On a tallest mountain in Bantia sat the village of Seedwell, home to a small community of people ruled over by the village council. The snowfall outside was particularly mild that day, though the entire community sat deathly quiet. Trouble had been growing in town; one of the best military recruits the village had seen in ages had been disobeying orders, something the chefs didn’t take to kindly too, and she had been called before them. A girl in her late teens stood in a circle of tables, watched at all angles by a group of seniors, none of which looked particularly happy to be there. She rocked back and forth on her heals like a child, while the elder at the head of the table shuffled some papers and cleared his throat. "Kat Myre, do you know why you have been called before this counsel today?"
Kat thought for a moment, completely disinterested in what was going on around her. "Because..." She touched a finger to her lip innocently, much to the annoyance of just about everyone else in the room. "You guys have nothing better to do?"
"No you arrogant girl, it’s to discuss your resent job performance." One of the elders to her right snapped. "On stealth missions, you perform exceptionally. You’re the top of your class when it comes to just about any sort of physical activity. Yet you are unable to complete any form of mission that involves the elimination of an individual. Care to explain why that is?"
"Oh, that’s simple." Kat quipped, gaining a large grin in the process. "I don’t like killing." Some of the elders gasped, others sighed, though Kat seemed the most surprise of them all. "What, it’s the truth. I don’t want to kill people."
"Well, that’s too bad." Another elder said. "When Sabriel-."
"Don’t say that name." Kat interrupted.
There was silence for a moment, as many of the elders where taken aback by Kat’s sudden change in mood. Before long, the elder who first spoke broke the silence. "Regardless of your feelings, your mother left you in the care of the village council. That means you have to follow our orders if you want to remain here."
Kat crossed her arms, growing agitated that they were talking about her in that way. "So what would you do if I didn’t want to stay?" Many of the elders where shocked, though the head of the table simply sighed with annoyance once again. "Maybe I don’t want to follow orders, had that occurred to you?"
"You ungrateful little brat. What you’re saying is equivalent to treason." One of the elders yelled, though Kat only stuck her tongue out at her in response. "Chef Demall, she’s not going to listen. Let’s just get rid of her and be done with it." She said to the head of the table.
"Hey, if you want me to do work for you, I’ll do your other jobs." She said defensively while Demall rubbed the sides of his forehead with the knuckles of his pointer fingers. These meetings had been going on for the better part of a month, and this same conversation come up almost every day. "Stealing, tracking, bodyguard-ing; as long as you don’t tell me to kill anyone, I can get the job done no problem."
"Listen here child, we give these orders expecting them to be followed, not negotiated with." Kat was the one to sigh this time, knowing they’d be at this all day at this rate. Though to the surprise of everyone, the elder’s rant was brought to a halt when Demall raised his hand.
"Do you really mean this then?" He asked, resting his elbows on the table and interlocking his fingers. "As long as we do not require you to take the life of another, you will perform our jobs as required?"
"Uh... Sure?" Everyone had been caught off guard, especially Kat. She was just arguing for the sake of arguing when she said that, and she didn’t truly want to leave her home. But even then, she had never considered that a single one of them would take her up on it, let alone the head chief himself. "I-I mean yes. I’ll work as long as nobody gets hurt."
Demall smiled, resting back in his chair as the other elders watched him in amassment. "Alright then, you are free to go. We will send you your next mission by tomorrow at the latest." Although she was suspicious of the fact that he gave in rather easily, she was too relived that these meetings where finally over to give it much thought. Her usual grin returned, and she turned on her heel for the door, leaving many of the leaders still stunned at what had transpired.
Demall slowly rose to his feet, with the help of his walking stick, but was quickly bombarded by questions by the others. He let them rant for a moment, before raising a hand to quell the noise once more. "Better to let her think she’s come out ahead in this little argument." Many of the elders still looked confused, though Demall seemed to only be rambling to himself rather than talking to them. "She’s still quite skilled, and it would be a shame to loose such talent, so we will make do with what work we can get out of her." As he reached the door, he refocused his attention on the other elders. "Begin reassigning her mission log. Give her mostly espionage jobs for now, and reassign her assassinations to the other trainees."
Kat trudged through the knee deep snow with a huge grin on her face. The elders would finally let up about her job record, and she could make a somewhat honest living. "Tonight, I’m eating like a king. She thought to herself, wondering what her roommate would say about the whole situation.
Returning to her dorm, Kat shook the snow off her cloak and was met by the smell of something cooking in the kitchen. Her roommate was in the middle of making dinner, and had almost finished serving it by the time Kat had finished explaining what had happened. "You, did not, say that." She asked in disbelief, brushing her long blue hair out of her face. "Please tell me you didn’t actually say that to them."
"What?" Kat asked with a mouthful of spaghetti. "Come on Maki. If they spent half as much time pestering me about work as they do thinking of other ways to make money, we could all retire by tomorrow."
