The Angaran Chronicles: The Ritual

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The Angaran Chronicles: The Ritual

#1 Post by Adrassil »

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Alathis is just a day away from taking part in the Ritual. A Ritual which is required so he can become one of the magically enhanced super assassins, a Hunter.

The Ritual which only one in five survives.

But before he can he needs to work through his tremulous and traumatic past.

A past that would've driven anyone else insane or broken them beyond repair.

Will he become one of the One in five?

Or a corpse?

Chapter 1: A New Name
Chapter 2: On Fear
Chapter 3: Of What Came Before
Chapter 4: A New Life
Chapter 5: Pain Beyond Pain
Chapter 6: An Eldritch Revelation
Chapter 7: The Battle Begins
Chapter 8: Falling, Flying, Freed
Chapter 9: The Red Sea
Last edited by Adrassil on Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:55 pm, edited 9 times in total.
My short story Of An Asur living in the land of Bretonnia:

[url]http://www.ulthuan.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=35367&p=714658#p714658[/url]

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Chapter 1: A New Name

#2 Post by Adrassil »

The Ritual by Benjamin Agar

Year: 2500 AHV (After Holy Victory)

Age: Late Industra era

Country: The Kingdom of Amartis



'What name do you think you wanna take?' said Karetil, grinning up at Alathis. Alathis couldn't return the dwarf's enthusiasm; he just pursed his lips and shrugged.

'I've been looking into the history books,' Karetil said, either failing at noticing or ignoring Alathis' trepidation. 'There are so many awesome Hunter-dwarves that I can't choose.'

Alathis nodded. They were in their large dormitory; the bright white walls and ceiling surrounded Alathis' small dorm, enclosed from the fifteen others around by 1.8-metre tall blue walls.

Karetil sat on Alathis' single, unmade bed, his short legs kicking in the air. It was childish, foolish.

Alathis fought to hide his disdain. After all, they'd been through, Karetil should've grown up by now.

'There was the one I saw, though,' said Karetil. 'A powerful dwarf mage that all by himself took down a whole Isstarssian kidnapping convoy eighty years ago.'

'How'd he die?' Alathis,' chest was tight. He wanted Karetil gone but couldn't find the heart to tell him too.

'He died when he and a bunch of other Hunters fought off a troll alliance in north Camaria,' said Karetil. 'Was overwhelmed by a horde of goblins but killed heaps before he went down.'

Unlike many Hunter neophytes, Alathis included, Karetil had chosen to specialise as a mage, and he was one of the best in the coven.

'You alright?' said Karetil.

Alathis turned and approached his locker. With quick hands, he punched the code into the padlock with 'clack clacks' and swung the metal door open with more strength than intended.

He caught his reflection in the mirror on the back of the door. A few people, many girls, had described him as being 'cute' or 'handsome.' His jawline was so sharp, he suspected he could use his chin as a weapon. His thin nose was long, and like many a Hunter-neophyte, Alathis skin was pale, almost as the white as the walls, from having lived most his life underground. His shoulder-length, brown hair jutted out in every imaginable direction. The right side of his face hidden beneath his fringe. He wore the loose, black tunic all last year neophytes wore. Alathis had never even begun to think of himself being better or worse looking than anyone else, despite the mounting evidence. Alathis was determined never to let it go to his head. Looks weren't worth much. Well, except when they were, for potential assignments or whatever.

Alathis never understood why the Hunters gave them lockers. Let alone locks for them. They didn't have much to store since after being taken by the church. Five years ago, Alathis, Karetil and eight others had stumbled in here with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Everything they owned was now 'standard issue,' standard-issue sleepwear, standard-issue exercise books, standard-issue toiletries, standard-issue wrist timepieces, standard-issue shoes. All of it was produced in Valandri, the vampire nation. No one had anything worth stealing, nothing personal to protect. To Alathis, a locker was a pointless gesture, one not worth the time and resources.

Alathis reached in and took out his wooden practice sword.

'You going to the training room?' said Karetil.

Alathis stayed silent, knowing Karetil already knew the answer.

'I'll come. You might use a sparring partner.'

The human neophyte snorted and shook his head. 'You know you won't last long enough to provide me much practice.'

Karetil shrugged. 'True. You're one of the best. You could just go easy on me, just this once.'

'The best,' Alathis couldn't help correct. 'And remember what happened the last time I bet you?'

Karetil sighed. Karetil had lost his shit and thrown about fireballs, destroying much of the training equipment. They'd then been forced to spend months cleaning the Coven floors with toothbrushes. Alathis was still a bit bitter about it.

'No,' said Karetil. "But we might not have to. Tomorrow we finally go through the Ritual. We'll finally be apprentices. Walking the continent, killing vampires.'

The dwarf's words sent pain shivering through Alathis' heart. He slipped out of his dorm.

'Wait,' said Karetil, who started after him, but Alathis stopped and pointed at the dwarf.

'I'm sorry, but I just want to be alone,' he said. 'I'll be back later.'

Without waiting for a response, Alathis turned and stormed out the entranceway.
My short story Of An Asur living in the land of Bretonnia:

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Chapter 2: On Fear

#3 Post by Adrassil »

Much to Alathis' relief, he found the training room empty. He'd thought so; it was six in the evening, so most neophytes were busy with study.

Alathis ignored the training dummies lining the left wall and the wooden weapons on the right while attempting to avert his attention from the large mirror in the north. Arms of every type hung there, from daggers to double-headed two-handed axes. In the first few years, every neophyte was encouraged to practise with all weapons. First, to learn how to wield each so that they knew how to fight it if they fought an enemy who used one. Second to choose which one to specialise. Alathis had fallen in love with the longsword almost straight away. It wasn't too heavy or too short. It could both stab and slice. Its hilt and cross-guard could be used as weapons if needs must and wielded with one or two hands. In short, it was adaptable, practical. But above all else, there was certain artistry, freedom to the long sword. It could be wielded like a curved cutting blade or even a specialist stabbing blade such as a rapier.

Faster than even his eye could follow, Alathis drew his sword and was in a ready stance. Then he launched into it. His every technique, his every step, every cut, stab and parry were perfect. He'd perform a technique, a downward vertical strike or any other, then the appropriate dodge, block or dart. Then counter. It was called shadow swordplay. He did it by instinct, with no rhyme or reason; it emptied his mind, forced away the fear — the anxiety.

They'd been taught meditation from a young age. It'd never worked for Alathis; sitting and humming couldn't calm his forever busy mind. But swinging a sword or punching and kicking the air did. Alathis wasn't as naive as most of the other acolytes; he knew Hunters were, for all intents and purposes, assassins. And he knew he had to be a damn good one to live even a year of his apprenticeship. That's if he managed to survive the Ritual somehow.

So lost in training, Alathis failed to notice the vampire enter the room.

'Neophyte Alathis.'

Alathis leapt so high he almost hit the ceiling and turned to find Kolmath approaching. The once-elf vampire's face was unreadable, her hands behind her back. She was tall for an elf: around 1.77 metres. Like all her kin, she was long-limbed, graceful. She wore plain white robes like all other teachers — her skin just as inhumanly stark as her robes. She stared at him with large, dark green eyes and her long grey hair pulled back into a bun. She was beautiful, even for a female elf. It almost made him forget his ingrained instinct at recognising the wrongness vampires exuded.

'Teacher,' said Alathis.

Kolmath waved dismissal at Alathis' formality and approached the wall of weapons.

'Karetil came to me,' she said. 'He's concerned about you.'

'He is?'

'Indeed,' she said and reached to touch a broadsword. 'You underestimate him, I think. He may act childish, but he has every bit the same training at reading people as you.'

Alathis didn't reply; he just cut the air, first horizontally, then upward diagonally.

'You know, when you first came to the coven, I was not sure what to make of you,' said Kolmath, while running her long, slender fingers along the haft of a great axe. 'You were so sullen, sulky, you more so than the other survivors of the attack. I understood why, after talking with Telric.'

Alathis treated her with his most murderous glare. 'I don't want to talk about that, teacher.'

Kolmath turned to him. 'You will have to, Alathis. One day. What you went through, what you had to do, that is something even the hardiest of us would find hard to cope with, it might be a good idea to speak of it before going through the Ritual.'

Alathis couldn't help flinching at her mention of The Ritual.

'Ah. So you are afraid,' said Kolmath as she took a small axe and tested its weight. 'Do not be ashamed; it is only natural.'

She swung it a few times, but the swings were so fast Alathis couldn't count them.

'Every neophyte in your position is afraid before the Ritual.'

'Well, except Karetil,' said Alathis.

'He, too, is afraid, young Alathis,' said Kolmath. 'Again, you underestimate your friend; he is just far better at hiding it. Or you might be overestimating him from a certain point of view.'

