The Beginning Prologue
His knees were shaking violently and his breath was coming out in hot puffs. He tried to look away from his friend's dead body, crumpled in a heap against the cave wall. He held up his sword and pointed it straight at his enemy's neck. In that instant, Cyran wanted nothing more than to brutally sever Syrusses's head from the rest of his body. He wanted this villain to fall dead and never wake again. His brother would never speak another word, would never see daylight again. He'd forever be trapped in the dark, gloomy cave with nothing but the silver artifact giving off its last bit of light. Syrusses had gotten this far, but he was going to put a stop to this cruel adventure.
Ever since he found out about the house and about her family, he had always had a plan. His plan seemed small when he heard about Syrusses's want to destroy Wvern, but nevertheless, it attacked Syrusses's center. Cyran wasn't afraid to tell Syrusses how he felt now. He wanted him to know about all the pain Syrusses had put Cyran through. About how all those childhood memories were clouded with a veil of darkness that repulsed Cyran from ever looking back.
Syrusses knew what he was about to do, and his black eyes flashed malevolently. He swept his black cloak aside and took a step towards Cyran, slowly pushing the extended sword away from his neck. His gait was long and purposeful, he was obviously very confident in his survival. "I put you through that pain so that you would learn something," His voice was a hiss, echoing through the empty caverns. "And what you have learned disappoints me. You are convinced that you should hate your big brother more, even though he is creating a newer, better world for his family to live in."
Cyran's top teeth dug deep into his bottom lip to keep a sarcastic remark from exiting his mouth. For whatever reason, he knew this was not a good time to be a smart ass. He knew that if he let something slip out, Syrusses's patience will be gone, and he will be a pile of dust. Oh how badly he wanted to verbally insult this man in front of him. The man had everything work for him, so why shouldn't he get what he wants at the very end? Cyran took a slow step backwards.
"I will get it, just as I had gotten every book and every soldier to finish the job; just as I had killed anyone who stood in my way. I destroyed obstacles in my path, and after I had tried and tried again, I finally recovered my prize." He extended his hand towards the cave entrance and smiled at the woman who sat, crumpled against the wall, a bag over her face. She was here, after all his labor in protecting her, after every step he persuaded her to take, she was here. How could he have been so surprised? Syrusses always gets what he wants.
It was time to make a last stand. So Cyran lifted his sword while Syrusses was turned and swung at his brother.
Chapter One Kaltora's Threat
The midnight darkness was a cloak of relief for Cyran. The mere thought of someone or something finding McKenzie was unbearable. Roughly, he pulled his companion down next to him. Their breath was visible in the space between them. With the look in Cyran's eyes and with their special abilities, the silent conversation was an advantage in their position.
Do you know what's following us yet? Her frantic thoughts were enough to put him on the edge.
No…just stay silent. I'll figure this out. Cyran nodded once and peered around a tree. The two had been chased for hours through the forest with nothing but clothes on their backs and weapons easily attached to their persons. Cyran never told McKenzie why they had to leave camp last night because he didn't want to scare her. The plan didn't work out so well.
They hadn't heard the snarling for a while, but it didn't mean anything. One thing was certain; werewolves had caught their scent and they've lapsed into a game of hide-and-go-seek. The problem was Cyran didn't know if he and McKenzie were supposed to find them, or if they were the ones to hide and wish for the best.
Climb up this tree and stay where you are. I have a hunch, but I can't certain. What do you suppose it is? Her eyes looked into his with slight fear, but Cyran saw a deeper fear within her that had nothing to do with the situation at hand.
I've told you before, Syrusses is gone. He hasn't interfered since the fire…
She shook her head and looked away. It was only expected that she didn't believe him. He held out his cupped hands and she used his strength as leverage into the tree.
Quietly, avoiding branches as she did, McKenzie pulled on the string of her bow. She notched an arrow and pulled back, her eyes scanning the area around them.
Cyran should have bought silver arrows when they were in Pretens. Now they had to deal with the werewolves the hard way.
Convinced that she was tucked away safely in the tree, Cyran warned her he was going to take a look around. His steps through the foliage were quiet and demanding, pulling him further and further away from McKenzie. He opened his senses to the wild, listened to every hum on an insect and every flap of a bird. He never once heard an unusual sound, save the fading breath of McKenzie and his own wild heartbeat.
