**Winner of Replica writing Comp** In the city of Eto, the life of a noble is worth the live of ten commoners. In order to keep the world balanced, each time a noble comes of age at the age of 16, they select 10 commoners to kill.


7. Kitaya- 1


The crossbow bolt took the noble in the heart with a wet thunk. I dropped from the tree and ran from the scene. I didn’t look back. The killing gave me no satisfaction- it never did. No matter how many times I’ve done it, I can never justify the act of taking another’s life.

In death, nobles and commoners aren’t much different. We live, we die, and we suffer all the same, divided only by birth. It’s stupid- but that’s how the world works. That’s how it’s always been.

Was I just imagining it, or had the crossbow grown heavier in my hand? It always seemed to do that after I’d killed. Just another death. Another meaningless death.

Could I have chosen not to kill them? No. No I couldn’t have. They would have killed me. And if they hadn’t, then my fellow commoners would have.

I made it back to the village, hurrying as quickly as I could The sun was high in the sky- it was midday. I was late. I tried to hide the frustration in my eyes as I reached the door of our meeting house. I rapped sharply on the door, and a voice answered me.

“Who is it?”

“You know who it is!” I growled, not in the mood for games. “Now let me in!”

The door opened a second later, revealing a scraggly haired boy who was maybe nine years old. He stared at me with large eyes.

“You’re not in a good mood today, are ya Kit?” he remarked.

“Don’t call me Kit,” I replied, not in the mood to talk.

“Aw, come on, Kit,” he rolled his eyes. “It’s just me.”

“Listen to me,” I said quietly. “It might be ‘just you’, but I’m not ‘just me’. Whether you like it or not, I’m your leader, so show me some respect.”

“Sorry… leader…” he muttered. Then he looked back up at me. “They’re all here. You’re late.”

“I know.”

“They’re mad.”

“I know.”

I turned to go, but felt his hand on my wrist.

“They’re really mad this time.”

“They’ll be happier when they hear how my mission went.” I walked past him, and opened the trapdoor in the floor. From there I climbed down a rickety ladder to our meeting room.

I dropped to the floor, and spared myself a second to stare at the wall, wishing I didn’t have to do this. Then a cold voice came from behind me.

“So good of you to join us, Kitaya.”

I turned, my expression already rearranging itself to cold indifference. “Our meeting can’t start until I get here anyways.”

Behind me in a semicircle were four other figures. All of them studied me with equally judging expressions, and I sighed, forcing a smile onto my face.

“Well? I’m here. Let’s get this meeting underway.” I strode over to my chair. It was elaborately carved- as close to a throne as I’d ever get. I sat, and waited for them to speak.

“You’re late.” The man speaking was named Owen Hurrel, a local blacksmith. He’d been on this council since before I was born. He supplied us with weapons, and gave us information on nobles, and whether or not they were amassing a large army. Without him, our little resistance would be much worse off. Most of our members backed him as the rightful leader. He believed that the power should have gone to him when our last leader died, and he’s done his best to make my life miserable because of it. I won’t let him win though. Not yet.

“I was out on a mission,” I replied matter-of-factly. “You agreed that it was necessary before. Going back on your own ideas now? That’s kind of hypocritical.”

He gritted his teeth. “And did you finish the mission, child?”

“As a matter of fact, I did.” I brushed my crossbow with a finger, feeling the rough grain of wood beneath my fingers. “I wore gloves the entire time too, so their earth aspects will have nothing to track me with. We’re safe.”

“Well done,” he said, his voice full of its usual resentment. It must kill you to have to say that to me.

“Easy, Owen.” The speaker was a woman. Ayina Narett was a foreigner who’d been captured in the war years ago. She’d served under a noble for many years, until she finally earned her freedom. She still occasionally served the nobles, and was responsible for keeping us updated on the noble’s power struggles. She was my main supporter. Without her, I might have lost my position years ago.

“Easy?” Owen said coldly. “I’m perfectly calm, Ayina. I’m just ensuring that the girl did her work. We must have a leader who will be willing to do what she must for the good of all of us.”

“She has done well,” Ayina murmured. Her voice was smooth, tinged with a faint accent that bespoke her foreign heritage.

“Thank you.” I nodded my head slightly in her direction. So far our two other members hadn’t said a word. They were watching this confrontation with interest, waiting to see how I would respond. I sighed, clapping sharply to bring everybody to attention. “Reports?”

“Weapons production is slowing down,” Owen replied instantly. “The nobles are on to us. We keep this up much longer and they’ll realize what’s going on.”

I ground my teeth in frustration. “Then be more subtle with your productions.”

“Yes leader,” he replied, saying the word like a curse.

I ignored that, and turned to Ayina.

“A new noble has been chosen as an aspect,” she said softly.

“Do you know anything about the nature of this noble?”

“She is of house Tirian. They are a low ranking family, of little importance in the social hierarchy. Her rise will come as a surprise to the nobles.”

I nodded slowly, and turned to the last two members. Tarrek Fazzil, and Eleen Shivra. The counsel used to be all men. It had been Sebastian’s idea to make it half and half…

Don’t think about Sebastian right now. I can’t let those memories distract me.

Each of them echoed Owen’s statement. The nobles were becoming suspicious of us. Too much activity, and they’d send their aspects after us. I sighed, accepting their words with bitter affirmations. I stood and turned to go. I made it up out of the trap door before I heard Ayina’s soft voice calling me back.

I dropped back down the ladder, turning to look at her. “What is it?”

“There are rumors concerning the boy prince Raphael.”

“There are always rumors concerning him.”

“More so than usual.” Ayina leaned forwards, looking me in the eyes. “There are rumors that he walks the streets disguised as a commoner. Alone. Undefended.”

“He’s an aspect.”

“Yes, but in this he would be vulnerable. This could be our chance.”

I considered it, then slowly began to smile. “Yes… this just might be.”

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