Salis' Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium

I should have written the Korron Arc mostly through Perrinu's eyes and might do that later if the zero people whom have commented so far agree.

Chapter 11 (v.1) - Black Sands of Despair, Eternal Haze in Twilight

Submitted: August 28, 2019

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Submitted: August 28, 2019



Kel's main realm, Samma, wasn't like what I had thought it would be. It was actually more like what I had envisioned of Usui's realm. All around us was untamed forest, albeit not as thick as the Deep Forest was. There was no one in sight nor any buildings.

“Everyone asks me why my realm is so clean and orderly and not completely natural.” He spread his arms out. “This is why. If I had my realm like this it would remind me of Kel and thinking about him makes me depressed. There is beauty in things made by hand so it was not a hard decision to choose what I have now over this.” He sighed. “Follow me. It's not far.”

There were no trails of any kind and I saw and heard no animals. It was just us and the trees. I would get lost easily if I got separated from Usui. I actually considered “getting lost” but even I could feel the loneliness here. I didn't want to see if I could get used to it by staying.

We didn't have to walk long. Usui had placed us close to Kel and we entered a clearing in the forest. In the center sat a man much like Usui. Not only did his hair shine like Usui's but his aura was slightly brighter and his clothes glowed. He was floating in the air and looked like Helnion during math class, his eyes focused on nothing unaware of his surroundings.

“We have come to fulfill your request for help.” Usui said after we had stopped next to him.

I felt a power touch my mind ever so slightly and heard a soft distant voice in my head. My brother Usui. I did not expect it to be you to answer my call.

“I had not planned on it Kel, but these girls here did not want to become part of my collection so I gave them the option of helping you or staying with me.”

You would send small children, girls at that, to Koron? Surely you do not think they can survive? Is refusing your offer sufficient to send them to their deaths?

The voice paused and Kel focused his eyes on us for the first time. Tell me Child of Terra, why would you choose a fate like this. Is not serving a Deity and having a life of luxury not better than this? I sense you have a strong mind and intellect, surely you must realize the folly of your choice, even with the great sword you possess.

I did realize my folly, but I still had my desire. So I told him my answer, following his link to my mind. I don't care for that kind of life. Sitting around and being pretty all day for a thousand years sounds boring and I would rather have a short eventful life.

Kel's eyes unfocused for a moment before he continued. If that is your wish I will not stop you. I just hope you do not meet me again soon.

Kel shifted and looked at Helnion. Daughter of Flaern, why would you choose a fate like this? He repeated what he had asked me.

Helnion smiled at him. “I go since Salis is.” Was here simple and expected reply.

You have such loyalty to your friend. Is following her worth dying for?

“I trust Salis. She usually thinks of good ways to avoid getting caught.” I could have sworn Kel almost laughed when he heard Helnion say that but I saw no change in his expression so I was probably just imagining it.

It is true that the Child of Terra is much older than she appears. Perhaps the knowledge of Terra will help you avoid death.

Kel finally turned to Perrinu. Oh unfortunate Child of Avan, I have seen many of your cursed kind pass through in recent times. Can your kind not escape your sin even with the help of Deity?

Perrinu looked shocked. “The sin of my people? Please tell me, my parents would not tell me. I must know what my people did to receive the Animal Kin's wrath.”

You do not know? I heard slight sadness in Kel's “voice.” It is unfortunate that the sins of the parents must be carried out on their children also. To not even know why your kin are killed is not cruel but kind. It is best to let the knowledge of the sin stay from you.

“I do not care if knowing seals my fate. I want to know if there is any way that the Animal Kin could ever forgive us. I cannot atone for a sin that I do not know about. I must atone before my people are gone.” Perrinu was crying.

This was ridiculous. I could understand these Animal Kin punishing those who had done whatever this sin was, but taking it out on those that didn't even know about it? This was why I hated dealing with people, doing things like this.

I am sorry I cannot help you Child of Avan, but it is not my place to tell. You will find out someday, whether in the afterlife or alive I could not say; however I now understand why you refused Usui's offer and I will respect that. As for the other two. He looked at Helnion and me. The first may be foolish but her will to be free is admirable. The other is also foolish to blindly follow but that is her choice.

I have spent too much time. Kel didn't seem to be in any hurry so I doubted this. So I will be brief. I am in need of you three to go to Korron and interact with those there. I am unable to leave this place for long lest the spirits of the dead lose their way and be lost so I need you to go in my stead. Unfortunately Usui just told me this is a test and does not want me to tell what is needed.

Curse that Usui. He was telling Kel some annoying things. Korron wouldn't be a fun place even if we knew what we were doing. Not knowing was going to make it worse. On a good note I did know a little about Korron. It is said that those who have taken their own lives were sent there.

I didn't know what happened to them when they got there but they stayed until Kel deemed them worthy to be placed back into the cycle of rebirth. I also didn't want to know what it would be like being around those that had killed themselves and had to do whatever for who knows how long with that knowledge.

Kel continued. I hope that I do not see the two of you soon. He said to Helnion and Perrinu. But I will probably never see you again Child of Terra, for even I do not know where your souls go after death.

So even Kel didn't know where the souls of those brought here from Earth went? If they didn't come here then they probably went back to wherever they go when you're on Earth. At least I hoped they did. Even being stuck in the cycle of rebirth on Calorin was far better than your soul disappearing.

It is time. Kel said before we vanished from his sight. Usui never even said good bye. I was happy about that.

At least I was happy until my eyes focused on the landscape around me. There was absolutely nothing here aside from a powdery black sand and a few rock outcroppings. The air was thin, very hazy and was slightly cold. None of us had packed anything warm so I hoped it didn't get any colder. I also noticed that I felt lighter.

The most surprising thing was none of these. It was the sun above. The large red star above us covered much of the western sky, if that was west. Even with half of it beyond the horizon it was a sight to behold. I couldn't wait to see what it was like during the day.

“I am sorry.” Perrinu spoke to me. “If it was not for me Usui would not have sent you here. I would have preferred not to involve others.”

Ah, she was the type to take everything on herself. If she had been thinking right she would have realized that it was my fault as much as hers. Usui would never have sent her alone without us and , well… maybe he would have sent me and Helnion without her even if we lacked what was needed like he had said. I just wonder how many more pranks we would have had to pull before he stopped finding it amusing.

