A/N: This is a storyI thought of a while ago, and got rather excited about, but I am going to hold off writing it for a few more months. However, as you can see, I got a bit excited and wrote up the first chapter almost immediately, and figured, well, no point in having it just lying around gathering dust. Better to put it up here and see what you lot think. But enough of my rambling. Enjoy!

~*~Failing~*~

Far in the West, where none but the toughest could survive, where fires raged and water was hard to find, there is a city. Its high walls reach right around it, and the castle stands proud at one end. It is designed for war, but not one battle has ever raged there, only the petty fights of the dark creatures that lived there.

The West, you could say, was the evil of the land. But if the West is the evil, then the North has to be the good. For years, the West had sought to overrun the North, generations even. But never had they succeeded. By some strange grace, the North always drove them back, even when the odds were ten to one.

The large kingdom of the South, where they mined metals and jewels, and the small Eastern Province, which was a land of water, mostly kept out of the fighting. They dealt with both kingdoms, selling armour and weapons, and specialties that could only be found in their land. But it was clear that the East would side with the North, if they were called upon to make an alliance, while the south would most likely ally with the West.

Most stories like this would tell the tale of someone in the north, and certainly, there were many tales to tell there. There were many heroes from the North, and many people who had extraordinary adventures. But the tale I would like to tell you is not of that part of the country. Instead, I would like you to turn to the darker side, towards the large city in the West, the black kingdom. Many creatures roam here; warlocks, sorceress', tigerise, banshees and goblins. It did not matter who they were, or what they were, because each heart was a black pit of nothing. Only the slaves, the blue-eyes from the north, held any compassion, or love, or light.

But it is not a slave that I would like to tell about either. The story that I would like to tell is the tale of North, the young daughter of Morilath, the Lord of the Night. She was an ordinary child of the west, dark skinned, dark hair, and the offspring of a fierce warrior. The only things out of the ordinary were her name, and her eyes. You see, you could tell where someone originated from by their eyes. Someone from the South would be born with green eyes, while the east had golden ones. The creatures of the West all had black eyes, to mirror their hearts.

But North's eyes were blue, the colour of the North. This in turn explained her name, for her father believed that a child with blue eyes born to a family of dark-eyes was a sign that the north would be over-run. He therefore gave her the name of the country they wished to conquer; North.

At least, such was the prophecy that a wise old sage had once told the king. But as she grew, North became less and less like the prophecy foretold. She failed her studies, she couldn't grasp the concept of fighting skills, and spells went wrong for her. She was apprenticed to a sorceress, but the only reason she did not lose her apprenticeship, she knew, was because she was the child of a noble.

It was only a few days before the end of her training when anything unusual happened. North began her day as usual; get up, dress and a quick meal before heading off to meet her tutor, for the morning lessons. She found it very hard to concentrate on his droning voice as he tried to teach her the first known history of the West, taking almost none of it in. When the tower bell finally tolled, she was glad to escape the study room, rushing through the hallways of the castle and out the great doors. Once there, though, she paused. The other noble's children would certainly be heading this way, and they would tease her without doubt. Life here was hard, especially when you were different.

She began to walk quickly to the training rings, where everyone who lived here had learnt to fight. She knew what would happen during the lesson, because it was always the same. The children would be paired up, given weapons, and told to fight until one was forced to yield, or work together to defeat an angry, crazed dragon, or even to fight a gang of ruthless goblins that would just as soon take one of their heads off and eat it for a snack.

North slinked along in the shadows, like so many other creatures. She knew it was strange that she would not walk through the streets like the important person she was, but staying inconspicuous meant that no one mistook her for one of the northern slaves, what with her blue eyes and generally small stature.

Trekking through the back alleys, she did not once spot one of the other class members. However, when she finally stepped through the gates to the training rings, she was the last to arrive, and everyone's attention was immediately turned to her.

The trainer motioned for her to take her place in the line without a word, and North scurried to it, not wanting to bear another beating from the tough warrior who taught them.

"Right, now that we are all here," the trainer began, glaring at North in particular. "We can begin today's training. You all know that your final testings are almost here, correct?"

The group muttered the answer, shifting impatiently. Their trainer crossed her arms and tapped her foot, glaring at each of them in turn. Her gnarled, deeply scarred face was twisted in the most unfathomable of expressions, though it was a god bet that she was angry, or displeased. Her long, sharp fingernails were filed to a cruel point, and her fingers twitched as if she would like nothing more than to drag them across some misbehaving student's face.

"Yes, Mistress," they called, saying it more clearly this time.

