The Beginning of End (1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the Chapter One of my future book, if I retain the patience I've had so far and do my job for it.

As before, constructive criticism and feedback are welcome and encouraged, it's what I am here for.

This is very different from the Prologue and springs about two of my main characters, but focuses more on the human man that was also from the prologue.

One thing to bring up is my terrible memory: I tend to forget things when I think ahead sometimes, and it is possible that there are some, or more, continuity errors. If anyone wants to point them out if\\when you see them, please do so so I can fix it up. Thank you!

Submitted: November 28, 2011

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Submitted: November 28, 2011

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Rebirth into Reality

 

His awakening to the next day was one of mystery. Heavy rain poured down from blackened skies. Clouds enshrouded the glade, and it came obvious to him that it was the very place he had awaken with the angel holding him that was engulfed in the dark mist.

He immediately knew something was simply… Incorrect. The drops of rain were black as a shadow. The mist was thickening over the area. As he stood, he realized he was on the exact same lake that the day before they explored, she and he. It was one sign of joy that struck him, and a smile crossed his face, remembering the occasion.

Only… He was not in the water, but rather, he walked on its surface, unable to sink. Even when he tried, he could not fall under. Nervously, he took a brief look around, fearing the worst. After all, he had neither a weapon nor a form of defense.

The mist thickened and condensed, centralizing around one spot at the edge of the lake. It formed a silhouette of something, or someone. In particular, an elf woman appeared. The dust never settled completely solid, leaving the figure transparent like a wraith. With the dark cloud then gone, transformed, the glade shone with a beauty of a day just beginning, alight with a flourishing taste of life.

From the knowledge he had and the display of events, he could only conclude that the elf before him was one of the Shadows. He kept silent and still, unknowing what to expect. He assumed she had to be close to a sorceress; it is common knowledge for every elf to have a shred of a link to magic.

She stared at him like a hunter looking for his weakness. Her eyes were black with a miniature white dot for an iris. She, like him, stood silent, studying him, as if debating with herself what to do. As she moved, walking around the lake, circling him, her plain, black skirt flowed behind her, occasionally touching the surface of the lake, but it too was not allowed to fall through it. It fell quite a distance behind her, revealing a pair of leather boots. To his amusement, they were styled with white fur resembling that of the wolves he knew lived in the forest, only it was much clearer. Those boots were the sole aspect of her attire that was not gothic and dark.  Her shirt fell tight against her chest, but it covered her thoroughly. Her features resembled an elf more so than the seductive dragoness; her ears were standing longer, even twice the length that he has seen on her who owned his heart. Her skin paled in comparison even to the whitest creatures he’s ever seen. Aside that, her figure appeared flawless and elegant.

Her appearance flashed a segment of his mind to life. He recalled a battle. The scene was filled by the clash of blades against one another, the cracking of wooden bucklers as well as steel shields falling to the ground. He was in that battle. So were the humans of the Southern Kingdom, along which side he fought. They stood against the forgotten rulers of the rumored Unseen Isle, the elves that have once been the kings and queens of Raerdia. Theirs and the humans’ blood coated all weapons present, and the soil beneath the warriors’ armor-clad feet was soaked from the pain, it itself dying.

Then the Shadows appeared, surrounding him. Their faces were masked, leaving only their eyes and foreheads visible. The pale skin was impossible not to recognize. The rest of the battlefield left his memory, vanishing away like a sea of boiling water evaporating.

He returned to reality. The Shadow elf was nowhere in his sight. He walked to the lake’s edge and felt the solid ground beneath him, reassuring him. He scanned the area out of uncertainty, and he felt the sweat run down his forehead as he still saw nothing, not even a faint signal of the eerie mist. He could not decide what to do, yet the echo of memory reviving in his head the understanding of his past forced him aware. He could only assume the Shadow he saw planned something greater than a murder. He wanted to wait. He wanted to see the one who brought just a thread of a smile to his lips. He would have even smiled at the sight of the Shadow if it meant a swift death.