I hadn't replied to her. “I knew you were mad at me. If there is anything I can do…”

My silence had just made things worse. I didn't want her to keep whining so I would have to say something that would convince her that I had forgiven her.

“I'm not mad.” I said to her.

“You must be. I have never seen you smile and you have avoided talking to me.”

It wasn't enough to say that I wasn't mad. I really didn't want to continue this.

“Salis is always like this.” Helnion said, coming to the rescue.

“Always like what?” Perrinu asked.

“She does not like to talk and she never smiles even when something good happens.”

“She never smiles?” Perrinu turned from Helnion to me. “If you do not mind me asking. Did something happen?”

I actually loved giving this answer whenever people asked me why I never smiled. “What happened? I came to Calorin.”

“Do you really hate it so much here?”

I was in the middle of regretting replying to her because I didn't want to answer any more questions when I saw him. It was a man. He looked terrible. There was blood all over him and it looked as if his bones were broken. Yet here he came on twisted legs.

I grabbed my bow and an arrow. I didn't know if he was dangerous or not but I wasn't going to risk it. I didn't know what happened to those on Korron when they were shot with an arrow but I would soon find out.

My movement had alerted Helnion and Perrinu to the man's presence. Perrinu only had time to gasp before I loosed the arrow. I wasn't the best shot out there with a bow but the arrow hit its mark and he fell on his back. He grasped frantically at the arrow sticking out of his chest and then suddenly he turned to dust. Black dust.

“Why did you kill him.” Perrinu said, almost yelling. “He was injured and we could have helped him.”

“He's already dead.” I told her. “It won't hurt him to die again. Besides he might have just as easily killed you. If you want I can let you find out if they want to kill you or not by yourself.” I obviously wouldn't just stand and watch her get killed but I needed to make a point.

She sighed and her anger went away a little bit. “Can you at least try to talk to them before you shoot them? At least give them a chance?”

“Alright, I'll give them a chance to talk, but if they don't talk or they look up to something then I'm not even going to care what you think.”

Perrinu still didn't look happy but she nodded. “If you must. I still do not like it but until we know what to expect we should be cautious.”

So she knew reason when she saw it. This would make dealing with her much easier. I also saw why Usui sent her with us. Unlike me she thought about things like diplomacy. Without her Helnion and I would get nothing other than shooting the inhabitants of this place since neither us liked to talk. It also gave me an idea of what our task might be.

Usui had said that Helnion and I lacked what was needed to finish this test. Perrinu was gentle, didn't like fighting, and was willing to talk to a potential enemy. So this meant our test required one of these qualities if not all of them. We would have to move on and find out somewhere along the way.

There were other more important things to do now. “We should find shelter. The sun looks like it will go down soon.” I told Perrinu and Helnion. Perrinu nodded.

Because of the haze visibility was not good and I couldn't make out any place that would make good shelter. We would have to walk. I didn't know which way would be the best so I started walking at a forty five degree angle to the sun. It wasn't as bright as Calorin's sun but looking at it still hurt my eyes.

We had been walking for hours and saw nothing but sand and rocks with the occasional deformed man. There had been no women. Most of the men simply ignored us. Many of them lay motionless with empty eyes staring in whichever direction. Some of them had attacked us. Most of them rushed us without a word and I would shoot them when they got too close. The one's that did talk rambled incoherent phrases but one had looked at Helnion and Perrinu with lust and called out that it had been so long since he had been with a woman. I shot him without hesitation.

The sun had not moved in the sky. I had thought for sure that it would have set by now or maybe it had even been rising but it had done neither. I didn't know if the days here were just long or if it didn't rotate at all. Perhaps the planet we were on had one side facing the star like Earth's moon always had one side facing the Earth.

Our sitings of the seemingly insane inhabitants of this black desert had been dropping. I didn't know why we were seeing less of them but Perrinu seemed less tense now. I wondered if there was a reason why there had been so many and then almost none. It would be worth a look if I could get away from the two I was with.

It was getting rockier. I hoped this was a sign that there were large rock outcroppings nearby. The thin air had made us tired easily despite the seemingly weaker gravity. We were also getting thirsty and hungry. We had yet to see any signs of water so I hoped Usui would be giving us some.

I stopped. When the others saw me stop they did too and waited to see what I was going to do. I didn't know when Usui would be sending us food so I decided to check and see if he had sent anything yet. I also needed to use the middle drawer.

I had taken my boxpack off and placed it on the ground. I opened the bottom drawer and looked inside. There was a flask. I took it out and the other two quickly did the same. I didn't trust Usui so I looked inside. It looked like water. I sniffed it. It smelled like water. I stuck my finger in the bottle to taste test it when Perrinu tapped me on the shoulder and said, “It is only water.” Just because theirs was water didn't mean mine wasn't. I tasted it and it was water.

We were soon on the move as soon as we each had replaced our middle drawers in our boxes. I had been surprised to find something in the top drawer too. It was a letter from Usui and said nothing important. I had crumpled it up and placed it in the middle drawer where it belonged. It had made good toilet paper.

Perrinu had gotten a letter too. She didn't know what it said but it seemed to lift her mood a bit. I was slightly curious to what was in her letter but I didn't want to read another thing from Usui so I resisted.

We finally found shelter. The rocks had steadily gotten bigger and we now found ourselves in a maze of large rocks. There weren't any caves and camping ourselves on top of one would give our positions away so we improvised. The rocks were much too big to move the regular way so I got Helnion to make us a rock fort with her levitation magic.

I tried helping too but since I couldn't control how much power went into my magic anything I tried to levitate would either do nothing if my power was at a low point or continue to continually rise, often like a rocket, until I stopped. I couldn't have that just right spot where the object levitated in place unless I was lucky enough to have my power rise or drop to that point when I was trying, which was rare. At this moment my power was too low to even budge rocks of the size we were moving, though I could take some of the weight off of the rock so she didn't have to use as much energy.

Perrinu was amazed at us. She obviously knew about magic but said this, “I am amazed. Until now I thought only the Animal Kin or Deity could use magic. I have never seen a human do it before.”

So humans couldn't use magic where she was from? I had never heard of such a place on Calorin. As far as I knew everyone everywhere could use magic to some extent if taught. Maybe her kind had lost the knowledge or even never had it. If I got bored enough I might have to experiment on her and find out.