Alathis swallowed. 'I don't want to die.'

'Everything dies,' said Kolmath. 'Even Hunters, even vampires, even the Jaroai. It is nothing to fear. It is just nothingness.'

'But-'

'You can back out,' Kolmath interrupted, but without anger or condescension. 'Stay here as a mortal, or I could sire you, right here, right now. There is nothing wrong with that; many have chosen that path over the centuries.'

Alathis swallowed, despite how much it'd hurt, he forced himself to remember, of the promise he'd made five years ago. He hoped it'd steel him, chase away the fear, it didn't. But it caused him to stop considering Kolmath's offers.

Kolmath studied him in silence, her slender features still unreadable. 'You are a strange one, Alathis,' she said, and it caught him off guard.

'Excuse me?'

'You heard me. You can be so confident, almost arrogant in one thing but lack confidence in another,' she said. 'You remind me of someone.'

'Who? May I ask?'

She laughed. Alathis liked her laugh.

'I do not think he would appreciate that.'

'I've had a hard life, teacher,' he said. 'Even before the church took me. Even before the...incident.'

'I can see that, Alathis. You are wise beyond your years, but you are still young and have much to learn. Jaroai! I am two hundred and fifty years old, and I still have much to learn. But you must remember...'

'Remember what?'

'That whatever you have been through, young Alathis, there is always someone, somewhere who's been through worse. The elves and dwarves that were enslaved for so long and those who are still enslaved by the church. The starving, poverty-stricken children in Iritain. You have received the best education on the continent. You know the truths of this world.'

Alathis grinned. 'I could've been a priest of Jaroai; they are far more privileged and are higher in this society than Hunters or vampires.'

Kolmath laughed. 'I doubt you would have made it through their trials, were you ever a true believer, Alathis?'

'No, not really,' said Alathis, shuffling his foot.

'I could tell that from the start. If I could tell it from a glance, the church would see it too.'

He frowned. 'I could pretend-'

'The church of Jaroai might be driven by blind illogical faith, but they are not stupid. Maybe you could pretend it now, after years of training, but as the child, you were. No, just no.'

She slashed her axe again. 'Do you know the longest a neophyte has lasted against me in a sparring match?'

'No,' said Alathis, not liking where this was going.

'Twenty seconds, do you think you can last any longer?'

'I...I don't know.'

Kolmath fell into a ready stance. 'Let us find out.'

She lunged at him.

Her sweeping axe forced Alathis to back-step. Then he sidestepped her downward vertical blow. He stumbled to keep his balance and lashed back with a wild upward diagonal slash. With ease, the vampire wheeled away then darted into a horizontal cut at Alathis' skull. Alathis leaned back from it. Kolmath was holding back, moving at a pace his human eye could follow.

His riposte was a diagonal cut headed for her left hip. Kolmath parried it almost contemptuously and sent out a front kick which forced Alathis into scrambling away.

Kolmath slipped at him, her axe swinging for his chest.

Alathis had no choice but to parry. Her strength far exceeded his; thus, the odds of being disarmed were enormous. But he'd practised for countless hours, for countless days, more so than any other neophyte in the coven and thus his parry was executed with perfection knocking her axe aside at the exact right time.

'Nicely done,' she said.

Alathis' footwork was seamless as he slipped onto her flank and simultaneously sliced crossword for her throat. Kolmath leaned back beneath it, then swung diagonally up at Alathis' exposed side.

In desperation, Alathis blocked, placing his left hand on the blade to reinforce it. It didn't stop the chop but slowed it, allowing him to slide out the way.

'Very, very good,' she remarked.

'Yeah, it's only because you're going easy.'

Kolmath shrugged. 'I am going as hard and as easy as against any senior neophyte before or after you. This is just a sparring match, and the thing is, I want you to last. There would be little for you to learn this if I went all out. You are still only human, Alathis. Once you have been through the Ritual, your reflexes will be on par with mine, perhaps beyond.'

'Who knows,' she said, sending Alathis dashing back from another arc of her axe. 'You may receive that mutation, the one that increases a Hunter's strength to that of a vampire's. The odds are against it, but you never know. The only Hunter that has it today is a human named Jelcine.'

Alathis nodded as he tried for a stab which caused Kolmath to raise the haft of her axe to block. It was a feint; Alathis reversed it into a vertical downward slash at her skull. But Kolmath seemed bored as she tapped it aside.

It almost flung the sword from Alathis' grasp, and he stumbled sideways in his trouble to keep hold of it.

Kolmath pushed her offence, slipping at him into an upward crosscut.

Alathis back-stepped it and moved more to gain some ground, any ground. In the pause, Alathis realised how short of breath he was.

"This...sucks," he managed through his gasps. 'I hate this...gak.'

'You are aware that I am not counting the seconds we talk,' said Kolmath. 'Well, to be more precise, when we are not fighting.'

He sighed. 'Man!'

Then he was on his arse, pain coursing through his side.

'You should know by now not to allow for distraction,' said Kolmath while watching Alathis climb to his feet. 'If you are to survive the Ritual, you mustn't avert yourself.'

'What exactly happens in the Ritual?' gasped Alathis.

She shrugged and twirled her axe. 'I am a sired vampire, so you know I have not been through it but have witnessed it many times since I became a teacher. All that I can say is, it seems different for everyone. No Hunter that has lived I have asked about it, have gone into detail. You, I suspect, will not be any different.'

Alathis nodded, fighting the disappointment welling within his guts. 'How long did I last?'

'Twelve seconds. Not bad, young Alathis.'

Alathis sighed. 'Who was it that lasted twenty?'

Kolmath smiled, a rare expression for her. 'Her name was Calian after she took her new name.'

Alathis' jaw dropped. 'The Calian? Calian, who's one of the greatest swordmasters of the Hunters today?'

'The very one,' said Kolmath. 'She is up there with Arken and Anargrin in the top three, despite being only a century old. Do not beat yourself up too much for lasting only twelve seconds. When I sparred her, she was not a day from going through the Ritual. She did not have such a distraction, such a fear looming over her. To last twelve seconds despite this is impressive. Take pride, Alathis, in this achievement. But also take it as a lesson.'

'I understand,' he said; it wasn't a lie.

'You have potential, Alathis,' said Kolmath. 'I saw that the first time we met, but if you are to live up to that potential, you must be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Yours is fear, anxiety. You feel it stronger than Karetil than most people, in fact, so it is harder for you to hide.'

Alathis frowned; his gaze fell to the floor then it hit him. 'Is it a strength or weakness, ma'am?'

Kolmath smiled again. 'That is the question I hoped you would ask. That is a skill many do not possess, being able to ask the right question at the right time. In truth, it is both a strength and weakness.'

He furrowed his brow. 'I don't understand.'

'Do you know the true definition of courage, Alathis? It is not the absence of fear but being able to face it, conquer it. You declined my offers for the easy way out; you still stood against me despite knowing how much I outclassed you, you still managed to aid her despite-'

'No. Don't.'

Kolmath shook her head. 'And there it is, that is one thing you will not face, that you allow the fear to rule you on. You are willing to face death itself, or now, at least, but not that. What I am saying is to be proud, have faith in yourself and your courage, and I know you will live through the Ritual. And you might one day be able to face what happened five years ago.'

She turned, returned her axe to the wall, then began for the door.

'It is not faith, actually,' she said. 'I have given you enough evidence to make it logic, real. I will leave you to think upon this.'

'Teacher,' said Alathis as it hit him, causing her to pause at the threshold. 'You took the easy way out, didn't you?'

Kolmath didn't turn. 'Maybe I should re-consider my compliment. Maybe you do not ask the right questions at the right time.'

A sudden pain exploded in his chest, like a jagged piece of ice thrust through him, but he held his ground. 'I will take that as a "yes", then.'

'So now you know that I speak from the most utmost of experience on fear, Alathis. I wish you luck.'

Without a further word, she left.




He didn't have the heart for more training, so he went back to the dormitory. The whole way, Alathis kept glancing at the sheathed wooden sword he carried. Five years ago, he was able to wield a real one; it was even sharpened. In this coven, neophytes weren't allowed to use real weapons. But they had another reason to take it from him. He wasn't exactly in a sane state of mind, and he might've used it on himself; when they made it from him, he hadn't thought so, but now with hindsight: he knew they were right.

He stopped near the dormitory's entranceway.

Alathis gripped the sheathed sword harder, his knuckles whitened and bulged, and pain crept up his arm. He clenched his teeth then started on again.

He pinned his attention to the bubbling, blue carpet and shuffled into his room. He was hoping beyond hope that Karetil wouldn't see him or wasn't there.

