Trent, or Spicer to her childhood mentor, is a born fighter; she's worked the underground assassin's business for years. She has some special gifts to bring to this industry; however, all she ever wants is out. When she meets a kindred soul, she decides to go for it- and she enlists the help of Shade, her old friend, to get her there. She finds for than she ever bargained for on this adventure of danger and love.
I wandered around my dorm’s halls, listening to my iPod and bobbing my head. Whispers followed me, getting worse as I went. “There she is! That’s the girl that punched Gerard!”
“Oh my god, I thought she went to juvi!”
“No, the charges were dropped.”
“OMG, I heard she, like, stabbed some guy!”
“Shut up! Really?”
It got worse as I passed into the more expensive dorm room’s halls. Rumors flew left and right, between ditzy girls and dumb jocks. The girls wanted me gone; the guys just wanted to bed me. I’m pretty, but to others I’m gorgeous. I’m shaped like an hourglass, with big breasts and a skinny waist. I have long, strait, raven-black hair, with a near-opalescent sheen to it. I wore clothes that on any other girl would have looked slutty, but on me it looked sophisticated. As I passed, the guys elbowed each other and their girlfriends sneered.
Through all this I remained oblivious, just walking and listening. Finally I looked up and froze. There he was. Arvad; the prettiest boy here and the only one I was even mildly interested in being friends with. I turned away quickly and started to walk back down the hall when a tall male intercepted me. “Trenton Aloicius, out of your cave? You look like you need someone to walk you back to your rooms.” He said, and I stared strait into his eyes. “I’m fine.” I said carefully, stepping to the side, trying to get around him. He sidestepped so I couldn’t pass him. “Oh, come on, Trent-“ He started, but a soft male voice, like wind through the trees, interrupted. “Leave her alone, Jeff. She’s not interested.” I scuttled out of the area and into my own dorm before anything else could happen.
I knew I could not afford to do such a stupid thing again. Losing myself in the music! In the halls, no less! I must be itching to get into trouble. I thought, frowning to myself. I latched the deadbolt and the chain lock. Three puppies ran around my feet, sneaked in from the dumpster outside the dorm building. I had taken them to the vet; they were healthy, but not dogs; they were pure wolf. I had showed a forged permit to own them; I had suspected as much. They were very distinctly wild, not at all like domestic household pets. I picked one up, shushing him as he started to bark. “No one can know you’re here, Moonshade!” I said, and the shining-silver-colored pup whimpered quietly. Why? His young voice chirped in my head. “Well, I’m not supposed to have pets, you see.” He nodded. All right. He said, and I put him down.
There were rumors about me for a reason. I didn’t socialize with other students, I didn’t date, and I didn’t even go out of my rooms for anything but classes or food. But the rumors were much more mundane than the truth. I could talk to animals in my head and I shapeshift. I’ve kept it a secret as long as I’ve been alive, and I can’t jeopardize it just because I lapsed in attention for a brief moment. I haven’t told anyone about my…special abilities since I was five. Here I stand out, and yet I blend. I’m just the girl in the background, who everyone has heard of but doesn’t really care about. I noticed Arvad because he was the same way. His name means wanderer, and a wanderer he is. He never stays with a particular group of friends, and I have never seem him even speak to a female; or anyone else, for that matter. I was very surprised when he stood up for me; me, who everyone thinks is just some girl who they heard the name of once.
