Time passes. Sometimes it drags on and on, and you feel that a single day may never end. Other times it flashes by, and a year is lost before you even notice. Even when you sleep and dream, the world carries on, leaving you behind without a care for your well-being. No matter how hard you try to hold on, you can't slow it down, and one day it will be gone forever. It's like trying to hold water in your cupped hands. Slowly, it slips through your fingers until you're left with an empty feeling, having only the remaining moisture to remind you that it was ever even there. Or perhaps blood would be a better example, leaving its stain to show you that it had really been there, that it wasn't just some twisted nightmare. Either way, you can't stop it. No one can. The world will grow and age and die along with you and every other creature inhabiting it. It's inescapable. Time will pass, leaving you to do what you can with whatever amount of it you're given. You can't get more, and once it's gone, it's gone for good. Make the most of the time that's given to you.
That's all I can say. There are no words I could possibly write that I would feel more strongly about. I hope whoever finds this, if anyone ever does, will take these words to heart, as I never did. My time may be running out, but perhaps yours has just begun. Remember these things.
-Sable, who may, or may not be, the last ShadowSlayer...
Chapter 1: Awakening
Rule 1: Sleep is the most important thing to every wise ShadowSlayer. If you don't get enough sleep, you draw attacks to yourself. Also, if injured, one may sleep for long periods of time. Instances of a sleep lasting over five years have been recorded. The smart ShadowSlayer knows to rest often to prevent such incidents from occuring. ~The ShadowSlayer's Handbook
The first thing I remember was just a simple color - gray. Slowly, I opened my eyes, and it was the only thing I could see. Yet somehow, it overwhelmed me. Something as simple as such a bland, normal color could completely shock my senses and send my mind reeling. I had never seen anything so brilliant, probably because I had never seen anything before.
My hands and feet scrabbled on the cold, smooth tile as I tried to sit up. The air was almost as cold as the floor, and it sent tremors racing up and down my spine.
I staggered to my feet and stood there swaying for a moment before stumbling into a glass wall in front of me. I let it support my weight and ran my hand across it, memorizing the texture. It was cold and smooth, just like the tiled floor.
I glanced around, finally paying attention to the room I was in. It was perfectly circular, with the walls being made of curved glass. The floor was gray tile, and the ceiling as well. Nothing sat in the room, not a single chair or even a cot. It was barren and devoid of color.
Frantically, I whirled around and looked through the glass wall, hoping to find some color, something other than gray tile and glass. I found myself staring into a pair of gray, calculating eyes. There were people out there, watching me, their colorless eyes following me as I stepped back, instinctively curling my hands into tight fists. There were other glass rooms out there too, but they were all empty other than the cold gray tile.
There was no color in this place, not even on the people. Their hair, their eyes, even the clothes they wore were all various shades of gray or brown. The lack of color frightened me, for reasons I couldn't explain. Aware of their eyes following me, I fled to the middle of the room and curled up in a ball on the floor, closing my eyes, hoping I could wake up from this dream. But deep in my heart, I knew that this was all far too real to be a simple nightmare.
As I slipped into unconsciousness, I realized that I didn't even know my own name.
I woke up again, and this time I was prepared for what was awaiting me. I got to my feet, meeting the watching pairs of curious eyes with a glare of my own. I tightened my fists, telling myself I wouldn't show fear this time. I would find a way to get out.
I prowled along the glass walls like a caged beast, but I could find no door, no weak point, no exit of any kind. The room was small, and it took less than fifty steps to travel around the circumference.
As I looked around, I realized that I knew the names of objects around me. I knew what the tables, desks, and chairs were that the people outside used as they watched me. And somehow, as I looked at them, a name popped into my head like a flashbulb going off. ShadowSlayers. That's what they were, and that's what I was as well.
I looked myself over, wondering if I looked like they did. I was female, that was immediately clear. My frame was small and slight, but I could feel strength in my muscles. Soft, black fabric covered my chest, stomach, and back, while leaving the tan skin of my arms exposed. I also wore a pair of black shorts, made of the same soft fabric. Next, I grabbed a strand of my shoulder length hair and examined it. It was dark brown and smooth, like silk. Yet as I looked at my hand that was grasping the strand of hair, I noticed something. On the inside of my wrists, words were written in black, almost like a tattoo. My right wrist read 'Sabra', and my left 'Leanna'. What were these names? Were they mine? What did they mean? Yet even if I learned these things about myself, I knew that they wouldn't help me break free of this monochrome prison.
