I. The Departing

High up on a ridge, in the region of Azjura, once lived a pair of twins, Roger and Sam Capricios. Throughout their childhood, they blossomed like most young adults. They struggled with the emotions of life, as well as the drama that came along with relationships. Not only did they struggle to grow independently, they battled with maintaining the bond that twins share. The last thing the duo anticipated was to have their story become a legendary part of Azjuran history. Through their tumultuous tale of loyalty and betrayal, there seemed to be no hope for a peaceful resolution. 

~~~

Years before the mythical tale, Sam and Roger were two simple Azjuran children. They shared an indescribable bond that only twins understood. Without exchanging words, and regardless of their distance, both were able to sense the emotions of their other half. If one expressed laughter or was overjoyed, their sibling would smile. If one felt deep sadness or sorrow, the other sensed their pain. 

Through their adolescence, Roger congregated toward his peers. He was an extrovert, which allowed him to create and maintain friendships well into adulthood. Being tall and handsome helped facilitate the life he had. Sam, the introvert, had a vastly different experience. Roger tried his best to welcome her into social circles, possibly meet new friends. He extended invitations to gatherings, but Sam consistently declined. It saddened Roger to see his twin avoid such memorable moments in life, but she was content. All Sam wanted was acceptance and for her family to focus their efforts elsewhere. 

The twins’ polar personalities remained well into their adulthood. While Roger and his parents continued to surround themselves with members of their community, Sam grew even more detached from society. Most Azjurans met the Capricios family, but considered Sam a stranger. Her introverted personality was exacerbated by the persistent self-isolation. She never had much interest in socializing, like her family, but over the years, she realized a new problem was brewing. Sam had grown resentment toward her family for feeling forced to change who she was. She grew tired of the constant pressure, the persistent invitations to monotonous events. They never made an attempt to learn who she was – her thoughts, interests and goals.

As years passed, Sam and Roger Capricios each left their family and lived on their own. While they were near one another, the siblings didn’t often speak. Every few weeks, they would have a short conversation, mostly to ensure the other was okay. Their shared ability to sense one another’s emotions had vanished. Although Sam resented her family, she still had love for them. Once she accepted they would never be close, Sam had felt a sense of freedom. The realization came as their parents aged. 

While Azjurans may be similar to other races within Diveria, there was one physical attribute that set them apart. Once a child was born, they would immediately begin forming two small sets of wings on their upper back. The upper set was small, with the outer tips reaching upward toward the sky. Beneath was the second set – they were larger with an arched top and came to a point toward the outer tip below. Although the lower set was larger, they weren’t large at all. Typically, these dominant wings were only half the length of the barer’s arm.  This physical attribute was appropriate, considering the location of the region. 

Azjura was located in the upper atmosphere of their world, residing on an extremely large, mushroom cloud plume. Although Azjurans cannot fly, they could hover slightly using both sets of wings. The size and appearance of their wings remained consistent for most of their existence. Once an Azjuran approached a certain age, their lower wings would fall off, which began their final phase of life known as   The Departure. Arrangements would be organized, in preparation for their final flight into the afterlife. Reasons were not typically known for   The Departure, but it was accepted as their fate.

Sam was notified by her brother, Roger, that they needed to prepare for their parents’ Departure. She could hear the sadness in his voice as he mentioned plans for them. Sam agreed to everything he suggested, as Rogers’ pain was much deeper than her own. Since her family never bothered to get to know the true Azjuran she was, Sam had always felt a strong disconnect from them. They had no idea of the life she lived or various interests she had. The improvement projects she worked on for Azjura, her passion for exploration and her flirtatious practices with darker forces had all gone unnoticed to them. 

The twins agreed they would meet the following day at their parents’ – just the four of them.

II. The Loudmouth

Roger and Sam hadn’t seen each other in three years, the last time being unintentional. Roger remained the same handsome Azjuran he always was. Though tall and strong, his warm, comforting smile washed away any possibility of intimidation. Sam appeared different to Roger with her longer brown hair, black glasses and skinnier frame – her body language timid.

“Hello, my sister. You look well,” Roger said, surprised by her appearance.

“Roger,” she nodded and paused. “You look the same, as if you haven’t aged a day.” Sam was kind. She remembered how much pain her brother was in. The twins smiled at one another and entered their parents’ home. 

Sam initially felt awkward, not having seen her parents in years, but the feeling quickly subsided. She no longer yearned for their approval, so she wasn’t concerned about their judgment. Sam exchanged smiles with her parents upon arrival. 

The family spent the day reminiscing of past times, the twins’ adolescent years, of family friends. Some jokes were made at Sam’s expense, but she smirked. Her lingering love for them allowed her to be sympathetic in their final days. Hours later, the four remained inside her childhood home as dinner ended. Sam found it peculiar that no one discussed any plans surrounding the Departure. It seemed as though everyone ignored the major life event on the horizon but Sam couldn’t ignore what was in plain sight. Her mother and father bore only one set of wings. 

