Chapter 1: Welcome to Emmortis
He pulled in a sharp breath and sat up straight. Breath after breath, he couldn't seem to pull enough air into his lungs! Slowly, his breathing started to become normal and he took in his surroundings. He was in a bed with rough sheets, but he wasn't sure if it was his or not. He gently tugged back his curly black hair as he tried to remember where he was, but everything seemed so hazy. Wherever he was, the room was small. It appeared to be some kind of log cabin but it was sparsely furnished. Aside from his bed and a tiny window, there wasn't much else to see.
"Hello." A man stepped forward from a dark corner of the room.
The one who had just awoken snapped his eyes upon this stranger. The strange man was dressed casually and he was rocking a well-trimmed beard and mustache combo.
The stranger smiled warmly. "Don't be afraid."
"Wh-Who are you?" The awakened one pointed at the stranger. "And wh-where am I?"
The stranger took another step closer to the bed. "You are far from home and in a strange land. Do you remember anything?"
The awakened one bit his lip. "I don't know."
"Why don't you try?" the stranger asked.
The awakened one gulped as he tried to pry back the foggy veil of his memory. He grimaced as he pushed further and further back in his mind, but to no avail. Everything was clouded and blurry, he didn't remember anything. "I...I can't remember." He hung his head.
The stranger gently placed his hand on the awakened one's shoulder. "Do you remember your name?"
The awakened one rubbed his head and he couldn't stop a few tears from falling onto the scratchy bed sheets. He was lost for words and could only manage to shake his head.
"I am sorry," the stranger said. "At least I can tell you where you are. You are no longer on Earth." He pointed out the window. "You are in Emmortis, land of the Immortals. It is similar to your Earth, but it is also very different." He looked back at the awakened one. "Do you understand?"
The awakened one nodded slowly, but it was clear that most of this was going over his head. He was probably still in shock.
"Then let me explain something else to you," the stranger continued. "They will call you an immortal." He pointed straight at the awakened one. "But do not forget that you are still a human. Things are different here, but you are still human. Remember that."
"B-But how did I get here?" The awakened one looked around in confusion and fear.
"Ask her." The stranger turned around a second before a door opened.
In through the door walked a female. Her hair was short and messy and she had some kind of large tattoo plastered on her arm. Her eyes were fiery and every one of her steps held determination. She marched into the tiny bedroom confidently, but she was quickly flustered when she noticed the stranger standing by the bed.
"Who are you?" She motioned sharply at the strange man.
The stranger walked calmly over to the woman and looked her in the eyes. His face was stern, but there was a kindness in his eyes. "You have chosen a very dangerous path. If you do not change, it will destroy you."
"Listen pal!" The woman frowned and brushed past the strange man. "That's my immortal!" She pointed at the awakened one. "And your weird threats won't make me give him over to you...whoever you are. Now beat it!" She stomped her foot into the floorboards.
The stranger nodded sadly, but turned his gaze once again on the awakened one. "Don't worry. When you need me, you'll see me again." We winked, then, as if by magic, the stranger disappeared into thin air!
Even the gutsy woman was taken aback. She blinked her eyes a few times, but finally came to the conclusion that he was gone. "And don't come back!" she shouted. Happy with herself, she rubbed her hands together and turned to the awakened one, still sitting on his bed. He was shaking terribly and his teeth were chattering. "Don't look so pathetic." She sat down next to him.
The awakened one gulped. "I-I can't remember anything." He gripped his head and another tear fell from his cheeks.
The woman rolled her eyes and let out a long sigh. "I hope I don't have to do this every time I get a new immortal." Then, she rubbed her temples. "Look, you can call me Rose. I'm your contractor."
"Contractor?" the awakened one looked over at Rose.
"Oh boy." Rose shook her head. "I guess I've got to explain everything to you then." She cleared her throat. "You're not on Earth any longer. You're in a place called Emmortis and you're an immortal. You're my immortal. Contractors own immortals and give them work."
"And how did I get here?" the awakened one asked.
"That doesn't matter." Rose waved a hand in his face. "Here's what you need to know: Immortals can't die. Therefore, immortals are fighters and you fight on behalf of your contractor. Simple enough, right?"
