It was very important that I didn’t make a move. One breath, one twitch, one errant snap of a twig and I was a dead girl. I laid flat on the snowy foliage of the woods outside my town, my father's old winter fatigues camouflaging me from sight. I had my face firmly under the hood of his jacket, breathing slowly and rhythmically as I stared forward at the inner lining of the hood.
But I was not blind.
The crunch of boots on snow went by, just inches from my head, and I couldn’t help but smile smugly. I could reach out and grab their ankle, flip them off their footing and cut their throat without a thought. I had all the power. But I had to be patient. Focus on the goal. On victory.
I waited for the sound of his footsteps to leave, but just to be sure, I slowly closed my eyes, and the world exploded. At that moment, I could see beyond myself, sending wide pulses out from me, the world turned to static, and I could see all that was around me. The trees, the birds, the elk, and the person that walked by me. Nothing could hide from me. But I was now out of sight of him, which meant it was time to move.
I’ve had this ability for as long as I could remember. Sonar my brother called it, a gift from the gods, my mother called it. But they both attributed it to the glass like shards of orange in my otherwise perfectly blue eyes. My father thought it a crutch. But he’s just mad that I always beat him at hide and seek and find the best staggs when we go hunting.
Slowly, I lifted my head, scanning the area, just in case I missed something. Sometimes the pulses are too much, I get sensory overload, and then I miss things. Satisfied when I’m not immediately taken out by a would be assassin, I slowly start crawling towards my goal. After twenty minutes of slow, boring, safe movements across the hard, icy ground, it comes into view. A clearing with nothing but a hill in the middle. As I move closer, I think I see a vague shape standing at the top, so quickly, I shut my eyes and let the world explode once more. My suspicions are proven accurate. But he is not the same as the one who walked past me, which means he must be nearby as well, but just out of my radar.
I crawled up the hill, eyes firmly shut, and hood tugged tightly over my face, practically dragging my cheek against the icy grass and dirt. I could feel a sharp rock cut across my face and ignored the pain, even as a warm, sticky liquid ran down my neck. Now was not the time for weakness. Now was the time to strike!
At the crest of the hill, just behind the figure, I laid silently, barely breathing. Watching him with my sonar. Waiting for the perfect moment. The next few minutes were silent, even the birds, sensing the figures imminent demise, refused to sing, instead watching quietly. The only sound in the entire world, was the figures heavy breathing.
Then, as his back was turned and his shoulders relaxed, I leaped up from my position with a mighty roar that shook the very forest. The boy, jumped, surprised, as I ran up to him, and pushed harshly, forcing him to tumble down the hill, and taking his throne for myself.
At nine years old, I, Hildr, am now the youngest person to claim the hill in the history of Soovshchestvo children.
“I AM KING OF THE MOUNTAIN!!” I shout proudly, arms raised up to the gods, my hood falling back to reveal my red pixie cut hair.
“You can’t be king, you’re a girl!” Came the voice of a boy, Dimitri, who ran up the hill now, forgoing his hiding spot at the foot of the hill in the aftermath of Artyom’s regicide at my hands. “You have to be a queen!”
“SILENCE, PESANT!” I bark, in response, kicking him square in the face as he arrived to challenge me, sending him to the depths to lie in failure with Artyom.
“Don’t get too cocky, feyyerverk.” Came a voice from behind me. I spun around to see Demyan standing before me, squaring up ready for a brawl. He was tall, even for his age, with ink black hair, and dark, proud eyes. His build and him being the oldest of our band at ten and three-quarters, earned him the rank of second in command. But I grinned at his challenge. Seemed I needed to remind him why I was in charge.
“Demyan! Leader of my armies! You would betray me?!” I cried, theatrically. “After all we’ve been through?”
“You’ve grown mad with power!” He responded, equally dramatic. “It is for the good of the people! The nobility must fall!”
“Fine then, traitor!” I roar, squaring up with him. “Try to take my throne if you can! Come! Meet your death!”
“I do this with a heavy heart, my king!” He cries remorsely, then charges me with a roar.
I grin, as my blood started pumping, anticipation and adrenaline slowing the world around me. I lived for battle. I was a warrior! I ran to meet him, but let the snow under us take my footing, and allow me to slide under him, holding my arms out to catch his legs and take him down with me, face first. He bounced upon contact, and I was quick to tumble around on my stomach, and jumped on top of him on all fours, pushing his head back into the snow as he attempted to get back up, and sitting on his back.
As the two other boys reached the top of the hill, Dimitri, a red haired boy of nine and a half, and already at Demyan’s shoulder, and Artyom, a blonde haired boy of ten with a faraway gaze and what my mother referred to as a ‘old soul’, I jumped up to meet them, placing my boot triumphantly down on Demyan’s shoulder blades, and pronounced yet again, “I AM KING OF THE MOUNTAIN!!”
The two boys looked at Demyan, then at each other, and bowed before me, both proclaiming loyalty with, “Long live King Hildr!”
I grinned, looking upon my newly gained and faithful subjects. “And now,” I shout, moving aside for Demyan, as he joined his comrades in kneeling before me, “My mighty warriors, we go to war!”
“So what’s next, feyyerverk?” Demyan asked, as the three boys followed me as we tromped through the woods.
“I’m glad you asked, burya!” I said, leaping onto a log before swinging on a branch. “We are going to prove our bravery to the gods!” the branch snapped, and I fell hard onto the ground.