Helnion didn't have enough energy to finish our fort. The rocks were so heavy, even with the lower gravity, that she tired quickly. She still had enough energy to topple them so I had her use the last of her energy to topple some of the rocks and blocked as many of the paths as she could. It wasn't perfect and it would take a few days of this before I would be satisfied but it had still limited the ways that someone could reach our new home.

“Food!” Perrinu yelled to us.

Helnion was exhausted and rust over to her box, eagerly opening her the bottom drawer and pulling out a piece of bread and another flask. I was hungry too but there was no hurry.

My meal was another vegetarian meal. The servants had found out I had a taste for fruit so I had more of that than the other two. It wasn't the best meal ever but it would do.

We all ate our meal in silence. I could tell Perrinu wanted to talk but she had already tried several times while we were walking and neither Helnion and I had cared to give her anything more than a brief answer or disinterest.

Helnion was asleep quickly after she had finished and Perrinu sat next to her, huddling for warmth. She too soon fell asleep. Now that they were asleep I decided to do a little patrolling. I wasn't heartless and wouldn't leave them asleep and vulnerable so I wouldn't go far.

I climbed up the rocks and lept between them until I got to the tallest one. The haze was still a problem but for now I only needed to see if there was anyone undesirable nearby. It would be difficult to find anyone in this maze of rocks so I would only be able to see anyone if they were moving. If there was one of those that didn't move at all then it wouldn't be a big deal since they seemed to not care about anything.

I hadn't been looking for long when I heard sobbing. It was coming from our fort. It didn't sound like Helnion so it was Perrinu. She was still asleep so she must have been having a nightmare, probably about her family or something like that.

I couldn't see anyone from my current vantage point so I decided to move somewhere else. It has nothing to do with getting away from Perrinu's sobbing, I swear. I hoped that no one could hear her and left with that. I didn't think there was anyone the way we came from or we probably would have seen them already so I headed in the opposite direction.

Over the next half hour I lept from rock to rock and the lighter gravity made this easy. It was then that I found him. He was sleeping in the sun to get what little warmth he could. His neck was at an odd angle and he had rope marks around his neck. He wasn't the first I had seen like this. Since this was where those that had killed themselves went it wasn't surprising. Every man I had seen had some sort of injury. I had nothing about this before but it appeared that those sent here kept the wounds that they had received when they had killed themselves. In this case the man had probably hung himself.

This was one of the less gruesome injuries I had seen. I could only guess at how some of them had died but they ranged from no marks to a few that had organs spilling out of gaping wounds or the walking charred. From some of their ramblings it sounded like they still felt the pain of their wounds. This was enough to make me never commit suicide.

The man below me wasn't a threat at the moment. I didn't know if he would ever be a threat but Perrinu wasn't here so I was going to make sure he never was one. I shot him with an arrow and he turned to dust. I retrieved the arrow and continued on my patrol.

I was thankful for all the running I had done during training. If I hadn't I would have passed out because of the thin air. As it was I returned to camp short of breath. I had made a complete circle around our place and had found two more men. None of them even saw me and were dust before they could see what had happened to them.

Helnion was still asleep but Perrinu was awake. Perrinu looked horrible. Her eyes were red and puffy and looked like she had been crying until a few moments ago.

“Where did you go?” She asked me the obvious question.

“To look around.”

“You need to rest.” She said another obvious question.

I didn't reply and sat down by my box. Perrinu and I weren't cold like Helnion but only because of my recent stroll but I saw no reason why I should get cold. The bag with all my stuff that Helnion had been carrying for me was next to my box and I pulled out a fire crystal and a storage crystal. I used to have two fire crystals but Helnion must have lost it during the carriage chase so I could have made two if that hadn't happened.

I charged the storage crystal and gathered some small rocks then built a hollow box and put the it and then the fire crystal inside. As soon as the fire crystal touched the storage crystal it produced a flame. It was by no means as warm as a campfire but it still gave off heat so it would do.

“Why did you not do this earlier?” Perrinu asked me. She sounded a little unhappy for some reason. She didn't look cold so I wondered why.

“No one asked.” And they hadn't.

Helnion sighed wearily but said nothing else and warmed herself by the fire.

Perrinu had fallen back asleep. I was no longer tired and had no desire to sleep. The sun hadn't moved so I had no idea how long it had been since we had come to this black wasteland. I didn't know what to do. I was bored. I could go look for more dead men walking but they would be no fun, and while I felt no remorse over shooting them without a word it also brought me no pleasure. I don't think they would give me amusing reactions to any mischief I did to them. It wasn't until Helnion woke up a while later that I decided to move.

“I'm going to look around some more.” I told the two of them.

“You should not go alone.” Perrinu told me. “I know you can defend yourself but we still do not know what to do and how dangerous it is.”

“That is why I'm going.” I told her. “Helnion, don't let our princess here get into trouble.” I said to Helnion before leaving. Helnion saluted me and I left.

I was now heading to the area where I had seen the most men. There weren't many landmarks after I left the rocky area and just put the sun to my back at an angle I thought was opposite of the way we had gone. I didn't need to be precise anyways so as long as I was going in the general direction it should be fine. I just needed to not get lost on the way back. I had only brought a flask of water and wouldn't be able to get food if I didn't find my way back.

I was moving a lot faster now that I was by myself. Since the air was so thin I had to pace myself but I found my rhythm. Despite seeing an increasing number of men I made good time and made it to an area that had many of the men that just lay there. I figured that something must be here if there were so many of them. They obviously weren't moving so something must have put them here or that something was close.

It turned out that I didn't have to look hard. Many of them were facing the same direction and had drag marks behind them. I followed the marks, fighting off the occasional attacker, and soon found myself at the edge of a shallow crater.

It was dangerous here. The closer I got to it the more I got attacked and at one point had to stop and fend off several attackers at once, even using my poleaxe on one. Fortunately they stopped coming after a while. I hoped they wouldn't get smart and attack in a large group.

The crater I had fought my way to was like nothing I had seen before. Inside were a large amount of men, many of them killing each other, the rest trying to get out or just lying next to it. It was the focal point of the crater. I don't know what it was but before me at the bottom was a large black pit of something. I had never seen anything so black.

There was also something else extraordinary about it, there were men coming out of the black pool of whatever it was. Some of them were even those that I had just killed. It was the source of the sad creatures of this place.