He crouched and straightened his back against a small tree. He closed his eyes to open his hearing better. He didn't have night-vision, so using his eyes would be pointless.
As time passed, tension grew in his strained muscles. He felt paranoid, and what he was waiting for was completely unclear to him. His hand tightened around the hilt of his stainless steel blade. His psychic radar continuously picked up on McKenzie's wandering thoughts. At least she hadn't left the tree. He tried to ignore the pictures of himself running through her head.
It was odd when people thought of someone they loved. It was odd seeing it second hand. The image becomes beautiful, no matter how you look at someone. A person's face was usually shrouded in gold and pink, two clashing colors that created an invincible image of the one they admired.
McKenzie's image of him was represented in pink and silver. She had feelings she couldn't hide, but most of them were uncertain because Cyran never returned anything. He was working strictly through duty to her, nothing more.
How she came upon those feelings was a long story. One that involved their entire childhood together and the memories she'd rather have than the traumatizing fears that continued to sprout. McKenzie was a delicate flower who continued to stray too close to the edge instead of hang back with the other flowers. At times, Cyran wished he could erase all memory of him from her mind, especially during those nights when she would look at him hopelessly and ask for Alyshia instead of him.
Her weakness was nothing more than her femininity. Her emotions were so strong and so overwhelming. She couldn't hide her emotions when she most needed to. She was the exact opposite of Cyran, whose quiet and observant outward appearance blanketed the emotional turmoil inside of him. One look at them, and an average human would suggest they were a couple. They were so opposite that they absolutely couldn't live without the other.
There was a snap to his right and his eyes flew open. He still couldn't see, the dark being too gloomy and thick for his eyes to penetrate. He tried to listen carefully, but the cracked branch was only a one time offer. Slowly he stood and stretched his mind towards McKenzie's. She was still in the tree, which means it wasn't her. Someone else was here, someone who was watching them. Werewolves wouldn't have made the slightest sound.
He heard the quiet pressing of leaves into the soil, the barely audible intake of breath, yet he could see nothing.
There was a sudden snap to his left, and the person towards his right let out a breath. Cyran knew what was happening.
He could feel it now, the barricade of the mind to his right. The person moved, and he could feel the mind's barricade move with them. They were approximately twenty degrees behind him from his side. The noise on the left was not one of a human, rather the silent hunters of the werewolf pack. They thought they had found Cyran, when it was this new person making the noise. And Cyran was right in front of them.
He barely had time to throw his body towards the tree. The snarling and snapping of the werewolves erupted and the person's breath let out in a short gust. They took off at a run, towards the way Cyran had come. Towards McKenzie.
Cyran didn't waste any time. He picked himself off the ground and yanked out his sword. A wolf that had paused now backtracked to take a look at Cyran. With his sword outstretched and McKenzie's bow at the ready, the wolf only stared with a malevolent glare. With a start, Cyran realized that it was only a wolf. Not one of the werewolves that ran after the mysterious person.
He raised his sword and flicked it at the wolf, which backed up and took off into the night, after the werewolves.
We should help that poor person… McKenzie's voice whispered in his head. She was always the compassionate, always wanting to help those in trouble. She was tree hopping now, slowly walking away from him.
McKenzie! Cyran took off at a run after her, careful not to have actually yelled out her name in his panic. The thought of her away from him, near those werewolves, frightened him. He treated her like a little girl, but after what she had been through, sometimes he felt it necessary to do so.
Come along and help, scared-y cat! Her voice vanished and he had to summon up a great deal of control to keep him from freaking out. He took off at a run to catch up with her, hoping that she wouldn't have gone too far away. He found her again, amused and watching from her perch in a tree, when he stumbled into the clearing.
The full moon shone through the grey clouds in the sky, and it lit the entire clearing with one long beam. Cyran saw everything clearly now. The large, grey wolf Cyran had seen earlier had vanished, but the three werewolves that stared down a tree were not. The tree stood leaning and thin, looking to the point of toppling over and dying right there, had it not began to float the opposite direction until it was stick straight. It seemed nothing was pushing it, however.