A quiet tap on the door sent the pups to howling. “Shush, shush!” I said urgently, and they cut off. I undid the deadbolt, and opened the door to the fullest extent of the chain. Arvad stood outside my door, slouching with his hands in his pockets. He straitened when I opened the door a bit, and I stared at him. “Is there something you wanted?” I asked politely, and he seemed to shake himself. “Um, yes. I was just making sure you were doing all right. Jeff’s an ass.” He said, and I grinned as he insulted the boy. “Yes, I’m fine. I’m used to idiots who think they’re smarter than everyone else.” I said, and he nodded. “Yep, that’d be Jeff in a nutshell.” I smiled in agreement. Just then Starshade, the female puppy, leapt out the door. “Star!” I said, horrified, as she started weaving around his legs like a cat. “Will you start purring next?” I demanded scathingly, and the little white pup growled at me. “Oh, don’t get touchy. Get inside before someone else sees you!” I commanded, and she slunk inside the door. You could hear Moonshade and their brother, Sunshade, lecturing her. “Hold on.” I told him, and shut the door. I shooed them all into the next room, and then undid the chain lock. “Sorry about that. Please don’t tell anyone I’ve got them.” I pleaded, and he smiled. “Hey, no problem. I like dogs.” He said, and I smiled gratefully. “Thanks.” Just then the rest of them charged through the door from the other room, yipping excitedly. Trent! Trent! Star bit me! Sunshade wailed into my head, and I was surprised when Arvad winced at exactly the right time, as if he’d heard him… “Not now, Sun. Besides, I bet you started it.” I hissed, and he put back his ears. “Well?” I demanded, and he drooped. Yeah.
“Do they get into scuffles often?” He asked casually, and I groaned without thinking. “Oh, you have no idea- Wait, how did you know that’s what had happened?” I asked suspiciously, and he grinned. “Can I come in?” He asked, and I stood aside, eyes narrow. He stepped in, and the puppies ran circles around him. Who’s he, Trent? Who’s he? They shrieked, and I scooped up Moon and Star. “Shush, now. You too, Sun. I can’t handle all of you at once. Brain overload, got it?” They all nodded sheepishly. Sorry Trent. They said, quietly. “That’s all right. Why don’t you guys go into the other room.” I said, and they obeyed droopily.
“Strict.” Arvad commented, and I shrugged. “They’ve go to learn sometime, and I can’t let anyone else take them.” I said, and he look confused. “Why not?” he asked, puzzled. “Because they’re not dogs. They’re wolves. A normal person couldn’t handle them.” I said without thinking, and then shut my mouth with a click. “Never mind. Care to explain how you are so knowledgeable about my pups?” I asked, arching an eyebrow. “Well… I’ve been able to hear animals since I was very young.” He admitted, and I looked at him in shock. “I’ve never met another.” I whispered, and he nodded. “Neither have I. That’s why I was so surprised when you responded to their minds that way.” He said, suddenly confused. “I always thought I was just…Freak chance. Just different.” He said, and I smiled sympathetically. “Yeah, well. Apparently not. At least you never got thrown in a nuthouse. I was there from ages three to five.” His eyes grew wide. “You told someone?” He said, shocked. “No. I answered the family pets.” I said, and he nodded. “I used to do that, but no one ever saw me. And after a while, once I got older, I began to realize no one else could hear the things I could. No one. Except now you can.” He said, sitting down on my couch. I sat on a chair across from him. “Can you do other things as well?” I asked, and he looked puzzled. “What do you mean?” He asked, and I smiled roguishly. “Watch.” I said, and then I started to change forms. At first it looks as if I’m fuzzy around the edges, and then I begin to glow, and then with a burst of light I change into whatever it is I am focused on. This time, it was a wolf.
I was raven-black, the same color and sheen as my hair, and sleek, intelligent. I stared into his eyes with my own bright, leaf-green ones, and thought, can you do this? Have you ever tried? He gasped. “I can hear you!” He yelped, and I gave a chuff of laughter. I thought you might be able too, seeing as I’m not human-shaped anymore. I thought at him, layers of laughter entering with the thought. “I’ve never tried to do this…I didn’t know it could be done!” he said, still awed. Try. I said, and he closed his eyes. He grew fuzzy, but he couldn’t seem to get farther than that. Close, but you need more practice. I changed the first time when I was extremely angry. After that it took much practice to get to where I could do it as quickly and easily as I just did. I explained, and he smiled. The pups came tumbling into the room. Trent! They yelped, not even breaking stride as the swarmed me. They were used to my changes of shape. They leapt on me, and I tried nudged them off before giving up. They squealed as I stood, and Moonshade and Starshade managed to stay on my back. My little golden yellow puppy, though, slid off with a yelp. I ran my tongue over his head a few times. He was the runt, but I protected him from much of his sibling’s roughhousing. They were too rough to play with him yet. He was not nearly as big as the others were, and they could and very likely would hurt him accidentally. He sat at my paws, and I smiled as I sat down. Moon and Star slid off with surprised yelps all around. Sunshade snickered, and I nudged him affectionately. Lovelies, go into the other room. STAY THERE. I need to talk to this male, and I need to do it without being mobbed. I thought at them playfully, and they bounded off, chirping happily. I changed back to my human self. Luckily, we change and retain our clothes, thank all that is holy.