Once nightfall arrived, Roger and Sam wished their mother and father a restful sleep. Sam embraced both of her parents for the first time in years. It was a touch she didn’t know she needed. She had felt the smallest sensation of love from both of her parents. It was a beautiful reminder of what she once had. Although it didn’t last long, she considered herself fortunate to experience the love at all. 

As the twins each walked to their respectful houses together, they decided to not let silence consume them. Roger was genuinely touched that Sam was present the entire day, engaged.

“Today was magical. I know Dad and Mom really loved it,” he boldly said.

“Yes, it seems they did. It was nice to see them…” she paused for a moment. “You too Roger. This was enjoyable, pleasant.” They exchanged glances and smiled. For the first time in years, they connected.

“So, what is Roger doing these days?”

“I’ve been working close with our Leader, Juniper.” Roger was proud. Working alongside the Leader of Azjura in an official capacity was not an easy task. 

“That must be exciting.” Sam was happy for him.

“Yes, it really is. I’m able to experience more than I could’ve imagined.” Roger stopped walking as he looked up into the sky, mesmerized by view. Azjura was the highest location in all of Diveria. Members of this community were privy to an experience in the sky unlike anywhere else. The majestic, rainbow luminescence not only lit the sky above, but also reflected and refracted the colors throughout the region.  

“You alright?” Sam stopped ahead of him.

“Oh-uh, yes. Sorry. I get lost in my own thoughts sometimes. I swear if I wasn’t able to escape my own mind, I’d go crazy.” He looked at his sister and smiled. “What about you, Sam.” She stopped.

“M-Me?” 

“Yes, what have you been up to? I know we chat every few weeks but it’s never about one another. It’s always superficial, meaningless conversation.” Sam was shocked to hear him acknowledge how shallow their communication was and to show genuine interest in her life.

“Well, I guess…I have been busy working on a few things.” They continued walking again.

“Is that so? Like what?”

“Well, I just helped repair the damaged wall on the southern end of the city, so that kept me busy. Besides that, just enjoying my personal research.”

“You helped with that? How marvelous! I had no idea you were interested in helping out around the city.”

“It was a small job, only a few people. It worked out well for me.” Sam had a sense of pride in her voice.

“And what about this research you mention?” Roger asked.

“What?” Sam still surprised by his curiosity. “You really care to know?” Sam stopped, impressed by her brother.

“Yes,” he smiled.

“Well Roger…” they continued on their way home. “You can say that I have interest in everything outside of our normal existence.”

“Like what? The Departure?”

“That and more. I’ve been looking at different areas and regions to explore, see what I can conjure up from those I curiously encounter.” She said, delicately.

“Conjure up? What are you, an alchemist?” he joked. Sam could hear the judgement in his voice, but disregarded it. This had been a pure moment between the two and for the first time in her adulthood, a family member was genuinely interested in her.

“Well I’ve been learning spells from the alternative side of Azjura.” Now Roger stopped walking.

“What? I was kidding. Spells?” Roger almost couldn’t believe his sister.

“There is a whole world out there Roger. More than what we’ve ever been exposed to. Limiting ourselves to just one state of mind only hinders our existence.” He didn’t know how to process what he had heard. Fortunately, he didn’t have to because their conversation was interrupted. 

“It’s you!” someone shouted from afar. Roger and Sam looked around, but saw no one. “I can’t believe you are letting them die in shame.” The voice was loud, deep, and slow. The voice peculiarly enunciated every syllable of his words.

“Who is there? Show yourself, coward!” Roger sternly yelled as Sam froze in place.

“I’m right here, you miscreant.” Roger couldn’t see the man.

“There!” Sam yelled, pointing in the direction of the man. “He’s beneath the stairwell. Don’t you see him?” 

The stranger laughed, “Looks like your parents produced a child with real vision after all.” Roger was furious.

“Where the hell is he!?” Roger, still unable to see the figure, was about to run in that direction, but Sam grabbed his hand.

“Don’t. Let’s go. It would be best to leave now.” She pulled him forward and the twins began to walk away.

“That’s right, walk away!” they could hear the man shout as they continued onward. 

The pair continued walking, their silence broken by Roger’s bewilderment. 

“How did you see him?” Roger was puzzled.

“How did you not? He was standing there in plain sight.” Sam sensed the rage growing within her twin. “Consider him a rude, little shadow. It is not worth ruining the great day you had.” Roger knew she was right. They had a lovely day and no stranger should ruin that.

“Yes, I suppose you are right.” A few minutes later, they arrived at Sam’s home. Roger’s home was only ten minutes further. 