I got another good piece of information from the scene in front of me. If I killed one of them they would just come back. This meant Perrinu couldn't give me as hard of a time, though someone I kill probably won't be as willing to be friendly. It didn't matter to me. If they attacked again they would die again. I might even be able to get them to obey me out of fear if I kill them enough. Usui hadn't given a deadline so I was in no hurry to find out either way.

Now that I had seen what I had come to find out I was going to go back. It might be good training here but I would have to do that at another time. Even with my great ability to kill all of these unarmed men it was still dangerous to be here alone. There was also the fact that many of the men below had spotted me and had stopped fighting each other and were coming at me.

Lucky for me most of the men were in no shape to give chase. The one's that did I would shoot fire behind me and they would back off. One or two made me stop and hack at with my poleaxe.

Soon there was only one following me. He made no attempt to attack me so I chose to let him be. I wanted to see what he was up to before I did anything. I had seen so many men here and none of them seemed the least bit willing to talk. This one hadn't made any effort to talk yet but it wouldn't mean he would.

I was about to the point that I didn't want him to follow me anymore and was about to shoot him when he turned away from me. The only reason I could think of his turning away now was because he was have noticed that I was going to shoot him. Smart man. This actually didn't make me feel relieved and actually set off a warning in my head. This man was more sane than the others and I would need to watch out for him.

Instead of continuing on I sat down. I did need to rest but I sat down for another reason. The haze limited my visibility to about a thousand feet or so. The man had moved out of my visual range so I decided to see if I could hear him. He was probably much too far away for me to hear him but it was very quiet here since there were no animals or even trees to sway in the wind. It was just me, the unchanging and constant breeze, the sand, and any man that happened to be nearby. I heard nothing. I guess it was worth a try. At least I knew no one was close enough to be heard.

With my shot at listening for the man and getting rest at the same time done I was now ready to leave. I didn't know if the man could see me anymore or not so as soon as I got up I ran. I don't know if it did anything but after running for as long as I could I fell and recovered my breath.

I was now getting close to our camp site. The rocks were more numerous now so I knew I had gone in the right direction. It wouldn't be much longer now. I just hope I hadn't led anyone here. If one was following me another could have without my notice. I just hope none had followed us earlier and attacked after I had left.

No one had. I got back to camp and found both of them perfectly fine. Perrinu was pacing worriedly by Helnion, who was warming herself by the flame.

“Thank the Deity you are safe.” Perrinu said in relief. Helnion said nothing and merely looked at me before returning to the fire. She looked bored.

“What did you see.” she asked me with a look that said she hoped I would answer. I told her. This was important so I needed to tell her.

“That is amazing.” she said. “But it is also sad. To die and come back without end. Having no escape from their pain.”

“It's their fault.” I said. “They knew where they would go when they killed themselves.”

“Yes, but I never heard anything about this. About keeping your wounds and suffering from them.” she said sadly.

“It's not my problem.” I said and sat down, opening my box to look for food or water.

I opened the bottom drawer of my box. There was no food in it yet but there was another flask of water. I then went from the bottom drawer to the middle drawer before finally opening the top drawer. I hoped their wasn't another letter from Usui. There was one, but that wasn't the only thing in there. There was a book.

I opened the letter from Usui. It said that he thought I might be bored and so he sent the book. Later I found out he had sent one to Perrinu too. Usui had even sent us books that he knew we would like. I knew he was still trying to win us over but I would still take the book. Helnion didn't get a book. She didn't care much for reading so she didn't really care that she didn't get one.

There wasn't much to do for now. I still didn't feel like sleeping but my body was sore from the running and shooting the bow. Perrinu and I had our books but Helnion didn't have anything. She got so bored that she eventually picked up her bow and started shooting arrows into a pile of sand she had made while I was gone sand.

Unfortunately I finished my book in no time. Even the break I took for our next meal hadn't helped much. Perrinu seemed to be a slower reader than me and still had a bit to go. I was tempted to trade books with her but when I looked at it it was written in a script I couldn't read and in the end Helnion and I started moving rocks again.

Strangely I still did not feel like sleeping. I don't know if it was the fact that the sun hadn't set yet or what but I found it quite convenient. Until I got Helnion used to a sword and bow again or even managed to convince Perrinu to learn how to fight I was the only one at the moment that could defend us. I thought about letting Helnion regain her magical energy so she could use that but to fight but I wanted a more defensible position especially while I was still alert and not sleeping.

There was still a lot I wanted to do with our camp site. My first priority was to build us a shelter. The wall had been easy as I had chosen a spot where a few large rocks were arranged nicely and it had only taken a few large rocks to fill in the gaps. The hard part was the roof. I hadn't seen any signs of water so if it did rain it wasn't ofter or much. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one who could climb rocks and so I wanted to make it so we wouldn't get attacked from above.

Helnion seemed to be more in control of her magic than usual but she would ofter swing the rocks to fast in one direction, missing the spot, or she dropped them too fast and they would bounce out of place and in one instance break.

Somehow we managed to get our rock house finished before Helnion tired again. I had made sure the rocks were well placed before we moved inside. I didn't know how well it would hold heat or even if my magic heater was big enough to heat a large space. The inside was big enough to hold five people so it might be possible. I had even tried melting sand between the cracks in the rocks with my currently feeble magic but I couldn't get it hot enough to melt it. Helnion couldn't either.

Despite the attempts to melt the sand failing it did have a good side effect. The heat from our flames had heated the inside nicely. In fact it was too hot for my taste. I guess this did mean that if the magic heater wasn't enough we could just use our own magic to heat the place.

Our home was now as finished as we could get it. I even had a small boulder by the front door that could be rolled into place. Unless one of the inhabitants of this place could move rocks they couldn't get in. We could now sleep peacefully. That is if I ever got tired.

I had exhausted Helnion again so she was now sleeping. Perrinu didn't look tired but had finished her book so wasn't doing anything. I couldn't think of anything to do either. I had sent my book back but hadn't gotten another one. I would also a while until we got our next meal.

Perrinu broke the silence. “Salis.” she said hesitantly. She knew I didn't care to talk but this must have been important enough for her to try. “Would you mind teaching me magic? I don't want to kill or anything like that but if I can even just recharge the magic heater…”

I admit that it would be nice but there was no way I could teach her anything useful in anytime soon. I had been learning for a year and could only use basic elemental manipulation magic and barely levitation. I guess Helnion could teach her the more advanced stuff like illusion, heat transfer, and magic solidification, but Helnion was a horrible teacher and she could only do those on a good day.