"Ok. But, like... Now you’re just asking for trouble." She said, taking a moment to wrap herself in a blanket to protect against the cold. "What if they just get sick of you and kick you out?" She took a few more bites of food before continuing. "Why won’t you just go along with it? Avoid the problem and move straight to the top of the class all in one go? Some of us would love that chance."
"I’m not interested in being the best." Kat blurted abruptly. "I’m not going to kill people for money, and nothing they can do to change that." Maki opened her mouth to say something, but Kat interrupted her. "Come on, your bumming me out already. Let’s just eat and enjoy the peace while it lasts."
"Heh, you’ll never change will you Kat?" Maki asked with a smile.
"Nope." She responded proudly.
They both laughed a bit, before hearing a knock at the door. Kat jumped to her feet, nearly knocking the table over in the process, and ran to answer. Standing outside in the cold was a boy around the same age as Kat and Maki, with several books tucked under his arm. "Hi Zack." She chirped excitedly. "How’s it going? Now that the studying’s done I mean."
"At the moment? Cold." He said sarcastically. "Mind if I come inside?"
"No need to be so forward." Kat teased as Zach passed her by. "This is a girl’s house just you know, so don’t be using that as an excuse to spend the night here." He blushed slightly, but the red of his cold face hid it rather well. Despite this, Kat still laughed as he hung a thick coat on a wall hook, followed by his scarf.
Hearing Kat made Maki curious, and she soon stuck her head around the corner to investigate. "Oh, hey Zack." She emerged; brushing her blanket off her shoulders, and gave him a big hug around his neck. "Your grandpa finally let you out of school did he?"
"Yeah." He answered shortly. "Gramps is real pissed at you though Kat." He looked back at her, while she only smiled innocently back at him. Maki stifled a laugh as she led him back to where they were eating, with Kat following behind. "Seriously, they’re getting irritated with you now. Maybe it would be better for you if you just did as my Gramps said."
"Oh what’s he going to do, kick me out of the village? I told them that I’d leave if they told me to kill someone again." Kat said as Maki wrapped herself in her blanket again. "Besides, the only reason I haven’t taken off already is you two." Both her friends looked confused, so Kat explained after swallowing her food. "You’re like, the only friends I’ve got around here. Everyone else is ether an instructor or is too stuck up to make friends."
"Aw, Kat." Maki cooed, taking her roommate under her blanketed arms.
They both laughed as Zack took a plate for himself. After a few bites he looked back across the table at Kat and Maki. "Still, if you keep this up, I don’t know what he’ll do." He said seriously. "You may not like killing people, but he’s got a very different sentiment about it."
"Oh relax." Kat tossed a pillow at him, trying to lighten the mood. "If it comes to that, I’ll just take a hike and hook up with one of the mage guilds out there. How hard could it be?"
"Wouldn’t it be easier still to just follow orders?" Zack said unconvinced, resting the pillow over his lap. "It gets… Easier, once you do it a couple times." Despite his words, something about the way he said it seemed, off-putting. "And you’ll be able to stay here with the rest of us."
"No means no Zack." Kat said quickly, though she never lost her grin as she spoke.
Zack sighed, while Maki patted him on the shoulder. "Don’t take it personally. This is literally the exact same conversation we were having a second before you showed up." All three of them chuckled a little, before Kat glanced out the window at the growing snowstorm outside.
"Besides..." Kat started, before swallowing her last mouthful of food and washing it down with a drink. "They finally caved on this killing thing." Both Maki and Zack looked at her quizzically. "I said I won’t be killing people for money. The old fart finally gave in and said he’d stop giving them out."
Zack seemed caught off guard. "What? He told me-."
"Alright, alright. No more elder stuff." Maki interrupted. The others watched as she finished her food and leaned back against the wall next to the heater. "Man, you two can really take the fun out of an evening. Especially when you fight like an old married couple."
Both Kat and Zack looked at the floor, blushing slightly. "Sorry Maki." They said in unison.
She chuckled a bit at her two friends, though this only seemed to worsen their embarrassment, before remembering something. "Oh yeah, check out what I learned today." As she spoke, she closed her hand around a glass of juice she had been sipping on, and frost began building on the outside. Before long the liquid inside iced over, then completely froze solid in under a second.
"Oh, that’s awesome!" Kat cried. She took the glass from her friend’s hand and turned it over, playing with the frozen juice puck that fell onto the table. "Didn’t you just start last month?" Though another question quickly came to mind. "Wait, if you can do this, why are you always so cold now? I thought ice mages where supposed to be good in the cold."
Maki’s face grew red and she drew her blanket over her head. "I-it’s not like it’s an instant thing." She said defensively. "I can only freeze things now because it’s already below zero around here. Teacher said I’ll be powerless right now if I went down the mountain."
