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Sorin watched Ellen sit in the sunlight, humming and eating an apple, from the shadows with a nocked bow. Ellens humming faded and her eyes closed. perfect. Sorin let the arrow fly and skewered the apple on her chest perfectly, the force from the arrow carrying it to a tree nearby. one of Ellen's golden eyes opened and she sat up, smiling.
"good job, miss shadows. you're getting really good with that bow."
"did i surprise you, lady sun?"
"no, I knew you were there."
"ah. well, I'll get it one of these days."
"you're going to be the best ranger the kingdom has ever seen!"
"I'm going to be the best cheerer for a ranger the kingdom has ever seen."
"I'm sure you will. for me or for Krystan?" her tone turned teasing. ellen gasped in mock shock.
"I don't know what you mean!"
"Please, I've seen the way you look at him. i could ask him how he feels."
ellen brightened, her amber eyes glowing. "you would do that? but- what if he says-"
"Yeah, he's my cousin, isn't he? asking him who he has a crush on and teasing him is pretty normal. besides, he wouldn't say anything mean. you know him, he's nice. especially when he's talking to me about my best friend." she cracked her knuckles playfully. "we wrestled when we were kids. he knows his place." she smiled and winked at ellen.
"Oh come on, you wouldn't beat him up."
"wouldn't be the first time."
"oh come on!"
"Anyway, are you going to answer my question? what are you going to do?"
"I don't know. if I can do anything, I'll be Krys- hey this is just a ploy. I'll just be a good wife and housekeeper."
"and that has nothing to do with Krystian being gone most of the time and needing someone to stay at home and keep it clean?"
"not a thing!"
"come on ellen, you have to have a dream."
"I do. and he has a name."
"but what about for you?"
"I don't know, I've always been content."
"what about baking? you love to bake. you'll just give that up?"
"I can bake for my kids."
"your food is delicious. you could be a baker."
Ellens eyes glazed and she smiled. then she whipped it off. "not everybody needs to want to be special. some people like where they are and don't want to be great."
"but you have talents ellen."
"stop! please, Sorin. I'm happy the way I am."
"I'm sorry. i just wish you saw your potential."
"I know. but I like my life as it is."
"ok. hey, I need to practice swords. want to spar?"
she tossed ellen a wooden sword and they started fighting. ellen handled the sword awkwardly. she was much easier than Sorin's instructors, who were true warriors that had seen many battles. but ellen was a natural, even if she didn't have experience.
Ellen's typically tame blonde hair was free and wild, and her eyes were brighter than Sorin had ever seen. her smile was wild and free. she was alive! she wasn't the quiet, good angel that Sorin had always been compared to when she was being lectured. Ellen laughed and grinned and Sorin smiled back in wonder. they finished, both gasping a bit.
"I didn't know you liked to spar."
"Neither did I. that was incredible."
"Maybe you're more a warrior than anyone knew."
ellen laughed, a bit nervously. "maybe I am."
Sorin hid in the shadows, dead silent, her black hair cloaking her face in shadow, her black cloak making her one with the forest shadows as she watched Ellen practice in full armor, a woman now, no longer the 17-year-old child. Ellen fought smoothly. then she tossed an apple in the air to slice into pieces. perfect. she was distracted. Sorin released the string and the arrow whistled, aimed at a critical joint in the armor. ellen turned and smiled at her coldly.
"thought i couldn't see you, friend?"
"arent you playing with your sword right now?"
"I guess you never did manage the camouflage, miss shadow." ellen laced her nickname with sarcasm.
"I did. if I didn't want you to see me, you would be dead right now. i wanted you to know you were going to die. and I wanted you to know how, friend." she hissed 'friend', as she stepped out of the shadow and met eyes.
"good. you'll have time to know you failed as you die."
Their swords met.
"This is familiar, eh?" Sorin said.
"yes. i suppose I never got the chance to thank you for introducing me to my destiny."
"I don't think this is your destiny. so, how did things work out with Krystian?"
"oh, Krystian. i haven't thought about my sweetheart in ages." she filled 'sweetheart' with hatred.
