Chapter 1: Stones and Orami

Kurayami dug at yet another dark stone, this one would make the twelfth one this day. If he could get this out before his shift was over the Orami might even let him have something other than bread and water tonight. His stomach growled at the though of it. First though he had to get this stone out of the ground.

The place where Kura dug was perfect; none of the other workers ever come here. There were rumors going around the barracks that this place was haunted, but Kura didn't care. He liked the swamps, they were calming in their own sort of way, besides it meant he didn't he didn't have to compete with the older and stronger boys for the best dark stones. He heard the stories of what happened to boys who didn't dig up at least five dark stones a day, he shivered at the thought. According to Deyre they went to the dungeons, and everyone knows that you don't want to go there.

Kura forced tired muscles to work just a longer to dig up this particularly stubborn stone. He knew he didn't need another one, the Orami were most likely to give a little meat with his dinner with the eleven he already had, but for some reason he felt like he had to dig this particular stone out tonight. His shoulder protested to the extra work, and Kura was working up a sweat despite the freezing wind that bit at him. Despite all that Kura kept digging, it was almost like he was in a trance, he could feel the pain of his shoulder and the icy cold wind but at the same time he felt wonderful, like he could do anything in the world. He wanted this stone more than he had ever wanted anything before; even the thought of meat seemed lousy in comparison. He almost had it; he dug the shovel down under the stone and pushed with all his strength and the stone eased out of the ground.

Just as Kura turned around to get his wheel barrel though the strangest thing happened, the stone started glowing a deep midnight blue, and Kura could have sworn he heard the loveliest music ever, and then the stone started shrinking, and whereas before it had been the size of a boulder it was now large enough to fit in the palm of his hand.

Kura knew that he couldn't tell anyone about this. He also knew he had to keep the stone on him or terrible things would happen. Carefully, the boy secreted the stone in his loincloth. The rock was smooth and surprisingly warm against his skin. Slowly Kura made his way back to the main building to deliver his load.

The boy lived in Hirunaokurai the Dark City. Those in Hirunaokurai lived in perpetual darkness and those born in the city found the idea of the outside world frightening and strange. The pallid Orami ran the city, according to some of the boys they ran the entire world, Kura wasn't too surprised at that, the Orami made great leaders, and it was their due to have all mortals bow before them.

The one bad thing about Kura's digging spot was that it was so far away from the main building, he had to travel twice as far as the boys to deliver his load. Finally the long grey building was in view and soon Kura was unloading his dark stones into the store room. The boy had completely forgotten about the miniature stone in his pocket.

Kura then hurried to the bathing house, the Orami were extremely strict when it came to cleanliness, and they even refused to feed you if you had the tiniest smudge of dirt on you. The bathing house was crowded by the time Kura got there, he quickly discarded his loin clothe and grabbed a bar of soap from the Orami in charge of the bath house. The water was already beginning to cool by the time Kura stepped into it, but he didn't mind, the Orami believed that scalding hot water was the best way to remove dirt, so it was pleasantly warm now. None of the boys talked, or even made eye contact with each other, they were forbidden to communicate with each other until all their duties were done for the day.

Kura dried himself off with one of the towels provided and quickly slipped on a new loin clothe. He felt something hard in the pocket, and when he put his hand in to investigate he found the miniature dark stone from earlier.

But wasn't it… never mind. The boy thought. I have enough to do without some mysterious stone complicating matters. It was a nice stone though, so smooth and warm and… The boy shook his head to clear it. Enough about the stone! He ordered himself.

The young boy made his way into the dining hall and sat at his assigned place. He was glad that none of the older, stronger boys sat on either side of him. If they had they might have tried to steal his food.

That night the Orami awarded his hard work with a piece of venison, it was a small piece but to Kura it was a feast. Some of the other boys glared at him because of the meat, but few were willing to pick a fight with an Orami close by. The Orami didn't tolerate violence between their workers, only an Orami was allowed to punish a worker.

Kura hurried over to the kitchen and grabbed a platter before joining the line of boys. After a worker finished their meal they were required to serve the Orami theirs. Of course the Orami were entitled to more than just bread and water, there were platters full of tasty smelling foods. Kura was currently carrying a platter full of something called shrimp. He wasn't exactly sure what they were, but he would have liked to try one. However if a worker was ever caught taking food from the Orami's platter they were severely punished. The last boy who had done so had come back looking like a monster, there wasn't an inch of his skin left unmarked, and even now he was covered from head to foot in vicious looking scars. Serves him right though Kura, after everything the Orami do for us, and look at how he betrayed them, he should feel lucky to be alive.

