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|Ahh, the second chapter! Yay! A little bit of action at the end. I'm halfway through my third chapter so by the time this one gets up, I should be ready to put the other one up! anyways, have fun!||
He woke her in the morning, to give her some food and water. Then he left again, leaving her alone with her thoughts. That was one thing she didn’t want.
Images – events. They ran through her mind, rolling around faster and faster till she wanted to be sick again. She trembled, her eyes closed. A metallic glint; a gurgle. A red liquid splashing, seeping. And her own feet pounding first the hard wooden boards, then soft garden grass – then sharp sticks and leaf litter.
He returned to find her sitting up, her head buried in her hands. When she heard him walk in, she glanced at him – then wiped her eyes, realising how ridiculous she looked.
"I’m sorry." She whispered. He didn’t reply. Instead he handed her the clay mug, again full of water. She drank it gratefully.
"Are you going to try to capture me?" He asked, watching her drink.
She nearly choked. She put the cup down and looked at him, startled. Was he joking? But his face was perfectly serious, and he watched her solemnly.
"No," she whispered, horrified at the thought. "No. You… you saved me. I couldn’t attack you. It would be… no." She said more firmly. He watched her steadily, not blinking. She looked into his eyes. They were dark, dark brown – almost to the point of being black. They were like deep wells set into his tanned skin.
He blinked slowly. Then his image shivered, giving the impression of melting. He seemed to darken, somewhat – then he shifted, his form pulling apart, turning into shadow. The shadow broke apart like a cloud would, spreading out, leaving blank spots in between. It rushed from the air to join the darkness at the bases of the trees.
She stared at the spot he had been, shaken. Of course he would have some special ability – he was a Sheni. But seeing him there, then him disappearing, had shaken her so thoroughly that she lay on the ground. He had been wearing his shirt, she realised.
The rest of the day passed in a haze. She sank so deep into her thoughts, her memories, that she was unaware of anything around her. When he appeared next, she didn’t move; he observed her again, then left. She lay like that for the rest of the day.
When nighttime came, she moved only to the sound of him lighting the fire. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, then looked at her hands. They were still bloody.
When the fire was lit, he turned around to face her. She couldn’t help but watch him when he moved – he was so elegant, his movements so perfect and precise. He looked at her.
"Why did you come into my forest?"
She blinked. Of course it was his forest. "I ran away."
"I could tell." He said, his voice dry. She studied him. Was that humour? "Why did you run?"
She hesitated, her voice catching in her throat. "I… I ran, because…"
"…my mother, my father, they… well, someone didn’t like them, and they got hurt – they…" it sounded stupid even to her own ears. She swallowed, not realising the tears were running again. She looked down at the dirt between her feet. "They… got their throats slit, by two men. I saw them – in the bedroom. There was blood. A lot of, a lot of blood. I didn’t like it." She lowered her voice, whispering. "I ran."
He was silent for a moment. "Do you have any siblings?"
She shook her head.
There was no more conversation for the rest of the night. He fed her and watered her, then she fell back to sleep.
In the morning, she decided to leave. She couldn’t stay there forever. She was rested enough as it was – she would be able to travel. She told him her decision. He watched her as she explained her reasons for leaving.
"Alright." He said softly, when she was done. "If you wish to clean up, the river is that way." He pointed. She nodded, and headed the way he had indicated.
He watched her as she walked. It made sense that she would leave today. She had been here long enough as it was, too long – he was in danger of becoming used to her presence. She walked slowly, her head bowed, her bare feet scraping the ground.
When she reached the river, she took off her battered clothes and slipped in the water. The water around her hands slowly turned a dull red colour, the blood leeching off her skin. She washed her face, and let the dirt wash off her body.
She untied the leather thong around her hair, being careful that it didn’t snap. She would need it for later. Then she dunked her head under water, biting her lip as the chill slipped through her hair. She washed her hair as best she could, without soap or brushes, and then left the water, tying it back up. She slid back into her dirty clothes with distaste. Doing up the belt, she observed the leather case that held her cards. She had been so surprised when her father had given them to her. It was taken for granted that their family never took part in the Sheni trend – something to do with the ideas and morals of a certain ancestor. The fact that her father had given her cards, and blank ones at that – it suggested that he wanted her to join the fashion.
