Prologue

The full moon cast a silent frail glow in the dead of the night, barely enough to light the large stone chamber. The lack of stars made the moon's illumination almost worthless; almost. The walls were littered with burnt out torches and etched markings. Tattered tapestries hung from the ceiling bearing the symbol of two opposing crescent moons intersecting each other; hanging motionless and bogged down by the immense summer heat. The air was dense, it weighed heavily on the ground and rested on the floor lazily; it was thick, too thick to rise, too thick to inhale. It clung to the inside of the throat, refusing to become a prisoner of the lungs, providing only a hint of respite in each pitiful gasp. It was very hard to breathe.

And Kaylin Ayala was breathing, hard, though it never seemed to be enough. Every time she tried to gasp she choked instead, coughing, suffocating. It was tiring, but her only other option would be to stop breathing and she did not plan on doing that. Not yet. She tried to shift her hand to wipe the blood away from her mouth. She could barely move. She could barely even twitch her finger, but that twitch was at least a little comfort. She could feel herself covered in blood, it clouded her vision, and it made her clothes cling to her body. Her normally light blonde hair was disheveled and matted down with dirt and sweat. There was a deep cut on her forehead that had just stopped bleeding. Not before drowning her face in red, but at least it had stopped. Her eyes stung as she slowly opened them further, some of the blood had begun to wash away. She was crying.

Kaylin had never felt this much pain in her life, not even close. Her body was telling her to give up, to stop fighting; she wouldn't listen. She would never give up, not even in death if that's what it took. Never stop fighting. Kaylin could hear something in the back of her mind, trying to a fight a way through her pain so she would listen. It was a familiar voice, calling to her. Though they stung, Kaylin opened her eyes as wide as she could.

She could barely make out shadows on the wall, dancing about like fire. She tried to look, to listen through the tears and blood and pain to see that figure calling to her. Shouting. She fought harder, past the bleeding wound on her forehead and the clothes still sticking to her body. Past thick heat and the choking air refusing to fill her lungs. Past her blinding hatred for what had caused this… It was not enough; the pain was too thick, her wounds too deep, her vision too clouded. But she could hear that voice now, shouting her name. Familiar.

"-aylin!" There was a long pause but she waited to hear it again. Making sure it was real. "Kaylin!"

She tried to call out to the voice but no words would form in her hoarse throat. There was not enough air to scream. She tried to reach out, but her arms would not move. She wanted help, something to touch, something to ease her pain. Nothing, all she could do was listen.

"Kaylin, look at me." It was a caring voice and one she trusted. She shifted her head as far as she could. "Everything will be fine." Hope.

Something shifted in the room; Kaylin could barely make out another shadow against the wall, coming toward her.

"Do not lie to the weakling. Your false comforts are not appreciated." The tone was deep and guttural, like two horrible voices trapped together. It was also familiar. And that blinding hatred flooded out some of her pain. The unclear shadow grew bigger as Kaylin could hear the figure moving closer. Every step sounded like knives scraping across the floor. She could feel its presence above her, watching.

"You shouldn't listen to him child." Something not made of flesh leaned down and wiped the tears and blood away from her eyes; and that horrifying voice whispered to her.

"You will die."

Hatred filled Kaylin now, not fear or pain, just pure hate and the inspiration of revenge. She trembled in anger as the shadow against the wall caught her eye. It was clear and distinct, a wolf over its fallen prey. She could see clearly.

"Do not touch her!" That caring voice was cut short as her predator turned away from her and made its way back to her fallen friend.

"Or what General? You can do nothing this time." Kaylin could make out the shadow of the General against the wall. Just a shape slumped on the ground barely moving. The shadowed wolf placed a paw on the top of the General's limp body. Kaylin might not have been able to see exactly what was happening but she could hear the sound of flesh tearing. That caring voice, the General, cried out in pain but his shadow barely moved. Kaylin wanted to help him, comfort him. Take his pain away. Yet she could only watch in anger. Her arm shifted. She pulled it slowly across the damp hot floor and wiped more away from her eyes. She saw that horrible shadow circling the General, stalking. Hate.

