There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope.

- George Elliot


Night 1

palantír


Sundown.

Does the water reflect all that I am?

Or just the parts I want to see?

There were times when nothing mattered; when I could stare death in the face and not care any less. They made me reckless, but the adrenaline rush that comes, pumping through my veins left me feeling alive and breathless.

But then, those shining days came, imprinted themselves forever into my memory. Those days, those brilliant flashes that left me disorientated, dizzy, and yet so, unbelievably happy…they were all that I lived for.

It wasn't fair.

Sundown.

I wish I could be like the sun. To die a glorious death, only to arise again, radiant, a hero conquering the darkness.

Sundown.

From here, I could see the sky, the last breathes of the sun, long fingers brushing through the clouds, streaking them bloody pink.

The sun was so far away now, fading, abandoning us to the night.

The world ended when the sun left.

What do I live for now?

Nothing.

Everything.

The water was truth. Every imperfection, every lie, every disappointment reflected brutally.

Trembling fingers brushed the surface, shattering the mirror.

Through the ripples, the clouds are running away, scattering before the oncoming darkness.

It whispered in my ear, a comforting hiss across skin.

What do I want?

Revenge.


A sharp elbow slammed into my ribs with bruising force, courtesy of Ash.

"Kye," She chirped, her large blue eyes deceivingly innocent. Kyelin was my full name, but no onegot away unscathed after calling me Kyelin, except, perhaps, the instructors. I didn't want to be spending time in detention when I could be taking over the world. Flicking my eyes towards her, I shifted a bit to the right, just enough to avoid the second elbow. Ignoring her repeated attempts to get my attention, I gazed out the window, disinterested in talking with anyone, including my best friend. The sun was sinking into the ocean, dazzling red light slashing across the water, as if the sun was bleeding into the sea. My nose almost touching the glass, I rested my chin in the palm of my hand. Glancing to my right, I noted Ash's sulky expression, her face the reflection of mine, before sighing and voicing my thoughts to her. She cocked an eyebrow and laughed.

"You're so morbid," Ash said. I snorted.

Various colored stands of hair escaped from my hair tie and fell in front of my face, getting in the way of my perfect view. I had dyed my hair purple, red, blue and black to give me a more…unique look. I didn't want to be just another sheep; I want to be the wolf that picks them off, one by one.

Another jab from Ash and my self-restraint cracked.

"What?"I snapped.

"There was a seagull!" She gushed gesturing towards the window and nearly smacking my face, "But you missed it".

"Too bad the plane missed it," I mumbled darkly, scowling and turning back to stare vacantly out the window. Ash's bright smile, reflected in the glass, didn't falter; she was used to my cynical moods. In a way, I was forever indebted to her for putting up with me, but her inexhaustible cheerfulness was stirring just a small thread of annoyance. Still, a small smile graced my lips. What would I do without Ash? She was always there for me, through thick and thin, never letting me down. But just as quickly, my smile faded as an announcement crackled over the speakers, reminding me of my situation. How could anyone possibly be happy right now? This entire outing was so stupid, so pointless.

The plane was small, with just enough seats for three squadrons, a total of ten people, including me, and a seat for the obese man in the pilot's seat. I don't think he flew the plane at all - almost everything was run by autopilot. Following the set coordinates given to him at takeoff, we were headed to the drop-off point, the location of which was unknown to us. It was another training exercise, completely useless in my view. We're the elite squadrons, if we have to go on training exercises while the other squadrons get to relax at the Haven, then there's definitely something going on. Most of us here loathe training trips; we much prefer training at the Haven. The Haven maintained very nice training grounds, complete with an arena. To most of us here, including me, Totus Haven was like a home, a big happyfamily. Sitting in a secluded forest near the glittering ocean, many of us have been there since childhood. Following the insight of our current military leader, military bases, like the Haven, were constructed all over the world to act as a sort of boarding school. Sure, we were taught all the normal, mind-numbing subjects like math, science, history and English, but those were considered "extra". As soon as we were old enough, they taught us weaponry, martial arts, acting - everything we would ever need to stay alive. Thanks to the foresight of our leader, we were molded into the best soldiers of our country.

"I've broken my leg twice."

"So? I've broken all my toes on both feet."

I sighed. A bit too loudly, for eight pairs of eyes swiveled to look back at me. Alicia, in particular, stared at me, her eyebrows raised, expression expectant.

"What about you? Broken anything lately?" I arched one of my eyebrows, rolled my eyes and looked away. Just because we've known each other since we were five doesn't mean we're all childhood friends. It did, however, let us get to know each other well enough to know when the other doesn't feel like talking.