“I'll try.” I had gotten used to tutoring during my year at Kein. There was no way Perrinu was as bad as being with that brown noser Caldren and the walking headache machine Darito.

“Thank you Salis.”

It was nice having something to do. Teaching someone was something I avoided but it was better than sitting inside a dimly lit rock house doing nothing and Perrinu was a teacher's dream. She listened to everything I said and asked. Unfortunately nothing I did helped.

The easiest way to start was with a light crystal but I had lost that with the carriage. Instead I used a wind crystal. It would be harder to tell if she got it to work than a light crystal but after hours of trying nothing happened.

“Thank you for trying to teach me.” Perrinu said to me when we finally gave up. “I think we should rest now. We can try again later.” She yawned and lay down next to the fire.

I still wasn't tired so I went outside and climbed on the tallest rock. The haze prevented me from seeing much so I just played with my levitation magic and shot small stones into the air. At one point I heard Perrinu start crying again.

“Food!” Helnion called out to me after who knows how much time.

I went back into the rock house and opened my box. Inside was a breakfast meal. It had been longer than usual since our last meal so night must have gone by back at Usui's place. Now that I knew this I might be able to keep track of time a little better.

“Will you take me to the black pool Salis?” Perrinu asked me after our meal had finished.

“Are you sure? It's dangerous.”

“Kel would not have sent us here if we could not do anything. Sitting here will not help.”

I had no problems taking her there. If she died it was her fault for going somewhere dangerous.

“Do you want to come to Helnion?” I asked. I knew her answer. If I was going she had no problems going either. I could get her to stay here but I didn't want to leave Helnion here by herself and bored. Helnion did things if she was left alone and bored. Either that or she would fall into one of her daydreams and get killed without even realizing someone had killed her.

After sealing our belonging is the rock house we went on our way. I now knew better where we needed to go so I wasn't worried about getting lost now. It wasn't too close to our camp site so it took us a while to get there. Neither Perrinu or Helnion were very athletic and the thin air only added to it. On a good note we made slightly better progress than the previous time. We must be acclimatizing to this place already if only a little.

We were now seeing men often now. Helnion and I were at the ready with our bows and had Perrinu in between. I knew Helnion wasn't a good shot so I told her to wait until they got closer. This meant she would only have to shoot if one got past me.

It seemed that some recognized me now. Many had turned away and shuffled off when they saw me. I don't know what they though about be killed by a child but I wasn't going to ask and they didn't want to.

There was another group that recognized me too. These ones did not flee or attack. These followed us. It made me uncomfortable having the do that but Perrinu stopped me and shook her head when she saw that I wanted to get rid of them. I hope she didn't regret that later when we were swarmed by the slowly growing number of men.

The closer we got to the crater the slower we went. We were being attacked regularly now and I insisted on retrieving the arrows I shot so they would have to wait for me. When I did this a man would attack Helnion and Perrinu from time to time. I knew that this might happen so I had never let myself get too far away and would get back in time.

Perrinu soon became tired of all my target practice and began calling out to the men around us. She pleaded for them to not attack and simply come talk to us. I didn't know what kind of effect it had on the men but none of them answered back.

We finally made it to the crater. Helnion oohed at the black pool below. Perrinu just looked with a grim expression. The sight of men materializing from the pool wasn't a pretty sight. I just wondered if seeing the men we had just killed coming back make her less restrictive on keeping us safe by getting rid of those tailing us.

“It is so sad. They are killed just to come back and be killed again.” She looked at me when she said the last part.

“If they don't want to die again than they should be smart enough to not attack us.” I said.

“It is not only that.” Perrinu said looking back at the pool. “Do you think that killing them just for following us will give them a good impression?”

Is that why she stopped me from killing the one's that were following us? Because she didn't want to give them a bad impression? I could care less what kind of impression they had of me but deep down I knew that she was right. We had come here for a reason and shooting everything that got too close didn't help. That's why I hadn't shot them despite how bad an idea I knew it was to let them accumulate like that.

Perrinu started calling out again. We had made an impression on them now and we only got attacked by the most insane looking of the men. The rest either ignored us or just watched us. Except for the few that had recently come out of the pit I couldn't see their faces and what they showed. It was also eerily quiet. None of them were spewing out their insane rantings except the few that were still attacking but that was only for the few seconds they were alive before I killed them again.

I don't know how long Perrinu would continue her pleadings but not only was I getting tired of shooting my bow but all but the most insane one had gotten tired of getting shot. One of them had even sat nearby and just watched Perrinu, giving me an occasional weary look. I was all I could do not to shoot him.

To my relief Perrinu finally stopped. She looked depressed. Aside from that one none had shown any inclination to listen to her. I didn't even know if that one man was listening. He look more curious about the young girl than what she was saying.

“I need to rest my voice.” She said to me. It did sound a little hoarse. “We should return now.”

Helnion also looked happy to be leaving. I hadn't wanted her to waste arrows so she didn't do much during Perrinu's pleadings. She had been sitting and drawing in the sand for a while now.

The walk back was uneventful. Once we got away from the pool that one last crazy guy no longer attacked us. Other than that the men either lost interest and left or ran away when I decided it would be no longer good to have them follow us. Of course Perrinu didn't let me kill any of them.

It took a while but we had lost all the men following us and made it back to camp. Perrinu immediately checked her box and found another book. Helnion looked as bored as ever and looked like even she wanted a book now. I had also gotten a book. I was tired from shooting so many arrows and a break would be nice.

The time passed quickly. Lunch came and went. Helnion had yet another nap and Perrinu and I both finished our books. Dinner had just come so everyone was awake now. Helnion was restless and watching her meander aimlessly was getting on my nerves.

“Helnion, want to do some training?” It was a good way to kill time. I don't know how long we would be able to keep it up with the thin air but the lack of things to do was even beginning to get to Perrinu.