One of the werewolves caught sight of him and it turned to him, done watching the mysterious tree. It growled, and began to advance on him. Cyran pointed his sword at it and took a step forward, trying to scare it back, but the werewolves were smarter than this.
An arrow struck the advancing werewolf on the shoulder and the wolf snapped out in fury. Cyran took three steps back, his heart pumping in his chest. He had never faced a werewolf so closely in his life. Only once, and it was from twenty feet away with a silver arrow at the ready. Swallowing, he took another step back until his back was against a tree.
McKenzie let three more arrows volley into the clearing, striking the wolves at random, but none of them were stopped by the arrow. They were like needles sticking in their skin.
Cyran caught a bit of movement in his peripheral vision, but it wasn't the wolves or McKenzie. It wasn't even there, but he swore he saw it moving. He blinked slightly and watched as a knife was drawn and floated in the air. He guessed it was the mysterious person he had heard earlier, except that he couldn't see them.
The werewolf furthest from Cyran suddenly cried out and collapsed under the knife's thorn that was buried deep between the werewolf's shoulder blades. She knife was pulled out and moved backwards. Cyran knew what it was now. Who it was. The woman underneath the fluttering cloak was completely invisible. At an angle Cyran could see her clearly, and then the next moment she was gone.
Obviously disturbed, the two other werewolves lunged at Cyran and the mysterious floating knife.
Cyran felt a rush of air and then his body being slammed down into the ground. He could feel the vibration of arrow after arrow clapping into the back of the wolf; McKenzie's attempt at desperately trying to help. The wolf's teeth dug into his shoulder, ripped at his hands. He tried to pick up the sword he dropped, but he continued to shield his face from the teeth.
The third wolf, Cyran realized during his struggle, hadn't gotten up after the woman had stabbed it, so he wondered if she had a silver knife that would completely kill the werewolves. The werewolf on top of him, however, was intent on killing Cyran.
He felt the strike of claws across his neck, the swipe of the wolf's tail across his leg. He tried to push against the snapping muzzle, but the werewolf was too heavy and too strong. He was completely pinned down.
"Cyran!" McKenzie cried out. He heard her drop from the tree and began to walk towards him, but he couldn't let her get near.
"No! Get away." He yelled at her, moving his face out of the way in time for the werewolf's jaw to jam down where his nose might have been. There was a shuffling to his right, and he could clearly see the shining black boots under the cloak she was wearing. The knife came down on top of the wolf and the thing collapsed on Cyran, struggling against the pain until it finally stopped writhing.
Cyran used all his strength to shove the werewolf off. He rolled out from under it and paused for a minute, resting on his stomach.
McKenzie ran over to him and threw her arms around his shoulders in a relieved hug. "Are you hurt?" She gushed, brushing out his hair and pulling branches and grass off of his back.
He sat up, pushing her away. "I'm perfectly fine."
"You have cuts…" She frowned, touching his cheek and neck.
"They'll heal," He turned towards the retreating figure. "Hey wait!" He called, seeing the woman bend down and scoop up her knife. She yanked off the cloak and turned to face them. Her face was the most shocking. It was plainly human. Completely and utterly human, except for her bright purple eyes, the violet hues clashing with a blue. She had pale skin that looked almost white, and hair so dark it looked almost blue, though it was beginning to blend in with their surroundings as the moon's light began to dissipate.
McKenzie looked at Cyran then back to the woman. She looked ready to defend Cyran with her life, but Cyran only shook it off. He stood, ignoring McKenzie's helping hand, and frowned at her.
The woman's pink lips were turned up into a smile, "You can see through my cloak, can't you?" She whispered.
Cyran shook his head, "Only at certain angles. Who are you?" He asked, looking her up and down carefully.
"My name is Kaltora Jane Denora, and now that I have told you, I have to kill you." Her violet eyes seemed to glow brighter with the excitement of killing them.
"Are you some kind of assassin?" Cyran didn't like the idea of an assassin.
"Maybe…but for that information, you'll definitely have to die tonight." She whipped out her dagger and took slow, sure steps forward.
"Hang on a minute. You just saved us from the werewolves. Why didn't you just let them kill us?" McKenzie blubbered uncertainly, not really liking the look of the dagger.