A glance at the ground rushing towards me was an indication that the plane was all but dropping out of the sky. Obviously, the pile of fat in the pilot's seat either really didn't know how to fly a plane and was relying on autopilot, or just didn't care if the plane crashed. I felt safe already. Suddenly, my stomach sank to the ground as a nauseous feeling threatened to reject my breakfast. I figured it was just motion sickness; planes and I have never gotten along well. Just as quickly as it came, nausea and sound disappeared, only to be replaced by an awful foreboding feeling. I didn't want to get off the plane; I didn't want the plane to even get near the ground. Meeting Ash's pale face, I saw a mirror of my own feelings.

Abruptly leveling out, the plane drifted in wide sweeping loops, circling like a vulture. For once, everyone stopped their meaningless chatter, the silence as heavy as the dread spreading through us. My apprehension grew. Normally, the plane would go down for a near crash as it lands. Almost afraid to look down, I pulled myself closer to the small window, my nose smashed against the plastic-like glass. With a gasp, I threw myself backwards, feeling as if the air was knocked out of me. Something was horribly wrong.


Kaboom.

Explosions rippled through the air, sending up clouds of dust, clogging the throats of those struggling on the ground. The once beautiful flowers lay trampled in the upturned soil, trees defaced with gaping gashes in their once proud trunks. Clashing swords, ringing as they struck in time with thunder, battle cries harmonizing with screams, the symphony of the dying reached my ears as the plane, for once, slowly drifted in loops towards the ground. My spirits seemed to descend with the plane until I could only look around in misery at the destruction laid around us. This was obviously a planned attack. But how did they get the information of our drop off point? No one knew but the headmaster. Even the pilot didn't know, he was truly just following the computer. Crouching behind the plane with the others, I peered around carefully. From my vantage point, I could see the tent, the logo of our Haven boldly printed on the side, burning. The bodies, a plume of rotten smells, were all that was left of whoever was going to meet us. Craning my neck further, I squinted, trying to see through the mist, only to see another pair looking straight back at me. Worse still, I could see down the barrel of his shotgun as he held it pointed straight towards us. Leaping to my feet, I gave up all hopes of trying to hide; they've already seen us. We've been spotted. Grabbing Ash's arm, I yanked her to her feet, ignoring her protests.

"Run! They've spotted us!" Screaming at the top of my lungs, I ran, full speed away from the plane. The shockwave that followed the blast of the fuel tank knocked Ash and I to the ground. Clutching my elbow, I had hit it pretty hard; I looked around, pleased to see other bodies getting up around me. Ash seemed fine, if a little dusty. No one died in that explosion. Lucky us. Flicking my wet hair over my shoulder, my smirk was feral when I caught the eyes of that shotgun shooter. Feeling the familiar heaviness in my boots, I drew my twin daggers, grinning all canines as his face paled. Time to fight back.

--

Blood was everywhere. Bright red stained my clothes and smeared across my face as if I was wearing tribal war paint. Blood made the ground slick as I almost slipped, the dagger nearly missing the target. The Lamia soldier kneeled over silently, causing barely a splash. Sprinting over, I retrieved my dagger, pulling it out of his ribs. I felt sick. So, so sick. The air smelled foul as blood mixed with sweat. It felt heavy, tainted. My lungs were aching. Breathing out heavily, I didn't notice I had been holding my breath. I wanted to breathe, to gasp, but then all I would be sucking in was this awful, dead air.

Feeling pressure at my back, I glanced behind me, mouth set in a grim line as I met the eyes of Ash. Fighting back to back, we moving in harmony, a dangerous, deadly dance. If anyone else was watching my back, I would have felt uneasy. No one deserved my trust more than caring, spunky Ash.

Alicia, her scream silenced as her eyes blanked, fell heavily against me, nearly knocking me down. Repulsed and horrified, I shoved her body away from me with a cry, watching it drop heavily to the ground in a tangle of limbs. Chest heaving, I couldn't hold my daggers steady.

I didn't want to die.

Yet, taking a look around, I noted with desolation that the ground was littered with bodies, some wearing the crisp uniform of the enemy, but so many more were so young, they were us. The enemy kept coming, like a tidal wave, overwhelming, powerful. I swallowed, forcing down the lump in my throat that formed as I kneeled beside Alicia, brushing my hands over her eyelids. Ashamed at my panic reaction earlier, I guarded her, until, a light shined from her partially opened lips. Cupping my hands, the Heart Crystal drifted into my safekeeping. I tucked the precious stone away; after all, it was the duty of the living to make sure the Heart Crystals made it back to the Well. Without those Crystals, we wouldn't be alive. Without the Well, there wouldn't be any Crystals. It makes sense we would always try to reunite crystal and well. To not do so would spell our doom. Staggering to my feet again, I gulped in air, not seeming to be able to get enough for my screaming muscles. Sweat trickled down, stinging my eyes. Ash seemed to be out of breath as well, I could see her steps slowing, her staff twirling slower than usual. I didn't know how long we could keep this up. How much longer we could keep surviving. If we would survive at all.

