Ashes to Ashes

Sun. 12/15/2250 – By Kayla Salmon.

 

The instrument felt like a feather. And she held it as such, gentle in her handling of the violin. Or rather, the pieces. The fingerboard had snapped, the scroll rested in her lap as she held the body, cracked from the fall. Gwen felt it over, feeling for each break and crack. Each one would do the same to her sister when she found out it had shattered.

Last night had been hectic. The concert had gone over well enough, that is until Aelita fell off the stage during her solo. She’d been dehydrated, exhausted and dazed according to the nurse. Overworked herself a bit too much between orchestra, their finals, and… well, Gwen herself. Gwen felt kind of horrible when she thought back on how she had treated her elder sister. Even still, she had trouble processing their father’s death- she found it difficult to breathe some nights when she cried, unsure of how she was going to handle Christmas break, when they usually would spend a couple days with their family. How was she going to handle going home for the summer, without her father there?

She’d been angry, at first. How dare Aelita come to her with this horrible news- somehow, it was the swan maiden’s fault. Her fault for always being the perfect one, being the one Mom had talked to. If Gwen had known, she would have insisted they go to the hospital, just one last time. She was angry at everything and it had surfaced with the words ‘He died’.  Mom was Aelita’s, but Dad had been hers.

She blamed Aelita, blaming her stupid hemophiliac disease. It had killed him, it had been what took Dad away. It was Aelita’s fault for sharing the same hemophilia. Gwen knew that reasoning didn’t make sense, but she had needed someone to be angry at, to hate.

Last night she had seen her sister fall off the stage, and her heart had dropped. She’d lurched up from her chair, struggling to see past everyone. Everyone who hadn’t been staring at Aelita, had been looking at her. The sister. The sister who’d done nothing but be cruel and unfair.

Aelita had been carried off by Muya and J’Dvouir and Gwen had watched with her viola hanging limply in her arms. No one else had thought to grab the violin.

She held it now, wondering desperately if there might be a way to fix it. Surely she could with like- a hot glue gun. It wouldn’t play correctly, she knew, but at least Aelita would have it? She’d have to get another to play, but that would be easy enough. They had half a dozen violins back at home; they were certainly wealthy enough to be able to afford such luxuries and more. Gwen had about decided to do just that when another girl entered the room.

Gwen looked up as she heard a scoff, seeing Rayden and scowling. She knew the seventh year well enough, Rayden wasn’t exactly known for being very nice and she and Aelita certainly didn’t get along.

“What happened to that?” Rayden asked, staring at the violin in her hands. “It looks pretty busted. Did you break it? Blackhall’s going to be so angry.” She was smug as she spoke.

Gwen resisted the urge to get up and punch the girl in her face. Urges that Gwen didn’t have much of before- it was as new to her as everything else was as the world shifted around her.

“No, I didn’t.” Gwen snapped, “Unless you live under a rock, you’d know Aelita fell off the stage last night. This broke. Don’t you play the percussion?”

“Yeah,” Rayden shrugged, “I didn’t know it broke.” The girl grinned as she bent down toward Gwen, “Did a little nosedive didn’t she.”

“Shut up.” She hissed now, gripping the scroll hard and wondering if she’d get in trouble for doing something or if they’d write it off as being a response to her father’s death and Aelita’s fall.

“What are you doing with it?” Rayden ignored Gwen’s words.

“I’m trying to fix it.”

Rayden smirked, “It’s broken. You’re not going to fix it, but I’m sure it can serve one last purpose.” She suddenly lurched forward, her hand wrapping around the body of the violin and ripping it from Gwen’s hands, snatching the scroll with the fingerboard as she went. Gwen shrieked, but Rayden had already tossed the wooden instrument into the flames of the fireplace.  “I’m sure Aelita will be pleased to know her violin warms the hearts of her Eagles!”

“What the hell!” Gwen screamed, quickly crawling forward and uselessly trying to grab at the wood and pull it out. She managed to grab a hold of the end of the scroll, pulling it out and dropping the thing on the ground, hissing with pain. “You’re fucking crazy!”

“I did you a favor.” Rayden snapped back, annoyed now. “It wasn’t going to do anything for you.”

“That was important to her!”

“All the better she doesn’t know it was broken then.”

“Now she’ll know it was burnt to a crisp!” Gwen stared into the flames, trying to figure out how to get the body out, but it was already collapsing in on itself.

Rayden took a step forward, her eyes narrowing. “Listen here-”

“Leave her alone!”

The two girls both turned, narrowing in on a raven haired boy, Noklie, who stood with his hands balled into fists and a bright red face. Rayden was quick to eye the gnat, while Gwen stared at him in confusion. Not that Noklie could claim to understand much more himself, only days prior she had been ruthless to him- right here in front of this same fireplace. Burning something she had loved.

Even so, the look on Gwen’s face as she had desperately poked into the fire- he couldn’t ignore that. And he knew Rayden just as much to be a bully, ever since she’d made him lose control, he knew better than to ever trust her. As it went, the enemy of your enemy is your friend, and Rayden and Gwen certainly didn’t seem to get along.

