Prologue – Adena

Powerful (A Powerless novella)


The biggest man I’ve ever seen is barreling behind me.

Then again, it is likely that I’m exaggerating. Mama always did tell me what a curse it is to be blessed with such an overactive imagination.

I would hate to proclaim that he’s the largest man I’ve ever seen if he isn’t truly worthy of the title. So, I dare a glance over my shoulder, dodging carts and jutting cobblestone beneath the boots swallowing my feet. Mama said I would grow into them. I’m still waiting for that day.

No, that is de1nitely a giant man. The white mask he wears leaves the bottom half of his face exposed, displaying red cheeks and a twisted scowl between each panted breath.

A tangled strand of hair whips me in the face when I turn back towards the street sprawled before me. Several curls crawl into my mouth when a rare gust of wind decides to rush down Loot Alley on its way to somewhere far more important. I lift a hand to swipe at the unruly strands, only to be reminded of the very reason I’m running from an Imperial in the 1rst place.

Honey oozes between my 1ngers, dripping lazily from the sticky bun squished in my palm. I might have gotten away with my 1rst attempt at thievery if it weren’t for the fact that I’d tripped into the very stand I’d tried to steal from.

Unfortunately, it only got worse from there.

I then profusely apologized for stealing before spinning on my heel and running oI. This got the merchant’s attention, then the Imperial’s, and now everyone on the market street is bearing witness to the scene I’m causing.

It’s not as though the Imperial – or the king he serves – cares about the overcooked dough I sloppily stole. No, it’s the example that he is chasing. The spectacle I will become at the bloody post in the center of Loot. Imperials like their whips, and I like my sticky buns. And, for some reason, the starving girl is in the wrong.

Men, women and wandering children jump out of my path, though most look unfazed by the sight of me hurtling past. Looting on Loot is hardly uncommon. Merchants curse as I weave between their carts, though I shout my apologies at anyone who cares to accept them.

This may be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.

I mean, attempting to sew a pleated skirt was certainly a daunting task. But the threat that pointy needles pose likely pale in comparison to what this Imperial has in store for me.

I glance down at the sticky bun that is, in fact, feeling like its name suggests.

What has gotten into me?

I shout an apology to the woman scurrying out of the way, likely swallowed up by the sound of her cursing my name.

Hunger. That’s what has gotten into me.

But I don’t particularly like being cursed at. In fact, if most of the people yelling in my direction actually got to know me, I’m sure I would make a completely respectable impression under diIerent circumstances.

Hair Ringing over a shoulder, I peek at my giant pursuer. Face still red as ever, he charges persistently.

Well, he’s definitely not a Flash, that’s for certain.

When my head swivels back towards the street, it’s glinting silver that catches my eye.

The girl stands in my path, staring curiously at the scene sprinting towards her. Silver hair spills from her head, pouring down her back. And if I make it out of this unscathed, I’m determined to 1nd a fabric of the same shimmering shade. I admire her hair until it is suddenly right in front of me. She hasn’t moved, and I’m not planning on slowing down. So, without a second thought, I run

right into her.

Well, technically, I run right through her.

I phase when our bodies meet, feeling nothing as I pass through her body to the other side of the open street. And I don’t dare look back until I hear a heavy thud hit the cobblestones behind me. I barely catch the Imperial’s face hitting the stones before the girl is bounding behind me.

‘Don’t stop!’ she shouts, not bothering to 1ght the smile pulling at her lips. All I can manage is a breathless laugh in response as I focus on forcing my tired legs faster.

We run until she yanks me down a narrow alley, dodging the huddled homeless. ‘This way,’ she orders, continuing to tug on my arm. It’s only after slinking down several shadowed alleyways that we allow ourselves to lean against a grimy brick wall, gulping down equally dusty air.

She looks over at me, and I look over at her.

Something like understanding seems to settle between us. As though loneliness has found its equal.

The girl raises her eyebrows at the sticky bun still gripped in my hand. ‘First time stealing?’

‘That obvious?’ I smile sheepishly.

She shrugs. ‘You would think a Phaser would be better at escaping.’

‘See,’ I say with a sigh, ‘that’s what I thought. And look at where it got me.’ There is a stretch of silence before I blurt, ‘Oh, and I’m not really sure what you did back there, but thanks for your help.’

She Rashes a smile. ‘Nothing di cult. Just stuck my foot out. It’s the Imperial’s fault for running into it, really.’

We laugh. It’s nice, this brief moment of companionship. The warmth coats my chest when I giggle for the 1rst time in a long while. For the 1rst time since Mama.

I raise the sticky bun between us. ‘Wanna split?’ She laughs again when I wave the dough beneath her nose.

‘What, with your sweat all over it?’

‘Oh, this is nothing,’ I say, the words mu ed by the bite I take. ‘I’ve sweat more while trying to stitch up a corset.’

She looks absolutely distraught at that statement. ‘Why would you ever need a corset?’

‘Unfortunately,’ I sigh wistfully, ‘I wouldn’t. But richer people do.’

She blinks at me, something brewing behind her blue eyes. ‘You sell clothes?’

My eyes skim down the dirtied shirt hanging from her shoulder to land on the pants bunched at her boots. ‘Yeah, and it looks like you could certainly use

some.’ I run a hand down her sleeve, feeling the coarse fabric rubbing against her skin. ‘No, this won’t do at all.’

‘Stealing food is kind of my priority at the moment,’ she grumbles. Excitement bubbles up my throat in the form of a hushed shout. ‘You steal?

Like, steal good?’

‘Steal good?’ she echoes skeptically.

‘Well, whatever I just did was bad.’ She is quick to nod in agreement. ‘So, can you do what I did, but, like, good?’

‘Anything is better than that,’ she says with an amused smile. ‘But yes, I steal


‘Perfect,’ I say cheerily before sticking out the hand currently unoccupied with my stolen goods. ‘I’m Adena.’

She takes my hand, seemingly shaking it just to humor me. ‘I’m Paedyn.’ ‘Well, Paedyn–’ I rip the sticky bun in half, oIering a smushed side to her – ‘I

think we could make a great team.’

She pops a piece of dough into her mouth. ‘So, you sew, and I steal? We share the money and the food?’

‘Exactly.’ I hesitate for a moment. ‘I mean, unless you have somewhere better to go than the slums…’

‘Not anymore,’ she says a bit too quickly. ‘So, partners?’

‘Partners.’ I smile before looking down the length of her. ‘And my 1rst order of business is getting you into something far less horrendous.’

She huIs out a laugh. ‘Yeah, because that’s a priority.’

I take another bite of sticky bun, humming at the sweet honey melting on my tongue. ‘And your 1rst order of business,’ I mumble between bites, ‘is getting me more of these.’

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