"I...what?" The awakened one blinked and looked down at his body. He didn't seem any different from what he could remember, but that really wasn't saying much.
"Ugh." Rose clenched her hand into a fist. "It's really simple. You can't die and you fight for me. Got it?"
"But...why would I do that?" the awakened one asked.
Suddenly Rose stood up and glared at the awakened one. "Because you have no idea the power I hold over you." Then, she pointed at the awakened one and immediately a searing pain shot into his stomach!
He clenched his belly with his hands, but the pain only grew stronger! "Aahhh! Owww! Aaaahhh!" Then, the pain subsided. He pulled in a few short breaths and looked back up at Rose with a newfound fear and respect.
Rose smiled. "Now you know, there will be punishment for disobedience. However, I will also give rewards if you do what I ask. For instance, fight for me and I will give you back your memories."
A faint flicker of hope gleamed across the awakened one's eyes. "You can do that?"
"Then…" he dared to stand to his feet. "...do you know my name?"
Rose chuckled. "I know your human name, but you're an immortal now and thus you will be given a new name. However…" she held up a finger. "...immortal names are earned on the field of battle. For now, I will call you No Name. Remember that anything I give you, you will earn."
"Then I will earn them back, all of my memories." No Name clenched his hand into a fist. "When do I start?"
Rose looked up at No Name and smiled. "That's what I like to hear! But first, you need to be trained."
No Name nodded. "How soon?"
"Follow me." Rose turned and walked out the bedroom door.
Rose led No Name down a tight hallway and he noticed that there were about three other rooms, beside the one with his bed. There was a larger open space, probably some kind of living room, and there were a few other small bedrooms, but he didn't see a kitchen. Then suddenly, they were outside.
The first thing that No Name saw was the sun. Yes, perhaps he was not on Earth any longer, but there was still a sun and still a bright blue sky. He pulled in a deep breath through his nostrils and he felt the fresh air flood into his body and the warm sunlight dance across his skin. He thought that maybe it might bring back a memory, but it didn't. Still, it did feel good to be outside.
Then, he looked around at his surroundings. All around him and Rose was a very beautiful field of tall grass. As far as the eye stretched, tall grasses lifted their heads heavenward even as a gentle breeze rippled through. Aside from the grass, the sun, and the house behind him, No Name could see nothing else.
"Whoa…" No Name gasped as the tall grasses danced playfully in the breeze. "Where are we?"
Rose turned around. There was a large grin plastered on her face. "This…" she motioned over the vast plains. "...is Emmortis, the land of the Immortals. But more specifically, we are in Shardratte, on the very edge of The Barren. Oh! Look!" Rose pointed out into the vast fields. Some of the grass was being pushed aside by what appeared to be other people! "That must be Thorn. He's a friend of mine, and he's another contractor."
Sure enough, after a few moments, the new people had made it to the house in the middle of nowhere. There were actually two newcomers. There was a black male somewhere in his early thirties. His hair was shaved and his eyes were a deep brown. Coming up behind him was a young female, probably in her late teens. Her brown hair whipped around gently in the wind.
"Thorn!" Rose walked over and hugged the black man.
Thorn squeezed her tightly back. "Hey Rose. I see that you made it." He then looked around until his eyes came to rest on No Name. "That the newbie?"
Rose turned around and nodded. "Yep."
"Well then…" Thorn clapped his hands together and rubbed them. "...let's get started, shall we?"
"Uh...Rose?" No Name took a small step backward. "What's going on?"
"No Name, this is Thorn." Rose motioned to her black friend. "He's a contractor, like me, and he's trained two immortals already. He'll be teaching you how to fight."
Thorn pointed a thumb at the new girl. "Three. I've now trained three immortals." He then moved closer to No Name. "And soon, it'll be four."
Rose whistled as her eyes came to rest on the new girl. "Wow! You've been busy Thorn. You've only had her for a week! What's her name?"
"Um…" The new girl looked down at her feet and twiddled her thumbs. "I'm Nightshade."
"Oooo…" Rose smiled as she looked Nightshade over. "I like the sound of that."
Thorn had made his way up to No Name and was busy checking him over. "Hmmm…" He scratched his chin.
"So, are you going to teach me how to fight? Or are you just going to stare at me?" No Name asked flippantly.
