“Give a big round of applause to the lovely Katalin Aideen, the flourishing dark swan of Jorvik!” I hear the loud, roaring applause of the crowds, I see the bright, blinding glow of the stage lights, I sense the atmosphere of the tall stage, I see Evea Loveheart, Jorvik’s Rider’s Games show host. I take one last look at the dark, peaceful hallway, then make my way up the steps and to the stage. I’m rewarded with applause and yells of praise as I sit down next to Evea on the plush sofa. Evea’s hair is dyed magenta and piled up high like a beehive, eyes coated in some sort of pink colour, lips white. “Hey Evea” I say, waving shyly to the crowds. “And hello Miss Aideen! Give her a round of applause, folks!” And of course, the audience replies with an even louder round of applause. “Ok Katalin, so who’s your trusty steed for the Games?” Evea asks me, and the crowd goes silent on cue. “Um,” I say awkwardly, fidgeting. “Steed? I don’t recall anyone saying I need a horse.” Evea looks at me like I’m crazy then bursts into loud chuckles. “Hear that audience? What a joker! Now, Katalin,” “Kat.” I interrupt. “Kat, my dear, have you befriended a Quarter? I’ve heard Morgans are very in style! Or perhaps a Shire? Sturdy steeds!” Evea tells me enthusiastically, and I interrupt quickly. “Evea, I wasn’t told I had to ride a horse. I’m telling the truth.” Evea frowns for just a second, then plasters her face with a grin. “Oh Kat! Don’t try to fool us! What a sense of humour.” The audience laughs in agreement. “So, my friend, so far what is your favourite part of Jorvik City?” I pause to think and I frown at the sentence. “Wait, what?” The sentence echoes in my head and suddenly nothing makes sense. “Kat,” Evea presses, “what is your favourite part of Jorvik City so far?”

“Umm, Urm..” I place a shaking hand to my forehead. “I don’t know.” That one sentence creates a sudden, terrifying silence in the room. The audience is silent. “Headaches. That’s the worst thing. I really shouldn’t have had that wine last night.” I moan, clutching my head and trying to stop feeling so dizzy. Slowly, I hear a vague chuckle coming from the crowd. The chuckle grows, until all the  audience is roaring with laughter. Evea joins in, tears running down her painted face. “Stop- no, stop- my sides are actually splitting, look!” She cries, wiping her eyes with a silk handkerchief. I’m really confused, but I grin like I meant for all this to happen.

“Ok, ok, ok. We’ve spent so much time frolicking about that we’ve spent two minutes of our time. Now Kat, this may be a hard question to answer, but what was the hardest thing about leaving home?” Evea asks me, suddenly solemn. The audience quietens and the room is full of tension. “Well, I guess leaving my family, my home, knowing I’ll never see them again. That was hard. The easiest part was leaving the pigs, they never warmed to me.” I say, smirking as  I finish my words. Evea chuckles lightly and the audience follows. “Wonderful, wonderful. Now, Katalin, I must praise your stylist for creating such a beautiful dress for your interview. Might we have a little twirl?” I nod and get up, patting my white skirts.

I spin round, and as I twirl, the white of my dress seems to grow, until it isn’t just white. The white feathers are embellished with black jewels, and when I raise my sleeves I see that I have wings.

The crowd is roaring with excitement, because I have been made into a swan.

“Alright, alright! What a fabulous piece of art your stylist has created. Give her a round of applause! Now, I have one last question for you my dear. Did you have any.. Hm, how do we put this- suitors back home? Beautiful girl like you. Anyone you liked?” Evea asks me, winking. I hesitate, squirming. “Well, there might be one boy.” Evea leans in, fascinated. “Go on!” “Well, I really like him but it’s not like we can be together because..” The whole crowd goes silent. “In a few days, I’m going to have to kill him.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What the hell are you playing at?! Are you insane, Katalin? We’re on opposite sides. Even letting Jorvik know we’re friends is crazy!” He yells, pinning me against a wall. “Hey, Connor, don’t you get it? This is exciting, this will earn you sponsors. ‘The Dark And Light Lovers?’ People will love it!” Damon explains. “But we’re not lovers.” Connor says angrily, though any fool can see he looks conflicted. “So? This whole thing is a game. Make your relationship a game too, just more realistic. Got it, boy?”Connor is pretty much choking me as his arm is against my throat, and I gasp for breath. “Connor..”

Everyone watches with tense breaths as Connor pulls away and I fall to the floor with a gasp. I give him my fiercest glare and walk slowly back to my room. I lie on my bed, fidgeting on the too soft covers. Connor isn’t what I thought he was, he isn’t different to any of the Dark Riders. He’s exactly the same. Maybe killing him won’t be so hard.

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