A Twins Tail
By Desert Mouse
After a long wait the house finally fell silent. The twins sat up in bed and smiled at each other in the darkness. They may not have been able to see each other, but they were two minds alike. They both knew what the other was doing, and thinking.
Even after they knew their parents had retired and would be fast asleep. The two of them didn't say anything, they sat up for several more minutes simply waiting. If there was any chance that their mom might wake up for one last drink of water it would be about now. They almost got caught once, until they learned their parent's patterns.
When the time came, Nina was the first to speak.
"The time has come." She said
"Another night of fun." Mina smiled. The two girls got out of bed, and still dressed in their nightgowns manoeuvred through the darkness out of their room and out the back door. They were careful as always not to make a sound and risk waking up their parents. They both knew that if their parents ever found out about their almost nightly trips they would be in a lot of trouble.
Their midnight journey ended at a small pond nearby the house. They were allowed to visit it very rarely during the day as their parents worried that something might happen to them without supervision. But to the twins this pond was boring during the day anyway, it was only at night that it became magical.
"Do you remember" Mina started to ask.
"When we first used our names?" Nina completed the question for her. She stood beside the pond and immediately stripped off her nightgown.
"I was just thinking about that." She laughed heading into the water. Her sister as usual wasn't interested in going skinny-dipping and instead walked over to a nearby fallen log that she always sat on. She glanced at the sky first, but turned to the water before the stars could mesmerize her.
"It's been a couple years hasn't it Watersprite." Mina questioned, her sister swam a little closer to her.
"At least four, maybe five I think. It was shortly after we started sneaking out at night." Nina smiled even though her sister couldn't see her. She dove underwater briefly and gave her sister some time to look back at the moon before she surfaced and spoke again.
"We think alike, but we don't always have to be one." She said.
"To be the same is fun, but alone that game gets boring."
"What would our parents say if they knew though." Mina giggled.
"I don't know, they gave us similar names so maybe they wanted us to be like each other. They might even be disappointed about our secret names." Nina shrugged. Her sister couldn't see it, but she knew what she was doing.
"But if they knew, then our names wouldn't be secret would they Moonlight." She laughed. The two of them had first created these pet names for each other because they wanted a secret that was just between the two of them. Something special that both gave them their own identity's and was theirs alone. Because this was a bit after they first started to sneak out at night to go to the pond, they used their own activities during that time for their special names. Mina became Moonlight because she spent most of the nights staring at the stars, and the moon dreaming of silly little things like an adventure. Nina became Watersprite because almost every single night, she would go swimming and splash around in the water.
The twins played around the pond for a good portion of the night. They knew that their mom had a lot of chores for them to do the following day, so neither of them wanted the night to end. But eventually it did and they returned home, tired but happy.
The next morning the two girls came out to the kitchen in matching dark grey dresses. Their father Tate was sitting at the table drinking a cup of tea and trying to push himself awake while their mother was busy preparing breakfast for the four of them. Nina and Mina went over and helped her without needing to be told.
"You two seem oddly subdued. Are you getting enough sleep?" Their father asked with a yawn.
"Maybe you should be going to bed a little earlier?" he suggested. The twins giggled at him.
"We aren't" Mina said
"The ones yawning" Nina finished. Their father rolled his eyes at them, he didn't find their game of finishing each other's sentences as cute as his wife did. He almost thought it was kind of creepy. He didn't say anything and let them continue cooking. A minute later there was a knock at the door.
"I'll get that." Their father said, reluctantly he got up and went for the door so his wife could keep the twins from burning breakfast. He was surprised to find five Sutherland soldiers at his doorstep, but knew it wasn't a good thing.
"Can I help you?" he asked them, preferring not to invite them inside. The man in front, obviously the groups commanding officer didn't say anything until he glanced inside and saw the three girls working in the kitchen.
"I have orders to bring you to Sutherland." The solider explained. Tate looked at him suspiciously because he hadn't done anything to warrant being taken to Sutherland.