"I see you've got some spirit in you." Thorn only smiled. "That'll come in handy when you're fighting." Thorn was apparently done inspecting his new charge, for he then locked eyes with No Name. "Now tell me what you know."
"Would you mind saying 'please'?" No Name rolled his eyes.
"Rose?" Thorn turned to his friend. "Would you teach your immortal a lesson about good manners?"
Rose pointed a finger at No Name and instantly searing pain shot into his stomach!
"Argh!" No Name gripped his gut and fell to his knees. "Ahhh! Ah! Grrrr!"
"Be courteous to my friends No Name," Rose cooed. Then, when she was satisfied, she lifted her finger and the pain stopped.
No Name grit his teeth and stood back up. There was hate in his eyes as he glared at Thorn. "If you contractors are so strong, why don't you fight?"
"I see that there's a lot you don't know." Thorn shook his head. "Contractors only have power over their own immortals. It also seems that you don't like me much, so why don't you punch me?"
No Name smiled. "Gladly!" An instant later, No Name came at Thorn with a powerful uppercut. He put all of his strength into the blow, which is why he was so surprised when his fist went straight through Thorn like he was a ghost! Suddenly, No Name felt his body being pulled away by his own momentum and he quickly found himself sprawled on the ground. "Ooof!"
Thorn simply stepped over to No Name and looked down upon him. "Contractors are merely observers in Emmortis. We have influence over our immortals, but little else. Now do you see why we cannot fight?"
No Name spat dirt out of his mouth and stood once again. He glared at Thorn, but this time he held his tongue.
"I see that you're learning." Thorn chuckled. "So let me ask you something, if you can't fight me because I'm a contractor, then who can you fight?"
No Name brushed himself off. "Other immortals?"
"He can be taught!" Thorn laughed. "Ha ha!" Then, he pointed at Nightshade. "And look, there's another immortal. This time, you're going to fight her."
No Name looked over at Nightshade. She looked very pretty and her eyes widened at the suggestion. "You want me to beat up a girl?" No Name raised an eyebrow. "That's just wrong. I don't want to mess up her pretty face." He winked at Nightshade.
Thorn was quick to step between No Name and Nightshade. "Ha! Like you could even land a blow! Don't let her looks deceive you. I've personally trained her, and you…" He got right up in No Name's face. "...don't stand a chance."
No Name walked straight through Thorn's body and frowned. "We'll see about that." He looked over at Nightshade. "Sorry about this, babe." He pulled up a fist, with full intention to bring it down upon his unlucky victim, but the blow never came.
No Name pulled in a sharp breath and his eyes grew wide. Pain ripped into his chest and he screamed! "Arrrrhhh!" His eyes darted down and he found that a long, thorn-like object had been lodged into his chest! Then, he looked back at Nightshade and to his shock found that she was now holding a pistol!
No Name struggled to stay on his feet. "Now that's just playing dirty!" He grit his teeth and wobbled closer to Nightshade. "You're going to pay for that!" Again he clenched his hand into a fist, only to receive another shot into his chest.
No Name gasped and fell to his knees. His breathing was slow and cumbersome and his eyes were starting to droop as he looked at the two needle-like projectiles wedged into his chest. "Wh-What are these?"
"They are poisonous bullets." Thorn sauntered over to No Name. "Deadly Nightshade is a highly poisonous plant found on Earth and it's where my Nightshade gets her name from. You should be completely paralysed in a few more moments."
No Name tried to lift himself back to his feet, but his arms were weak and limp. It was all he could do just to keep himself up straight as his sat on the ground. But even that did not last for long. Within another few seconds, his whole body slumped onto his side. His eyes were open, but he could not feel or move anything. He was a prisoner in his own body.
"Well done Nightshade." Thorn complimented his immortal. "Keep that up and you'll be ready for Immis in no time."
Rose clapped her hands and stepped forward. "Wow! Just wow!" She was grinning from ear to ear. "So that's what a battle between immortals looks like!"
"Pfft." Thorn rolled his eyes. "Hardly. That was complete domination, not even worthy to be called a battle." Thorn then turned his attention to No Name. "Now do you understand your current position? You may think you know what fighting looks like, but you have no idea what you're up against here in Emmortis. You are not on Earth any longer. The sooner you get that through your head, the better."