"Sounds to me like you just got to train for it." Kat said, picking up the juice puck and eating it like a Popsicle. "How about this, sometime this week I’ll lock you outside in just your underwear." Zack chocked on what he was eating. "If that doesn’t get you use to the cold, nothing will." Zack pounded his chest, trying to dislodge whatever he had swallowed from his windpipe, while Maki stared at Kat in disbelief. "Aw come on, trial by fire right?" They were both too shocked for words. "Or, ice, I guess."
"If you do that, I’m never speaking to you again." It sounded half like a threat, just in case Kat was serious.
"Oh, don’t be like that. You’d be fine." Kat said with a big goofy grin. "I bet you’re more worried about Zack dropping by and seeing you in your undies." Maki blushed at the thought, though used her blanket to hide it from the others. "What do ya’ say Zack? Should I give you a call next time Maki’s out for training?"
Zack looked between the two girls before him, one with a look of hopeful mischief, the other a look of scorn and embarrassment. Weighing his options he simply shrugged. "I’m not saying a word."
"You’re no fun." Kat huffed.
Maki’s face was still flush with the thought of having a boy see her naked, and quickly sought to change the subject. "What about you Kat? Didn’t the elders start teaching you Take Over Magic?" She asked, still hiding her face in her blanket.
"Well, yeah. But I’m not very good at it. I end up blacking out every time I transform." Kat admitted, entirely forgetting about the previous topic. "Everyone says it’ll let me shoot fire when I master it. But I go berserk when I try, so I don’t see what good it does." Maki was about to say something to get back at her, but Kat continued before she got the chance. "Besides, I’ve already got Shadow Magic, and I like it a lot better." She said with pride. "What’s the use in turning into a monster if I can just fade into a wall and run away?"
Zack finished eating and cleared his throat. "Well, when my grandpa signed you up for combat training, I think he was hoping for someone more..." He thought for a moment, apparently having trouble thinking of the correct word. "Obedient."
"Well, sucks for gramps then." Kat quipped. "I’m who I am." Kat jumped between her two friends and took them both under her arms. "And who I am is done with this conversation."
They both tried to pull away, but Kat held them close with her usual grin on her face. The three of them carried on talking about training and jobs and such far into the night, until Zack’s pocket watch sounded and he left for home. Not long after that, Maki headed to bed as well, followed by Kat after clearing up the dishes. As she lay in bed, Kat thought about what the elders had said that day, wondering if just leaving was the easiest choice after all. These thoughts didn’t stay with her long however, as she soon fell asleep, dreaming of a life without a care in the world.
Just Another Job
Kat’s next job had been given to her the next day, and she departed that afternoon. A simple burglary job; break into a house in the capital, steal an item someone else wanted, take it back to Seedwell and collect the reward. It couldn’t get any easier than that, except for one problem. The place Kat was supposed to be breaking into was hoisting a huge evening party, and that meant security would be at its highest. "Damn old farts." Kat thought aloud, watching the manor from the cover of a nearby tree. "No way they didn’t know about this." Observing the entrance, several carriages made their way through the lavish front gates and delivered their fare to the door.
One of the carriages pulled aside after their fair had been delivered, turning into a side yard with several others. "Private drivers I guess." Kat thought to herself, watching as the drivers conversed amongst themselves next to an open door. At the same time, a small group of housekeepers and cooks emerged for some fresh air. "Jackpot." She said with a grin, pulling a neck warmer up over her face.
Within a second, Kat used her magic to fade into her shadow and raced down the tree, jumping from hiding place to hiding place until she reached the shadow of a carriage in the midst of entering the property. Moving with the vehicle, Kat waited until its occupants had departed and the carriage pulled into the side yard, before jumping into the shadow of the driver as he exited the vehicle himself. Kat was about to shot towards the door in her shadow form, when the outside light above the door suddenly switched on, illuminating most of the yard. "Dammit. What do I do now?" Kat thought to herself. Any attempt to run for the door would get her seen, and it was only a matter of time until someone closed the door, cutting off her only way inside.
Just as she considered risking getting seen, one of the cooks approached the driver and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, mind if I bum a smoke of ya’?"
That was all she needed, for on the moment that their shadows connected, she changed from hiding under the driver to the cook, who shivered slightly as she did so. The carriage driver noticed this while he handed over a cigarette. "You ok?"
"Yeah, it’s nothing." The cook assured, while Kat stifled a laugh in her new hiding place. "Guess winter’s coming early this year." The Driver chuckled a little, while the cook enjoyed a long puff on his cigarette.
Kat waited for everyone to finish their break, and then moved with their shadows back inside the manor. Slipping away unnoticed, she moved to the second floor, off limits to guests, and emerged from her shadow in a small bedroom. "Alright, now let’s track down the thingy." She said aloud, retrieving a small note from her cleavage. The only thing on the paper was a drawing of what looked like a necklace, though it was far too showy for Kat’s taste. Looking around quickly, she determined that wasn’t going to be in this small bedroom, and moved on to the next one.