“Sorry. They’re unusually rambunctious today.” I said, and he stared at me, not speaking. His look grew more and more intense, and I shifted under the pressure of his eyes. He snapped out of it as I fidgeted. “Sorry. I was thinking.” I nodded, waving a hand. “Fine. So…What’s up with this entire thing? What are the chances that two of the…Gifted, would go to the same small-town college?” I asked, and it was a pretty small town. I had moved down from Vegas; I didn’t tend to stay too long in one place. Surprise, surprise. He shrugged. “Don’t know. I moved down from NYC.” I drew my eyebrows up in surprise. “Huh. I moved from Las Vegas. Where casinos and clubs are the lay of the land.” I grinned, remembering my favorite little bar out in the boonies. Charlie made the best damn drink in town. “New York, huh? City of lights. Must be hard to sleep.” I commented, and he shrugged. “You get used to it. I suppose the same could be true about living near more casinos than I can count.” I nodded. “That’s why I moved. That, and I got tired of having to deal with the damn King.” I said, and he frowned. “Elvis?” He asked, and I gave him a look. “Ha ha, very funny. Surely New York had a King? Vegas’ is especially vicious. If you don’t give him his cut, you wind up dead in a ditch. I was tired of runnin’ me skills. The things I had to do over there… Killin’ is a talent I have, for obvious reasons. If you can turn inta a bear, there ain’t shit tha’ll pop you off.” I said, my voice changing and slurring into the slang we used in the Sword. “We were King’s pros, the Swords; his to command and we killed at his littlest inklin’.” I slowly reached under my chair, pulling out a long, curved, shining blade as long as my arm. It was hollow, so it was light, but hard. It was lined with diamond inside the steel. I tested the edge; it was a little dull, but Wolf was still in her prime. I cut myself on the edge. “Hey, baby. It’s been a while.” I whispered, stroking the hilt. “The killin’ blow was always delivered with a sword; why would be called the Swords, else?” I said absently, trying to break the spell I was under. Finally I dragged my eyes away from Wolf to look at the boy in front of me. “Are you afraid?” I asked, and he hesitated. “Confused.” He said at last, and I arched an eyebrow for him to ask questions.
“You killed? How many?” He said, and I smiled. That I could answer easily. “Yes, I killed. More than I could count.” I said, and he paused to absorb this before he continued; that’s all right. The further he got the sooner he’d run screaming from the room. “And this King…Does he have a name?” He said, obviously thinking this was another easy question. I paled, and then began to turn faintly blue. “I can’t…No, I can’t speak of his name. He always knows when people speak his name.” I said, eyes wide with fear. “All right, all right, that’s fine.” He said, paling at my reaction. “What does he do?” He asked, and I took some color back. “If he likes ye, you’re the most well protected person in the city. If he don’t…You’re not livin’ long. I was his favorite. His most loyal. He sent me off to the college of my choice; I chose here. I expect I’ll be receiving a letter any day now for someone who’s heading this way, someone who needs to be taken care of. But this is so off the beaten track…I had hoped that I might be able to avoid that, and escape his Highness. Most of the upper class don’t know of him…But he’s got his patty paws in everything, legal or otherwise, in the entire city. He owns us, everyone in the entire underground. Even the casinos gotta pay King’s Tax, or I-” I cut off, looking away. He looked morbidly curious. “What?” He said, and I continued in a whisper. “I would find them. I would take an ear for the first time they don’t pay. The second, and eye. The third… I take a head. Christ… he kept the ears in a box.” I recalled, eyes shadowed by my past. “Why?” He asked simply, and I knew he wasn’t referring to the box of ears. “It was that or let my brother be torn limb from limb by the Pack. They use their teeth instead of swords, and they don’t even hear animals. They had to feed the Pack someone; my brother was in the running. When I became the King’s favorite, I