"What if we made a deal," Cyran said, digging forcefully through her mind. She lived in a cave, not too far from here, with someone named Aren. Her entire life consisted of raids and killing people for money. "No one wants us dead, so you have no reason to kill us, but if we come with you to your home and we help you along with those raids of yours, you don't have to harm us."
She glanced at him, obviously very unnerved that he knew most of this. "How did you…?"
"I can find more of your deepest secrets. If I wanted to, I could tell my companion here all of them without even moving my lips. The point is, if you try and kill me, she'll escape with knowledge of you, because you won't be able to take us both. Or, you can take us to your cave and we can help you out for a little in return for not killing either of us."
"I'd rather just kill one of you…" She wasn't going to though. She liked her secrets too much. "How do I know you won't tell people of my position when you do leave my cave?"
"That's where we make the promise not to tell if you make the promise not to kill us. A compromise, because I promise you, we're important and you don't want to kill us if you want this war to end."
"I don't care for the war. Arcon doesn't bother me, and I won't bother them." She said flippantly.
"Very well," He began to dig deeper into her mind, this kind of approach purposely used to give her a headache and let her know what he was doing.
She gasped and backed up a few steps, "Stay out of my head!" She demanded, grabbing at her hair, "I'll let you come! Just stay out!"
Cyran looked at McKenzie, who seemed satisfied, though uncertain about his approach. She hadn't been expecting a stop at a cave with an assassin; it was clear on her face.
Cyran moved towards Kaltora, who took a sure step backwards and towards the woods. "Fine, fine, I suppose I can make use of you. You seem to have crazy mind powers, so that will work. And you…" She trailed off, looking at McKenzie like she was a plain ribbon, "You're a package deal." She sighed.
Hurt, McKenzie closed her mouth and crossed her arms.
"Where did you guys come from anyway?" She asked, frowning at Cyran.
"Pretens…." He trailed off, studying her carefully. He still didn't trust her. That much he knew. He just found a way to keep an assassin from killing them.
"Hm. Pretens is a small village." She acknowledged. "I'll be back; I have to…ready my cave for you." She let out a tired sigh and disappeared into the forest before Cyran could object.
"Do you think she just left us?" McKenzie asked.
"No, she's really intent on making us stay. She calls us her recruits, in her mind." Cyran shrugged and sat on a rock. "Now we wait."
"Aren!" Kaltora's sweet voice traveled down to the sleeping man. He grumbled something before sitting up.
"Damn you woman! I'm trying to sleep!" Aren felt groggy and disoriented. He hated it when Kal woke him so suddenly.
Kaltora smirked and sat down on a good sized rock. "You act like we're married." Her eyes flashed with mischief.
"Naw, naw, I'm just sick of you acting like my mother. What? Almost get in trouble again?"
"Better." Her eyes lit up as she leaned towards him. "I got us our first recruits."
"What?" He sat up in a rush, eyes wide with approval. "How many?"
"Two, both have powers."
"That's excellent. Where are they?" Aren looked around anxiously.
"I figured we could prank them." Kaltora smirked and jumped up, flicking dust off her shoulder.
"Yes!" Aren jumped up, completely excited about what they were about to do. "You know I've been waiting for this."
"Yes, I know." The woman was so brilliant sometimes. Aren smirked, and quickly Kal added, "Oh, the guy's a serious mind reader. I want you to go ahead and set up two sleeping bags and a plate of food. They looked hungry."
"Got this handled." Aren winked.
"Good, now I'll go get our guests." She strutted out of the cave, flipping her hair as she did, and headed back into the forest. The nice part about where she found them running through her territory, was they were next to the cave. She didn't have to walk far.
When Kaltora met up with the two runaways, she was surprising herself when she felt relieved. They just stood there, having a silent conversation in their heads. The Elf looked like she was remembering some fond memory. The Halfling looked happy. "Alright, Aren awaits you at the cave. It's just up these hills, follow me."
Kaltora led them farther into the cliffs until they came upon a rather rough, yet deep looking cliff. Up higher, the air had gotten colder, and Kaltora saw frost everywhere in the black night. Ahead was the silhouette of a magnificent grey wolf. The animal lurked for a minute, and then took off into the forest.
The small band entered the cave, Kal leading and with the two a short distance away. As Kaltora felt along the wall, she finally found the torch and lit it with a match she kept in her boot. The gloomy black cave lit up before them eerily as she urged them to continue. She could tell McKenzie was getting nervous.
