The temple had been given children many times since it was built. Its wardens were used to finding a baby, wrapped in rags, only a note as a clue to their identity. But one morning they were met with twin baskets. No cryptic letter, no rags, no storm the night before. Just two baby girls, quietly dreaming.
The sisters grew to be very different. Atna had a fierce love of animals and distaste for humans. The only person she held love for was her kin. Phro loved humans with fierce devotion. As she grew she had many friends and companions. Her personality was magnetic.
Atna grew more and more withdrawn, wandering into the woods at every opportunity. She returned holding an owl with wings of starlight. Its eyes were almost human.
Phro was elected mayor the moment she reached adulthood. It wasn’t long before the village surrounding the temple grew. It spread out, taking in surrounding villages.
A few years into adulthood, just as silver began to streak their hair, the sisters stopped aging.
The day Phro pulled the Blade of Queens from the sea was more of a technicality than anything. She was already lined up to take the throne. In fact, there were rumours that she had been told where the blade lay… That Atna’s owl had found it the day before.
When asked, Atna would simply smile. She spoke so little now that many believed she had taken a vow of silence. Yet, when she must, she would speak. It was in those moments that listeners discovered why she didn’t speak more. Her voice sounded haunting. It echoed without cause. Any who heard it felt ice sliding beneath their skin.
Standing near Phro was like standing near a fireplace in the winter. Her warmth spread into one’s bones. Her partners would often speak of her ability to make them feel more loved than anyone had before.
Whenever possible, the sisters found each other. They clasped hands: Phro’s body turning cold, Atna’s voice turning warm. Being separated felt wrong, somehow. There was a feeling of unease to the point of pain. Neither could explain it. Atna sometimes wondered if there had only been one child left on the monastery steps. If she and her sister were meant to be a single soul.
The owl watched its daughters from its perch. Only it would ever know the truth.