Artyom helped me up, and I stared at the branch in my hand. It was large, about the width of my arm, and long, coming up to my shoulders. A worthy sword.
“How are we going to do that?” Artyom asked, dusting me off as I took a few practice swings with my new blade.
“Easy, shalfey!” I laugh, as he quickly ducks out of the way of one of my swings. Then I held the stick out, pointing forward across a frozen river, that Dimitri was jumping up and down on, watching the ice crack. “We’re gonna poke a bear!”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Artyom asked.
“Sure!” I smile, marching across the river, with Dimitri close behind. Artyom and Demyan took a second to shoot each other a glance. Demyan shrugged and followed me, with Artyom in tow.
As we moved across the woods to the cave my father specifically told me to stay away from, the cave some of the men found bear tracks nearby, following my lead the boys had each found a stick of their own. Almost immediately after Artyom found his sword, we turned the corner to find a small clearing with a number of rocks, knocked over logs, and.a crevice carved into the ground.
We all stared wide eyed at this newly discovered treasure. “A gift of the gods.” Artyom whispered, and we all gave our silent agreement.
Hit with inspiration, I look up and gasp, pulling my blade from its place in my belt loop, and pointing up for my companions to see. “Above, shield-brothers!” I shout, and they all look up, falling into a tight circle with us all back to back, drawing their own swords. “A dragon, do you see?” I continue, pointing at the imagined threat.
The boys grunted their affirmative, before Demyan turned to me. “He comes to raid your kingdom, sire!”
“We must protect our homeland with our lives!” Dimitri roared, before charging up a log to challenge the great beast. “Come, brothers!” I shout, holding up my sword, “We follow krolik to battle!” the three of us roar, and sprint after Dimitri.
As we moved to his aid, the dragon swooped down, breathing fire down upon Dimitri. He was able to roll out of the way, just in the nick of time, spinning around and striking at the beast's legs, sword getting knocked off the dragon's iron like scales.
“The underside!” Artyom roared, jumping down the crevice to avoid the dragon's claws. “It’s where his defenses are softest!”
“Burya, distraction!” I shout, pointing at a nearby boulder, not taking my eyes off the dragon's movements, sword at the ready.
“On it!” Demyan responded, sprinting headlong, while tossing rocks up at the dragon, hitting his eyes.
The dragon let out a mighty roar, matched only by Demyan's war cry in response, brandishing his blade at the dragon as he stood his ground on the top of the mountain, ready for the beast’s incoming attack.
As Demyan distracted the dragon, I charged, Dimitri meeting me, as he scooped up his fallen weapon. Demyan twisted and dodged as the dragon tried to chomp down on him with his powerful jaws. Artyom, just climbing out of the crevice, ran up the dragon's tail, running to join Demyan, slashing at the dragon’s wings as he went by. The creature was now trapped. Artyom made it to the dragon’s head just as Dimitri and I made it under the dragon’s belly, and stabbed his sword into the dragon’s eye. But before he could fully blind the beast, he was thrown off the dragon’s head, just barely able to grab onto the cliff of the mountain Demyan stood upon.
The dragon reared up his head, ready to release fire down upon defenseless Artyom, and Demyan, who was attempting to pull Artyom to safety. But before he could release fire, Dimitri and I nodded to each other and roared, stabbing up into the dragon’s defenseless heart, cutting wide, and killing him instantly, just barely able to roll out of the way when he fell dead.
As we cheered our victory, a timid voice came from behind, asking “What are you guys doing?”
We turned to find a thin boy, about an inch shorter than me and my age. He had circle spectacles sitting crooked on his face, and messy brown hair and hazel eyes that took in the entire scene around him. Under one arm was a notebook filled with strange math and doodles that he carried everywhere. The second his eyes fell on me, my stomach did a weird turn, and this made me angry. I hated this feeling I didn’t understand. “Killing dragons.” Demyan smiled, as if this was obvious.
“Then we’re gonna poke a bear!” Dimitri grinned, dumbly. “Wanna come, Kazimir?”
“He’s not allowed to come.” I growl, head snapping in his direction. “He’d just ruin the fun.”
“I don’t think poking a bear is a good idea.” He said with genuine concern. Jerk.
“See?” I said, arm outstretched, my point proven.
“It should be fine.” Said Artyom. “Its winter. It’ll be asleep.”
“Not if you jab it with a stick.” Kazimir responded, staring at me with his stupid eyes.
“You’re just a coward!” I growl, annoyed. “Come on boys! We got bravery to prove!” I said, spinning around and starting to walk away. But turned back to Kazimir and left with, “You better not tell on us!”
“But it’s not a good idea.” He said simply.
“You’re lame.” I said flatly, to the weird, smart boy that had no right being so pretty.
He looked at me and said with concern, “You’re bleeding.”
My cheeks burned, “Nuh-uh!” I shout. “It stopped an hour ago! It’s a scab, see!” I pointed at my cheek sharply, accidentally cutting into it with my fingernails. A tear ran down my face, but I didn’t cry out. I just glared daggers at Kazimir, daring him to say something else.
“You should go back and get it cleaned.” He responded, apparently not getting the memo I was sending telepathically to stop talking.
Unable to come up with a proper and witty response, I just huff and spin on my heels, storming off, swinging my stick at any and all nearby bushes. My boys all shrugged behind me and followed suite. Leaving Kazimir behind. I didn’t have time for him anyway. I had to prove myself to the gods before dinner time.