I sunk to the floor again, glaring at the walls that surrounded me. Anger surged through me, directed toward the ShadowSlayers who were out there, silently watching me. They must know things about me that I didn't. That must be why they were keeping me here.
As I pillowed my head on my hands, I remembered something, something that explained why this colorless prison bothered me so much. I remembered a different world, one filled with color and life and sound. I remembered feelings that I hadn't experienced yet, hunger, thirst. Yet I still couldn't recall my name, or memories. But I would find those things out somehow, once I escaped from this prison.
Slowly, I got to my feet again and went up to the glass wall. I stood directly in front of one of the ShadowSlayers outside, meeting his gray eyes. I raised my hand and rapped on the glass.
"Hey," I shouted simply, hearing my voice for the first time. It sounded loud in the silent room. My voice was rough, yet it still sounded young. I shouted again, and the hoarseness left my voice, although it still didn't sound nearly as threatening as I had wanted it to.
The man on the other side blinked curiously, but he did not speak or even move. He just watched me with bland eyes.
I coiled my hand into a fist and pounded on the glass again. It didn't budge beneath my fist. I drew back my arm and slammed my fist into the wall with all the strength I could muster. Yet the wall didn't even tremble, instead, it sent a force rippling through my arm so intensely that I stumbled back, cradling my hand to my chest.
Hissing in pain, I looked down at my tender hand, taking in my bruised knuckles. The skin on them was torn, and as I watched, blood welled up from my skin. Despite the pain, I began to smile. It was warm, it was moist, and most of all, it would have color other than the monochrome ones of this world.
Yet as the blood beaded up on my knuckles, I blinked in shock. The liquid there was not red as I had remembered it. It was a dark, shining black.
Furious, I wiped my black blood across the glass walls, finding comfort in the black streaks it left. It still wasn't a color, although the pain made me feel alive.
I sunk to the floor once again, not knowing what else I could do. I needed to get out of this place before it drove me insane. After time passed, perhaps only minutes, perhaps hours, I sunk into sleep.
"It's about time you fell into a deep sleep. Now I can finally talk to you," said a strange voice.
"Who are you?" I growled, looking around. Among the grayness was a shadowy form that took the shape of a man.
The voice ignored my question and pressed on. "This place is inescapable. If you ever want to leave here, you're going to have to make a deal with me."
I scoffed, a grin covering my face in disbelief. "What could you possibly do to help me? I don't even know who you are?"
"Can't you feel it?" asked the voice. "It's surging through your veins right now. That is raw power, waiting to be harnessed."
I blinked and frowned. "Actually, I'm pretty sure that's just blood."
The voice laughed quietly, although I could sense irritation in its laughter. "You know what I mean. You're special. You're different than the rest of the ShadowSlayers because I made you to be. You can free this world from its current state."
"What's in it for me?" I asked. "Why should I listen to a strange voice in my dreams?"
"I can tell you things. I can help you learn about the other world, the one full of life and color. If you complete the task I have set out for you, one day, I'll allow you to return there."
"What is this task you want me to do?" I asked, brushing my hair away from my face. "Why can't you do it yourself?"
"The task is simple, but it will require great strength. That's all I will tell you for now. You won't have to do it alone, though. I have prepared a companion of sorts for you, who is here as well. He can guide you in ways I cannot. Now, what do you say?"
I paused, staring intently into the shadowy figure. "No. I'll find a way out of here on my own. I don't want your help, and I don't want to be bound to a quest that you won't even describe. Find someone else to do it."
The voice laughed, and the booming sound flooded my ears. "Well, aren't you independent. Fine then, this will be your prison. You can't escape, and soon, you'll realize that too. You see, I've led the ShadowSlayers here to believe you're a valuable specimen to be watched and contained. They won't free you, and in your current state, you have no means of escape. But by all means, please try. And when you realize you have no choice, call on me, and you'll be freed from this cage."