"Excellent. Now, the testings will not be like these training lessons. There will NOT be any messing around in them, or you will fail, and I will have to escort you out of the city, even if that means I will need to carry you out in pieces and feed you to the goblins." The class winced at the thought of the ghastly goblins that feasted on almost everyone who ventured outside the city's protecting walls.

"And of course, that would be such a disaster," she muttered under her breath. "Pair up with the person next to you and spar," she commanded the class. "Before you all turn into Northerners, standing around like that."

The boy next to North quickly turned away from her, only to see his other prospective partner walk away with a different boy. Sighing, he turned back to North.

"Well, at least it'll be a quick training session," he muttered, thinking she could not hear him. North looked away from him sadly, just hearing what he said.

Training flew by, with North being forced to yield several times. When they were finally released, she headed straight for one of the rare places in the city where there was an abundant supply of water. It was nothing special, just a small courtyard with an old pump in the centre, but water was scarce and what was here was usually hoarded by the rich people in the city, like North's father.

She stayed there a while, drinking deeply and splashing her face and arms. The cool water felt good against her skin, a temporary relief from the heat of the day, which was caused by the volcano not far away. Unfortunately, she found she couldn't stay long, before she had to keep moving, onto the tower of the sorceress Sharraan. The tower was easy to get to from the water source, and even easier when she took a few shortcuts through back alleys. Before long, North was climbing the spiralling staircase that led to the dome room at the peak.

Sharraan was in the dome room, as expected, brewing a particularly nasty potion that spewed lethal green clouds of smoke. Her pot hissed and bubbled crazily, shaking slightly every now and then.

"What's in there, Sharraan?" North asked curiously.

Sharraan turned around to face North, her eyes glazed with white from the magic that she had dappled in over the years. Though she was very old, she still retained the beauty of her youth, though her long, flowing tresses had turned pure white with her age. Her long robes trailed on the ground, hanging on her thin frame, as if she was merely a skeleton, or perhaps a ghost.

"Greetings, child of the West who hails the North," she said in her curious voice, one that sounded like a breath of wind, or perhaps a bubbling stream. "I seek to create the basis for all magic, an endeavour which I have not yet completed. This calling requires time, but once it is fulfilled, theNorthern Prophecy will also be." She peered at North. "You certainly hail the North, child. Perhaps you have heard the stories of the North?"

North shook her head. The stories were banned in the West, and none were to read them. They were a curse to any who simply looked at the first word on the page, much less read the entire book, driving them crazy to the point where they refused to live.

"Ah, they are not allowed, are they not?" Sharraan commented. "Well, I feel you would enjoy them much. Your calling, I must fear, comes from the cold lands."

North straightened up. "What are the cold lands?" she asked. They were much talked about, but only the Elders knew of them, and even they doubted if they existed.

Sharraan laughed. "Much imagination, they say. A frozen sort of hell, where white falls from the sky to cover it colder. No one ever has gone there, they say. Best not tell all, lest all search and abandon others. But you're not all, child. Nor are you others. You are a different something, of that I am sure. And called to that land you are, I fear.

"But of legends, I have told enough. Time for your learning!" And so it was that North first heard of the stories. As with everything else, she left the tower a few hours later a complete failture. She knew that if she failed all the testings in a few days time, then she would no longer be accepted in the city. And if she could not beat a novice warrior in training, then how would she hold out against whole hoards of goblins in the bleak wastelands? There was no hope.

Slowly, she returned to the castle, only to find that her father and mother were once again busy with court matters, and she must wander the grounds until they were finished. She quickly found herself at the only fountain in the city, a tiny thing that water flowed down the sides of silently. Swirling her fingers in the cool water absentmindedly, rubbing the cold stone fountain beneath it, she failed to hear the approach of a group of youths until it was too late.

"What are you doing here, blue-eye? Shouldn't you be cleaning dishes, or serving someone?" their leader sneered from behind her. North turned and glared at him, all the while trying desperately to think of a way out of her situation.

"Oh, wait, it's you. The great North, who's birth signals the end of the Northerners!" The boy raised his arms above his head in a mocking imitation of her father and the rest of the group sniggered at him.

Pleased with the response, he continued. "Pity you weren't as...heroic as your father thought. Maybe then he would pay attention to you." She scowled and turned away from him, but still he went on.

"He probably won't even realise your missing when they feed you to the goblins. If you survive the testings, that is." North did not look back at them, but as they walked away from her, a single tear rolled down her cheek and splashed into the fountain.