Alathis leapt onto his bed, spinning in mid-air, so he landed on his back. He hid shielded his eyes from the bright light hanging from the ceiling, accidentally brushing his scar on the way.

His hand travelled to his cheek. It pushed the thick, unruly fringe from his face and brushed the ragged, ugly scar. With a sharp inhale, he snatched away his hand.

Mage-Hunter Vortrik had offered to heal it when he'd first came to the coven, but reason unknown even to Alathis, he refused. Instead, he hid it beneath his hair.

It reminded him of her; she'd given it to him when she...when she.

Alathis forced the memory from his thoughts and wished it'd never come back.

But still, he kept the scar. Why?

He lay there, fighting the sickness wallowing in his guts, trying not to think.

He laid there until lights out. He laid there until he finally fell asleep.




'One in five.'

The familiar soft, lilting voice caused Alathis' eyes to snap open and the ceiling to wind from a blurred haze into clarity. He gasped and sat, soaked in sweat, his heart thundering.

Alathis knew he wouldn't sleep, so he grabbed his standard-issue electric flashlight on his side desk. He slipped out of bed and snatched up his sword.


Alathis switched on the lights, and they flickered into life, revealing the training room in blasts of white before becoming constant.

Since he became a neophyte, Alathis had learned how far ahead Valandri and the Hunters were in terms of technology, having running water and electricity decades before the rest of the continent of Angara.

Alathis went to draw his sword, but his hand halted. He couldn't sleep but couldn't train either.

He could only remember, and he gazed down at his palms.
My short story Of An Asur living in the land of Bretonnia:

[url]http://www.ulthuan.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=35367&p=714658#p714658[/url]

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Chapter 3: Of What Came Before

#4 Post by Adrassil »

Alathis' hands became the hands of a four-year-old as he drove his toy motor-truck across the cream carpet. It was his room, where he and his mother lived together so long ago.

Then screams started, shrill, psychotic — his mother's screams.

'Be gone. Begone, devil. I will not have your likes here.'

Alathis flinched, shivers sprouted throughout his skin, and he looked out his open door into the kitchen and living room. There his mother, wild-eyed and manic struggled, with a taller man who Alathis couldn't quite see.

'Please,' said a voice resonating with confidence and patience. 'Please, let me in, Dalti. I need to see Alathis.'

'Begone,' she screamed.

Alathis' eyes welled and blurred with tears. He picked up his truck near his knees and clutched it to his bony chest. He wanted his mum to stop screaming; he wanted the man to go away.

The man managed to push past his mother to see Alathis, and his eyes widened, then he turned and stormed out.

Alathis couldn't hold back the tears, and his mother came to him and embraced him.

'It's okay,' she said. 'The devil, he's gone now; everything's okay. Everything's okay.'



A few hours later, Alathis was still in his room, playing with his Fun Blocks, when he heard the kitchen door explode open and shouts blast through the house. He looked to see a man in a Rule Enforcer uniform storm into the kitchen, his face contorting, crinkling. Another, a dwarf, followed him.

The human Enforcer was gigantic as he stormed into his room, and Alathis screamed as the Rule Enforcer grabbed him. Alathis was so skinny that only one of the Rule Enforcer's hands would've encased Alathis' torso. For a few seconds, the room whirled as the Rule Enforcer lifted him and slung him over his shoulder. Alathis' screamed again, but his mother's psychotic shrieks eclipsed him as she was taken down the stairs by the dwarf and another human.

She hissed curse after curse, her dressing gown crunched and wavered frantically as she fought, but they were too strong.

Alathis bet his fists against the back of the Rule Enforcer, but it only took two blows before it hurt his hands.

They carried him outside. The sun blared into his eyes, but he still saw his mum being carried out after him.

'Son,' she screamed, reaching for him.

'Mummy!' Alathis cried and thrust his hand for hers; then again, the world spun so fast it took Alathis a few seconds to realise he'd placed been onto his bare feet.

He saw the skinny man with long white hair, which seemed to reflect the sun like a mirror. He wore an old, furry brown suit with yellow and blue stripes. He leaned against a black automobile, a Celentara XI. His arms folded over his chest.

Alathis recognised him then and had no idea how he hadn't earlier.

'Dad,' he yelled, ran up to his father and wrapped his arms around him.

'Everything will be alright, Alathis,' dad said. 'Everything will be alright.'



His dad, Nana and Granda looked down at him, concern plain on their faces.

Alathis smiled up at them as he played with the petrol station Fun Blocks toy they'd just given him.

'Alathis,' said his Nana as she knelt to his height. She was a plump lady with a round face as friendly as her. Her white hair was cut short. 'What did your mummy feed you?'

He pursed his lips, confused by the question. 'Biscuits, mostly,' he said. 'I like the ones with chocolate and wheat! Thank you for the Fun Blocks, Nana.'

'That's...that's all right,' said Nana, her eyes shone with tears.

'When will I see mummy again?' said Alathis.

His father, Nana and Granda exchanged looks.

'One day,' said Granda. 'One day.'



The next day, Alathis and dad travelled north to Isstarrsia's largest city: Zalkaland. An eight-hour drive.

There Alathis lived with his father in his large, fancy house. His dad once said, "it wasn't big enough to be a mansion, but not small enough to be just a house."

Months later, Alathis was drawing at the living room table when the rotary phone rang a belling, shrill chorus. His dad walked in and snatched up the receiver.

'Hello?...Jalkenson...It's about time you got back to me...What happened to the shipment?... What in Jaroai's name do you mean by "seized?"...They're saying they are counterfeits?...No; they fucking aren't...No...No, I'm not going to take this lying down. I'm fighting this...Yes...Yes, I know the Custom Enforcer act claims guilty before proven innocent. But by Jaroai, I am innocent. We're going to court, and that's final.'

Dad slammed the receiver down, causing a loud 'ding!' to reverberate from the bells and turned on him. It caused shivering pain made of fear to well within Alathis.

'I'm sorry if I scared you, little buddy,' said dad. 'Don't worry; everything will be alright.'

Laughing, Alathis ran through the long, long main hallway of his dad's house, chasing his friend: Danult, the son of Alathis' dad's lawyer, Jalkenson. Danult laughed along with him. The carpet white carpet Alathis' feet felt like burning. When he'd first come, Alathis couldn't walk very far without the pain overcoming him. He could get quite a bit further now. But he couldn't begin to keep up with Danult though he was two years younger. Alathis' dad had said it was because his mum had locked him up, and that'd weakened him.

He hoped it'd get better soon.



They'd packed everything and stuffed it into his father's truck. Then they drove and drove out of the city and far into the country.

'Why are we leaving Zalkaland, dad?' said Alathis while watching the farmlands pass by. He kicked his heels, his feet too short to touch the truck's floor.

'I...we can't stay there anymore, Alathis,' said dad.

'Aww. What? Why? What about my friends?'

'I'm sorry, Alathis. But...but dad has got into trouble, and you will make new friends. I'm sure.'

'But-'

'No buts, son. That is that alright? Don't worry. Just, don't worry, okay?'

Alathis pursed his lips but kept his mouth shut.



It was the morning of Alathis' sixth birthday, and he sat on his bed opening his last present. He yelled in joy when he found it was a Fun Blocks castle.

'Look, dad. Look. Look what Nana and granda gave me.'

'That's...really nice, Alathis,' said dad as he watched with a stern look on his face.

Alathis smiled and gazed out the window at the beautiful day and the lush bush outside. The bus they lived in wasn't as fancy as the house in Zalkaland. But Alathis didn't mind; it was really neato and really long. It didn't have power or running water or a toilet. His dad called the toilet a 'long drop', and it was a long walk down a path. At first, Alathis was scared to go there, especially at night. But now, he was brave enough to walk there alone.

But there wasn't a present from dad, and last year, when they'd lived in Zalkaland, his dad had made him an awesome cake made in the shape of an automobile.

'Dad,' Alathis didn't mind, but he just had to ask. 'Where's...where's your present?'

Dad's face fell, like a collapsing Fun Blocks castle. 'I...I'm sorry, buddy. But...this year...I...We're going to have creamy ice with chocolate sauce tonight, instead. Alright?'

Despite his disappointment, Alathis nodded and smiled. 'Okay.'

A smile split dad's face, and he sighed. 'Good...That's good. You've still got to get to Scholarium.' Now hurry and get ready.

'Aww. But it's my birthday.'

Dad grinned. 'Too bad, buddy. Not even the Avatar or Jaroai himself could stop you from getting an education.'

Alathis frowned. 'Dad, why do we never go to church like everyone else?'

The grin fled dad's face. 'Because in a world like this...We'll talk on this later, bud. Just get ready, alright?'

