Chapter One:

In lands of far tales a storyteller tells children tales of adventure, courage and bravery. The story of the black hawk fitted perfectly into this category. Many a tale were told about the black hawk but none where anything close to the truth. The tales had been told and like a game of Chinese whispers bit added and bits lost through the ages of time. This storyteller however was different, she knew the entire story as if it happened yesterday and many children flocked to her to hear the tales of the black hawk. The stories of the black hawk where told throughout the land and were soon given the title of lengend. Legends where rarely told in the village as they often lead to acts of violence between the children arguing about what story was the best, but everyone grew up knowing the story of the black hawk. It was a cold night and the storyteller sat on her usual chair with the entire child population of the village sat in front. With a weak smile on her elderly face she began her tales for the children to hear.

The sun lit the grounds perfectly; small patches however were shaded by the great trees of the surrounding woodlands providing cover from the dazzling sun. The great trees had grown here for at least seven hundred years of written time, but some say they have been growing for longer than written time can tell. The woodland birds filled the air with their sweet tunes of love, it was close to mating season for them and the world could tell. The morning was perfect not a spot of trouble in sight. The woodland hadn't seen trouble for many years the animals lived in peace, well until the foxes and other carnivores where hungry of course. A small tribe of men and women also lived in peace within these woodlands. The small village was thriving without war and violence to stop them. The main feature of the woodlands was a large lake which ran through the middle of it. The locals had given it the name of Lake Melfice. The only main feature really of Lake Melfice was that it had a giant hot spring directly in the centre of it, the hot weather managed to keep it above normal temperature as no trees shaded it from the golden sun. In the middle of the spring appeared a geyser which created a fountain daily filling the pool with more tranquil waters.

The spring itself was known by many around the woodlands to be off limits, some rumoured that a strange spirit haunted the spring and that anyone who has been to it had never returned. Others say it is just the water it takes over you as if the pure water has hands and sweeps you from its banks for its own drowning pleasure. If they knew the real reason I'm almost sure they wouldn't have stayed away and would risk almost certain death to see.

It was the same morning that a lone female from the village settlement was stood under the geyser as it shot water high into the air. The silver liquid flowed through the air above her and fell nicely through her hair and down her back. Her perfect body lit up the area for all to see, the water reflected off her as the silver outline glowed on her body. The jet-black hair of the female was draped down her back stopping just short of her shoulder blades. She stood cleaning herself with the pure water, which fell nicely upon her as the pool she stood in came up to her stomach. A tattoo deep black in colour and shaped in the form of a bird was inked onto the left shoulder blade. The tattoo reassembled that of a black hawk.

Even in these times the tales of the black hawk where told so often they had retained the title of myth within such a short space of time. No one believed in this creature, well no one but this female as she had claimed to have seen it with her own two eyes. It was said that the black hawk was the most feared bird in the animal kingdom because of its grace and power in what it did but like always there are two sides to every myth. It was also said that the black hawk was one of the most protective animals and would often aid those who believed in it. Of course it was all a myth, wasn't it? But it doesn't matter what everyone else thought this female had believed since the age of six.

A rustle came from one of the bushes surrounding the spring, instantly the female turned and faced the noise but nothing else came from the bush. As she turned back and continued to wash herself another rustle came from the bushes, the female remained with her daily task. The rustle itself grew louder as whatever was causing it grew closer but the female failed to move. In slow movements the female walked through the spring forward to the banks of the spring. As she approached the bank she took a hold in her right hand a large stone which was nearby and placed it behind her back. Brushing her hair out of her face she slowly returned to the middle of the spring and closed her eyes. As she stopped dead in the water the bush opened and a shadow emerged from deep within the bush. Before the shadow had a chance to do move any closer the female had turned to face the bust and had thrown the stone towards it. The stone hit the shadow causing it to fall backwards with a large thud. She stood there looking in the direction of the fallen shadow and opened her eyes. The shadow slowly stood up from behind the bush. It emerged from the darkness to reveal a middle-aged man with rugged shoulder length hair stood before her. He was rubbing his chest as the stone had hit him dead centre and with some force. The female had incredible skills when it came to protecting herself.