He cornered himself against the side of the mountain. At first he planned a simple try to climb, but that thought quickly ran from his head when he looked up. He was becoming more hopeless by the minute. Then he saw the glow of that bizarre cloud out of the corner of his eye. He turned to face her already there, the Shadow that she was.

She was dressed differently than at first. Her clothes sent a quick image of one of the assassins he saw daydreaming when he stood in the lake. She looked like one of them, almost identical, only the mask was missing, exposing the features of her face clearly; her furious, black eyes staring through him to his core; her lips, deathly black, curved into a triumphant smile; her ears, even, jut out the back of her hood from little holes cut in the material. Were it a night, that would be all he could see; the rest of her was so dark and covered in tanned leather the hue of the darkest night, effectively hiding her entirely should that night fall.

Alongside her calmly walked a pair strange of canine creatures. They looked like wolves to the plain eye; however, their size topped them all. They were enormous, almost as large as their mistress. It surprised him they were so tame. They differed only slightly in size, but he found the main contradiction between them being that the greater beast was heavily muscular and possessed a thicker mane of fur. Its tail was also longer and overall, it looked older. As it neared, he saw its fur was slightly darker of a shade of gray than the other. It observed him so closely he could not tell who was going to slay him in the end, whether it was to be the Shadow woman or that overgrown wolf.

The smaller beast’s fur was a shining gray color, covering all parts of the creature, but it was scarce on its tail, very much leaving it an exposed flaw of pink skin. Its eyes were running all over the glade; it never concentrated upon a single aspect of the area. That only added to its signs of age. Other than that, it was a smaller version of the greater wolf.

His eyes darted from the elf to the beasts, back and forth. He was shaking more the nearer they were. Sweat coated his face.

As she spoke, her voice reached him in soft echoes.

“You have certainly been lost.” She even allowed herself a chuckle to add to his confusion. “Maybe I did kill you after all. Do you really not remember me?” She mused, the smile disappearing. A more confused expression struck her.

His first assumption had been that she was one of the assassins from the glimpse on a past war. His thoughts raced, frantically seeking a sufficient answer, preferably one that would not provoke an impending death. As much as he could dig through his head, there was nothing of her there. A mere distance of a leap from him stood someone who he had been an enemy to, and he knew nothing of either her or whatever the conflict may have been.

“For a murderer, you speak too much.” He finally retorted, not the way he planned. He ignored her question; although, it seems he answered it nonetheless, indirectly as it may have been. His eyes wandered around, suspiciously hunting for a trap and wondering if he should attempt to escape.

She was oblivious to his laughably obvious fear.

“I would have seen you dead three days ago…” Her choice of time clicked a hint in his head. She nodded when he threw her a confused look. “I hunted you since the end of the Avengers’ War. Since the Wraan were stolen their land. Since you frowned upon the Shadows and left us nothing!” Her tone rose as she spoke, from a soothed claim of justice into wails of hatred calling for vengeance. Her voice was like a curse bestowed upon him. As she spoke, another scene ran through his head.

There was no battle anymore.

He was running through a forest that he recognized well, already buried in wounds. Sweat flooded down his face, mixed with blood, obscuring his view. He could not tell the time of it, as his mind was unknowing of that aspect, only silhouettes of thick trees growing in abundance and covering the area. He remembered the armor he saw himself dressed in; it was one of the Southern Kingdom’s. The helmet had been long lost and the golden armguards wrapped around his wrists up to his elbows failed their job as his blood soaked through the three clean, small, but deep cuts, pouring out and seeping to the ground as it fell, one drop followed by another. One jagged cut crossed the length of his chest, severing his bronze breastplate. Half of it had fallen off. At the very least, his unharmed legs were able to carry him fairly swiftly.

However, her sudden appearance immediately ceased his sprint through the thick woods. The images persisted merely long enough for him to know it was her who was the assassin before, like an ocean encircled by a desert, the memory evaporated.

“Wait-

“How did you… Forget?” Her tone was calmer, then.