“You sleep well, my sister. I will see you in the morning. I’ll be here early since we have breakfast with everyone tomorrow.” Sam didn’t remember the plans since she had blindly agreed, but nodded in acknowledgement. They exchanged smiles and she went inside. 

Roger looked down the road to his right, knowing his home was not too far away, but he felt unsettled. His rage and curiosity still lingered, but he knew why. He looked left, contemplated for a moment. Roger then jogged back down the path they had just traveled, into the abyss of night. As she looked out the window, Sam noticed Roger jogging in the direction opposite his home. There was a moment of concern, however, she also didn’t know him very well. Roger knew many Azjurans, so she accepted he probably had plans elsewhere. Pleasantly surprised by how the day went, Sam went to sleep. It was one of the most restful nights she’d had in a while. 

III. The Alchemist

Sam awoke from her slumber well-rested and alert for her day. She hadn’t realized how much her body required rest. She allowed herself a few extra minutes to relish in the sensation, unsure if she would ever sleep that sound again. When Sam noticed the time, she forced herself up to get ready. She didn’t have much interest in attending breakfast that morning, but she vowed to keep her obligation. 

Once she was ready and gathered her things, she looked outside and saw no sign of Roger. Sam didn’t know him extensively, but she remembered he was a punctual person – typically on time, staying on schedule. With no sign of him, she locked the door behind her and walked toward his home. Along the way, she noticed other Azjurans hastily walking in the same direction. Sam didn’t think much of it until she approached her destination. 

A large crowd stood outside Roger’s home, the noise getting louder with each step she took. “What the—” Sam murmured under her breath. 

“Come out here, coward!” someone shouted.

“You must pay for what you’ve done!” Another yelled. Sam scurried toward his house and stood behind the angry mob congregating outside. 

“We know you’re in there!” roared an Azjuran standing behind her. 

“What’s going on?” Sam curiously asked.

“What’s going on is the Azjuran who lives here is a murderer.” 

“What!?” She couldn’t believe it. Sam looked at the house, wondering if she had forgotten where Roger lived.

“Get out here, Roger! We can see the trail of blood leading into your home.” Sam’s head twisted to her right. Any doubt she had was just extinguished. 

“Do you know him?” the stranger asked Sam.

She hesitated, unsure how to answer the question. Being twins, they once knew each other, but had grown apart long ago. “A little.” The stranger seemed unphased by her response and focused back on Roger’s house. Sam was unsure what to do. She was torn. Part of her wanted to help, but she also didn’t want to meddle in his affairs. As she surveyed the scene, Sam decided to investigate and make sure Roger was okay. Considering there was no way to enter the home, she relied on a recently learned skill. 

There was a small community within the region of Azjura that was involved in alternative forces; they were known as the Azjuran Alchemists. Similar to a secret society, they confided in one another as they learned certain incantations and spells. The topic of alchemy was sometimes mentioned but Alchemists were never publicly seen. They had a poor reputation in the region. Many perceived anyone with such abilities to be evil, tainted and not worthy of their wings. Sam was approached years ago by a member of the community, in an attempt to open her mind. She was immediately interested since the group was small and she could work alone – and so Sam began her journey into the world of alchemy. As the years progressed, she moved up in the ranks and had become a Senior Alchemist. It brought her much joy and pride. Sam became accustomed to a private life, so it hadn’t been a challenge to keep secrets. 

With the angry mob in front of her, she looked for a well-hidden corner. A tall Evercloud Tree was in the distance. It could provide her with coverage, yet still be close enough to Roger for executing her plan. She darted around the crowd, moving behind the tree. She removed her black glasses and closed her eyes. Her upper set of wings began to vibrate, giving off a fluttering sound. With complete concentration, Sam focused on Roger’s home. She immediately disappeared, leaving behind a small patch of fog that eventually dissipated. 

When Sam opened her eyes again, she was looking down at her black shoes but instead of being outside, she was in a home – Roger’s home. Within seconds she transported herself from across the road to inside his house. As she looked up, she noticed Roger staring at her, scared and confused. Sam hadn’t entered Roger’s home before so planning her entrance was difficult. She hoped it would be private but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

“Wh-wh—” he couldn’t find the words. “What are you—”

“Are you okay, Roger? What happened?” Sam interjected.

“How did you get in here?” he stuttered. “You appeared out of nowhere!” Sam couldn’t tell if Roger was more concerned with the crowd or her apparition.

“Just something I learned recently,” she said, trying to minimize the shock. “Why is everyone angry? They’re calling you a coward, a murderer.” Sam hoped saying such claims would change topics.

“That…that was…are you…” Sam was wrong. Roger couldn’t get over what he had witnessed. Fortunately, she knew of another incantation that could clear his memory of the last couple minutes. Sam just needed to get close enough to him, then she could try to learn what happened.