Then again the boy, Kura remembered his name was Teryn or something like that, had looked extremely pitiful, Kura could still remember how his screams had flooded the barracks, when he was being punished. When it was time for the workers to sleep Kura could always hear him begging one of the Gods for death. Kura couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Teryn or whatever his name was, even if he had deserved it.

A strange thought popped into Kura's head. Maybe Teryn hadn't deserved what had happened. After all they only had the word of the Orami that they were actually doing things for the good of the city. They could be lying. Kurayami almost stopped so horrified he was by the thought. What is wrong with me today? He wondered. First I go out of my way to dig up an extra stone and now I'm thinking bad things about the great Orami!

He shoved the sinful thoughts out of his head, and quickly went about serving the deserving Orami. Afterwards he trudged back with the other boys toward Barrack 5D. That night he didn't stay awake listening to the other boys whispering like he usually did, instead as soon as his head hit the pillow he was fast asleep.

He woke up to find a group of Orami towering over him.

"Is this the one?" The Orami's cold harsh voice, cut through the silence of the barracks, and it seemed to Kura like it was infinitely louder than it should have been. Kura was desperately frightened, The Orami never came to the barracks to talk to one particular worker unless they were inn trouble. He didn't remember doing anything wrong. Maybe he had accidentally offended one of the Orami earlier when he had been distracted by those strange rebellious thoughts.

"Get up and come with us now." Two of the Orami grabbed him roughly under the shoulders and dragged him to his feet. He was then pushed in front of them and herded out of the barracks. They brought him to the main building where he was shoved before two tall pale Orami. They both had the longest hair even for Orami, the pearl white locks going all the way to their feet.

"So this is the one." Kura was shocked to find that one of the Orami standing before him was a female. Females were usually forbidden from the workers camp, they were only allowed in the workers, or breeders camps. Her voice had a slight musical hint to it and was much nicer than the Orami's who had come to get him.

"Do you know why you're here boy?" She knelt down in front of him as she asked this. Kura was scared the Orami never acted this… this nice.

"Not really ma'm." Kura honestly had no idea why he was here, "I'm sorry if I offended anyone."

"No, it's nothing like that, do you know what an aura is?" With a closer looka t her Kura realized she was close to his age, and very pretty.

"No? Well an aura is a special kind of glow around someone. But it can only be seen by very special people, like the Orami."

The other Orami's, all of them males, seemed to be getting impatient, the one in front of Kura, made a slight cough as if to tell the girl Orami to hurry up. Kura was about to shake his head when another of those strange thoughts flashed through his mind. All of a sudden Kura felt an overwhelming hatred for the male Orami standing around him. He also realized that an aura was a magical field about a person and could only be seen by people who could see magic. Kurayami was afraid of the thought and so shook his head. As he this thought occurred to him the girl blinked in surprise, and stood up. If Kura hadn't been completely terrified before he was now. The strange thoughts and one of the noble Orami kneeling in front of him all of this was wrong.

"Do you know what you just did?" The other Orami seemed to be a little wary of him now; the one who had coughed grabbed the girls arm as if to protect her from Kura.

"I'm not sure ma'm, I… I felt kind of angry. I'm not sure why, and I didn't mean to. I'm sorry." Kura bowed his head in shame, feeling greatly saddened for having done such a horrible thing in front of the pretty Orami female.

"It's okay Kurayami is it?" At Kura's nod she continued with a small smile gracing her lips, "We want to talk to you because you have a very special aura. One that is very different from anyone else's and before today you didn't have that aura. Did anything unusual happen today?" The female Orami asked, in a kind tone.

Kura was going to shake his head when he remembered the stone. He was going to confess to the Orami, tell them all about the sinful thought and the strange stone when another thought occurred to him. The stone was his not the Oramis'. They didn't deserve it. It was his. If he told them about it they would surely try to take it from him. Again Kurayami shoved the evil thought away, but somehow felt calmer for having thought it. As quickly as he the thought came, all his memories of the stone disappeared.

"I can't remember," Kura felt upset over disappointing the pretty Orami female.

"How convenient, he forgot, come on Utsukushii, stop coddling the brat, we'll take him to the torture camp and get some real answers out of him." Kura definitely didn't like this Orami.

One of the Orami behind him grabbed his arm and twisted it painfully behind his back. All of sudden everything went pitch black, and when things were back to normal the Orami was lying on the ground twitching violently in a pool of his own blood.

"Take him to the dungeons instead, and don't harm him yet. You take Oukoya to the infirmary." The Orami looked even paler than before if that were possible. Kura was taken to an eerie gray building with only one door and no windows. The building went deep into the ground where Kura was locked into a small lonely cell.