saved my brother. He was protected because he was mine. And then he had to go and die anyway.” Tears ran down my face freely now. “By the time he had died, I was in too deep to dig myself out again. I couldn’t just disappear like some had.” I wiped my face frustrated, and snarled wordlessly. “Tears! Useless. I knew what I was doing the whole time. ‘S my own fault.” I went to my little kitchen, him following almost soundlessly. I poured myself a shot with a shaking hand, and tossed it back. It steadied my nerves, and the shaking toned down a hair. I took a deep breath and put the bottle back in the cupboard and the shot glass in the sink. “I’m sorry. I haven’t had a trip down memory lane in…A very long time.” I said shakily, and he looked puzzled. “Sorry? For what?” He asked, and I gestured at myself. “Well, look at this; I’m shaking like a leaf.” I said, and a soft whine brought my eyes down. Sun was looking at me with those unwaveringly trusting eyes. I reached slowly, picking him up. “I’m all right, sweet.” I said, and put him back down. I tapped his bottom, indicating he should wander off.
I was surprised when I looked up again to find Arvad closer, closer than I would expect from someone who had heard my story. I made a small sound of surprise, and he licked his lips. “Trent…I don’t blame you for what you did.” He said softly; he had said the very words I had most wanted to hear. No one in Vegas ever said them; there, killing for King was an honor. “How? How can you not blame me?” I asked, so quiet I wasn’t sure if he could hear, but he did. “Like this, Trent.” He said, and he stroked a light finger across my cheek. Slowly but surely, he calmed me with gentle comfort. I slept in his arms.
In the morning, I showered and dressed in a black tank with dark gray short-shorts. Easy to move, easy to kill. They were also hella comfy. I moved to the door to pick up my mail; the mailman always slipped it under the door. I froze at the sight.
There was one, single, solitary note, written on thick paper with a red wax seal on it. I reached down and picked up the dreaded letter with shaking fingers. I opened it, and inside was simply a name, and one I wasn’t sure I could do.
I read the name three or four times before I got that I was assigned the only person I could truly relate to. Well, now. It seemed he wasn’t quite so ignorant of Us as I thought. I sat before my legs gave out on me, leaning against the door.
He entered the room just as I had curled up and put my face in my arms, which held my knees closer. “Trent?” He asked, alarmed, and I didn’t look up. “What did you do, Arvad?” I asked softly, finally looking into his eyes. “What?” He asked, confused and worried. I held the note out at him, and he took it. It didn’t clear his puzzled expression. “What is this?” He said, and I stumbled to my feet. “Arvad, you have to run. Just run and don’t stop, ever. Because I can guarantee I never will.” I said, my eyes turning into the solid ice they did before I started a kill I loathed. “I’m willing to give you a head start, but I can only wait so long before it starts to look suspicious. I don’t know what you did, but you pissed off somebody in the major leagues.” I babbled, and he grew more and more alarmed. “Trent, what are you talking about?!” He yelled, and I snatched the paper up. “This, Arvad! This! King wants your head on a platter, Arvad, so he got the best! He got me!” I shrieked, and he paled, but seemed to steel himself. “Trent, I’m not leaving you.” He said, and I paused. “What?” I said, struck dumb, and he drew himself up taller. “Kill me if you want, but I won’t leave you.” He said, louder, and I growled in annoyance. I snatched up my sword, flinging off the sheathe and whipping the blade up to kiss his throat. “I don’t have time for this! Get a move on, boy, before I change my mind!” He flinched, and a trickle of blood ran down his throat. “No.” He said, and I pulled back the sword for the strike. I tried to get my hand to move at him again, I swear I did. But it wouldn’t move. I dropped the sword, stumbling back a few steps. I started to sob, and whirled into the halls. I fled to the rooftops, running until I couldn’t anymore. And then I jumped.