“Tell me what I’ve done before you slay me, at least.” He sighed, falling against the cold stones of the mountain. The chill felt inviting, but the realization hit him like an invisible fist of wind. There simply, to his fake fortune, did not seem an apparent way to live through that day.

She surprised him, however. “I don’t plan on taking your life. Not now. That judgment will be dealt when the time for it arrives.” She crossed her arms at her chest.

“You will help me find the Wraan.” She declared it more than she asked, walking to the smaller of her two canine companions. She stroked its fur gently until it started silently purring and lowered itself enough for her to climb on its back.

The moment her hand came to contact with the oversized wolf’s fur, the glow of the Shadow elf wrapped around it and the beast etherealized partially. It took on the transparent form of her, flickering dusts of flame waving around it like the exact same clouds that enveloped the girl. It was not at all bothered by the sudden change. Once the Shadow was seated, the beast rose again and slowly walked its way up in front of him. It refused to look at him, but it was still clearly exploring the glade with its catlike eyes. The shadow clouds thrust out to him as well, but never did they touch him.

The Shadow turned to him.

“Either that, or we can finish our friendly meeting more abruptly.” She grinned, but the sarcastic sound of her voice did not appeal to him. She nodded in the direction of the other, bulkier and more threatening beast, which obediently caught up to them and lowered itself on its paws. He guessed it waited for him to take a seat.

Its eyes met his for a brief moment as it studied him. It yawned, whether from boredom or sleepiness, he could not tell, but it certainly brought a hearty laugh from his captor, who started off then, aiming north upriver.

It took a single look at the enormous wolf to throw away any thought he may have had of riding it. He ran to follow her and fell in alongside her. He had many questions in mind, and she was raising more and more questions each time she spoke. His memory’s faulty continuality answered some, but in turn, it also raised some. Ultimately, he was left unknowing anything that happened before he awoke with the dragoness. One question in particular had taken the highest priority, but something told him asking it would bring no answer.

How have I forgotten? It seemed like a simple answer would suffice, but in reality, it would not.

As he followed her on foot, he could not help but turn and look back at the mountain. He could clearly see clouds overlooking the top, threatening to begin another rain invasion. He sighed both at the woeful mood of the cold scene, and at the failure of trying to see the enclave where she, the mysterious savior, had taken him and kept him. All he could see was plain, gray rock. With that, he remembered he had everything there: his scraps of armor left and his sharpened sword. 

Only then, he figured… The elves, if we are to find them, would not take friendly to their enemy. It did not help to convince him, but more it made him fear what he should expect if ever they were to find the Wraan.

He returned to the Shadow elf, watching as she strode along the river on the back of the wolf-like creature. He sprinted to catch her and joined alongside her again, quietly following in tow. He kept his questions for later, and he highly doubted she would give him answers.

They left the clear glade and entered into the woods. The sun almost immediately fell behind, letting the shade fall over them. The trees grew thick together, their crowns springing high above them like rooftops hiding them from the sky. No wildlife was present, not even a sign of it; everything faded home, afraid of the beasts with them. He could have seen a pair of birds see them and take off that moment, abandoning their nest. Even their young remained, chirping hungrily, unable to fly yet. A squirrel left its food as it scurried off in a hurry, leaving some rustling of leaves behind its trail. Even a bear emerged out of its den, sensing danger nearby, but as soon as it laid its eyes on their group, it halted and let them walk past. They continued freely, unopposed, as time ran by.

“I do believe you have a plan, correct?” He forced the question out. He felt as if it was night already, so dark and empty was the forest. He was planning on asking more, on demanding more information, mainly her name, when he remembered he did not even remember his own. An answer was left out; although, he could see the expression on her face hinting she was indeed thinking. He gave up his efforts to drain her of information, sighing. On the other hand, a smile flashed through his lips. If I’m needed alive, there has to be a reason for it. I’ll have to know sometime.

“We’ll set up a campfire and rest at night.” She announced, looking up through the rustling leaves of the trees all around them, searching for an adequate indication of time. “Tell me when that time comes.”