"Who are you? How can I call on you?"
"My name is Cetreps. For now, my name is enough."
I opened my eyes, feeling well rested despite the strange dream I'd had. I would prove that 'Cetreps' or whoever he was wrong. I would find my own way out.
I threw myself at the smooth glass walls again and again, but I couldn't even make the tiniest of cracks. I leapt at the ceiling, reaching for it in vain. I dug at the floor until my fingertips bled, painting the floor with black droplets of blood. I tried to speak with the ones who watched me, but they didn't respond. Yet I still didn't call on Cetreps. I wouldn't give in so easily.
As days passed, I felt no hunger, no thirst. All I needed to live was sleep. Every time I would wake up, I'd throw myself at the walls again, always hoping for a crack, a sign of weakness. Yet it never came.
One day, something changed. I looked through the glass walls, and one of the other cells was occupied. There was a man inside it, who was bound by his wrists and dangling from the ceiling. Somehow, I knew that he wasn't a ShadowSlayer. His head hung down, and his hair hung over his face. It was a strange, metallic gray like steel, yet it was somehow different than the gray of the ShadowSlayers. He was different. There was something fierce, something feral about him. His bare chest beneath his shredded shirt was thick and muscled and as I watched, his muscles tensed and pulled as he tried to free himself. Yet despite his best efforts, he was trapped just as securely as I was.
As I looked at the sweating, exhausted man, I remembered the strange words that Cetreps had spoken. "I have prepared a companion of sorts for you, who is here as well. He can guide you in ways I cannot." Was this him? He was the only other creature I had seen here, other than the colorless watchers.
It was clear to me that this man was in pain. I could see it in his tense muscles, the way his fingers curled and uncurled, trying to free himself. But still, I would not call on Cetreps. This man's suffering had nothing to do with me. I turned away, going back to my search for an escape.
More days went by, days full of silence and glass and gray tile. I could do nothing. I could survive here for the rest of my existence, trying to escape. Or I could swallow my pride and give up my existence to obey the command of a strange voice who spoke to me as I slept. Neither option seemed promising.
Everyday, the man in the other cell would try to free himself, and slowly, I watched him grow weaker. Watching him, my resolve began to waver. If it had only been myself enduring this captivity, I would've continued searching for an escape. But I couldn't watch him suffer, knowing that I could free him.
"Cetreps," I whispered, my tongue stumbling over the strange name. "I call on you now, because I have no other option. Give me the strength to free myself, and I will agree to this pact."
Suddenly, something flooded my veins. I felt my eyes widen and a deep tremor ran through my body. It was as if the blood in my veins was alive and pounding in an unfamiliar rhythm.
Not knowing what I was doing, I stepped up to the glass wall, laying my palm on it. I narrowed my eyes, feeling strength flow through my like a current of electricity.
The wall started to shake, and I caught a glimpse of fear in one of the watchers' eyes just before the wall exploded.
Glass went everywhere, and some of the watchers fell to the ground, bleeding heavily. Black blood pooled on the floor around them. I felt nothing, no pain, no sorrow, even when I heard them cry out. It was as if my emotions had shut down, making me focus on what I needed to do.
I walked to the other cell, the one where the man still hung, dangling from his wrists. I lashed out at the glass wall and it shattered as easily as the first had. Shards of glass went everywhere, and I picked one up as I went to the man.
Carefully, I cut away the straps that bound his wrists and he fell to the ground. Immediately, though, he was on his feet, crouched as if to attack. His upper lip was curled back in a snarl and his steely hair hid his eyes.
"I'm not here to harm you," I said, dropping the shard of glass. "We need to work together. Let's get out of here."
He straightened up and glanced down at me, standing easily over a head taller than me. But the ferocity in his face wasn't what made be draw back in surprise. His eyes were a bright, vibrant green. At that moment, it was the most beautiful color I had ever seen.
My shock only lasted for a moment, though, as I heard footsteps approach. "Come on," I said, but the tall man simply blinked at me, unsure of whether he should trust me or not. With a growl, I turned and raced away, my bare feet getting shredded on the broken glass. I ran through the building, but all I could find were more empty cells. I needed to find an exit.