“What is on your hands, Roger?” he looked at his hands. The twins both noticed the blood stains. Sam stepped toward him, but Roger jumped back.

“Don’t. Stay back.” Sam’s concern grew.

“We have to clean you up, Roger.” She just needed to get a little closer to him, wipe his memory. 

“There is nothing to clean up. I’m fine. You can go.” Roger had no reaction to the mess on his hands or the rest of his body. Considering the white shirt he had on, it was impossible to ignore the blood stains on him. Sam regretted entering his home. He was obviously not interested in her help. She felt Roger was partially delusional if he claimed nothing was wrong. Slightly upset with herself for getting involved, her main focus was to wipe his memory of her arrival, then leave.

“Roger, come on. We have to get to breakfast, remember? You’re disheveled. How about we—” she was nearly close enough for the spell when Roger switched.

“No! Get back!” he shouted, loud enough that everyone outside heard. The crowd quieted down as they listened to the commotion from inside the home. “Please leave! You’ve caused enough heartache and destruction already!” Roger continued to shout.

“What are you talking about?” Sam’s voice was gentle, confused. She didn’t raise her voice and kept a calm tone. 

“You made me kill a man! What more do you want?!” Roger yelled. Suddenly Sam understood the predicament she was in. Her twin brother was about to blame her for the accusations against him. She needed to act quickly. Sam thought of an incantation to freeze time but needed a watch, which she was unfortunately not wearing. Roger had one on, but that proved to be useless. As she contemplated what spell could be helpful, she found herself staring at a decorative crystal bowl being tossed at her head. Sam instinctively waved at the object and diverted its path toward the floor beside her, crashing with rapid force from Roger’s strength.

“Really?” Sam was shocked. While they hadn’t been close, she never considered they would try to cause harm to one another. She was saddened, and deeply disheartened. Just yesterday, Sam had felt closer to her family than ever. Within a day, it was destroyed. 

“Get out here!” they could hear the crowd building up again.

“Leave, you witch!” Sam noticed a few Azjurans had witnessed her ability of levitation. Erasing Roger’s memory was no longer an option for her. She had been on display. Sam thought about how she could justify these actions.

“I said GO!” Roger grabbed a lit candle from the table and threw it towards Sam. She held her hand out, froze the candle mid-air and extinguished the flame with the flick of a finger, protecting herself. Sam let the candle fall beside her feet as the twins glanced at one another. 

“Look! Did you see that?!” Sam could hear through the window.

“He’s innocent! It-it’s an alchemist!” another called out. For the first time in a while, Sam was scared. She had broken the cardinal rule of alchemy –  never be seen . She had never understood why they allowed themselves to be suppressed but it wasn’t her rule to change. 

“Get out of there, Roger! Save yourself!” someone shouted. Roger took the opportunity to maintain his innocence. He ran out his front door, falling to the ground outside. The once angry mob now became his supporters. 

“She…she made me do it,” Roger cried out. Sam couldn’t believe it. In a matter of minutes, her life was forever changed. There was no use attempting to plea her case. She knew everyone had made up their minds. A few Azjurans entered the home and yelled at Sam. 

“How could you make him kill the man!?”

“What did they ever do to you!?” Sam knew she needed to leave. Running was not an option, so her traveling incantation was all she had left. Unfortunately, this meant she would display her skills for them one more time, solidifying their claims. 

“Get her! She needs to atone for her sins!” an Azjuran yelled, as one ran toward her with a shard of glass in hand. Sam stepped back and within seconds vanished, leaving only a small plume of smoke. The crowd froze as everyone saw this figure disappear before them. 

“See!” Roger was exhausted, out of breath. “That alchemist controlled me. She used me as a pawn for her dastardly ways.” Everyone coddled Roger, trying to help him anyway they could. He returned inside his home and the crowd followed. They wanted to know the full story, what exactly happened and who the stranger was. Roger, being the attention-seeking individual he was, relished in the moment. He was suddenly relinquished of all accusations and was praised for surviving an Alchemist. 

Since Sam went unnoticed over the years, no one immediately identified who the alchemist was. Roger pondered how to privately inform him parents of what had happened. Since the original plans shifted after the encounter, he decided it was in his best interest to keep the same narrative, but added one detail most didn’t realize. He informed them that their daughter, Sam, was an Azjuran Alchemist and used him to execute her despicable actions. They were shocked and saddened by the news, but their son granted them a sense of pride. Roger faced an Alchemist and survived to tell the tale. It brought their family great fame and honor throughout the region. 

Roger was by his parents’ side when they took their final breaths, weeks after the event. It was peaceful, solemn and private. Their single set of wings fluttered in unison with their last breath. They passed within minutes of one other. Once their souls were gone, their wings, retaining their shape, turned into a powder-like substance. After a few moments, that residual material dissipated into the air and vanished, leaving behind their wingless bodies.