From deeper within came a low meow, followed by the scratching of paws.
"Aren! They're here." Kaltora called in.
Slowly, her sly friend emerged as a grey cat. The elf's frowned and cocked her head, probably wondering how completely alone Kaltora must be. Only the Halfling knew better.
"Nice try, I know he's a guy." Cyran rolled his eyes at Kaltora, who frowned as she followed them, deeper into her home.
"Well, this is it. Home sweet home."
Kaltora seemed to know absolutely nothing about Elves. Sure, she was a human herself, someone who should have been exposed to them a long time ago, but she seemed to really want to know more about where they both came from.
"I mean, sure, you must have met up recently, because I can see that in your eyes, but you both must have known each other before, and had been somewhere at that time. You're an Elf right?" She directed the last question to McKenzie.
"We had been childhood friends before. You know Levi City?" Cyran asked.
"Oh yeah, in Hay," The country had been wealthy and flourishing tremendously lately. Everyone wanted to live there, rather than the conflicted country of Arcon. Elves were much friendlier than Palestraleans anyway.
Cyran nodded and said, "Well my family moved there when I was seven, and I met McKenzie in the backyard. Did you know that she's a High Elf? Doesn't look like it." He gave McKenzie a light squeeze and smiled fondly at her. "Do you know what a High Elf is?"
Kaltora shook her head.
"You would think it's a class system, but they are just Elves who have a lot more open power pertaining to their bodies or to their emotions or mind. You see? Fits McKenzie perfectly."
McKenzie felt a blush coming on. "Thank you." She couldn't help but love the smile he gave her. She was guilty about actually falling in love with him. What made her sad was he didn't love her back. Quickly she erased that thought while Kaltora spoke.
"You say it like there is more types of Elves?"
"Yeah, there are Woodland Elves, elves who are deeply connected with nature, and there are Dark Elves, elves who work with spiritual magic and magic that binds power to weapons. Homelanders are the High Elves and some Woodland Elves that stay in Hay. Dwellers, I'm sure you can figure that out, are the elves that travel the country. Then there are the Halflings, like myself, who are half-elf and half-human. They consider themselves a race by themselves, but I don't think so."
"And Halflings have what kind of powers?"
"Weaker ones, but sometimes if they have a lot of elven blood on their parent's side of the family, it can be strong."
"I gather that you are a mind-reader?" Kaltora finally asked.
"She is. I'm a mind-walker." Cyran slowly lapsed into that mysterious mood of his. "I can do more than read what you're currently thinking. I can dig into your memories; alter your emotions and thoughts. I can even probably control someone if I wanted to, but I don't."
"Could you perhaps persuade someone?" Kal asked in her seductive voice.
"No…but you can. You are very powerful with it as well. More elven blood," he realized.
McKenzie stirred slightly. She had been manipulated by this beautiful persuader, hadn't she? Suddenly her mood plummeted—more so past the point of return.
After a minute Cyran said, "You can persuade people to do what you want and you have a cloak that blends you into your surroundings. Aren can counter any attack physically and mentally and change into a grey house cat. He is your assigned protector and you seem to look at me much a lot more than I give you credit for."
Despite the Kaltora's open feelings about him, McKenzie took pleasure in seeing the ridiculous look on Kaltora's face. She must have let him dig too deep, and it was funny. She would never know how powerful Cyran was. "And yet, you barely know anything about us…" McKenzie added triumphantly.
"Mac, she has a right to know what we can do. Besides, we're dangerous right?" Cyran winked and turned back to Kal, who was still red in the face. "I walk minds and heal to a certain degree. McKenzie here can change any action's speed and double it or slow it. She can only read current thoughts but that's it.
Kaltora had finally gained composure and let out a small smile. "You'll make great assets."
"For what?" McKenzie eyed Kal curiously.
"For the raids," Kaltora smirked. "Time for bed though, I'm bushed." She leaped upwards and waved goodnight.
"Tomorrow is our first day," Cyran mused as he lay back against the cold ground, "Can't wait." He watched as Kaltora disappeared into another segment of cave.
"I can wait…" She whispered, slowly lapsing into much needed sleep.