'Alright, dad,' groaned Alathis.
My short story Of An Asur living in the land of Bretonnia:

[url]http://www.ulthuan.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=35367&p=714658#p714658[/url]

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Chapter 4: A New Life

#5 Post by Adrassil »

Alathis was standing in the training room again, blinking back tears. Then, he'd no idea how hard it was for his father, but now he knew.

They had barely enough money to survive yet live.

For the millionth time, he wondered, what happened to dad? Alathis had a good idea about his mother. She was locked in an insane asylum. He'd hated his mother when he was young, but the Hunters had taught him what she did wasn't her fault, that she was mentally ill, and what she did, she did with the best of intentions. It'd been hard, but because of this, he'd forgiven her. He hoped to see them again, but he doubted it. Alathis sighed, and with a weak arm, he cut the air twice. He needed to change his train of thought, so he did.

What name was he to take? He'd been reading over the histories and couldn't decide. He liked Anargrin, but the current Anargrin was still alive and one of the most elite and eldest Hunters around today. And it was an elven name.

Alathis sighed. His father had named him after a best friend from childhood; A friend who'd joined the Isstarssian army to fight in the seventeenth war against Camaria and never seen again.

In all honesty, Alathis didn't want to change his name. He knew it was necessary, just in case he ran into a relative and to dodge governmental identification.

Assuming he survived the Ritual, of course.

Alathis frowned and looked at the doorway...



Alathis was twelve when the main door of his and his father's new house was smashed from its hinges and crashed against the wall.

Alathis and his father were working on Alathis' homework, and neither even had time to flinch before the soldiers stormed in. Their rifles aimed at them.

'What the hell-?' His father was interrupted by a rifle butt crunching into his face. Blood blossomed from his nose, and he was sent sprawling off his chair and to the floor.

'Dad!' Alathis screamed; he leapt off his chair to help his father but stopped as he saw the tall, thin, wizened old woman step into the house. She wore the white and gold robes of a priest of Jaroai, her face set in a scowl, and she glared down at the seated Alathis as she towered over him.

'Is this the one, ma'am?' said one of the soldiers.

'He is,' the priestess said. 'Your name, it is Alathis.'

Alathis nodded, even though it wasn't a question.

'What do you want with my son?' roared dad as he started to stand, but a soldier pressed his knee on his back, pinning him.

The priestess' gaze never left Alathis'. 'You should know this, young Alathis. You are very special.'

'I-I am?'

'Indeed you are,' she said. 'You are blessed. You are one of the chosen. The chosen of His holiness, the almighty Jaroai. He has given you, in all His eternal wisdom, the gift of Magical Potential.'

Alathis couldn't form a reply.

'Jaroai has chosen you, despite the lack of faith of your heathen father. I know he does not attend the holy gatherings, and thus, you do not, either. But Jaroai is forgiving, He loves all, and He knows it is not your fault. Your father's decisions are not your own. Unlike your pathetic father, you are destined for greatness, Alathis. You are destined to one day become like me, to one day speak His word.'

The old woman's withered hand reached to take Alathis', but Alathis snatched it away.

'No,' Alathis said, trying to inject bravery into his tone. 'I don't believe in Jaroai. I want to stay with my dad. Go away.'

The woman's face went red with rage.

'Foolish child. You are lucky you do not live in Camaria, boy. Or you would be killed for such blasphemy! You might not believe in Him now, but I assure you, you soon will.'

'Take him,' she snarled, and two soldiers slipped past her and grabbed Alathis before he could react.

'No,' Alathis screamed as he struggled in their strong grips. 'Let me go.'

'Alathis,' his father roared. 'Don't take my son. Please. He's all I have.'

The crone looked down at Alathis' dad.

Rage seemed to rip through his father, and with newfound strength, he writhed and twisted to get free of the soldier's knee, but it was all for nothing. 'Give me back my son! Or-'

'Or you will what, heathen?' she said. 'You dare threaten me? I should kill you for that. But I am a merciful soul.'

'But-'

'But nothing. If you utter any more words, I will consume you with Jaroai's holy fire. Believe me, Mr Idris Setrin. You do not want to die like that. There are very few more agonising deaths in this existence.'

Before Alathis could hear more, he was hauled outside.



The truck came to a sudden stop, as did the four military Jeeps following close behind. Alathis and the other children flinched as curses erupted from behind the wall of the driver's area. The children, about a dozen, including to everyone's confusion four elves and two dwarves, due to them being unable to have magical potential, glanced about in fear and uncertainty. Then the first behind them Jeep exploded, causing the children to scream and cover their ears. Alathis watched as the vehicle was lifted into the air, wreathed in fire.

Then came the gunfire; it erupted from the surrounding trees, cutting down soldiers as they raised their rifles. A freezing feeling clasped Alathis' heart; it thundered up into his head, it caused him to close his eyes. For what seemed an eternity, the battle raged. No matter how hard he pushed his palms to his ears, Alathis heard everything. The agonised shrieks, the battle cries. Every centimetre of the metal cage around them seemed to judder and jump all the time. Everything sent a painful shudder through every inch of his body.

It was a roar that forced him to open his eyes, to turn to the opening at the back of the truck. The priestess was flinging fireballs at an unseen assailant.

'Die heretic!' she roared and raising her staff, her knuckles projected what looked like a wall of light, a split second before a figure dashed in and cut with a sword. Alathis couldn't make out who or what it was before it darted back, a split-second before the priestess arced out a cloud of flames. Alathis caught the sight of someone get engulfed in them; in less than a second, they vaporised into nothingness. They couldn't even scream.

A figure slid in, stabbing their sword. But in surprising speed, the priestess blocked it with the haft of her staff. But she wasn't fast enough to stop the stroke, which opened her throat in a spray of blood.

She fell to her knees, trying to stem the flood from her neck with desperate grasping. Then a man leapt into the truck, his large booted feet clanging. He was human, tall and well built. His greying hair was cut short and slicked back. He carried an axe in his massive paw.

The children couldn't help reel, shaking and crying.

'Don't worry,' said the man. 'We won't hurt you. We are here to rescue you. My name is Telric, and I am a Hunter.'

The crying erupted into wailing.
My short story Of An Asur living in the land of Bretonnia:

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Chapter 5: Pain Beyond Pain

#6 Post by Adrassil »

Alathis shook himself from his reverie and looked down at the sword held at his side. It was made from Amartisian oak, one of the most durable, most expensive woods on the continent.

Most training weapons were made out of lesser quality trees, but he'd been gifted it they'd claimed out of respect and to make up for his real sword being taken from him.

But Alathis knew, he was given it out of pity.

Pity for he went through.

Pity for what he'd done.



He'd been living and learning in that coven for three years when it'd happened. It was during their nightly stroll, through the maze-like, white-walled corridors of the coven. They both carried their swords sheathed at their hips.

Alathis and Silette walked side by side. Nerves seemed to play through every inch of Alathis' being; his heart fluttered as it always did when near her.

They were silent, but it wasn't awkward; they could be like this for hours. Alathis looked sidelong at Silette. The beautiful young girl's long brunette hair pulled into a high ponytail. Like most natives of Amartis, especially humans, her skin tanned a nice brown. Slightly browner freckles littered across her high cheeks.

Silette caught him looking, causing Alathis to snap his attention aside.

And she smiled.

He smiled back.

'How was your day, Alathis?'

'Good, good,' he said. Alathis was a year older than her, so they never had classes together. 'I bet Torvion at sparring today disarmed him after ten seconds. Won all my five matches, too.'

Silette's smile split into a grin, causing Alathis to flinch.

'Nice,' she said. Torvion, a dwarf neophyte, was Alathis' rival. 'At this rate, you'll be the best swordsman in the coven, Alathis.'

Alathis felt his face flush. 'Th-thanks. H-how was yours?'

Silette pursed her lips and shrugged. 'I too did well at the sword. Won three of my five matches. Also managed to kill my history class and my psychology class, too.'

Alathis smiled. She was truly a studious neophyte, far more than Alathis. She excelled in almost every subject over him, except Art, Psychology and Tactics, which were Alathis' favourites. But even in those, he was barely ahead of her.

'I'm not surprised, Silette; you should be in my year. No, you should be two years ahead.'

Silette stopped, and Alathis met her gaze with his. Her eyes reminded him of the crystallised green that glittered throughout the sea's waves off the Isstarrsian coast. The thought of that sea caused him to remember the red sea, a sea that didn't hold that same glittering green but an unnatural orangeish hue that defied nature. The red sea was cordoned off from the rest of the ocean by a vast mountain range that swept for fifteen miles to meet the land in the north and south.