No Name tried to mutter something, but all that he managed to wheeze out sounding something akin to, "Wh...id...sh...unnn…"
"I'm sorry...what was that?" Thorn cupped a hand over his ear, then he chuckled. "But while I have a captive audience, I think it's a good time to explain some things to you. Firstly…" He held up a finger. "...immortals cannot die, which is a good thing because on Earth the amount of poison you have in your body would be lethal. However, immortals can still feel pain. I'm sure you're already aware of that fact." Thorn looked over at Rose and thoughts of her pointing finger quickly ran through No Name's mind.
"But, you should be back up and moving in an hour or two." Thorn kicked his boot into No Name's side, but it went through him. "Until then, I will be instructing you on the most important aspect of fighting in Emmortis: willpower. Now, I know what you're thinking." Thorn pointed down at No Name. "You're thinking, 'Gee, willpower...that sounds great. If we were in some kind of comic book!' But willpower is everything in Emmortis. Believe it or not, willpower is exactly what you were shot with. And if you don't believe me." Thorn turned to Nightshade. "Nightshade, would you take those needles out of him?"
With a mere flick of her wrist, Nightshade made both of the poisonous projectiles sticking out of No Name disappear in swirling flash of purple and yellow light! One second they were in No Name, the next they were only a memory.
"Huh! Gruh!" No Name huffed in shocked.
"I know." Thorn bobbed his head up and down. "It's quite startling at first, but you'll get used to it. You see, to become an immortal means that your old body is a thing of the past." He waved his hand through the air. "The reason that you cannot die is because you are now made of pure energy." He clenched his hand into a fist. "Now that you are in a different place, with different rules, and in a different body, you can do things that on Earth would have been impossible! However, it takes time and training to fully utilize your own unique brand of power. You see, every immortal was once a unique human with their own thoughts and dreams and aspirations and personalities and those things have followed you here." Thorn pointed at the ground.
"Your unique personality and abilities will allow you to excel in a few areas," Thorn continued. "For instance, Nightshade's personality allows her willpower to form a pistol with poisonous bullets." He fixed his gaze upon Nightshade and waited for a few seconds.
Nightshade blinked, and then gasped. She quickly held out her hand and a small flash of yellow and purple light erupted from her open palm. As soon as the light went away, there in her hand was the pistol that had shot No Name! No wonder he hadn't noticed it earlier! It was never there to start with!
Thorn smiled and nodded, before turning back to No Name. "As you can see, my Nightshade is a distance fighter. Her will to fight is strongest when she can keep her attacker away from her. But every immortal is different and each of them has their own personal way of fighting." He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I wonder what you will turn out to be?"
Rose then moved over to Thorn. "Yes, but willpower is useful for more than just fighting. Right?" She nudged Thorn's elbow.
Thorn nodded. "Yes. Willpower can do nearly anything. If you want to fly, you can fly. If you want to create a banquet table full of food, you can do that. If you want to transform into a bear, you can also do that. However…" He held up a finger and he let his eyes bore into No Name for a few grueling seconds. "...you only have so much willpower. Think of it like physical endurance. On Earth you could lift a weight, but you could only lift it so many times before you became too tired to lift it again. The same principle applies here. If you push yourself too hard, you won't be able to do anything until you rest. So don't wear yourself out or you'll be no good in a fight. Got it?"
"Ooo!" Rose clapped her hands together. "Another good thing about being an immortal is that you no longer need to eat or drink! I mean, you still can but you don't need them anymore."
"That's right." Thorn agreed. "So, the short and sweet of it is this: if you can think it up, you can probably do it. But there are some things that you will have a natural knack for and, therefore, they will be easier for you. When you're no longer paralysed I'll start working with you on using your willpower but until then, Nightshade and I are going into the house to rest. Find us when you can walk again." Thorn turned away from No Name and walked toward the house. Nightshade followed close behind him.
"I'm going inside too," Rose declared. "No Name, when you get up come in. And don't even think about running away. Immortals are linked to their contractors, so you won't be getting far. See you in an hour or two!" Rose waved and then walked into the small wooden house, leaving No Name all alone.