Hello! If you're reading this story for the first time, I have recently posted the rewritten version. You can find it on my profile :)

Chapter One: Gifts and Adventure

Carey lay in the middle of the paddock, enjoying the feeling of the sun's first rays on her skin. It was a quiet, chilly autumn morning, and she did her best to enjoy this fleeting moment of peace.

"Carey?!"

She sighed. I knew it was too good to last.

"What is it, Wesley?" she mumbled, closing her eyes.

He shook her shoulder slightly until she opened one eye, squinting at the light.

"I'm resting," she said irritably.

"Mum wants you to help her," he said, grinning as she scowled at him.

She sighed. "Okay, I'm coming."

"Great!" he said as she pulled herself to her feet. Before Carey could say another word, Wesley had laid back on the grass, smiling as the sunlight bathed his body.

"Ah, that's nice," he murmured, mouth twitching.

She kicked him lightly in the side. "Hey!"

He laughed. "Too bad."

Although she was annoyed at him for tricking her, Carey couldn't help but smile at his antics. No one understood her like Wesley. Even during their childhood, nobody had ever really known the true extent of the bond they shared… And nobody ever would, unless they were a twin themselves. When they were children she'd never been alone, Wesley had always been by her side. She'd always had other friends, but still, playing with them was nothing like the adventures she and Wesley had had. Even as they'd grown older, he was still her best friend.

"Get up!" she said, frowning at him.

He laughed when he saw her blue eyes, so similar to his, fixing him with an icy glare. "Come on. Tomorrow's Assessment day, Mum and Dad are already worried enough. You don't want to make it worse, do you?"

"They shouldn't be, anyway. Lindsay will be fine, Gifts are rare. They're worrying for nothing. And don't change the subject!"

He sat up slightly, leaning on his elbows. "How can you say that? It's more common than you think. I mean, just because the other seven of us haven't been Gifted so far, doesn't mean Lindsay won't be."

She considered this.

"Fine, I'll go," she grumbled, nudging him in the side once more.

"Have fun."

"Yeah right," she mumbled to herself as she trudged back to their small cottage.

Since she'd left school at the age of twelve, Carey had spent the next six years of her life helping her parents manage their family's small patch of farmland. As the eldest of eight children, she and Wesley had the most responsibilities.

Carey pushed a lock of her tangled brown hair from her eye, sighing. She stood outside the door of their home, her hand poised on the door handle.

Is this what my life will be like forever? Simply toiling away on this farm, or someone else's?

Carey knew this was the best life she was capable of having. Her parents didn't have enough money to pay for apprenticeships for their children, and least by working on the farm, she was guaranteed a safe, secure form of employment.

But it was so boring. When she was a child, there had been an old woman who'd lived in a small, run-down cottage on the outskirts of their village. She and Wesley had taken the responsibility of spying on their new neighbour once she'd moved in. One cool spring morning she'd found them crouched in the dirt under her window. Instead of getting mad, she'd taken them inside and brewed up a pot of tea. As they drank in front of the fire, she'd told them stories of the life she'd led. The old woman had woven incredible tales of adventure, excitement, a life Carey could only dream of.

She'd told them how she'd moved from sanctuary to sanctuary, places scattered over the island that were free from the rule of the Gifted. There, she was free to do as she pleased, unlike in the villages where most of what they managed to grow or earn was seized by the Gifted Guards in the area.

Of course, she'd assured them, it wasn't as simple as that. The old woman spoke of a time when the Gifted had found the sanctuary she was staying in. Before they'd realised what was happening, the whole building went up in flames and the air around them had become toxic as they'd tried to run. The old woman started to shake when she'd told them this, unable to finish. Still, Carey knew enough about the Gifted to fill in the gaps. The two Gifted that attacked the sanctuary she was staying in… They must have had the Gift of Fire and the Gift of Air. There were four Gifts that Carey knew of, based around the elements Fire, Water, Air and Earth. According to the stories there were other, rarer Gifts that were also possible, but they were believed to have disappeared centuries ago.