Roger had successfully executed the preparations for their Departure, but it was a challenge. He was mentally exhausted preparing to say goodbye to both his parents. Additionally, Roger wanted to ensure they were adequately ready. He tied up loose ends, coordinated visiting schedules, and organized meals within the community. Roger wanted to alleviate any agony his parents had. They appreciated his efforts, yet weren’t stressed. They had accepted their fate. 

Since his encounter with the alchemist, he became so well-known that nearly the entire region wanted to pay their respects. It was an adjustment for Roger, but he handled himself well. He felt honored to see many familiar faces pay their respects to his mother and father. Roger wondered if he would see one face in particular, but Sam never showed – at least not to his knowledge. He wondered if she used her abilities to visit unseen, but he hoped not.

Being in the presence of an Alchemist was a monumental moment. The last sighting of one was over one-hundred years ago, so word quickly spread about the events that unfolded. Roger became a legendary figure in their community, and over time, everyone knew his name, and his story.

IV. Isolation

Five years after she was betrayed by her twin, Sam was more isolated than ever. Once Roger used her to protect his name and everyone saw her true self, she knew her life would change, but not to the extent that it did. Once Sam escaped Roger’s house, she traveled home to grab a few important momentos and fled. She could no longer lead a quiet life going unnoticed. Her face was posted on signs, labeling her as an alchemist. 

In an attempt to seek help, Sam reached out to other fellow Alchemists. She assumed they would provide her with guidance and reassurance, but she was faced with the exact opposite. She had broken their cardinal rule to never be seen. Sam pled her case to the Master Alchemist, Rujova, but she condemned Sam’s actions. The Master stated there was no excuse, and Sam should have been able to escape without resorting to such actions. She informed Sam that all the other alchemists were at risk. Sam was devastated. She had been a part of the intimate community for years and now, because of her twin, she had lost her only true passion. Rujova stripped Sam of her title and barred her from the community. Due to the iota of sympathy she felt for Sam, Rujova decided not to punish her any further, as long as she maintained her exiled status. No communication could be made to other Alchemists – ever. Sam agreed, and appreciated the Master’s understanding. It was understood that breaking the cardinal rule could result in losing one’s abilities, or even death.  

Since her exile, Sam focused on the only activity that provided fulfillment – her incantations. Being an Alchemist brought her great pleasure and purpose. She previously used her abilities to help others, but that desire died. Sam had no interest in helping those who had scorned her and ruined her life. For the first time, Sam began to feel rage. She started to envision violent acts against others, something she had never experienced before. While hidden in the shadows, Sam observed complete strangers going about their day and contemplated ways to torture them, inflict pain. She began learning darker, more sinister incantations. Spells she normally shied away from started to intrigue her. Creature Morphology, Impenetrable Apprehension, Ignition and Stone of DOOM were a few of the new talents she perfected. This mentality continued, until she knew something had to change. She reached her threshold and needed to execute a plan to release the tension. 

Sam was never an evil individual, so she was afraid to see herself change. As she carefully thought about possibilities to release the urges within, she had a realization. No matter what she did or what stranger she chose, the sensation would linger. She found herself seeking revenge and there was only one Azjuran that could provide her with that release – Roger. 

It had been five years since she last laid eyes on her twin brother, inside his home. She remembered how naive and young she was to think he had been different. Sam knew the next time she saw Roger, she couldn’t be so careless. She initially thought about the pain and turmoil she could inflict on him. Sam had many options to choose from; however, she thought about what would follow afterwards. Sam was aware that Roger was known throughout Azjura. The entire community would quickly learn of his death and she would be more hated than she already was. Sam then realized she wanted more than just revenge. She wanted vindication. She wanted to correct the devastating error he made years ago. Sam, the little Azjuran who hated crowds and didn’t need acceptance, suddenly changed her perspective. She wanted to shout from the top of the bluffs that it was her twin brother who was evil, not her. Sam was determined to exonerate her name.

It didn’t take long for Sam to devise a plan. Once she switched her mind from revenge to vindication, it became clear she could not physically harm Roger. She knew of his strength and endurance, so inflicting pain would only infuriate him. Her plan needed to entrap Roger, keeping him unharmed and coherent. The challenging part would be forcing Roger to admit ownership of his crimes. She was tempted to instill a validity incantation on him, but she knew others would blame the spell for his manipulated words. Roger needed to admit his fault of his own volition. Since they didn’t know each other well, Sam had to ponder the few conversations they previously had. She tried to think of anything useful. There was a conversation she had with Roger the day they walked home from their parents’ house, the night before the betrayal. There was something he mentioned to her that she remembered.   If I wasn’t able to escape my own mind, I’d go crazy.