“You do not really need to rest, do you?”

“What Shadow does? We don’t ever sleep. Neither do we ever eat, or even drink. It is simply not part of us anymore.” She avoided any contact at all; however, she did not seem particularly angered.

“You don’t describe life as anyone or anything else would.” Are you even alive? He wanted to continue, but the latter did not make a sound out of his mouth. I had the moment of triumph and control in his hands at this point, so he paused abruptly, bringing a moment of confusion to her.

She stopped her mount, letting it lower itself for her to dismount, but she refused to speak. The spiteful aura of black flame receded from the beast as her touch left it. Some moments flew by before she even turned to address him. Her eyes pierced right through and cut into his soul like a pair of poisoned daggers. Her stare sent an icy chill through his spine, almost making him regret what he said. She started toward him.

“Do you want to know what it means to live that way?”

“That is an offer I-“

“Then do not speak as if you understood!” She cut me off. Even her pets were startled for a moment by her ferocity. She silenced the entire forest. With no further words, she petted her beast to calm it down until she could climb on its back. With her touch returned the ethereal form of the Shadow, befalling upon it again.

He did not move, determined to finish the conversation. A growl from near behind him urged him on, however. When he looked back, there was the other, larger wolf. He needed no more encouragement to start walking, but as soon as he turned to follow the elf, she was gone, along with her mount.

What is this trickery? He searched around for her, but he could not find her anywhere. All that remained with him was the greater one of her pets.

The creature joined him and thoroughly scanned around. It growled as if staring down an unseen opponent. Paying little to no attention to him, it howled. It did not even react when he tried to calm it down and pet it.

He followed its gaze. Whatever it may have been that the beast saw, it was invisible to his eyes. He sighed. He did not know whether to be disappointed or sad. He decided to keep close to the overgrown wolf.

She will be back… Some time.

It lowered itself down at the edge of the river, letting the tips of its claws bathe in the clear water. Its head fell on its front paws as it closed its eyes; whether it was asleep, though, he could not tell. Its fur flowed back and forth with the wind. Its body heaved with its loud breathing, almost making it look greater and more menacing than it really was.

He sighed, once again. He did not expect it to not care at all. He knew, however, that he was going nowhere by himself. Looking up and through the tiny gaps among the trees, he saw the sun falling.

The night was soon to shine.

He collected a number of rocks and set up a campfire. Accumulating the wood for feeding the fire was more than challenging, since much of the forest was swept through by the past days’ and nights’ raining. He was unable to start a fire until the night ultimately darkened the forest and cold gusts of wind whipped at his skin. He took deep breaths, keeping close to the new-born fire. His mind raced, looking up to clear his thoughts.

“Through the lifeless valley…” He watched the fire expand, devouring the thin branches and sticks in the endless hunger of flame. It made him smile, if vaguely at the least. He threw a final suspicious seek around before lying down beside the campfire. His hands served as his pillow. Until his mind fell oblivious to reality and drowned within a pool of dreams, he watched the stars glitter above and wondered if somewhere among them soared the dragoness.

His dream turned into yet another memory. One that felt recent.

His sword was drawn. Blood dripped down from it and coated the blade in its glorious glow. His armor was split in pieces and his breastplate was missing, thrown away only a short distance from him, leaving his chest vulnerable under no more than a piece of cloth wrapped around his shoulder. Sweat rained down his body and my heavy breathing suggested he has been on the move for a longer while.

The river ran beside him, tainted by the foul blood pouring in.

Before him, meeting his gaze stood the familiar figure of the Shadow. She held two short, curved daggers. Both were filthy to the brink with poison encasing them; both were crying for a taste of flesh as they whirled through the air; both were sharpened to insanity, engulfed by the cloud emanating from the elf. Her attire had been unscathed; no sign of her spoke of her tiring at all.