Dodging around the occasional security guard, or couples looking for somewhere more private, Kat searched every room she came across to no avail. Growing somewhat annoyed, Kat came to a large pair of double doors located at the end of a hallway. "Alright, if it isn’t in here, I quit." She complained, fading into her shadow and slipping under the door.
Inside was a much more lavish bedroom, much larger than any of the previous ones Kat had searched, which made her hopeful. Everything looked quite expensive, though nothing matched the necklace she was looking for. Just as she was about to give up looking she heard the door creek open again, and instinctively jumped behind a massive dresser. She heard someone enter the room, and she faded back into a shadow on the wall to stay out of sight. Kat listened for a sign that whoever was had left, but after a minuet it became apparent they had no such plans.
Tired of waiting, she peeked above the dresser just in time to see a young woman wearing a fancy dress and several articles of jewelry including the necklace Kat was looking for, though it wasn’t quite what she had expected. It looked exactly like it did in the picture, only much larger, more of a belt than a necklace. With a long sigh, the woman removed the belt from her dress and placed it on the bed. "Ugh, these things are such a pain to organise." She complained to herself in a mirror. "Why can’t we just agree on a contract and be done with it?"
"Rich people and their problems." Kat thought with a small amount of distain. "Try living without for a change." Despite her bitterness, Kat’s objective was laying just a few meters away, close enough that she figured she could steal it and hide again without being seen. Taking a gamble, she extended her shadow outwards and semi-emerged from the ground to take her treasure.
"Excuse me Milady." Kat snapped back, fearing she had been discovered. "The guests are asking for you now." It took a second for Kat to realise it was a security guard was talking to the owner of the house, not calling after an intruder, though she was still frustrated that she hadn’t gotten hold of the belt yet.
"Yes yes, I’ll be there in a second." She waved him off, returning the mirror. Just as the guard was about to leave, someone struck him from behind and leaped over him as he fell. The woman hoisting the party turned to see what had happened just in time for a dagger to bounce of one of her bracelets, accidentally saving her life. She cried out as she fell back against the dresser while her assailant jumped high into the air, caught his knife, and came down on her again.
Kat was stunned by the scene unfolding before her, while the woman ran towards her hiding spot as her assailant crashed down on the dresser, shattering the mirror to pieces. The assailant turned towards his target again and launched themselves at her. Regaining her senses, Kat immerged just in time to catch the assailant by the forearms; stopping then in their tracks. The woman sunk to her knees as Kat pushed back against their attacker. "Go get help." She sat frozen for a moment until Kat head-butted the assailant, causing them to back away and Kat's neck warmer to fall from her face. "Go on, run!"
She finally obeyed, stepping over the fallen guard at the door. Free of any burden to protect another, Kat took the time to study her opponent. Their face was hidden under a large scarf, though there was still something oddly familiar about this person. "Who are you?"
Her opponent took a moment to recover, and then looked back at Kat without her neck warmer hiding her face. they stopped instantly, and broke his fighting stance. "Aw Kat. You really did it this time." It was a man’s voice to be sure, and Kat was just about to question him further when he sheathed his knife and removed his hood, revealing his face.
Kat’s arms dropped; she was more confused now than ever. "Zack? What the hell?" She shook her head to reorganise her thoughts. "What are you doing here?"
"Me? What are you doing here? I thought you weren’t taking assassination jobs anymore?" The sounds of a commotion outside the door quickly attracted their attention, and the pair of them silently agreed to meet up later. Waves of security guards washed through the door moments later, finding only an empty room and an open window there to greet them.
Outside the manor’s outer wall, Kat sat on a tree branch, watching Rune Knights from the Magic Council flood the place in search of her and Zack. A twig on the ground below her snapped, and Kat looked down to see Zack staring back up at her. She grinned slightly. "You know, breaking a mirror is supposed to be bad luck."
"Dammit Kat, the Elders will chew you out for this." He responded, rubbing his forehead.
"Not if I chew them out first." Kat hopped from the branch she was resting on, took Zack by the collar, and began marching for home. "Come on, I need to talk with your Gramps." As the pair of them disappeared into the night, the host of the party emerged from the manor, looking in every direction for the woman who had saved her life.
After returning to the frigid cold of their home, Kat stormed into the Elders cabin. Just as she expected, the Elders had already assembled, though Kat didn’t care, she was too pissed off to care. "Demall, you said there wouldn’t be any more killing." The chef sighed, laying a mission report on the desk in front of him. "You said-"
"I said I would no longer be sending you on assassination missions, not that we would stop them entirely." Demall interrupted. "Assuming otherwise was your naïve mistake, not a trick on my part." Kat huffed, her patience finally at an end with these people. "But please, tell me about how you managed to blow a job trusted to my grandson, while simultaneously failing to complete your own, much easier mission."
