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The Chronicles of the Warrior Queen; The Clan Rejected

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Her clan hated her. No Landers were after her. Kings longed for her. Tessa's job is to fight. Strong, quick, and steady. But she doesn't look like a warrior at all. She stands out because she has dark hair and green eyes. Everyone else in the kingdom has white hair and blue eyes and is taller than her. Even though they are different, most people can't touch her because she is a general in the Warrior Army. But things start to go wrong when Colonel Jothan of the House of Steel, the favorite to be the next Warrior King, starts to pay attention to Tessa. When a messenger from the powerful Land of Light shows up with an offer for the Warrior King that will change Tessa's life, she will have to deal with more than just jealous ladies and angry bosses.

Chapter 1

The final ten contestants in the Officer Training exam stood side by side in the inner keep's courtyard. Silence pervaded the five floors of banisters encircling the training ground; spectators were not allowed, so said the Warrior King.

A Roka bird circled overhead, its angry cry sending a tremor down Tessa's body. Having lived in the King's orphanage these past nine years, she was used to all manner of tricks and abuse, but she couldn't remember ever being more nervous than at that very moment.

If she passed this test, her life would change.

Officers were untouchable in the Warrior Kingdom. Once she became an officer in training, no one would be able to steal her rations until she passed out from hunger. No one would be able to lock her inside the animal cages or make her sleep on the cold floor. Once she was an officer in training everyone would have to treat her like an equal, like a real Warrior. They wouldn't be able to hurt her anymore.

"Raise your bows!" The Sergeant's voice echoed between the inner keep walls.

Tessa pulled an arrow out of the quiver on her back and placed it on her bow. She glanced at the girls and boys around her, all poised for the next command. They were taller, older and more composed than her. Don't look at them, just focus!

"Aim!" The Sergeant called out.

Tessa pulled back the arrow, her eyes fixing on the target halfway down the training yard. Her fingers trembled for a short moment, before she controlled her nerves.

"Release!"

Her arrow flew forward, spinning through the air as it inched closer to the target. The Sergeant walked to the red circles, the crescents on the shoulders of his blue uniform sparkling as he inspected each arrow in turn. "Brandon of the House of Copper. Sara of the House of Rock." He walked past four targets before hesitating beside hers. "And Tessa of the House of King's Wards. You three remain, the rest may leave."

Tessa exhaled the breath she had been holding. This was it, the final round.

Brandon and Sara sent shocked looks her way as they all waited for the Sergeants aids to pull the arrows out of the targets. Tessa could understand their surprise. At 9-years old, she was younger than all the other contestants by at least three years. For someone of her age to pass the first two stages of the Officers Exams was a very rare occurrence, but to have reached the final stage of Special Skills...it had happened only a handful of times in Warrior Kingdom's history.

Of course, even if it weren't for her age, none of them would have expected her to get this far. She was, after all, a no-good mixed blood.

In a sea of blond heads and blue gazes, her ash black hair and green eyes stood out like a sore. She was an embarrassment to the pure-blood Warrior race, a bastard child who had been left at the steps of the House of Kings Wards. They had found her in the midst of the War of Green Hills along with a simple note: This is Tessa. May you forgive my sin.

"Move the targets to the end of the courtyard!" a deep voice came from behind them. The aids rushed to do as they were told as Tessa turned, surprised to see Captain Jothan of the House of Gold approaching.

Until that moment, she had only ever seen him from a distance even though she had heard his name a million times. Tall, strong and impossibly handsome, at 18-years-old he was the youngest Captain the Warrior Kingdom had ever known. His hair was tied back in Officer braids and the silver belt denoting his royal status gleamed in the fading light of the day. Captain Jothan strode forward, his sea blue eyes skimming over Brandon and Sara before coming to rest on Tessa. Her hand lifted to her shorn hair in an unconscious gesture.

A strange light entered the Captain's eyes, then his gaze moved on and he addressed them all, "If none of your arrows reach the target, the one that gets the furthest will win."

Tessa looked down to the other end of the courtyard. She had only ever seen officers shoot that distance. Captain Jothan had turned the competition from one about accuracy to one about strength. No matter how hard Tessa had worked these past two years, both Brandon and Sara were stronger than her!

"Shoot when you are ready." Jothan said, stepping back.

Beside her, Sara took aim. Her arrow flew up, then landed a foot from the target. The Sergeants aids mumbled amongst themselves in surprise; it was a great accomplishment for her age.

Brandon went next, his arrow falling just short of Sara's. The older girl smiled with satisfaction.

Tessa pulled an arrow from the scabbard on her back and placed it on her bow. Her hands were shaking so badly that the slit in the back of the arrow missed the string and she watched in horror as the arrow fell to the ground.