She felt her legs again.

"This time they will die, one by one. Not even you will be able to save them."

Concern flooded out more of her pain. Her friends and families lives were now at stake and she couldn't do a thing about it. Kaylin told herself that it was not in anyway her fault, it couldn't be. But she could not help but worry. She wanted to warn someone, anyone. She wanted to fight, and knew how given the chance. She was prepared to fight to her death if need be. If only she could fight now.

Suddenly the hulking shadow of the General leapt forward off the ground toward his stalker. Kaylin could make out the shadow of the general clearly and recognizably. With the fierce head of an eagle, powerful body of a lion and one massive wing extended the General lunged forward with amazing swiftness. The other wing dragging on the floor, wounded. Body outstretched despite the pain he was no doubt feeling. Shouting words that Kaylin did not understand, the room began to glow a bright white, the words echoing off every wall. A flash of hope swelled inside her, a chance. She focused. Watched the shadow of a wolf, three times the size of a normal one, as it locked its stance. The sockets where his eyes would be began to glow a horrifying orange, even in the shadow reflected against the wall. She watched as the wolf-like creature raised a colossal paw into the air and swung, hard.

The downward swipe hit the charging General right in the head. A claw gouging flesh, bones cracking and the screeching of the General was the most terrifying thing Kaylin had ever heard. She gasped barely enough air to scream as one of the General's eyes hit the ground in front of her, severed. Had anything been in her stomach she would have thrown it up. She watched as the General's shadow slumped to the floorboards, beaten. She looked away from the dancing figures, back to the eye covered in blood. It seemed to look back at her; she felt nauseous but couldn't look away. She stared at it, a bright yellow circle with red spots surrounding a dark pupil; it was so powerful and innocent. She stared and felt sorry, wished the pain was hers to take.

The wolf shadow began speaking in a low voice, in a tongue Kaylin could not comprehend. Circling his fallen foe and chanting. That horrid orange glow emanating from its eyes was slowly getting brighter. The words being spoken hurt her ears and made her eyes water. She could feel the pain in her body double, something terrible was coming. She did not know what, but that hatred fueled her again, trying to wash away all the pain. The light grew brighter. She instinctively reached for the knife she often hid behind her belt. It was still there, hidden. She pulled it out slowly, holding it against the underside of her wrist, concealed. She would put up just as much fight as the General; to her death. The vile words were getting louder and more painful. Kaylin clutched the knife to her chest as the whole chamber began to glow the same orange hue. Patience. Kaylin's hatred was still winning over pain but just barely. Her knuckles were beginning to lose color from how tightly she was gripping that knife.

The predator's shadow began to disappear, half of it still almost gripping reality. It was a mist more than a shadow. The General's beaked head jerked violently upward as if being pulled. Slowly his broken body began moving, lifting until it was completely off the ground. Kaylin tried to turn and see him but her head would barely move, the shadows would have to do. Nearly ten feet off the ground the General's body stopped rising and just levitated in mid air. It was the most amazing and horrifying thing Kaylin had ever seen. The chant became louder still and even more brutal. Each word was like a whip cutting into her skin each time it hit. The pain was too much, her anger started to dissipate swallowed by that horrible voice. The General began to spin in the air, slowly, both wings being held completely out at his side. The wolf standing below was looking up at him still chanting. His words sounded, satisfied. Kaylin could barely watch, her insides felt like they were trying to claw their way out. Her wounds felt like they were on fire. She gasped even harder for air and nothing seemed to be helping. She remembered a moment from her childhood, sitting on a rock next to a creek watching the water rush by. She was six then. Seven years ago and it seemed as vivid as if it had happened that morning. She felt empty, like everything she knew and loved was being sucked out of her. She felt like she was dying.