"This must be a misunderstanding, but if I go with you we can sort it out." He said simply. Tate started to step out but the commander shook his head.
"All of you." The commander explained. Tate became alarmed, he could only imagine what they wanted to do with his wife and daughters, and it didn't help that he could see one of the soldiers to the left of the commander staring lewdly at the twin girls.
"If you have something to speak to me about that is fine, and I will go peacefully. But my wife and daughters are not part of it." Tate explained firmly. The commander was about to push the point when one of the antsy soldiers to his right said.
"Enough of this, it's not a negotiation." Then he pushed past the commander and tried to enter the house. Tate acted as quick as he could to try and get the door closed and buy his girls some time.
"Get out of here now!." He yelled at them. His wife grabbed the kitchen knife she had just been using to make breakfast and turned to the twins.
"Nina, Mina, get out of the house. You know where to go." She told them. The twins didn't waste any time running towards their room. It was a plan that was made a long time ago if anything happened that they had to get out of the house unseen. The girls didn't have to watch as the soldiers cut down their father, and mother.
The twins ran to the other side of the house. There was a door facing north-east, that wasn't visible from the road. So it wasn't likely to be covered by the Sutherland soldiers yet. From there they could make a break for the forest where they had a place they could hide for awhile. When they opened the door they saw that the soldiers had not come around to this side of the house yet, so they went through it and ran for the forest as fast as they could. The soldiers however were not far behind, they already finished with the parents so the moment the girls cleared the house the lecherous solider saw them running and called to his friends.
It didn't take long before the two girls had been tackled to the ground and pinned there until the commander could tie their hands. He shook his head in sadness at having just half failed his mission but at least he had gotten these two.
"you aren't going to be harmed, but I need to bring you both to Sutherland." He said firmly.
"Just don't try anything stupid." He warned. The girls didn't say a word as they were loaded up into a nearby wagon and taken from their home all alone. It was painfully obvious what had become of their parents, but for now they had no tears to shed.
After their capture, the twins were taken to Sutherland where they were placed in a holding cell with ten other people, both men and women of various ages. There was a lot of fear in the air, and a terrible smell filling the castles dungeon with so many of its other cells as cramped. The girls had nothing to fear from the men sharing their cell. Several more guards then normal patrolled the dungeons and kept a very close eye on the prisoners, ready to strike if any of them stepped out of line.
Nina and her sister were held in the Sutherland dungeons for three days, according to the guard's anyway. It was impossible to tell what time of day it really was because the usually sufficient windows in the dungeons had been blocked off, forcing a reliance on the guards. During the daytime the dungeon was still well lit using oil lanterns along the walls, while at night most of them were blown out to give just enough light for the patrolling guards to keep an eye on everyone. It was shortly before lunch would have been brought to the cells on the third day of their captivity that all the prisoners were chained, and taken from their cells one cell at a time. They were taken single file to wagons waiting outside. It was then that the girls started to wonder how long they had actually been prisoners for, instead of the midday light they were expecting as their turn to be shuffled out came. The twins were met with one of the blackest nights of the month.
No one was told about their destination, and the prisoners as far as the girls could see were encouraged not to speak, or ask questions. Nina overheard one of the guards doing a head count, but she lost track of his voice around forty-eight. All the prisoners were loaded up quickly, and before much of the nights darkness could be lost the wagons started their bumpy journey accompanied by wizards that kept the way lit for the guards, and dark for everyone else.
Fear and anxiety stopped the girls from speaking. So they spent the long, rough ride in the wagon looking at each other in silence with what little light they had. Their faces told each other more then enough to keep both their eyes and minds off the chains binding their hands. Every so often Nina or Mina looked at the other's in the wagon, but all they saw was misery before turning back to each other for a small amount of comfort.