“Perfect,” she said to herself sitting atop a bluff. She slowly pieced the plan together, like a puzzle. Sam was ready to act and hoped to be liberated from Roger’s lies. Fortunately, she didn’t have to prepare anything except the three primary spells necessary to help him admit the truth. Looking down at the city below, she knew this would be the perfect location. It was quiet, desolate, and a fair distance away from the city. Azjurans didn’t visit the bluff often. Sam had been exiled for five years and she was done waiting. With no preparations needed, and already well versed in the three spells, she decided it was time. 

Sam cast a Localizer spell, which allowed her to locate Roger within Azjura. Her vision suddenly changed and she was granted the ability to see shadowed figures in every building. Whether an Azjuran was eating, sleeping or walking, Sam saw their figure. They all looked identical with one exception – Roger. While everyone was a dull gray shadow, her incantation made him appear a bright red. She could see him down below, walking the street with others. Instead of causing another scene, she stood high up on her perch and waited. The first incantation was successful.

Roger walked around the city for a while – meeting with others, enjoying some food. Sam waited patiently. She knew there would be a moment when he would be alone. Then she would need to act fast. Those around him began to disperse as he finished eating. She could sense he would be alone soon, so it was the perfect time for her second incantation: An Impenetrable Apprehension. She cast the spell, which made a large cage appear, to her right. It was large enough to contain Roger, but would be uncomfortable to remain in for a long period of time. The cell had four walls, three of which were solid black, impenetrable. One wall, which faced away from the city, had bars like a prison cell. Although the cage had a fluffy, cloudlike appearance, it was hard, cold. No amount of brute force or violence could break through the prison. She added a smaller, unnoticeable detail to the cage, just as a precaution. 

The plan was to capture Roger, have him admit to his lies and release him; however, in case something went wrong, she placed a peculiar lock on the cage. It was encapsulated by her own blood, ensuring that only Sam could unlock the contraption. Although she didn’t anticipate trouble, she knew other alchemists, especially the Master, could get involved and ruin her plan. This personalized lock ensured her control over the situation. 

Once the entrapment was ready, Sam looked down and was delighted. He was alone, it was time.

V. With Heavy Wings

Roger had a wonderful day with friends and enjoyed a good meal. He planned to rest for a short while but the moment he laid down his head, a ghoulish figure appeared before him.

“Who the—”

“It’s been a while, brother.” Sam interrupted him and before he could comprehend what happened, she lunged toward him and grabbed his wrist. The twins were immediately transported out of the bedroom. When they reappeared high up on the bluff above the city, Roger pulled away and escaped her grasp. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. 

“Sam? Is that you? You look…different.” Sam no longer had the brown hair and black glasses from when he saw her last. Underneath her purple cloak peeked white hair, bright as the clouds they lived on. Her eyes were gold, no longer hidden behind glasses – her vision sharp without them. Although she still had her slender physique, Roger couldn’t help but feel smaller in her presence.

“I’m no longer the little weakling you’ve taken advantage of.” 

“I-I have no idea what—” 

Sam held up her hand which stopped Roger from talking. “I’ll dictate when you speak,” she paused for a moment. “I will give you one chance, right now. Answer wisely,” she observed his face. “Come clean to your lie.”

Roger hesitated. He knew what she was referring to and although he was scared, he couldn’t say the words aloud. Doing so meant he was forced to acknowledge the benefits he claimed from the wrong he had done. He was unable to open that box and accept the repercussions.

“Well? Have you nothing to say?” she demanded.

“No, I don’t.” That is all Sam needed to hear. With the flick of her left wrist, the cage hurled toward Roger as he whimpered, anticipating pain or worse. He opened his eyes to an unexpected sight.

“What…what is this?!” Sam used an incantation to place Roger’s cell at the edge of the bluff. With the enclosed walls facing the city, his only view was an empty bluff that stared into the open abyss of the sky. 

“This is my personal chamber for you. You’ve ruined my life, destroyed my name and took away the only good thing I had.” Sam said in a stern, yet calm voice. “You will reside here until you can admit to your lies. If you are not ready yet, you will be one day.” Roger banged on the walls with all his might as he shouted out through the bars. The appearance wasn’t initially daunting but he quickly injured himself, learning how solid the cell was. Even though he was strong, he was no match for her spell. 

“You can’t just leave me here. This won’t give you what you seek. I’ll simply die here. You don’t want to do that to your brother, right?” Roger tried to talk his way out of the cell, insisting that he will never come clean of his crime.

Sam approached the cell closely. “You see, that crossed my mind. I thought you might refuse to admit the truth, even if facing your death…so we can’t let that happen.” With the wave of her right hand over the cell, Roger began to scream in pain as she conjured her third and final primary incantation.

“Argh! What…are…you…” Roger fell to the ground as Sam maniacally laughed.

“I’ve never actually used this spell before. I didn’t know it would be so painful.” She cocked her head to the left. “An added bonus.”

