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Akina ran down the street, her burgundy hair flying behind her. Today was Coming of Age day, and she was finally old enough to take part in it. Coming of Age day was one of the most, if not the most, celebrated day in all of the land of Karingaa because it was the day children received their life long companion animals: one for wisdom, strength, courage, and protection; The other for comfort, guidance, empathy, and confidence. The king traveled to the larger villages, and people participating in the ceremony came to that village. If they didn’t come, they had to wait until next year. Since Faygrove was the closest large village, the ceremony would be held there. She was going to be late if she didn’t hurry to the town square. When she arrived, with two minutes to spare, her silver colored eyes shone as she gazed upon the platform. Land animals of all breeds were there: wolves, panthers, unicorns, owls, bears, dragons, horses, monkeys, and dozens more. Animals that needed a specific climate, such as penguins, mages put a spell on them that kept their climate around them, and allowed them to travel with their humans. She went to the front row, found the chair with her name on it, and sat down among all the other teens.
The crowd roared when King Poagin stepped on-stage. His jaguar, Kitana, and his tiger, Sheeva, on either side of him. He motioned for the crowd to be silent and then started his speech. “Citizens of great Karingaa, today we celebrate our children’s coming of age by presenting them with their two life-long animal companions. All children of the age of fourteen, please stand when I call your name.”
As he went down the list, Akina became more and more nervous. King Poagin called Ajani, Akina’s best friend. She watched Ajani walk up onto the platform and place her hand on the moonstone. The moonstone told her which species she would get. She got a primate and a big cat. As she walked passed the row of primates, her spirit whispered to her, telling her which animal was right. Her animals ended up being a white- headed capuchin and a Siberian tiger.
“Ajani Arcadio, your spirit has chosen these two animals because they are most like your personality. May you and your animals live long, healthy lives. Up next, Akina Hazelmere.”
Akina stood and slowly made her way to the stage. She was anxious and excited, separately they felt fine, but together just felt unnatural. King Poagin smiled at her as she walked up to the moonstone. He stepped back and motioned for her to place her had onto the milky white gem. She lifted her hand to the stone, and all at once, there seemed to be whispering conversations in her mind, then they all seemed to chant dragon and wolf.
She looked over to the king and said in disbelief, “I got wolf, and dragon.”
The king’s eyes widened and his mouth hung partially open. No one had gotten a dragon and wolf pair since Akiko Oki. Akiko was the most infamous assassin in the history of Karingaa. He was given several titles such as The Crimson Wolf, Deathshadow, and The Ghost Dagger. Using his dragon for transporting him and his wolf, which he used to help him kill, he murdered around 43,000 people before being captured by authorities in Bushka, his hometown, which also happened to be Akina’s hometown.
Poagin quickly corrected himself. “What an interesting pair.” He said, undoubtedly thinking she’d be an assassin later in life. “Let us walk to where the species are kept.”
They walked over to the wolves, which were right next to the lions, and Akina sat down, legs folded, and let the wolves come to her. She looked each one in the eye and stuck out her hand, palm up, toward the wolf’s face. If they accepted her, they would press their forehead against her palm. She’d went through four wolves before one stopped and just stared at her. It was the most beautiful wolf she’d ever seen. It was, if she wasn’t mistaken, a European timber wolf. It had one violet eye and one golden eye. It sat down in front of her, and looked deeply into her eyes, as if searching for something. Akina didn’t know what the graceful animal was looking for, but it’s stare made her uncomfortable. As if the wolf found what it was looking for, she closed her eyes, nodded slightly, and pressed her forehead against Akina’s palm. All of a sudden, Akina could hear the wolf’s thoughts.“Hello. My name is Ranea, but since I have chosen you as my human-companion, you may call me what you like.” The she-wolf said.
“Ranea is a beautiful name, and I do not wish to change it. I am Akina.” She replied mentally. Ranea just nodded understanding. “I have chosen my wolf, and my wolf has chosen me.” She said aloud to the king.
“Splendid! Let’s go see the, um, dragons.” Poagin still look uneasy, but moved towards the dragons.
As he led her all the way to the other side of the stage, she looked at all the animas there, waiting for a companion. They just stared at her; they knew what kind of pair she got. Akina looked down at her feet and continued walking, her wolf close behind. Suddenly the king stopped and said, “Go on, see which one wants you.”
She walked in front of the dragons and sat down, legs folded and palm out once more. Ranea sat beside her. The dragons seemed pickier than the wolves. She had almost gone through them all when a huge, ivory black dragon stepped up to her and lowered his head to her eye level.