"what, he wasn't attracted to the kingdom's biggest enemy?"
"no, he wasn't attracted to ambition. i was right, he would have been mine if I was content, and if not for you. but he's gone now." Ellen laughed.
Sorin glared at her, forcing her tears back. "why did you do it?"
"because you loved him, of course. i told you, I would take everything you ever loved and destroy it. i don't break promises."
"you loved him!"
"How did it feel, Ellen?"
"It felt wonderful, knowing you were watching, probably crying. knowing you knew i would never care about you again, never give you anything else, never let you take anything from me again."
"i didn't mean to."
"yes, you did."
they grit their teeth and clashed swords, both too angry for words.
"Alright, Krystian. ready to fight her?" Sorin asked her ranger partner(teams of two) before they went into the hardest battle of their lives. the first against Ellen, and the first they had seen her since she left.
"I hope so." he kissed her. she hoped it wouldn't be the last time.
"If I die, promise you'll move on." she demanded of her partner in life. his eyes filled with sorrow.
"I promise." she knew it was a lie but didn't press him. "and you?"
"I can't promise that. let's go."
they moved into the battlefield. they could have snuck in and ended it easily, but they couldn't. she had been their friend.
"hello." Ellen said without turning.
"Ellen! why did you leave? you couldn't have joined the knights? the royal guard even?"
"Because of you, Sorin. i would have given you anything, but you took everything. and I'm going to take everything you ever loved. I'm going to destroy it. and then, when you stand surrounded by the ruins of your life, I will be there. and i will have taken everything from you! and then I'm going to take your life, and let you know that i did this to you."
"Ellen, please! we're friends! come back with us, you can come back like nothing ever happened and do whatever you want!"
"no! i would do what you want, i would go back to a weak little girl just there to be Sorin's friend! i would go back to just being your weak sidekick. no, i am going to do what i want. i want to destroy you!"
"i can't let you do that."
Krystian joined in. "you aren't going to touch her."
"oh aren't i, sweetheart?"
"don't call me that. i never loved you, and if you continue down this path I can't even call you a friend anymore."
"yes, you love perfect Sorin, i know. and who doesn't? She's the greatest at everything, and has a personality on top of that! everybody loves Sorin. but when weak little ellen gets a shred of ambition, considers wanting a dream, everybody turns on her. Ellen wasn't allowed to have dreams. ellen is gone now. I'm Raedon. I'm strong. and i take what i want when i want it. something Sorin knows a lot about, hm?"
"I'm not calling you that." Sorin said
"fine, i don't care what you think of me anymore." Ellen said.
"Ellen, this is your last chance." Krystian said.
"then I'm going to blow it. enough of the chit-chat." Ellen drew her sword. Sorin sighed and she and Krystian did the same.
they fought and were pretty well matched. she was horrified to imagine how she would fare without Krystian. they kept fighting, struggling to get the upper hand. then Sorin tripped. Ellen turned to her and raised her sword. Krystian jumped in front of Sorin and met eyes with Ellen.
"Please," he whispered in a moment that slowed and lasted for years. then Ellen snapped it and stabbed him. He fell and Ellen turned and walked away, humming the same melody she had when she first tried sword fighting. over her shoulder, she called back,
"i told you i would take everything you loved." then she left. from the woods, there was the faintest trace of a horrified gasp, the only evidence she had been affected.
"Krystian!" Sorin knelt by him and desperately tried to heal his wound. he shook his head faintly and his eyes glazed over. Sorin let out a gasp of hurt and rage and grief. but Ellen was gone. she collapsed on Krystian and cried for the last time. then she converted every ounce of grief and hurt and pain and love and turned it into hate.
Sorin raised her sword again.
"i never stopped you from becoming a warrior."
"yes, you did. who would ever train ellen or accept ellen? no, Sorin was there. they could take Sorin instead." then she smiled. "but i have to thank you. because you were always there, always in my way, you made me strong. i had to fight for everything i have, and now I'm stronger than you. better than you."
"no. I've trained, I'm stronger than i was when we first fought." she didn't want to bring up her dead husband again.