"Don’t twist this around on me!" Kat snapped. "If you didn’t want us running into each other, why the hell did you send us down there at the exact same time, only to go after the exact same person?"
"We had a contract for that girl’s life, and another for the artifact." Demall seemed to be growing more irritated as the conversation went on. "Doing one would have attracted the authorities, making the other near impossible to complete."
"And this is your alternative? Are you senile or something?" Several of the elders began to jeer at her, issuing all sorts of threats of punishment, but Kat tuned them out, only listing to Demall. "Why not give them both to just one of us?" Demall only narrowed his eyes, saying nothing through the shroud of threats the others where issuing. "Well? Say something!"
"You’ve already expressed that you have no intention to follow orders. And, as you no doubt have seen, Zack does not have the skills to do both jobs on his own." Kat was about to snap back with something else, but Demall stood up to silence all in the room. "Until further notice, you are to remain within your home. Time enough for us to clear up this mess with our clients and..." He paused for a moment, thinking of the correct wording. "Figure out what to do with you."
"Yeah whatever." Kat had finally grown tired of arguing, departing without another word. She trudged through the snow on her way home, to upset with everything to think of much else. Upon reaching the door, she entered her house, dropped her cloak on the ground, and flopped down on the couch of the living room. Every word the elders had said ran through her mind, making any attempt to calm down futile.
"Screw it, I’m done." Kat said out loud. She rolled up off her couch and headed into the back room, producing a large duffle bag from underneath the bed. She didn’t have much to her name, only sentimental items and a few changes of cloths, but before long she was standing outside her door again, this time for the final time. She thought about waiting around to tell Maki, but Kat didn’t think she’d be able to say no if her roommate asked her to stay. Duffle bag in hand, Kat began the long walk to the edge of the village, and the path down the mountain that led to her new life.
The intense snowstorms that blew through the village all week seemed to be at their worst, though this did little to deter Kat, who grew ill simply at the thought of staying around much longer. Reaching the staircase that led to the path down the mountain, Kat thought back to her friends once again. Was Zack mad at her for messing up his job? Would Maki forgive her for leaving without saying goodbye? She tried her best not to think about it, focusing only on surviving the intense cold seemed to grow worse with each step.
With all the focus she was putting on her friends, Kat failed to notice that she was being followed. Almost two thirds of the way down the mountain, Kat emerged from a cave onto a rocky outcropping that jut straight out of the mountainside. Something felt strange though, and at a gap in the blowing snow, she found herself staring at what must have been over half of Seedwell’s military. "What do you want now?" She knew exactly what they were doing there, but wanted to hear them say it.
Most only stood still, while a single cloaked figure stepped forwards. Throwing back his hood, he revealed himself to be the elder Demall. "You see Ms. Myre; we’ve grown tired of your poor attitude. Life is harsh up on the mountain, and those who don’t pull their own weight are not welcome."
"And by 'we', you just mean you old farts, don’t you?" Kat challenged. "Well you’re in luck then, because I’m done with the lot of you. I’ll live somewhere where I won’t have to kill anyone." Choosing to ignore them, Kat attempted to continue on her path down the mountain; however an explosion of the rock at her feet stopped her again.
"I’m afraid I can’t allow you to do that ether." The air around Demall’s outstretched hand formed into a ball, which displayed for all to see. "You have pertinent information regarding the attempted assassination of an heir to a wealthy trading company. Not to mention information on around 2 dozen other missions you have taken part in."
Kat had expected as much, but still found the news difficult to swallow. She grinned nervously, and began fading into her shadow on the rock face. "Good luck finding me."
Thinking she was safe, Kat began to slide along the wall in her shadow form, hoping to avoid a confrontation. Suddenly, Demall’s arm shot out, and the ball of air he had created rocketed towards her like a cannonball. "Please girl. I’ve lived much longer than you, and we were the ones who trained you." Kat rolled through the snow amongst the shattered rock of the mountains’ wall, clutching her stomach and gasping for air. "I know the workings of your Shadow Magic inside and out."
Coming to a stop, Kat slowly pushed herself off the ground with her clenched fist, half smiling at the elder despite the pain she was in. "So, what is this then, another stupid lesson? You going to force me to fight back or something? Hoping I kill somebody in the process?"
"Nothing so underhanded." Another orb of whirling air formed in Demall’s palm. "All we are here to do is eliminate a threat against the village. Nothing more, nothing less."
"I’m not a threat to you, you old fart!” She cried at him as he snapped his fingers. Instantly, a pair of masked figures lunged at her, each grabbing one of her wrists and shoulders to hold her in place. A pair of shadow limbs jumped from the ground and punched then both in the face however Demall shot another ball of air at Kat’s stomach as the two solders fell away, blasting her back against the rock face. She choked a few times while her cloak fell away, still trying to recover from the first attack when she took the second. "I’m not going to fight." She muttered between breathes.
