A Breath of Magic by Jordan Link

Something was off. Was it the still breeze, the penetrating silence that seemed to radiate around the entire kingdom on this very day? Or was it simply my nerves, which were incredibly stiff and shaky in anticipation of the sweep?
I stood in front of the aged mirror, combing my tangled auburn hair through forcefully as I attempted to make myself appear presentable. After all, this was no ordinary sweep, one of the usual ones that happened every month. This was not a bounty for illegal weapons, charts, or even poisons, but for something quite different. In fact, what they were searching for now was probably the most dangerous weapon of them all.
Once I finally finished battling against my stubborn locks, I pranced over to the closet, where my lavender-colored corset awaited. It was the only purple garment that I owned, the dyes being so expensive that even royals found them hard to come by. I stared at the piece of fabric, running one hand up its right sleeve as I reminisced about everything that I had done in this purple corset.
I had attended many kingdom balls, frolicked through the fields that made up the kingdom’s lowlands, road my only stallion, Stella, through its endless hills. I had snooped around at night with my old friend, Ivy, spying on many an innocent person as we avoided capture and discovery. I had swam through a calm river in the moonlight with my little sister’s arms wrapped around my neck, and I had been cursed by my parents when we’d arrived home soaking wet. Thinking back, in this corset, I had even fallen in love.
I sighed, taking the bodice from the place where it had rested idly for so long and pulling it over my head with some effort. Despite everything that had happened while I was wearing it, I still cursed at the agonizingly tight feeling that it gave me as it gripped my torso.
Examining myself in the mirror once more, I noticed something about myself. I had changed, quite a bit over the years. “Stop fussing about, Fay. You look just as good as yesterday. Focus on the present, the—” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word again, because it was the sweep that had taken my father many years ago, when all magic had been purged from the kingdom. That was what they were searching for today.
My mother peered into the room, smiling at my apparent insecurity, and invited herself in. I noticed that my sister, Evelyn was with her, looking nervous and afraid. My mother began to speak, confident and collected, though I knew that inside she was fearful. “Fay, you look gorgeous as ever, dear. Don’t worry. No one in this house has magic anymore. We have absolutely nothing to worry about.” She sat on my cot, taking Evelyn in her lap and stroking her much blonder hair.
The little girl spoke, hopping down from mom’s lap and playing with the untied lace on my sleeves. “I love you, Fay.”
I took her in my arms, and the sound of the hour rang throughout the house. “We should go outside now, mom.” I had tried to sound confident as well, but my voice came out as a quiet, nervous croak. I hoped that Evelyn hadn’t noticed.
When we arrived outside, we could already see the carriage coming down the hill, where the sun fell and the moon rose. I had watched that hill every day, with the same feeling of dread. But now it was real, realer than ever before. I placed Evelyn down beside me, holding her hand as she shifted from her left foot to right in anticipation.
The carriage was almost upon us, and the sound of its heavy wheels rolling along the dirt path gave me the shakes. I could see the driver now, mounted on a black mare, wearing a dark colored bandana around his mouth. The entire group was dressed like him—solemn, menacing. “Don’t worry, Evelyn.” It was more to myself than my little sister, and I knew that.
When the vehicle finally reached our small house, a thin man stepped out, wearing a strange pendant that I knew was meant to protect against witchcraft. He stopped about ten feet from us, scanning us all over before his eyes settled on Evelyn. “Well, now. What have we here?”
Evelyn’s fingers tightened around mine as the man strode up to her cautiously, studying her eyes with cold intensity. His voice was a soft whisper, but demanding and merciless. “Calibor, do you have any records on this family?” He slowly backed away towards the cart, his gaze never leaving Evelyn’s.
A more burly man, perhaps one of the guards, produced a few faded pieces of paper from a cotton sack. As he continued to sift through the papers, I could tell that Evelyn was becoming more and more frightened. She was shivering uncontrollably, almost as if she had a fever.
I decided to speak up, to spare them the trouble and to show that we had nothing to hide. “He was taken in the last sweep, right after magic was prohibited. There is no more magic left in our family. Now take your men and leave.”
And then, just as I thought I had everything under control, it all fell apart. The man threw a rope against our ankles, knocking Evelyn and I to our knees, and I heard a loud thud. Darkness began to creep in at the corners of my vision, and I fought with all my might to stay conscious.
I saw my mother lift her head and I attempted to do the same, watching in anxious terror as my one and only sister was taken away from me. I could hear her sweet mouth producing horrid sounds—the screaming and wailing cutting through the dawn in a high-pitched tone. No, it had happened just like with father. My eyes closed involuntarily, and I breathed in the cool air deeply—once, twice, three times.
When I finally managed to gather my strength, I noticed that my own mother was backing away from me, looking on with a horror that could only come from a truly surreal event.
I stood up warily, suddenly acutely aware of my sister’s abduction, of the tightness of the corset, of my mother’s disbelief. I followed her gaze, ever so slowly, to my tightly gripped hands.
It looked as if they were glowing, an invisible light shining from within my palms. And it could mean only one thing. Magic was not truly dead.

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