Helnion looked at me worriedly but eventually agreed. We didn't have any practice swords so we had to use the swords we had brought. Since the swords were dangerous as they were I decided to find something to wrap around the blades. We didn't have much with us and nothing inside my bag would work. That left using some of our clothes or the arrow quivers. The arrows appeared to be the best choice at first because they were solidly built with wood but they were short enough that they fell off the ends of our swords easily. The clothes might work but each of us had only brought one or two changes of clothes and the swords would probably tear them up quickly. There was also my the scabard for my sword but there was no way I was going to use it like that. In the end Helnion and I just practiced swinging our swords.

We kept our practice up for a while, taking periodic breaks. While I trained with her I saw that while she still didn't have much stamina it had improved a little over the past week. I guess all the walking and running she had been doing had had its effects.

I was actually glad that we had practiced sword swinging first. By the time we had finished I had lost count of how many times Helnion had dropped the sword and occasionally had even thrown it. She had dropped it more as we went on, especially after she had gotten blisters. I don't think she would be practicing with for a while with her hands like that.

No one was ready to sleep. Helnion was tired but she had already slept so much recently that she just rolled around. Perrinu had no reason to be tired. She had been sitting and watching us swing our swords but nothing else.

Eventually Perrinu tried talking to Helnion. At first Helnion either ignored her or had realized she was being talked to but eventually Perrinu got her attention. Helnion was soon flooded with questions. She didn't care much about idle chit chat but answered most of them briefly.

It was when Perrinu started talking about herself when I became interested. I didn't know anything about where she came from or who her people were.

Perrinu had come from a land she called Avan. She described how her country had fallen a few years ago when she was little and how the Animal Kin had started attacking her people. It turned out that these animal kin were humans that could transform into various animals and even somewhere in between. She said that until that time her people had lived uneasily by these Animal Kin only having the occasional conflict.

Then she said that one day they were attacked without warning. Until that time the Animal Kin were unorganized and only kept to the others of their type of animal. Bears with bears, rabbits with rabbits, etc. But something had changed. They had declared that they had discovered that Avan had committed a great sin in the past and that they could not be allowed to live.

The different tribes of the Animal Kin were then united under one leader and attacked. She said that while Avan was much more advance than the Animal Kin the Kin could use magic and easily used it to overpower the Avan army. There was nothing they could do to stop the genocide and Perrinu's family was forced to flee with others. It was just a few weeks ago that they were found and only Perrinu had managed to get away because of one of Usui's followers.

These Animal Kin. Could the Cat Man have been one of them? It was the only thing that made sense. The big questions now were why there was an Animal Kin so far away from wherever the place was and why it was going after me. I hoped I never was in the position to find out, unless… unless it meant that I had gotten away from this place.

Since I was interested in finding out more about where she was from I decided that I would have to stop my talking embargo with her and, well, talk to her.

“Do you know how far away your land is from mine?” I asked her.

She jumped when I spoke. She hadn't realized that I had been listening and probably didn't expect me talk even if she had known.

“I do not know. From what my parents have taught me our people have never had contact with other anyone but the animal kin as far is I know. The ice to the south and the mountains to the east kept us from exploring that way. The seas to the north and west are too dangerous for ships for most of the year and even then those that left for deeper waters often never came back. Those that did reported a invisible barrier that smashed ships that were unlucky enough to find it.”

So her country was that isolated? From the sounds of it she was from much further south than Flaern was. No wonder she didn't look cold she must have lived very close to the southern pole. I had never read about a continent being that far south before. No one had had any reason to go much farther south than the coast of Toa Mirr, the country to the west of Flaern. The ice burgs didn't help much either.

The one thing that caught my attention the most was this invisible wall. Did it surround the entire continent and if it did why did it? Until now Calorin had been remarkably devoid of magical creatures of any kind. Was this barrier there to keep the Animal Kin out of the rest of the world. And if it was there for that reason how did the Cat Man get out? Perrinu wouldn't know the answers from the sound of it so I said nothing.

“Did you think of anything about where I am from? It would be very helpful if I knew how to get back if Usui doesn't send me back there.”

I don't know why anybody would want to go back to a place where their people had been hunted down but it wasn't my problem so I told her my thoughts.

“I think your land is south of ours, across the ocean.”

“So all I would have to do is get a boat and travel south?” She looked a tiny bit happy at the news.

“If you can figure out how to get past the barrier that is.”

“Oh yes. That is a problem.” She frowned, I having broken her moment of happiness.

I could have told her about the Cat Man and that he might be one to ask but I couldn't tell her where to find him. I guess it would give her hope that there was a way through but it was better that she didn't try.

We were done talking now. Perrinu looked deep in thought and Helnion was back to being bored. I had no reason to stay in here so I went outside and climbed up on the tallest rock. I wasn't expecting to see much through the haze but it was something to do.

My legs weren't tired anymore so I decided to do a patrol. We were far from the pool and it didn't seem the men wandered too far from it but they had a reason to now. I imagine their eye sight was no better than ours and none of them seemed to able to use magic so we probably had lost them but they knew which direction we had gone and if any of them had any sense remaining they would realize this was a good place to hide. Even if they hadn't followed us there was still a chance of one wandering here randomly.

The rock field was large and there were plenty of places to hide. Still, I had already managed to find two and dispatched them. I just had to wonder how many more there were here. I wouldn't find out. It wasn't safe to leave those two alone and I still had not gotten used to the air.

On my way back I came across another man. He still wasn't too close to the rock house but being in the rock field was too close as far as I was concerned. I pulled out an arrow and readied my bow. It would be an easy shot.

As soon as I took the shot another man jumped from the rocks to my left. I wouldn't have time to get another arrow and shoot him and I had left my poleaxe behind so I pulled out my sword.

I barely made it in time. I slashed at him and he jumped back, surprised. He knew how dangerous my sword was so he had stepped back and watched me. He was still to close to use the bow and even though he was unarmed I was hesitant to attack him.

Not only was he completely healthy looking he also wore light armor. I wasn't sure but it seemed that whoever came here kept the clothes they had died it. This man had died in armor. This also meant he was trained. Even though he had no weapon he could still be dangerous if he had been trained in martial arts.

This meant I had to use my trump card. I would electrocute him with my sword. Even if that didn't work I still had my unreliable magic.

I put energy into the sword and lunged at him. My magic seemed weak at the moment so no electricity arced off the sword at him. He easily dodge my attacks but made no attempt to counterattack. He was studying me.

Since my melee attacks weren't working I would have to try magic. My power output had been low ever since I came here so I would be lucky to produce something strong.