"Fine, then you can die with your damn morals." Demall formed another air attack, this one twice as big as the last. Though before he got a chance to fire it, a thin icicle shot through the air, leaving a deep gash in the palm of his hand. Everyone was surprised as the elder clutched his hand, looking in every direction for the source of the attack. However, when Demall looked up at again, he found Maki standing between him and Kat, and Zack supporting Kat on his shoulder. She glared at him while he cried. "You damn orphans are defiant to the last!"
None was more surprised to see them both than Kat however, who gawked wide eyed at her friends. "What are you two doing here?"
Maki turned around and wrapped her blanket around Kat’s shoulders. "Zack heard about what happened with the elders, what they wanted to do. He came by to warn you but you’d already left." She turned back to Demall. "I’m sick of this place too."
Demall shook his injured hand, spraying blood across the snow. "Youths and their arrogance." He made a flicking motion with his good hand, and a small bullet of air shot through Zack’s chest. "Fine, the two of you can join her then."
Zack fell back against the rocks, pulling Kat behind him, and slowly slid to the ground. Gasping slightly, Kat tore off a part of Maki’s blanket and used it as a makeshift bandage to stop the bleeding. Furious, Maki charged at Demall, claws of ice growing off her knuckles. "Come child, let’s have a lesson in real combat." He mocked, building another ball of air in his palm.
Kat meanwhile was franticly trying to stop the bleeding from Zack’s chest. "Just hold alright? Don’t fall asleep." Nothing she was doing looked like it was helping, so she looked around at the solders surrounding them both. "Help me!" She pleaded. "You know us, right?" Their masks and hoods made it impossible to make eye contact, but she didn’t care, she was sure these where the people she had trained with. "Come on, please." None of them moved, only watched as Kat’s friend bled across the ice.
Disgusted with every one of them, Kat turned back to her friend, who began coughing up blood. "Common Zack, don’t leave." She felt her eyes begin to water, knowing that this was all her fault. She sat him up against the side of the mountain, trying anything she could think of to keep him alive. "Don’t Die Zack." Just as she was about to plead for help again, she felt something on the back of her head, and instantly went numb. The world suddenly got quiet as she slumped across Zack’s lap, watching helplessly as the others closed in around them.
A pair of them lifted her up by the wrists, and a third approached with a long knife in hand. Though all she could see was her friend bleeding to death. "No, don’t die." The solder stepped over Zack, and she saw Maki tumble to the ground behind him, small wounds littered all over her body. "Don’t die for me guys." Her eyes followed Maki as she ran back at Demall until one of the solders tilter her head up, exposing her neck. The next thing she heard was Maki scream, and Kat’s vision went black.
Demall lifted Maki up by the scruff of her shirt, while she went limp from exhaustion. "You brat’s should have just obeyed orders." He raised his other hand and created another ball of air, about to finish her off, when a bright flash caught his attention. Both he and Maki looked towards the light, finding a magic circle had formed under her Kat's feet. Kat herself appeared to be in a daze, and the three solders around her all backed away. Levitating above the ground, Kat’s long black hair turned a deep red and her ears grew long and pointed. Her arms became covered in a red, shell like armor, and long claws grew from her fingertips. Her cloths warped into a red dress like garment that left much of her midriff exposed, despite the still freezing temperatures. Her transformation complete, she sank to the ground, with her arms hanging loosely beside her. Dropping Maki, Demall looked on with disinterest. "What are you waiting for? Finish the job."
The solders hesitated for a moment, but the two at her side moved in to hold Kat down once again. Just as they got within arm’s reach, Kat’s clawed arms shot up at them, a whirling blue fireball in each hand. In a violent explosion that could be heard for miles, one soldier was shot cleat off the cliff, while the other splattered over the mountainside. The third solder with the knife covered his face and didn’t see Kat again until her claws dug deep into his shoulders. A pair of burning yellow eyes where the last thing he saw before Kat’s blue flames incinerated him. As his remains fell to the ground, Kat loosed an animalistic roar that echoed back against the mountain.
Despite this, Demall was still unimpressed. "Such wasted potential." He motioned for more solders to move in. "Put her out of her misery." Only a few obeyed him, but Demall returned his attention back to Maki, who was kneeling next to him. He lifted her up by her blue hair, making her scream in pain, and shot her in the stomach with a magic cannonball of air. She flew backwards and slammed into the mountain next to Kat, or whatever it was that she had become.
Kat seemed to shutter for a moment, before a pair of tattered wings erupted from her back. With a single flap, she tore through the net of enemies and rocket at Demall. He was surprised by her sudden burst of speed, and soon found one of Kat’s clawed hands stabbing through his stomach. He took hold of her wrist, more a reaction than an act of defiance, while a fireball whirled in her other hand. Pushing it into his chest, the fireball detonated with twice the force of her last, sending the elder soaring through the air before plummeting off the cliff.
