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The First Kill

"It's not wise to let someone like that know who you are."
Tanya sighed, ignoring her trainer. She gripped her battle ax tightly with her frozen fingers, swinging the thick blade in frustration and letting it hit the icy ground with a thud.
"Look at me."
Deliberately avoiding her trainer, Tanya left her ax lodged in the ground and channeled her energy into her hands, which slowly began to glow. Flames sprouted from her fingertips and she grinned.
Finally, some warmth.
"Do not ignore me, Tanya. Look at me." The hooded trainer's voice had grown sharp.
"What?" she asked hotly. "What could you possibly want? We're in the middle of nowhere, with no food, and no shelter, and you don't want me to use any magic, and, oh," Tanya gave a short, sarcastic laugh, "it's snowing and my nose is about to fall off from the cold."
The trainer grunted. "Do not speak with the humans."
"Why?" Tanya demanded. "At least they knew where to go. I could've gotten some food from them, too, if you hadn't tried to kill them."
"We do not speak with them. Especially you. That was dangerous, to tell them who you are."
Tanya snorted. The trip into the frozen desert was a ceremonial rite, a coming-of-age challenge, a test of strength of both body and mind. Her trainer was supposed to guide her to the hunting grounds, where she would make her first kill. Instead, he remained a hooded, nameless, annoying pain in the ass.
Suddenly, the wind picked up and the snow came down even harder than before. "We've got to find shelter," Tanya called. "If it gets any worse, we're going to die out here."
No response from her trainer.
Frustration boiled in Tanya's icy blood. "I'm leaving. I'm going to the Sky-Castle. You stay here and freeze to death." She tugged her ax out of the ground and turned back to her trainer.
In the sudden gust, Tanya could just barely make out his cloaked figure, lying face-down on the snow. A river of crimson slid over the white ground. Inspecting the body, Tanya found two pristine arrows protruding from his stomach.
"Now I'm definitely going to die," she mumbled. "At least now I can die without being chastised for it."
Tanya stood slowly, keeping her ax close, though she doubted her trainer's mysterious killer would be able to see her through the veil of snow. She was itching to conjure up some more fire, but she was afraid that her magic was what had drawn the attention of the murderer.
If she was being followed by a mage hunter, it would be better to freeze to death than be caught.
Originally hired by the humans' Emperor to eradicate necromancers, the mage hunters now killed anyone with an affinity for magic. Tanya had been hunted once before, but she had always been safe within the borders of her home. In the wild, though, she was fair game. There was no one to protect her when she wasn't watching.
"I just need to get to the Sky-Castle," she whispered, her words barely audible over the howling wind, "Just to the Sky-Castle." With a deep breath, Tanya took off at a sprint through the snow. The frozen air tore at her lungs and slushy snow filled her fur boots. The wind stung her eyes. Her muscles ached. Before long, her oxygen-deprived body was screaming for her to stop.
Shaky from her run and weak with nervousness, Tanya continued at a brisk walk, stumbling through the thick snow drunkenly. She hadn't gone far when she found a small cave that would be perfect shelter from the approaching night. Breathing in deeply, she somehow managed to find the energy to manipulate the snow into a frozen barrier between the tiny cave and the outside.
Curling up, Tanya let the remainder of her energy flow into her hands. They glowed softly, spreading heat throughout the small area. After a while, she drifted to sleep, dreaming of the majestic Sky-Castle that had been the centerpiece of so many childhood stories and legends. A gleaming masterpiece sculpted from the ice of the tundra, the Sky-Castle had begun as the center of power for her people, but over the years it had grown into a beautiful city.
That's where Tanya knew her destiny waited for her, even though the city was now corrupted by mage-hunters and a false king. But to her, it didn't matter.
She had been born to go there.
When Tanya awoke the next morning, her dreams of the city in ice left her feeling re-energized and reassured. She pulled on her thick, fingerless gloves, letting her fingertips glow with warming magic. Grabbing her ax with one hand and pulling the ice-door down with the other, she set back out through the snow.
The storm was gone and the air was still; in the distance she could see the gleam of the Sky-Castle in the morning light. Her stomach grumbled weakly in hunger, but Tanya ignored it, focusing all her energy on her destination.
Tanya's mind drifted occasionally to the mage-hunter from the day before, but the only sound was the soft crunch of her boots through the snow. In the distance, the Sky-Castle grew larger and larger, pulling Tanya forward with its electrical pull. As the wide, arching gates crept closer, her heart beat with anticipation and the hairs on her arms stood on end.
And before she knew it, Tanya was standing in front of the open gates, staring at the majestic city. She walked right in; there were no guards anywhere. And why should there be? The entire city was mesmerized by their king. They believed he had delivered their entire race from evil. No one would bring any harm to the savior.
The white stone buildings and silvery cobblestone streets pulled Tanya back from her cynical thoughts. She drifted through the eerily empty streets, following the far-off echo of life.