His eyes stunned her. Unlike his dark body, they were pure white. His gaze was extremely intense. It was almost as if he stared into her soul. He slightly opened his mouth, and she could see his big fangs. She felt his hot breath on her face. She briefly wondered if her would blaze her or bite her head off, but she wasn’t too worried. There hadn’t been a killing or injuring to a human by an animal for over a hundred years, of his own accord, and man only killed to eat, which the animals respected. Regardless, Ranea growled a warning. Then the dragon pushed his rough, scaly forehead into her palm. As with the wolf, Akina could hear the dragon’s thoughts. “Hello human girl, I am Taevarth. As you may know, I am an Adderfang. People named my kind that long ago when we still attacked your kind. Although we have stopped does not mean our fangs are any less poisonous.” He said ominously.
“Hello Taevarth. I am Akina. I did have my suspicions that you were an Adderfang. I trust you will not harm me or any of my people.” She replied, not giving any ground to the dragon. He nodded and followed her as she walked to the king. “My dragon and I have chosen each other.” She said to the king.
“Good.” He replied, even though he looked like he thought it was anything but good. He led her back to the podium where he spoke to the crowd again. “Akina Hazelmere, these animals have chosen you because they are most like you. May you and your animals live happily together.”
After a while the ceremony ended, and everyone left with their animals. Akina didn’t have parents; they’d died quite some time ago. She did have her older sister, Naoki, who was 21, though. They didn’t always get along, but she was all Akina had. She couldn’t wait to show her sister her animals. She also had an older brother. He was the oldest in the family and was off in college. As she walked into Bushka, and down her street, animals close behind her, she got stared at. Some gazes curious, others were more glares than stares. She kept her head down and wasn’t so excited about showing her sister her companions anymore. She feared rebuke and rejection from her sister instead.
Finally, she reached her house. She knocked on the door before entering, a way the two had come up with to show they weren’t robbers or murders just opening the door. She told Taevarth to stay outside, and she’d be back. She stepped into the house with Ranea.
“Akina, is that you? I’ve just made lunch. What’d you’d get?” Naoki said, walking out of the kitchen. Her snow leopard, Nymzi, followed close behind. “Where’s Miku?” Akina replied, avoiding her sister’s question. Miku was her sister’s ice gryphon. It was black and white rather than the normal rusty color.
“Out buying groceries.” She replied. Her counterpart did that a lot, ran errands for the two sisters. “Speaking of which, can you chop the carrots for the stew?”
“Of course.” Akina replied and moved towards the uncut carrots. The distraction had worked until Ranea came into the kitchen with her.
“Hey!” Her sister scolded her. “You never answered my question. So, what did you get?”
Akina shifted uncomfortably and motioned for her sister to follow her outside. “I got Ranea, my wolf and Taevarth,” she opened the door and pointed to her other companion, “my dragon.”
Her sister stood there with her jaw slightly ajar, looking up at the huge beast. Then she smiled. “I’ve forgotten how big they are.”
“Aren’t you wary of the pair I got, a wolf and a dragon?” Akina asked.
“Nope. I know you won’t become an assassin so why would I worry?” Her sister replied. “Besides, I think you got two of the coolest animals.” Nymzi nudged her. Miku, who had landed at the beginning of her sentence, stomped his feet in protest. Naoki laughed and reached down to pet the big cat and pet her gryphon. “After snow leopards and gryphons, of course.” Akina smiled. Assurance from her sister was exactly what she needed, and she felt better. They turned to go back inside when Taevarth spoke.
“May I go in with you little human?” He asked.
“Please call me Akina, and you could, but you’re too big.” She replied. Most houses in Karingaa were huge to accommodate all the families’ animals, but if a family member got a dragon, she assumed, they had to stay outside in the barn or something.
The dragon chuckled. “You have not seen all my powers yet.” After saying so, a black mist came up from his feet and engulfed him. The mist dissipated as quickly as it came, and in its place stood a smaller Taevarth. He’d shrunk to the size of Ranea.
Akina stood there speechless before she found her voice. “Um, I guess you can come in now.”
Later that night, Akina lay in her bed in the dark staring up at the ceiling. Ranea lay at the foot of her bed, while Taevarth slept on her window seat. She was thinking over the day. I wonder if the villagers hate me. Even if they do, at least I have Naoki. Then her thoughts went to her beasts. Taevarth said I haven’t seen all his powers. I wonder what he, and Ranea for that matter, have in store for me. And, with that, she slipped into sleep.