By Rose MorningMist

It wasn’t always like this.

There was a time when my kind were accepted in society, cherished, even. But that was before the Great War came, before we were deemed responsible for the actions of both humans and Evermores alike.

I saw it all. I may look eighteen, but I’ve lived for hundreds of years. That’s why we’re called Evermores – we live so long, we’re practically immortal.

After the war, the humans started to call us witches due to our unnatural powers. They hunted us down, slaughtering us like pigs. Now, we’re forced to hide if we value our lives.

Which is why I, Ember Youthvale, Fire-type Evermore, am currently crouching in a muddy ditch in the middle of the woods, covered in scratches, my faded beige dress torn, moments away from being found.

It’s my own fault, really. I blew my cover. It’s a shame – the small village of Synax had started to grow on me. I’ve been living there for months now – even have my own house, a small, wooden hut with a creaky bed and stone fireplace. At least, I did. It’s probably been looted and burnt by now.

It all started when I left for my shift at the Dark Soldier – a tavern on the edge of Synax. Not the most pleasant job, but the best I could get with no experience in any crafts. Besides, it paid for the food on my table and the roof I lived under, so I didn’t usually complain. I spent three days a week working at that dingy bar, from early evening to midnight.

The Dark Soldier is a large, open room littered with rickety old tables and chairs. There’s a bar up front, where drinks are made, and a small coat rack for visitors to use. Behind the bar is a trapdoor to the cellar, where they store the drinks. A winding set of stairs lead to a small inn, known as the Sleeping Bear, upstairs.

As my shift started, I was greeted by Kevin, the bar tender – a kind man in his forties. He and his wife run the place.

“Evenin’ Isadora,” he said. I smiled, nodding my head in greeting, throwing my cloak over the rack.

Isadora Serenade – that’s my cover name. I’d never use my real name – Youthvale is too well-known, as my parents infamously fought in the war.

It was barely dark, but the tavern was already filled with customers – villagers, travellers – all stout after a few rounds of beer. I set to work, falling into a pattern of serving drinks and taking orders, trying to remain as unnoticeable as possible – only speaking when spoken to, yet making it very clear that I wouldn’t tolerate courtship. Business was running as usual… Until they arrived.

The door opened with a loud bang, startling me from my daze. A group of five entered, dressed in dark cloaks and armed to the teeth with knives and crossbows. They reeked with the smell of smoke and decay.

Bounty hunters.

I froze, almost dropping the mug I was cleaning, catching it just before it hit the ground, cursing under my breath. These people had been trained in the art of finding their prey in a crowd of thousands. They could sniff out an Evermore in seconds. One wrong move on my account, and I was dead.

The regulars made fast friends with them, even offering to pay for their first round of drinks. I stalled, cleaning mugs for three times as long as I usually would, keeping my head down, trying to remain unseen. An impossible feat, as my fiery red hair was noticeable from miles away. Aside from that, I was nothing unique – tall, with green eyes and second-hand clothes. I was definitely, determinedly, deliberately, a face you were likely to forget.

“Oi, you!”

I winced. I’d forgotten I was the only one on this shift. Damn. Rearranging my expression, I turned to face the man speaking – a regular to the tavern – Marcus, I think is his name.

He smiled crookedly, and said, “Prep another round for us, eh love?”

I bit back the snarky remark I had ready for him, and nodded. Marcus turned back to the newcomers. “What were you saying about that witch clan, then?”

I did my best to remain nonchalant as I bustled around their table, taking up mugs and the small pouch of coins that would pay for their next round. One of the hunters smirked.

“Found their safe hold, we did. Series of caves, running under Demsen.”

Evermores hiding under Demsen, the capitol? I couldn’t help it; I snorted.

That was my first mistake.

Fourteen pairs of eyes turned to glare at me.

“What’s so funny then?” slurred Marcus.

I could’ve stopped there, could’ve apologised, could’ve gone about my business. But no, I had to open my big mouth.

“You really think Evermores are hiding under the largest city in our region?” I blurted. “They’re not stupid.”

Stupid, dumb, foolish mistake.

The men roared with laughter.

“Witches with smarts? They’re dumber than horses, they are!” Bellowed a hunter.

“Found two a few weeks ago in the middle of a field, using magic, in plain sight!” Exclaimed another. “If that ‘aint stupid I don’t know what is!”

My cheeks burned. They were just short of screaming now – a few other customers had started looking our way, curious about the uproar. I did my best to hold my temper as I returned to the bar to fill their cups.

“Got a handsome reward for that catch, we did,” Said another. “Four-hundred gold, payed in hand.”

My blood boiled. These were my people they were talking about, as if they were nothing but wild game.

“Last of the Youthvale bloodline they were, ‘s far as we know.”

My heart stopped. Youthvale.

My parents.

I hadn’t heard from them in years, not since the war. We’d split up, thinking it best for our safety.

“They were publicly executed of course.” He continued. “Burned at the stake.”

The grief was almost overpowering. I blinked back tears. It didn’t surprise me – It was astounding they’d avoided capture for so long. I finished filling the cups, biting by lip. My parents were dead. Burned at the stake.

Don’t cry, don’t say anything, keep in controlkeepincontrolkeepincontrol-

“I hear they made them light each other up, being Fire-types and all.”

Another round of laughter.

That’s when I lost it.

The men barely had time to duck as I turned, flames shooting from my palms, my scream echoing through the tavern. I threw all my power into it, setting the floor ablaze, sending customers running. It took me a minute to realise what I’d just done.

Amidst the chaos, I slipped out the door.

I had enough time to collect my savings and a small hunting knife from my hut before the village guards had been alerted and instantly given chase. To them, I was no longer the quiet maiden who worked at the bar anymore.

I was a witch. A Fire-type.

Suddenly, I was a threat.

So I chose my only option – I ran.

I fled into the forest, trees attacking me as I went, scraping my arms, tearing my dress, the crashes of branches breaking surrounding me as the guards circled me, trapping me. With no way out, my only option was to hide and hope they gave up.

They still haven’t. Now I’m in a ditch with a guard standing just centimetres away. There’s nowhere to go. My magic’s spent, my hunting knife no match for a longsword. There’s little chance I’ll survive this.

Which is why I’m writing this. I found some parchment in my pocket, and though I don’t have enough magic left to fight, there’s enough for a quick scribe’s spell.

If someone’s reading this… I’m most likely dead. But don’t worry. I’m not going down without a fight. However outmatched I am, I will die with honour. The fire inside of me is yet to dispel.

I leave this note as a plea to humanity. We, the Evermores, wish you no harm. We did nothing wrong. All we want is to live in harmony once mo