The Valandrian scientists said the red sea was created when a meteorite hit the continent billions of years ago. An extinction-level event for the creatures living on the world before humans and even the elves and dwarves emerged from the oceans as primitive creatures. Alathis had never liked the red sea. It wasn't that its depth was beyond measure; there was also a feeling which put him off. He'd swum there on several occasions, and each time he'd done it with the greatest hesitancy. Everyone else seemed fine with it, though.

'I don't know about that,' she said, knocking Alathis from his thoughts. 'That'd mean going through the Ritual early, and I don't think I'd be ready.'

Alathis laughed. 'If anyone would survive the Ritual, it'd be you, Silette.'

Silette's smile faded, and she shook her head. 'No. I don't think I will. If anyone will, it's you.'

He laughed again. "What? You able to see into the future now? We both know that there are many paths of magic, but foresight, prophecy is bullshit. As far as we know, anyway. There are the mutations that happen to Hunters during the Ritual; someone might get one which allows them to-'

'I am not joking, Alathis,' she said, but her intense stare showed it more than her words. 'I think when I'm old enough, I won't go through the Ritual.'

Alathis raised an eyebrow. 'Why?'

'I need you to make a promise to me, Alathis,' she said with a dismissive shake of her head. 'That no matter what happens, you will go through the Ritual.'

Alathis opened his mouth to reply; then, the explosion erupted behind them. It rocked the corridor, the entire coven, despite it being underground. Then the alarm klaxons burst into shrill life.

'Where-?' said Silette.

In less than a split second, Alathis knew. He knew the layout of the coven better than any other neophyte. 'The entrance. What in the name of Jaroai-'

Alathis was interrupted by a scream in his ear, a blood shaking scream which made him reel from the pain.

He fought to regain himself. Then he sensed her aura. It started to change and warp and-

The sound of a sword escaping its sheath made Alathis move. Silette's arcing blade missed his neck by a mere millimetre. His attuned instinct overrode his surprise, and he danced into a fighting stance then drew his sword to smash aside her stab.

'Alathis,' Silette screamed as she chopped downward, forcing Alathis to sidestep. 'I can't control myself. My body-'

She stopped her sentence as though some will had forced the words down her throat. She came at him again, thrusting.

Alathis parried, then ducked a horizontal slash. What in hell was going on? What was controlling Silette's limbs? Every time she attacked, her aura seemed to fluctuate from normal into something Alathis had never sensed before.

Silette's wide, watering eyes seemed to scream and plead. But for what, he didn't know.

The sounds of combat had erupted all through the coven, cries and clashes and the barking of guns.

Alathis blocked another cut and saw an opening. His instinct screamed to exploit it, but with every iota of his will, he managed to fight it.

'Alathis,' Silette cried, tears coated her cheeks. 'Stop holding back. I'll kill you. I can't control myself, please.'

'I-I can't,' said Alathis, back-peddling a diagonal cut. 'Fight it.'

'I can't. Can't you see? This is why I know you'll survive the Ritual, and I won't. Whatever this is, it saw me as weak. Weak enough to control. Kill me, Alathis. Kill me before I kill you.'

Tears turned Alathis own' vision into wavering blurs. 'No.'

Silette let out a frustrated growl as she lunged again.

Alathis parried her downward diagonal cut then weaved beneath her horizontal backswing.

'Fight it,' Alathis pleaded again. 'You can win; I know you can. Please.'

Silette's mouth moved but without words. Her anger was almost palpable.

For how long he dodged, deflected her attacks and moved through that corridor, Alathis didn't have a clue. All the while, exhaustion seemed to tear into him, too leaden his limbs. Sweat drooled into his eyes and soaked his tunic.

He knew he was fitter, stronger. He hoped to outlast her, but in this state, she seemed immune to fatigue.

All the while, the battle raged throughout the coven, made up from the familiar screams of the damaged and dying, the explosions of gunfire and clashing of blades. But Alathis only half heard it; his attention fixed on Silette.

Then, when he was on the verge of falling into exhaustion completely, an idea hit him. After back-slipping a slash, he stumbled and dropped his guard.

Silette cried out as her body slipped in and stabbed at Alathis' face.

He tilted his head in the last possible millisecond. But he was too slow to stop her sword from tearing across his cheek.

Ignoring the pain savaging his face, Alathis dropped his sword and grabbed Silette's arm.

'I'm sorry,' he said and snapped her thumb with a twist, then tore the sword from her grasp as she shrieked.

He dropped her sword beside his and fell to his knees, onto the flats of both blades, pinning them to the floor.

'What are you doing?' Silette said, each word was a sporadic, agonised hiss through her clenched teeth. Finally, she started to approach, her hands raising.

'If I can't outlast you, then I won't fight you,' said Alathis.

'You're insane,' she cried.

'Not the first time I've been accused-'

Her punch forced pain to burst through his cheek, and blood flooded into his mouth, yet he still grinned at her and spat it out.

'-Of being insane.'

Then came another punch, then another and another and another.

Each caused an explosion of agony through Alathis' face. Each opened the cut further, making more blood spray from it. Each snapped his head about, sending pain into the top of his spine.

He had no clue for how long she punched him or how many times, but it wasn't for as long as he'd first thought.

It took him a good few seconds for his vision to stop spinning to see her stumbling back, her face contorted. It took him even longer to realise the sounds of battle had died down.

Silette then slipped and fell on her back with a strangled cry.

Alathis wanted to yell her name, but vomit flooded from his mouth. He just managed to turn away to keep it from hitting her.

'Alathis,' she cried. 'H-Help...me.'

He wiped the blood from his gaze, and what he saw caused him to forget somehow the horrific agonised throbbing and swelling of his face.

Silette's feet had begun to evaporate, her toes breaking apart into tiny shards. Shards that faded as they rose in a constant stream. They moved with horrific slowness.

'Wh-what?'

'Don't...just stand...there. You can't imagine-'

She screamed and writhed, and more screams echoed throughout the coven.

'Please.'

'H-how?'

'You know how. Please, Alathis...Please.'

Alathis flinched, and the tears he'd been holding back rolled unfettered. 'I can't. I'll get healer Swelt she-'

A scream erupted from Sillette. 'Don't...be...stupid.'

She lost her words into pain, soaked, writhing and shrieking.

'This is like nothing...ever. Ever. Seen. She can't do anything and...I know...I...she won't.'

'H-how?'

'It...doesn't matter-'

She screamed again as her feet finally disappeared, and it continued up her legs. 'Please, Alathis. You can't...imagine...agony. You have to...put me down."

'I can't do that. You're not a dog.'

'You have to. Please...hurry, I can't stand it.'

Alathis looked down at his sword, clenching his fists and teeth.

The screams had now ascended into something indescribable. They must've been from the others who were going through the same hell as Silette; how she could keep from screaming as much as them was beyond Alathis. His admiration for her somehow grew even more.

He fell to his knees beside her. 'You have to hold on, Silette. We can get-'

'No,' she said and clutched his collar, pulling him, so they were face to face. 'No one can save...'

Her words disappeared into gasps that hissed through her brilliant teeth.

'Not even king...Harlen himself. This is new, like nothing...we've...seen. No one can save me...no one...but you. Please...do this for me.'

Alathis' tears dropped onto her face, and then the words he'd wanted to tell her for years burst from his lips. 'I love you, Silette.'

Despite all her agony, she smiled. 'I know you...do.'

Then she pulled him into a kiss, Alathis' first kiss. Her lips were softer, warmer than he could've ever imagined. It sent a new, incredible warmth flooding into him and new strength, but also a stinging, longing pain when he realised it'd never happen again.

He pulled away and stood. Retrieved his sword and rose it, tip aimed at her heart.

'First, promise, Alathis,' she gasped. 'Promise...you'll go...the Ritual.'

'Why?' he said. 'Why do you care so much?'

'B-because, you'll be a great Hunter. I know you'll...live. Be one, one in...five.'

'I-I promise, I will, Silette. I swear it.'

'I-I'm sorry,' said Silette. 'You have to do...this. But if you can...do this, you can do anything.'

'I'm sorry, Silette.' He meant it in two ways. First, he was sorry he hadn't confessed his feelings sooner. Second, he was sorry he couldn't do this earlier.

Then he plunged his sword through her heart.

Alathis collapsed and curled against the wall, then fell into a hideous, shuddering, weeping, hyperventilating madness. His gasps echoed through the featureless corridor, and sometimes sporadic moans and whines would break through. His chest throbbed with agony. The agony which crashed through him like a tsunami. For what felt like hours, he couldn't move, couldn't think.
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Chapter 6: A Eldritch Revelation

#7 Post by Adrassil »

The memory broke apart, and Alathis found himself back in the sparring room, facing his reflection in the large mirror on the western wall. He couldn't remember turning to face it.

