Skin Deep – Prologue
Early moonlight shone down through the streets of the capital of Candeth, illuminating the dark paths between buildings. The last rays of the dying sun began to fade into the west, making the ability to see relatively impossible. Coredan simply lit the nearby lamp to properly see what he was doing.
How had Koreina convinced him to clean the restaurant and record the receipts and money? He let out a soft sigh before shuffling through coins and bits of paper. The light from the candle was reflected in his bright green eyes set beneath the medium length, soft brown hair. While Coredan was not as "manly" as other boys his age were, he was definitely good-looking with a tall and thin but toned body.
After rifling through various piles of papers, he dropped his head onto the counter a couple of times. How could he be so tired? Getting up early had never set well with him, but repercussions like this were ridiculous. He had a growing headache the size of the castle.
"What's the matter bro?" came a high-pitched voice from above his head. He sat up slowly to look into the eyes of his little sister Koreina. She was wearing one of her fancier dresses with her long dark brown hair pulled up and coloring around her eyes and mouth.
"…Where are you going?" he muttered in an exasperated tone.
"Sylvia's having a big party tonight!" was the enthusiastic reply. "Montar may be there too- if I'm lucky!"
"So that's why I'm sitting here doing your job. Montar."
"Oh brother! Its not like that, I swear. How often do I ask you to help me?" she asked with a pout.
"Just about every day," he replied.
"Well if you're going to be like that, will you do one more little thing for me?"
"Come on Coredan! Just take the buckets over the hill for me!"
"…What if I give you part of my allowance?"
"You won't," he stated once again. "You'll say you really need it and then ask me for some of mine."
"Pleeeeeease?" whined Koreina. "I'll do everything tomorrow night! I swear!"
"Whatever. Just go have fun."
"Oh, I love you bro!" cried Koreina, hugging him around the neck. "I'll tell you all about it tomorrow," she added while walking out the door.
Coredan shook his head twice before going back to the mountain of papers. Procrastinating would get him nowhere. After an hour or so he finally finished, setting the record book in the cabinet with a happy sigh. He headed towards the stairwell that led to his and Koreina's rooms with anticipation. He couldn't wait to go to sleep.
Right when he reached his bedroom door memory struck him - the buckets. A momentary thought of leaving them crept through his mind… but listening to Koreina get scolded wouldn't be worth it. Muttering a small curse, he trudged down the stairs, grabbed the buckets, and wandered into the street out the back door.
Turning onto the street leading to the back hills, he glanced upwards to look at the night sky. The waning moon gave off its icy cold glow as the stars around it sparkled in resonance. A quiet peace set itself in Coredan's mind, driving off the nagging headache he had gotten from the paperwork. Night was his favorite part of any given day. Its darker beauty intrigued and calmed him at the same time.
After reaching the back hills and dumping the buckets of leftovers, he took a side path back that led through the forest. Walking through trees for a few minutes, he eventually emerged on Camelite Lake. Once there, he sat on the bank of the glistening water and watched the reflection of the sky dance on the surface. A soft breeze brushed through the leaves to play with his hair gently. It was moments like this he wished he could keep forever.
Sudden yelling caught his attention, stealing his peaceful moment. He grimaced when he realized who was making the commotion. The last people he wanted to deal with right now, and it sounded like they were coming this way. He stood and made his way back towards the trees. Maybe if he cut directly through the forest he could avoid them and make it back home in one piece. After a few steps something ran into him, knocking him backward into a tree.
"Aaah… What the…" he started, but stopped. He stared into what seemed like a dark hole wrapped beneath an equally dark shroud. Taking a step back, he recognized the silhouette of a person that was gasping for air. Another burst of yelling came from not too far away, making the creature jump. It got up and attempted to run, but its foot was caught between the earth and a tree root.
Coredan didn't need to guess what was going on. "Hey… HEY," he whispered at it, getting its attention. "I don't know if you understand me, but I'm going to help you. Just stay here behind the tree and don't make ANY noise, ok? Trust me." The only answer he received was the creature curling into a ball next to the root of the tree.
Close enough, he thought as he picked up the buckets. When he stood straight he saw the culprits of the madness.
"Coredan!?" came Koreina's voice. She stepped out from behind a rather large man. "What are you doing here?"
"Your job," he replied tiredly, holding up the buckets.
"Oh," she said. "Why are you in the forest though?"
He shrugged. "Just felt like looking at the lake a bit."
"Coredan," came the harsh voice of Montar. He walked forward a few steps before saying; "Did you see… something… come by here?"
"Yeah actually," remarked Coredan calmly. "Looked like a guy in a cape-thing? Guy ran into me and took off that way." He indicated a path that led towards the backhills.
"Thanks man," said Montar as he clasped Coredan's shoulder. The group began to run off in the direction Coredan had mentioned, leaving him stranded and wondering why Montar was acting so friendly all of a sudden. His sister yelled a good-bye to him before disappearing over the hill.
Simple enough, thought Coredan as he ventured behind the tree the person was supposed to be behind. Nothing but leaves sat on the ground.
"Least he got away," he mumbled sleepily, turning to go. His nose bumped into something soft, and he looked up to meet deep maroon eyes from beneath the familiar cloak. He took a few cautious steps backwards. "So uh… You're not going to like eat me… or anything… right?" he tried to joke. He'd heard the rumors and stories of cursed men who gradually turned into monsters. He didn't want to be caught by one of them, no matter how fast he may be able to run. When no reply came he went to walk around the creature. "K well, see ya."
Suddenly a hand gripped his arm as he was walking. Over-shock from being tired made him jump and attempt to pull away. Noticing the hand that was gripping his arm – a scaly hand topped with claws that looked much too sharp – he almost panicked.
"L-look," he stuttered, "I was just trying to help. Seriously, I don't want anything in return or whatever. I'm really really tired, and possibly hallucinating, so I would like to go home before I pass out in the middle of nowhere." What was he talking about? He mentally ordered himself to stop talking, as his tiredness was obviously affecting his ability to make sense.
The hand let go of him and disappeared underneath the dark shroud. Suddenly, more unwarranted tiredness swarmed Coredan's senses. He covered a yawn while he began to walk back towards town. "Stay out of trouble," he called behind him.
After a few seconds of silence a low toned, "Thank you," was spoken seemingly next to his ear. The sound wasn't quite human, but also not without emotion. Coredan turned only to be greeted by an empty path. He shrugged, figured his mind was playing tricks on him, and headed home.
Finally reaching the warm welcoming comfort of his bed, he fell into a wonderful deep slumber. The light from the moon that entered his room through the slightly opened window was blocked, casting a shadow over his face. The figure from before deftly held to the wall with its strong arms as it observed the calm form of its somewhat savior through the cracked window.
A noise sounded from down the street, causing the figure to jump in alarm. Quickly returning to the streets below, it was not aware when a small object fell from the folds of its cloak, landing on the windowsill above. Hurrying down the dark alley, the pale light from above cast dark shadows amongst the walls of the sleeping buildings to hide his retreating form.