She moved at last, with the motion smooth and brilliant as a ray of light awakening the day in the morning. Her daggers sliced through the air as a knife through butter. Only one was caught by his sword, held above him. His reflexes were slow and his shield had been heavy. He could not raise it against the second dagger in time, letting it drive straight into his shoulder and through the weak piece of cloth, plunging into an open wound. From there, his arm hung limp. His scarred shield thudded against the earth as it fell. The cloth seeped with a renewed wave of scarlet blood. The poison within had not ceased to spread through his body for even a moment, weakening him further.

His final and pathetic resort had been a quick but predictable jab onward, hoping to deliver a single strike through the assassin’s heart and taste a small sip of victory while he drowned in defeat. He was too slow. His sword passed through the wind, leaving a howling sound with the sudden thrust, but she avoided it easily. She leaped over, holding herself on the dagger impaled within his shoulder, and twisted it as she landed behind him, causing a painful scream to escape him as he gasped for breath and left his sword to fall. He gripped his shoulder and wrapped his hand around the now-solid handle of the dagger once she let go of it and the shadows left it as well. He gave all his remaining strength to draw the dagger from his wound. The further out he pulled it, the more he felt its venomous sting.

Meanwhile, she held her other dreadful weapon high over her head. He let go of her dagger and watched it rest on the ground. The ethereal form of it was gone.

At long last, the other fanged dagger found its mark in his back, piercing deep through his flesh. A shock of suffering rippled through him. His eyes closed. He lacked even the air necessary to breathe, let alone scream out in agony, but he was not going to fall until the heart within him would freeze and refuse to beat.

He tried in vain.

He fell to the side, vanishing inside the river. His blood turned its pure waters red. The reflection in the moonlight shone darker. The dagger in his back dissolved, first rejecting its ethereal form after being separated from the Shadow elf, then completely dissipating until not a shard of it was left to tell its tale.

The river sent him flowing. However… It pushed him opposing to its own currents. It was as if either he was nonexistent, or the currents were ignored; as if something has been missing.

He trembled in his sleep. What he thought a dream turned into a nightmare. He was sweating, unable to force himself awake from the hells of his mind. It went dark. As before, the images faded away, dispersing.

The moment he awoke, he felt pain run through him. He felt the same wounds as have been inflicted through the dream.

“It is beautiful to remember your own time of dying, isn’t it?”

He kept quiet. He was unsure what to say or how to respond. What convinced him to wonder was how she had returned and how she knew what he dreamt. “I died?” The words were released in a silent mutter.

“I have given up Sacrifice in order to see you dead. And so I saw you, fallen, drowning in this water,” she thrust an arm out, pointing toward the stream through the forest. She paused in her speech, doing so only for a moment. “As I can just now see you alive and well, walking among the living.”

Maybe that’s one memory left only for me. His brows furrowed, but he did not object, knowing from what little his mind was collecting that she spoke the truth. The way she spoke confused him, however, and his face must have given him away, for she understood and smiled, relishing in his lack of knowledge.

She pulled out a fanged dagger from somewhere his eyes could not see at her side, showing it in plain sight for him. He recalled it from his dream. It was an exact duplicate of those he had seen in his dream, the duo of twin poison-soaked daggers that renewed his suffering. “This is Despair.” She explained. “It is symbolic. As was Sacrifice.” She paused, the smile gone from her face then. She stood up swiftly, revealing a tanned, leather cape. She threw it to him, over the fire, where it almost caught a spark.

“We cannot linger here further,” was her only explanation. She hid her weapon back in her outfit, behind her back. It was concealed perfectly by her own black cloak, resting in a sheath at her waist.

He grabbed the cape she gave him and flung it over his shoulders, followed by the hood pulled up to hide his face.

“Do I need to be paranoid enough to hide even my face?”

“In fact, I will say you do.” She answered, turning to him. “It will be in your own interest. You have been away from your own kind for a while, as a matter of fact. You may not remember what has happened to you and what you made happen.” She raised more suspicion than she answered questions. Resuming her way, she smiled and started off. As her mount rejoined her as well, she petted it, allowing the cloak of shadows to wave over it.