Not much longer now. I thought with a grimace as another slash appeared on my arm. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw others, crying out, struggling in vain as they fell before the relentless flow of perfect uniforms. Despair started to creep into me, its unyielding vines breaking my stoic shield. Nevertheless, I fought on, I had already made it this far, my stupid pride wouldn't let me do any less than survive. Desperate, I frantically swung my daggers around, too tired to care about form, just hoping I wouldn't slash one of my own by mistake.

Quickly blocking a swipe meant for Ash's throat, my cold fingers fumbled for the hidden button on my knives. Aiming, I pressed it. A second blade shot out of the handle to bury itself in the neck of the soldier standing poised behind Ash. Unwittingly, with this move, Ash and I were separated. With no one watching my back, I felt panicky. They came in from all sides. I tried dodging and blocking the best I could, but to no avail. More than one blade bit into my pale skin, drawing lines of blood. Just when the day couldn't get any worse, the sky proved me wrong as it opened up and started to pour. Every acidic drop stung as it hit the cuts scattered across my body.

Thunder crashed overhead, lighting took a black and white picture, freezing the snarled faces, the squinted eyes, and the anguished twists of lips, illuminating faces like a camera flash. My drenched outfit did nothing to keep the icy cold from biting into my bones, slowing my movements. Boots filling with water, my toes were going numb as exhaustion slowly took its toll as adrenalin wore off. The rainwater mixed with the blood, washing us clean, a momentary relief. Staggering, I slipped and fell, my breath momentarily knocked from my lungs and stays blocking my vision as my head stuck the ground. Ash looked over, distracted for just a faction of a second, but it was enough. On my knees, my vision cleared just in time for me to see a soldier plunge his blade into Ash's unprotected back, before wrenching it back out.

With wide, disbelieving eyes, I watched numbly as the person who had always been at my side, through bad and worse, the person I trusted above everyone else in the world,fall forward through the mist of rain. Her staff slipped from her pale, limp hands, clattering to the ground. Her eyes, only this morning full of happiness, lost their sparkle. Scrambling forward, I caught her body just before she hit the ground.

"She's alive," I whispered to myself, refusing to believe that Ash could leave me so abruptly, but I knew what I was seeing. I was seeing Ash's lifeless eyes staring straight back at my own. Laying her on the ground, my hands clenched the daggers so hard my knuckles turned white. The rain pounded on my back, almost as if trying to sooth my bubbling anger. She didn't belong dead, it just looked so wrong. Her eyes were closed, a trickle of blood flowed from the corner of her mouth, the only vivid color. Her black hair fanned out around her head, making her look as if she was just sleeping. The rain had washed her clean of blood, giving her skin an almost celestial glow as the moonlight flickered across her face. She looked so peaceful, it scared me. I reached forward with a trembling finger, and touched her hand, only to rip it away when I made contact with her alarmingly cold skin and shied away, backwards. The frigid night had already stolen what warmth she had.

The shimmering liquid in my eyes veiled the world in a surreal light, as if reality had finally abandoned me. Right then, I didn't care. I wanted nothing more than for everything to be a dream, a hideous nightmare, Then, I could just wake up and everything would be back to normal. Taking hold of her legs, I dragged her body behind some bushes; I wasn't strong enough to carry her. As I crouched there, a little knot of worry tightened around my chest as I glanced around nervously, the battle still raging a while off. Where was her Crystal? It should have appeared by now. I need to get it, bring it back to the Haven. Her heart crystal was the source of her life, her personality, her power… it was her soul. Without it, she would just be a bag of blood and bones, a doll with no life. I hadto bring it back to the Haven so it can be returned to the Well.

The short scuffling of boots was my only warning as my quick reflexes sent me rolling to the side as a dagger flew past, slicing my arm instead of my stomach. With an angry swipe, my sleeves ran across my eyes, drying my tears. Grief disappeared only to be replaced with a fury that raced through my veins as I charged, all training forgotten. My daggers flew from my hands, landing perfectly as the soldier dropped with a heavy thud. A flash of light appeared in the corner of my eye. Forgetting my daggers, I raced towards Ash's body, only to feel a boot slam me into my back, pinning me to the ground in a puddle of water. Angrily, I struggled, twisting, even trying to kick, but whoever was on me was too heavy. I was fast, but I wasn't strong, something I now sorely regretted. Twisting my head, I made the mistake of looking into the eyes of the owner of that accursed boot. What I saw made me stiffen in fear. He had this crazed gleam in his eyes, but that wasn't what was so terrifying. They were filled with blood lust. Struggling harder, I cursed at him, but he just smirked. The presence of another caused him to straighten, and caused me to wince as the boot heel pressed harder into my back.

