see it being as useful as shape shifting had been for her. “Well Miss Mia,” he said, laughter in his voice. “Need I remind you that you do exactly the same thing to me whenever I come back from a mission? Besides, I’m your brother. I’m one of the few people who’s actually allowed to scare you.”
“I wasn’t scared,” Mia huffed, crossing her arms and turning away from her brother. “I was only startled. I was just on a mission; you can’t expect me to come back without being at least a little on edge.”
“Whatever you say,” Jackson replied with a flippant shrug. “So, what’s in tonight’s haul?” Without waiting for her to answer, he took her bag from her belt and peered inside. “Whoa! What is this, part of the Ungifted royal family’s jewel collection?”
The kingdom was separated into two factions: Ungifted and Gifted. The Ungifted were “normal people”, as they described themselves, while the Gifted were those blessed with extraordinary powers, or Gifts, since birth. The two factions certainly should have been able to live in peace together, but unfortunately, it was not to be. The king, an Ungifted who feared the power of the Gifts, banished every Gifted person from the land, branding them as “freaks of nature”.
The victims of the exile were able to hide out underground, but they were forced to live with the constant risk of being discovered hanging precariously over their heads. The Gifted faction’s ultimate aim was to dethrone the current royals and make sure that kind, virtuous men and women, such as the current Gifted king, would be put into power next. The plan of action was to send the Ungifted royal family into economic turmoil while the Gifted king prospered. If done correctly, this would weaken the royals’ power greatly, making their position ripe for the taking.
Mia rolled her eyes at her brother’s awe. “It is, in fact,” she answered. “And give that back!” She roughly snatched the jewels back from him and quickly closed the bag. “Yes, our king had me steal from theirs tonight. And, oh look! He didn’t ask you, most likely because you can’t seem to keep quiet for more than five minutes when you’re awake.”
“You overestimate my silence abilities,” Jackson commented, his signature smirk gracing his features. “I can’t be quiet more than three minutes when I’m awake. Although, according to you, I talk in my sleep, so…”
“I’m done talking about this,” Mia deadpanned before he could make another ridiculous comment or joke. “I need to go take these jewels to Christopher so he can deliver them to the king. And if you’re going to follow me...don’t,” she added when she noticed Jackson taking a step in her direction.
“Oh come on, Christopher and Alexa love me!” Jackson insisted with a crooked grin, referring to the royal messenger and his wife. “They’ve practically adopted us; I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I tagged along!”
However, Mia was already gone. Jackson looked around the lakeside, his expression one of confusion. “Uh...Mia? Where’d you go?” His mismatched eyes fell on a tiny gray mouse padding away through a little hole in the wall, squeaking with what could only be laughter.
“Oh, that is just cheating,” he said flatly.