He fell in tow behind her and followed, accompanied by the other oversized wolf. He tried to pet it as she petted the younger, smaller one, but it growled and shifted its head, threatening to bite him. He sighed at last, resuming a simple walk. Why keep me alive when I’m nothing more than just a tool?

The beast answered his unspoken question. It nudged him on until both it and he walked alongside the lesser creature and the Shadow elf.

“Is there no designated road in this forsaken forest?”

She was awfully calm. “We’ll find one a little further ahead. It ends where the river meets the ocean.” If he had been confused earlier, then he was becoming a complete question himself.

“Ends?” The question hung in the wind for a longer while before she decided to nod quietly, avoiding speaking further. “You don’t know where to begin, do you? Not even a clue of what you may do?” he stopped in his steps, pulling the hood of his cape down. “Or… Perhaps… Not even what you want to do?” His point was clean across, but he may have gone over the line.

The elf’s canine pets surrounded him at his sides, growling and circling him like a pack of bloodthirsty vultures soon to tear a prey such as him apart. A nervous feel overtook him and he felt sweat forming on his skin.  He looked into her eyes to find them flooded with frustration and anger. And maybe a tiny speck of sympathy. She closed in on him slowly. A silent icy chill ran down his spine, creeping on the remnants of his certainty.

“You are the one who does not remember their own deeds!” She hissed. Her voice was cold. Her breath stung as it reached him. “I know… And I remember… What I have done…” She mouthed a little more to add to it, but he could not make out what. She signaled to her pets something unknown to him, and they dispersed, heading in opposite directions into the diverse woods.

As she shot and stared him down, the anger in her gradually subsided like a blazing fire being left exhausted until it existed no more. Her expression became normal, her thoughts soothed, she sighed, and soon her eyes resembled more that of a soaked, beaten dog rather than a devious assassin, yet that was her being calm, loose and relaxed. It almost forced him to wonder. Her sudden changes and shifts in attitude surprised him most times. They were questionable and undeniably strange, but that also made them that much intriguing. It ensured that some part of her, however abstract, was kept a hidden mystery.

“So be it,” at last she murmured, confirming something to herself more than speaking to him. “Make your choice. I have made mine. We can walk the designated roads, or we can roam like fools in complete chaos and random luck.” Her words were final on the matter, he could tell. Crossing her arms at her chest, she waited patiently for his answer. Only that was not as easy as it may have sounded at first. His mind raced around in itself, trying to devise a quick answer.

“To find something lost, you have to lose yourself beforehand,” he smiled at his own deceptive explanation. He hoped it was enough to buy him some time to create a more understandable, and reasonable, answer. Seconds dragged on as they exchanged daring glances, arguing quietly with unspoken words.

He finally broke the unnerving silence and nervously waved to motion her to continue.

“Shall we?” He grinned, and if not for his unsettling position in the conflict, he would have urged it into the next level. He delighted in draining her patience step by step until she would have to murder him.

But she’s not planned on doing so just yet. She meant for it to be Slow… Steady… Painful. Thinking of it in such a way increased his paranoia.

Am I already poisoned without knowing?

He had to wait, unfortunately. With her pets away and unseen, the Shadow elf was rendered weaker, much to add to her missing Sacrifice, as she had named the cursed weapon. On the other hand, he could not underestimate her abilities. He was increasingly weaker himelf, drawn away from a place where he knew immortality.

Only if it lasted more than a short span of few days. Half of his conscience focused on the clearing where he had been saved, and where he had also lost my memory. Only more unanswerable questions flooded his mind. He knew well who he had to seek out, but he did not know how or where.

He snapped back into reality like he had just awoken from a malicious nightmare. She showed no fear of him at all, turning her back to him as she continued walking her chosen direction along the riverside. She had no intention whatsoever to heed his advice. He followed, with no lone choice to pick for himself.

We don’t have to trust each other. He caught up to her and silently took his steps beside her, pulling his hood up to cloak his face, dropping his gaze down at the ground. They continued on without a word. No weapons, no memory… No chance of survival. What am I to do?


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