It was still dark when the ride stopped and the girls were helped out of the wagons still shackled. They found themselves beside a forest with massive trees, one of their ex cell mates even suggested that it might be the edge of the endless forest. But neither Nina nor her sister had ever seen that forest so they couldn't be sure. It took some time for the Sutherland guards to get everyone out of the wagons and gather both prisoners and escorts together into one organized group. But they were in a hurry so any escape attempts were dealt with swiftly and quite violently. When everyone was finally in order the entire group was led into the forest and taken through some well hidden paths.
Outside the forest the sun was just beginning to rise, but the morning light hadn't broken through the forest's barrier when the group first approached a large wooden wall. It was almost as tall as the tree's themselves. The prisoners were led towards a sealed door with what looked like a large camp just outside of it. As they approached several more Sutherland soldiers pulled at the large metal bolt locks while a second group took positions to help herd the prisoners inside. A third group was ready to prevent people inside from escaping during the transition.
Once the door was closed again and all the prisoners, plus about half of the soldiers that had escorted them all to the forest from Sutherland, were safely inside. The twins looked around for their first glance at the forest holding colony. They saw several buildings making it look like a cross between a military base and a town. They also saw several groups of intact trees. The daily chores hadn't started yet so the only one's up were the newcomers and the colonies internal soldiers.
Some of the soldiers came around and removed shackles from everyone, but it was clear from the swords, and the looks the soldiers gave them that it would be a mistake to cause trouble, or try and fight them now. A group of five, two women and three men stood out from the rest of the soldiers. They approached the new prisoners while their own guards stood far back. These five were just as well armed as the others, but they looked more relaxed.
"Your attention please." One of the men called out firmly. He waited a minute before repeating his request until people started to look his way. There wasn't much talking amongst the fear and the armed guards but he wanted to make sure people were paying attention.
"I know this is a frightening time for many of you but I am here to assure you that none of you will be harmed if you remain calm. My name is Brian Fraser and you have been brought to this colony for a reason. Though I cannot tell you what that reason is right now, I can tell you that within these walls you are safe. You are not prisoners here but for safety reasons you won't be allowed outside the walls." Brian explained. He gave the newcomers several minutes for everything he just said to sink in before continuing.
"Shortly you will be separated into groups for orientation by my colleagues and myself. Dawn Frost, and Emily Avalon will take the women while Nicolas Barclay, Adrian White and myself divide the men. Today you will be shown around the colony and then given a chance to rest. Unfortunately however you won't be allowed to sleep until curfew. I know you are all tired after spending the night traveling, but it was necessary to keep this location secret from outside threats." Brian told them. He let them think about what was happening before the five of them started to divide the newcomers amongst themselves. The black haired woman standing with the generals walked up to the twins and was about to take one of them when she noticed they looked alike.
"Are you two sisters?" she asked. Nina was always a little stronger then her sister so she answered.
"We are twins." She said trying to look directly at the woman.
"All right then, you can both come with me." She offered with a kind smile. There was nothing threatening her.
Nina and her sister reluctantly followed Emily to a small area where she was gathering her group. They waited patiently, more out of fear than anything else, for Emily to finish sorting out her share of the women.
"As Brian already mentioned, I'm General Emily Avalon of the Sutherland guard. But you are not soldiers so you can just call me Emily or Miss Avalon at your own preference." Emily addressed them. She spoke softly but clearly.
"If you have any questions please ask them at the end of your orientation. Now if you would all please follow me." The group of confused women hesitated before following Emily up North West towards two very large buildings. They walked in silence and waited until their guide spoke again.
"We have two mess halls with a capacity of about eight hundred each. The mess halls aren't just for meal times, they are often used to rest after chores or meet with family. Unfortunately however you will also have to sleep in one of the mess hall's until more female dorm buildings can be constructed. The next set should be finished in less then a week." Emily explained. She indicated for them to look to the east from the mess halls. There was a smaller building standing alone with what looked like two armed soldiers keeping watch over the door.