She shook her head and took her hands away from her belt. Having blank cards meant that if you wanted to collect Sheni, you needed to become a Holder. And it was well known that to be a Holder you needed to be strong and tough, skilled in fighting, magic and tactics. She was none of those.
She headed back to the clearing, surprised to find the Sheni still there.
"I will go with you to the road." He said, his dark eyes fixing on her face. "This forest is dangerous. I will leave you there."
"Why did you save me?" She found herself asking. She shut her eyes and swore at herself mentally. He was a Sheni. She didn’t need to know his reasons. But she was intensely curious. Everything she had ever been taught about the Sheni suggested that they would kill humans if they ever saw one. But here was one – and not only did the Sheni not kill her, he had saved her life.
He was silent. She opened her eyes to see him watching her, his face expressionless. He stood with perfect balance, his body alert and relaxed at the same time. She looked at the ground, not wanting to meet those eyes.
He turned and walked into the bush. She followed him.
It was afternoon when they reached the road. Her feet were sore and scratched from walking barefoot. She could see the road from the trees. He turned to face her.
"The nearest town is that way," he said, pointing to his right. She nodded, her eyes on the ground. There was silence; when she dared look at him next, she found herself alone. Taking a deep breath, she walked out onto the road.
The road was dusty, rocks and pebbles lodged into the dirt. She couldn’t take a step without the sharp edge of a stone pressing against the tender soles of her feet. As she walked she observed the top of her feet with disinterest, the bottoms beginning to ache profoundly. She hadn’t been walking for long when she sat down on the grass at the edge of the road, massaging her complaints.
A strange noise met her ears. She cocked her head to the side, listening. Was that footsteps? She released her foot and stood up, straining her hearing. Someone was coming. More than someone.
She could hear voices. She was trying to decide what to do when a group of people rounded the corner ahead, talking. There were six of them.
They noticed her not long after she noticed them. When they saw her, they glanced at each other; then they ran forward. She didn’t like that. She turned around, trying to flee, but they caught her before she could get away.
One of the men grabbed her around her waste, lifting her into the air. She struggled but he held her tight.
"Well, would you look at this," said the man holding her. "I was just complaining of having no women companionship." She struggled harder in his grip, trying not to sob. These were bandits. She had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen to her.
He flung her to the ground. She tried to get up, but he put his foot on her chest and shoved her back down. He bent over her.
"A young, vulnerable woman, all alone. Tsk tsk." She tried to push him away but he grabbed her wrists and held her down. The men around her were laughing.
"Pass her around once yer done, ay?" One yelled out. The rest laughed harder.
"Let go!" She cried, struggling with all her might. The man grinned, and laughed outright. He was awfully close to her face; she could smell his rank breath. She jerked her head to the side. The man straddled her waist. She shuddered as she thought of what he was about to do; she kicked out with her legs, but she couldn’t get him off.
Something moved in the corner of her eye.
A large object flew through the air, connecting hard with the man on top of her. He was bowled over. There was a sickening crack as his head connected with a stone on the ground.
She rolled to the side, staring in shock at the large black cat that was perched on the man’s chest. The animal leaped away from him, muscles rippling under its sleek fur. Time seemed to slow – in mid jump the cats black coat seemed to elongate, changing colour; its face moved, the features shifting slightly; its limbs lengthened, becoming powerful, strong human arms and legs. The tail disappeared.
He somersaulted in mid air, landing gracefully on his feet. The bandits were standing around, stunned. Pivoting with perfect balance, he stretched out his right foot, the ball connecting hard with a man’s chin. The man swiveled from the force of the kick and landing on flat on his stomach.
The men started out of their stunned state. Two drew their swords, running forward – one grabbed the axe that was hanging in his belt. The other ran.
"He’s a god damn Sheni!" The running one called over his shoulder. "Get the bloody hell out of there!"
This was ignored – the three still standing tried to circle around the Sheni. He half crouched, then leaped high into the air, somersaulting over the head of the closest. Kicking out behind him with his leg, he caught the man in the back of knee. The bandit crumpled to the ground.