Tears still accosted his face. Tears he wiped away with a sleeve, but they only abated for a second.

Five years ago, he couldn't recall walking through those corridors and back to the common room of that coven. Everything was a haze until he tripped on something and looked to find it was Torvion. The dwarf lay on his back and had a huge, ragged hole through his chest that Alathis could see the floor through. Alathis' boots sloshed in the dwarves' pooling blood. But he didn't react to his rival's death. Neither could he react when he noticed the stuff, which seemed like ash coating the floor. He was unable to feel anything at all.

He carried on into the common room, and it was then when he heard the shouting.

There, Alathis found teacher Telric kneeling over an injured, ugly human male wearing dark orange robes, who sat against the wall. The man's skin was a sickly, inhuman orangish hew. His scalp was shaven and wreathed with tattoos of swirling serpents the same colour as his attire. Ugly black veins bugled throughout like large, pulsating like giant leeches.

'Who are you?' said Telric, the human Hunter had his hands wrapped around the man's collar. 'Who do you work for? Why? Why did you do this? Why!'

A laugh bubbled from the man's mouth, and orange ichor ran down his chin, soaking his robes. His grinning maw was made up with sharpened teeth. He wasn't a vampire. Alathis had no idea who or what he was. But the term 'cultist' sprang into his thoughts.

'How did you find us?' said Telric. 'How did you get through the Sanctuary shield?'

In the back of his deadened mind, Alathis wondered that too. The Sanctuary Shields were meant to be impassible, impregnable. Created centuries ago by King Harlen of Valandri, they projected a shield that hid the covens from sight and prevented anyone or anything from sensing the auras of those within.

'Do you actually think I would tell you that?' said the cultist. 'You will never know anything, Hunter.'

Then he said something in a language Alathis never heard before. Every grating syllable sent painful shivers through Alathis' body and set his toes and fingers tingling. It made him feel like someone had reached into his chest and torn out his two top ribs. The words, if that word could even be used to describe it, was like nothing no human, no elf or dwarf, should ever utter. It was animalistic, alien. Eldritch.

Despite being unable to understand it, thankfully, Alathis remembered all the cultist said in clarity which seemed to defy all conventions of memory, and somehow, somehow, he knew how they were spelt. That terrified him more than anything else that'd happened that horrid night, even more than the utterance itself.

What the cultist said was...

Cathanso'l lotogu'uil shosh'gollab coqu.

Shen shoulaq f'regeth tholok

Keekaslah p'thulle

Chos'choloth

And during the rare times Alathis would think over these words, he began to understand them.

Alathis stumbled. Telric reeled, and the senior Hunter clutched his ears.

Suddenly the cultist's head exploded. His dark orange, brackish blood and brains coated Telric and everything else within about a two-metre radius.

Telric stood, wiping the crap off his face with a curse, then his attention snapped to Alathis.

'Alathis. What are you doing here? Get to the dorms with the other neophytes. Now.'

Alathis flinched, and he couldn't fight the onset of tears.

'What? What's wrong?' said Telric.

'I-I-I'

He'd told Telric everything; it'd all flooded out like the orange blood from the cultist's mouth.



Alathis shook away the memory.

Only a few hours after Alathis' confession, Alathis, the seven other surviving neophytes, including Karetil and Telric, the last living teacher. Abandoned that coven and walked west for fifty kilometres through the thick, humid Amartisian forest. Before arriving at this coven. Alathis could barely recall most of that journey too.

'I miss you, Silette,' he said, his attention falling to the hardwood floor. 'I miss you so much.'

'One in five,' the words whispered into his ear, causing Alathis to straighten and look in the mirror.

What he saw standing behind him froze him in place.

He started to hyperventilate; the mirror showed his eyes widen, his teeth clench into a rictus that crinkled his youthful face into looking forty years older.

'Y-y-y-you're...'

'Dead?'

She reached to her chest and, in one tug and with a sickening slurping sound, pulled the blade out. Blackish orange, spew-like blood seemed to grow from the ugly gaping wound, splattering all over Alathis' back, soaking his tunic. It froze him, causing the cloth to cling to his skin.

'Only one in five live, Alathis,' said the pale, undead thing that looked like Silette. 'You shall not be one of them.'

She slashed for his neck with a blade still coated in the brackish blood.

Time seemed to slow, and in that split second, Alathis knew this was life and death. He fought the fear, pushed it down into his guts, drew his sword, spun and stopped her slash.

To his surprise, a 'clang!' Echoed through the training room. He wielded his old sword. The sword was coated in red blood.

Silette's blood.

'How-?'

He was interrupted by Silette withdrawing her blade then stabbing for his stomach. Alathis waited for the last millisecond before sliding aside. The tip of her sword pierced into the mirror.

Expecting the glass to shatter, Alathis darted away, but as he turned, the glass began, yawning cracking.

Silette cut her blade out, yet the mirror still didn't shatter.

'What the hell?' Alathis gasped.

Silette spun to face him, a dead smile on her face. She slashed at his knee, forcing him to slip back, then plunged her sword at his chest. Alathis was barely able to parry it away.

She launched into a flurry of thrusts and slashes, which forced Alathis onto the back foot. He'd improved since their fight five years ago, and even then, he'd outclassed her. But not now; this Silette's skill rivalled his.

All the while, the mirror continued to crack and break.

Once it reached the mirror's edges, the cracking continued through the walls, the floor and the ceiling.

'What the?' he gasped while weaving a cut. He parried her backswing then side-stepped a stab.

The creaking sound suddenly intensified, and the cracking accelerated.

It shook the room, causing Alathis to stumble.

'This is a nightmare,' he said. 'It has to be a nightmare.'

Silette smiled. 'It is no nightmare.'

Then the room around them- shattered.
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Chapter 7: The Battle Begins

#8 Post by Adrassil »

He fell with a yell, along with bits of hardwood floor, white concrete wall and ceiling. For some reason, the dummies and weapons were in shards, too.

It all rained through a featureless white nothingness.

Alathis screamed but only dropped for a few seconds before his feet found a large chunk of floor and somehow his balance.

Silette flew at him, still with that smile. He threw himself aside a split second before she landed, embedding the sword to the hilt in the wood.

Alathis stood as Silette pulled it out and spun, slicing for his throat. He leaned back, and its edge missed by a hair's width.

'You are holding back,' Silette said as she cut for his knee with the back-swing a stroke he parried away. 'Good, it will allow me to dispense judgement sooner. You were always a fool.'

Alathis swallowed, a war waged through him.

She leapt into a downward vertical slash he slid aside. Then like lightning, she pivoted into a horizontal cut. He ducked.

'Please,' he said while stepping to gain some space. 'I-'

'You do not wish to fight?' said Silette. 'But you do not wish to face justice, either.'

Alathis frowned. 'Justice for what? Killing you?'

'Don't be such a fool.'

And still, the slab of floor fell. Alathis knew it was falling despite standing on it despite how it dropped through the white nothingness. The huge balling within his stomach screamed it.

He glanced over his shoulder and saw a smaller shard of wall a few metres away and half a metre up.

'Keep your eyes on your enemy, fool,' Silette growled and charged.

Alathis, turned and jumped. As he did, he felt the rush of air as the strike missed his back by a millimetre. With surprising ease, he made the distance and spun just in time to see her flying after him.

He threw himself off the edge and plummeted as Silette's sword cleaved through the concrete. Alathis dropped a good five metres onto a piece of ceiling and rolled to negate the impact.

Silette landed a second after, but by then, Alathis had already leapt backwards.

'Stop running, coward,' she screamed.

Alathis slid across the piece of floor for a metre more before Silette landed. He couldn't help feel a grin creep across his face as he smashed aside her stab.

'I'm not running, I'm jumping,' he said while back-stepping a swipe aimed for his arms, then he launched himself into the air again.

But Silette was ready and in less than a split second was after him. Alathis was forced to block her arcing blade, and the impact sent him wheeling and writhing off course. Silette landed on a piece of a dummy and jumped up to follow him.

Alathis ducked her horizontal slice as she flew past. He spun to see her push herself off a small shard of glass and, like a comet, came at him again, stabbing.

He'd taken in his surroundings by then and, with a bellow, threw around a block, pushing with all his strength and weight into it. It didn't send Silette flying or wheeling but allowed Alathis to shove himself onto her side. In a millisecond, his feet kicked against her ribs. It caused her to cry out and fling away, spinning, cursing through the nothingness.

Alathis came at a small piece of floor that must've been at least fifteen metres down, and as it came closer, it seemed to grow larger and larger.

He flipped to be feet first and pounced into another roll.