I heard running footsteps coming up swiftly and I whirled, ready to fight. But it was the green-eyed man sprinting toward me. Without pausing, he snatched me up with one arm and continued dashing through the building. He was faster than I was, and it was as if he knew where he was going. I simply watched as the building blurred by, trusting this complete stranger to get me out of here alive.
Finally, he came to a door and he threw it open. We were free. I could hear dirt beneath his feet as he ran from that accursed building. I looked at the world around me, but it had no more color than my prison had. The sand was gray, the clouds, the sky, even the plant life. All were simply gray. I couldn't take it anymore and I closed my eyes, letting the rhythm of the man's running footsteps relax me. He ran and ran for what seemed like hours until he finally slowed to a stop, setting me on my feet.
"Thank you," I said, breathing hard although he had been the one running. "What is your name?"
He said nothing, yet I could see a flicker of recognition in his eyes. He opened his mouth, but then closed it again, and his steely brows come together in confusion.
"What are you called?" I asked again, speaking more slowly. He still didn't respond, and I realized then that he didn't know his own name.
"It's alright, you don't need a name," I said, hoping the tone of my voice would give him reassurance. "You'll learn, it's okay. Just stay here for now. Don't leave me yet, I promise I'll think of something. My name is..." I trailed off, looking at the words written like tattoos on my wrists. Sabra. Leanna. But which was me?
"My name is Sable," I said, combining the two names and gesturing to myself. The made up name felt comfortable on my tongue, as if it was meant to be there. "Soon, we'll figure out what we need to do. But right now, I need to sleep." I could already feel exhaustion pulling at my eyelids, and slowly, I sunk to the ground. In seconds, I was asleep.
"So, I see you changed your mind. What lead to this change of heart?" asked Cetreps' leering voice.
"I couldn't watch this man suffer," I said in return, crossing my arms in front of my chest.
"I also see you've chosen a name for yourself. Why didn't you simply choose one of the names written on your flesh?"
"They aren't me. I don't know those names, so I'll make one of my own."
"Aah, I'm impressed, Sable."
I sighed, already getting annoyed with Cetreps. "Now, tell me what I need to do. I want to get this over with as quickly as I can."
The shadowy figure shook its head. "No, you aren't ready yet. You'll fail if I tell you your task now. First, you must master your new powers. You can manipulate the pressure of anything. It will consume your strength, however, so use it sparingly. Remember, this power is a gift, and I can claim it back whenever I want to.
"Also, you must learn about your new companion. He can guide you throughout the day, while I can only guide you while you sleep. You must learn to understand him, communicate with him. Without his strength alongside you, you will die within a few months. Don't drive him away. Now wake, and begin your time of learning."
The next months went by in a blur. I easily learned to control my strange powers. I discovered how much I could do before I exhausted myself, and just how much power I actually had. The green-eyed man was my constant companion, yet he never spoke. Somehow, I knew he could understand me, though. Neither of us knew our past, or what was waiting for us, but we had company in each other. Yet whenever I asked him his name, he wouldn't reply, and he didn't have words written on his wrists as I did. He'd simply blink at me with vibrant green eyes, and I'd sigh and move on to something else.
The silent man wasn't a ShadowSlayer like I was, though. He never slept, in fact, he couldn't. I didn't know what he was, and though I asked Cetreps, he didn't speak to me in my dreams again.
Over three months had gone by when the first attack came. I had just fallen asleep, and I felt ice seem to fill my blood. I woke up slowly, blinking in confusion. I looked to the man where he sat close by me, every muscle in his back tensed.
"What is it?" I whispered, drawing close to him.
He shook his head and gestured for me to be silent. His eyes darted around quickly, watching the dusty horizon intently.
"What?" I asked, confused.
He pointed off into the distance, and then I saw them. Three grotesque, wolf-like creatures were running this way. Saliva sprayed from their mouths, which were lined with jagged, mismatched teeth. Their eyes gleamed a bright crimson as they panted and slobbered, quickly making their way toward the man and I.