"then why is Krystian still dead?"
Sorin gasped and fell back, losing ground rapidly. Ellen cut her across the forehead and hot, sticky blood fell over her eye. she wiped it away.
"because I'm better. and now there's no Krystian to save you."
"i... can... save... myself!" she growled and pushed back, ignoring the blood. her vision was red anyway.
Ellen ran to Sorin as she practiced throwing knives.
"I just got accepted to the Arvay Warriors Training Camp!"
"I know! can you come watch me train some time?"
"Yeah, of course!"
two days later she showed up in full ranger 'armor'. the guards at the gates stared at her. rangers were not often seen, especially with fighters. rangers preferred subtly and forests. besides, she was the top of the rangers academy. somehow they knew that. she went in to watch Ellen train and was really impressed. until Ellen's instructor spotted her and started talking to her. Ellen tried to keep practicing, but it was no use. then her instructor dismissed her. Sorin tried to follow her but he kept talking and asking questions of her.
Ellen started doing poorly, despite her gift for it, and was thrown out. she ended up training at some second-rate place, where Sorin could only watch by sneaking in so Ellen wouldn't be forgotten.
"does it bother you?"
"no of course not." Ellen said every time with a smile, but ever more forced. Sorin never asked to overshadow Ellen. she didn't try to, and felt absolutely awful about it. she tried to make it up to her.
she adopted a teasing tone. "who do you have a crush on?"
he blushed bright red. "how do you know I have a crush at all?"
"Well you must!"
his ears were red and he was smiling like an idiot. "she's... beautiful, and brave and strong. she's a warrior. she's so perfect. but she would never like me. I'm lucky she knows I exist." could it be?
"is it Ellen?"
"what? no, of course not, she's just a friend."
"oh... who is it?"
"do i know her?"
"yes... it's you, Sorin."
he started blushing again. but after he said that, she started noticing she like him... a lot.
"you told me to have dreams, be ambitious, want something for myself! but then everything I ever wanted, you took. i hate you."
"I never meant to. but that's in the past. now every slight i give you, just assume its on purpose. you burned to many bridges, Ellen. I hate you too." Ellen paused for a brief moment, but then kept fighting.
"Ellen! Wait, where are you going?"
"I'm leaving. I'm going to go to some place where somebody will look at me and see me, not you! I'm going to a different kingdom. the Elderens."
"But... we're at war! Krystian and I are rangers, we have to fight them! we would have to fight you!"
"fine. then fight me."
Ellen wasn't Ellen anymore. her golden amber eyes were dark, and instead of glowing, they sucked the light out of the world. she was glaring and broken and hateful. Sorin couldn't stand to see her like that.
"wait, don't do this!"
"I... what? i..."
"you can't control me. Sorin, when you see me again I'm going to be happy. then I'm going to make you miserable and revel in it."
"We aren't friends anymore."
"Ellen!" Sorin cried, but Ellen walked away.
They continued fighting as the sun set. Sorin had the advantage now, she was trained for the shadows. both were moderately tired.
"looks like I'm not weak either. and you were never weak, Ellen. you had a strength inside."
"not like anyone cared."
"Neither of us can win."
"then we will fight til we die of exaushtion."
"no." Sorin turned and left. she climbed into a tree, truly hiding this time and utterly invisible, and aimed her arrow for the third time.
Sorin stared at the kingdom she loved, that she had dedicated everything to, bled for, burn. on one of the ramparts, she saw Ellen. how vast was her grudge?
Sorin went home and found her family dead.
Sorin found her aunt's family, Krystians family, dead too.
Sorin's trainers vanished. her house was destroyed.
As promised, everything had been taken from her.
Sorin released the arrow and watched it hit its mark. she left the forest and stood over Ellen, who was gasping for breath. Ellen smiled, a bone chilling smile.
"I knew you would do that. i took everything."
"you already did."
"no, I took you. i reduced you into someone who would kill me when I was weak. i won, Sorin." Sorin froze in shock. Suddenly, Ellen pulled out a dagger and stabbed her. Sorin fell over Ellens body as Ellens eyes glazed over.