He was cloaked in spotless black, the thick, rich folds falling from his shoulders so different from the now muddied uniform of those around him that I could only conclude that he was of a higher rank, and therefore didn't need the wear those uniforms. He just brushed past the salutes, completely ignoring the soldiers, only to stop when he reached the soldier holding me captive. Then, he gave a brief nod, the only acknowledgement he offered, yet the soldier's chest puffed with pride. The self-pompous prick, I hated him already. Without hesitation, he proceeded to shove the solider to the ground. Seeing a chance, I leapt to my feet, only to be sent rolling as a foot swiftly collided with my upper back, snapping my head back. With the breath knocked out of me, I lied there, wheezing, a faint buzzing in my ears. With a sharp jerk, the cloaked figure hauled me to my feet, wrists held above my head with bruising force as my feet kicked the air vainly towards the arrogant smirk twisting his thin lips. With an intensity that made me squirm, his grey eyes scrutinized my face until I was sure he had every curve, every line memorized. My skin felt clammy as he frowned, features suddenly darkening.

"Lucky girl. You aren't the one we want," he said in a bored tone, completely losing interest. Tossing me to the side, the air was once again knocked out of me as I hit the ground. "This girl, however…" He bent down and picked up Ash's heart crystal, turning it to and fro so that it sparkled in his gloved hands, "Perfect." He finished a triumphant look on his face. I felt the anger bubbling through my veins, wishing for nothing more than to cut those lips off. My hands brushed my boots, only to come back empty as I cursed in my head. They were there, next to Ash's body.

"Don't try it, girl. I'll kill you faster than you can reach those daggers." His voice sliced through the air. I froze, glaring at him from my crouched position. Was I really that obvious? He just crossed his arms and arched an eyebrow, returning my gaze easily. The steady thump thumpthat filled the air with a pulsing rhythm broke our gazes as we both looked up to see winged forms silhouetted against the brightening sky. Curses streamed from his mouth as his head whipped to the soldiers still standing at attention. I sprang out, legs shaking from the strain, yet I forced myself to run faster, to dodge the soldiers in my beeline towards the daggers. Only to be pinned down once again, this time with a weight on my legs.

"Didn't I say I could kill you faster than you could reach the daggers?" His dark bangs brushed my forehead, his nose inches from mine. For the first time, I realized he wasn't as old as I thought he was. He was around my age, maybe two or three years older. If I saw him on the street, I would have thought he was like every other guy. His smile - it was almost boyish, teasing. He didn't look like the type to be doing this. Running his fingers down my cheek, I shivered. He sounded almost sorry. "Such a shame, you were a pretty little thing." With a shrug, he raised his arm and slashed his knife across my side. Vivid red blossomed on my shirt as he pulled the knife back out, carelessly cleaning it on my pants, when suddenly; a flurry of feathers knocked him off my legs.

Hearing him curse, I felt a faint stirring of satisfaction. The bastard deserved that. I tried to move, to get up and away, but my limbs were no longer my own. They sure as hell weren't listening to me. My breath came in short puffs, my strength ebbing away, each raindrop stealing a smudge. Watching the struggle, I blinked slowly, staining to keep my eyes focused. Their movements seemed slower, the punches in slow motion, the sounds distorted, the colors fading. Time trickled down agonizingly slow as an opaque veil fell over my thoughts.

Black. Darkness made up my world, a world that trapped me, a welcome escape from the chaos.

The last thing I remember was the smell of vanilla and the soft brush of feathers.


Head throbbing, my eye fluttered open to see a blindingly white ceiling staring back at me. Sighing, I shifted and snuggled into my pillow, pulling the prickly woolen blanket tighter around me, not yet willing to leave the comforting muffle on reality. When the realization that I was alivehit me,I bolted from bed, only to nearly crumple. Hand on the wall, I nearly cried as a sharp pain radiated through my side. Prodding carefully, I found bandages wrapped around me. They must have treated my wounds, I thought as I saw bandages plastered all over my body. Walking carefully, each step was agony to my battered feet; I quickly noted everything of interest, most of all, the exit. It never did suit me to sit and wait quietly.

The hospital, if it could be called that, was nothing fancy. In fact, it was little more than a white canvas tent with beds. Spotting my clothes folded neatly on a nearby chair, I quickly changed, blushing slightly since someone must have undressed me. Darting in front of the one grimy mirror, I grimaced. Although I couldn't see why they bothered to wash my torn and stained clothes, I was still grateful. Anything was better than that flimsy hospital gown. Looking around vainly for a brush, I ran my fingers through my hair experimentally, cringing at the grubby texture. Dismayed, I leaned closer, my fingers brushing the dark circles staining my eyes, the small cuts on my once perfect skin. Now feeling thoroughly gloomy, I decided that even if I could make it out of the tent, my legs quivered at the thought of walking, I wouldn't last long. Padding softly back to my bed, I eased myself carefully under the covers, careful not to stretch my ribs.