“You…monster…”

“No,” she interrupted. “You are the monster, or you will be. The choice is up to you. The pain you feel right now are your wings permanently attaching to you. They can no longer move and they will never leave your body. They are encased in stone.” Sam stood over Roger, looking at the expression on his face.

“Why…ugh…”

“Do you know why I would do this?”

“You…are a MONSTER!” he shouted.

“Wrong, my dear brother. Now that all your wings have turned to stone, you will never die. You are immortal, for now. Consider this a gift from your twin sister.”

“Ugh…” Roger tried to stand on his feet but the weight of the wings brought him crumbling to the ground. “I…can’t stand.”

“You’ll get used to it, big brother, unless you wish to admit your fault. Take responsibility for your lies and this can all be over.”

“That’s…all you want? The truth?” Roger stuttered.  Sam nodded once. “F-fine. Yes, I killed the man. That night. The loudmouth.” Roger stopped fighting the weight and just laid down on his stomach. “I killed him after he spoke awful things about our parents…because of you!”

“What?” Sam questioned. She had not felt any sense of vindication yet, even though he finally admitted to the lie.

“He spoke poorly about our parents because you were such a freak. You still are! I killed that man for the terrible things he said about Mom and Dad but everything he said about you was right.” Sam tried her best to ignore the hurtful words Roger spewed. She knew the only weapon he had left were his words.

“So you admit to killing the man? Blaming me for a murder you committed?” Sam asked, ignoring the mindless comments.

“Yes. Now set me free.”

“Well, that went better than I anticipated. Great job practicing. Now it’s time for the real thing.”

“Wha—” Before Roger could finish his sentence, he lost his vision and only saw darkness although his eyes remained open. A few seconds later he found himself still inside the cage with stoned wings but instead of being on a bluff, he was in the center of the city. 

 “Everyone, please gather ‘round.” Sam shouted from above the cage. Her voice echoed through buildings and around walls. Everyone in the city was stunned. The crowd couldn’t believe their eyes. 

“Look! She must be an alchemist!” one Azjuran said.

“How else could such a magical box appear with her atop it?” someone else responded. Local Azjurans crowded around the cage and immediately recognized who was inside.

“Roger!”

“Look, it’s Roger!”

“Why is he in a cage!?”

“Please listen.” Sam shouted. Her voice was stoic across the city and was easily heard by all. The crowd obliged. “My name is Sam and in the cage below me is my brother, Roger.” Just by that statement alone, the Azjurans began to talk. Everyone knew about the story of Roger and his alchemist twin, Sam.

“She’s dangerous!”

“Don’t listen to her!”

“Silence!” Sam shouted. This time waving her hands amongst the crowd, ensuring all conversation came to a halt. “Now I know you all have been told of the fable from my brother about what happened five years ago…”

“I saw it for myself! I didn’t need to be told anything,” a stranger yelled.

“You have all been lied to. My brother is not a hero. He is a liar, a thief, and a murderer.” The crowd gasped at the accusations. No one trusted her words but her confidence and presence influenced the crowd. Sam jumped down in front of the cage. “Now, brother, why don’t you admit to them what you just did to me.”

Roger laid there, his stone wings pressing his body to the ground. Looking out through the barred wall, he recognized members of his community. He knew exactly what to say to make this go away. Three little words and he would be released from her prison.   I killed him. Saying those words would free him from her entrapment but what would happen in the city. Roger suddenly questioned which path was less painful. Being temporarily imprisoned in this cage or having their entire region hate him, and possibly be put to death, for the longevity of the lie and murder. The fear of losing everything he had was crippling, more so than the stone wings upon his back. 

“Well, brother?” Sam inquisitively asked. Roger contemplated his words as everyone eagerly anticipated them.

“She killed him. Just like she tried to kill me!” Roger mustered. Sam was enraged. She was confident this would work.

“LIES! You admit to your actions now, brother.” She hissed as her wings violently trashed.

“Once you pay for your sins, I will pay for mine,” Roger rebutted.

“Reeeek!!!” Sam let out a screeching yell unlike any heard in Azjura before. Although her wings provided no flight, they projected powerful gusts toward the crowd. Objects, materials and even a few children fell over from her strength.

“She’s keeping me captive at the top of the bluff!” Roger yelled out right before Sam jumped onto the cage and made them both vanish. Seconds later, Roger and Sam returned atop the bluff. With a slight adjustment to the cage, the barred side was now a closed wall. The only opening was a little sliver on the top of the cage – purposefully positioned knowing Roger would never be able to stand with his stone wings. It was her final form of torture. 

“I can’t believe you.” She shouted, pacing the ground outside the cage. “You tried to set me up, again! You think you can get away with this? You are poorly mistaken.” Sam peered below and noticed a massive crowd coming up the bluff. With no desire to face them all, she walked toward her brother one final time.