I jumped back away from him and summoned fire. It was weak, but it would be enough to injure a person. It didn't. The man had covered his face and the fire swept over him. It didn't do anything. In fact his armor glowed slightly. His armor had somehow protected him from my magic. I even tried using my own lightning attack on him and his armor easily stopped it.

I was out of breath now. All the jumping from rock to rock, attacking him had taken its toll on me. I couldn't tell how tired the man was but he had merely been defending. I needed to get away.

I jumped down to the sand below. The man did too. He wasn't going to let me go. I hadn't planned on it so it didn't change my plans.

I knew I couldn't out run him so I needed to do something to hinder his movement. My magic was by no means strong but for what I needed to do it didn't need to be. The black sand that seemed to be everywhere was light and powdery. Whenever it was kicked up it took a while for it to settle if it didn't end up adding to the haze. I was going to use this to my advantage. It would only take a decent breeze to pick up enough sand to effectively blind someone.

It worked. The area around me soon became obscured and I could no longer see him. I knew that he would expect me to either attack him through the dust or flee. I was tempted to attack him but I wanted to get out of here so I ducked and ran at the spot I thought he would least likely expect me to run, the big rock to my right.

I ran as fast as I could to where I remembered the rock being. I managed to get past the spot where I thought he would most likely get me if he knew where I was going and cleared the dust. He was waiting for me and I was soon knocked to the ground.

He had pinned me. There was no way I could stop him from doing anything. I didn't know what he wanted to do and had to wait.

He simply studied me. I don't know what was going through his head. If he was sane or insane. If he had any plans at all. I was going to find out soon.

He smiled at me. “I am impressed, Terran. For one as small as you you put up a good fight. I had watched you as you came and went from that place.” The black pool or our house? “And am wondering why three young girls would be in such a place.”

I didn't know what to do. Should I tell him everything or should I stay silent? He seemed more curious than anything, but if he wanted to know he could have just asked instead of jumping me. This place did seem to make those that came here go insane so trying to figure out what he was thinking would be sketchy at best. All I could do was to talk to him.

“If you wanted to ask that you didn't have to jump me.”

He laughed. “You looked like you would have killed anything that made a wrong move. I also wanted to see how well you used that sword.”

“Were you watching us at the black pool?”

“The black pool? Oh, yes I was there. It was funny how you eventually made all but that one stop attacking you. That was quite a feat only I and a few others have accomplished.”

“When the loud one was calling out would have been a good time to talk.”

“The loud one? Does she not have a name? Regardless, I was more interested in watching at the moment.” He smiled again. “So, are you going to tell me what three young girls are doing here?”

“What we're doing here? We're here for a test.”

“Oh, what kind of test?”

“Finding out what the test is is part of the test.”

“You do not even know why you are here? You must have done something bad to Kel to get sent here.”

“It was Usui, not Kel. As to why he sent us here I'm not going to tell you.”

“Usui sent you? Did you burn down his favorite forest or something similar?”

“Apparently even walking into his forest is enough to get you into trouble.”

He laughed. “I have heard. That seems harsh, but there is not much you can do to change that.”

“Can you get off of me now?”

“Oh yes. It must not be comfortable having me leaning on you like this.” He got off of me.

“Is that all?”

He thought. “Are you mad at me? I can understand if you are. Nobody likes to be attacked.”

“Does it matter?”

“Of course it does. You will not let me come close to you again if you are.” I didn't answer. “Would you mind taking me to the other two? I would like to speak to “the loud one.”

“Normally I wouldn't but I want to get out of this place and if you can help…”

“Do you want to ask her first?”

“Come.” I got up and ran towards the rock house. I didn't think bringing him was a very good idea but neither was choosing to come here in the first place. At least it made life interesting. Who else could say they had met Usui, Kel, and come to Korran without dying?




Perrinu jumped when she saw me come inside the rock house with the man. She definitely had not expected me to come back with anyone. In fact, I bet she thought I killed everything that got too close if she wasn't with me, which was probably true.

“Greetings.” The man knelt on one knee in front of Helnion. “I am called Martu. I would like to know if I can be of any help.”

Perrinu smiled. “I am Perrinu and I thank you for your offer and gladly accept.”

“Good! I look forward working with you and your friends.” He looked at me then Helnion, who was watching with apprehension. To her he said, “I will not hurt you.” Helnion didn't show any sign of believing him. He sighed, “I guess I can understand being afraid of me. I have been here long enough to know how dangerous everyone here is.”

Perrinu nodded in agreement but changed subjects. “Can you tell us more about this place?” She asked him.

“Of course. Your… companion said part of your test was finding out what the test and if I can help you find out what that is then all the better.”

“Before we start can I ask you why you decided to help us?”

“In all honesty? I think that if you got here you can also leave. I do not know if I could leave with you but even if there is the smallest chance I will take it and even if not it will help relieve the pain and boredom.” Relieving boredom was something Helnion and I could sympathize with. Maybe I could trust him a little bit.

“I know everyone that comes here has a… reason to come here so I do not mind if you do not talk about that, but would ask if you would explain why everyone is the way they are and what it is like here.”

“Fair enough.” He said, sitting down by the fire and warming his hands over it. “You already know about the black pool so I assume I do not need to talk about that. I also assume you have noticed the setting sun that never moves, the lack of anything but rock and sand, and the lack of women.

“I cannot tell you why the sun never moves and I can only speculate why there are no women, but I firmly believe that the lack of anything besides rock and sand is part of the punishment.”

“Punishment?” Perrinu asked.

“I am sure you are aware that Korran is where those that kill themselves are sent to atone. It seems part of the punishment is starvation and thirst. We even still “die” from it.”

“Is that why most of the men are laying on the ground?”

“That is part of it. The rest I will explain about now. As you know we came here to be punished. Starving to death is only part of it. The main punishment is to have us relive our sin every time we sleep. In the end this drives most men insane, either from lack of sleep or from the dreams. Most succumb quickly.” Well, duh they would. They wouldn't have killed themselves if they were mentally stable in the first place.

Perrinu looked shocked when he mentioned the dreams. Had she been having dreams about her past? She obviously hadn't committed suicide, but she was still seeing something. It did explain her sobbing.

The man, um Mardu? The man had noticed her too. “Have you had dreams also? I would not think someone that came here like you would have them. It must be the nature of this place.” He looked at Helnion and me. “Have you two been having these dreams also?”