As I lay there, the memories of the night before came rushing into me with the force of a tidal wave, knocking down the wall I had built to keep those feelings away. Snapshots flashed before my eyes: the parties, the laughter, the secrets we had shared, going too fast for me to snatch, to hold close. Throat closing, nose becoming disgustingly runny, I curled up into a ball, hugging the blanket around me tightly. A muffled cry ripped free from my throat, escaping no further than the pillow that greedily drank the anguish gliding across my cheeks.

--

The pale yellow, early morning sunshine hurt behind my eyelids as it warmed my face, leaving golden dust-moths drifting lazily through the air. Annoyance flickered through my mind as I groped blindly for my alarm clock, eyes snapping open when I realized that my alarm clock was far, far from where my hand was searching. Rubbing the sand from my eyes, I was not rested in the least, my mind still struggling to keep my conscience away from the deep pit of despair the memory of Ash conjured. Lifting my head from the damp pillow, I rolled over…and fell onto the cold ground below. With a sharp hiss, I lied there, waiting for the pain to pass. The ceiling was plain, but the faint shadows of clouds created mesmerizing shifting patterns. Judging from the intensity of the light filtering through the canvas and the general lack of bodies in beds, the time must be late morning, or early afternoon. My calm contemplation of the clouds was broken as an amused voice drifted down.

"I take it the floor is more comfortable than the bed?"

Groaning, I forced my knees under me and gripped the edge of the bed, using it to pull myself to my feet. Studiously ignoring the presence holding the flap open, I pulled at my crumpled clothes, trying to appear at least halfway presentable. Turning around, I blinked in surprise. The boy's unique appearance made me raise my eyebrows in a skeptical look. His hair was bright red, spiked a foot off his head. The tips of those dangerous looking spikes were dyed black. His crystal cerulean eyes were unnaturally bright, but warm. A black star, with his left eye at the heart, only emphasized his colorful appearance. Walking past his bemused expression, I gave him a curt nod as I stepped out of the tent.

"Where do you think you're going?" His footsteps fell in sync with mine, his many bulging pockets tinkling. What did he have in there? If he carries anything more, I suspect his pants just might fall off from all that weight. "If you get lost, there's no telling where you might end up. This camp's pretty huge. Even I've gotten lost a couple of times, and I've been here for months." Taking my arm, he gently steered me towards a large tent, black and pink bracelets glittering in the sun.

"Oh, I don't know. " I said, annoyed that I couldn't find my own way around. I couldn't afford to get lost. "Anywhere, I guess. Maybe to get food?" I asked, looking up with what I think was a hopeful look.

"You're in luck today! The food's in that tent, over there." He gestured towards the tent he had been walking towards. "I've been sent by the head nurse to retrieve the, uh, muttering invalid still sleeping in the infirmary."

"I'm not an invalid!"

Grinning sheepishly at my sharp look, he raised his hands defensively. "Her words, not mine."

"You didn't have to repeat them." I scoffed, quickening my step to leave him behind.

"Hey," I didn't answer. "Hey."He quickened his step as well. It was easy for him to catch up; he was so much taller than me. "I was just trying to be friendly."

"By insulting me?"

"No! Just thought it was funny." He flashed me an addicting grin. His slight accent made his voice interesting all in itself. "You're no invalid, that's for certain. I just wanted to see your reaction."

"…Whatever." I muttered, rolling my eyes as a small smile stretched my face. We had reached the food hall. My stomach let out a noisy growl at the smell of eggs. He just laughed as he held the flap open for me. I immediately headed for the table piled with scrambled eggs.

"Look at this!" I glanced over, he was grinning like a little kid. Holding the ketchup bottle high over his head, he added finishing touches before leaning back.

"It's a face." I stated bluntly.

"It's not just a face," he said in mock horror, "it's a bacon face."

"It's still…a face."

"No, it's a special face."

"…Whatever." I muttered, rolling my eyes. "Think whatever you want. I don't care." That was a stupid argument. There were only a few people seated. The closest person to me, other than him, was…my nose wrinkled and my brow furrowed. I looked pretty amusing, I'm sure. The boy in question had just triedto discreetly wipe his finger of a booger under the table, leaving a repulsive yellowish streak. I guess all 10 or so year olds are disgusting, or maybe it was just him.