"You my lady," He giggled "You need to be less territorial you know, maybe let others use this spring while you do" The man laughed more and fixed his eyes upon the female as she looked back at him.

"Well maybe I just like my privacy Hank?" The female replied walking over to him, as she got closer to him the spring became shallower and her entire body began emerging from the depths.

"Eh Anneka," he slightly looked away "I know I have seen all this before but a lady should at least be more modest" He finally turned his back on Anneka as she started to get dressed, not that it mattered as he had already seen her but it was polite.

She had almost finished getting dressed again when she sat down to pull on a pair of old brown leather shoes which appeared to have been well worn.

"A true woman should," She giggled while standing up right "But I'm no true woman am I Hank?"

This was met by a strong silence from Hank as he could only just stand there looking at the smiling Anneka. With a quick grin she walked off towards her village, leaving Hank alone for a few seconds before quickly to running after her.

"Hey Anneka," Hank shouted after her as he finally caught up "You can't just leave me alone in this place" he took a hold of her arm and nestled his face against it. He began acting as if he was scared and pretended to shiver "I feel so alone when you're not around"

"You're a big baby you know that?" Anneka said shaking Hank off her arm "You know you're a lot stronger than me, there's no contest"

"Stronger maybe but not smarter," Hank and Anneka where now walking side by side as they continued to talk "Beside you're strong, well for a female"

"I take offence to that you know" She replied abruptly interrupting him.

"Then try and take me," Hank said messing "Come on you know you want to try"

"I couldn't take you."

"Not with that attitude," Hank replied. "You know you want to" Hank stopped and started to mimic the actions of a chicken.

Anneka could only watch a few seconds at Hank mocking her before she sprang upon him. Knocking him to the floor she landed on top of him pinning his arms down. It only lasted a few seconds before Hank over powered her though and reversed the position so he was now pinning her down.

"Come on Anne," he laughed "This all you got?"

Anneka pushed her leg up hard between Hanks legs causing him to fall to the floor, she quickly then pinned him down again and looked at him and before breaking into laughter at Hank's facial expression after he'd been struck in the groin.

"That's all I have!" She said keeping him pinned down.

"And I told you didn't I?" he laughed back "You beat me" He looked into her eyes but she resisted and stood up.

"You let me win," she said dusting herself off. "No way could I have beaten you? Not a chance"

"You beat me when I was trying," Hank said quickly following Anneka again as she walked off towards the village. "You could at least kiss it better."

"In your dreams Hank" Anneka laughed.

They walked for a short while before reaching the village they had lived in for so long. The village was well hidden as the huts were made of cut down tree trunks and roofs made from large leaves; it was just like a modern day village without the modern features. Its centre was a large bell tower; moss grew up the sides of it for the bell only ever rang if the village was in danger. The villagers say that the bell can be heard anywhere in the world by the residents of the village and no one else should it ever ring. Around the tower stood many of the hut houses in no particular pattern but to avoid some of the crops which were growing outside them in miniature fields. The food supply of the village came from the hunters and the farmers; everything that was to be eaten had come from the villagers' hard work. Some believed that this is what made the food taste as nice as it was due to it being worked for and god was just giving them what they deserve. Others however just believed they were the best farmers and hunters around. This was indeed true because no one else was around for at least 100 mile. That's all the village was made up of really, the homes, the towers and the fields. This is how the villagers liked it and had no need for anything else. Anneka and Hank walked up to one of the centre houses and turned to face one another. Hank smiled at Anneka but then sighed.

"Anne, your one of the best hunters," He began but was almost too embarrassed to continue. "It's only a matter of time before the elders make you go on an expedition."

It was customary for many of the outside people to seek the aid of the villagers as where known for legendary hunting skills and knew the ways of old. Most of the outsiders came to the village searching for lost treasures which they required help finding. Others had just come to seek knowledge from the elders. Should an outsider attend the village the elders would select the villager most suited to accompany travellers in there expeditions to find whatever it is they were looking for. The elders did demand that in return the village would gain some of the findings from the expedition in order to study. The village had a basement in one of the huts which held artefacts from the previous expeditions of the people come to past; it was just like a giant store room worth millions. There hadn't been anyone seeking the elders in a few months and news of travellers seeking the village had spread quickly through it.

