Trisha took a deep breath, as she started walking towards the arena, her high ponytail bobbing with every step. As always, a hundred eyes followed her every move, but this was the first time she really noticed it. This was the first time the attention felt disconcerting. This was the first time it really mattered.
Wiping the sweat off her brow, she steeled herself for what was poised to be the toughest, and the most important, day of her life. Her dream of being chosen as the youngest member of the Seven Heads was just a single step away, and a completely unexpected obstacle stood in her way.
Serafina lay on the rocky floor, basking under the noon sun, when the clamorous crowd caught her attention. Squinting her eyes, she watched as men and women alike fawned over Trisha. With a derisive snort, she sprung back to her feet, and meandered towards her sister.
“You left quite early, tonight,” commented Trisha, once they had exchanged the customary greetings. “I had hoped we would walk here together.”
“I like sitting here, by myself,” Serafina replied icily. “It is quiet.”
“I can understand,” she agreed, shooting a quick glance towards the crowd, that grew larger and louder, every passing moment. “Well, do your best, sister. May The Lord be with you.”
“You cannot possibly mean that…”
“You are being rude,” Trisha said, with a soft smile, before placing her hand on her sister’s head. “If you do defeat me, I will be nothing but proud.”
Serafina did not respond in words. She simply nodded. The tag of underdog was not new to her, having bourn it for fifteen years now. Many had been baffled when she laid claim for the coveted position of a head, but without the weight of expectation on her shoulder, she had risen fast and farther than the other contenders, and now stood as the final hurdle in her sister’s glorious campaign.
Trisha stood beaming, as their father, Beye Yildirim, addressed the crowd, and spoke of his daughters’ achievements, and how proud he was at the very moment. Serafina, however, was barely listening. She could not wait for the pleasantries to conclude, and for the real task to begin.
Finally, the girls were led to a sheer cliff, where they were greeted by the leader of Arzi, their grandmother, Amma Gulizar. Behind her, towards the edge of the cliff, were two men, gagged and bound to wood stakes. Armed guards had sealed every other exit. The crowd had gone silent.
“As you might know,” Gulizar began, her voice stronger than her stature might suggest, “Karim was found murdered, last night. He had been stabbed through the neck. The person who killed him stands here, on this cliff. You are to interrogate one man each, find the culprit, and carry out the punishment. The Seven Heads must be decisive and swift.
The girls nodded, and walked towards their respective suspects. As she recognised the man standing in front of her eyes, Trisha smiled. This man was a known miscreant, and had twice been publicly flogged. Such scum did not deserve to reside in Karakaya, anyway. His execution would certainly be good riddance. However, Trisha paused to consider the other suspect.
Serafina marched forward, her eyes fixed at those of her suspect. She could already see him whimpering, as she drew a dagger from her belt, and raised it in the air. In a swift motion, she cut through the ropes binding him so abruptly that he fell to his knees.
“Take this,” she said, dropping the dagger by his foot, “and fight me. If you win, you live.”
The man trembled at the sight of the shining blade. He looked up, towards Serafina, the sun shining behind her short, golden hair, as she began walking away from him. Using this opportunity, he bolted away from the stake, intent on disappearing into the crowd. The guards, however, alert to this possibility, stopped him almost immediately.
“He is innocent, Amma,” Serafina proclaimed, looking Gulizar straight into the eye. She had not even turned back, to see the result of her little stunt. “He is a coward and a weakling, not worth the bread he eats, but he is not a killer. There is no way he could have killed a warrior like Karim.”
Trisha turned around, and watched, as Amma Gulizar patted Serafina on the shoulder. Her sister’s antics had always caught her unawares, but this time it had worked to her advantage. Every trace of doubt had been wiped off her mind. Decisive and swift, she repeated under her breath, drawing her dagger and calming her nerves. Decisive and swift… She lunged forward, determined to thrust the blade deep into the culprit’s heart.
In one fluid, distinctly feline motion, she turned the dagger in her hand, letting her fist fall almost harmlessly on the man’s chest. She sprang back, as a warm liquid seeped down his groin and along his leg.
“Let us rejoice, people of Arzi,” Gulizar proclaimed. “Here, before your eyes, stands Serafina, the Fierce, One of the Seven!”
“But—” was all Trisha could elicit from her throat, before her voice was drowned out by the cheering crowd.
“I said the person who killed Karim stands here,” explained Gulizar, her golden eyes glinting. “I did not say man. Karim was a traitor. I confronted him, and I stabbed him. A leader of the people must always be decisive and swift, but never prejudiced or impetuous. You are competent, Trisha, but you still have a lot to learn.”
Trisha nodded and walked away, as the ceremony began. For its entire length, she could feel the blood burning in her eyes. She looked towards her sister, who looked equally ill at ease, and put on a brave smile. Somehow, she found the strength, deep within herself, to stand there till it all ended.
“We do have a plan for you, dear,” Yildirim told her, as they passed the cliff. “As Amma grows old, I would need to stay here more often, and I want you to replace me as the ambassador to Arrkaya.”
“Do you think I am ready, Father?” she asked, her eyes still moist.
Serafina watched as her father led Trisha back to the citadel. For an entire minute, she could not avert her gaze. Then, raising her head and tugging her hair back, she let out a quick snort. The sun still shone bright in the sky. Her eyes watered, as she stared into its fiery light…
- She is one of the few characters whose name and appearance is based on a real person.
- Her personality, however, is completely original.
- Her name is based on an order of angels, and loosely translates to Fiery Ones.
- Her personality, appearance and athletic abilities are all an amalgamation of several real persons.
Image credits: Rinmaru Games