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Doppelgänger Chapter 1

Doppelgänger Chapter 1

Doppelgänger is a book about a shapeshifter who has just escaped three years of captivity and follows her journey from living a prisoner to ruling as a queen. It also shows her relationship with her twin sister, who she shares a psychic link with and who lives as a princess and how they interact with each other as well as the differences in their lives and upbringing.

5

Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


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Tia Powley (Australia)


Seraphina Yaradothiem, rightful princess of the land of Nix, looked up as her three tormentors walked into the cell that had been her home for the last three years, the four of them barely fitting in between the narrow walls. Quickly forcing a mocking smile onto her face, she held her head high as she always did, not showing an inch of weakness. At least she could keep her pride, if nothing else.
“Twice in one day,” she observed, lifting a slender leg and observing the fresh scars through one of the many tears in her tattered shift. “One would think you three were in a… particularly bad mood today.” She glanced up, making the smirk spread even wider across her face. “What is it to be this time?” Artyom, the short squat one on the right, the one she hated the most, bared his teeth.
“You give us lip, it will be worse for you, girl,” he growled. A sudden wave of melancholy washed over her as she realised that the next day, her and Natalya would be turning seventeen – and while her twin sister would be celebrating with a grand feast and ball for coming of age, Seraphina would still be imprisoned with the men who had made her life a living hell.
“I don’t think it could get much worse than this,” she snarled back, suddenly viciously angry, her powers willing her to turn into a panther, or wolf, or anything that could rip them apart.
“Hold her,” the leader of the trio, snapped. “We’ll teach her to listen.” In response, Seraphina spat at him, even as her chains clanked in response to the other two pulling at her arms.
“Never.”

***

Hours later, when her lungs were dry from screaming, she was finally able to contact her sister.
Are we really coming of age tomorrow? Seraphina asked by way of opening conversation. Luckily, Nat replied almost instantly.
Yes, I can’t believe it. Our parents are insisting on throwing me a lavish party, of course, with no mention of you at all. The old, familiar pain of rejection clutched in Seraphina’s stomach.
Well, they’d rather forget the fact that I ever existed at all. Still, at least your fiancé will be there. She felt her sister’s emotions colour with a tinge of happiness as the mere mention of her beloved husband-to-be, even though Seraphina had mixed feelings about him. How soon are you two going to be married after we’re seventeen? Talking to Nat, who treated her as if she were a real person and not simply something to be hated, always made her feel better. Made her feel somehow more real.
As soon as we can, Nat replied. I already have the dress, so hopefully within a week.
That’s wonderful, Seraphina smiled mentally through the pain and her envy of Natalya’s perfect life.
I wish you could be there, her sister continued, now sad. Whenever I visited you…before, we had always talked of facing this together.
We’re always together, Seraphina told her comfortingly, her usual fierceness underlying the soft tone. For this life and the next and however many come after that, we’ll be together. And one day, I will get out of this hell and I will come to the castle of our family and I will find you and we’ll be together in body as well as soul.
I remember that, Sera. And we’ll see each other one day, even if we have to wait for our parents to die so we can revoke this damned law banning your powers and outlawing the shapeshifters.
One day. Even if that day only existed in their minds.

***

The day before her seventeenth nameday, Natalya Yaradothiem sat leaning against the door to her bedroom and thought of her sister.
We’ll be seventeen tomorrow. And I will have to be courteous to nobles and tolerate women who want to know my secrets and she will be trapped in a cell, being tortured simply because she is the most powerful shapeshifter in history and the daughter of the man – well, woman really, seeing as everyone knows it was our mother – who outlawed her kind. Natalya tipped her head back against the door and wished for her little sister to be safe. She never told her what they did to her, or what happened for the first fourteen years of their lives when Sera had been sent away to learn how to control her powers – or at least that was what their mother said, and her father had agreed, as always. All Sera had said when Natalya came on her monthly visits was that she was being trained to use her shapeshifting as a weapon, and to become a weapon herself to be used by the kingdom one day. The last time they had ever seen each other, Sera had told her that she had just passed her final test, completing her training, and she had looked so happy when she said that the next morning, she was going to sleep until noon. And of course, that was when the Werepeople came and stole her little sister from her forever. Before her thoughts could wander back to Sera’s account of that fateful day, there came a knock on her door, and there was only one person that would knock that late at night. Shooting to her feet, she flung open the door and found Xander standing there, holding a bunch of white flowers out.
“An early birthday present,” he announced with a smile.
“You shouldn’t have,” she demurred, her blush colouring her pale cheeks and he leaned forward, kissing first one, then the other.
“Of course I did,” he said. “And within a week, you’ll be my wife.” Natalya looked down, suddenly sad.
“I wish Sera could be there,” she murmured.
“Nat!” Xander reproached, stepping swiftly into her room and shutting the door behind them. “You know it’s forbidden to mention her name here.” A pause. “And besides, she’s only a savage.”
“Why is it forbidden?” Natalya lifted her chin, tears of mingled rage and sorrow now shining in her eyes. “Because she’s the daughter of the family that outlawed her kind? Because that same family sent her away so she could be trained to become the deadliest woman alive? Because the day after our fourteenth birthday, after she passed her final Test, she was captured by the Werepeople outlawed by my father and because she has stayed there for three years in God knows how much pain and we have refused to help her?”
“Look,” he tried to placate her, stroking back her short white-blond hair, “I know you love your sister very much and that you miss her. But the other shapeshifters, the ones that took her, they were taking one of their own. She belongs there, in Informis. We can’t do anything.” Natalya abruptly pushed away his hands and thrust the flowers back into his arms.
“Go,” she said coldly. “We can do something and it seems I am the only one who will do something. I will see you tomorrow.”
“Nat – ”
“Goodnight, Alexander.” So he left.

***

On her seventeenth nameday, Seraphina woke up well before the dawn and began her morning routine. After using the urn that passed as a chamber pot in the corner of her cell, she moved to the centre of the room and lifted her arms up, grasping her chains grafted to the ceiling and lifted herself up until she was half a leg’s length in the air. After lowering herself back down until her knees touched the floor, she pulled herself up again until her chin was on the same level as her clenched fists. She never kept count, at least not at first. She kept pulling herself up until her arms ached, the muscles burning at the brutal workout she was putting them through until they could take nothing else. And then she did thirty more. Once she had finished that, she sank down onto the floor and then pulled herself up moments later and continued. It was only some time later when she was exhausted and satisfied that she allowed herself to sit leaning against the far wall of her cell and reach out to her sister.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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