"Awww, don't be like that!" Sean cried, hanging his head dejectedly. There was no warning as he spun me around, "Cheer up darling, turn your frown upside down!" He laughed loudly, drawing the attention of the others quietly eating. I bent over my breakfast, my long hair forming a curtain around my burning face as I wished he would just shut up. "By the way, my name's Sean. I still don't know yours. Which is stupid of me, since it should have been the first thing I asked."

"It's Kye." I replied in a bored tone. Peace to eat my eggs, it wasn't that huge of a wish, right? I sighed dramatically, hoping that would put him off talking to me. Just as I was finishing breakfast, Sean tried to make conversation again.

"So, how's your stay been?" he asked jokingly, as if he really cared.

"Boring. No fun at all." I truthfully replied. Sean leaned back in his chair, smiling gaily.

"Don't worry, we'll figure out something fun to do later, 'kay?" He said. I didn't have to turn him down as the boy sitting at a table across from ours flicked a piece of sausage into Sean's hair, grabbing his full attention. I looked away, catching sight of messy black hair the color of crows and fingers writing feverishly. He was wearing a cloak, pretty unusual as the weather was getting warmer. The plate in front of him contained a lump of uneaten food. The sausage formed a frown and bacon eyes started blankly from the mashed egg head, a sad face to compliment Sean's happy face. The top of the head had been scooped out, eaten probably, forming a hollow where the brain should be. Ketchup was poured into the hole, flowing over the edges and dripping over the face, looking disturbingly like blood. It was artistic – in a queer sort of way. I raised my eyebrows and looked around. No one else seemed to care. They all seemed too out of it to notice.

Sean noticed me staring and leaned closer, one hand resting on the table while the other propped his head up.

"Odd, huh?" Sean leaned even closer, to make sure only I could hear him. I blinked at him. He reached out and turned my head in the direction of the egg-head. "He who brutally killed the egg. I would pity the egg, but there's nothing left to pity. In fact, I've been making faces in my breakfast as well," He gestured towards his half-eaten breakfast, "just to see his reaction, but he never noticed." The corners of my mouth twitched, despite my efforts to keep it down.

"I'm having doubts to whether he's healthy in the head or not." I said, quietly, trying not to draw attention, especially the attention of the egg-killer. Sean, still wearing that addictive grin of his, whispered,

"I have no doubts whatsoever. He's perfectly normal." Seeing my puzzled look, he elaborated. "I feel better convincing myself he's perfectly sane." This time, I couldn't help but smile. Usually, people like him annoyed me to no end. But this time, something was different. Sean was different. He's alright. He's actually kinda…fun.

There wasn't much to do after breakfast. Sean had left to run more errands, so I was left on my own. Meandering through the camp, I marveled at the variety of people looking just as lost as I was. Sean had given me his old boots. Though too large for me, I was infinitely grateful, the soft leather felt like heaven compared to the pathetic slippers I was wearing earlier. Missing the comforting weight of my daggers, I was edgy, not liking the fact that I was lost in an unknown camp unarmed.

"Look who we have here. Has the kitty lost its way?" A chorus of laughter followed. I whirled around, eyes flashing, only to stop, my mouth half open. He looked as crazy as Sean, with blindingly white hair, and a tattoo of a dragon stretching from under his shirt to the bottom of his blue, blue eyes. Surprise flitted across his face. "Ah, sorry, kit. From behind, you looked mutatio." Snickers. "But don't worry! We love humans." Scowling, I turned away, ready to march off. He disappeared, only to appear in front of me. He ran a hand through my hair, stepping away so my hand swiped air. He smiled indulgently. "So easy to read." He dodged my punch, sidestepping easily. "Yet, you're all so entertaining. Why is that?"

"Why don't weentertain her?" A guy with purple hair exclaimed. With a feral grin, the white-haired guy, their leader, I presumed, said,

"Yes, why don't we?" With a quick flick of his wrist, his features shifted, hair growing longer and darker until I was looking at a mirror image of myself. "How's this?" With a gasp, I threw myself backwards, eyes wide with shock.

"Awww, I don't think she likes us." My voice said. I whirled around to face another me.

"Stop it!" The words were on my lips, but my clones beat me to it. They pitched their voices higher than I normally would, making me sound ridiculous. Now laughing hysterically, they surrounded me, twisting my face into all sort of expressions. I clenched my fists at my side, half-moon marks digging into the palm of my hand. One of them stepped closer, mocking me with exaggerated sniffing sounds and pretending to wipe his eyes on his sleeves. I stepped towards him aggressively, but he just backed away nimbly, laughing as the others made way for him to rejoin the circle. I didn't try to hit them; I would have just looked stupid. They seemed to be able to read me perfectly, anticipating everything I do.