A flash of orange light brought her back into the room and she looked back at the shadows. Another flash and the General's piercing cry made her flinch. Flash. One of the General's mighty wings convulsed, stretched as far as it could outward and shot inward as if it were sucked into his body. His cries were even louder than the chanting. Another flash and the same happened to his other wing. The screams were too much for Kaylin she had to look away; another Flash. She looked down toward the severed eye, blood drying in the scorching heat. Another cry from the General and Kaylin closed her eyes. She was crying again, but no longer from pain, just from pure sadness. She knew that she could not fight it, that no matter how hard she fought she could not save him. She could not save her friends and family. She could not save herself, whatever was happening to the General was going to happen to her, but she didn't think she would last that long. She could feel death approaching and for the first time in a while, she was afraid.

Another flash of fiery orange was broken up by something else. Another flash and Kaylin saw the dark pupil of the eye glow a very subtle blue. Each flash of orange light and each cry of her beloved friend and his separated eye grew brighter. She did not understand but it soothed her pain, eased her breathing, and wiped the tears away from her face. There was a low hum, drowning out the screams and chanting. Kaylin did her best to listen to it; the eye was chanting back. It was the familiar voice of the General and it gave her an immense amount of hope. She stared into the eye in wonder and joy and forgot about everything else in the room, she made herself drive the rest of it away. The peaceful chanting of the General grew a little louder and that soothing voice returned.

"Facing death is one of the greatest challenges anyone can conquer. You make me proud Kaylin Ayala. And your courage will give me strength." There was a pause in the voice and Kaylin sighed out of relief. "But I will not let you die today."

The eye began to move on the ground rolling around and spinning like the General's shadow. It was glowing both white and blue brilliantly. Then suddenly there was a great white flash in the room, blinding Kaylin and flooding out the horrible orange glow. The eye, at least where the eye had been before, hit the ground with a metallic clank. It was no longer a body part but a bronze stone with the engraving of an eye on it, now about the size of a fist. It stood straight up, balancing, staring at Kaylin. And it began glowing that bright white and blue again.

The wolf had stopped his ritual and Kaylin heard him shout at the General.

"What have you done Kajaff?" His horrible voice roared off the walls.

The stone eye was glowing even brighter than before. The General's Majestic voice boomed throughout the chamber, coming from all directions.

"Apologies, Auros, but you are not going to kill her that easily."

The stone eye began to hover slowly off the ground until it was about as tall as Kaylin. She could not look away, squinting through the splendor of the light to see the eye. It washed away all the pain, all her aches and worries and fears. It gave her courage beyond anything she had ever known and it spoke to her, in the back of her mind.

Now go Kaylin, go to where he cannot harm you.

Kaylin pushed her arms against the ground as hard as she could and got to her knees. She could feel the life rushing back into her body. Her legs tightened as she forced herself upright standing on her feet. The heat had died and the air felt cool against her skin. Her lungs were filled with air and her eyes were clear and open. Her strength returned to her and she felt the knife in her hand. She remembered that hatred that had fueled her as she listened to the sounds of the wolf sprinting toward her. Its claws were scraping across the ground and its low snarl roaring behind her. She was not afraid, she was not angry, she felt sorry for the wolf called Auros. Every step Kaylin took closer to the eye gave her more hope; more will. Until she was standing directly in front of the eye, within reach. She smiled.

Her smile vanished as she could feel thick sharp claws digging into her right shoulder. They went in deep, to the bone and she screamed despite herself. The dark laughing of her enemy echoed in her ear and that anger flashed back. Anger, courage and hope swelled inside her now. Lowering the knife into the palm of her left hand she whipped it around behind her and felt it sink into flesh. The pressure from her shoulder was relieved as the claws yanked out. Auros screamed and Kaylin let go of the knife. She took one look over her shoulder to see the wolf grab the knife in his teeth and yank it out from above his chest, growling. She looked back at the eye of the General and smiled, satisfied. Reaching out with her left hand Kaylin grabbed hold of the eye and felt pure power flow through her. A bright white light flashed throughout the entire room and Kaylin Ayala closed her eyes, letting it carry her away.