"I don't stand a chance," Anneka replied. "The elders only pick the good hunters… and I'm afraid I don't fit into that area."

"Of course you do," Hank said placing his hand on her shoulder. "You are one of the best, if not the best I've seen." Hank turned away but smiled. "For a girl I mean." He gave a small laugh then walked off around the hut out of Anneka's sight.

Anneka stood, her head tipped slightly forward as she began to think about the past, it was a common feeling for Anneka when she thought no one was watching her. Her memories flooded her like a tidal wave would hit the beach, they would drown her in sorrow and only she truly knew what had happened in her life and the losses she had sustained. A tear rolled down her cheek softly but Anneka was quick to react brushing it away with her left hand, running her hand through her hair in the same motion to hide the brushing of the tear. She looked up and turned around to enter the nearest hut when she was stopped.

"Miss Underwood," A man's voice roared. "Where have you been?" Anneka frowned before turning around with a blank face.

"I have been out," She replied. "What is it to you Drigon!"

Drigon stood before her; he was a tall man and very well built. He was known to be the strongest hunter in the village and everyone's next choice to be chosen by the elders. Although his reputation was strong, Anneka didn't fear him. He wore an old dark green tunic and old dark green trousers.

"You went without the permission of the elders," He roared. "You shouldn't leave the village alone!" he stood now his hands on his hips trying to make himself bigger, he didn't need to but he did.

"The elders did grant me permission," She replied almost sounding angry. "I had their permission and always will have, they said that I could leave when I want to because that is what I requested."

"You want to leave whenever you can?" Drigon was more irritated than ever. "Then you are no villager of this…" Drigon looked a little stuck and lost for words.

"Village?" Anneka giggled as she continued Drigon's sentence.

"Yes," Drigon was become red with anger. "You, you, you…. Female!"

"Wow Drigon think of that all by yourself," Anneka giggled softly more. "That's a mighty insult there. I'm proud, let me bow before you." Anneka bowed mocking Drigon as she did it.

Drigon just walked away as Anneka just watched laughing. A young boy came up to her; he couldn't have been more than six years old. His hair was dark as many of this village was because of the area, and his skin was mucky with mud as he had been playing with the other children. He moved his hand towards Anneka as she looked closer at the hand it was holding something. A red flower stood out of the boy's clutched hand, she just smiled slightly and bent down to the boys' level.

"This for me?" She asked, the boy just replied with a quick nod. "Thank you, but why do you give me this?"

"Because you are the one they call beautiful," The boy replied making Anneka blush a little. "It is rumoured you are to be called to the elders soon, this is just my way to say I like you."

"Thank you," Anneka said confused, how did this mare child know so much? "Thank you for the flower, I shall look after it."

"It will keep you safe," The boy said as she took it from him. "It will look after you."

The boy ran off in a hurry to join his friends as Anneka just watched on. She slowly moved the flower up to her nose and sniffed its sweet scent, its smell stuck in her mind as she smiled once more as the boy finally ran out of her view. Drigon wasn't going to be happy if the boy was right. As she stood once more alone she began to think about her mother as she often did.

"Why?," She said to herself. "Why were you taken from me, what had I done to deserve this?" She sat down trying to hold the tears back. "Did I do something wrong? Did I love her enough?" Tears now grew in her eyes but did not yet fall. "I was so young. Why did you take her life from me god? Why didn't you take me instead?" The tears she been trying to hold back flowed down her face like a waterfall.

Her hair hid the tears but as she sat there on the ground she was drawing attention to herself. An old woman hobbled over using her stick with her hunched back, with slow movements she stopped in front of Anneka and tried to bend down to see into her eyes.

"What is the matter my child?" She asked.

"Nothing, but the past coming back to haunt me." Anneka replied wiping the tears from her face. "I do not wish to speak about the matter."

"It troubles you my child," The old woman spoke softly. "Troubles grow because you do not share."

"It is a trouble for me to hold," Anneka said standing up. "A trouble only I hold and I alone shall have to deal with this."

"No trouble should be held," The woman said turning to walk away. "Not one of death."