"That building over there is where the food is stored. I can't take you over there because no one is allowed except for kitchen staff. The colony receives regular shipment of supplies, including food but we must keep careful track of consumption." Emily told them. She gave them a few minutes to get used to what they were being told before leading the group south to a building that looked like it was put together in a hurry. She took them around that building and a little south west to it faced two others.
"For now this is the infirmary." She said indicating the hastily constructed one.
"After we have enough living space the infirmary is going to be undergoing some enhancements and extensions. Across from the infirmary is stores, where you will be able to request any item's you may need. Don't worry about the longer building directly south of us. It's the armoury and only used by the soldiers to suit up. They will be acting as peace keepers in the colony as well as running several training regiments off to the sides." Emily explained. Some of her group looked confused by what they had just been told so she spent several minutes trying to clear everything up.
"The soldiers run two types of training programs. One of them is just for the soldiers themselves. It is very strict and requires them to be fully equipped. However they also run a training program that is recreational in nature, and that one is intended for everyone else in the colony to join as you please. It's not mandatory but I would recommend it. The exercise is good and its fun."
Emily took the group west until they reached two identical buildings. She took them down a narrow path between the two buildings until they reached the doors.
"These are the bath houses. Each one can hold only fifty people. They are divided evenly between men and women. At least one building will be open at all times except after curfew. In the evenings both buildings will be open but in the daytime one gets closed on an alternating schedule for cleaning."
To continue the tour Emily took the group south until they got past the southern bathhouse and then southeast towards two buildings sitting just out of the way. One of them looked fortified, made of heavy materials and bars on some of the windows. The second one looked normal except that it had three stories.
"Here we have the administration building. It's essentially the town hall for the colony. All operations within the colony are planned and approved here. If you have any concerns or problems you need to report you will find your representative here during the daylight hours as well. "Emily said. She turned to the fortified building and hesitated.
"This is the brig. It's not intended for long term use. The brig is used for short term punishments for minor crimes. A typical stay would be only a couple days. We have other solutions for more serious problems but I don't believe any of you will need to worry about it." She tried to explain. This was her least favourite part of the tour because the colony was all in this together, it was disturbing to consider the possibility of a crime more serious than a few days locked up.
Emily took the group back up the way they came, nudging them more west then before until they stopped just below four two story buildings, with one of them half unfinished.
"Here we have a good view of some areas of interest. South of us is the workshop, it's a place for you to work on long term projects such as sewing a new dress. You can store your unfinished projects safely for days at a time unlike in the messhalls. To the west of us is a storage building for the laundry supplies. Buckets, washboards, soap. Every one of you will be on laundry duty at some point so you will become familiar with it." Emily said. She could hear some of the silent groans at the news.
"North of us is the children's dorms." She looked at the twins since they were the only children in her group today.
"You two will be assigned your beds after the forth building is completed."
Nina and her sister looked over the buildings with a feeling of dread. This was where they would be forced to live now. Emily gave the twins a couple minutes before pushing the group northward past the great fire pit in the center of the dorms.
"Nothing too exciting here I'm afraid. These are just the men's dorms and just past them is a storage area for tools much like the laundry building." Emily explained. She brought them to the west side of the center fire pit.
"I'm sure you have guessed, but these are the female dorms where most of you will be staying after the next batch is completed. Each building, and this applies to the men and children's dorms as well, houses twenty people, ten per floor. You will receive a tour of them when the time comes to move in. now I'll answer any questions you have, and as you were told earlier you will have the day to get settled in before you are found jobs to do." Emily said. She started to lead them back to the mess halls while they asked their questions.
At first everyone in the group was quiet, everyone was too afraid to speak. Then one woman was brave enough to take Emily up on her offer to answer questions.
"Are we prisoners?"
"No, what Brian said is true. None of you are prisoners. You haven't done anything wrong and you are free to wander the colony as you wish. The soldiers and the walls are both for your protection, nothing more. "
"If we aren't prisoners why can't we leave?" another woman asked.
"I can't completely answer that yet. But if the Dukes of Roddenberry and Windley found you had been selected you would be in danger." Emily replied.
