Well, things are moving slowly, so I may as well make my first story here the same one I posted first on the old site. You're going to have to forgive me if I get the formatting wrong -- haven't figured it out yet.
Darren opened his eyes and sucked in a quick breath of air. He stood in an emerald green meadow with jewel-like flowers littering the grass. Flocks of birds in fantastical colours filled the place with song, each bird’s voice a gentle harmony to the others around it. It might as well not have existed.
Caia stood before him, looking just as he had always remembered. Her waist long, slightly curling autumn hair framed her perfect, doll-like face. Her eyes were large blue orbs that shimmered with constant amusement at the world around her. Her playful mouth was currently curved down in a slight frown. She arched an eyebrow at him in the way that had always made him laugh.
“Darren? Why are you staring at me like that? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,”
Her voice rose above the songs of the birds, a thousand times more perfect. With a glad cry, he swept her up in a tight hug that had her squirming and complaining within instants. She had never suffered his embraces graciously.
“The last time I checked, brother, new ribcages don’t grow on trees,”
He laughed softly as he set her back down, the sound clogged with barely restrained tears. She stared up at him, worry spreading across her delicate features.
He shook his head, feeling the tears slide down his cheeks. She reached up and brushed one of them away, examining the liquid on her finger with curious eyes.
“Darren, what’s happened? You can tell me,”
He sobbed and pulled her closer to him in another hug. This time, she endured it in silence letting her presence comfort him as no words could ever manage.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered brokenly, “So sorry,”
She pulled away, “What?”
Darren squeezed his eyes shut and hugged his knees, “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you,”
“Darren?” the tone of fear in her voice cut through him more than any physical pain.
He opened his eyes and saw her clutching a flower of red that stood out in horrific contrast to the white of her dress. Her knees crumpled beneath her and she fell to the floor with a startled gasp. His waiting arms caught her and he pulled her to his lap. She whimpered quietly while he stroked her hair and murmured calming reassurances to her. He knew them to be lies, knew how it ended. He couldn’t tell her the truth though, not even here. So he promised her that she would be all right and the blind trust in her eyes seared his insides.
The scene slipped away like water from between spread fingers. For a dizzying, disoriented moment, Darren did not know where he was or why he was there. Was it in the dreamlike place with his sister? Or was it…
He opened his eyes in a damp, dimly lit room. The scent of unwashed bodies and god only knew what else hung unpleasantly under the masking reek of incense. The old woman took her hands from his forehead and rubbed them together, drawing creaking protests from her old bones. Darren shifted, his stiff knees aching.
“That’s your hour up, boy,” wheezed the old woman, “Either pay for another or leave,”
Darren stood on unsteady legs and staggered a few steps before righting himself. The old woman coughed a shrill laugh.
“First vision-gifting, huh?” her dancing eyes turned somber, “That girl was your sister?”
Darren nodded stiffly.
“How did she die?”
The old sorrow, made fresh by the night’s exploits, came crashing back down on him in a drowning torrent. His voice broke on his first attempt to speak.
“Our parents died when we were young. I managed to get a job with… um…”
“A group of thieves?” cackled the old lady.
Darren squared his shoulders and his temper flashed, “Your parlor tricks might keep you fed, witch, but some of us have to resort to more mundane methods of staying alive,”
The woman nodded, “I meant no criticism. Please, continue,”
Darren’s anger faded as quickly as it had come, leaving him feeling drained and weary.
“I had to leave her alone a lot,” he whispered, “A young girl around here isn’t safe on her own,” his voice turned bitter, “I should never have left her alone. I found her one day with a stab wound in her side and the coin purse I had given her gone,”
The old woman closed her eyes in sympathy to Darren’s pain.
“It is a pity,” she said quietly, “That you had no cause to come to me before this. I noticed while I worked with your mind that you seem to have quite the talent for parlor tricks yourself,”
Darren rocked back on his heels, as if he had taken a square blow to the chest. A remorseful smile quirked across his mouth and he shook his head slowly.
“I don’t need the job anymore,”
He turned to leave.
“Think about it,” called the witch, “There are benefits that you have yet to consider,”
Darren glanced back at her from over his shoulder, “Very well, witch. I will think about it,”