He stalked the streets, secure in the knowledge that none would see him, unless he chose to let them. His powers allowed him to shroud himself in darkness, and his skills allowed him to move quickly and silently. None could detect the Phantom save at his choice.

When he did emerge from the shadow, the face revealed to the empty street was not the face that any onlookers, if there had been any, would have expected. He was a young man, his could have no more than twenty years to it. He was of a medium height and s wiry yet firm build. The arms revealed by his sleeveless vest were thin, but corded muscle ran tight along each one. His dark vest and pants blended well into the darkness around him.

The man next to him snorted derisively. The phantom had always had a penchant to hiding in the shadows, and it had only grown since he had trained in the Dark Styles. He couldn't help himself now, the shadows drew him in whenever he walked near them. The taller man knew that this was one of the reasons he had teamed up with the Phantom in the first place. A man like Regais, with his thick arms and powerful muscles, could fight as well as any, but he lacked the grace and stealth his companion carried himself with. Together, they made a pair that few could match, none could hope to defeat, and all were wary of. The name Ghost Blade was never taken lightly, not by those who wanted to survive, at least.

Phantom was the origin of the Ghost portion of the name, while Blade referred to him. Specifically, to the oversized broad sword he carried upon his back, a good three or four times the size of the lighter blade Phantom carried at his side. Few men could even lift such a weapon with both hands, let alone use it, and none could wield it effortlessly with one hand the way he could. He knew that, if it came down to a fight between them, Phantom could likely beat him, but it wouldn't be an easy win. Regais prided his fighting ability, but wasn't stupid enough to think that he was capable of beating Gerek. Not anymore, not yet, and quite possibly never again. That first fight though, where he had won, it had been…

"Hey, Blade!" Blade snapped back to the present as his partner spoke. "Hurry up! You know the way merchants are, if we get there any later than we said we would, he'll get all pissy at us. I don't feel like listening to a pissy merchant, and I know full well you hate it more than I do."

The large warrior nodded and increased his stride to catch up with the shorter man. The past was the past, and there was nothing to be done for it. The future was in the future, and could be planned for. What was here now was the present, and that was what mattered. That the present included this trip to see a local merchant who wanted to hire them was only a minor irritation.

Phantom laughed silently to himself. Blade had been reminiscing again, something the large man did often. Few people that looked at him would realise it, but Blade, in addition to the muscles coiled around his oversized bulk, also possessed a keen intellect. His aptitude for puzzles and riddles had been what brought the two of them to meet, although that meeting had nearly ended in disaster. That had been the last time he had actually lost a fight, and he had nearly paid his life for it. Phantom's eyes narrowed beneath the shade of his wide-brimmed hat. 'Never again,' he thought as he recalled those events, 'I can't let myself come that close to dying ever again. I can't die. Not yet.' With these thoughts coursing through his mind, Phantom led Blade through the allies and unlit back streets of the Sky City. They had business to accomplish.

Kaer Dolfin was a short man, and quite possibly wider than he was tall. He dressed, as most merchants in the Sky City did, in a simple manner, a finely cut dark-colored coat, with only a small amount of embroidery, over light colored trousers and good leather shoes. The merchants of the Sky City frowned upon others of their ilk form other parts of the world, who dressed as if to imitate nobility with their fancy embroidery, bright colors from all across the rainbow, and gilded thread and lace everywhere.

Still, the parlor that his servant escorted Phantom and Blade into displayed that he was a man of great wealth. Merchants who made their place in Talasi, the Sky City, mostly traded in the various herbs and spices found only around the city, and thus were able to gain great wealth. As the two hunters were shown in, he rose to greet them, inclining his head in a short bow, then returning to his seat. He motioned to the two of them to sit across from him. They sat , and the three made greetings and small talk as the servant brought a tray with a silver pitcher of wine, condensation building quickly on the outside, and three silver goblets, each worked with scenes of a great hunt. After handing a goblet of the wine to each seated man, the servant returned to the hall, closing the thick wooden door behind him. Only then did Dolfin begin to speak.

"Phantom, Blade, it is good to know that the two of you are still in the business. I have a lead on something grander than any of our previous prospects. With what I estimate the value of this piece shall be, and the difficulty in getting it, I need the best, and that means I need you. The two of you are the among best in the business."

Phantom chuckled as he listened to the stout man. He had removed his hat, exposing his long but well-kept red hair, and his eyes. He took the opportunity to correct his sometime employer with good humour, rather than the scorn he would usually direct at a person making what he believed to be among the greatest of mistakes a person could make. " Mr. Dolfin, we are THE best, and I'll thank you to never forget it. We're the best because we always succeed, and never let our target be taken from us before delivery. That's why you've always called us in the past, and it's why you've called us here now. What do you have this time?"

Beginning to chuckle himself, Dolfin reached under the table in front of them, and pulled put a rolled parchment. He spread it to reveal that it was a map of some sort. Blade looked closely. He knew the geography of the continent better than most. The map that Dolfin had revealed was of the southern edge, near the Sea of Blades. It was a wild and untamed area, where few men ventured and fewer returned from. In short, the ideal place to find a great treasure like the one Dolfin seemed to be leading up to.

"Gentlemen," Dolfin began wringing his hands together in merriment, "I am going to send you forth to achieve nothing less than recovering the Howler Gate."

The silence that filled the room was deafening, but not nearly so much as the sound that broke it seconds later.

It figures, I wrote all of this in one night, but it took me nearly a week to get around to doing it. If I ever gain motivation, I'm scared of what I might be able to accomplish.

In the next chapter:

Kaer Dolfin lays out his plan for the recovery of the legendary Howler Gate. But it seems he isn't the only interested party. The emperor knows skilled hunters too, and other groups will almost certainly interfere. Phantom always believed that the only things worse than bad intentions were good intentions, and now he believes it wholeheartedly. Ghost Blade may very well be the best, but that doesn't mean they like it when things get this ugly!

Review Corner

oh, thats sad. a good start, but sad. beginnin' it with depression...why did Teneil had to die? horrific to be killed by a friend...horrific to kill a friend. the boy's maturing should be interesting to behold.

the writing in this was very good, very smooth. it kept my attention, the dialogue felt natural. overall it was very well done

Yeah, it is sad that I had to kill off Teneil, but it was necessary to set the story in place. You may have noticed at this point that I've skipped to the future a ways, so you don't get to see much of Gerek's maturation. You'll get some flashbacks eventually to show what parts of it I think need to be seen. Don't think you're never going to hear from Teneil again, even after his death, the machinations he and his brother set in place will make their mark. I agree, to kill a friend would be horrible, and Emir Valmel now knows that better than most people can.

Thanks for the compliment, I never think much of my writing style, but people like you seem to like it, so I must be wrong about it somehow.