I had yet to sleep so I had no idea. I couldn't tell from Helnion's expression if she had or not, but her life had been rich and easy so I didn't think anything terrible enough to start her sobbing had happened.

Neither of us spoke so the man shrugged. “That is all I can tell you about this place.”

So, this place was pretty simple. You kill yourself. You come here. You have bad dreams, no water, no food, and are surrounded by other insane people that could kill you for no reason. You also kept your wounds.

This brought up a question. “How did you die?” I asked the man.

“Salis!” Perrinu said angrily. “That is something we do not need to know about.”

“I don't care why he killed himself, I just noticed that he doesn't have wounds like the others.”

The man laughed. “I do not mind. I cannot hide it from you forever. I killed myself with poison. As to why I killed myself…”

Perrinu cut him off. “You do not need to tell us if you do not want to. I am sure you do not want to talk about it if you do not have to.”

“I do not mind. In fact I think talking about it will do me some good.”

Perrinu looked not only sad but it also looked like she didn't want to here something like why someone would see killing themselves as good. Even so she nodded.

“Have you heard of the Kingdom of Ioo?”

The Kingdom of Ioo. I had heard of it. It was a Kingdom far north and east of Flaern across an inland sea.

“My country had been at war for just over two years. I was an officer in charge of the defense of the northwestern gate to a city. The enemy had just laid siege to the city and we did not have the manpower to break it. We also did not have the food stores to feed everybody for long. The fighting was fierce on several fronts and we knew that the chances of getting reinforcements was low. It was either distract the enemy and keep them away from reinforcing any of the other fronts and slowly starve or hope for a lucky break and we would get reinforcements or they simply left.

“To my regret a third option came. I could not stand seeing my people starve so I went to the enemy to negotiate. I thought that surrendering would save my people from starvation. I tried to persuade my command to do this but they thought holding them off for as long as possible was for the best of the war effort even if it meant starvation.

“I… I betrayed them. I went to the enemy camp and told them that if they promised to spare the common people I would… I would let them in.

“They agreed and a few nights later I opened the gate. It was a massacre. They had lied to me and were raping and killing. Once they were in the city there was nothing that could be done to stop it. They even brought my wife in front of me and… and…”

“That is enough.” Perrinu said, crying and patting his back.

“In the end they let me live so I would suffer from what I had done. I couldn't face myself so I…” He added. Strangely he didn't look as sad as I thought he would have been considering what he had done and what had happened because of it.

“I do not know how long I have been here but it is a fitting place for someone as polluted as I.”

“Are you going to be here for eternity?” Perrinu asked.

“I do not know. I would like to believe I have come to terms with my sin but I cannot bring myself to forgive myself.” He looked at us each once before continuing. “This brings me to why I came.”

“Why you came to us?” Perrinu asked.

“When I saw you girls I thought that if I helped you it my redeem me in some one. If I could protect you from the… the others then maybe, just maybe I could repay some of my sins.”

Perrinu was now smiling. “We would appreciate any help you could give us.” She looked at me. I shrugged.

“Thank you.” Martu looked at me and then back to Perrinu. “I may not be as capable as I once was, and I will not ask for a sword, but I have been trained in hand to hand techniques and should still be able to protect you.” He looked at me again. “I can even help the little one improve her fighting skills.”

Perrinu looked at me. “Is this alright with you Salis?”

I still didn't trust him. I didn't know if I could trust any of these nut cases. This man even had a past history of betrayal, but…

“Alright.” I said grudgingly. “But he sleeps outside.”

Is that fine with you?” Perrinu asked him.

“Of course. It would not be… appropriate to sleep in here with you girls.”

Negotiations were now complete. I wasn't happy, but I knew it was the best thing we could do. There was also the fact that we could do nothing to stop him if he attacked us so staying on his good side was the smartest thing to do.

Martu stood up. “Do you have any plans?”

Perrinu looked at me then back to him. “I think the most we can do is find any others and hope that they can gives us any ideas about what we were sent here for.”

“Alright. You will not have much luck here, but I have met a few others that have kept their wits. I do not know where they are but I can look around where I last saw them. Unfortunately it will probably take a while and I will not be here to help train or protect. If even the little one meets any others like me she will not be able to do much.”

“What do you mean?” Perrinu asked. “If you do not think Salis is enough to protect us we can go with you. In fact I would prefer to go with.”

He shook his head. “Even I cannot protect you if we got attacked by too many at once. I am actually surprised that it has not happened to you yet. So I believe you should stay here while I am gone where this rock house can protect you.”

Perrinu sighed. “If you think that is the best.”

“She's just bored and is tired of sitting around here.” I put in, hoping for a good reaction. I also thought it was true.

Martu laughed and Perrinu looked at the floor, embarrassed. My plan had worked. (Insert fake evil laugh here.)

“Is this true?” Martu asked Perrinu.


“I do not blame you, but boredom is not something you should risk your life to quell.” Note to self: Do not tell Martu about things Helnion and I do when we are bored.

“If it gets too bad you can always make up some games.” Martu said, hoping we thought it was a good idea. Perrinu just took one look at Helnion and me then sighed.

“Well, I think the sooner I leave the better.” He said and started to leave.

“Fare thee well, and good fortune in your search.” Perrinu said.

“And you three stay safe, though the little one will probably see to that just fine.”

I did not look forward to him sending men our way. I'm pretty sure what he told us was true. If he wanted to kill us he would have. Any other men we meet might have different ideas about that. Neither Helnion nor Perrinu were what I would call beautiful but these men had been away from women for so long it wouldn't matter. There could also be a pedophile or two that would take a fancy to me, like Usui.

Now that we could look forward to getting more visitors I wanted to finish our rock wall. We had not done much work on it but with so many rocks around most of the work was already done and we just needed to fill in the gaps. The only problem would be keeping anyone from climbing over so I would have to think about ways to stop that.

Helnion was not happy about moving stones again. She was bored so she did do it but it almost looked that she would rather sit around doing nothing than to move any more stones. I helped as much as I could but we had only finished a small portion before she tired and took her spot by the fire.

Perrinu was reading a new book. Usui had been sending them a little bit more frequently now. He had even sent one to Helnion after we put the book back through her box. I wasn't in the mood to join in the reading so I went outside and practiced some drills with my weapons.

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