But something wasn't right; he'd brushed across carpet, not wood. He was no longer in blank whiteness but a middling sized dining room. There was cream coloured carpet on the floor, and the walls papered in a similar colour. On his left was a small varnished wooden table; behind that, a sliding glass door revealed a tiny, concrete yard outside with a metal clothesline spinning slowly in the wind. On Alathis' right was a kitchen cut off from the dining room by two waist-high counters, and hanging over them about thirty centimetres up were a pair of shelves that extended to the ceiling.

Alathis gaped. He knew this place; it'd been his house before-

A child's scream erupted behind him, causing him to turn to see Silette lunging from the door leading to his room, blade thrusting for his chest.

With reflexes Alathis' had no idea he was capable of, he knocked the blade away, but he wasn't quick enough to dodge Silette's kick. It smashed into his guts. Pain blared through his torso, and he was sent careening onto his back. He still managed to roll aside the blade arcing for his skull. His roundhouse kick took Silette's legs out from under her, and he flung himself to his feet.

Then the door in the kitchen burst open, and the Rule Enforcers stormed in, the dwarf and the human. They had pistols aimed at Alathis, although normal Isstarrsian Enforcers didn't carry guns.

Everything seemed to drool into a blur, and their fingers on the triggers moved like drooping syrup. Alathis threw himself to the floor; his arms had lives of their own as they flung his sword at them. It spun through the air before cutting into the hands of the human enforcer. He screamed, his aim turned away, and he put a round into the dwarf's skull.

In the next split second, Silette was on Alathis, her face slightly less pretty, being contorted into a rictus mask of rage as she swung down. Alathis cried out as he rolled onto his feet. Silette's sword cut into the carpet, which led to an upward back-slash aimed for Alathis' crotch. Alathis wheeled away then slid onto her flank so fast she had no chance of evading his hook kick which sent her hurtling onto her face.

With blood coating his huge hands, the Enforcer flew from the kitchen in an attempt to shoulder barge Alathis. He was large, much larger than Alathis even now. But like most senior neophytes, Alathis was skilled beyond even the most experienced Rule Enforcer, and he had trained beyond most. Alathis barely managed to sidestep the charge. Alathis' hook crashed into the Rule Enforcer's jaw; he followed with a front kick that caused the man's head to snap back. The Enforcer stumbled, crying out, then Alathis spun into a sidekick, which sent him flying into Silette, and they fell in a pile of flailing limbs.

Alathis ran for the door, collecting his sword on the way.

Alathis didn't step outside onto a thin concrete tiled walkway with a red wooden fence. But into a tremendous hallway. The carpet was cream, but the walls were painted pitch black. He knew this place, too: it was his father's mansion in Zalkaland. The corridor ran through the building's centre. For a year, his mother locked him inside, feeding him nothing but biscuits, reducing him to almost skin and bones. So weak and sensitive that after his father took him, he couldn't even run on the carpet without hurting his feet.

But everything seemed to loom miles above him like he was like he was-

Tiny.

The whole house seemed to shake, causing him to stumble, and high pitched laughter forced his attention to snap right.

Running toward him was his four-year-old self and his friend, but both were giant.

Freezing pain flared through his chest and spread throughout his muscles. It threatened to overwhelm him. He turned, expecting to find a door but found only bare wall.

Alathis looked back to his child self and found there weren't just two children anymore; at least a dozen had appeared.

His teeth clenched so hard they ached. He spun to run, there should've been a door to the bathroom and the corridor turning off to the right toward a storage room. But what seemed two thousand metres away was another dead end.

He burst into a sprint but stopped as he saw the wall was bulging and-

More giant versions of him and his friend materialised from the wall.

Movement in the wall to his left caused him to turn, just a split second before Silette burst out and, with a roar, slashed at him.

Alathis leapt back in such desperation he stumbled a few steps.

She landed and lunged further, cutting horizontally. Alathis managed a parry before a huge foot fell their way.

He darted aside in the last second, and the child's barefoot impact sent him writhing underneath another falling foot.

Alathis threw himself into a dive, and he felt the foot brush across his toes. He only just managed to raise his arms to protect his face from being burned when he hit the carpet.

He rolled and spun to smash away the cut arcing for his skull. Alathis bounded to his feet then blocked Silette's kick with a raised knee.

'I don't want to fight you,' Alathis said. 'Please stop this, Silette.'

She grinned again, somehow making her face ugly and tilted her head to an unnatural angle.

'What you want and don't want does not matter, Alathis,' she said.

'What the hell is this?' he roared. 'What the hell's going on?'

'You're about to get crushed; that's what's going on.'

He looked to find it was a lie; in the next millisecond, she was on him, thrusting for his chest. Alathis slid aside, then careened away to avoid her horizontal cut.

His half-hearted swipe sent her back, and he turned in time to dart out of the way of a descending foot.

Another followed, and Alathis dashed away. He moved like lightning, as agile and fast as someone inhuman a...as a...

Vampire.

He'd lost sight of Silette but-

Alathis turned to find Silette charging. He couldn't sense her aura but somehow heard her footfalls over the almost constant shaking and smashing of the giant children's feet.

Alathis parried her horizontal cut, ducked her following stab, then back-stepped her vertical upward slice.

'Fight me, damn you,' she snarled.

The sheer ferociousness took him off guard, so he barely weaved beneath her next slash. Silette launched into a flurry of thrusts. Alathis danced and darted through them, parrying a few that came too close.

It all lasted a few seconds before another foot fell toward them.

Alathis threw himself back and slid a few metres more as Silette jumped in the opposite direction.

He lost sight of her again.

Why was Silette so determined to fight him?

A huge foot crashing only a few metres to his right smashed him from his thoughts.

Then an idea hit him.

Alathis turned and sprang into a sprint for the nearest foot.

The act caused thundering through his head, his teeth to go on edge. He was taking a considerable risk, but it was better than fighting her. He just had to get there before the first foot rose.

He threw himself into a jump toward the second foot as it began to rise. He flew even faster and further than he thought, between two toes. Then plunged his sword into the soft skin, intending to use it to pull himself on top.

What he didn't expect was a scream erupting from the child, and blood burst from the wound into Alathis' face, almost forcing him to let go. He'd thought the child being huge would make him immune to pain; he'd read too many books where giant beings who were the villains were almost indestructible, it seemed.

The foot hit the ground hard and wobbled; the screams reached into shrieks.

Alathis pulled out the sword and pushed himself off as the child began to fall.

He managed to keep his feet watching as the boy shouldered into another little Alathis: who in turn collapsed into his friend.

The realisation made Alathis straighten, and it turned him into a sprint when Silette was on him, thrusting her sword for his ribs.

Alathis slipped beside the blade but wasn't fast enough to keep it from kissing his bicep.

Pain blasted through his arm, and he out cried out as blood sloughed down his skin and soaked his tunic. He lunged back to gain ground, any ground. Then the shadow darkened his surroundings.

He looked up to see the descending, looming back of a crying child.

It caused Alathis to explode into a left side sprint. His heart bashed so hard he feared it'd burst. In every split second, the shadow grew and grew. He wasn't going to make it.

He dived the last few metres and rolled into a kneel between the child's ribs and arm as it crashed on the carpet. The shockwave sent Alathis hurtling against the giant bicep. He bounced with a bark of pain then his back hit the ground, knocking the air from his lungs. Pain bashed through him, and his sword flew from his grasp.

The sound of screaming hurt his ears, and gasping for air Alathis started to sit.

Silette appeared on top of the kid's arm, then lunged, sword point descending for Alathis.

'Oh, come on,' Alathis growled and rolled a millisecond before the sword embedded into the massive carpet fibres. Before she could pull it out, his kick sent her sprawling off her feet. He stood and, with a tug, took her sword.

'That's it,' he said. 'I have your sword. Stop this, please!'

Silette laughed as she stood.

'Don't be a fool,' she said, turning to him as her hand burst into flames. 'Unlike you, I actually bothered to learn magic. This is not over yet.'

Alathis froze. Silette had never mentioned mastering magical fire.

'Don't do this.'

She grinned that horrific grin.

'Please, Silette,' he cried. 'I can't go through this again. Don't do this.'

Her reply was a backhanded hurl of a huge fireball.

Alathis was trapped, backed into a corner. He'd been told he had the potential to be a powerful magic wielder, but it'd never interested him. In all honesty, it took too much time and effort to study. It bored him, but like all neophytes, he knew the basics, the theory.

But what he was attempting was far from basic. Alathis raised both hands. With all his will and furrowing his brow so hard, it caused pain. He visualised the yellow radiation within him burst from his palms, weave into light then expand into a circular wall.

The fire exploded.
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Chapter 8: Falling, Flying, Freed

#9 Post by Adrassil »

Alathis flew from his feet. He couldn't help scrunch his eyes closed and scream, expecting to smash against the giant armpit, to break every bone in his body.

