Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer

The Sisters of Light arrived for my mother when I was eleven years old. Their robes flashed like light in a storm, shifting and unexpected. My mother welcomed them into our home. She knew why they were there but she acted like it was just a social call, smiling like they were old friends.

My mother had been a devotee of the order when she was a girl. Many proper young women became devotees before the war. Mother said that in her time, girls could leave just before they took the Oaths, before they would be sealed into service, the claws embedded in their skulls. Her parents thought that she could secure a good marriage coming from the Order, and they made great financial sacrifices for her proper upbringing. She got her good marriage, not to a wealthy man, but to a noble one. Then the war broke out and the Sisters sought old devotees for service.

Getting out of service was easy for folk that had money, that could pay the tithe towards the war effort that ensured members of the family could stay home. Father and mother hadn’t been able to pay the tithe to the government that year. They had lived on a blank hope that no one in our family would get chosen by the lottery for service. My father told me that it hadn’t been the first year they weren’t able to make tithe, but it was the only one I remember.

Two Sisters came into my home that day. Overkill. It was more than enough to convince us. One would have sufficed, a young disciple would be enough to make it known that my mother was to come, but they wanted to make a point, they wanted the family, the neighborhood to understand the price.

My mother served them tea they did not drink and gathered a pack of possessions she knew would be stripped from her in days. She called sister and I to her and hugged us. She gripped my shoulder so hard I thought I would cry. She said it wouldn’t be long before she came home again and not to worry. After ten minutes, the Sisters announced in their one, hard voice that they would be leaving now. My mother held my fathers hand until she was out the door. My father clasped the empty air, his hand opening and closing, watching the ship of the Sisters depart.

Two weeks later the Sisters sent a letter inviting my sister to come to school. My father burned the letter in front of us. We watched it smolder in the bathtub, the paper curling and glowing till it turned to cinders.

“If I went, do you think I would see mom?” asked my sister.

“No.” I said “I don’t think we’ll see mom again for a long time.” I didn’t tell her that we might never see mum again, that she might die in the war. Nobility can’t be drafted, but my mother wasn’t nobility. She had just married nobility.

When I was old enough, I applied to military school. When I entered service, my family could petition the government to return mother. My father begged me not to go. He hit me for the first time when I told him my mind couldn’t be changed. It took him a day, after I left, to petition the government for my mother. They returned her after I had served a year, after I was committed fully and her mind was gone.

They gave my family back an empty shell.

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