After the echo from the explosion subsided, the only noise anyone could hear was the sound of the wind whistling over the mountain. Everyone remained still, unsure if Kat had grown tame after killing the elder, or if she had just failed to find a new target.
Kat’s arm shot towards them without warning, and blue flames consumed another of the solders in seconds. Everyone instantly panicked, too afraid to face the wrath of their now berserk quarry. As some fought while other’s fled, Zack looked up to see blue flames erupting in every direction and the now monstrous woman he called a friend standing in the center of a platoon of solders. "Kat, what-." With another primal scream, she flapped her wings and flew at the solders again.
Kat slowly upend her eyes, instantly becoming aware of the frigid wind blowing over her skin. She curled into a ball to try and warm herself, though this did little to help. She tried looking around and spotted the outline of a person leaning on a rock a few meters away, despite her vision being blurred. Seeing blue hair waving in the wind, Kat recognized her to be her roommate. "Maki? What’s going on?" She didn’t respond, or if she did, the howling wind made it impossible to hear. "Maki?" Kat tried to get to her feet, but became aware of a splitting pain in her skull the moment she was upright.
Holding her forehead with one hand, Kat reached out to her friend with the other, only to fall over next to her from exhaustion. Fighting the urge to fall asleep, Kat reached out again only to see Maki fall over, pale skin nearly blending in with the snow. "Oh my god, Maki!" Shooting upwards; Kat cradled her friend in her arms and tried to shake her awake. "No, no you can’t be dead. Come on, get up." Maki didn’t respond, and Kat began to panic. "Zack, Maki’s been-!"
She suddenly remembered everything that happened, and spun around to look for her other friend. She found him exactly where she had left him, though his skin was the same color as Maki’s, and he had a small amount of snow sitting on his head and shoulders. Kat looked stunned, looking between her two friends in disbelief. "Common guys, this isn’t funny." She looked out towards the cliff just as the snow cleared, and was horrified by the scene.
Laid out in all directions where the scattered corpses of the Seedwell military. All the people Kat had trained with where dead, scattered about the rocky outcropping. Though the thing that horrified her most of all where the various scorch marks and deep gashes on the rocks. She recognised it all, It was the same scene she’d witnessed whenever she attempted her Take-Over magic. "This was me." She muttered under her breath. "Oh god, I did this. I killed all of them!" She dropped Maki’s body and shuffled backwards in the snow, only now realising how cold she was.
She retreated until she backed into the mountainside, uncontrollable tears running down her face. "I’m sorry guys. I’m so sorry." She began to shiver slightly, but didn’t go looking for something to keep herself warm. Instead, she resigned herself to her fate, falling unconscious moments later.
The next time Kat opened her eyes, she was warm, too warm. Warm enough that she was sweating. She sat upwards, pushing a heavy blanket off her chest, and found herself in a small room with wooden walls. This puzzled her, as last she remembered she was slowly freezing to death on Mt. Hailmont. Now she was inside what she assumed to be someone’s house. She sneezed suddenly, and realised that she must have come down with something while on the mountain.
Thinking back on the mountain also made Kat remember everything that had happened to her had her friends. She slid back under the covers again when the door opened and a woman with red eyes and long white hair walked in. "Oh good, you were alive after all." She grinned and sat down on a stool near the far end of the bed, turning to look at Kat. "So...You have a name?"
Her first instinct was to be wary, but the more she thought about it, the less she really cared what happened to her now. "Kat." She answered without getting up. "Kat Myre."
"Well Kat, my name’s Jaina Donwheel." She waited a moment for a response, but Kat remained hidden under the covers. "I’m the guild master of Blazing Soul." Kat stirred slightly when she heard this, but remained hidden under the blankets. "So...Mind telling me what you were doing up on that mountain without a jacket?"
"Dying." Kat said simply, taking Jaina by surprise.
Jaina took a moment to think back. "Well, Me and a couple others buried what we could find. A girl with blue hair and a guy who’d been shot, everything else was too scattered to collect." She looked back to find Kat still under the covers. "What exactly happened up there?"
"I killed everyone." Jaina did a double take, hearing Kat quietly sobbing. "The elder from my village tried to kill me, so I ran." Jaina listened intently, resting her elbows on her knees and interlocking her fingers. "I tried to use Take-Over magic when my friends arrived, and I lost control. Then I killed all of them. Those two you buried where my best friends, and I killed them."
Though a little shocked by the story, Jaina took a moment to think. "I’m not so sure." Kat stopped sobbing and looked up at her. "I took a look at your friends, before we buried ‘em. The one guy bled out, and the girl next to you died of exposer to the cold." Kat’s mouth hung open slightly as Jaina continued to explain. "Passing out in negative thirty degree winds, poor girl didn’t stand much of a chance in that condition."
Hearing this, a question came to Kat’s mind. "Then how come I survived?"