The man rose to his feet, sudden fierceness coming into his eyes. Without a word, he leapt forward, charging at the approaching creatures. I jumped to my feet and followed him, but he was so much faster than I was. I could see a cloud of dust and sand telling me that a fight had broke out, yet by the time I arrived, the battle was over.
Four bodies lay still on the ground, and as I watched, three of them turned to ashes and simply blew away on the wind. The fourth lay unmoving. I shouted and ran to him, panic flooding my veins.
I knelt over him, taking in the knife that he clutched in his left hand and the crimson blood that was oozing from a wound on his stomach. His blood was not black like mine. Moving quickly, I tore strips of cloth from the hem of my dusty shirt, pressing them to the wound.
"You're going to be alright," I reassured him as his eyes flickered open. He sat up slowly, his green eyes struggling to hide his pain.
"What did you say?" he asked after a moment.
"I said you'd be alright," I answered, confused. Those words were the first thing I had ever heard him say. It was strange that he would choose now to speak.
He shook his head, steely hair falling over his eyes. "No, before that. When you ran to me, you shouted something."
"Oh, that," I said, frowning. "Well, you never told me what your name was, so in my head, I've been calling you something."
"What was it? Say it again, please," he said intensely, his verdant eyes determined.
Quietly, I repeated the word I had said before. That was what I had been calling him, although I didn't know why. It just seemed to fit him somehow.
He breathed a sigh sounding almost like relief, and for the first time, he smiled. "That will be my name. You have named me. Now, mark that name into my skin, so that I will know who I am."
"You aren't making any sense," I said, confused.
He lifted up his knife, handing it to me. "Just as your names are written on your skin, mark my name the same way."
"What is wrong with you?" I asked, drawing away from him.
"Just do it," he growled, grabbing me lightly by the wrist and tugging me back to him. He lifted my hand with the knife and pressed it to his bare skin, just below his collarbone. "Mark my name there, or else I may forget it and forget myself. Please, it is the most important thing you can ever do. If you care about your own safety, write my name there."
With a trembling hand, I did as he said. He winced as the blade dug through his skin, but I could tell he was trying to hide it from me. Quickly then, I wrote out the letters of his name, not hesitating any longer. Scarlet blood trickled down his bare chest and stained my hands.
"It is done," I said, handing the knife back to him.
"Say it one more time, to seal it," he murmured, closing his eyes. His brow was furrowed as if in pain, but his smile was serene.
"Thank you, Sable. With this name, you have bound me to your side. Unless this pact is broken by one of us, I will never leave your side. Now continue your sleep. I will watch over you," he said, and his voice was deep and smooth, like the blade of a sword.
There were so many things I wanted to ask him, but all I could think about was how heavy my head seemed, and how the sandy ground looked like a wonderful bed. I sunk to the ground and pillowed my head on my arms.
"Good-night, Sable," he said quietly.
"Good-night," I murmured back, then slipped into a deep sleep.
"I see you have finally learned to communicate with him. I'm kind of disappointed that it took you this long. I thought you were smarter than that."
"Shut up, Cetreps. Am I ready to learn about your task now?"
"Yes, I believe you are. It will not be easy, and you may lose your life along the way, but I believe that you will enjoy this task. You see, I carefully crafted you so that you could perform this task, and not only that, but you could perform it well. You have enough free will that you think on your own and cannot be manipulated by me, but you aren't wild enough that this pact can't bind you. I can't believe it only took one try to get the combination right!"
"What are you talking about? You sound as if you've created me."
"Oh, dear Sable, that's because I have! You as well as your friend are special creations of mine. You're both terribly unique. You see, I should introduce myself properly."
"Yes, please do," I said, glaring at the intangible figure. "And while you're at it, how about telling me that this is all just some insane nightmare, and that I'll wake up soon."
"My name is Cetreps," the voice said again. "And I am the god of this world."
[A/N: So, the start of another story. This is just basically an introduction so you can see how the main characters met. I don't like how it came out, and I know that the pacing is terrible. I hope it'll get better when I write the next chapter, though, and actually get into the main storyline. I know everything is probably really unclear as of this chapter, but it will be explained more soon. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a review! ~DarkHawk]