I am an assassin, not a murderer.

The target was too powerful to be left in the care of The Pact -- too well guarded to be taken into our care. They called my team in. We are loyal assassins. Every kill has been made with love. Each elaborate plan, timed with precision, was a slow dance that expressed the deepest commitment. Our kind may be strange to yours, but we burn with purpose--a unified goal across an entire species. What remains of human history tells us that this is something your kind never mastered.

Three weeks of hard travel lay behind us. Before us, the truth of the assignment that had been so pointless to keep from us. I had found her, adventuring on her own in the cave systems. She had snuck out again. She had no guards and there was no one for miles to hear her screams. She hopped from one section of the front cavern to the next, humming to herself.

Her hum burst into a sing song exclamation, “What a beautiful cave! In these remote lands, finding such deep red rock is rare! We will have to be careful of the cave trolls!”

Her voice returned to a hum as she bent and looked at the rocks, holding them to the cave entrance for light.

Did they really think that murdering a small child would be no different? We revered children. If we had any of our own, we might be foolish enough to worship them.

The girl looked around the cavern, as if seeking something specific. She sighed and sat on the ground with her back to the wall. She reached into her bag and pulled out a canteen, a metal cup and a small ivory bag. She placed the items to her side and dug around in her bag again. She squeezed and pulled out two sticks and a tuft of dried grass.

She carefully placed the grass into a small hole in the larger of the sticks and began to twist the second stick in the hole. A small wisp of smoke rose and soon I could make out the subtle light of fire. The girl giggled and clapped her hands, dropping the second stick and watching the grass burn.

She closed her eyes briefly and touched her hand to a necklace she wore. The flame and grass began to rise out of the stick. They floated in the air. The girl turned away from the floating flame and poured water from her canteen into the cup. She lifted it to the flame then placed it above the flame. She broke off small pieces wood off the end of the stick and tossed them into her flame. The water began to steam.

The girl floated the cup back to the rock ground at her side, then dropped the strange bag into it. The flame in the air extinguished itself, as if starved.Such power for someone so small.

The girl seemed to have no awareness of the balance of creation and destruction that lay inside of her. I watched as she sat back, pulling the bag from the hot water. She dropped it on top of the burned grass and stick bits. I heard it sizzle for a moment. She started to sip the drink as she resumed humming to herself.

I cannot kill this child.

My mind filtered through the options that would be set before the Mahari when I failed to return with proof of the child's demise. She would send more like me. I would have to convince her of the child's importance.

Exile for the gods is a tradition in history—exile to protect the children of the gods will be a gift, not a burden.


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