"Well from what I saw, you can use fire magic, some real powerful fire magic at that. Probably kept your body temperature from dropping too low when you were out of it." Jaina rubbed her chin. "Least, that’s what I think."
"Well, whatever." Kat huffed. "My friends are dead because of me, and I don’t have a home anymore." She took the large blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders and over her head. "You should have just let me freeze up there."
"Naw, you don’t get to play the quitter’s card on me." Jaina teased. Kat rolled away from Jaina, not wanting to hear any more, but she simply laughed. "I’m your doctor now, so suck it up and put your life back together." Kat didn’t respond, and Jaina turned around to begin work at a desk at the far end of the room. Kat nodded off not long after, but Jaina remained with her, continuing to work on whatever it was she was working on.
Kat woke up to the smell of food, and sat straight up to see a meal siting on the night table next to the bed. She greedily began scarfing the food down, realising that she was starving, but stopped when she heard the sound of papers ruffling at the end of the bed. She looked back to see Jaina siting on the same stool, this time with a newspaper in hand. "Authorities are looking for a slightly tanned woman with ling black hair and dark colored eyes.-" It seemed like she was only reading aloud, not actually talking to her guest. "-In connection to the foiled assassination of the heiress to the wealthiest trading company in Bantia. Funny, sounds like she’s describing you."
Still defiant, Kat swallowed the food in her mouth. "So? You’re going to turn me in then?"
Jaina ignored her and continued reading. "Anyone knowing the whereabouts of said woman is encouraged to come forward. There will be a reward for anyone with information." She flipped the paper closed and tossed it on the bed next to Kat. "Sounds to me like someone wants to meet you again."
Still eating, Kat slumped down in the covers. "What’s your point?"
She shrugged. "Well, it’s something to do tomorrow." Jumping to her feet, Jaina took Kat’s empty plate and tossed it onto the desk she had been working on. "Besides, you look like you need to get your mind off your survivors’ guilt."
"It’s not survivors’ guilt, I got my friends killed!" Kat cried at her.
"Yeah, you keep saying that." Jaina said somewhat shortly. "From what I can figure, they died while you were trying to protect them, not because you lost control of your magic. You keep blaming yourself for everything that happens, you’ll develop wrinkles by the time your my age." Kat couldn’t tell if she was trying to make a joke or not. "Which, before you say anything, isn’t that old." She quickly added.
"You weren’t there." Kat argued. "They heard about what was going to happen, and they came after me to help. Zack got hurt, and Maki fought against the elder. Then I don’t remember what happened, but what does it matter? They both died because of it."
Jaina leaned against the wall and crossed her arms, apparently growing annoyed with Kat’s stubbornness. "You didn’t ask them to follow you, did you?" Kat shook her head. "So you had no idea your friends, Zack and Maki, where going to get involved?" Kat nodded. "They followed you of their own accord then?" She nodded again. "Then it ain’t your fault that they died honey." Kat was taken aback, not only by her logic, but it had been a while since anyone referred to her as 'huney'. "Sure, what’s happened is a tragedy. But they assumed the risk the second they chose to come after you." Kat was still too stunned to speak as Jaina picked up the newspaper again. "Dying is a part of life; we may not like it, bit that’s how it is." She tossed the newspaper on Kat’s lap, with the article about the attempted assassination staring her in the face. "Moving on isn’t easy, but that there is a pretty good start."
Kat was speechless. She understood what Jaina was saying easy enough, but even if she wasn’t responsible, her friends where still dead. Picking up the paper, Kat found a small picture of the heiress near the bottom of the page. "So, what? I’m just supposed to walk in and to introduce myself?" Thinking back on it actually made her smile. "I was there to rob her you know."
"Yep. That’s all you got to do." Jaina smiled; glad to see she was feeling better, even if it was only by a little bit. "If you want, I can go with you and say you’re a member of my guild. If you think it’ll help I mean."
"I-." Kat statured a little, awestruck that someone would go that far for a complete stranger. "I’d appreciate it. Thank you Jaina."
"Well then, get off your butt we’ll get moving." Jaina jumped to her feet, crossed the room, opened the door, and waved for Kat to follow. "Because it’s a long ass trip to Lowindell, and I don’t like being board."
Kat got up to follow, but stopped just as she reached the next room. "Wait, I-." She called after Jaina, who was already half way through the front door by then. "I want to visit my friends’ graves first." Jaina grinned over her shoulder. "Just to say goodbye."
Jaina nodded and directed her to a small clearing behind her hut, where Kat saw pair of makeshift crosses stuck up from two patches of recently disturbed dirt. Kat was hesitant for a moment, before she was pushed towards them. She looked back to see Jaina leaving, giving her some privacy. Standing before her friends’ graves, Kat found herself reminiscing about the times they had shared together. Though she had lost so much over the last few days, Kat found herself feeling glad that someone had saved her. "Wish me luck guys." She thought to herself, turning on her heel and running after Jaina a moment later.