Chapter One: When Dusk Turns Dark (Excerpt from Game of Death)

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With no shoes on, she was small. She had quite a willowy, delicate frame that only added to her elegance despite the fact she was perceived as weak and frail. Her skin was as pale and as smooth as porcelain, making the girl almost look like a china doll, with her short, blonde hair framing her face delicately, not a strand out of place. Her eyes seemed to resemble polished sapphires, glistening in the moonlight, and her lips were ruby red. Her dress draped around her body, fitting perfectly just like a glove to a hand.The skirt was fashioned out of smooth, milky white, frothy organza that reached her knees. A satin sash pulled in her waist, making it looking smaller than it already was. The bodice of her simple yet glamorous dress was encrusted with tiny little gems and beads that caught the soft moonlight and glowed. The girl walked with the grace of a nimble gazelle and was as bewitching as a peacock showing off her beautiful feathers.

The girl, known as Pearl, had never felt more terrified and insecure. All her life, she had spoken every word strongly and surely, each command strong. Now, for the first time in her life she found herself faced with uncertainty.

The moment she’d volunteered for the elemental games, everyone had been so certain that she would return victorious, and had completely disregarded the rest of the competition. And despite all their words of encouragement, she knew that she was incapable of winning. Which was the main reason for her sneaking out in the middle of the night for a calm walk in the woods.

She let out a sigh and leaned against a tree, the scent of petrichor infiltrating her nostrils. Terrified, she thought of the upcoming morning. There would be tears and goodbyes as she departed for the games, no doubt about it, but she couldn’t help but feel that she might never see any of her family or friends ever again.

Suddenly, an arrow nicked her ear as it flew past, thudding into a nearby tree. Pearl was immediately alert. No one from her tribe went hunting this late at night, and there could only be one possible explanation. It was an invasion.

But then, Pearl thought in a moment of confusion, Why aren't there any horses? Where is the army? The soldiers adorned in shining silver armor should have been visible under the light of the moon.

She trembled as she attempted to come up with an explanation. But before she could form a single thought, a tall figure leapt over the brush in front of her, landing with a light thud, so soft she barely heard it. She automatically reached for her knife, but realized that she was unarmed, wearing only a thin nightgown. There was only one option, she realized as the figure nocked an arrow. She turned and fled into the darkness.

She heard the whizzing sound, and she rolled on the forest floor as five arrows sailed overhead. Her thoughts raced as she ran. No archer she knew could shoot that many arrows in one shot, and there was no possible explanation nor reason some other tribe would send a single man to kill her. That's when it dawned upon her that it was none other than an assassination attempt. This one thought compelled her to move faster.

The assassin wasted no time in following after her. They took to the trees, leaping from branch to branch covering ground ten times quicker than their target. In the faint moonlight that shone through the trees, it was clear to see the girl as she fled towards her village, her nightgown a white beacon in the dark night.

Breathing hard, Pearl came to a halt. She spun around, trying to catch a glimpse of her attacker, but there was no one to be seen around. Relieved, she turned towards her village gates, which was just beyond the edge of the wilderness, no more than a few feet away.

And that's when the arrow pierced her leg. She let out a guttural cry as she collapsed on the forest floor, a pool of blood already forming around her. A hooded figure stepped out of the shadows, and Pearl scrambled up, struggling to see her attacker through the tears that formed in her eyes.

“What do you want?” She cried, as the figure advanced. “Help! Help!”

She threw a desperate look to the edge of the woods. Why was no one coming? Could no guard hear her cries?

The figure laughed, advancing, and Pearl choked back a sob.

“Who are you?” She whispered, staring up into the cold merciless eyes of her killer. She would never get her answer. She gasped as something pierced her lower abdomen. Looking down she saw a knife buried deep inside her stomach. Tears pooled in her eyes, and then she felt something deep inside her give up and turn off. She became limp and motionless, dead in a pool of her own blood.

The hooded figure smirked, before withdrawing a small pendant. She placed it atop the pool of blood and the necklace went from blue to a bright shade of scarlet. She placed it around her neck and a bright flash light illuminated the woods. In the place where the assassin stood a girl that looked exactly like Pearl, blonde hair, green eyes, everything accounted for except for clothing.

She smiled down at the dead body at her feet.

“Isn’t it obvious?” She asked. “I’m Pearl Evelyn Wavecrest of the Water tribe.”