I landed solidly on my feet, and took the shock through all of me. And Arvad was standing in the shadows, waiting. “How long have you been there?” I asked coldly, reaching for a sword that wasn’t there. I had had time to rethink my stupidity; it was him or me. Is it? A small voice chimed in my head, and I flinched inwardly. Outside I was cold and indifferent, uncaringly lethal. “Out of curiosity, what did you do to anger the Master?” I asked mildly as I circled, and he looked distinctly nervous. “I ran, but I was high up too. Not as high as you, but high enough that he noticed. Are you really as cold as they all say? Can you kill a man without batting an eyelash, and still have time to have a drink with his brother?” He asked, voice poison. That was good; the more he talked, the easier he made it. “Of course I am, and of course I can. Do you think that I became this”-I motioned to myself-“while keeping a heart?” I said scathingly, and his eyes flashed. “As a matter of fact, I do think that. I think this is all a clever façade that you made up so that no one will ever realize you’re not the stone-cold killer you want to think you are.” I laughed mirthlessly. “You have wonderful ideas, boy. Too bad they’re not true.” Completely. “Don’t lie; I saw how hard you took the hits. No one else ever did; they spoke of you with awe, and you were always everyone’s favorite Sword.” He said, and I rolled my eyes. “Believe what you like.” I said, although I was starting to weaken. I could feel it within me, and I loathed it. He was making this so damn hard! “You don’t want to kill me, Trent.” He said, and I shrugged. “What I want doesn’t factor into the equation. It’s what he wants. It’s always what he wants.” I said tonelessly, expression robotic. I was a tool, not a person. “Think about what you are doing!” He said, not quite shouting. “Why?” I shot back, my face twisting into a snarl. “Thinking doesn’t make this any easier; as a matter of fact, I try not to think. Thinking leads to trouble. Trouble leads to death. You know that. I kill you I go on with my hellhole of a life, trying to convince myself that I might be happy. I don’t kill you, I spend the rest of my life running with no hope of ever being happy or convincing myself I might be.” I said, and I felt tears run down my cheeks. I swiped at them impatiently, and quit the useless act of weeping. I suddenly leapt at him, and as he dodged I grabbed the roof behind him and flipped myself up. “I’d go away, Arvad. Far away from here, and from me. I don’t have my sword.” I said, as he began to ask why I was leaving him alive. He just gave me a knowing look as I turned away and went back to my puppies.
“Hello, my dears.” I said as they leapt about my feet. Where is Arvad? Starshade asked, and I shushed her. “He should be far away, if he has any sense at all.” I said, picking her up and scratching her ears. “Fortunately for you, I don’t.” He said, and I groaned, pushing my face into Star’s fur. I put her down slowly, and didn’t look around at him. “You don’t give up, do you?” I growled, walking gingerly to the next room, my bedroom. I picked up my sword casually and whirled it around, still not looking at him. “No, I don’t. Not when I think there is hope.” He said, although he sounded hesitant. “But there isn’t any with me, so see you should.” I said, and he said nothing. “Why haven’t you killed me yet?” He asked, and he seemed genuinely curious. “I don’t know.” I said, and I cleared my mind before I thought anymore about that. He apparently had other ideas. “Will you not look at me?” He asked with sorrow, and I chuckled. “Why? So I can heave more guilt onto my shoulders when I do what I have to?” I said, and he sighed. “You don’t have to, Trent. You don’t. Come away from this place with me, somewhere no one will find us.” He pleaded, and I paused in my whirling. “Where would we go?” I asked, ashamed as my voice filled with hope. “Wherever we wanted to! We could go to Hawaii, or Ireland…” He said, and I smiled. “And what would we do? Farm, or perhaps own a shop? That life is not for me. I’ve gotten so used to the life of violence. I grew up with it. I don’t know how to do anything else.” I whispered, my eyes overflowing again. I seem to be crying a lot these days; I never cried before. Maybe I’m going soft. No, scratch that. I know I’m going soft.
“Trent…. Perhaps we can go somewhere without a King. Somewhere we could still do what we do, but without the control of a King.” He said, and I looked at him dolefully. “All right, Arvad. I’ll try. And I know a man who will help.”