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Cold. everything, everywhere, every inch of me was cold. Ice in my blood. Sweat trickled slowly down my back as I stared in confusion. No, it couldn't be true. I must have misunderstood, she must have misspoken.
“Wha… no… what did you really mean?”
“You heard me, Crysta.”
“No, no I didn't!”
“Then I’ll say it again. I. Don’t. Need. You. Anymore. You’re in my way.”
“What- but- please, Vixen! What do you mean?”
“I'm going to kill you now.”
“What? You don't mean- I thought you- what?”
“I meant what I said. You’re between me and what I want.” Vixen pulled out her sword, slowly, unconcerned.
“What is that? Who are you?” my mind raced. I didn't understand. What had I done?
“Your enemy. I always was. Remember that quest we’re supposed to be on? You know, the one to prevent the flame-dwellers getting the eternal ember?”
My legs felt weak. “Yes…”
“See, I forgot to mention… I am one. And I can't let you do that. So… goodbye.” she was a- no! My training kicked in. I saw her sword plunge toward my heart, slow motion. I dodged and drew my sword.
“Why now? Why not go with me to move it?” I raised my sword to block a blow.
“I’d tell you, but I'm busy. When you're dead.”
“Well, since you're certain I’ll be dead soon, are there any plans I should know about since I'll never be able to stop it?”
“Nice try-” she grunted, trying to cut my leg so I would fall. “-no spy has info. Now, surrender and I’ll give you a clean death.” I didn't respond. I shoved forward my sword. We danced for a minute, trying to gain the upper hand while trying to defend ourselves.
Finally, I stabbed her in the gut. I turned from her face, I couldn't bear to see the pain on it.
“You are a traitor.” I spat.
“No… I'm loyal to my own…”
I looked down at her, ignoring the pain on her face and the pain it caused in me. “I want you to know that I hate you.”
She smiled up at me, a fading glint in her eye. “You’re the traitor, Aithne. Sister.”
“What?!” sister? What did that mean? She ignored me. Her eyes closed tight, her teeth grit against the pain. And then a calm expression eased over her face, and her eyes opened, milkier. Sister meant I was a flame-dweller! There was absolutely no way! I was human, Vixen was just messing with me...
I looked down at the body. How had I not seen it? The tanned skin and frizzy red hair. It was characteristic of flames. I shook my head, as I did a strand of my auburn hair fell into my face. I brushed it away. My name was Crysta, not Aithne. Clearly. All my blood rushed out, I felt utter terror.
I heard a cry go up, a beautiful, passionate, yet haunting call. A phoenix. I heard others take up the cry. Flames knew, now. I didn't have time to question what I had just heard. I pulled out my sword and wiped it clean, then mounted my horse and rode as fast as I could towards the cave.
Night fell and she stopped, making camp. She stared at her pale hands for reassurance. Her hair was auburn, but it had faded to the point of being almost blonde. She had only noticed the reddish hue because of a trick of the light, because of what she had just heard. Yes, that was right.
She slept, though not without nightmares. She couldn't escape screams of vixen, and a taunting cry over and over. Sister. Sister. And by the end of the night she would never forget the name Aithne. She continued, riding full speed to reach the cave at the expense of her horse.
Finally, she got there. Inside, several guardians waited. She gave the password and an update. She left with them to go to the ice kingdom, but they left after a few days to the capital to be reassigned.
She arrived in the ice kingdom and brought the ember to their queen, bowing.
“I will have this guarded carefully, thank you, crys-” she stood. “Halt.”
“Who are you?”
“No, what are you?” fear rose in her.
“Human! I swear I don't know what vixen was talking about!”
“What do you mean?”
“She- she said I was a flame dweller.”
“She was half right.”
“What?!” I stopped listening. I dropped the ember and ran outside to my horse. But as I saddled it, an ice pegasi landed by me and nickered. I looked at it in confusion. She had a white mane and tail and a glacier blue pelt and wings, with silver eyes that sparkled. She nudged my hand which held the saddle.
“What?” she picked it up in her teeth, irritating me, and put it on her back. Why did she want me to saddle her? I did as I was bid and mounted. Was she going to take me somewhere? She waited. So I gingerly took the reins and started steering. She obeyed perfectly! What? Ice pegasi were notoriously free willed and untamable.
We sailed towards home. No, I couldn't go home. I felt dirty, evil. I didn't want to face them like that. So I turned and flew towards the mountains. We landed and I spent a year living there, gathering food and building a house. Then one of the ice queen's soldiers found us. When I saw him, I ran outside.
“I am so sorry about Cyrra, I mean, the pegasus. She just had me saddle her. I didn't mean to offend the queen!”
“That's not why I'm here.”
“Oh… right, of course.” he was here to kill me, a flame dweller. “I won't fight you.”
“I… I'm not here to kill you either. Why did you think that?”
“What? But.. she said I was a flame dweller.”
“I'm here to deliver a message.”
“What? Ok…” I took the scroll and read it. It was from the queen.
“Etherin, you are not human. Nor are you a flame dweller. You were, once. But flame dwellers who turn their backs on their kind become something else. You are a frost walker, you belong with us. Your hair was at one point red or auburn, but is now or soon will be platinum blonde, correct? And you are drawn to colder places. Cyrra, one of our pegasi, recognized that and chose to bond to you. Please do not turn your back on us. Our kind are few, and powerful. Queen Ivenne”
Our kind? The queen was the same thing as her? I was a… something? And how did the queen know Cyrra’s name? Had I just sensed it? I glanced at the snowy peak of the mountain. Yeah, I guess I sought out a cold place. My hair was fully blonde now. Frost walkers- we, were rare enough that the ice queen herself sent for me? I became aware of the waiting soldier. I nodded and mounted Cyrra.
I had a different name? Etherin? I flew… home. I loved it there. I was given nobility status, but instead, I became the protector of the realm, Rin. I apparently had powers over ice and snow, and creating cold. I worked with Cyrra, a creature called a Blizzard, and a Winter Wolf, guarding the ice kingdom and commanding my own group of soldiers. I am Rin, the guardian.