“Leave her alone!” Rayden repeated, a high pitch to her voice as she mocked the boy. Gwen scowled at them both, her eyes flickering toward Noklie once, unsure of how to take this. She didn’t want to be protected, but she also wasn’t expecting it.

Noklie froze at her words, not knowing where exactly where to go from there. Just as he opened his mouth to say God knew what, another voice chimed in, annoyed and struggling to remain impartial.

“What’s going on out here?” Noklie looked with relief to see Dora, one of their house’s prefects.

“Just having a chat.” Rayden scowled and Dora began to rebuke that statement when Gwen jumped up, snatching up the heated scroll and showing it to Dora, rolling it in her hands to try and keep hold of it.

“She burned it!” Gwen near shrieked, “Aelita’s violin! She threw it into the fire!”

“I was doing her a favor,” The dragon snapped in her defense, “It was broken anyway, it wasn’t going to do her any good. She can buy another, it’s just a stupid violin.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just-” Noklie began, trying to edge his way out, but Dora hardly noticed him as she stared first at the broken violin and then at Rayden.

“Just because it was broken didn’t give you any right!” She flared, harsher than she would have under other circumstances. But this wasn’t just anyone’s violin and she knew very well how much that violin had meant to Aelita before, and could only imagine how much that meaning had increased tenfold once it’s bearer had passed away. The swan maiden would be devastated when she heard. “Do you know how much that meant to her? She’s had that violin for years! Do you know how much it’ll hurt her? She’ll hate you when she hears what you did.”

“Cry me a fucking river.” Rayden stalked toward Dora, “She can buy another violin, she’s rich and it’s not the only violin in the world. What do I care if she hates me? Now, if you’ll get out of my way, I’m going to bed.” The dragon pushed past the prefect, Dora glaring at her all the way but electing to focus on other matters. Noklie halted as the dragon passed him, and had nearly managed to slip away when Dora called to him.

“Noklie! You’re good at fire magic, aren’t you?”

“Um, I guess.”

“Get the pokers and see if you can help Gwen pull any of it out-” The selkie took a step toward the fire, bending a little to peer in. “I’m so sorry Gwen, I wish I could have stopped her.”

Gwen only grunted in response as Dora approached, grabbing a poker and poking at the fingerboard that rested in the blaze. Finally muttering as Noklie came close, “You should go tell her.”

Dora sighed, “I was just about to head back out to see her…. You should come though.”

The third year shook her head, “No. Not right now.” Maybe- Maybe she would later. She still struggled to accept it, but her sister wasn’t at fault. Blackhall had pointed that out when she tried to burn her journals. It wasn’t the right time, though. Not now and she couldn’t after what she’d just allowed to happen to Aelita’s violin. She should have been able to stop Rayden herself.

Dora nodded slowly, “Alright. I’ll head out. Just- please talk to her soon. She misses you.” The selkie rose and glanced back once to sadly note that Gwen still didn’t move. Grabbing her coat, she headed outside.

Gwen shoved a log aside with the poker and Noklie hovered hesitantly.

“Here-” He began, crouching down onto his knees and reaching straight into the fire before Gwen could stop him, picking up two thin wires and beginning to pull them out. Gwen shrieked at him, grabbing his shoulder and jerking him back. One hand snatching the strings from him, and yelping with pain as they burned her hand until she dropped them.

“What are you doing!” She hissed,

“I was just- getting them- you’re burned-”

“Oh fuck off.” Gwen rested back, holding both her hands against her lap and staring at the red burns. Noklie watched her and she glanced up to look back in the fire. Yes, the strings- they wouldn’t melt that quickly, and they wouldn’t burn. She looked back at Noklie. “Get the other two, but for fuck’s sake, use the pokers and not your hands. I don’t care what kind of freaky fire demon you are.”

“I’m not a freaky demon.” Noklie muttered as he tugged the other two out. “I’m a cerberus.”

“Same difference.”

Noklie let out a long breath as he stood up, the four strings resting on the floor. “You could say thank you.” He replied, a bit hesitantly as he peered down at her.

“How about fuck you instead.” She poked once more at the strings, only to pull her hand away. Still hot.

“They’re going to be hot for awhile.” He snapped, “Don’t touch them or you’ll burn yourself more. You should probably go to the infirmary for your hands.”

“I am so not going to the infirmary right now.” She stared at her hands, unsure of what to do with them. Could she heal them herself? That was a thing, after all. She still hadn’t found her choice of magic, but maybe it could be healing.

“Fine, don’t, what do I care.” Something was off about his voice, and Gwen looked up to see that dark look in his eyes that she only saw in a flickering glance. His face flushed as his eyes lightened. “I- I’m going to bed.”

“Fine.”

Noklie blinked, but scurried from the room a moment later. Gwen was left behind, holding the scroll in her burned hands and sitting cross legged as she waited for the strings to cool.

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