"Why are we here?" the same woman asked.
"In Sutherland a new high quality district is being constructed. Everyone in this colony was selected, and is being prepared to occupy it. There everything will be provided for you. I can't tell you much about it yet, but when this is over you will be moving into a prototype community we have high hopes for." Emily explained.
"Part of why you are gathered here now is to help build that community before the district is completed."
"If we were selected for a new community. Why take us by force?" Nina piped up. There was a small amount of exposed anger in her voice at what Sutherland had done to her family.
"That was unfortunately a miscommunication. The representatives that went to everyone's homes had orders to bring you all to Sutherland, and they should have explained the situation. But not all of them did, and used violence to achieve their mission. That wasn't supposed to happen, families like you were supposed to be brought together." Emily explained, she saw the real question behind Nina's eyes. And she regretted that many families had already been chopped up for this project.
"What is expected of us?" a different woman asked.
"The colony is going to need your help for us to thrive. Everything we expect, or ask you to do is for your own benefit, as well as everyone else's. Some of the work that you will be doing is basic home chores like laundry, cooking, cleaning. "
"What happens tomorrow?" another woman asked.
"Tomorrow you will be introduced to your community liaison. It's her job to assign you work, answer any extra questions you have, and help you find anything you need. Then you will be placed into the work rotation and will be taught by one of the other women in your assigned task. Please keep in mind that work assignments are not final, your duties will be changed every so often naturally, or you can request a change yourself." Emily told them. She answered a couple more questions but it was starting to become obvious that the big questions had already been answered. Or that no one was confident enough to add any new ones. She brought the girls back to the mess halls and shortly afterwards left them to explore the colony on their own and rest for tomorrow.
That night, after they had been set up in one of the mess halls. The girl's laid in the dark staring at each other. They couldn't see a thing, but like at home it didn't matter. The two of them had set up their bed's far enough away from any of the other women assigned to this mess hall, that they could speak in low whispers without bothering anyone else.
"I'm scared Watersprite." Mina whispered. She turned on her back briefly to stare at where the ceiling should be. She couldn't see it but she knew what it looked like. Defeated she turned back to her sister.
"We both are, but you saw that wall. We are trapped here." Nina replied.
"So then what can we do?"Mina asked, the question was on both their minds.
"There isn't anything we can do. Except to lay low and see what they do with us." Nina suggested. They both thought about it for a few minutes, but since they had been awake for over twenty-four hours it was becoming very difficult to keep from falling asleep. In the end they surrendered and drifted off for the night.
Three days after they were first brought to the forest holding colony. The twins Nina and Mina stood in the kitchen of one mess hall helping to prepare the food. This was the first chore they had been assigned for the first few weeks. They did their best at it and had even received a few compliments at how helpful they were by the experienced cooks. However they hated every minute of it.
It was unspoken between the two of them, but they each thought about it every pot they stirred or spice they added. The last time they had seen their parents alive, the last thing they had done before their lives had been broken apart was help their mother cook breakfast.
Trying to bite back the bad memories again, Mina reached for a reddish spice and dumped a bunch in the soup she was stirring. Her eyes went wide when she realised that it wasn't the one she intended to grab.
"What should I do?" Mina whispered to her sister, she showed her the spice she had mistakenly put into the soup. Her sister thought for a moment and decided.
"Just put it back, and don't say anything. This could be interesting when someone tries the soup." Nina grinned. Mina put the hot spice back where she found it and continued to stir her soup like nothing had happened. She watched everything else a little more carefully.
Dinner was quickly approaching so it wasn't long before one of the older ladies that had been in the kitchen of the colony since it opened. Came up to them and took a sip of Mina's soup to see if it was ready to be served. Her eyes went wide and she opened her mouth, quickly looking around for something smooth to drink. The old woman wasn't prepared for the extra ingredient.
The girls couldn't stop themselves from giggling while the old woman left to cool off her tongue. They stopped however when she returned several minutes later with an angry look on her face.