But when he didn't, Alathis opened his eyes which widened with shock.

There was no longer a black ceiling but a beautiful, bright blue sky.

He looked up and found he was flying toward a truck as it drove on a gravel road, a road which weaved through farmlands that spread out in every direction.

Alathis gasped again as he recognised the truck; it was his father's. The one they drove from Kalkaland to start a new life in the province of Scendalgrad After his father lost his legal battles with the Rule Enforcers.

Alathis cried out as he closed on the truck, spun, then stabbed his sword through the metal roof.

He and the blade slid for a few metres before stopping. The shriek of the tearing metal speared into his ears.

The wind blew his hair from his face, and instinct forced his hand to cover the scar.

He knelt to negate the wind and searched the sky and landscape for Silette.

What in Jaroai's name was going on? His mind thundered through explanations, some so illogical they could be barely considered thoughts.

It was a nightmare; it had to be a nightmare, but everything seemed so real.

A dot he knew was Silette fell from the clouds, weaving through the sky like a fly.

Alathis sighed through clenched teeth and fought for the will to pull out his sword and balance on his own two feet. There was no more running. Somehow he knew the truck wouldn't slow or stop, that it'd carry on forever until he or she was defeated.

He braced himself to keep his feet, blew out air twice, and tore out his sword with a roar. Now he had to find the strength to fight.

The dot weaved and weaved and grew and grew. Despite seeing this, he still wasn't prepared for her speed. In one split second, she seemed miles away; the next, she'd materialised almost in his face.

Her sword bled into reality, and Alathis dropped himself onto his back, so it sliced through strands of hair instead of his neck.

He rolled head over heels into a crouch, just in time to deflect her stab hurtling for his face. Then was on his feet and leaping away from her upward diagonal swipe.

He slid to a stop, a millimetre from falling off the back of the truck.

Now grinning that maniacal grin, Silette lunged at him, cutting for his knees.

Alathis parried and darted to the side, circling to gain room to manoeuvre.

Silette threw a sidekick at Alathis' knee, forcing him to slip away further. She pivoted into a slice; he smashed aside, then he slid aside her downward, vertical backswing.

'You can't do this forever, fool,' she said. 'You do not deserve to live; you are not good enough to be a Hunter.'

She darted into a thrust Alathis back peddled, then he ducked another. It was hard to see through his hair while it constantly flicked across his face, Yet his instinct drove him from harm's way.

'This isn't you, Silette,' he said. 'This isn't...'

He trailed off when the realisation hit him.

Alathis jumped back from another cut and felt his brow crinkle and pain to curl his face.

Silette saw this and seemed to hesitate.

In the next split second, he was on her, slicing for her neck.

Silette threw herself back with such desperation she almost flew off the end of the truck. Alathis charged, roaring into a vertical downward blow. Silette parried and barely leapt from Alathis upward diagonal cut.

Alathis struck a horizontal chop that she stopped with a block; then he drew back into a stab that she knocked off course. She threw a fist for his face, which forced him away, his shoes scraping against the steel.

'What the hell?' she said.

'You're not Silette,' he snarled.

She smiled. 'What makes you think that?'

'The real Silette would want me to survive, to live,' said Alathis, and another realisation hit him. How fucking stupid could he be? 'She told me to go through the Ritual, to become a Hunter. They were her last words for, Jaroai's sake. You're not Silette. You aren't anything like her. What the hell are you?'

'Who or what I am doesn't matter,' said the Silette-thing, pointing the tip of her sword at him. 'All that matters is what I am here to do, and by now, even you must know.'

Alathis nodded. It seemed like the world had fallen from his shoulders. He'd realised something else too, something somewhere inside his subconscious.

It made a smile spread across his face.

The Silette-things eyes narrowed in what may've been bemusement. Alathis lunged into a thrust that she just managed to block.

With a snarl, he followed on with a low horizontal cut for her knees, which she back-stepped.

Alathis pushed his offence. His strikes were fuelled by a subtle anger welling within his guts, anger at this thing's audacity at imitating her. His attacks were augmented by a new surety, confidence he'd never felt before. They merged into something new, something amazing. Despite this, his movements held no rashness, just skill and power and speed.

The Silette-thing wilted from him, scarcely managing to keep from being killed. It's eyes wide with a parody of the fear she'd shown in their fight five years ago.

She backed to the edge of the back of the truck. She tried to summon magic to her aid on three separate occasions, but Alathis didn't allow her the time.

Eventually, he smashed her sword flying from her grasp to send it spinning, flying like the propellers of a skyflyer. Then the tip of his sword was aimed at her neck.

'Can you do it?' she said. 'Can you do it again? Kill me?'

'No,' said Alathis. 'I couldn't."

The Silette-thing's expression warped into a grin which seemed to spear from ear to ear, a grin which crunched Silette's face into something hideous, inhuman.

'I didn't think so,' she said as her hand welled with flames.

'If you, were you,' said Alathis.

Then his sword slashed. Silette's throat opened in an explosive blast of orange. She stumbled back, clutching to stop it.

'Goodbye, creature,' he said and kicked it off the truck. He hit harder than he intended, and gasping, writhing, Silette flew like a speck of dust caught in a gust of wind before crashing against the road in a soundless spurt of orange, about half a kilometre away.

Alathis spun his sword and plunged it into the roof again, then fell into a kneel. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose. He thought he'd feel regret, pain. But he felt free.

He was free.

The roof gave way beneath him, then the road, then the ground, then everything, and he fell. But there was no rush of frozen calamitous cold sprouting from his chest, no. He welcomed it.
_________

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My upcoming novel The Angaran Chronicles: The Underside, is due to be released on the 1st of November 2021! Ready for pre-order here!

The Underside

The magically enhanced super-assassin, Anargrin and his team are the elite of the elite; black operations sent on the most dangerous of assignments to undermine the authoritarian theocratic regimes of the continent of Angara. Anargrin believes the past should be remembered, never obsessed over. Still, when he and his band of misfits are sent to investigate a Hunter Coven that stopped all communication soon, evidence indicates Anargrin’s enemy’s involvement. An enemy that is responsible directly and indirectly for much of Anargrin’s traumatic past, evidence that reveals a conspiracy hidden within the slave trade.

A conspiracy that threatens to engulf the entire continent in blood.
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Chapter 9: The Red Sea

#10 Post by Adrassil »

Alathis fell and fell and fell.

He kept his eyes closed as warmth seemed to blaze inside him. He struggled for what seemed like hours to identify what it was.

Then it hit him.

Catharsis, it was a catharsis. It was killing the thing masquerading as Silette seemed to rid him of the pain, the guilt. It was the right thing to do, to leave poor Silette in such agony would've been...been evil?

The Hunters taught that there was no such thing, not truly. It was up to an individual's interpretation that very little in this world was black and white.

Leaving Silette would've been amongst the acts that were inside that "very little." He'd done the right thing.

Inside his subconsciousness, he'd always known this, but the guilt, the...the trauma had made him deny it.

Now that denial was washed away.

'I did the right thing,' he whispered.

'I did the right thing!' he yelled and opened his eyes.

Alathis got a split second to make out his surroundings, but it was more than enough to know where he was and for heart-shattering, icy agony to burst through him. The casual waves, which wallowed and whitened as they rose, then died. The vast, brown mountain range dominated the horizon like a reinforced concrete coven wall. The water was tinted orange.

It was the red sea.

A scream erupted from Alathis throat. This wasn't right. This shouldn't be happening.

He hit the surface with explosive force, his scream slaughtered as the water forced itself into his mouth and down his larynx.

Like he'd once fallen, he sank, and he sank. Alathis writhed and fought, but no matter how hard he tried, he never slowed, not even slightly.

But he never gave up, even after his limbs throbbed with agony and weakened beyond what he ever thought possible.

This isn't right. This shouldn't be happening. Alathis mind screamed over and over and over again.

Alathis sunk for what seemed forever, and despite the water filling his guts and lungs, he didn't drown; he didn't even feel lightheaded.

The orange tint in the water thickened until the green disappeared utterly.

It was then Alathis realised the orange was the same colour as the blood of the cultist and the Silette-thing. It caused him to give in to the exhaustion. To freeze.

Then something moved through the thick haze.

Something saw him.

It began toward Alathis, and its shadow grew and grew and grew. Until it dwarfed him, no, it didn't just dwarf him. Alathis couldn't begin to find a word to describe how massive the thing was, how tiny and insignificant it made him feel.

It was larger than the most massive mountain, wider than the widest plain. Its height sank into the depths so far it hurt Alathis' brain.

Then it emerged into view.

Despite the water around and within his lungs, Alathis still screamed.
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