“You will confess your sins. It may not be today, nor tomorrow, but years from now, your mind will slowly lose focus. Your body will remain but your mind will lose sense of reality. Everyone will see the real monster you are inside.” Sam stood up and noticed the crowd was closing in, their volume increasing. “Good luck, brother. You will need it.”

With those final words, Sam vanished just as the crowd arrived upon the bluff. They looked around, hoping to find her but she was nowhere to be seen. Azjurans approached the cage and tried to break Roger free but nothing worked. Nothing would ever work, Sam made sure of that. 

VI. A Caged Animal

The battle between the Capricios twins was over, although neither sibling won the fight. Roger remained stuck in the cage created by his sister, Sam. For years, Azjurans tried to set him free, release him. They even tried to push the cage off the bluff but it wasn’t possible. The Azjuran people became so desperate, they even sought the help of an alchemist. Unfortunately they were unable to help due to the personalized lock Sam placed on the cage. The alchemist informed the city of the one individual who could unlock the blood-bound seal.

Time passed, and Roger’s visitors diminished as they eventually went back to their normal routines. Some Azjurans would still make the occasional visit, but there wasn’t much to see. It was a sad sight. Eventually Roger received no more visitors and the bluff returned to what it used to be, a barren space. The longer he sat inside the cage, the more he felt his mind slip away. Granted he finally gained the strength to stand with those stone wings, the little view of the sky made matters worse. Roger became delusional, losing grip of reality. He slowly forgot most of his life, the city of Azjura, his parents, his friends. The only memory he perfectly remembered was that one night, many years ago, that forever changed his life. His mind focused on that evening and he ultimately started to relive it daily – the loudmouth man who yelled, his sister going home, and his returning to bludgeon the Azjuran who spoke poorly of his parents. Roger went into great detail about how it happened, how the stranger pleaded for his life, apologized. Roger even recalled the stranger calling out for his three children. After he finished and left the body, he returned home, a bloody mess. There was nothing else about his life which he remembered. His name, his home, the purpose of the cage – all forgotten. 

One day, a stranger walked along the bluff and passed the cage. It was the first time someone had walked by Roger in years. Locked inside the cage, he didn’t acknowledge anyone in the outside world. He continued to sit, repeating the same story to himself. As the stranger walked by, he heard the voice come from the cell. Knowing of the tale, he listened to what it said. 

“…and then I stabbed him in the back, five times. It was marvelous, freeing…”  the stranger heard these words and lost focus. He replayed the story he knew in his mind and wondered if what the voice said was true. The strange Azjuran listened to the rest until the voice fell quiet. He ran down the bluff and back into the city to gather some friends. The young Azjuran wanted to ensure he heard the voice correctly. Once the crowd reached the cell, they waited for the voice to return. Eventually, it did. They all heard the story, in its entirety. Everyone was stunned. The tale they had all been taught was a lie – the voice was that of a liar. The invincible Azjuran was a criminal! They needed to tell the rest of their community.

Word quickly spread about the voice’s story. Those who doubted visited the cell, while others trusted the word. Legend quickly changed and the voice that was once Roger was now considered a villain, a liar, a murderer. Azjurans threw garbage at the cell, angering the voice. Yelling and shouting at him, the voice within was unable to sleep much, but his rage grew. 

During one visit, a group of kids continuously banged against the cell until a loud THUD was heard. All the children froze. Then they heard it again, and again, and again. It repeated for over an hour and long after the children left. The voice was now considered a beast – the beast within a box. Azjurans were no longer permitted to travel to the bluff. The noises that started to come out of the cage were concerning, frightful. Although it was high up on the bluff, there were times the howling could be heard down below. The city of Azjura, including their Leader Juniper, tried to destroy the cage but there was still no luck. The only individual who had the power was the one who created it, his twin sister.

Sam was never seen again within Azjura. There was a claim that Sam roamed throughout Diveria, with her wings ripped off to disassociate herself from her race, but this was just a rumor. There used to be a weapon, once in the possession of an elder Leader of Azjura. It wielded the ability to seek Azjurans, regardless of their location. Unfortunately, it was taken away long ago and there was no longer a record of its location. The Azjuran race desperately wanted to find Sam to explain they believed her, to apologize. They hoped to ask her to resolve the issue of the beast in the box, but their hope was lost. With no clue as to her location, no way to find her and an indestructible monster caged high up above, the Azjuran race had no choice but accept reality. 

In an attempt to locate Sam, a bond formed between the city and the Alchemist society. Although it took time, they were finally able to live together, in the open, without worry of harm or struggle. It was more than anyone in the region expected from such an unfortunate tale. Anytime there was struggle or tension in the region, they listened to the bluff high above for the howl – the constant reminder of what will remain when you neglect unresolved pain.

The End.

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