Note by Authoress: Actually, everything in here except for a few of the people's names are mine through copyright. Meehehehehehe! Right. coughs Now down to business…

Xao: Couldn't you just tell my story, not his?

Authoress: Xao! I said business, not gripes!

Ashlin: But you know, he really is right. This story should be about his failings, not the ones you pretend to see in me…

Authoress: Arrogant snobs…. mutters rudely Here's the first chapter. May Elamin have mercy on my poor mind!

Xao & Ashlin: Tsk tsk tsk, what a temper.

Prologue

When Two Lives Clash

Ashlin smiled at his younger sister Mesine. She was seven, eleven years younger than he was, the youngest (and his favorite) of his six siblings. There was Maeve, who was twenty, and then Daniel, who was nineteen. Then came Ashlin himself, and then Elianne, who was fourteen. The three youngest were Kirk, the twelve year old adventurer, Andyr, who at eleven already look to be good in the field of the spear and glaive, as Ashlin himself was. Then came Mesine.

He looked again at Mesine's blond framed face as she concentrated on holding the bow the way he had showed her. He had taken her for a short side trip to show her some of the ways of hunting. Hefting his spear in his hand, he waited for Mesine to shoot. She had her mouth set firmly as she released the arrow, but it merely touched the tail of the deer they had set themselves to aim at.

Rising from the bushes that had sheltered them, Ashlin hop-skipped once and threw his spear, watching it skim effortlessly through the air to transfix the deer.

"Fresh meat," he told Mesine as he turned to her, grinning, then stopped, held alert by the sound of yells from the area of the wagons they were traveling in. "Stay," he commanded Mesine firmly, and without a sound she dropped to all fours and vanished into some bushes. Ashlin tugged his spear free and loped away towards the wagons.

When he was closer, he crept up more cautiously. What he saw sickened his heart. His family was sprawled around the camp, the older ones in a tight circle around the younger ones. They were all dead. Raising his head, he let out a yell of mourning and sorrow. Apparently drawn by the noise, a few Ensanu soon appeared, their arms still laden with goods taken from the wagons.

"We can take him," one of them said. "The meisun will reward us well for another Hirikari life." Ashlin yanked the longsword from his father's loose grip and assumed his stance, having carefully placed his spear down. As the Ensanu were circling him, he spotted his glaive carried by one of them.

"Adenaaaaaiiiiiiiii!" he yelled, as he came to close quarters with the man. He never knew how he did it afterwards, but he killed the man and used his glaive to kill the other three. As he stood in the center of the circle, Mesine crept out of the bushes toward him, her small face set stoically.

"Let's go," she said softly, and Ashlin nodded as he began to gather some supplies that had been left behind. Carefully they choose the things they would need, and then placed all of the bodies in a pile.

As oldest surviving daughter, it was Mesine who poured the oil and spices on the pyre, and it was Ashlin as oldest surviving son who placed the torch to the fire. Together they watched it flame up, and it wasn't until it had died down entirely and they had collected the ashes in a silver wine goblet, carefully covering it with a linen cloth, that they began the rest of their journey.

The rest of their journey was uneventful, and within two days they reached the walls of Drean, ragged and tattered. Ashlin held Mesine's hand tightly as they walked through the streets and up to his uncle's house. His uncle looked up at him in surprise when a servant showed them in, and them got up and embraced them warmly.

"Did your parents send you on ahead?" he asked curiously. "Why are you here by yourselves? I thought the whole family was coming. Here, sit down," and he motioned to some chairs. Mesine sat down, but Ashlin remained stiffly standing.

"Ensanu," he got out, and then stood silently, tears streaming silently down his face as he looked appealingly at his uncle. His uncle nodded and summoned a servant, who he instructed to take Mesine to her room and get her washed up and dressed. As Mesine was about to leave the room, Ashlin hugged her and swung her into the air for a moment, then kissed her on the forehead.

"Good bye," he whispered, and Mesine nodded.

"Good bye," she answered softly, and then turned and left with the servant. Turning to his uncle, Ashlin sat down and told him the story swiftly and in few words. Iekr bowed his head as Ashlin spoke.

"Yes," he said softly. "I understand. I will give her your message. Get yourself food and clothes if you need any, or anything else." Ashlin got up and bowed stiffly before he left the room. It was only an hour before the gates of Drean saw him again, cleaner this time, with a determined cast to his shoulders and face as he walked out.

Nine Months Later

Xao looked at the pile of paperwork he had to do and groaned. So much work, and if he didn't get it done he might not be able to get back to his family for a short visit. He smiled at the thought of his sisters, Tao and Wan-Ling, and the baby boy his mother had recently adopted, named Pei. A servant walked into the room and interrupted his thoughts.

"Yes?" Xao asked absent-mindedly, fiddling with his pen as he worked over a tactics problem in his head.

"Someone for you," the servant said, a distinct look of haughtiness and grandeur on his face. Xao looked up with more interest this time as a dusty Ensanu was shown in, his face weary but proud as he strode into the room.

"What?" Xao asked, standing up as his heart beat faster, for the man's face was full of sorrow. The Ensanu bowed and then began to speak.

"The Nightwalker- you have heard the stories of him?" he said in an aside, looking hard at Xao. Xao nodded, his face full of anguish and rage, for he already knew what he would hear. "He attacked your parents home. They were dead when the neighbors came. He killed one of the neighbors, severely wounded another, and then vanished."

"Thank you for the news," Xao said, and then bowed his head as the Ensanu bowed deeply and left the room. Xao sank back into his seat, his mind dazed by the sudden tragedy. How could this have happened? The Nightwalker was said by some to be an instrument of the wrath of the gods. Had they angered the gods?

He spent the rest of his day in his room, locked in. When his servant came the next morning to notify him of his tutor's arrival, he found the door locked. He knocked, but no one answered. He forced the door open to find Xao in the grip of a delirious fever.

Three Months Later

Xao finished packing his bag. He had almost died, but had fought the fever away, and was now up again and moving about, almost three months after the news had first reached him of his family's death. Securing the buckles of the bag, he then buckled on his sword belt and slid his short spear into it's hold. The door opened behind him.

"I'm leaving," he said as he turned around and faced Wan-Lei, his tutor.

"I understand your wrath, my young friend," Wan-Lei said kindly, "But are you sure that this is the gods will? That you should hunt down the Nightwalker and slay him?"

"I have learned that he is but a mortal Hirikari. At my hand and my blades he will die. None other." There was a pause as Xao's light blue eyes pierced into his tutor's dark eyes, and then he had swung out of the door and was gone. Shaking his head, the tutor left the room after him, locking the door and taking the key with him as Xao had requested.

The story of these men was just begun, though. For this is the story of Xao Tun Shi, the Catslayer, and Ashlin Sharpclaws, the Nightwalker, both feared by the ones they hunted, and both driven almost to madness by rage at the death of their families. By their lives they would tear apart two kingdoms, and by their deaths they would restore peace.

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Authoress: And somehow, they got into my mind and made me write this….

Xao: grumbles It was his idea!

Ashlin: No, it was yours.

Xao: Oh. Yeah. I remember now. turns to audience Please review! The authoress loves reviews!