Chapter 17: Once upon a time

Jessie's POV


Present 

The ringing won't stop! My head is going to split in two. A mix of sob and laughter escapes my throat at the cruel joke my life has become.

I can hear the guard banging at the door, demanding that I shut up.

He treats me like an animal. I am his niece for crying out loud!




Past

Third person POv

~~~~


The little bell jingled as Pyre flung the door open rather aggressively.


The twins cautiously followed the grey-eyed wizard, who was fuming with anger. They were pretty sure that Pyre's footsteps could be heard from miles away when he stomped around the wooden floor with those clicking boots of his.


There was nothing particularly interesting about the potion shop—bunch of old potion bottles and worn-out books lined the dusty shelves, a desk littered with papers and splattered with ink stood to the right of the entrance, and a set of wooden stairs overlooked the door where the twins stood.


"ATHENA!"


Jessie flinched at Pyre's loud shouts, startled by the anger that seeped into his tone as he called out the name.


"I SWEAR THAT IF YOU DON'T COME DOWN THIS INSTANT—" 


A loud patter of footsteps rushed downstairs, sending clouds of dust from the wooden floorboard that had cumulated throughout the years. 


Soon, a short girl with purple hair stood at the footsteps of the stairs, panting as if she had run a marathon.


"Pyre!" She exclaimed, her amber eyes shining under the light of a torch at the opening of the stairs. 


Pyre scowled in reply, and for a moment, Jessie thought that she wasn't looking at a young boy but rather a grumpy old grandpa. 


Jay could only blink in confusion as the grey eyed boy started chasing the girl around the shop, knocking down books and potions in the process.


"What is all this racket about?" Another loud, hoarse, but masculine voice boomed. 


All the occupants of the room turned their attention to the creaking floorboards near the desk as a tall, grizzly-beared man pushed himself out of the trapdoor, which, if Jay remembered correctly, wasn't there before. 


"What do you mean by 'what is this racket about'? Athena almost blew up our cover, and worst of all," Pyre wildly flung his arm in the direction of the twins before continuing, "she has gotten them in trouble!"


Athena and the man looked at the twins as if they had just realized their presence. Athena's mouth opened slightly as she breathed out a small 'oh'.


Jay could feel a bead of sweat trickle down his temple as the two pairs of eyes analyzed him. He shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably, feeling very self conscious suddenly.


He heard a soft shuffle of Jessie's feet as she moved closer to him before a soft hand slipped into his. 


The warmth of Jessie's hand comforted the brown-haired leader as he let out a soft exhale of relief. How could he forget? His sister was here with him every step of the way. 


The older man cursed suddenly, slumping on the chair beside the littered desk. 


"The chief knows," he said, rubbing his temples. "And it's just a matter of time before he knows."


"Pardon me, but who is 'he' we are talking about?" Jessie asked, narrowing her eyes at the group that stood in front of her. 


"Herobrine," the other three said simultaneously.


The name itself sent chills up the twins' spines. Herobrine. The leader of this decaying world. The one who is endangering their worlds and their people. The man whom they had known as their family, their uncle.


"How is he tied into all this?" Jay asked, gesturing to his surroundings with his arms as he spoke.


"Herobrine had sent a message last night, all around Nochangtim. Anyone who spots two twins with green eyes and messy hair are supposed to be brought back to the Fortress of Doom," Pyre explained.


"No, no. Not the Fortress, idiot," Athena said as she slapped the back of Pyre's head, receiving an angry growl from the latter in response. "He said that anyone who brings them to his palace gets money and a supply of food, which will last for weeks!" 


"Athena and I were being chased by soldiers when we saw you both," the older man explained, leaning back into the chair. "When we tried to approach you guys, you both ran away." 


"Why were the soldiers chasing you both in the first place?" Jessie asked, crossing her arms and raising one of her eyebrows like she usually does during an interrogation. 


Pyre let out a tiered exhale before leaning against one of the shelves. "You see, we do things that you might consider the 'rebellion', but we do it from the shadows. Food supply, money, water, everything is under Herobrine's control, and to receive those necessities, people have to work for him, or more specifically, please him."


"There are people, not only from our town but from cities and villages too, who are resisting the authority. But many have disappeared after revealing their identities. So, we do things from the shadow; we do it silently."


"Athena—" Pyre pointed at the girl using his chin, and then at the man, "—and Rod are hunters, but they do hunting in secret 'cause securing necessities by yourself is 'illegal', but we don't want to do Herobrine's dirty work to earn food and money. So we take the risk and try to conceal our identities at the same time. So, whenever the soldiers see a masked person, they chase them. This movement is all around Nochangtim, by the way. Many people get caught, many don't, and this is our life. Any questions?" 


Jay just stared with a gaping mouth, trying to understand how Pyre did not take a single breath throughout the whole explanation. To the former, it felt like he just went through a presentation on endermen by Soren; scratch that, Soren's presentations are longer.


"So, why did you guys decide to help us?" Jessie asked, scrutinizing the three strangers with distrust. "We already have soldiers on our trail. Heck, even the entities, but still, you three decided to help us. Why?"


The twins were taken aback when the three strangers' mouths twitched into a smile—not a mocking smirk, but a hopeful smile. 


"Because you both can save Nochangtim from Herobrine," Pyre said, the smile on his face only widening with every word.


"You can save us from your uncle, Jesse, and Jessica," Rod said, the smile on his face widening as well. "Bring the light back from the darkness." 


~~~


"It's getting worse," Pyre said as he walked into the room. The twins had settled in for the night, and the other three occupants of the house were preparing for their sleep as well. "I can hear his voice more often. It's only a matter of time before Herobrine takes control over me." 


Silence took over the previous chatter of Athena and Rod, the two staring at Pyre with astonished eyes. 


Pyre had been their leader ever since they established the rebellion, and with him gone, what were they to do?


Athena was the first one to break the silence, her eyes downcast. "It's- it's been happening to me as well."


"Me too," Rod piped in, running his old, withered hand down his face. One would be surprised to know that Rod is actually not an old man but rather a young teenager, younger than Pyre. He was attacked by the witches when they first took over the town under Herobrine's orders. One of the witches had thrown a potion bottle at him, and since then, Rod has been stuck with this withered old man look. 


"Why?" Pyre muttered as he took a seat beside Rod. "Why did this happen? We took so much care. We did not consume any enchanted supplies provided by Herobrine. Then why?"


"Well, now it's too late for us to ponder on it for too long. We can either help the twins or find what caused us to get influenced by Herobrine," Rod said casually as he took a bite out of the apple he had obtained in the forest that morning.


"If he takes over us now, then we will have only four more years before we completely turn into witches like others," Athena calculated. "And in those four years, we can switch in and out of Herobrine's control if an outside force, strong enough to pull us out is with us."


"Luckily, we do have that outside force," Pyre replied. "We have the twins." 

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