Still, even though she'd assured them of the danger, Carey couldn't help but dream of having a life like hers. A life with no rules, no responsibilities, a life that she could choose. She and Wesley's games had taken a new turn, they now spent hours pretending to be free and moving from sanctuary to sanctuary, fighting the Gifted and having many adventures.

However, that childish dream could only last so long. The old woman's stories had been popular with the other children as well, although Carey and Wesley were always a special favourite of hers. As the rumours of the adventurous life she'd led began to circulate the village, it didn't take long for them to reach the ears of the Gifted. One morning, she and her brother had knocked on the door of the old woman's cottage, but there was no reply. It wasn't hard to guess what had happened to her.

And yet, I still dream of a life of adventure…

Carey shook her head, telling herself to focus. She'd been standing gormlessly outside their cottage door for about five minutes now, her mother was probably wondering what was taking her so long.

Carey's mother stood in the middle of the small room, rocking her youngest brother Lindsay. He was snivelling slightly, and it was only so long before his soft sobs turned into wails.

"There you are," her mother said, smiling as she saw Carey standing in the doorway. "I know you're busy, but can you take him outside for me? I don't want him to wake up the other children, they need to be rested for school today."

There was a certain desperation in her voice.

"Sure," Carey said through gritted teeth. She was not Lindsay's favourite person.

"Thank you," she said, carefully placing the baby in Carey's arms. She began to head to the door, with one last glance over their small home.

Although it was only one room, it was a nice place to grow up in. Her mother and father had always worked hard to make sure this was the case, covering the dirt floors with rugs bought at the market, and keeping the fire blazing day and night during the winter. As she watched her sleeping siblings, there was nothing Carey wanted more than to curl up and go to sleep beside them. But she knew Lindsay was about to start crying, so she hurried outside.

Sure enough, it wasn't long before his small snivels turned into wails.

Carey rocked him gently, but it was no use.

"Here, I'll take him." She saw Wesley standing beside her, smiling.

"He doesn't like me much, does he?" she said as she handed him over.

"Sure he does," Wesley reassured her, but the evidence was clear. As soon as Lindsay was away from her, his crying stopped.

Although they were twins, they looked nothing alike – Wesley had thick, curly blonde hair, very white skin and freckles. With Carey's long, thin, dark brown hair and tanned skin, no one ever thought they were related, let alone twins. However, there were some similarities between them; they were both tall for their age and their eyes were the same bright blue.

She watched Wesley cradle Lindsay in his arms, stroking his head softly. "Just think, this might be his last day here with us," Carey muttered.

Her brother smirked. "I thought you said you were certain Lindsay won't have a Gift, and therefore won't be taken away."

She scowled at him. "I know. I still don't think it's likely. But still…"

Wesley nodded. "I understand. I can't help but worry too."

Assessment day… The day the Gifted search the villages to find the children born in the past year that have powers like them. If – If Lindsay is found to be Gifted, then they'll take him away to train him to be one of them…

A shiver went down Carey's spine as she realised that if Lindsay was Gifted, if he did have the power to bend an element to his will, he could be taken away from their family and turned into one of the Gifted Guards that ruled their village. One day when I'm older, he could be the one performing inspections, taking the produce we worked so hard to grow… He could even be the one to take my own child away. And even if I tried to stop it, I couldn't. The Gifted have power, such power that I can't even imagine. They could take my own brother from me and all I'll be able to do is sit by and watch it happen.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The sun set beneath the mountains, dying the sky a deep orange. Janelle watched as its final rays disappeared, a strange calmness filling her heart.

Tomorrow, it'll be four years. Four years since I watched them take her away. My – My sister was separated from me, and I was powerless. All I could do was scream after that woman, beg her not to take her away from me… But she wouldn't listen to my pleas.

She shook her head, her green eyes narrowed. I will have my revenge. There was no way she'd ever be so powerless again. For the past four years, Janelle had spent most of the nights training secretly in the mountains, away from the prying eyes of the Gifted. But there was only so much she could do on her own – she had no weapons, no Gift, no chance of ever achieving her goal.