"You," They froze at the icy tone in that voice. "Stop harassing the girl." I shivered, almost afraid to turn around. Peeking over my shoulder, I cringed as a cloaked figure came to stand beside me. Arms folded across his chest, he ordered, voice gruff, "Return to your posts." They nearly fell over each other getting away so fast. Edging away slowly, hoping he wouldn't notice, I babbled. When he turned to face me, I hesitated. Was that a flash of blue?

Curiosity getting the better of me, I retraced my steps, peering closely at his face. Yes, Sean did have that exact shade of blue eyes. Realization hit me, almost as hard as I hit Sean's shoulder.

"You jerk! How could you do that do me?" Features shifting like water, he soon reverted back to his extreme appearance. Clutching his stomach, he pointed at me, but couldn't seem to get the words past his laughter. It was a full minute before he had the breath to talk.

"I'm sorry, I just…"

"Wanted to see my reaction. Yes, I know."

"I did save you from the others." He linked his arm with mine, walking forward at a brisk pace.

"But you didn't have to pretend to be egg-killer guy!" I ripped my arm from his, annoyed more that he didn't tell me he was a mutatio more than the shock he gave me as egg-killer. If I had known, I wouldn't have acted as I did around him. But then, it probably wouldn't have made a difference. I had read about them mostly in books, and had only seen a few for real. But then again, I've only seen young mutatio, the older ones tended to blend in so well you could never tell they weren't human. With that ability, many of them, at least the young ones, have bizarre appearances. I know I would if I could look any way I wanted. They used to be the most amazing actors, but now, illusions coupled with an uncanny ability to read people turned them into the best spies this world as ever seen.

"They wouldn't have listened to anyone else. He's a knight." Sean shrugged his shoulders. "Believe me, I wouldn't have been him if there was anyone else."

"Really, a knight?" I was surprised. "I would never have thought that."

"Actually, he's not really a knight. That's just a joke we share." Sean grinned, "Don't ever call him a knight to his face; our dear squad leader would most likely decapitate you."

I raised my eyebrows. "Then why did you say that he's a knight?"

"Well…just wait, you'll figure it out." Pulling my arm, he added, "I thought of something fun to do! We should go climb trees; the view from up there is great." I peeked at him out of the corner of my eye, face completely serious.

"I still haven't forgiven you."

"That's okay. It was totally worth it! Your reaction was priceless." We both laughed this time, my arm linking back through his.

"Excuse me, miss?" I turned, but the soldier was tapping someone else on the shoulder. "Are you Kyelin?" He tapped his foot impatiently. It was obvious he had asked dozens of people.

"Hey, over here!" I called, waving a hand in the air. It felt safe, I don't think it's possible to be in trouble already. "I'm Kye". Surprised, he walked briskly towards me, open relief on his face.

"There's someone here to see you. He requested that you be immediately brought to him"

"Who?" I asked, cautious.

"I wouldn't know. We aren't told these sorts of things." He shrugged, "Sorry." He added, almost as an afterthought.

"Nah, it's okay," I understood perfectly, "Just, lead the way." He gave a curt nod. I waved to Sean as I followed, heading towards the large tents in the middle of camp. He waved back,

"I'll see you later okay? We'll definitely climb some trees!" He called, hand cupping his mouth.

"Okay!" I called back, smiling. A soft cough behind me called my attention back to the soldier.

"Please, lets just get going."

"Right. Sorry."

We didn't have to walk that far. It seemed that all the main tents, such as the cafeteria, or the commander's tents were all the largest and gathered near the center. Since I just came from breakfast, I was already in the vicinity. The soldiers stopped before a large tent¸ holding open the flap for me.

"This way," He smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry. He's nicer than most commanders." I flashed him a smile as I walked in. It was nice of him to say that, but I wasn't worried. Much.

The blond man pacing about the black and white checkered room struck me as oddly familiar. It wasn't until he faced me that I ran straight into his outstretched arms.

"Dean! You're alive," I whispered into his jacket. Inhaling deeply, I smiled. He still ate too many mints. Chuckling, he returned my hug, his beard scratching the top of my head.

"Kay, dear, how I've missed you." His deep voice vibrated through me. Holding me at arms length, he smiled, lines of laughter crinkling around his clear eyes. I smiled back, vision hazy. Seeing him brought back so many memories. He was our commander back at the Haven. He was the father we all wished we had. Looking at the door expectantly, he asked, wizened features puzzled, "Where's Ash?" Holding back tears, I blinked furiously. "Usually she's trailing behind you…" Seeing my distress, his face paled. "Dear God, it can't be." My eyes focused on the ground, I couldn't look at him. "During the attack…is she really?..." I could only nod, throat too tight for words. Silently, he pulled me into a hug. "I'm sorry, Kay. I knew how much she meant to you." Those kinds words lashed, sharp and stinging into my still bleeding wound. Biting my lip, I buried my face into his jacket, clutching him tighter. A few more moments, then I pushed myself away; we had no time to waste.