"What's wrong, mixed-blood? Too scared to shoot?" Brandon snorted.

Tessa looked from his contemptuous expression to Sara's smirk. She wanted to belie the boy's words, but she was scared. She was scared that she would not survive if she had to go back to the orphanage.

She couldn't lose.

"Stop looking at them and get shooting!" Captain Jothan commanded. His harsh words belied the calm yet alert look in his eyes.

Tessa looked down, her fingers clenching into a fist. He was right, she couldn't get distracted. She knew what she had to do, it was the only way for her to survive.

She had to call the Heat.

Picking the arrow up from the ground, she moved her feet, feeling the ground under her boots. The Sergeant, his aids, Brandon, Sara, Captain Jothan, they all faded away. She was on her own, like she had been for most of her life. Eating alone in a corner. Standing alone in the playground. Locked out of the Home at night. Alone, except for the Heat in the rocks, the soil and the wind around her.

She closed her eyes and took a slow breath, drawing in the warmth. She knew it would hurt. Calling the Heat always did, that was why she had only done it a handful of times and only to protect herself.

A familiar tingling began in fingers. In her minds eye, she saw colours; a shimmering green, a deep blue. The warmth entered from her feet, travelling up her legs and into her chest, where it stopped and gathered. Hotter and hotter, the pain in her chest grew. High above, the Roka bird gave a shrill cry.

Opening her eyes, Tessa pulled back the arrow, aimed and fired.

Infused with Heat, the arrow ripped through the air, spinning, spinning, spinning until the tip got lodged into the eye of the target.

Sara gasped. Brandon's bow fell to the ground. The Sergeant and his aids all stared at the arrow, unmoving. Only Captain Jothan seemed capable of movement. He stepped forward, looking at the other contestants.

"By making it to the final, you have earned the right to enter the exam again next year." His voice left no room for question. "You may go."

"Yes, Sir!" Brandon and Sara spoke in unison. Tessa couldn't see their expressions as they left the courtyard along with the Sergeant's aids. She hadn't moved since firing the shot. Her arms and legs felt like they were on fire and the pain was so excruciating she was barely managing to stay upright.

"Sergeant, inform the council that the Officer examination is complete." Jothan said.

"Yes, Sir!"

The courtyard was empty now, except for the Captain and her. She was starting to feel nauseous. When would he leave? His hands were suddenly on her arms, his fingers feeling her muscles for a brief moment before retreating.

"What you just did should not be possible." Jothan had lowered his voice as he stood in front of her.

Tessa raised her eyes to meet his gaze, blinking as she tried to form words past the burn in her chest. She wanted to say she had gotten lucky, or blame a sudden gust of wind, but she couldn't speak and then she was doubling over.

Her stomach clenched painfully as she vomited across the floor. Tessa closed her eyes against the humiliation, grateful that the pain had begun to ease.

"Alright now, Green Eyes. You did well." Jothan said above her, giving her an awkward pat on the back.

You did well. Three simple words. Yet they were the first words of encouragement she had ever received. Tessa righted herself, wiping her sleeve across her mouth as she stared at her superior in disbelief.

Clearing his throat, Jothan looked away. "Pack your things and report to the officers barracks."

Officers barracks. The pain that had died down to a dull throb disappeared in the face of pure elation. She had done it. She didn't have to live in the Home anymore. She was safe!

Forgetting herself, Tessa began to laugh. It was an awkward sound. A sound that had not left her lips in many years, if ever.

"Are you that happy?" Jothan wore a soft smile on his handsome face.

"Yes, Sir! Sorry, Sir!" Tessa rasped, realising her mistake belatedly. She had been given an order and not moved to obey. "I will go pack, Sir!"

Now that her body was obeying her will, she rushed away, the curious gaze of the Captain Jothan following her.

Chapter 2

7 years later...

"Lieutenant?" Sergeant Rurik couldn't keep the question out of his voice even as he raised his fist to his left breast in salute. Two soldiers and the third-year recruit on the horses beside him followed suit, their eyes not quite reaching hers. Tessa was used to the lowered gazes; those of lesser rank were often afraid of being caught staring at the scar on her face. From beneath her right eye, all the way to the corner of her lip, Tessa wore her short officer braids tied up, doing nothing to hide the jagged line that was an ugly raised pink.

"I was nearby," she told Rurik to explain her unexpected presence. It wasn't entirely true, but she wasn't ready to disclose her theory about the recent No-Lander activity.

Drawing her horse alongside the Sergeant's, Tessa looked out over the edge of the forest in front of them. They were a two-hours ride North from the keep, on the border between the unforgiving grey du

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