"You two wait here, don't move and don't touch anything." She said before leaving again. The girls looked at each other with a mixture of fear and amusement. After awhile though the humour seemed to fade and they grew concerned about what was about to happen. The last few days they had both been too scared to even speak up without permission.
When the old woman returned she had someone else behind her. It was one of the five generals that introduced themselves at the beginning of their captivity, but it wasn't Emily the one that showed them around the compound that first day.
"Are you two Nina and Mina?" Dawn Frost asked. The serious look on her face scared the twins even more, so all Nina could manage was a simple nod.
"Then let's go for a little walk." She ordered. The two girls reluctantly followed the general out of the mess hall. They both knew they were in trouble.
"Helena tells me that you spiked the soup with something." Dawn said after they had gotten far enough from the mess hall to not be overheard.
"Would you care to tell me what happened?"
Nina was about to explain what happened when it hit her. They had something in this moment that they hadn't been given since the soldiers came into their home. Quietly she looked at her sister and Mina understood what she was thinking because the thought had crossed her own mind as well.
"It's true, we did add something to the soup." Nina announced.
"Why did you do it?" Dawn asked.
"Mina grabbed the wrong spice at first, but when we saw what she had taken. I decided that we should put it in the soup and see what happens. I was hoping more people would have gotten a chance to try it." Nina replied. As she spoke she felt like she had some control over the situation. The two of them could have just told the truth, and hoped that the general would believe them. But instead she took control of what the general thought. They would be punished on their own terms this time instead of simply waiting to see what happened.
"Why would she tell me that?" Dawn thought dumbfounded. The confusion showed on her face for a minute and it took the twins all their willpower not to smile openly at the display. The general didn't believe them, it seemed like they were lying about what happened but she could not grasp why they would claim malicious intents that didn't exist.
"Are you sure that is what happened?" Dawn asked finally. But the brief look of confusion on her face had already sold the twins on this.
"Yes Miss Frost that is what happened. I grabbed the wrong spice, and we put it in anyway for a few laughs." Mina admitted.
"Why are they lying to me? If this was an accident they wouldn't get into trouble. But it seems like they want me to punish them." Dawn thought confused. After thinking about it for a few minutes she made her decision on what to do with the girls.
"I'm not going to punish either one of you. I know you are lying, I know it was an accident but I don't know why you would want to make it worse for yourselves. I am however going to inform your parents about your misdeeds and your attempt to escalate the situation. And in addition you will be assigned a new chore before tomorrow. You are being barred from kitchen duty to discourage trying this stunt for real." Dawn announced.
The twins bit back the pain from mention of their parents. They hadn't cried yet about their loss and now wasn't the time to start. Nina came close to speaking out in anger at her insensitivity but she didn't do that either. Finally the twins looked at each other and became overly formal.
"Yes ma'am." They said simultaneously.
"What are we to do for the rest of the day ma'am?" Nina asked.
"It's almost evening so go bath until supper. By then you would have been done for the day anyway." Dawn told them. She wanted to ask them why they tried to take the blame, but she could tell by looking at them that it would be a waste of time.
"Now go." She ordered. The twins decided not to push the issue with her and instead left like they had been told. They walked towards the bath houses in silence until they were out of sight of the general.
"Did you feel it?" Mina asked. Her sister nodded.
"It felt like we had power over our situation. For the first time since the men came and locked us up, we were not helpless." Nina replied. To both of them being taken off kitchen duty wasn't a punishment, it was a reward. They no longer had to face such a constant reminder of the day they became orphans, and it had been their own doing. That simple mistake had given them that control.
"We need to." Mina said.
"Explore this." Nina finished.
"But carefully, next time let's try it without being caught." She added.
"And see if the feeling is any different." Mina finished for her. As they approached the bath house's they fell silent and went inside without a word. Later that night they would discuss possibilities in the darkness of their mess hall sleeping area but for now they had to wait patiently.
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