"I'm sorry about your jacket."

"This old thing? Don't worry about it." His warm smile eased my mood immediately, a warm calm spreading through, tingling at my fingertips.

"How's Haven?" I asked, anxiously. His eyes grew colder, and the lines on my face deepened. Lips pursed in a thin line, I realized that was the wrong question to ask. But I neededto know.

Running a hand through his hair, he sighed, fingering the worn ivory pieces of the chessboard in front of him. Opening and closing his mouth several times, he seemed to be debating with himself as the Queen rolled smoothly through his fingers. "We don't know." He finally admitted, "Our intelligence networks have been destroyed, and all other sources seem to indicate that the Haven's been taken. Not even I could get back. When I heard they had you here, I came as quick as I could."

"Then why aren't you sending me back?"

"You don't understand. It's not that simple," Dean rubbed his temples. I frowned. He was right, I didn't understand. If the Haven was taken, shouldn't we be trying to take it back? Haven had one of the largest Crystal Well in the country. We needed the Wells. "We're losing the war, Kay. The Lamia," He spit out the word as if it was a curse, "used underhanded methods to gain access to the interior of Totus Haven. For all we know, the Well could already be tainted." My eyes must have betrayed my shock. "Don't look so surprised, Kye. You know perfectly well what that means." I did, I just didn't want to believe it.

"Someone betrayed us." I whispered. His grim look was all the confirmation I needed. "Then why aren't we attacking? They took Haven! Thanks to that traitor, they managed to destroy my entiresquad. They…they…" I paused, steadying my voice, "They killed Ash."

"I'm sorry, we…"

"If you're sorry, then why aren't we fighting back?" I yelled, hands shaking. I still had bruises from those boots. Remembering that battle, my fists clenched. There was nothing I would enjoy more than smashing that smirking face. I needto get back. Need to try to save our Haven. What about everyone that was left there? Now that I think about it, in a way, the squads that left were the lucky ones. To be prisoners to the Lamia...I shuddered just thinking about it. There were so many horror stories told, most of them propaganda, but they still invoked chilling shivers down the spine, akin to the feeling of a cold drop of water sliding down your back. At the very least, we should have enough respect to see if the Haven actually needs saving. Dean sat there calmly, his hands resting on his desk. His eyes watched my face, and I struggled to keep the emotions from showing. As usual, I failed. Dean had always said I was like an open book, every emotion, every thought appearing in my expressions. It was huge flaw, made hiding secrets, or lying convincingly, even harder. Thanks to my wonderful talents, Dean saw every emotion that managed to flicker through my mind.

"We simply cannot," He stopped my retort with an upheld hand. "We just don't have the numbers, the strength needed. That's why I've requested for you to be transferred to this base." His eyes softened when he saw my gaping expression, "You're needed here." My resolve weakened, he knew exactly what to say. "Right now, the best course of action is to protect the bases we can. We can't afford to lose any more Wells." I nodded. "This camp is traveling towards Galavita Haven. Once we're there, you'll be given a new squad. But for now," He handed me a thick folder, "You'll temporarily join an existing squad here." Smiling ruefully, he added, "I tried my best, but I couldn't get you the position of squad leader." Pulling out the first page, I immediately grinned. Sean's photo was there at the top of the page, his usual smile adorning his face. Next was a picture of a girl I didn't know. My grin quickly faded, however, as I came to the last, scowling picture on the page. Without the hood, his pale gray eyes and messy black hair were revealed, looking slightly familiar. Egg-Killer guy.

"Is there something wrong?" I didn't say anything, just held up the paper. "If it's about Daemon, don't worry. I've met him myself; in fact, I supported the decision to promote him to squad leader; he seems to be highly capable." Still uneasy, I tried not to show it. Dean's judgment was always unerringly accurate. "You should get going; I see your friend is waiting for you outside." Dean said, gesturing lightly towards the exit, where Sean was talking animatedly with the soldier standing guard.

Halfway to the door, I hesitated, looking over my shoulder.

"Did you catch the traitor?" My words dripped venom.

Something flickered across Dean's face. Face curiously blank, he answered,

"Yes. The traitor was caught shortly after the most recent attack."

"What was the punishment?"

"I just came from the judgment. The execution was three days ago."

"Good," My teeth shone, "Bastard deserved to die."


Author's Note: This is my first attempt at writing a story. I hope it wasn't too bad. Like many other authors on this website, I'm hoping to be able to improve my writing skills through the advice and constructive criticisms of others. So if you feel like it, please give me suggestions for improvement. The palantíris a magical artifact from Lord of the Rings. I thought it would fit the beginning well. =]