A few moments later, Tanya turned down what she thought was a small alley. It opened up to what she assumed was the center of the city; it was full of energy, noise, and people.
Tanya didn't worry about standing out. Her dark skin and hair would only blend in to the city full of her people; nothing but her icy blue eyes could reveal her magical abilities. She hadn't expected such crowds though. Huge groups of people lined the streets, which had been cleared of snow to expose the silvery cobblestones. She could feel the excitement in the air as a strange procession drew closer, as wide as the street and twice as magnificent. Tanya drifted through the crowd, mesmerized, until she was only a few feet away from the edge of the near-empty street.
An announcer in front of the small group was proclaiming the arrival of the king and some of his relatives as they made their way down the street.
He was a false king. Tanya gritted her teeth. He didn't deserve the throne. Without realizing it, Tanya had built up magical energy, and her fingertips were beginning to glow with power. A woman from behind her cried out, and someone else shouted "assassin!" Tanya quickly expelled the glow from her hands, but it was too late and she was too close to the street.
The self-proclaimed king, a polished man with a round, sheltered face, broke out of the little parade. "Witch!" he cried. "Traitor! Your kind should be dead! All of you," he accused, pointing a thick finger at Tanya.
Rage grew inside of her and she pushed the crowd away roughly to face the false king. "I'm not a traitor," she stated boldly. "I just won't hide who I am." Tanya held up her hands, letting the magic shine through brightly.
Recognition blossomed over the king's pale face. "Yes, you do. You do hide. All alone, in your little village."
"I'm not alone," Tanya shot back. "I have trainers, and spiritual mentors, and I used to have parents. I know what happened to them, and so do you." The crowd watched silently—in awe, fear, or both, Tanya didn't know—as she held up her hands in defense.
The king called for some guards, then began waving around a thin sword that Tanya was certain he didn't actually know how to use. "You know nothing," he seethed, and lunged at Tanya.
Dodging his reckless swing easily, she placed her hands on his chest and let the magic flow out of her. The king exploded backwards, tumbling into the guards that were rushing forward. "Kill her," the king commanded breathlessly.
The crowd seemed to breath a unanimous sigh of relief as the guards swarmed to Tanya. But she was quick. Tanya darted though the unresponsive crowd and reappeared behind the king. "You killed my parents and took their throne," she accused. "And I'm here to take it back." Tightening her grip on her ax, Tanya swung hard, catching the false king right in the chest. He fell to the ground, dead, and the guards grabbed Tanya. Her ax was ripped out of her hands, which were quickly bound behind her back.
"Don't try anything funny," one of the men commanded. "We'll let the Council decide whether it's the executioner or the mage-hunter who gets to have some fun later and carry out your sentence." A few of the men laughed roughly.
Tanya closed her eyes slowly. She knew about the Council; surely someone would take her side. If not, she still had her magic. It couldn't be too hard to fight her way out of the city. Besides, if she died trying it would be better than letting a mage hunter torture her to death.
But all she had to do was get someone in charge to listen to her. There had to be at least one Council member who would believe her—that she was the true heir to the throne of the Sky-Castle.
As the guards dragged her through the bloody street, Tanya smirked. She had finished her ceremonial challenge.
The false king of the Sky-Castle had been her first kill.



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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

jetta.ckThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm:
I liked how abruptly her opinion of the city changed... It gave the story a bit more edge, which was exactly how the main character came across. I liked it!! (:
 
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ElspethF said...
Feb. 27, 2013 at 9:10 pm:
Very "Game of Thrones"--ish. I like it. May I suggest more paragraphing? That's all I can think of.
 
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E.J.Mathews This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 18, 2013 at 11:08 am:
I really liked this story. It slightly reminded me of Skyrim. The imagery was great, and the story moved at a nice fast pace. Amazing job. Btw, I have already read "The Script" and "Venic" from other offers you have taken me up on. Is there anything else you would like me to read?
 
WhenItRains21 replied...
Feb. 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm :
Thanks! Could you check out "As if the World Wasn't Ending" instead?
 
WhenItRains21 replied...
Feb. 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm :
Nevermind, you've done that one too xD Take your pick, then lol
 
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ZozeyThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm:
I liked it. It was different. The story line (a false royal) is a bit overused, but I like the idea of mage hunters and the part about  her first kill. I really really like that there weren't any gaurds by the city gates. Parts of this seemed a bit rushed, like the cave and getting to the city. Other than that, great work :)
 
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