Anneka became speechless how did this woman know she had lost someone to death, she hadn't told anyone about that night when she was six. Anneka could only watch as she saw the woman enter one of the huts. The sun was high in the sky it was midday and Anneka was beginning to hunger. She turned and walked through the door into the small hut behind her. Inside the hut was a single room a bed lay in the far corner of the room and that was all, well all but a clothesline which ran through the centre of the room. It took a while for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, as it was much darker then the outside world. Walking over to one of the corners, a small barrel lay on the floor. Pulling the top off she pulled out a loaf of bread. Bread was the main food source of the village as it was easy to grow the wheat needed. She took a bite out of the bread, its texture was perfect and as she swallowed it. She swiftly finished off the last of the loaf and lay on the bed and closed her eyes.

A few hours had past when her eyes flicked open to the sound of screaming. As she got up from her bed she felt a great amount of heat hit her and the smell of smoke. Looking around her room was on fire, quickly grabbing her spear she ran through the great amount of flames and out of the door. Dropping to her knee's she began panting for air, she had inhaled a lot of smoke from her hut. Little by little she lifted her head up and looked around; there was total chaos her village was under attack. Many small, animal like creatures had invaded the village but as she looked she couldn't see anything other than the villagers running for cover from flames and from the objects being thrown around. As she stood up with her spear in her hand she saw one of the creatures in the distance, it stood upon its two hind legs with the other two aloft in the air like a horse that had just reared back. She quickly raised the spear up and aimed at the creature. She drew the spear back past her head and launched it towards the creature, with mighty sounds it hit the creature in its stomach and it fell to the ground crying. The crying from the creature began to fade as it took started to take its final breaths. Looking around the chaos was still going on and she was now unarmed, Anneka ran over to the creature to withdraw her spear and rearm herself. As she grew closer the creatures figure began to change and slowly began taking human form. Her eyes were shocked and she found the fixed upon the now human form as it whimpered in pain. Anneka stood over the figure and froze with fright, the human was her mother. Her mother lay in a pool of blood and a spear sticking out of her chest, instinctively Anneka knelt beside her and picked her head off the floor.

"Mother?" She cried. "Please not again, I can't lose you again!"

She felt a sharp pain in her back and she dropped her mum to the floor. As she moved her hand over her back towards the pain she felt a wet liquid covering her back, she reached the origin of the pain and felt a spear deep into her back. She let out a scream and closed her eyes. She reopened them and shot up in her bed quickly looking around. She was back in her room again and everything was as it should be it had been one of her frequent nightmares. Her heart was racing a mile a minute as she placed her hand on her chest, gradually moving it round her body to where the spear had been, there was nothing there.

"It was just a dream," She said to herself reassuringly. "Just a dream Anneka, get out of it."

"Anneka," Hank's voice filled the room as he came in through the door. "You ok? I heard a scream."

"It happened again." She said looking at Hank.

"What happened? Tell me Anneka." Hank said walking over to the bed and sitting on the edge of it. "I'm here to help you remember that."

"Well where to begin?" She said sitting on the edge next to him. "It started when I was six, I thought I had gotten over it but it doesn't seem I have."

"Got over what?" He interrupted.

"When I was six," She replied with a tear in her eye. "I watched my parents get murdered. I ran away and don't know how I survived, the night was so cold and I can't remember anything other than seeing…" She paused and looked down to the floor.

"What did you see?" Hank asked placing his hand on her knee.

"I saw something you won't believe," She said looking at his hand. "I saw the Black Hawk"

"The Black Hawk," he looked shocked. "So that's why you have the tattoo on your shoulder. I knew there was a reason for it. Look Anneka if it's any consolation I believe you."

"Thank you Hank." She said giving him a hug. "Thank you so much, I have a favour to ask of you though."

"Anything," Hank said pushing her back slightly so he could look at her face, she had been crying and her eyes where now as red as strawberries in summer.

"Will you stay with me tonight," She said slowly. "At least until I fall asleep; I don't want to be alone anymore."

"Sure." He said giving her a reassuring smile.

Anneka gave off a little smile before lying back down on her bed and closing her eyes, as she did that Hank just sat on the edge of the bed watching her gently fall off to sleep.