Janelle heard something snap behind her. She jumped to her feet, drawing her sword.

"Oh, it's just you," she sighed as the other woman stepped into the light.

Samantha sat down on the log where Janelle had just jumped up from, her black hair billowing in the wind.

Meeting Samantha that night was fate, I'm sure of it.

It had been an ordinary night, about six months after Janelle had sworn revenge. She'd been practicing her sword fighting with a wooden stick, when she'd heard the crack of a twig nearby, similar to tonight. At first, she was afraid that the Gifted had found her, and for that fleeting moment she'd thought that night would be her last. However, when she crept closer, she saw it was a girl around her age, practicing by herself. Janelle had recognised her, as she and Samantha lived in the same village. However, even though they'd grown up in the same town, at the same school, they'd never spoken before that day.

Since that night, Janelle's life had taken a completely different turn. Samantha's brother, a blacksmith, had been able to forge the two women swords in secret. United in their desire for revenge, she and Samantha had trained almost every single night. It's been about three and a half years since we met… If we'd never found each other, I know I would never have gone any further. Surely it was destiny.

"So, tonight's the night, isn't it?" Janelle mused.

Samantha nodded. She rarely spoke. She had never even told Janelle why she was so determined to get revenge on the Gifted.

The only way to get revenge, the only way to have any chance of seeing my sister again, is to overthrow the Gifted regime.

"Do you think we can do it?" Janelle asked.

"Yes," she replied in her quiet manner.

I hope she's right. Because if she's not, we'll probably be dead within a year.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Carey did her best not to spill any of the water she'd drawn from the village well as she walked through the cobbled streets back to their farm. The sun had set a few hours ago, and although she was supposed to do this before it went dark, she'd forgotten.

Although she'd never admit it to anyone, not even Wesley, Carey felt quite scared as she walked through the dark alleyways. The only light was that of the moon and the occasional candle in a window, giving the village an eerie feel.

A dull thud sounded nearby, and Carey's breath became laboured as she turned around, spilling a large amount of water on the floor.

Calm down, you probably imagined it…

Still, she couldn't help but feel nervous. Muggings were quite common in their village, and probably in others too. Most of the townspeople were very poor, as most of what they managed to earn or produce was seized by the Gifted.

Another dull thud came from behind her. She whipped around, but it was too late – a man jumped out of the shadows and grabbed her tightly around the neck. She tried to scream, but his arm was pressed against her throat and she couldn't make a sound.

"You're coming with me," he hissed, his hot breath on her face. "How much will your parents pay to get you back? It'd better be a lot, or you're as good as dead."

Carey dropped her bucket as she struggled, water spilling on the cobblestone path. Instincts taking over, she kicked him hard in the shin behind her. He grunted in pain, his grip loosening. Carey tried to wriggle away, but it wasn't enough.

"Hey, where are you?" he said, bewildered. His grip loosened even more as he glanced around, searching for something.

Carey didn't have time to ponder his words as she managed to free herself. She sprinted as fast as her legs could carry her back through the village streets. As she neared the farm, she saw her brother in the distance. He'd obviously been sent to look for her.

"Wesley," she gasped, clutching her side.

He jumped, looking around frantically.

"Carey," he said, still glancing around. "Don't scare me like – Hey, where are you?"

"I'm right here," she said, confused.

Wesley looked terrified, more terrified than anyone Carey had ever seen before.

"You're – You're not there," he said slowly, his blue eyes round and fearful.

"Yes I am," she insisted. Why couldn't he see her? Carey lifted her arm up to wave in his face, to show him that he was wrong.

It's not there! She could feel it, she was making it move, but it was nowhere to be seen.

"What?" Carey whispered, beginning to shake. Where's my body?

As soon as she thought this, her arm reappeared. After her arm, the rest of her body began to reappear to, her feet the last body part to become visible again.

She and Wesley's eyes met, and she was sure the terrified expression in his bright blue eyes matched hers perfectly.