He turned around to face the other two. They ran at him, one swinging his sword with two hands, the other holding his axe above his head. He ducked the sword swing, and flew a punch into the man’s gut. The bandit stumbled backwards, clutching his stomach. The man with the axe chopped down through the air.
At the very last moment before the axe hit, his arms snaked up and grabbed the axe handle, gripping the other mans hands tightly. With amazing strength, he stopped the downward swing of the axe and twisted, flipping the bandit over his shoulder. The man lay motionless on the ground. He threw the axe into the forest, at the same time kicking out again at the man with the sword who had crept up behind him. There was a crack as his foot hit the man’s knee – he cried out as he collapsed to the ground.
The Sheni stood up straight. The dust on the road began to settle, and he turned to face the girl. She sat up, looking at him in awe.
Something caught her eye over his shoulder. The man he had kicked in the back of the knee had gotten to his feet, and was preparing to swing.
"Watch out!" She screamed.
His image shivered; the sword passed straight through the shadow, and he disappeared completely. The man, looking confused, swung around – he had reappeared behind him.
Shadow rushed from everywhere around. It condensed, surrounding the man’s head, making the scene that much brighter as the shadow was removed from its original positioning. There was a muffled yell – the man dropped his sword, clawing at his face. His fingers passed straight through the shadows, but he couldn’t dislodge them from his skin. The Sheni watched, his face betraying no emotion.
The man dropped to his knees, his chest heaving. She watched him begin to panic – he couldn’t breathe. His struggles became more frantic. Then they weakened; she watched him collapse, limp on the ground.
The shadows dispersed. They returned to their positions, the scene darkening again. The man lay unconscious – or dead. His face was covered in scratch marks.
She looked up at the Sheni. He was standing over the body, distaste being the only expression betrayed on his face. She looked around. The bandit with the broken leg had disappeared – there was drag marks heading into the forest.
She glanced back at him. He was watching her.
He began to walk towards her, the grace in his movements even more profound after she had seen him fight. He was elevated away from the rough, dusty backdrop – his majesty was emphasised by the unconscious figures on the ground, his elegance by the sunlight that rested gently on his shoulders and black hair.
He reached her, holding out his hand.
Her heart thudding, she stared at his outstretched palm, noting its smooth quality. She lifted her hand and placed it in his; he grasped it and pulled her to her feet. Then, to her utter astonishment, he knelt in front of her.
She stared at him.
His head was bowed. A wind picked up, pulling at her tattered and frayed garments. It plucked at his hair, sweeping it across his face. He slowly raised his eyes.
Their gaze met. He opened his mouth, and the age old words that she had heard so many speculated upon, so many children utter in their games, escaped his lips.
"I swear myself unto this Holder."
She gasped. She could feel his words – she felt them in the base of her chest, along her spine, through her head. She felt them crisscross through her body, passing through her skin and joining her to him. She closed her eyes and bent back as something seemed to burst from her chest, connecting her to him in ways she didn’t, couldn’t understand; but she felt the connection and trembled at what it might mean.
Her leather case flew open. The deck was shining – a single card shot into the sky, hovering in front of him. His eyes, that had been fixed on her, focused on the card. The wind blew harder – dust from the road spiral high into the sky.
A thin beam of light shot from the blank center of the card; it seemed to pierce his chest. His eyes snapped shut. The beam slivered, threads of light spreading out, tangling around his form. They covered him, weaving in and out till his body was a mass of light. The beam thickened, becoming brighter. His own form began to shrink, as though it was being poured into the light. Soon it had disappeared completely.
The beam of light snapped back into the card. It fluttered to the ground, landing soundlessly on the dirt.
She fell to her knees, gasping, her eyes fixed on the ground. Slowly, ever so slowly, she let them creep along the road till the card appeared in her sight – she lurched to her feet and stumbled towards it.
Reaching it, she bent down and took it between a trembling thumb and finger. The face of the card was no longer blank. There was writing along the top and bottom, an image in the center. She strained eyes that had suddenly unfocused, reading words that lined themselves along the top.
The Shadow Master.
|Chapter One - Sheni||Prologue - Sheni|
|Chosen I - The First to Live||Chapter Three - Sheni|
|An Angel Broken - Poem|